For D-League players, most will have January 5th, 2017 circled on their calendar. Why is that date so important? It’s the first day NBA teams can sign players to 10-day contracts. It’s the reason many players come to the D-League in the first place, to showcase their skills in the hopes of landing with an NBA team.
Last season in the Raptors 905 inaugural year, two players signed 10-day contracts: Axel Toupane, who got two 10-day contracts followed by a multi-year deal from the Nuggets (before getting cut in training camp), and Greg Smith, who received two 10-day contracts followed by a deal for the remainder of the season from the Timberwolves.
It’s an impressive feat for the Raptors 905 organization to have two players get NBA contracts — even if it means a depletion of their roster. Success in the D-League is a good thing. So here’s how the 10-day contract discussion is shaping up for the 905 this season.
(Note that all stats are as of December 26, 2016.)
Guaranteed a Contract
Axel Toupane, SG
As the only 905-er to spend time last season in the NBA, Toupane seems destined to get another contract. He’s already shown he can play at that level, the question is: which team will snap him up?
Axel’s consistent and productive play has kept him in the mind of many NBA GM’s and scouts. Toupane this season is currently averaging 27.1 minutes, 14.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while also shooting 50 percent from the field and 30.8 percent from three. Toupane has been a consistent player for the 905 in his sixth man role, and getting the odd start has only improved his stock this season.
Worth a Look
CJ Leslie, PF
Leslie returned to the D-League this season after a year overseas and has been arguably the best player on the 905. Leslie, unlike Toupane, has never played on an NBA team although he’s still young at 25. This season he’s been steady producer for the 905; the team knows they can count on him for a solid 10+ points, 6+ rebounds and a few assists a game.
This season with the 905 Leslie is currently averaging in 21.8 minutes, 11.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting an impressive for the D-League 63 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three. While his three-ball shooting is maybe a tick below league average, Leslie’s skills as a stretch power forward should translate well to the NBA game.
Walter ‘Edy’ Tavares, C
The former Atlanta Hawks big man and second rounder was cut by the Hawks this season before joining the 905. Tavares may be in tough to get a contract given that many NBA teams are going smaller — and Tavares, at a massive 7’3”, is anything but. In his NBA career, Tavares is averaging 2.2 points and 1.8 rebounds and at 24 is still young enough to bring something (mostly height) to an NBA team.
In the D-League for the 905, Tavares has constantly dominated the post and rebound game against the other bigs. Tavares is currently averaging 20.3 minutes with 8.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.
Brady Heslip, PG
The Canadian point guard was in training camp with the Raptors this past off-season before getting cut and heading to Mississauga. Heslip has been very good starting at point guard for the 905 when Fred VanVleet is with the Raptors. Heslip’s shot may be what gets him to the NBA as he holds the D-League record for most threes in a game with 13.
Heslip has had a productive season so far with the 905 as he is averaging 26.4 minutes, 14.1 points and 3.7 assists per game while shooting an impressive 41.5 percent from three. He’s also shown the ability to fill either guard spot on the 905, a skill that could also help his NBA aspirations.
Will Sheehey, SG/SF
Through the first seven or eight games this season I believed Will Sheehey was a lock for a 10-day contract. However, over the past week or so, his struggle with the 905 have increased and his chances of making it are on the decline. Sheehey, like Leslie, came over to the 905 after a year overseas and was very consistent for the 905 before this past week.
Still, Sheehey’s stats are impressive by D-League standards. He’s currently averaging 23.6 minutes, 10.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and two assists while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from three. If Sheehey can get back to his old form from earlier this season, it could be his turn.
Who else do you think should be getting 10-day contracts for the 905 come January 5th?