Raptors land Fred VanVleet clone as UDFA with two-way contract

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 25: Markquis Nowell #1 of the Kansas State Wildcats (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 25: Markquis Nowell #1 of the Kansas State Wildcats (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors made one of the splashier picks in the 2023 NBA Draft lottery, using the No. 13 overall pick on one of the best shooters in this class in Kansas wing Gradey Dick. While they didn’t have a second-round selection, Toronto managed to make one more addition in the form of Kansas State guard Markquis Nowell.

Almost as soon as the draft ended, the Raptors became the first team to sign an undrafted player, bringing in Nowell on a two-way contract. Nowell joins the likes of Justin Champagnie and Ron Harper Jr. as highly-touted college players who quickly signed with Toronto after the festivities.

Nowell has some severe size limitations that would make him one of the smallest players in NBA history, but he has numbers that stand up there with any point guard in this class. Toronto seems to believe that his box scores warranted a lottery ticket purchase.

The Raptors have been down this path before, as they once signed an undersized point guard and March Madness star named Fred VanVleet a while back, and that seemed to turn out quite alright for them. Nowell is coming into the league with an equally impressive pedigree.

Toronto Raptors sign Markquis Nowell as UDFA.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Nowell is tiny. Listed 5-8 and 160 pounds, very few players with either that height or weight have even made it to the NBA, let alone had a long career. No matter his size, his VanVleet-esque shot selection and inefficiency (39% from the field) will get some irritated.

The positives, however, are bountiful. Nowell averaged 17.6 points and 8.3 assists per game, all before setting a record for most assists in an NCAA tournament game with 19. The passing skills are genuinely exemplary, as is some of the difficult shot-making ability.

The two-way deal is the perfect way for Nowell to prove his value at the professional level. He’ll spend a ton of time with Raptors 905, where he will likely be at or near the top of that circuit in assists per game. Nowell’s production warranted someone taking a shot on him.

Nowell is being doubted heavily, but VanVleet had to deal with many of the same criticisms of his size and style of play. It will be difficult for him to stick in the NBA, but landing with the Raptors might give him the edge he needs to improve his game and make it to the pros.

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