The Toronto Raptors have to come to terms with the fact that they dropped to 4-9 at home this season with a loss against a bad Oklahoma City Thunder squad. As brutal as that putrid third quarter and nullified game-winner were, one of the positive takeaways from last night’s game for Toronto was the play of rookie Justin Champagnie.
With an already thin bench suffering from a lack of frontcourt players, Champagnie was thrown out on the floor for the entire fourth quarter. One of the main reasons Toronto was in the game for as long as they were was Champagnie’s high-energy play giving them the boost that they needed.
Champagnie recorded five points and two rebounds in the final quarter, going +10 for that stanza. The Raptors were giddy when they were able to add the former Pitt double-double machine as an undrafted free agent, and it appears as though he’s starting to reward Toronto’s trust in him.
Nick Nurse said that the main reason that Champagnie was in the game was that the other players were “soft and unenergetic.” If Champagnie is anything, he’s tough and energetic. While not a traditional big man given his size, Champagnie may need some extra run in the rotation given how depleted the roster is.
The Toronto Raptors need to play Justin Champagnie more.
Despite averaging 18.0 points and 11.1 rebounds per game at Pitt while being named a First Team All-ACC player (Scottie Barnes was a Third Team selection), Champagnie went undrafted because of concerns around his positional fit.
He’s not a very good shooter, but he might be too small to play power forward in the NBA at 6-6 and just over 200 pounds. What is his best position?
Nurse stuck Champagnie down in the paint, and he’s produced some solid results. In addition to his quality offensive night against OKC, Champagnie tallied five rebounds in just under seven minutes in a win against a Knicks. Nearly averaging a double-double in the G League, Champagnie is proving to be worthy of an increased role.
Toronto doesn’t need him to score 20 points a night, but with the depth on this team slowly crumbling away, anyone that can provide a shot in the arm like that will be welcomed in the rotation.
Nurse has had no qualms about pushing players like Malachi Flynn to the side in favor of rookies like Dalano Banton due to how well he performed in the preseason. Champagnie could also benefit from that directive, as he has impressed in his limited time on the floor.