The Toronto Raptors embarked on their annual Summer League schedule in Las Vegas, and Dalano Banton is going to be under the microscope. After a so-so rookie season, Banton announced to the Raptors and the rest of his Summer League that he is too good for this level of competition.
Banton overcame a sketchy start and finished with 21 points on efficient shooting. Considering how his lack of a jumper made it tough for him to get regular minutes last year, Dalano is showing to be more confident in this area.
Banton has been making strides in his decision-making and shooting from range. He’s no longer an offensive liability off-ball, as he can knock down corner jumpers and cash in easy ones at the foul line.
Clearly head and shoulders above G League-level competition, last season saw Banton in limbo. Unable to crack the active roster (partially due to the tight rotation Coach Nick Nurse keeps) but too valuable an asset to have hanging around on the bench, Banton was excommunicated to Mississauga.
Banton has had no shortage of local support. A local kid with a unique game and the skillset to match? When was the last time the Raptors brought in a rookie like him as the footnote of a draft tandem? Banton has been knocking on the door of NBA minutes for months now, but he finally looks ready for a more significant NBA role.
How does Dalano Banton fit into the Raptors rotation?
Before the Kevin Durant sweepstakes took Raptors fandom by storm, fans were looking forward to a quiet offseason in which Masai Ujiri acquired a backup guard and a full-sized big man.
After drafting Christian Koloko with the 33rd pick, the team checked one of those boxes. However, after using most of their MLE on 3-and-D specialist Otto Porter from the Warriors, it seemed like getting a Fred VanVleet deputy wouldn’t happen.
How can the team move into the 2022-23 season with only one true point guard? Yes, VanVleet had a career year across the board last season, but one simply cannot ask an undersized guard like him to play the minutes he logged in 2021-22. It got him hurt, and ultimately helped lose the team a playoff round.
What if the guy the Raptors were ready to empower was within the organization all along? What if the Raptors’ coaching staff was about to throw out an in-house prospect with the length to play the Raptors’ defensive scheme? Perhaps the G League star was the plan all along?
Those who watched the games know that Banton is still far away from being a true backup point guard. The handle is still loose, and he turns the ball over far too much to be entrusted with the keys to an NBA offense (bench mob or otherwise).
The difference is the jump shot. Banton’s previous lack of reliable shooting range prevented him from fitting into a system that didn’t allow him to dominate the ball. In the NBA, he didn’t offer much value without the ball.
Now that Banton has made strides in that department, he’ll be able to put his defensive size and finishing ability at the guard position to best use by hitting open threes, finishing off cuts, and sharing ball-handling duties off the bench with whichever starter stays in.
Banton is not a full-time point guard. Yes, he can play on-ball offense with his herky-jerky style and passing vision, but the screws aren’t tight enough yet.
If the Raptors keep the roster as is, expect Banton to get more opportunities as a playmaker off the bench. He’s got the skills and keeps adding to his game. At some point, you have to allow your projects to test their skill, and Banton has earned his opportunity.