The Toronto Raptors might need to dig deep into their roster if they want to find a spark that could save their season.
More so than perhaps any other team in the league, the Toronto Raptors have made a habit out of developing stars and key rotation pieces alike via the G League, with Fred VanVleet and Chris Boucher standing out as the jewels of their developmental system.
Even though the Raptors 905 season hasn’t gotten underway, and the COVID-altered G League season might make it more difficult for their youngsters to develop, that doesn’t change the fact that Toronto has an impressive assemblage of blooming talent.
Unfortunately, given Toronto’s chaotic 2-6 start, some of these players might need to get some burn in the rotation, as doing so could help Nick Nurse settle on a new rotation that changes Toronto’s fortune.
These three Raptors G League and two-way players could help Toronto start piecing wins together.
SF Yuta Watanabe
Watanabe, who joined Toronto after a few cups of coffee with the Memphis Grizzlies, doesn’t exactly have the highest ceiling in the world, as he is already 26 years old and struggles on the defensive end. However, Watanabe has shown that when he gets hot, his killer three-pointer can ignite an offense that has been stuck in the mud.
While he stands 6-9, Watanabe plays more like an off-ball guard, using some sharp passing and a solid ability to get open without the ball to put himself in good positions to catch and shoot. Toronto’s lack of offense is what is killing them at the moment, and Nick Nurse would be doing his team and Raptors fans a disservice by not making Watanabe a full-fledged member of the rotation.
C Dewan Hernandez
Toronto clearly doesn’t think that Chris Boucher is best served to play the center position. While that’s a reasonable take, what isn’t reasonable is Toronto continuing to bang their heads against a wall by starting Aron Baynes when he gives you nothing on the offensive end. Now that he’s officially back with 905 as an affiliate player, the Raptors have a chance to see if Hernandez, a former second-round pick, has the tools to stick in the pros.
The only reason Hernandez was available that late was the fact he was ineligible during his final season at Miami. His muscular build, soft touch around the basket, and ability to contests shots on the defensive end give him a play style very similar to that of Baynes, albeit with a much higher ceiling on offense. With the frontcourt floundering, Hernandez might earn some minutes soon.
SG Jalen Harris
The Raptors clearly had a thing for the Mountain West, as they ended up with the conference’s leading scorer in Harris in the second round of the draft after using the first-round pick on Conference Player of the Year Malachi Flynn. While Flynn might be the better overall player, Harris is the better scorer, averaging 21.7 points per game while showing how deadly he can be in iso situations at Nevada.
Flynn has more than earned some playing time, and Harris might be on his way soon if the Raptors keep melting on the offensive end. Nurse could use the next few games to give his super-young backcourt of the future some test runs.
Toronto built the foundation of this team through the G League, even poaching their coach in Nurse. Why not look to their players in order to beef up the roster?