I’m not the biggest summer league fan. It’s unorganized, foul-plagued and heavy on turnovers. Older or more experienced players should stand out against rookies. But … the young Raptors have looked very good in Las Vegas.
DeMar DeRozan’s main weaknesses or shooting and ball-handling. I have seen marked improvement in his ball-handling and he has been the best player on the floor in at least two of the three games he’s played so far heading into today’s first real test, against future all-star DeMarcus Cousins’ Sacramento Kings.
DeRozan still doesn’t go left well, but he is far more confident with the ball and is attacking the rim. His jumper has improved as well. Good signs for the Raptors.
Sonny Weems looks about the same. Still has a deadly midrange game, still doesn’t take it to the hole enough and never met a shot he didn’t like. But a good, explosive scorer off the bench for sure going forward.
I’ve like what I’ve seen from Ed Davis and even Solomon Alabi. Alabi will take some time, but he has a very smooth shooting touch, as advertised and can protect the rim.
Davis is a hard worker, a meat and potatoes type of player, like his namesakes Dale and Antonio Davis. He is a very good finisher inside and he can rebound and block shots. I think he’ll be a good, solid player. Perhaps a rich man’s Udonis Haslem with more length.
Joey Dorsey and Bobby Brown have stood out, but it roster moves need to be made to keep them around.
Dorsey has gobbled up every rebound in sight and basically made Reggie Evans redundant, but Bryan Colangelo will have to find a taker for Evans’ large expiring contract. Unless Jose Calderon is moved, there is no room for Brown who has shown great chemistry with DeRozan, Weems and Davis, strong vision and good speed and finishing ability.
If Calderon is dealt, Brown could stick around with Jarrett Jack, Leandro Barbosa (though he is a brutal point guard) and Marcus Banks getting the main minutes at the one.
Linas Kleiza will officially become a Raptor later today. Denver will not match the 4-year, $18.8 million offer sheet the Raptors signed him to. It seems fair enough for the Euroleague’s leading scorer and the likely starter at small forward this season. The Raptors likely will split up the energetic DeMar DeRozan-Sonny Weems combo and have Weems provide scoring and athleticism in a sixth-man role.
Kleiza plays hard, can really shoot the ball and has a bit of an edge. He isn’t much of a defender or rebounder, but isn’t terrible either and gives a solid effort.
Jose Calderon released a statement on his website responding to his near-trade to the Charlotte Bobcats:
“As you all know, in the past few days there have been negotiations for my transfer to another NBA franchise, from here I want to thank all of the Raptors fans who have sent me messages of support to my site and I have wished me luck. For some reason or another, the transfer has not taken place and I am still in Toronto. I just want to say, that as I have done in the history of my career, I will respect the rules and accept decisions that are part of this game, both on and off the court. However, I do not want to sound like I want to leave Toronto. On the contrary, I have spent five years in this city, I consider myself as one of its citizens and fans of the Raptors. I am also the most veteran player on this team, and although Chris is gone, my dream was to lead a new project to take us to the playoffs, that’s what I’ve been training for weeks and getting ready for next season. In any case, whatever happens, I can tell everyone that this goal remains intact and that with the right chemistry in the locker room and with the fans, we can achieve this goal.
Thanks for your support.
José Manuel Calderón”
Classy move by Jose, one of the classiest people in the NBA. The odds are pretty slim, though, that he is a Raptor next year.
Finally, here‘s a nice write-up on some up-and-coming Canadian ballers, including Khem Birch.
“Birch was no doubt a top-five performer in the King City classic. He had his name buzzing around the Cleveland State gymnasium after each of his performance. An athletic freak who is extremely active around the basket. He had his hands on every missed shot both on offensive and defensive end, whether scoring the put-back basket, snatching it and kicking back out or slapping it to a teammate when the ball was out of reach to truly grab. At 6-foot-9, Birch had the greatest wingspan (86”) in the event which he put into use as he terrified offensive players with his great ability to block shots.”
Birch is being heavily recruited by top NCAA programs.
OK, one more thing, the Magic matched the pricy offer by the Bulls to J.J. Redick. Orlando is now paying a ton of luxury tax money. People have been asking me if Marcin Gortat is a good match for Toronto. I believe he is, I believe Orlando will try to unload him and/or Brandon Bass, but do I think he’ll become a Raptor?
Probably not, unless Orlando takes Reggie Evans and $3 million for him. That move would save them $5 million this year and a lot more down the line. It would also leave them with just rookie Daniel Orton – years away from contributing – to back up Dwight Howard though. I think they try a lot harder to unload Bass before they let Gortat go, unless they can find a backup centre from the scrap heap, but they don’t grow on trees.