Undefeated Raptors earn top seed at NBA Summer League tournament

Jakob Poeltl's strong play helped the Raptors earn the top seed at the Summer League tournament.

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.

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