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NBA Toronto Raptors Masai Ujiri

Masai Ujiri Has Built His Raptors His Way From The Start

By mid-August virtually all of the desirable free agents were long gone and Raptors president Masai Ujiri had committed to 13 players, signed three more to bring to training camp on partially or non-guaranteed deals plus two more on the NBA’s new two-way contract destined for the Raptors 905. This current roster isn’t anything like the 15-man squad Ujiri inherited in June 2013 when he was introduced to the media in Toronto and it doesn’t look like the roster many people were hoping to see play in October, but it is built the way Ujiri said it would be four years ago.

“We have to develop young players, especially in the back of our roster,” Ujiri said on his introduction to Toronto in 2013. “Regardless of what direction you take, you have those young players that you are going to rely on in the future.”

There are only three players remaining on the Raptors from that initial summer. Veterans Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have developed into three-time All-Stars under head coach Dwane Casey and Ujiri’s direction. Jonas Valanciunas won’t be 25-years-old until October, but even he was apparently on the trade block at the draft, however, for now, he’s the third surviving player from the pre-Ujiri era.

Toronto didn’t have a draft pick in 2013, so the movement towards acquiring and developing young talent had to wait a year, but since then Ujiri’s aggressive acquisition of young players has been a surprise even in the light of his opening remarks.

Of Ujiri’s eight draft picks, only DeAndre Daniels (37th – 2014) and Xavier Thames (59th – 2014) are no longer part of the organization.

In 2014, he took Bruno Caboclo 20th and traded for the draft rights of Lucas Nogueira who was drafted 16th in 2013, traded twice and stashed in Europe until acquired by Ujiri and brought to Toronto.

In 2015, he took Delon Wright 20th and traded for the 46th pick to take Norman Powell.

In 2016, he took Jakob Poeltl 9th, Pascal Siakam 27th and then signed undrafted rookie Fred VanVleet.

In 2017, he took OG Anunoby 23rd and signed undrafted prospects Alfonzo McKinnie and Kennedy Meeks to non-guaranteed deals.

If Ujiri keeps all of his young players who are still on their rookie deals, he’ll have five veterans in Lowry, DeRozan, C.J. Miles, Serge Ibaka and Valanciunas plus 10 young developing players on the back of his roster. Just the way he drew it up in 2013.

“Scouting is my background,” Ujiri reminded everyone on his arrival. “Finding talent is what I know.”

That initial message has never wavered. Even as the fans and media that follow the team in the off season were speculating on which under the radar cheap veteran Ujiri would add to provide depth for the long NBA season, Ujiri was saying you got to let them play.

“You got to give (the young guys) a shot to play and that’s just the way our team is built,” Ujiri told Pro Bball Report after signing Lowry and Ibaka this summer. “I don’t have to build a team the way Cleveland is built (with veterans). We don’t have to do that. They have one player on that team that makes that a little easier for them, but not every team can be built that way.

“I don’t just think about Toronto Raptors for today. I think about the Toronto Raptors five years from now too.

“All we are trying to do is set up ourselves to try and become competitive, to put yourself in the position to maybe compete for a championship.”

In four years Ujiri’s Raptors have been to the postseason four times and made to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016. The chance to “maybe compete for a championship” has been there and it would be hard to argue with his ability to find more talent and have more success than any of his predecessors in Toronto.

“Finding talent” and letting that talent play doesn’t provide the fan base or the prognosticators at major media outlets like ESPN with anything to base future expectations on. It’s a lot easier to look at a team made up of veterans and make a prediction. However, finding talent is what Ujiri hangs his reputation on, so his way is the right way for him and back-to-back 50-win seasons should count for something.

Ujiri’s way will field a very strong five man group of veterans who, as long as injuries don’t take a toll, can keep the Raptors in the top four of the Eastern Conference. How far Ujiri’s way will go beyond that this year will depend on his 10 handpicked young guys on the back of his roster.

 

 

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 G-League Vipers Kyle Wiltjer and

Kyle Wiltjer Is Available If Raptors Want A Stretch-Four

At this point it’s not a mystery, Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri is looking to fill out his roster with young high potential shooters on non-guaranteed deals. There may be no better recently available young free agent prospect than the sharp shooting stretch four Kyle Wiltjer.

“You are wearing shorts, I’d like to sign you,” Ujiri joked when asked about his plans to fill out the rest of his roster. “We are going to add a couple of different players, maybe they are non-guaranteed, I don’t know. We’ll see how the market fares now.”

With a genuine desire to see how well the young players on his roster perform next season, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if the players added after the signing of C.J. Miles are training camp competition for guys like Pascal Siakam, Lucas Nogueira and Bruno Caboclo.

Wiltjer, an undrafted rookie with the Rockets last season, couldn’t crack the rotation in Houston, but he put up big numbers with their D-League affiliate Vipers helping lead the team to the NBA D-League Finals against the Raptors 905.

Over the three games in the Finals, the 905 got a good look at Wiltjer and it wasn’t until Game Three when head coach Jerry Stackhouse told eventual Finals MVP Pascal Siakam to smother him like a blanket that they were able to stop him from scoring.

“Wiltjer was big time tonight,” Stackhouse said after Game Two. “A guy that is not the quickest swiftest of feet, but he gets to his spot and whenever he does, he’s a big time shooter.

“I’d say Brady (Heslip) is the best shooter in the world, (Wiltjer) got to be in the top five. I think he is going to have an opportunity to really showcase who he is.”

Wiltjer didn’t suddenly become a knockdown three-point shooter in the D-League. Thru four years of college he averaged 42.5 percent on 4 three-point attempts per game. As a senior with Gonzaga, he averaged 20.4 points and 6.3 rebounds on 49.1 percent from the field and 43.7 percent on 5.7 three-point attempts per game.

In 22 regular season D-League games with the Vipers he was a three-point shooting machine, averaging 20.5 points and shooting 37.9 percent on 9.7 three-point attempts a game. He stepped that up in the postseason to 21.2 points and 40.8 percent on 10.9 three-point attempts.

If Ujiri is looking for a stretch-four to develop who is willing to fire away, it’s hard to argue against Wiltjer.

Those three D-League Final head-to-head matchups with Siakam provided a lot of insight as well.

When it was his primary responsibility in Game Three, Siakam was able to keep Wiltjer from going off, but that’s exactly what a stretch-four is supposed to do. Wiltjer occupied his opponent’s best defender. The Vipers just didn’t have enough other scorers to take advantage.

Wiltjer was a dominant player in the D-League because of his three-point shooting and he could be the NBA’s next Channing Frye or Ryan Anderson. With the way the NBA is headed, he’s at least worth a training camp invite and a reasonable guarantee amount to get him there.

 

 

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 Malcolm Miller and Alfonzo McKinnie

Raptors Sign Two Undrafted Free Agents

The Toronto Raptors signed two undrafted free agents today guard-forward Malcolm Miller to the recently created two-way G-League/NBA contract and forward Alfonzo McKinnie to a multi-year/ training camp invite contract.

In keeping with president Masai Ujiri’s new theme for 2017, both players can shoot the three.

An undrafted wing player out of Holy Cross in 2015, Miller shot 37.2 percent from three on 121 attempts as a senior and played for the NBA D-League Maine Red Claws the following season where he shot 39.8 percent from three-point range on 211 attempts and that got him a contract in Europe.

In 40 games with Alba Berlin last year he averaged 6.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in 18.7 minutes over 40 games. Once again he showed three-point proficiency by hitting on 38.5 percent of 91 attempts.

(All stats per Real GM)

The 6’7 Miller is 24-years-old has shown at least one NBA ready skill and inking him to a two-way G-League/NBA contract makes sense. He’s worth a good look.

 

The 6’8 McKinnie shot 6-13 from three as a junior and 21-64 as senior with Green Bay after spending the prior two seasons with Eastern Illinois. Over four college seasons he averaged 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in 18.9 minutes, but he was about to find his stride in the NBA Development League.

Last year he averaged 14.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 30.5 minutes in 50 games for the Windy City Bulls. He reached double-figure scoring 41 times. Showing future potential to stretch the floor, McKinnie shot 30.8 percent on 133 three-point attempts.

Stats per Real GM

The 24-year-old Chicago, Illinois native was named to the 2017 NBA D-League All-Star Game in New Orleans where he made a big impression on his head coach, Raptors 905 Jerry Stackhouse as reported by Sam Smith for the Windy City Bulls.

Alfonzo McKinnie impressed Jerry Stackhouse. This is not an easy thing to do. There haven’t been many guys to play in the NBA tougher than Stackhouse, who Saturday coached the East D-league All-Stars to a 105-100 victory.

“I loved his energy in practice,” said Stackhouse. “Defensively, he was one of the guys you showed one thing and right there he was doing it the next time. He had a good spirit. We (Stackhouse’s league leading Raptors 905 team) played against him this year. He’s athletic, has an ability to shoot the ball, perimeter, great size. The kid has a real chance.

“He has the ability to be a game changer defensively,” Stackhouse said. “To really be up on pick and roll; step up pick and roll is where it is now. If you can get guys up to that level, they can deter guys and he has the quickness to not let guys get by. I think that’s where he can make his mark on the defensive end first.”

A couple of players who, at this point, are not expected to make the Raptors in Toronto, but fit the profile of the types of player Ujiri wants to develop with the Raptors 905. They both have potential.

 

 

 

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 Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker and Serge Ibaka

Six Things The Raptors Should Do This Summer

The Toronto Raptors have won over 50 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history and both times they were easily eliminated in the playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Everyone is predicting another Cavs – Dubs rematch in the NBA Finals again next year, so, in that light, what are six things the Raptor should be doing this summer?

President Masai Ujiri says the goal is to get past the Cavs and win an NBA championship, but to be blunt, every NBA GM says they want to win a championship and almost none of them have any reasonable expectation of accomplishing it next season or even in the foreseeable future.

By any historical measure, Toronto has nothing to be upset about. This team has succeeded on the court while Ujiri has handicapped his head coach with quite literally half a roster of inexperienced, inexpensive players under development. The building is sold out and the organization is raking in the cash from 16 home playoff dates over the past two postseason runs. But for injury, the Raptors could have easily set a fourth consecutive record for franchise wins in a season last year.

This summer will be different. The team has four key unrestricted free agents that they should have no trouble hanging onto if Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) will open their checkbook, but that would end the days of modest payroll and huge profits. What the Raptors should do for their fans and will do for their corporate masters may not be on the same page.

1. Re-sign Kyle Lowry (31-years-old), unrestricted free agent

Everything this summer for the Raptors revolves around re-signing Lowry. If Ujiri screws this up, the rest of free agency will quickly circle the drain.

The Raptors need to get the best deal possible and hopefully that’s in the order of four years and $120 million, but if if takes five years and $150 million plus to get it done, well, it’s time the Raptors started spending some of that money they’ve made off of their loyal fans.

2. Re-sign Serge Ibaka (28) and P.J. Tucker (32), unrestricted free agents

Ujiri said he traded for these two players at the trade deadline in February in order to get their Bird Rights. Well the only reason you need a player’s Bird Rights in free agency is so you can go over the salary cap to re-sign them, so get it done.

This is no time to cheap out. Ibaka wants to be in Toronto, but he isn’t going to take a below market deal, so offer Ibaka five years and $100 million. Tucker said he was looking for fit in his next contract and Lowry would be a big factor in determining that, but he’s 32-years-old, offer Tucker three years and $25 million and be prepared to go higher.

Failure to re-sign Ibaka and Tucker means Ujiri gave away a young three-point shooter in Terrence Ross, a first round draft pick and two second round draft picks for nothing.

3. See what the market says UFA Patrick Patterson’s (28) value is

Over the past four years the Raptors have played better as a team with Patterson on the court, but he has proven to be an unreliable offensive threat who seems to get hurt at the worst time and his limited offense takes a holiday after returning from injury.

Patterson didn’t do himself any favors in the playoffs over the past two seasons either as this career average 36.8 percent three-point shooter fired 30.2 percent from deep over his last 30 postseason games.

From a Raptors perspective, it would be nice to re-sign Patterson to another cheap three-year deal to continue coming off the bench, but like Bismack Biyombo last summer, expect Patterson to get paid a lot more elsewhere than he’s worth to Toronto.

Get ready to say bye-bye to a great guy in July.

4. Trade DeMarre Carroll

Despite not living up to some very high expectations or his contract, Carroll has done nothing wrong in Toronto and it’s likely his knee will finally be 100 percent and he’ll return to being an effective ‘3-and-D’ combo forward next season.

It’s just, at 31-years-old in July, after two disappointing seasons in Toronto, he’s in the way of younger players and it’s time to move on and potentially help a different (younger?) team that needs what he should still be able to bring to the table.

Ujiri can’t expect much back and he might have to include him in a larger deal just to move him. However, the Luxury tax savings alone should make a trade for nothing back worthwhile from a corporate standpoint. From a team standpoint, he should be able to do a little better.

5. Trade Jonas Valanciunas

Valanciunas can probably improve his jump shooting dramatically and within a couple of years become that trailing three-point threat on the fast break who is left wide open. However, he’ll never be decent runner and his lack of quickness will continue to challenge him when guarding on the perimeter.

Given 30 minutes a night, JV can almost guarantee a double-double average, so he should have solid trade value as one of the top rebounders in the NBA on a percentage basis and a still improving player on offense.

Unfortunately for Valanciunas, if the rookie Jakob Poeltl continues improve over the summer and Ibaka is re-signed, Poeltl should be able to just take JV’s minutes at a much lower cost.

To fit with the direction Ujiri seems to be taking this team, he needs to get back a more mobile big man with a better jump shot or a solid ‘3-and-D’ forward.

6. Reduce The Number Of Prospects On The 15 Man Roster

While there should be no objection to Ujiri drafting the injured small forward OG Anunoby with the 23rd pick in June, there should be huge concerns about heading into the 2017-18 season with eight players still on their rookie deals.

Of those eight players,

As the most sure-fire young player on the Raptors, Norman Powell is ready to take on a much bigger role this season. Depending on what other moves Ujiri makes this summer, Powell could be starting. He’s earned it.

Jacob Poeltl needs a spot in the rotation somewhere as he is far too good to get anything out of being sent back to the Raptors 905.

Ujiri needs to decide if it’s going to be Delon Wright or Fred VanVleet assuming the third string point guard duties next season. Both are promising young players, but he needs that roster spot to improve the team’s depth elsewhere. So, pick one.

Between Bruno Caboclo, Pascal Siakam, Lucas Nogueira and Anunoby, Ujiri needs to start making decisions about who he believes in and who he is just hanging on to out of hope. At least one of these guys should be available in trade to make room for a more NBA ready player or just simply to grease a trade.

The Raptors have two new quasi-roster spots available (total 17) on two-way deals this season that don’t count against the salary cap. Use them and get the prospects on the 15-man roster down to a more manageable number.

Conclusion

The Raptors need to follow the plan Ujiri created when he traded for Ibaka and Tucker at the trade deadline this past season. Everything follows from there.

Whether the roster Ujiri manages to put together will be good enough to get past the Cavs or not, Raptors fans deserve the best team possible, even if that squeezes MLSE’s profits.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

PJ Dozier at Toronto Raptors NBA draft workout

Drafting In The 20s, Raptors Look at P.J. Dozier

With all the young players already under contract, drafting in the twenties can seem kind of pointless as the Raptors took a hard look at utility guard P.J. Dozier in Toronto.

At 6’6, the South Carolina sophomore can guard multiple positions, but he’s always played point guard and that may not be where he ends up playing professionally.

“I’ve always been a point guard at every level thus far,” Dozier said. “But being versatile is definitely something I hang my hat on. Being able to play the one thru three and also defend the one thru three.”

“He is one of the utility guys that with his basketball I.Q. and his feel for the game you can plug him in multiple positions and he’ll impact the game somehow,” said Dan Tolzman, Raptors director player personnel. “It’s just a matter of him working on all of the different (parts) of the game that he impacts and just improving on all those aspects.”

In other words, the physical tools and potential is there, but Dozier has a lot to learn.

There is no consensus as to where Dozier might fall in the draft. He could go in the mid-twenties or fall deep in the second round.

Draft Express has him at 50 and Julian Applebome explains why,

Dozier doesn’t yet have a true position offensively … He is not yet a true point guard … Dozier isn’t an elite ball-handler …  He lacks touch on his mid-range jumpers … His limited outside shooting really prohibits him in the half court

his upside as a versatile defender is what is most intriguing about him as an NBA prospect.  Dozier brings a ton of value in those aspects of the game.

NBA Draft.net puts him in the first round and Clayton Crowe compares him to Shaun Livingston.

Combo guard with the ability and length to play/defend up three positions on the court … Was forced to play more PG during sophomore year at South Carolina … Gifted athlete with an improving offensive game

he doesn’t necessarily have the shot for the shooting guard position and is far from a finished product in terms of his handle and vision for the point

He’s still extremely raw on the offensive end of the floor

Comments about Dozier give the impression he’s a young prospect who is likely to be spending most of his rookie season in the NBA D-League learning the nuances of the professional game and working on his skills while his team figures what position he is best suited to play at the next level.

Dozier likely has NBA potential and his defensive credentials are intriguing, but is the Raptors roster as currently constructed really in need of another player at this stage?

 

 

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 GM Masai Ujiri

Raptors Nab Future Second Round Draft Pick From Magic

Well the other shoe has finally dropped. The Toronto Raptors didn’t come away empty handed by allowing the Orlando Magic to steal away general manager Jeff Weltman. They managed to nab the worse of the Magic’s or the Lakers future second round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft as compensation.

 

 

Dillon Brooks at Toronto Raptors

Could Canadian Dillon Brooks End Up On The Raptors?

By Frank McLean

As the calendar heads for June the Toronto Raptors, like all other NBA teams, have begun the process of trying to figure out who exactly they will pick come June 22nd the night of the NBA draft.

Picking 23rd means they won’t get a crack at a top ten pick, but they don’t need a franchise player, the Raptors need someone who can fill a hole in the skill-set of the current team’s roster makeup. And after the four game sweep by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round, three point shooting is something that needs to be fixed.

This is what Raptors scouting director and general manager of the NBDL defending champion Raptors-905 Dan Tolzman’s job is to find someone who can eventually fill holes in the big teams roster.

Recently the Raptors brought in local talent Dillon Brooks of Mississauga, Ontario.

If you are an NCAA hoops junkie we don’t have to tell you he has spent the last three years with the University of Oregon Ducks in the ultra competitive Pac-12 Conference where he helped the team make it to the final four of this year’s tournament only to lose to the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Brooks is a question mark if he can be an effective NBA player. He is 6’6 220-pounds which is kind of undersized for a forward in a league made up of much bigger men, but here’s where he might fit in with the Raptors. This season he averaged 16-points a game shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 40.1 percent behind the three point arc.

Brooks needs these workout opportunities with all NBA teams to show that he can help a team out. Monday’s workout with the Raptors was his fourth and he said that he will workout with all 30-teams in the league if he has too if that what it takes to get a sniff on draft night.

“Dillon is a guy who brings so much passion to the table,” Tolzman said on Monday. “Whatever he doesn’t offer skill-talent wise he makes up for just with his winning plays and outplaying his opponents. I think he has shown he can score and defend and do all the things you look for in an energy-type guy and he brings that.”

Dillon has been projected to be a middle of the second round pick and the Raptors do not have a second round pick in this year’s draft as they traded it plus a second round pick next year along with Jared Sullinger to Phoenix for P.J. Tucker, but as Tolzman added.

“We don’t have a second-round pick right now, but we have shown that we are always able to get back in if we need to.”

However, the Raptors may not need to acquire a second round pick to get Dillon as they may be able to acquire him as an undrafted free agent.

Starting next season under the new collective bargaining agreement teams now have two additional roster spots beyond the 15 they had before that will be designated two-way roster spots allowing teams to maintain a players rights and shuttle him back and forth between the D-League while making more than the NBDL maximum of $25,500 (last year).

Brooks is just looking for a chance to show he can play in the NBA. What stands out for the Raptors is his three point shooting because that is a need that needs to be addressed ASAP.

There will be a lot more players Tolzman will workout between now and draft day, but don’t be surprised if Brooks ends up in training camp in October, his skill set might be just what the doctor ordered.

 

 

   DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Fred VanVleet 2016

Why All The Fuss Over Raptors Camp Invite Fred VanVleet?

The Toronto Raptors have an entire five man unit of training camp invites trying out for one possible roster spot that president Masai Ujiri could opt to leave open and a couple of those players have already played at a very high level in the NBA Development League, so why all the fuss over an undrafted 5’11 22-year-old college senior who was cut from a very weak Team USA Pan Am roster a couple of summers ago? Why does head coach Dwane Casey seem so enamored by Fred VanVleet?

Toronto already has a third string point guard in Delon Wright who they drafted 20th overall a year ago and while the 24-year-old is currently rehabbing a shoulder injury, he’s expected back in December and the Raptors surely don’t need two point guards on the 15-man roster who’ll spend more time in Mississauga with the 905 than at the Air Canada Centre.

Wright spent most of last season in the D-League as he was overshadowed by second round pick and fellow rookie guard Norman Powell, but the Raptors drafted him because they believed Wright was more NBA ready than a younger prospect and by the end of the season the signs were there that they were right.

In four games in April with the big club, Wright averaged 14.3 points on 53.8 percent shooting from the field, 3.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists as Casey gave some of his regulars a bit of a break before the postseason. It isn’t a big sample size, but Wright particularly impressed in a win over the Pacers where he scored 19 points. There are signs this kid could be as good as advertised by the Raptors when they drafted him.

Despite going undrafted VanVleet did have a solid four year career with Wichita State, however, progress in his development is hard to discern after his freshman season. As a senior he averaged 12.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals and those stats aren’t any better than the previous two years. His shooting percentages actually dropped quite noticeably.

However, Casey saw something he liked and VanVleet got a quick invite to Summer League where he averaged 6.2 points, 3 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals in just 16 minutes and managed to hold his coach’s attention enough for a training camp invite. In his first three NBA preseason games, VanVleet has averaged 5.3 points and 2.3 assists in 15.7 minutes and still gets praise from Casey. It’s a good thing for VanVleet that Casey values things besides stats.

“I love Fred,” Casey said after practice recently. “He doesn’t change expression. He is under control. He is never off balance and that’s one thing you really like about him.

“He does some subtle things that you don’t recognize. On crack downs, he was one of the few guys that really sandwiched (Clippers center) DeAndre Jordan. He got physical with him. Those are things a point guard has to do and he does all the little things that you want out of your point guard.”

No coach Casey, VanVleet is doing all the little thing YOU want out of all your players. Powell got minutes early last season ahead of Wright because he played tough physical defense and Powell took the veteran James Johnson’s spot in the rotation for the same reason plus some unexpected solid three-point shooting. The formula for getting love from Casey isn’t all that complicated. Hit someone on defense every time down the floor, physically impose yourself offensively, and don’t foul (unnecessarily) and you’re a keeper in Casey’s books.

VanVleet says, “Hopefully (the Pan Am team) is the last time I get cut.” However, in the game against the Clippers, Chris Paul let him know just how far he still has to go to make it in the NBA, and no Paul wasn’t really working all that hard to abuse the potential NBA rookie.

“You got to take those (situations) as a young player in the league and just learn from it,” VanVleet said about playing against Paul. “I didn’t play very well to start the game. That was a new experience for me trying to find a rhythm with the starters. Those guys play at a different pace.”

“I put (VanVleet) out there to get him christened against Chris Paul,” Casey said. “That was a great experience for him to go against a veteran, a great player like Chris Paul just to see all the things, the situations a guard like that puts you in.”

It’s pretty obvious Casey likes what VanVleet brings even if it might be a tough sale arguing to keep both Wright and VanVleet on the roster this season. There is no playing time for a developing third string guard who really needs more seasoning in the D-League on the Raptors this season.

What Ujiri really needs is for the NBA and the NBPA to hurry up and agree on the terms to extend the CBA with the rumored expanded rosters and two-way contracts. Unfortunately, union negotiations rarely follow a predictable timetable and the two-sides have until December to cut a new deal.

With Casey’s comments in hand, it’s easy to see what all the fuss over VanVleet is about. The point guard plays the physical style Casey loves. It just isn’t all that easy to see where or how he fits on a roster already loaded with guards.

“I think he’s catching the league’s eye,” Casey said. “He’s an NBA player. I don’t think there’s a question. He just needs some seasoning.”

 

 

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 commissioner Adam Silver

Expanded Rosters Are Coming To The NBA Soon

It looks like the NBA is finally making progress with its’ union on expanding rosters by creating two-way contracts between the NBA and NBA D-League and these changes could come sooner rather than later according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical

Among expected changes in the new CBA, league sources told The Vertical: A significantly higher rookie contract scale and two-way contracts between the NBA and NBA Development League that will add playing jobs for the union.

It’s about time too. MLB and the NHL have long histories of committing to young players and even journeyman via two-way contracts that allow professional athletes in these sports to develop playing in a minor league system. It permits those recently drafted and sometimes undrafted prospects to play big minutes without having to learn on the job at the expense of the major league franchise. It also gives teams somewhere to stash a potential injury reserve veteran without taking up a roster spot, although it’s not clear if the NBA has this concept in mind just yet.

The cure for all labor/management issues is a boatload of money and the NBA is literally swimming in cash these days, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the NBA and its’ union are having very favorable talks regarding changes to the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Both sides would have to be flat out stupid to slow down this gravy train.

The NBA and NBPA each have until Dec. 15 to exercise an opt-out clause of the current 10-year deal that was reached in 2011, but sources on both sides believe that a new deal will be in place prior to that date.

Some of those “minor” issues likely entail a slightly bigger share of the much larger revenue pie for the union now that any NBA team not making money has run out of excuses and higher dollar amounts on exceptions (MLE, BAE) that more closely fit the spirit of these tools when they were originally negotiated. A Mid Level Exception in the $8-10 million range would make a lot more sense in the new Salary Cap reality.

This is the moment in time to ask players to share the expanding revenue pie with the larger rosters two-way contracts will create and help drive the expansion of the NBA Development League.

Every player in the NBA saw just how much salaries are set to blow up under the current CBA. It shouldn’t be too hard to get agreement on sharing the wealth by expanding the size of the union’s membership. Basically, book it, the NBA is about to have a minor league system that fans can watch and know the best players on their affiliated team belong to their franchise. A real NBA Development League, it’s about time.

 

Note: A couple of other changes that we would like to see are a return to the sign-and-trade and extend-and-trade rules of the prior CBA so teams could regain the possibility of getting something in return when one of their big name free agents signs/ intends to sign with another team. For example: when free agent Chris Bosh left the Toronto Raptors in the lurch to join Miami, the Raptors got a trade exception and two first round draft picks back. But, when Kevin Durant deserted OKC this summer, the Thunder got a big fat nothing and had no chance of getting anything from the Warriors. It just seems likely KD would have ensured the Warriors would have been pressed into sending the Thunder a draft pick or something if it made sense under the CBA.

 

 

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 Milwaukee Bucks Larry Sanders

Is Larry Sanders The Answer At Backup Center?

Larry Sanders led the NBA in block percentage in the 2012-13 season with the Bucks, swatting away 7.6 percent of opponent two-point field goal attempts while he was on the court. He also pulled in over a quarter of all the defensive rebounds. The future looked very bright for the then 24-year-old center. So how did he end up in the summer of 2016 rumor mill as a potential backup center?

Sanders was waived by Milwaukee on February 21, 2015 after deciding to walk away from basketball and a big chunk of his recently signed $44 million contract, however, he didn’t leave empty handed. The Bucks used the stretch provision and will be paying Sanders $2.2 million per year thru 2021-22.

After his big season in 2012-13, things started going wrong. Sanders only played in 23 games the next year as an eye injury that required orbital bone surgery ended his season and the thumb he injured in a bar fight also had to be surgically repaired. Plus, a five game suspension for his third time violating the league’s marijuana policy put him at odds with the organization as detailed by Rotoworld.

He got into 27 games in 2014-15 before a string of missed games due to “illness” preceded his departure. Sanders recently talked about his decision in an extensive interview with Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders.

I got to the point where I realized that the NBA is a machine. It’s going to keep running, with or without you. If it can keep running without Allen Iverson – Allen Iverson! – then it’s definitely not worried about me. I knew that, and I also knew they really didn’t have the time to get to know me, to understand me and who I am. And look, I totally understand that. I get that. But I just felt like I had to put myself in a better position in life, to feel more fulfilled. At the end of the day, I’m left with myself, my loved ones and the life I made. I wanted to be someone who was proud of their story. It was always about staying true to myself. I didn’t want to lose myself and who I was for anything. No amount of money. Nothing.”

Sanders will be 28-years-old in November and the reason he still gets talked about is the 6’11 center with the 7’6 wingspan could have been/ was about to become? the Eastern Conference equivalent of DeAndre Jordan, a double-double shot blocking machine. If only he could get back on track. At the same age in the same 2012-13 season, Sanders looked like a better player than Jordan.

He told Kennedy that he’s ready to come back to the NBA.

I feel like I’m in a much better place right now and I’m equipped to be able to put myself in that situation again.

Stepping out of the NBA schedule and doing that was good for me, I’m very happy now.

I could see myself coming back to the NBA

Crank up the rumor mill, most of the teams in the NBA could use a defensive center that can protect the rim and rebound, however, Jordan doesn’t appear to be willing to just tryout for an NBA team to prove he’s ready to come back. He wants some kind of guaranteed deal with a spot in the rotation.

There’s the rub. Sanders’ name has been associated with several teams this summer and apparently passed over. Nearly two years away from the game will do that. Organizations have a right to be cautious. Sanders didn’t exit the NBA under the best of circumstances and there is no real way to know if he’s physically ready to play an NBA season until you can get him in a gym for a few weeks and preferably see him play at least a handful of preseason games. He isn’t an undrafted 20 something rookie a team can invest in developing. Sanders is either an NBA player or he isn’t.

There are still some obvious situations where Sanders could prove himself. In Toronto, the Raptors lost defensive center Bismack Biyombo to free agency and Sanders could actually be an upgrade. The only issue is, Toronto, like most NBA teams, already has potential solutions on the roster to cover off the loss. Sanders would have to prove himself a better option than Jared Sullinger and Lucas Nogueira, plus rookies Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam. The 2012-13 version of Sanders wins the minutes at backup center, the 2013-14 or 2014-15 version likely gets the thanks, but no thanks.

At this late date, things aren’t likely to be any easier anywhere else. If Sanders wants back in the NBA, he’s going to be competing for more than a spot in a rotation, he’ll have to fight for a spot on a roster. Opportunities exist and some kind of partial guarantee could be out there, but after how things went in Milwaukee, asking for a guaranteed contract and a promise of playing time may not be the best way to get an NBA GM to believe he’s ready to come back.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 


 

Buddy Hield

Buddy Hield, The NBA Draft Prospect Everyone Has Been Watching

By Frank McLean

Every year when the NCAA basketball tournament rolls around NBA fans are looking for that player, you know, that one player whom their team can draft in June and turn things around for them.

In this year’s tournament there is actually has been a player who has stood out and it’s not some freshman that is only going to spend one year in college and then bolt to the big riches of the NBA, but a senior.

That name is Buddy Hield of the University of Oklahoma.

He is a shooter for sure. Scouts at first, especially at the start of his senior year, had him as a chucker and were comparing him to a Jimmer Fredette who was player of the year in Division One college basketball with Brigham Young University, but turned into a flop in the NBA because he’s not a defender and now is languishing in the NBDL.

But a funny thing happened to Hield’s draft ranking as the season progressed, he went up. Scouts were impressed because he is playing defense and they no longer think he is another Jimmer.

Now they compare him to the likes of Reggie Miller or for you younger folks who know him as the guy that sits with Marv Albert on the TNT Thursday night game of the week, how about that Steph Curry kid with the Golden State Warriors.

Hield, like Miller and Curry, is a game changer. A shooter who gets hot no matter what defense opposing coaches throw at him, he still makes his shots.

“He just makes shots” says his coach Lon Kruger.

“He’s just unbelievable in getting the ball up on top of the rim. He shoots with great confidence. Doesn’t force many. That’s the thing that’s been most amazing on the year: He shoots it for such a good percentage. He’s not a high-volume shot-taker, he just makes a lot of shots.”

Let’s look at Heild’s numbers this year and like the old saying “numbers don’t lie”.

He has averaged 25.3 points per game taking 16.4 shots a game and making 50 per cent of them. Behind the three point line, he hit on 46.2 percent of those shots.

He was the reason Oklahoma made Saturday’s semi-final date with Villanova, scoring 37 points in their elite eight win last weekend over number one seed Oregon.

In his first four games of the tournament, he scored 117 points, that’s an average of 29.3 points per game. All he needed to do was score another 67 points in the semi-final and final games to tie Michigan’s Glenn Rice record of 184 points scored in one NCAA tournament.

“It’s special, to be honest with you, as a kid you dream of having games like this,” Hield said after last week’s win over Oregon. “Just knowing when the defense slips up and I’ve got a chance to put it up, I just put it up because my confidence level is so high. Just taking shots in rhythm and taking shots I know I’m capable of making.”

Unfortunately for Hield, Villanova wasn’t having any part of helping him or Oklahoma get to the Finals as they crushed their Final Four opponent 95-51 before an NRG Stadium crowd of over 75,000 people. Hield scoring just 9 points on 4-12 shooting.

However, the results of one game in a stadium setting where many shooters have struggled to find the basket against a challenging and unusual background won’t change the scouts perception. The numbers show why Hield has risen up the NBA mock draft boards everywhere.

Game changers just don’t come around every year. Plus he is a senior. Four years playing in the NCAA means he is more developed than a freshman or a sophomore. He is certain to be a top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 


Canadian Jordan Bachynski

Canadian Jordan Bachynski Leads Knicks Over Raptors 905

Canadian Jordan Bachynski had a game-high 24 points to lead the Westchester Knicks to a 103-98 win over Raptors 905 Saturday afternoon at Hershey Centre in Mississauga.

Leading Westchester in scoring were Bachynski (24), Cleanthony Early (18), Jimmer Fredette (17), Travis Trice II (12) and Keith Wright (10). Bachynski and Wright each collected double-doubles with 12 and 10 rebounds, respectively, while Fredette also completed a double-double with 11 assists. Scoring in double digits for Raptors 905 were Scott Suggs (23), Davion Berry (21), E.J. Singler (16), Shannon Scott (14) and Sim Bhullar (11).

Bachynski also gave the 905 trouble two days ago in Westchester when he posted a double-double.

The 7’2 center has averaged 12.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 46 games for Westchester this season.

 

 

 


NBA D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 DeAndre Daniels

NBA Prospect DeAndre Daniels Struggling With Raptors 905

The Toronto Raptors unsigned second round draft pick DeAndre Daniels has been struggling to find his game with the Raptors 905 in Mississauga. Daniels missed the 2015 NBA Summer League due to a Jones fracture in his right foot and he only recently returned to limited action with the Raptors NBA D-League affiliate.

It’s been five games since he first starting playing basketball again and the results suggest we shouldn’t be expecting too much before Summer League rolls around again in July. In his first four games, the 23-year-old forward only managed to average 11.3 minutes, 3 points and 3.3 rebounds. Then playing in his fifth game at the Hersey Center on Saturday, nothing really changed as he went 1-6 from the field for 3 points and 5 boards in 16 minutes.

This season has been a big setback for Daniels who played 30 games with the Perth Wildcats in Australia last year and averaged 14.8 points and 7.7 rebounds in 30.7 minutes, but at least he got back on the court before it was over.

Daniels is a 6’8 forward drafted by the Raptors 37th overall in 2014 who played three seasons with the Connecticut Huskies.

 

 


NBA Denver Nuggets, Team Canada and Kentucky Wildcats Jamal Murray

Canadian Guard Jamal Murray Named To All-SEC First Team

Canadian guard Jamal Murray has been tearing up the college ranks in his freshman season and has a shot a passing the Warriors Stephen Curry’s college mark of 122 made three-point shots by the time the NCAA tournament wraps up. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that UK news reports Kentucky Wildcats Murray has been named to the All-SEC First Team.

Freshman sharpshooter Jamal Murray joined Ulis on the All-SEC First Team, while also earning All-SEC Freshman Team honors.

Kentucky’s dynamic backcourt led the country in scoring within league play among the major conferences (Power 5 plus the American and the Big East). Together, they combined for 40.8 points per game for UK.

Murray has been one of the nation’s best scorers all season long and led the league with five SEC Weekly award honors. He currently leads the Wildcats in scoring at 20.0 points per game, which, if the season ended today, would be the highest scoring average at Kentucky in the Calipari era.

The Kitchener, Ontario, native hit an average of 3.72 3-pointers in SEC games … 3-point field-goal percentage (.421).

He’s posted three 30-point games this season … the most by a freshman in school history.

Having hit a 3-pointer in every game this season, Murray owns the UK freshman record for most 3-point field goals in a single season with 99, … and he has a shot at breaking Stephen Curry’s NCAA freshman record for 3-point field goals in a season (122).

NBA New York Knicks Jimmer Fredette

Knicks Give Jimmer Fredette Another Shot At The NBA

By Frank McLean

The Westchester Knicks announced on Monday that former college hoops sensation Jimmer Fredette has signed a 10-day contract with the New York Knickerbockers.

For Fredette, who has been playing in the NBA Development League (“NBA D-League or NBDL”) with the Westchester Knicks, it’s his third shot at sticking to an NBA roster this year.

NBA D-League Westchester Knicks Jimmer Fredette

This past summer he was signed by the Spurs and cut just prior to the start of the NBA season. Then he played for the New Orleans Pelicans from November 10-19 on an emergency basis. When that ended he went back to Westchester where he has been arguably the NBDL’s best player.

He has averaged 22.3 points per game in the NBDL and was named the MVP of the recent D-League All-Star Game in Toronto scoring a record 35 points.

Fredette was drafted by in the first round by the Bucks in 2011 and immediately traded to the Kings where he played until he was waived in February 2014. The Chicago Bulls picked him up for the rest of that season. He played in 50 games for the Pelicans the next year.

However, he never lived up to his NCAA reputation as the big game shooter at Brigham Young University where in his senior year averaged 22 points per game and won player of the year award.

During his time in the NBA, he has played in 233 games prior to this season, but averaged only 6 points per game. The knock on him has been that he doesn’t play defense. However, Scouts have loved the fact he is averaging 22 points a game in the NBDL where he is an underdog cult hero with the fans, but they aren’t sure if he is good enough to play in the NBDL but not good enough for the NBA.

“I’m confident now that I’ve been able to play consistent minutes. I feel like I’m a very improved player,” Fredette told Katie Hatch of the Westchester Knicks website. “You just have to know the reads and I feel pretty comfortable running it the last few months with the Westchester Knicks.”

Knicks Czar of basketball Phil Jackson has been taking heat in the New York media for not making any moves at the NBA trade deadline. The Knicks still have an increasingly distance outside shot at the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but it is slipping away fast thanks to winning only twice in their last 10 games.

Jackson’s move seems like it might be an act of desperation and it does not appear to be going over well with Knicks players. After Saturday’s practice a member of the media mentioned to Carmelo Anthony about the move and he well pretty well made fun of it.

When told Fredette was likely to be signed, Anthony referred to his soon-to-be new teammate by the wrong name.

“To be honest with you,” Anthony chuckled. “I haven’t seen Jimmy play in a long time. I’ve been hearing about what’s he’s doing down there in the D-League but I haven’t seen him play in action for a long time.”

“I thought you were telling me we were about to sign someone,” Anthony said to the Reporter.

The other question is, where is Fredette is going to play in the Knicks line-up? He is a guard where the Knicks have plenty of them. Jose Calderon, Arron Afflalo, Langston Galloway, Sasha Vujacic and rookie Jerian Grant are the rotation. It will be up to new coach Kurt Rambis to figure out where and how much he will play.

If you remember we wrote about Fredette back in December when Westchester visited Mississauga to take on the Raptors 905. He scored 21 points on 7-14 shooting in the 107-101 Knicks win.

After the game when I spoke him I expected to see someone who might be bitter. After all, this was someone who was once the NCAA player of the year with NBA experience playing in a bus league.

Instead I found someone who was just happy to be doing something he has loved since he was a kid and that’s playing basketball. He told me he just wanted to keep playing and hope for that 10 day contract.

It looks he’s got that chance, which could be his last chance at playing in the big show period.

Fredette is good people. I hope he gets a chance to play on Broadway for a while.

 

 

Frank McLean - small sizeVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

NBA D-League Raptors 905 John Jordan

Raptors 905 Guard John Jordan Wins Slam Dunk Contest

Mississauga Raptors 905 5’10 guard Johns Jordan soared high in the air to pound in three perfect dunks on route to winning the NBA D-League Slam Dunk contest at NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto.

A bounce pass to himself for the behind the back slam, followed by bounce pass to himself for the two-handed windmill and then a pass off the backboard for the reverse windmill wowed the judges for three perfect scores. His final dunk was a spinning jam that secured the victory.

 

 

 

NBA D-League Westchester Knicks Jimmer Fredette

Jimmer Fredette Alive And Well With The Westchester Knicks

By Frank McLean

The thing I have learned about having an NBA-DL team in my neighbourhood is that the opponents might bring someone who you would put in the where are they now category.

Saturday night I made my way to Hershey Centre in Mississauga to see the Raptors 905 take on the Westchester Knicks who brought Jimmer Fredette with them. – “Jimmer”

Back in 2011 Jimmer was the hottest thing in Division One NCAA college basketball with Brigham Young University. His senior year was magical at best.

In 37 games that season, which included making it as far as the Sweet-16 of the NCAA tournament where BYU lost to Florida, Fredette averaged 35.8-minutes a game and led all of Division One with an average 28.9 points per game.

He was a legend at BYU. His name became a verb. If he had a game where he scored a ton of points BYU fans would chant “YOU GOT JIMMERED”! It all started when BYU appeared in a nationally televised game against San Diego State where he dropped 43 points and instantly became a national celebrity.

He was named First Team All-American and was a first round pick, 10th overall, by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2011 NBA draft. The Bucks would then trade him to the Sacramento Kings in a three way deal which also involved the Charlotte Bobcats.

In Sacramento “JIMMERMANIA” became the rage.

Sales of his jersey resulted in a 540-percent increase in merchandise sales involving the Kings. His number seven Kings jersey sold out in stores in the Sacramento area, as well as online, but by February 2014, the Kings had bought out Jimmer’s contract.

Fredette’s NBA journey would see him sign with the Chicago Bulls for the rest of that season and spend 2014-15 with the New Orleans Pelicans. Then on October 31st, Fredette was selected second overall by the Westchester Knicks in the NBA Development League draft.

For nine days in November Fredette was brought back by the Pelicans to help the team deal with numerous injuries. The Pelicans used an NBA hardship exemption in order to sign him as he made their roster stand at 16 players, one over the allowed limit of 15.

However, the knock on Fredette has been he was just a shooter and not much else. Defense has not been a big part of his game. His NBA stats line has him averaging only 13.5 minutes and six points a game.

Westchester is one of the top teams in the NBA-DL loop this season. After losing to the Raptors 905 on Saturday night their record dropped to 14-10, but that is still good enough to lead the Atlantic Division.

Fredette is putting up numbers and is a main cog in their success. He is playing an average of 37 minutes a night and averaging 23 points a game. When I talked to him after Saturday’s game, I found a 26-year-old with a big smile on his face and a terrific attitude even though he is toiling in a bus league.

“I’m just getting an opportunity to go out and play,” Fredette said. “I’m trying to help the team as much as I can and show people I can play and still try and get better. That’s what this is, having a good time, enjoying the guys and just playing.”

Fredette did get to spend the preseason trying out with the San Antonio Spurs and playing for Greg Popovich which was a positive experience. He was cut by the Spurs and when Popovich released him he was very positive in his critique of Fredette.

Popovich told Fredette that he did a good job and it wasn’t anything that he did wrong and that he was cut because they were looking for a bigger wing.

“I gave an effort,” Fredette said. “I got better as a player. I’m a professional and I’m excited looking forward.”

Walking away after the interview you could not help but like Fredette, the guy is just positive. At 26-years of age, the cut-throat world of professional basketball has not killed his youthful zeal for the sport.

I hope he gets one more shot at the NBA. I hate to see this guy become basketball’s version Tim Tebow, a Heisman Trophy winner as the best player in NCAA football and a bust as a professional.

 

 

Frank McLean - small sizeVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

Canadian Jordan Bachynski

Canadian Jordan Bachynski Having A Big Time Year

Canadian center Jordan Bachynski was a shot blocking machine as a senior at Arizona State in 2013-14, but that wasn’t enough to get him drafted that summer by the NBA. He’s big, a legit 7’2 250 lbs and he’s outgoing, friendly and coachable, however, he was almost 25-years-old heading into the draft. Bachynski ended up signing with the NBA D-League Westchester Knicks last season. A year later and the big Canadian was ready to show his stuff.

“At the beginning of this year my coaches really encouraged me to run because I run very well for my size,” Bachynski told Pro Bball Report. “So, that’s been a huge focus for me to run the floor and get ahead of guys because I’m a lot faster than a lot of the bigs out there and even if I don’t get the ball, what happens is opponents see they have to come and guard me and it opens up so much for us.

“Every possession I’m working at running and I put a lot of time in the weight room and gained a lot of weight and I’m keeping it on and feeling strong and feeling good.”

Just from appearances, Bachynski looks in better shape than he did coming out of college and the weight gain is backed up by official (unbiased) measurements. He weighed 254 lbs at the NBA Draft Combine in 2014 and upped that to 265 lbs at the D-League Elite Camp heading into this season. Although he seems more focused on speed rather than strength.

“Any way I can help my team,” Bachynski said. “One of the ways I do is to sprint down and make those wings, those guards guard me and I get deep post position or it makes my guards open for three on the wing.”

Bachynski is one of the returning players from the Westchester Knicks initial season and the New York Knicks have set this program up right. The Knicks are looking to develop players and build those bonds so players they don’t have the ability to hang on to don’t want to leave for another team.

“The Westchester Knicks do a great job taking care of us,” Bachynski said. “We have a really great setup. It’s one of if not the best setup in the D-League. We practice in the Knicks facility. We have a full-time athletic trainer so any bumps or bruises we get we have someone to take care of us. We have top-notch housing and on top of that our coaches here, he’s a phenomenal coach. I love playing for him. I am happy I’m with Westchester.”

Remembering the D in D-League stands for development, every player including Bachynski is hoping for a bigger payday somewhere else, but Bachynski sees himself as a future NBA player and after watching him run the court at his size that’s not an unrealistic goal.

“Obviously my goal is to get to the NBA and I honestly believe I’m an NBA player.”

NBA D-League Jordan Bachynski

The Toronto Raptors had brought him in for a predraft workout and invited him to Summer League. So, not surprisingly, the Raptors 905 were very interested in acquiring the big Canadian this past summer, but Westchester wasn’t about to let him go and they were right.

“He’s having a big time year,” Raptors 905 head coach Jesse Mermuys said. “We had talked about trying – obviously we had him in Summer League. We like him. He’s Canadian. We wanted to explore possibly bringing him in to this team and they (Westchester) were not having it. They wanted him and that was the right move by them because he’s having a big time year for them.

“Defensively he’s been good for them and his scoring is up and he’s obviously developing his game. He’s a load. He’s a big boy. He’s tough. He’s not soft at all. You have to battle, fight for position.”

“At college my game was very one-sided,” Bachynski said. “I was a back to the basket big who defended really well and defense has been my token, that’s what I do and the (Knicks) have really encouraged me to develop my defensive presence, but have also encouraged me to learn how to be a better offensive player and I think that’s one thing the triangle has really helped me with. It’s helped me when I get the ball to slow down, take a breath, see all my options and if I see an open man, I’m hitting him, I’m not a black hole like a lot of bigs. I try and spread the ball around and make the best possible play.”

Bachynski is getting noticed. Averaging 13.3 points on 59.5 percent shooting, 6.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 2.8 blocks in 26.1 minutes over 24 games with Westchester this season, he is currently rated 12th on the NBA D-League Prospects Watch List.

 

 

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 D-League Canadian Myck Kabongo

Myck Kabongo Is Carving Out A Niche

It’s been a long and winding road to where Texas Longhorn Myck Kabongo wanted to be since he was voted his team’s Most Valuable Player by his peers in 2013. In hindsight it seems clear the college sophomore declared for the NBA draft too soon after playing in just 11 games that year due to an NCAA suspension at the start of the season.

Since going undrafted, Kabongo has been carving out a niche in the NBA D-League and now entering his third D-League season with his fourth team, the Toronto native seems to found a role with the Erie BayHawks.

“For our turnovers, Myck Kabongo was a beast out there man,” Raptors 905 head coach Jesse Mermuys said after playing Erie. “I mean that man is a one-man wrecking crew when it comes to forcing turnovers and creating havoc. He was able to impact the game defensively. He is a big time defender.”

In one defensive stand, the ever-active Kabongo took out a row of courtside seats as he drove after a loose ball. The guard grabbed 4 boards, dished 5 dimes, swiped 4 steals and even blocked a shot in just 22.3 minutes of action off the bench when Erie faced the 905 in Mississauga recently.

It was something of a surprise when the college sophomore went undrafted that summer and ended up playing in the NBA D-League with the Austin Toros instead of the NBA. The next season was somewhat controversial as Kabongo split time between the Texas Legends and Fort Wayne Mad Ants. This year, the still very young point guard has re-focused his efforts on the defensive end of the court.

“Working hard, getting better as a basketball player and showing a little bit,” Kabongo said. “This would have been my senior year coming out of school really, so I think it’s an advantage being a professional these last few years.

“You have to find a niche. If you get called up, if that ever happens for you, you probably not going to be a main guy or focal point of your team. You have to understand who you are in your career and I understand that. You have to do the little things to try and get on the floor.

“I know I am quick enough to disrupt the ball, get my guys easy shots, get in the paint and that’s what I try to do.”

Kabongo isn’t anything if he isn’t high energy, but he is showing more than that now. There are signs he is understanding how to play and how to be effective.

“I think it’s just understanding the game of basketball,” Kabongo said. “I am a student of the game. I watch a lot of film whenever I can. In my downtime I am watching basketball constantly and just translate it to the game.”

Offense remains a concern. The jump shot that seemed to be coming around in his first D-League season with Austin remains a work-in-progress, but Kabongo has been focusing on what he does best. His chance to get to the next level is more likely to come because of his defense and passing.

“Definitely I am getting better offensively and I know that will come, but I know my job right now is to make everyone (else’s) job easier and that’s what I’ve been doing,” Kabongo said. “Picking my spots offensively when I can, if there’s an open shot – take it, but I’m a point guard, a pass-first point guard. I make the job easier for my teammates.”

Most importantly he has put last year’s struggles in the past and is focused on having fun again. Playing professional basketball at any level should be exciting.

“I think we have the best job in the world,” Kabongo said. “We get to play the game that we love, the best game in the world. I am just thankful that I’ve been given a chance to play.”

 

 

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 D-League Raptors 905 Keanau PostRaptors 905 Keanau Post Starts Over 7’5 Sim Bhullar At Center

After a 2-6 start to the season, Raptors 905 head coach Jesse Mermuys needed a change, so 7’5 center Sim Bhullar got sent to the bench in favor of starting fellow 6’11 Canadian Keanau Post.

 

 

 

shannon scott

Raptors Give Ohio State Guard Shannon Scott A Camp Invite

Update, it’s official:

 


 

The Toronto Raptors now have four players vying for the 15th spot on the roster once training camp opens in a couple of months. Undrafted Ohio State senior guard Shannon Scott has a camp invite along with undrafted free agents Ronald Roberts, Axel Toupane and Michale Kyser.

 

Draft Express describes Scott as a highly touted guard out of high school who never quite lived up to his billing, but like most of the players the Raptors have been showing interest in, this kid can play defense.

Scott was nevertheless named All-Big 10 Honorable Mention and Ohio State managed to sneak into the NCAA Tournament with a 10-seed. He showed flashes of brilliance as a point guard and earned his reputation as a defensive stopper.

At 6’1 with a solid 185-pound frame and a 6’3.5 wingspan, Scott has decent size for the NBA point guard position. He is also has ample athleticism, possessing an excellent physical profile for the next level. The issue remains that Scott has never been able to translate his physical gifts into productivity or consistency.

With that said, Scott is still at his best on the defensive end of the floor. His outstanding lateral quickness allows him to stay in front of guards at either position, he works hard to close out on shooters, and he has strength and quickness to guard the pick-and-roll.

The 22-year-old Scott played for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Summer Leagues in Utah and Las Vegas where he averaged 5.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 22.6 minutes over 9 games.

The addition of Scott brings the Raptors training camp roster to 18. The maximum permitted by the NBA is 20.

It’s worth noting that the Raptors are currently bringing three point guards on guaranteed contracts to camp who will rank well ahead of Scott in Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph and rookie Delon Wright.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Kyser Roberts ToupaneRaptors Confirm 17 Players Coming To Training Camp

The Toronto Raptors have officially signed undrafted free agents Ronald Roberts, Axel Toupane and Michale Kyser to bring their training camp roster to 17 players. It is believed that all three players have been signed to modest non-guaranteed deals. An NBA team can have a maximum of 15 players on their roster once the season starts.