The Toronto Raptors made Yuta Watanabe a fan favorite over the last few seasons. Plucking him from the ranks of the G League and utilizing his unique skillset helped Toronto get out of some sticky situations. That apparently was not enough to earn himself another Raptors deal.
Even though Watanabe had expressed interest in returning to Toronto, the Raptors went through Summer League play without a contract. Considering the 3-and-D skills he has flashed regularly, it’s surprising that he’s been out of work for so long.
All the Japanese stud can do is keep chopping wood and hope that his tape is encouraging enough to where some team takes a chance on him. If he keeps playing as he has been on the international circuit, Toronto’s decision not to resign could come back to bite them.
While Watanabe waits for an NBA offer to trickle in, he is fresh off dominating in FIBA Asia Cup play with Team Japan. Even though the Filipino and Iranian national teams might be short on NBA talent, Yuta is showing more offensive skill and drive to professional teams looking for a bench wing to add.
Will the Toronto Raptors regret not signing Yuta Watanabe?
Watanabe averaged 4.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game with Toronto. That doesn’t sound like world-breaking production, but it is emblematic of a player that went hard on the defensive end and used his frame to play multiple positions. Watanabe earned a handful of starts in his tenure.
With Svi Mykhailiuk opting into a guaranteed contract spot, the Raptors would have to either eat his money or allocate one less spot to a non-guaranteed player like Dalano Banton to bring Yuta back. Will that hurt the Raptors? It might if Yuta has taken a step forward offensively.
No NBA team has bitten on Watanabe just yet, which is surprising considering that he still has a ton of juice left in the tank. If nothing else, he’ll be a pesky defender that can beef up the back end of the bench. That’s something most teams, Toronto included, could use.
Watanabe has had to fight and claw for every inch he has taken in the NBA, and it looks like getting a roster spot this year will be no different. A strong performance with Japan could get NBA teams on the line, setting up a revenge tour that ends up burning Toronto.