On Tuesday morning, the Toronto Raptors‘ Las Vegas Summer League squad began practice ahead of the annual, 24-team tournament. And while those invited to participate are hoping to eventually work their way onto an NBA roster, some will be feeling the pressure to impress a lot more than others.
Most notably among the variety of hopefuls in attendance, controversial first-round draft choice Bruno Caboclo is likely to be the coaching staff’s main focus while he takes an introductory course in NBA basketball and the Raptors get their first look at the import in the flow of an actual game.
First and foremost, led by assistant Jess Mermuys, Toronto’s Summer League coaching staff will be looking for Caboclo to make his presence felt on both ends of the floor, with an emphasis on shot blocking and overall defense.
In a perfect world, Caboclo will make an immediate impact during this weekend’s three-game schedule, GM Masai Ujiri will look like a genius, and Raptor fans will laugh about the time when they doubted their fearless leader and his gamble on an unknown teenager.
Meanwhile back in the real world, expecting an 18-year-old player who averaged less than five points a game in a Brazilian pro league to learn the NBA ropes well enough to play for the Raptors this season is likely to leave Ujiri and Toronto’s front office extremely disappointed.
At best, a strong showing in the Las Vegas Summer League places Caboclo on the right track. But long-term, any work that the young center puts in towards earning a roster spot will be done throughout the summer and into the fall, when the Raptors begin camp.
For now, the re-signing of head coach Dwane Casey, Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson, along with acquisitions of Lou Williams and James Jones, should help to keep Raptor Nation satisfied and the skeptics at bay.
But once the free agent dust settles and the trade market calms, the focus will undoubtedly return to Caboclo, and the decision to spend the franchise’s first draft choice in two years on a player who isn’t likely to contribute beyond the preseason anytime soon.
Toronto’s Las Vegas Summer League team will play its first of three games on Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers, which will then be followed by Saturday’s matinee versus the Denver Nuggets and Monday’s matchup with the Dallas Mavericks.
Ty is an NBA writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @abovethefoldTy.