The Toronto Raptors spent the better part of the preseason trying to figure out which player was going to take up their 15th and final roster spot. While Justin Champagnie, a holdover from last year’s team, was the favorite at the start of training camp, former No. 4 overall pick Josh Jackson made things interesting.
With Champagnie on the mend for most of the preseason, Jackson and fellow former first-rounder D.J. Wilson took it upon themselves to make convincing cases for that final spot. Jackson, in particular, stood out in these games, as his effort and athleticism was on full display.
After weeks of practice and a handful of games, Nick Nurse finally had to make this very tough decision. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Champagnie was retained as the 15th man. Jackson, veteran big Wilson, and rookie Gabe Brown were all released after failing to unseat the second-year Pitt alum.
While it looked like Jackson had some momentum, Champagnie was able to push him aside due to both his developmental potential and the fact that Jackson’s performance took a hard downward turn in the final two games. The Raptors just couldn’t part with their UDFA gem.
The Toronto Raptors kept Justin Champagnie over Josh Jackson.
Jackson was dominant against Utah and in the first Boston game, but his preseason looks less impressive when you realize he shot 37% from the floor and only hit one shot from the floor in the final two games. Champagnie had limited preseason time, but Nurse apparently went with familiarity over the newbie in Jackson.
Nurse said he was looking for offensive potential as one of the main factors that will set the winner of the final spot apart. While Champagnie wouldtill a poor 3-point shooter and ball-handler, Nurse must be very confident in his ability to get No. 11 performing at an NBA level in those two areas.
A 12-rebound game against Milwaukee and a match with four 3-pointers against San Antonio last season showed that Champagnie is an effective pro player when he is given minutes in critical situations. The next step in his development will be making sure he can show he is a more complete two-way player with regularity.
It had to be tough for Jackson and Wilson in training camp. Champagnie was clearly the favorite, and both of them gave it everything they had in an effort to unseat him. While their time with the Raptors has come to an end, they have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are worthy of roles in the NBA.