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NBA Toronto Raptors Alfonzo McKinnie

Raptors Face Decision Deadline On Alfonzo McKinnie

The Toronto Raptors are quickly approaching the January 10th deadline when the contract of undrafted rookie Alfonzo McKinnie becomes fully guaranteed for the rest of this season. His $815,615 salary may not seem like much in today’s NBA, but with the Raptors right up against the NBA’s Luxury Tax threshold, if president Masai Ujiri wants to add a veteran for the playoffs, he’s got a decision to make.

Toronto opted during the off season to give the young guys a chance and continue searching for new young talent to fill out the roster. So far the results are good, so good that head coach Dwane Casey faces a logjam of too many players needing minutes and no real opportunities for the guys on the back end of the roster to get any run at the NBA level.

Ujiri doesn’t have to do anything. He could stand pat up up until the trade deadline before trying to make a move, but the decision about McKinnie’s future has to be made now if he wants any sort of future wiggle room when it comes to making a deal and potentially staying below the tax. And the Raptors have a history of doing everything possible to avoid luxury taxes.

McKinnie isn’t making this an easy call, however. With no NBA minutes available, this high flying 6’8 forward has been demonstrating his evolving game with the Raptors 905 in the G League.

A questionable jump shooter coming out of college in 2015,  McKinnie has improved his three-point shooting from 30.8 percent in 50 games with the Windy City Bulls last year to 38.5 percent in 12 games with the 905. He’s taking more (4.3 three-point attempts versus 2.7 last year) and making more.

McKinnie is showing he might just have the potential to earn that NBA contract Ujiri signed him to.

“Me going down to play with the 905 is just a way to get game reps and game action, just work on the stuff that I am working on with the Raptors in practice and outside of practice,” McKinnie told Pro Bball Report. “There is a lot of good guys in the G League. There is a lot of guys who could potentially play in the NBA, if not now, later on down the line. The competition line is obviously different than the NBA, but it’s still a competitive league.”

McKinnie is putting up good numbers in the G League, averaging 15.7 points and 8.2 rebounds, but this isn’t just about getting numbers for McKinnie.

“I just want to go down and do stuff that, later down the line, will help me get more minutes with the big club,” McKinnie said. “Whether it’s me nailing a corner three, or being a defensive stopper, or rebound, whatever my role role with the big club, I just try to go down and work on that.”

McKinnie put up a couple of monster games with the 905 in December. A 23 point, 16 rebound game against the Vipers on the 5th and a 26 point, 8 rebound, 2 steal effort against the Mad Ants on the 23rd.

He has shown the ability to be a dominant player at the G League level. However, Ujiri has to make the call about the 25-year-old McKinnie’s future prospects now and evaluate that against the possible benefit of a little more room under the luxury tax threshold heading into the NBA’s deal making season?

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl

Raptors Poeltl, Siakam And VanVleet Cruise Thru Summer League

Rookies no more, the Toronto Raptors Summer League “Big Three” Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet have cruised thru the first three games in Las Vegas. They’ve been here before and it shows.

If one can overlook those five turnovers in his last outing where the game against Nuggets turned into a version of “Keystone Cops” at the end, VanVleet has shown off his full range of skills over the three contests.

Driving to the basket and finishing thru traffic, VanVleet has hit on 57.9 percent of his two-point attempts. He’s also hit from outside on 5-11 three-point attempts (45.5 percent) and 7-7 from the charity stripe. Over the three games, VanVleet has averaged 14.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.3 steals.

There have been those “Summer League Moments” where everyone isn’t on the same page and concentration has slipped, but it’s looked all too easy this time around for VanVleet.

Those Summer League announcers could back off a little on their regular Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse quote that Siakam is “the best defensive player on the Raptors.” That’s stretching things really far.

Siakam is having a relatively easy time in Las Vegas though and is showing off a jump shot that not many would be expecting this soon in his NBA career.

Siakam is averaging 18.3 points, 5 boards, 2 assists, a steal and 1.7 blocks on 56.4 percent shooting from the field, but the real story is that he has made a three-pointer in each game and has shot 4-9 from deep. The Raptors want more three-point shooting and just maybe Siakam can add stretch-four to his list of attributes?

Poeltl is doing what Poeltl does. He is surprising people with his ability to put the ball on the floor and drive and he is effectively using his size to overpower just about everyone around the basket at both ends of the court. Averaging 14.7 points and pulling in 10 rebounds in each game, Poeltl is finishing at a 69 percent clip and looking very mobile for a big stocky center.

The Raptors newest signing, Alfonzo McKinnie, showed off why he was inked to multi-year/training camp invite contract in Game Three against the Nuggets. This kid can sky for putbacks and rebounds with ease.

Fun to watch and looking like the typical overenthusiastic rookie, McKinnie had 11 points and 11 rebounds against the Nuggets and if he can find some polish to his offense (5-15 shooting), this kid could become a real find.

Stackhouse loves this kid’s energy and it’s easy to see why.

By going 3-0 in the preliminary round, the Raptors earned themselves a practice day before the next round of the tournament starts.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.