Three takeaways from the Toronto Raptors 905 season

Toronto Raptors: Chris Boucher #25 of the Raptors 905 (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors: Chris Boucher #25 of the Raptors 905 (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors 905 ended their season with a second-round loss to the Long Island Nets. Despite the disappointing finish, the 905 had another impressive season.

The Toronto Raptors 905 began the season in similar fashion as their NBA counterparts: with a revamped roster and a new coaching staff. Gone were coach Jerry Stackhouse and star players Lorenzo Brown and Bruno Caboclo. Jama Mahlalela took over the reins as the coach and new faces like Chris Boucher and Jordan Loyd emerged.

The team created a new identity for itself. Mahlalela kept the 905’s stingy defense intact but pushed a new pace. Under Stackhouse, the 905 were one of the G-League’s slowest teams. This season, they were one of the fastest.

The new-and-improved 905 finished second in the league in net rating (+4.0) and third in defense (104.1). They also finished top-five in three-pointers and blocks.

Much of their success can be attributed to Boucher, who was named both the G-League MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. The Canadian averaged Hakeem Olajuwon-like stats: 27.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.1 blocks, and a true shooting percentage of 61.1%.

But behind Boucher, Loyd and others stepped up.

Loyd put up several triple-doubles and averaged 22.5 points, 6.0 assists, and 5.5 rebounds with 61.5% true shooting. Wade Baldwin IV, Malachi Richardson, and Josh Adams all pitched in at different parts of the season.

For the 905 — and all G-League teams for that manner —  turbulence and constant roster shakeups are a common occurrence. But they weathered the call-ups and changes just fine, finishing 29-21 and a tie for the third-best record in the East.

Already coming from back-to-back G-League Finals appearances, the odds weren’t in favour of the 905 making it to a third straight. But with everything they achieved, it shows just how deep the foundation of the organization is.

Here are the three main takeaways from the 905’s 2018-19 season:

Chris Boucher is the Epitome of Hard Work Paying Off

Boucher set a few G-League records as the first international player to win the MVP award and the first to win the award simultaneously with the Defensive Player of the Year. Not bad for a 26-year-old who went undrafted in 2017.

Unlike many NBA prospects, Boucher didn’t make it into the league thanks to his sterling reputation. He worked his butt off going from a pickup game to AAU and to several colleges including Oregon, where he tore his ACL.

Undeterred, Boucher kept hustling. And despite achieving “star status” in the G-League, the way Boucher plays is more reminiscent of a hustle player. His gaudy numbers are the result of his passion.

A prominent two-way player, Boucher’s length and energy allow him to hit long-range jumpers or attack the rim on offense and disrupt plays on defense.

It’s fitting that he got pulled to the Raptors on a standard NBA contract. We will be seeing more of Boucher in the future and that he gets to experience the playoffs in both leagues should only help his development.

You Can Never Have Too Many Good Defenders

Boucher may have anchored the 905’s defense, but he was just a piece of the team’s stalwart frontcourt. Earlier in the season, Khadeem Lattin was Boucher’s counterpart. He was traded for Derek Cooke Jr. who was also formidable in the middle.

MiKyle McIntosh and Christian Watford were also solid as the team’s perimeter defenders.

At the back, the 905 were led by the indomitable Kyle Collinsworth who finished with the best defensive box plus-minus in the team (+3.5). Malcolm Miller and Loyd were also formidable as was Deng Adel, who Cleveland scooped up midseason.

Out of the 19 players who suited for the 905, at least 11 had a defensive box plus-minus that was even and at least four had a net of +2.9 or better.

The 905’s commitment to defense carried them throughout the season even if they lacked the offense to put them over the edge.

Road Warriors

What homecourt advantage? The 905 didn’t get the memo as they flipped the script on the G-League. With 16 wins, the 905 had the best road record in the East and second-best in the league (tied with Rio Grande Valley).

The flip side is, the 905 only had a 13-12 home record, the worst among playoff teams.

This is strange as the 905 have consistently produced one of the best home environments in the league. It was just a season ago when they kept breaking G-League attendance records. There is no shortage of support for the 905, especially with a slew of Canadians on the roster including the team’s best player as the star player.

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This is likely just an aberration. The 905 had an 18-7 home record in the last two seasons. Most notably, they have had a winning road record for three straight seasons.