It’s yet to be officially confirmed, but it looks like Toronto Raptors President and General Manager Masai Ujiri is at it again with (at least) three new training camp invitees getting the nod while the NBA Summer League showcase was on. Raptors Republic has been keeping track of the twitter leaks and believes Ronald Roberts, Axel Toupane and Michale Kyser will secure non-guaranteed deals with Toronto. (The Raptors have confirmed a multi-year deal for Roberts, see press release below.)
If you’ve been paying attention, this will be the third year in a row Ujiri has taken a hard look at three fringe prospects in the hopes he’ll find that diamond in the rough. In 2013 it was Carlos Morais, Chris Wright and Julyan Stone. Last summer it was Greg Stiemsma, Will Cherry and Jordan Hamilton. This year, however, one should be realistically suspecting that Ujiri is using the common $25,000 training camp invite guarantee money to grease the skids for most if not all of these players to sign NBA D-League contracts to play for the Raptors 905.
In Ujiri’s first summer in Toronto, it was all about changing a losing culture and he brought in quite a few young players in addition to the camp invites. As expectations were low, the possibility of winning a spot on the Raptors was pretty good. Last year the team expected to win, so the veteran center Stiemsma had a huge advantage. But what’s interesting is all of Ujiri’s previous training camp invitees have looked pretty good in training camp and preseason games. If this was a lottery team with available roster spots, they all might have stuck around.
Roberts is an athlete and he impressed at Summer League again this year with the very high bounce in his step and defensive potential. A four-year player at St. Joesph’s, he was a double-double power forward in the NBA D-League and overseas last year after a training camp invite from the 76ers.
He also got a preseason look from the Philadelphia 76ers but didn’t get enough run to really evaluate him (it was a similar deal to this – three years, $35,000 guaranteed, two non-guaranteed years after that).
Roberts had 14.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks as a college senior. In 14 games with Delaware last year he averaged 15.8 points, 11.6 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.0 blocks. The knock on Roberts is his 6’7 height and he did look kind of short standing in the post at Summer League.
The 22-year-old Toupane has been playing in the French League where he averages less than 20 minutes per game, but he does show the potential to become a three-point threat. He shot 44 percent from deep in the Eurocup last year. Maybe a “3-and-D” wing? He has the height and length to play small forward, but at under 200 lbs last summer, does he have the strength?
You’d be forgiven for failing to notice Kyser on the Raptors 2015 Summer League team. He didn’t play much until the final game. However, the very skinny 6’10 forward was all over the court for 28 minutes at the end. Kyser scored 12 points, grabbed 7 boards and blocked 3 shots, but this kid didn’t look much like the power forward he’s advertised as being. Seriously, it looked like he was a wing.
Listed at a generous 205 lbs, Kyser looks more like a version of Terrence Ross minus the jump shot on the court than a player expected to bang in the paint for boards. However, those 3 blocks he got on the last day of Summer League were just more of what this kid did on a regular basis in college. As a senior he averaged 8.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 28.7 minutes. Swatting away shots was something he did exceptionally well in all four years at Louisiana Tech.
The Raptors already have two rookies on their 2015 roster in Norman Powell and Delon Wright, plus they are bringing back sophomores Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira. Adding yet another rookie who is likely to be assigned to the Raptors 905 D-League team doesn’t make a lot of sense. On the other hand, signing all three of these prospects with the Raptors 905 makes an immense amount of sense as they all have potential. It wouldn’t hurt the Raptors 905 if Ujiri could find a couple more worthy camp invitees for the big club to release back to his D-League team.
Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.
RAPTORS SIGN RONALD ROBERTS
The Toronto Raptors announced Tuesday they have signed forward Ronald Roberts to a multi-year contract. Per team policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Roberts, 6-foot-8, 225 pounds, recently participated with the Raptors’ entry in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, where he averaged 10.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 23.5 minutes in four games. Roberts posted a double-double (14 points, 12 rebounds) in the opener July 10 against Sacramento.
Roberts spent the 2014-15 season with the Delaware 87ers (NBA D-League), Santa Cruz Warriors (NBA D-League) and San Miguel Beermen (Philippines Basketball Association).
Roberts averaged 10.7 points and 6.6 rebounds over four seasons at St. Joseph’s and helped the Hawks claim the 2014 A-10 Tournament title.