Masai Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors using a first-round draft choice on San Diego State point guard Malachi Flynn seemed like one of the more disappointing picks in the 2020 NBA Draft after the first few months of the season, but Flynn has been proving to himself and RAPTOR NATION that he can play at a high level in this league.
Injuries to Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet gave Flynn a golden opportunity to prove that he should be, at the very last, the backup point guard on this team moving forward. Flynn has thrived in this role, as his shooting percentages have gone way up as a result of this commitment to his game.
Flynn posted averages of 12.7 points, 4.8 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game while shooting 41% from 3-point range. Only OG Anunoby made more 3-pointers than Flynn’s 29 last month. Not bad for someone who was supposedly a detriment on the offensive end in the first part of the season.
Flynn was named the Rookie of the Month for the month of April in the Eastern Conference, with Minnesota Timberwolves Rookie of the Year favorite Anthony Edwards taking home the title in the Western Conference.
For a pick that was derided by many (myself included, I admit) during his struggles, Ujiri has remained committed to Flynn, and that has paid dividends over the last month for the Toronto Raptors.
Toronto Raptors guard Malachi Flynn has improved.
When compared to other Eastern Conference rookies, like New York’s Immanuel Quickley, Orlando’s Cole Anthony, or Detroit’s Saddiq Bey, Flynn ranks third in points per game over the last month, fifth in rebounds per game, second in assists per game, and fourth in true shooting percentage. He deserved this award despite his struggle earlier.
Flynn’s season averages still don’t look amazing, but those can be taken with a grain of salt considering that he was given such limited minutes early in the season. After getting comfortable scoring the ball with Raptors 905 in the G League, Flynn has turned it on of late, emerging as a lethal two-way weapon.
Flynn was the Mountain West Player of the Year, but using a first-round pick on a senior has generally started to fall out of favor, as their age limits the potential upside they might be able to have in the pros.
Ujiri and Nick Nurse remained undaunted in their quest to turn Flynn into a quality guard as a professional, and his play of late has rewarded that faith.
For someone as experienced as he is (he’s older than Gary Trent Jr. is), Flynn took longer than expected to adjust to the pro game. Luckily, Nurse and Ujiri continued to insist that he is worth developing, and that philosophy has given Flynn some hardware in his rookie season and even more confidence that he could play a major role in Toronto’s backcourt next season.