Jeff Dowtin fiasco is horrible look for Raptors’ development system

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - APRIL 02: Jeff Dowtin Jr. #20 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - APRIL 02: Jeff Dowtin Jr. #20 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

In what has been an arduous season, the Toronto Raptors are sitting at .500. It is a step back from their progress last season in Scottie Barnes’ rookie year when they had 48 wins. What has also regressed in the mediocrity of this campaign is a repeated failure in recent years to develop talent. The latest victim of the shifting or directionless organization is Jeff Dowtin.

The former Rhode Island Ram impressed management enough during Summer League to secure a two-way contract. During the recently successful two-game sweep of Charlotte, Dowtin was active for his 50th NBA game. It means Toronto had to make a decision to convert his two-way deal into a guaranteed contract.

They have chosen not to do so, meaning that the team’s backup point guard has been removed from the roster right before their play-in dates are scheduled to begin. This is in spite of the fact that head coach Nick Nurse has said Dowtin “played for us well just about every time he’s gone out there.”

Not only does this show that Nurse and Masai Ujiri are not on the same page, but it paints a less-than-rosy outlook for the team’s developmental culture.

The Raptors’ development culture looks worse after Jeff Dowtin moves.

This year, Toronto has dumped sophomore Justin Champagnie, who recently signed with Boston. This is in addition to extremely limited minutes and appearances for Malachi Flynn and sophomore Dalano Banton, who have stagnated in their third and second NBA seasons, respectively.

Not only are these young players often buried on the depth chart and given very few minutes per game, but players like Dowtin are not rewarded for good play. Why would anyone sign a two-way deal with Toronto if playing like that was not rewarded with a proper NBA contract?

It is concerning and problematic that a franchise with a number of intriguing young players cannot find the time or roster spots to develop their youth.

With the exception of Gary Trent Jr, the other starters all went through the Raptors 905 G League experience or developed on the main roster. For the past three seasons, there has been nothing but personnel turnover on the bench.

One must notice that one of last year’s bench failures, Svi Mykhailiuk played well Sunday and Tuesday for the Hornets in the two losses to the Raptors. There is also the solid play the Brooklyn Nets have gotten out of Yuta Watanabe this season.

Granted, Toronto has had a number of bright young coaches pilfered from their coaching ranks over the years, including Jerry Stackhouse to Jama Mahlalela. This may have hurt the team’s player development plans. Still, Toronto’s reputation as a premier developer of young talent and one of the league’s best meritocracies is now in question after the last few years, irrespective of Dowtin.

It would also be prudent to learn more about Dowtin’s development as this off-season may see the Raptors lose one or both of Fred VanVleet or Gary Trent Jr. to free agency.

As a franchise that continually fails in free agency, having a ready-to-go replacement at the point guard spot might be a dire need for this team. Now, Dowtin will sit and watch the rest of the season, hoping the Raptors bring him back on a guaranteed deal next season.

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