While Yuta Watanabe is well-known among Toronto Raptors fans for his hustle on the defensive end, his introduction to the NBA world at large came at his expense, as Minnesota Timberwolves No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards used Watanabe as a pommel horse in what might be the best dunk anyone will see in the 2020-21 season.
For a player that has become known for his ability to block shots and ignite a fast break by causing a turnover, getting pegged as someone that is merely fodder for an elite athlete to dunk on his to be a sobering reality.
Watanabe, who is averaging 2.7 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, is trying everything he can to put that moment in the past, refocus on the task at hand, and remain a valued member of Toronto’s rotation.
In an interview done in Japanese, Watanabe said that he would try to block Edwards again if given the chance, claiming that he would rather end up on the wrong end of a highlight than give up two easy points.
Raptors reserve Yuta Watanabe wants to move past Anthony Edwards
The former George Washington star has a solid 3-point shot, but the reason he’s carved out on the Raptors is the fact that he can block shots and be a general license on defense given his 6-9 frame.
For players like Watanabe that are just getting their start in the pros and on the fringes of a roster, getting embarrassed in such a fashion could be a crippling blow to their morale. The fact that Watanabe has taken his licks and is able to bounce back so quickly says a lot about his character and mental fortitude.
The Raptors are missing standouts like Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby, all of whom comprise three of their top-five defenders. Watanabe is needed now more than ever, and he can’t let the potential of an Edwards-like poster get in his head.
It can be tough to overcome being posterized. Just ask Brandon Knight. However, Watanabe is choosing to stay aggressive on the defensive end and put that incident in the rear-view mirror. If he does that while continuing to improve his offensive game, he should stick around for a long time.