While the Raptors moves this summer have brought a collective yawn from many outside of Toronto, a closer look suggests President and General Manager Masai Ujiri has added some high quality pieces to play alongside the two All-Star guards already on his roster. Big summers from Luis Scola and Cory Joseph while playing for their National Teams at the FIBA Americas tournament are raising the Raptors already high hopes for next season.
Maligned, overlooked and under-appreciated because he is 35-years-old and has played most of his NBA career in the Western Conference, Luis Scola once again showed the world he can play big minutes and put up a monster stat line when called upon.
Playing 10 games with just three days off at the FIBA Americas, Scola averaged 32.4 minutes, a tournament best 21.1 points and a tournament second best 10.1 rebounds. He also led the field with 44 made free throws and 74 free throw attempts as Scola was the player to stop on Argentina. In the tournament opener, Scola almost single-handedly beat the NBA player laden Team Canada as he posted 35 points and 13 rebounds in Argentina’s 94-87 victory.
Scola has always been an effective scorer and one of the best rebounders throughout his NBA career.
“Luis Scola is a scorer, said Akil Augustine of The Hangout. “He is a scoring big and he’s a guy you can put on the floor and give you buckets. He’s not a guard chucking shots.
“He is like one of those Kevin Love type bigs. He doesn’t jump – great positional defense, great positional rebounding. He boxes out on every possession and he has great ball control.”
Replacing fan-favorite Amir Johnson will be a tall order from a fan perspective initially, but Scola is the better scorer, rebounder, playmaker and defender. He is a player head coach Dwane Casey can run his offense through when needed. Plus Scola rarely misses any games and doesn’t have the wonky ankles Johnson has been forced to play on in recent years.
It seems Joseph has been playing in the shadow of Tony Parker and Patty Mills forever and it’s easy to forget the very young guard has started 33 games for the iconic Spurs over the past two seasons. In previous FIBA America tournaments, Joseph was the star guard for Canada as the team had no one else anywhere near his talent level at the guard spot, but this year’s roster was different and head coach Jay Triano wasn’t forced to over-play Joseph. Still, Joseph was able to demonstrate his ability to be a go-to-guy in the clutch.
It was Joseph who scored Team Canada’s last two buckets under pressure to lift Canada past Mexico in Mexico and take home the bronze medal. Joseph had a solid tournament averaging 9.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists in 23.4 minutes.
“Everyone knew Masai really wanted to get a Canadian on this roster,” Augustine said. “I think it is going to pay dividends for Toronto because again, another guy who plays defense.”
Joseph is replacing the vibrant and fearless Greivis Vasquez as the Raptors backup point guard, but where Vasquez is known for his offense, Joseph has built his NBA career at the defensive end of the court.
A young player with a focus that should fit better with a defensive-minded head coach, Joseph has started to figure out how to be an effective offensive player over the past two NBA seasons.
While both Canada and Argentina were upset by Venezuela on the final two days of the FIBA Americas, Joseph taking home a bronze and Scola a silver, they gave everyone a good look at what to expect when they get back to Toronto. Neither player was acquired to be a star, but both players are going to win the Raptors some games this season.