After a crazy finish down the stretch of a Summer League game, the Toronto Raptors trailed 77-70 and won 80-79 against the Charlotte Hornets, The game was a continued showcase for newly acquired draftee Scottie Barnes and 2020 first-rounder Precious Achiuwa, but the likes of Ishmail Wainright were also strutting their stuff.
While Barnes and Achiuwa are guaranteed to be a big part of head coach Nick Nurse’s rotation when the season begins, players like Wainright are trying to carve out a place on the main roster.
To this point, four games into the Summer League, Wainright has been an inconsistent shooter, with his best offensive showing coming Thursday night in a win over Houston. He was 7-12 from the field with 20 points and was 4-6 on three-point shots.
Saturday night, however, he was just 1-10 shooting with two points in the game. Wainright signed a two-year, non-guaranteed contract with the Raptors on August 7. He has one of the more unusual builds you’ll see in the NBA, as his 6-5 height is complimented with a robust 250-pound frame that looks more at home in the NFL.
With all of those factors considered, has Wainright done enough to earn himself a spot on the NBA team?
Who is Toronto Raptors forward Ishmail Wainright?
Wainright was a two-sport athletic star in college at Baylor. He played both basketball and football between 2013-2017, though he abandoned his tight end dreams to commit to basketball.
During his four years on the Bears’ basketball team, he started in 76 games averaging 3.8 points, 2 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game. Eligible for the 2017 NBA Draft, he went undrafted.
Coming out of college, he wasn’t considered the type to create his own shot or a strong finisher around the basket. There were also concerns that he was comfortable finishing with his right hand and hesitant to use his off-hand.
However, he played with a lot of intensity and effort, especially on the defensive end, and the Raptors covet that in all of their prospects.
Toronto Raptors: Ishmail Wainright’s professional career to date.
Since leaving college and going undrafted, and after failing to make it in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills, Wainright has been playing professionally overseas.
He has had one-season stints with Nurnberg Falcons BC and Rasta Vechta in Germany as well as French team SIG Strasbourg this past season. This season. Wainright averaged 11.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game in 28 minutes per night.
Wainright is also a playmaker on the international level, having suited up for the Ugandan national team.
When asked about the emotions of the journey he’s embarked upon to get to the NBA, Wainright got emotional simply replying, “I do it for my kids.”
Those who look at the box score and only note his point tally each game will miss the fact that Wainright has much more impact on the game. In four NBA Summer League games that he’s represented Toronto in, he’s +48.
Furthermore, his defensive efforts cannot be ignored. Against the Rockets, he had two blocked shots, seven rebounds, and four steals. Against the Hornets, Wainright recorded a block, three steals, and five rebounds despite scoring two points.
The Toronto Raptors’ organization has placed a premium on defensive and hardworking, lunchpail-type players who show no quit on every play. It’s there in the play of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and even Barnes and Achiuwa. Wainright might be less offensively developed, but he has that intense motor and keeps playing.
The organization has been masterful at developing underrated prospects that lack refinement on offense. , and Wainright might be next in line.
What might be difficult is that the final roster spot may come down to recent signees like Sam Dekker, Isaac Bonga, and Wainright. Also in the way is former Bear Freddie Gillespie.
Wainright’s showcase in Summer League and a strong training camp in October could finally make the emotional struggle to get into the NBA a reality for the 26-year-old. With continued improvement, he could be more than just an end-of-the-bench player.