At the end of a dismal season, the message was clear: The Toronto Raptors
needed some upgrades and improvements and one of the areas that they needed to address was the point guard spot. The coaching staff was hopeful that Roko Ukic was listening.
Playing in the summer league provided Ukic an opportunity to show the coaching staff that he had learned from his first season, improved his game over the summer and that he could be depended upon during the regular season to take back up point guard minutes and contribute as a regular part of the rotation.
As much as I like Ukic, I'm not sure if Vegas was the kindest place on earth for the 24-year-old. While there was some good, there was a lot that didn't seem to change. Summer league can be hard for a point guard like Roko to show his skills. A lot of the guard play is dominated by those who are looking to rack up the points and a less flashy player like Ukic can get lost in the shuffle. Still, when you look at the crop of rookie point guards from the draft it is easy to see exactly why those guards were chosen so high -- they know how to run an offence.
Where does Ukic fit into this picture?
The verdict's still out on this one.
Through five games in Vegas, Ukic's stats read as follows: 11.8 points, 1.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.
The good: Ukic's shot looked nice and his shot selection was on point. There were times when he got caught with the ball in the lane as the shot clock was winding down and he had no choice but to toss it up at the hoop, but 51% of the time he connected ball with basket.
Ukic's frame looks as though he picked up a few pounds of much-needed muscle and the strength was apparent when he went to the basket and took contact from his defenders. The issue with this becomes, did the coaching staff want to see a point guard who was more effective when creating for himself than for others?
I commented in one of my blogs from Vegas, that watching Ukic man the point can be one of the most frustrating parts of watching the Raptors. Just about everything he does, you feel the word "why" forming on your lips, but before you utter them he ends up finishing a play himself or somehow finding a teammate in position to score.
What jumps out as a particularly ugly stat is the 2.8 assists per. When Smush Parker -- who racked up a DNP-CD in one of the contests and averaged more than six minutes less per game -- had the exact same assist per game average, that really isn't a good thing. Particularly when Ukic's role is to fill in for Jose Calderon
when needed, the performance displayed in Vegas showed a player that looks stronger, a little smarter but ultimately one that didn't represent the poise and presence of some of the other, much younger point guards who were running things from the moment they stepped onto the court. You want your point guard to be a leader and I don't know if the other four guys on the floor would be looking to follow Ukic.
The addition of Jarrett Jack to the equation only makes the waters murkier for Ukic's role with this team. Add Quincy Douby's performance in Vegas and there may be more uncertainty than answers when it comes to expectations for Ukic leading into this season. Can he come into the game and provide a spark off the bench? I would say yes. Can he be depended upon to play big minutes in the event of an injury to Calderon? I would not be comfortable with this situation and luckily don't have to be, with the acquisition of Jack to the lineup.
Summer League Grade: C