Late last season, one might have figured that Gillespie had all but secured at least an end-of-the-bench role on this year’s Raptors with his energetic interior play and rebounding. However, a rough showing in Summer League (22% shooting!!!) coupled with some healthy competition means that he’s no sure thing to stick.
Best Case Scenario
Preseason basketball can be a sloppy, sluggish mess at times, but it still typically features more structure and clearer roles than Summer League. That can only be encouraging for Gillespie, who can largely remain in his comfort zone as a high-energy rebounder and interior presence.
Now, that still doesn’t properly account for Gillespie’s defensive deficiencies and foul trouble in Vegas, something he will have to prove was a strange anomaly. It would be one thing if the 24-year-old had turned heads in Summer League and then fizzled out against real NBA competition, but the opposite is, in fact, true.
Even though Nurse is aware of what went down in Summer League, he obviously likes Gillespie’s game enough to give him a shot. It’s up to the former Baylor Bear to prove that his time in the desert was the anomaly and he’s otherwise ready to pick up where he left off last season.
The Toronto Raptors need Freddie Gillespie to be a good rebounder.
Worst Case Scenario
That’s no sure thing, mind you. It would be one thing if Gillespie looked to be doing trying to do too much or if some overzealous defense was resulting in fouls. Instead, he seemed to struggle with the speed of the game, which is a troubling sign for a second-year player who some expected to use Vegas as a showcase to lock down his spot.
Remember, by the time Gillespie arrived last April, Aron Baynes had all but played his way entirely out of the lineup and Chris Boucher was just a few games away from spraining his left knee. Even though Khem Birch was added around the same time, there were opportunities available to both men.
This time around, however, Boucher is healthy and the newly acquired Achiuwa will require minutes upfront, meaning that playing time won’t be so easy to come by.
Furthermore, the Minnesota native’s clearest path to NBA minutes, as a physical rebounder and rim protector, could potentially be blocked by a big obstacle in the form of a former football player in Wainright.