The cases both for and against Patrick O'Bryant are curious ones.
On one hand, we have a player who was the ninth pick in the draft just three seasons ago. On the other, we have a legitimate 7-footer weighing in at 250 pounds, but one that has no idea how to use his body. This lack of awareness coupled with a rookie season that was marred by injury has resulted in career averages of six minutes, 2.1 points and 1.5 rebounds per game.
Regardless of how ugly those stats might look staring back at you, O'Bryant is just 23 years old. He is also 7-feet tall. It's really hard to give up on a player when he's got the one thing you can't teach in a game where height is a gift from above and sometimes is enough to get you that second contract (See: McIlvaine, Jim or Brown, Kwame).
When O'Bryant came to the Raptors
from the Celtics in a mid-season trade last year, no one really knew what to expect but towards the end of the season when the hopes of making playoffs were long gone, there were glimpses of what he could be taught if he chooses to listen. And learn.
Well liked by his teammates, O'Bryant needs to prove he is committed to carving out a spot for himself both on this Raptors
team and in the league. After three seasons of disappointment, filled largely with missed rebounding opportunities and groans from the bench as he shied away from contact of any kind, this offseason provided O'Bryant with the chance to show he doesn't deserve the "big-man-who-is-nothing-more-than-a-bust" title just yet.
Mid-June O'Bryant made his first statement through actions that are louder than words by showing up in Toronto with Quincy Douby to spend a week working with the coaching staff, getting acclimated to the new staff and what their expectations of him will be for this upcoming season.
In Las Vegas, there was both good and bad. In 29.6 minutes per game, O'Bryant averaged 11.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 55.8% shooting from the floor. In a loss against Detroit there was a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double that looked nice on the boxscore. There were times where he teased the coaching staff, going hard to the hoop, taking the contact and --instead of giving up as he had before-- embraced it, continuing his path to the basket, undeterred. Then there were times, sometimes on the ensuing play, where he would stand under the basket and seem to be completely unaware that if he would simply elect to reach up, the rebound would be his.
He showed quickness getting up the floor and when he was dialed into the game and task at hand was able to board whatever misses he wanted to. Problem was, I'm not entirely sure how many of those 29.6 minutes per game he was present and alert for. For every dunk and hard run down the floor he had during warm ups, he had minutes during the game where he would be talking with IMG director Mike Moreau who was sitting on press row instead of talking to his teammates about where he'd like the ball to score.
For the coaching staff, they probably saw just enough in Vegas, when coupled with the week in Toronto earlier this summer and the handful of performances to finish off the season to keep O'Bryant on their radar. If you asked any of them, I think they'd say without much hesitation that he has the skills, size and potential to succeed and have an impact in this league. That being said, it won't happen overnight. Even if all of the intangibles come together this season and we see an O'Bryant that is focused and fearless when he steps onto the floor, growing from timid 12th man to difference-maker will take some time.
Summer League Grade: B-