LEAVING LAS VEGAS
It was another close one as the Raptors closed out NBA Summer League on the losing side of a 78-75 overtime decision against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The loss moved Toronto to 3-2 in Las Vegas play and came as four of the main rotation players were resting. Kennedy Meeks led Toronto with 18 points and nine rebounds while Jordan Loyd had 12 points and Will Sheehey and Jalen Reynolds added 12 points apiece in the loss. T.J. Williams led the Cavaliers with 21 points.
Though these two loses meant the team didn’t get a real shot at chasing the NBA Summer League tournament championship after earning the first overall seed following their first three games, the last two weeks have been important for Toronto. Getting to practice — or play — every day, getting younger guys reps, as well as more familiar with the system, and also allowing players not on contracts the opportunity to show what they can do is invaluable. The impact cannot be measured in wins or losses.
With their chance at winning the NBA Summer League Tournament out of reach, the team rested newly signed Alfonzo McKinnie along with their sophomore trio of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Jakob Poeltl.
One day after the team announced a deal with the Brooklyn Nets to send DeMarre Carroll to Brooklyn in exchange for Justin Hamilton, the team announced that it had acquired the draft rights to forward Emir Preldzic from the Indiana Pacers in exchange for guard Cory Joseph. Toronto also announced it has waived Hamilton.
SUMMING IT UP
Though the team was disappointed that their loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday ended their NBA Summer League championship quest, the time in Las Vegas was a positive for Toronto. The Raptors on hand showed improvements from regular season’s end, as well as a glimpse into what could be on hand moving forward.
For Summer League head coach Jama Mahlalela, the name of the game in Vegas is improvement and that’s what he saw from his team.
“Overall I really am [pleased],” Mahlalela said. “I think ur guys worked hard. Wins and losses are one thing, but I think the growth, especially of our young players is really important. You saw Fred got to another level, you saw Pascal got to another level and Jakob as well. That was first and foremost, that’s what Summer League is about. For those three players, I think they irmproved and for me that’s a success.”
In four games, VanVleet was the team’s leading scorer, averaging 18.8 points on 55 percent shooting. VanVleet also averaged a team-best 5.0 assists per game to go with 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 28.3 minutes per game.
Siakam was next on the scoring list, averaging 14.3 points on 45 percent shooting. He played 26.8 minutes per contest, also averaging 4.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks.
Jakob Poeltl had three double-doubles in four games, finishing with averages of 13.5 points and 9.0 rebounds. He averaged 27 minutes per game, while shooting a ridiculous 71 percent from the floor.
“Then you look at our second-tier guys, we saw a lot of good things from Alfonzo McKinnie and what he can be to our organization,” Mahlalela said. “A real good training grounds for them. And then these younger guys like Kennedy Meeks as well. To me it was a success. Would have liked to get more wins, but that’s how it goes and we’ll have to get them next year.”
Newly signed Mckinnie also appeared in four games, playing 24.5 minutes and averaging 9.3 points on 34 percent shooting. He added eight rebounds, a steal and 0.8 blocks per contest as well.
Meeks impressed the coaching staff throughout the week, but gave all of the praise back when asked about his experience suiting up on Toronto’s Summer League squad.
“I think we definitely did a great job in practice,” he said. “I think that’s where it started. I think Coach Jama and [Coach] Motumbo definitely got us going. I think they brought the energy first and they followed them right away and that’s all you can ask for. We didn’t know each other before this, I think that we really got after it right away and that’s all that matters.”
Though players are who most often get graded in Vegas, it’s also an opportunity for assistant coaches to step into the main coaching seat. Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse shared coaching duties with Mahlalela a season ago before taking the reins with 905. This season, Mahlalela and Patrick Mutombo shared coaching duties on the sideline.
Matt Tierney and Randy Urban provided final thoughts on Toronto’s NBA Summer League in their final recap from Vegas: