The Toronto Raptors 2020 first-round pick is fitting into the system perfectly after two pre-season games.
Drafted 29th overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, the expectations for Toronto Raptors fans were very low for guard Malachi Flynn.
Although he won the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards, there wasn’t a ton of buzz with him around him. However, this has all shifted after two pre-season games against the Charlotte Hornets
Even though he started on the bench, Flynn was one of the leaders in minutes, averaging 20 minutes per game. That’s not even a full game of action, but in that timeframe, we’ve seen what the youngster is capable of in the NBA.
Prior to making his NBA preseason debut, I felt that his transition would be a little easier than some other players. First, he doesn’t have a ton of pressure on him, as the third-option behind two amazing point-guards in Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry. And secondly, he’s an old rookie at 22-years-old.
Most rookies are “one and done” and are 19-years-old when they enter the league, so although they may be more talented, they’re more raw. Playing four years in college can give some players a huge advantage because they can work on their skills, mature and when it’s time to become a professional basketball player, they’re ready.
That’s where I think Flynn is right now.
Flynn is making a quick transition to NBA
His first two games were spectacular. In his debut, he finished with nine points, two rebounds, four assists, one steal, and was +35. His second game was even better, finishing with 17 points, one rebound, three assists, two steals, and was a +13.
In two games, Flynn’s combined for a +48. I know he was playing mostly against the second-unit, and it’s pre-season, but that number showcases how special he is offensively and defensively.
Watch above, as he steals the ball from the 2020 third-overall pick (LaMelo Ball) on one end, then immediately sprints down the court with perfect vision to find Terence Davis for the slam. The Toronto Raptors preach defense-first and Flynn is already showing Nick Nurse that it’s one of his strongest traits.
With excellent defensive awareness and the ability to score, Flynn is giving the Raptors options.
Option #1: Trade or let Kyle Lowry walk next year
I know it was pre-season, but the Raptors won both games without Kyle Lowry, thanks in large part to Flynn. In these two games, we’ve seen that Flynn has the ability to play elite NBA defense while running an offense.
I’m not saying the team should get rid of Kyle Lowry immediately, but it gives them a succession plan, as Lowry is set to become an Unrestricted Free Agent after the 2020-21 season.
Option #2: Rest Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry more often
A 72-game regular season now means that the Raptors will have to play more back-to-back this year. In those back-to-back’s, I’d expect Flynn to play a bigger role, which will allow Lowry or VanVleet to rest.
Typically you’d feel unsafe leaving a rookie point-guard in charge of the offense, but Flynn seems ready to take on a bigger role than most rookies. I know it’ll be tough for this team to win a title, but it’s all about giving yourself a chance in the playoffs. Playing Flynn in the back-to-back’s and letting the starters rest will give them a better opportunity to win in the playoffs.
Option #3: Trade Bait
This is probably the least possible option, but it’s an option. The Toronto Raptors are always trying to get better and if they can’t land a big-name player via free agency, they’ll have to do it in a trade. We all know the team doesn’t want to get rid of Fred VanVleet or Pascal Siakam, but maybe Malachi Flynn is now a name that draws interest.
You never want to trade your first-round pick, but if it means acquiring a superstar, I think the Raptors would do it. This is obviously an unrealistic possibility as the team likes his play, but with Masai Ujiri you never know. The emergence of Flynn could be used as trade bait down the road.