If you were compiling a list of players who could’ve joined the Toronto Raptors late in the season and made enough of a positive impact to potentially earn himself a contract for 2021-22, center Freddie Gillespie has to be nowhere near the top of the list. Despite his less-than bombastic arrival in Toronto, he made the most of his opportunity.
Gillespie, a former Division III player who transferred to Baylor, went undrafted, meaning he was trying to claw his way to the NBA with the Memphis Hustle, G League affiliate of the Memphis Grizzlies. In need of depth and more size, the Raptors decided to give Freddie his first shot at the highest level.
The most obvious hole that Gillespie, signed to a non-guaranteed deal for next season, was coming to the Raptors to fill was the one Aron Baynes tried and failed to plug up. The Raptors needed physicality and rebounding, and the Australian big man failed to provide a large quantity of either.
Gillespie didn’t set the world on fire with his statistics, but he did at least show that he can stick in this league thanks to his brand of ball down in the low-post. Considering how he came from out of nowhere to make an impact, the fact he is sticking around is impressive.
Freddie Gillespie had some impressive times with the Toronto Raptors.
Gillespie averaged 5.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game in his debut season. While he wasn’t tasked with a great deal of responsibility, he was asked to come in and provide the rebounding and shot-blocking Baynes could not. At the very least, he accomplished his goal.
Despite his size, Gillespie moves well and can help keep the Raptors running when a fast break situation pops up. In addition to his G League production and ability to secure the paint, what made him so attractive was his athletic profile, which gives him a much higher ceiling than most G Leaguers who earn a promotion.
Gillespie shouldn’t be hailed as the second coming of Chris Bosh just yet, however. Cleaning the Glass (subscription required) showed that the Raptors were an astonishing 16.2 points per 100 possessions worse when Gillespie was on the floor, including 12.4 points on the offensive end alone.
When you don’t have any offensive game outside of the paint, this is what happens. To be fair, most of Gillespie’s really poor numbers came when he lined up at power forward, and his totals at center are a bit more respectable.
Gillespie needs to make some improvements to his game, most of which need to come on the offensive end. If he’s able to get comfortable with a handful of post moves that can make him a threat to hit double-digits when he’s in a groove, he might stick in Toronto beyond 2021-22 as a quality backup center.