Canadian guard Brady Heslip was just looking for another shot at the NBA after spending last season in Italy when he accepted an invite to the Toronto Raptors training camp, but as an undersized scoring guard, the Raptors wanted him to learn to run the point and the local Burlington native was happy to be playing for the Mississauga Raptors 905 located a half hour from where he lives.
Heslip has been getting a chance to play a significant role with the 905 and he’s putting up the kinds of stats that haven’t previously been a part of his career in college, overseas or in the D-League. He’s still hitting the three-ball, but the guard who never averaged over 2 assists per game and usually averaged under 1 has been dishing 3.9 dimes with the 905 thru the first 9 games and still draining over 3 threes per contest.
The Heslip highlights from the 905’s recent win over the Swarm are as notable for the 7 dimes as the 7 three-pointers.
When the 26-year-old played in the NBA D-League before, he dominated as a three-point shooter, but this year was going to be different. Heslip was going to backup Raptors rookie point guard Fred VanVleet when was he was sent down and be the 905’s number one point guard the rest of the time. The big questions being, can he run the team as well as score and can he defend his position?
“We are going to put the ball in Brady’s hands,” 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse said at the start of the season. “That’s one of the reasons he’s there.”
Heslip gives Stackhouse an experienced guard who should be able to learn to run the team, but also give him (as a coach), a guard who can play off the ball in the two point guard lineup that has become so popular in the NBA. He just needs to give Heslip a chance to gain the needed experience at the point.
“I think (Brady) hasn’t had enough reps of trying to focus on (ball handling),” Stackhouse said. “A lot of his focus has been playing to his strength and his strength is absolutely shooting the basketball, although we absolutely want to showcase other sides of his game.
“With the things we do and the kind of system we have in place there isn’t a whole lot where he’ll have to ad-lib. He’ll know where his outlets are and I think that will help showcase his ability to be a playmaker. Also doing other little things like dirty work, stepping in and taking charges, things that point guards do. That’s the next step for him, making sure he’s focused in defensively, being a leader.”
The 905 are currently on a four game winning streak and Heslip has been averaging 33 minutes, 16.3 points on 4.3 of 9.5 three-point shots attempted and perhaps more importantly, 5.8 assists. He’s been running the team and the team is running pretty well.
The NBA has become a league where your point guard had better be able to reliably hit a three-point jump shot as well as get his team into their offense. Heslip has always had the first half of that equation down. If he keeps running the point this well in the D-League, he’ll get another shot at the NBA.