Based on how the franchise has performed over the years, it’s fair to say that the Toronto Raptors do a better-than-average job of finding talent in the undrafted free agent pool. Masai Ujiri’s scouting acumen proved golden once again after acquiring Justin Champagnie.
While Champagnie averaged 18.0 points and 11.1 rebounds during his final year at Pitt, concerns about his positional fit and shooting led to him going undrafted. The Raptors signed him to a two-way contract as soon as the 2021 NBA Draft ended, and they were rewarded for their quick decision-making.
Champagnie not only managed to work his way into the lineup for a few brief spurts last season, but he did so in such impressive fashion that he earned a multi-year contract that will include guaranteed money if he makes the opening night roster. He has a leg up in this race.
Champagnie’s tireless hustle and willingness to do the dirty work inside despite a 6-6 frame helped him become as much of a fan favorite as a two-way rookie could have been. While he’s not a lock to make the final roster, Champagnie should likely beat out some of the prospective roster hopefuls.
Justin Champagnie should help the Toronto Raptors this season.
Stats: 2.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.3 APG, 46% FG
Champagnie’s two best games in the season both came in the month of January. In a victory against the Spurs, Champagnie scored 14 points and hit four 3-pointers in just 13 minutes. Champagnie played 30 minutes, recorded 12 rebounds (six offensive), and was a +13 in a win against the Bucks.
Offensive rebounding was a particularly impressive area for Champagnie last season, as he averaged just under five per 36 minutes. While he’s taken a relatively low volume of 3-pointers, making a handful of open jumpers is better than most expected, given his college production.
Whenever he was given extended action, all of the traits that evaluators loved at Pitt started to shine. Champagnie’s hustle on both ends combined with an impressive ability to score in the paint despite a 6-6 frame shows that he could be a reliable backup with another year of seasoning under Nick Nurse.
Champagnie’s offensive game is still very limited, and he didn’t have a chance to show if it expanded during Summer League play. He made just 10 3-pointers last year, and four of them came in one game. He still lacks amazing ball-handling and offensive creation for someone who profiles as a perimeter-centric player.
Champagnie is not going to move the needle as a backup, but he was too enticing as a rookie to ditch. Look for Champagnie to be on the fringes of the rotation, moving into it should injuries befall this team. If nothing else, he’ll dominate the glass, defend well, and finish inside with some degree of aplomb.