While the Toronto Raptors had plenty of marquee attractions worth watching in their return to Canada for the preseason, especially top pick Scottie Barnes, two of the more impressive players in their victory over the Philadelphia 76ers were some less-heralded rookies in lengthy guard Dalano Banton and high-energy wing Justin Champagnie.
Banton, a Rexdale native, was picked 46th overall in the 2021 NBA Draft due to Masai Ujiri’s infatuation with the Nebraska product’s length and speed. Champagnie averaged a double-double at Pitt, and he managed to parlay that success into a two-way contract with Toronto.
Both players likely didn’t come into the game as rotation targets, as Champagnie’s iffy 3-point shot and Banton’s lack of refinement on offense had them positioned to either sit on the bench or get reps in Mississauga with Raptors 905. However, Nick Nurse is still pondering if both of them could end up earning minutes with the big league club.
Per both Josh Lewenberg and Blake Murphy, Nurse is considering giving Banton and Champagnie some run in the rotation, likely based on the impressive stats they put up in the preseason opener. It remains to be seen if he will indeed insert them, but the rookies should take this as a sign that their head coach believes in them.
Dalano Banton and Justin Champagnie impressed the Toronto Raptors.
Banton scoring six points on 3-6 shooting in 24 minutes sounds pedestrian, but he managed to make an impact in other areas. With five rebounds, four assists, and two blocks thanks to his incredibly long wingspan for a guard, Banton is starting to show what type of player he could be at this level.
If there is one thing Banton has to clean up, it’s his turnovers, as he piled up five of them against Philly. If he corrects that flaw, his speed, athleticism, and defensive prowess could get him on the floor early in his career.
With Chris Boucher joining Pascal Siakam in the Raptors’ infirmary due to his finger injury, Champagnie tried his best to show he should be given minutes in No. 25’s absence.
In addition to his double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds, Nurse took notice of his exceptional effort as a rebounder, adding that it “will be hard” to exclude him from the rotation for now.
One player that could lose time as a result of this is Malachi Flynn, who played fewer minutes than both of those players. Nurse attributed that to the coaching staff letting him get into a flow playing off-ball, which he hasn’t done since before college. Whatever the reason may be, Flynn may be at risk of losing minutes.
While the Toronto Raptors may not have as much star power as they did in prior seasons, Nurse looks willing to lean on a rotation that goes nine or ten players deep regularly. Banton and Champagnie have very clearly won over their head coach so far, and that could help them get some time on the floor during their rookie seasons.