The NBA Summer League in Las Vegas is one of the most fascinating destinations for any basketball fan. It’s where you can rub elbows with fellow die-hards, hoops legends and Hall of Famers, and a litany of current-day coaches, players, and front office leaders in front of a backdrop of exciting basketball with plenty at stake.
For many players on the court, Summer League is a do-or-die opportunity to impress the NBA decision makers littered throughout the stands. For others, including the biggest names of the incoming rookie class, it’s a chance to give the hoops world a first glance at them in an (pseudo) NBA uniform. The biggest names in today’s NBA — LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant — all got their start in Summer League, and it’s fun to look back and see the glimpses of what was to come:
For the Toronto Raptors and their fans, those glimpses from the 2017 Summer League leave the organization and its followers with plenty to be excited about.
With the round-robin section of Summer League wrapping up Wednesday before the annual bracket tourney tips off on Thursday, the Raps are the top-ranked team for the second year in a row.
As you read, the Raptors are a perfect 3-0 thus far in Summer League action, led by a trio that had considerable success playing together as rookies in both the D-League for the Raptors 905 at the NBA level, and are considered important assets in the Raptors’ long-term development: Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet.
Siakam, fresh off being named Finals MVP after leading the Raptors 905 to a D-League (now G-League) title, has been near-unstoppable, averaging a team-high 18.3 points on 56 per cent shooting, to go along with a steal and 1.7 blocks per game.
VanVleet has been flat-out clutch, averaging 14.7 points and nearly six assists per game while shooting over 45 per cent from deep and hitting shots like this:
Perhaps the biggest standout (in both the literal and non-literal sense) has been Poeltl, 2016’s ninth-overall pick, who stands to see his role and minutes increase with the Raptors this coming season. Poeltl has been incredibly assertive, averaging 14.7 points per game, 10 rebounds (fourth-most in Summer League), and shooting an absurd 69 per cent shooting.
Throw in lesser-known players, like forward Alfonzo McKinnie, who just signed a contract with the Raptors and will be fighting for a roster spot in training camp, and the Raptors are a deserving No. 1 seed.
What sticks out about this year’s Summer League squad is their ability to make plays in crunch time — all three games have gone down to the wire — which is surely a byproduct of the team’s leaders playing together throughout last season and in the Summer League this time last year. Take a look at their most recent performance:
The Raptors go into the Summer League tournament as favourites, getting a first-round bye to play the winner of tonight’s Bulls versus Trail Blazers game. The Raps next game is Thursday night at 10 p.m. ET.