Toronto Raptors: UDFA Justin Champagnie offers tons of potential

Feb 17, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers forward Justin Champagnie (11) Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 17, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers forward Justin Champagnie (11) Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Toronto Raptors’ busy 2021 NBA Draft night was far from over after the selections of Scottie Barnes, Dalano Banton, and David Johnson. In fact, the Raptors managed to pick up one of the better undrafted players in the entire draft in Pitt forward Justin Champagnie.

The twin brother of St. John’s star Julian Champagnie, Justin was one of the more surprising undrafted free agents that managed to slip past pick No. 60 last night, as his numbers under Jeff Capel with the Panthers last year were some of the best in the ACC.

A quality athlete, ferocious rebounder, and versatile prospect, the task of trying to develop  Champagnie into a role player was apparently too much for 29 other NBA teams. The Raptors, undeterred by the prospect of turning a raw player into a star, decided to secure the rights to the sensational power forward.

Blake Murphy of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed that Champagnie has signed a two-way contract with the Raptors. One of the most unique prospects in this draft, Champagnie could be the next 905 star that Toronto turns into a regular rotation player by the end of his rookie season.

The Toronto Raptors stole Justin Champagnie from the rest of the NBA.

Born on Staten Island and raised in Brooklyn, Champagnie averaged 18.0 points and 11.1 rebounds for the Panthers last year. He shot 47.7% from the field and just over 31% from 3-point range. A crafty scorer inside the arc, Champagnie should have no trouble scoring in the G League.

Champagnie can do the dirty work on the floor, as he has shown he is willing to hoover up rebounds, play stifling defense in the paint, and run the floor well. If that energetic and productive style is paired with a better 3-point shot, an area in which he made strides last year, he could have a very clear path to NBA playing time.

Champagnie might not be able to rebound as he did in college at the professional level, as he barely ways over 200 pounds and stands just 6-6. The term “tweener” certainly applies here, as he isn’t good enough as a ball-handler and shot-creator to become a full-time small forward in the NBA just yet.

While Pascal Siakam was picked in the first round, he came into the NBA completely unable to shoot from 3-point range, and the Raptors were able to make him one of the best power forwards in the game.

Champagnie up some similarly gaudy numbers in a better conference while shooting the ball better than Siakam did at New Mexico State. He has PLENTY of hurdles to clear before he is in that same tier, but he should be very excited by the fact that his new team has had success with improving players that share his style of play.

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