The long ball comes naturally to Canada’s best shooter. Brady Heslip shot 46 percent from three-point range in his final season at Baylor, however, that didn’t get him drafted into the NBA. He spent last year overseas and in the NBA D-league proving his long range game works just as well out the NBA three-point line and beyond. As Raptors President and General Manager Masai Ujiri seems to be the process of looking for training camp invitees that will likely end up with Raptors 905 in Mississauga, maybe he should take a look at Heslip? After all, those defensive specialists the Raptors have been lining up could use a really challenging offensive player to work against and the Raptors new D-League team will need someone that can score.
Heslip arrived at Team Canada practice on the last day Head Coach Jay Triano was looking for players to add to his Pan Am Games roster. Heslip’s NBA Summer League opportunity with the Minnesota Timberwolves hadn’t worked out this time, but he’ll be a huge boost to a short-handed and scoring challenged Senior Men’s National Team.
“The thing he does best is shoot the basketball,” Triano said. “But, Brady is a good playmaker as well and he knows how to score, whether it’s a shot or a drive to the basket. He is unselfish as a driver and he finds guys who are open. His ability offensively is going to help (Team Canada) score points.”
After failing to capitalize on a training camp invite with the Timberwolves last year, Brady played 20 games with the D-League’s Reno Bighorns where he averaged 24.5 points per game and shot 44.3 percent from deep. He scored in bunches, four games with 9 or more three-pointers, games of 35, 38, 40 and 45 points. If a team fails to run Brady off the three-point line, they are going pay dearly.
As if Brady needed to prove he could score against teams where defense might be more of a priority – the D-League is better known for scoring, he headed overseas for a short stint in the Adriatic league. In 7 games with Igokea, he averaged 23.7 points and shot 42 percent from three.
“I feel like my role on most of the teams I’ve played on is to score the ball,” Heslip said. “When I am on the court, I put myself in a position to do that.
“In training camp in Minnesota (last year) I learned a lot in just a month and a half. In the D-League I learned what a grind it is there and then I got the best of both worlds, I went to Europe. The main thing was I had a lot of responsibility on the two teams I was on and I just felt that I expanded my game and got a lot of confidence.”
Brady even played a bit in Canada’s NBBL where he put up a 50 point game.
Heslip has been a big part of Team Canada in the past and he has provided a major-league scoring punch in international contests. With so many FIBA teams using zone defenses, a knock-down three-point specialist like Heslip is essential at times to create any kind of offense. As more NBA teams start packing the paint as part of their usual defensive strategy, a zone-buster like Heslip should be able to find a role.
“Every team in the NBA looks for guys that have a specific NBA skill,” Triano said. “Brady has one in his ability to shoot the basketball. It has to be the right place, right time.”
“I haven’t made any commitments to teams (here) or overseas, so really I am just focused on (Team Canada) and building off this into August for the (Olympic) qualifier,” Heslip said. “I think (Team Canada) just gives me more experience, more games.”
Although Heslip is a great shooter and has an NBA ready skill, his size will probably remain a concern throughout his career at the defensive end of the court. A shooting guard in point guard’s body, but just maybe that isn’t the concern that it once was?
“Everyone is going to say something,” Heslip said. “Little white guy, he can’t guard at this level and stuff like that, but there are plenty of guys who do it. You just need to be in the right situation at the right time.”
While it would be surprise to see the 6’2 Heslip on an NBA roster next season, if he could land a spot on the Raptors 905 less than half-an-hour from the Air Canada Centre and very close to his hometown in Burlington, Heslip might become hard not to notice if the right situation came up. This kid has an extraordinary ability to shoot the basketball and a team never knows when it will find themselves in desperate need of a scorer.
Last July, Minnesota decided to give him a look at Summer League and Brady Heslip wasn’t about to waste his opportunity. In his final two games he averaged 15.5 points and made 7-10 three-points attempts. Then with Team Canada, the undersized guard led his team in scoring against Georgia, Croatia, Serbia and Angola.