Grizzlies sign Toronto Raptors draft whiff in lottery ticket gamble

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 2: Masai Ujiri President of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 2: Masai Ujiri President of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors have generally drafted well under Masai Ujiri, and they have become renowned for their ability to find talent in the second round or undrafted free agent market. That doesn’t mean they have a 100% success rate, as the David Johnson ordeal proves.

After drafting Scottie Barnes and Dalano Banton, the former Louisville star was almost never regarded as someone with any chance of breaking into the rotation. Most of his time was spent in the G League, and his performance was so underwhelming that he only played a handful of minutes in the NBA.

Johnson was finally cut loose, as Toronto decided that two seasons of trying to make him work was enough. Like Banton, who signed with Boston as a restricted free agent, a championship contender is giving Johnson a second chance at sticking in the NBA.

The Memphis Grizzlies took a flier on Johnson and the eloquently named Adonis Arms, though the specifics of the deal were not disclosed. This deal will likely put Johnson back into the G League ranks. Will Memphis get the most out of someone who

Former Toronto Raptors pick David Johnson signs with Grizzlies.

Johnson was a classic tweener coming out of college. While he had some strong on-ball defense tape in college, he wasn’t athletic enough or skilled enough of a passer to play point guard full time and lacked the deadeye shooting to play off-ball. Toronto tried to develop him at both spots, and it failed.

Johnson averaged 10.7 points per game on 48/38/72 shooting splits during 28 regular season G League games last season with Raptors 905. Oddly enough, Johnson shot 56% and averaged 13.1 points per game away from Mississauga. Those numbers dipped to 7.8 points per game and 39% shooting at home.

After it appeared Toronto stumbled upon a quality, cheap bench via their 2021 draft class, that group has since floated away. Banton is a Celtics backup, Johnson just joined Memphis, and former undrafted free agent Justin Champagnie is trying to make the Miami Heat.

This move comes after 905 traded away Johnson’s rights to the Memphis Hustle, the Grizzlies’ G League affiliate, at the end of August.

In much the same way getting rid of Malachi Flynn was viewed as a way to get him back on the right track via a fresh start, Johnson could finally get the confidence boost he needs in his new home. Given how he never broke into the NBA with Toronto, any production he gives Memphis could be a bonus.