A full two months into the NBA season and teams are starting to get a pretty good idea about the decisions they made during the off season and training camp. Right about now the Raptors might be wondering if they should have kept Canadian guard Brady Heslip in Toronto instead of signing him to a D-League contract with the Mississauga Raptors 905?
The biggest knock on this outstanding Canadian three-point shooter has been he’s a shooting guard in a point guard’s body, so new Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse went about seeing if that problem could be remedied.
“We are going to put the ball in Brady’s hands,” Stackhouse said at the start of the season.
And they have. Heslip has been in effect the starting point guard for the 905 when the guy the Raptors signed, Fred VanVleet, wasn’t around to get in his way.
As of the end of December, both VanVleet and Heslip have nine starts with the 905 and have averaged just over 30 minutes in those starts.
VanVleet: 15.7 points, 40.7 %FG, 32.1 %3FG on 3.1 3FGA, 3.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.4 steals.
Heslip: 18.2 points, 42.3 %FG, 42.1 %3FG on 10.6 3FGA, 2.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.6 steals.
VanVleet is a slasher trying to draw fouls and even at the D-League level, he doesn’t always get (earn?) a consistent whistle, but he has been getting to the free throw line 4.2 times per game and that’s something Heslip just isn’t going to do. VanVleet’s shooting needs work too, but the team knew that. In all, VanVleet’s time in the D-League has been well spent.
Heslip has played in the D-League before and was quite literally devastating from the three-point line the last time. However, in three years at Baylor and one with the Reno Bighorns, he never averaged over 1 assist per game. What Heslip has accomplished under coach Stackhouse averaging 4.4 assists as a starting guard is eye-opening.
Heslip has shown he can both run an offense and play off the ball, at least at this level. If he can translate that to a bench role in the NBA, there are a lot of teams that could use the instant offense.
The opportunities for Toronto to maintain control of prospects like Heslip won’t come into effect until next season. With 10-day NBA contracts about to become a reality, Heslip is a player the Raptors could lose for nothing beyond his thanks for letting him show off other aspects of his game.
It’s easy to see why the Raptors choose to sign VanVleet over Heslip. VanVleet is three years younger and gives off a vibe much like a younger version of Kyle Lowry, but if they end up needing a player that could help them this season, Heslip was the one with the NBA ready jump shot who just needed a little coaching to bring out the playmaker in him.