Photo credit: Raptors 905
Three games into the NBA G League bubble season, the Raptors 905’s 2021 campaign is already 20 percent of the way through.
Sitting at 1-2 after a nail-biting loss against the G League Ignite, the NBA’s new experimental team formed to develop NBA draft prospects, the 905 have had quite a few positives to take away. By the same token, there are some fairly evident areas of improvement to examine as well. There are a few players that have already garnered attention, and rightfully so, showcasing their potential and making a case to potentially find their way onto an NBA roster some time in the near future.
With Week 1 officially in the books, let’s have a look at the first 905 report:
Players of Interest
Malachi Flynn (Stats: 16.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 5.0 APG, 35.3% FG)
Early into his G League assignment, Raptors first-round draft pick Malachi Flynn is displaying some of the promise that persuaded the Raptors to select him with the 29th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Flynn, fresh off a 23-point performance against the Erie Bayhawks, has been excellent early on as a floor general, showcasing a solid all-around game and an impressive ability to create his own shot:
Flynn has an explosive first step and is displaying impressive on-court awareness on his offensive plays. After a quick burst, he plays with a herky-jerky style, keeping the defender on his hip, and creating lots of separation for open shots.
In games against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and G League Ignite, his shot wasn’t falling, but the fact that he is generating clean looks is encouraging as a starting point. There are certainly building blocks to Flynn’s game, and the more opportunities and reps he is able to get, the more polished he should become as a player.
The next step for Flynn is going to be finding some consistency in finishing these plays and in shooting the ball, but the rookie has gotten off to a very good start. Look for Flynn to continue his strong play throughout the rest of the G League season.
Alize Johnson (Stats: 15.0 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 63.0% FG)
Alize Johnson, a training camp invitee for the Toronto Raptors this past December, has also gotten off to an impressive start early on. He is setting an example with his hustle, crashing the glass and diving for loose balls, as well as displaying an impressive shooting touch early on.
Johnson is averaging a double-double through the first three games while shooting 62.5 percent from three point range. Originally the 50th overall pick in the 2018 draft by the Indiana Pacers, Johnson is leading the way with his energy and is making a strong case for himself to potentially find his way onto an NBA roster once again.
Gary Payton II (Stats: 11.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 3.7 SPG, 1.7 BPG, 62.5% FG)
Gary Payton II showcased his G League All-Defensive ability and some shades of his father against the G League Ignite, recording a 905 franchise record seven steals. After 61 games in the NBA, Payton is also looking to get himself back into the league, and so far, he is finding a solid niche as a two-way player for the 905.
Payton has been one of the 905’s lone bright spots on the defensive end, providing tons of on-ball pressure and forcing turnovers. The team has rewarded him with transition opportunities going the other way and he has shined, including this beautiful throwdown:
During his time in the NBA, shot selection and a lack of three ball hindered GP2. However, if he can find an identity as a strong and athletic wing defender with the ability to score in transition at the NBA level, there is no reason why he can’t be a rotational player. Heck, if he keeps up this defensive effort, we might have to start calling him Glove Junior.
Excellent Offensive Execution
Part of the appeal of how the Raptors have utilized the 905 franchise is that they use their own coaches to implement the same systems that the big league club uses, and so far, it’s yielded terrific results for the team.
Through its first three games, the Raptors 905 are the top-ranked offensive team in the league, averaging 121.0 points per game and looking rather confident on that end with Malachi Flynn at the helm.
Head coach Patrick Mutombo has implemented Nick Nurse’s motion offence and they have fared well. This group is young and likes to run and the group has responded with excellent ball movement and solid transition play.
One positive is that the 905 appears to have several capable ball-handlers, with Flynn, Payton II, and Jalen Harris all taking turns bringing the ball up the court and getting the team into its sets. This certainly bodes well as the team looks to establish an identity of fast-paced basketball and trying to run the opposing teams out of the gym.
Defensive Effort Needs Improvement
Even in a league where defence is generally optional, the 905 cannot and should not be as bad as they have been on this end.
As solid as the offence has been, the defence has unfortunately been a sticking point, with the 905 ranking 14th out of 18 teams in defensive rating. The vast majority of the team’s struggles can be attributed to poor play on the interior. The 905 is ranked dead last in the league in defensive rebounding rate, they are giving up the most points in the paint, and allowing the fourth-most second chance points.
The 905 have done well in limiting opponents in transition so far, but they need to find a way to start defending in the paint. The effort on the glass needs to improve from big men such as Henry Ellenson and Dewan Hernandez. Teams have been able to exploit this and late in games they are driving inside and getting to the bucket with relative ease. If the 905 plan on making any noise in the bubble, this aspect of the game simply needs to be better.
Other Early Thoughts
- Matt Mooney has enough shooting and off-ball movement that it wouldn’t shock me if a 10-day contract or training camp invite came his way from an NBA team.
- Jalen Harris has a solid offensive arsenal in his bag and if he can find his shot more consistently as well as figure out how to get enough separation, he could potentially find a role as a microwave scorer.
- Tres Tinkle should absolutely be atop the list of best G League player names.
Raptors 905 Schedule This Upcoming Week
Monday, February 15th: vs. Santa Cruz Warriors @ 7:00PM EST (broadcast on NBA TV Canada)
Wednesday, February 17th: vs. Agua Caliente Clippers @ 11:30AM EST (broadcast on Sportsnet One and NBA TV Canada)
Thursday, February 18th: at Salt Lake City Stars @ 11:30AM EST (broadcast on TSN4 and NBA TV Canada)