LAS VEGAS — Torrey Craig is no household name.
The 26-year-old wing player did not go to an elite collegiate program but instead played for four years at the University of South Carolina Upstate.
Craig has never had any experience playing at the NBA-level in any capacity but instead played overseas for three separate Australian teams as well as being the MVP in the New Zealand NBL in 2015.
Craig is one of the large numbers of unknown players who get a chance to prove his worth at Las Vegas Summer League and he is taking full advantage so far.
“At the end of the day, when it comes to Torrey, he is great. I can’t ask for anything more,” Nuggets Summer League head coach Micah Nori said. “He is long. He is active. He kept guys in front of him. He hit some big shots. He made plays and rebounded. I thought he had his best game of the Summer League (against Toronto) and he has played well in the previous two as well.”
Craig’s impact on the court is not quantifiable by looking at the stat sheet. In the first two games of Summer League, he only accumulated nine points, seven rebounds, and three assists in a total of 42 minutes of court time but played wonderful defense and defended all five positions.
“I think he is one of those guys that his stuff may not show up on the stat sheet in terms of scoring,” Nori said. “I think he is a good rebounder but, shoot, we had him guarding positions one through five tonight. We even went small late in the fourth quarter (against the Timberwolves) and he played some five there. That is what he can do. He is capable of defending all positions, which is great. He is a very good wing-rebounder. He has some explosiveness too. He has a nice little jump shot as well but defensively is where his impact will be.”
Finally, against the Toronto Raptors, it was Craig’s offense that shined as he put together a 15-point game on 6-10 shooting, including a three-pointer, to go with three rebounds and two assists. On top of that, he continued his high-level defensive play as he continued to guard every opposing player on the court.
“I thought Torrey was great; just absolutely fabulous,” Nori said. “I think he shot a very good percentage and gave us 15 points and then we put him on (Raptors guard Fred) VanVleet, who has been tearing this Summer League up, and I thought he has done a heck of a job of guarding him”
Nori could not contain himself as he began to elaborate further on Craig’s offensive game.
“He is just so efficient; just very, very efficient….,” Nori said. “We went with Malik at the point guard spot and Torrey helped space the floor. He had some great cuts; Juancho found him on one and I think Howard found him on one. He did a good job of putting pressure on the rim and finishing for sure.”
Craig is quickly putting together a Summer League resume that could lead to his name being mentioned among NBA executives. Juancho Hernangomez missing the remainder of Summer League means Craig will get more opportunities to prove himself in front of scouts and NBA decision-makers.
Nori knows he is deserving and is looking forward to seeing even more of what Craig can do in an expanded role. Craig’s responsibility will increase and he will be asked to help pick up some of the scoring load lost with Hernangomez not playing.
“He could very well start to be honest,” Nori said after the loss to Toronto. “You put him right there at three with Tyler (Lydon) so they can play off of each other.”
Defensively he will continue to defend all five positions but will now take up the task of attempting to lock down the opposition’s best player. Craig hangs his hat on his defense and this will be his toughest task to date. If he wants to prove his worth on the defensive end of the ball the time is now.
“He is going to guard the best player on the other team,” Nori said of Craig. “He and Malik are going to take that challenge. Just continue to spread the floor. Continue to make the right play. Clean up the glass and provide that defensive pressure that he has been doing. If he can provide more of what he is already doing that is great. He doesn’t need to do an ounce more.”
Craig understands this is his best opportunity to date to become an NBA player but that will not sway him from being himself. His defensive aggression combined with an understanding of his offensive limits has built him into a highly valuable defender in the new age of the Association.
“I am just here and doing whatever I can for us to win games,” Craig told BSN Denver. “If they need me to guard one through five then I will do whatever I need to do for us to win.”