Having already looked at some plausible scenarios (on both ends of the spectrum) for the Toronto Raptors‘ rookies, the stakes get just a bit higher this time, as we examine those same scenarios as they impact the players hoping to make a strong impression in training camp and earn a roster spot. These are the guys literally playing for their jobs.
Barring a surprise move, the Raptors head into the season with 12 fully guaranteed contracts, as well as a pair of two-way contracts in rookies David Johnson and Justin Champagnie, both of whom are likely to start the season with Raptors 905.
That leaves six players vying for three available spots, with camp and the preseason looming large for what is an open competition. NBA battle-scarred youngsters like Isaac Bonga and Reggie Perry will compete against international signings Ishmail Wainright and Sam Dekker as well as 2020-21 holdovers Yuta Watanabe and Freddie Gillespie.
These six players can all go in very different directions, as it is very unlikely that they all have standout training camps when they are competing against one another. What would success and failure look like for these non-guaranteed deals?
Best and worst-case scenarios for Toronto Raptors’ roster hopefuls
The odd-on favorite to nail down one of the remaining roster spots, Watanabe enjoyed a fairly significant role on last year’s team, hustling, playing capable defense, and knocking down open shots. Japanese jersey sales should once again be a fruitful source of revenue for the Raptors.
Best Case Scenario
For most players on this list, the battle for a roster spot comes with no further assurances about playing time beyond the preseason. Still, assuming Watanabe sticks it out with the club until at least the regular season begins on October 20, he could be looking at more than just garbage time minutes.
The soon-to-be 27-year-old surprised last year by playing 50 games, averaging 14.5 minutes of floor time, and even starting four games. This time around, the addition of Precious Achiuwa and a full season from Khem Birch could eat into those minutes, but Watanabe also may benefit from the early season, post-surgery absence of Pascal Siakam.
The Toronto Raptors could use Yuta Watanabe with Pascal Siakam out.
All that to say, so long as Watanabe makes the team out of camp, his effort level and the established trust of Nick Nurse could help him carve out a real role in Toronto. If he improves his shot, he could be more than just an end-of-the-bench type.
Worst Case Scenario
Watanabe’s advantages over his fellow hopefuls are significant, with Gillespie being the only other member of the group with experience in the Raptors’ system. So it goes without saying that anything short of making the team would be disastrous for the small forward.
But it’s possible. Bonga is both younger and has more NBA experience. Dekker might prove to be a better shooter. Wainright offers a physical dimension that Watanabe can’t match. Even Gillespie’s rebounding may serve a bigger need for the squad. Let’s not pretend he’s some kind of lock.
Ultimately, this is what the organization had hoped for – a spirited training camp competition. After all, Watanabe’s roster spot last season came amongst a thinner field that included Alize Johnson and Henry Ellenson.
Still, the Raptors got a lift from their former two-way signee last season, one that they, in a perfect world, would probably like to benefit from again this season.