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Player Preview 2017-18: Alfonzo McKinnie seeks big break with the Raptors

G-league All-Star Alfonzo McKinnie hopes to lock down his first ever NBA roster spot with the Raptors this season.

At just 25-years-old, Alfonzo McKinnie is already somewhat of a basketball journeyman. But with the NBA season tipping off in less than a week, he’s closer than ever to finally pencilling himself into an NBA roster.

McKinnie went undrafted coming out of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and was forced to take his game overseas, playing for teams such as the East Side Pirates in Luxemburg, and the Rayos de Hermosillo in Mexico. Despite dominating the international scene, the Chicago native still struggled to gain the attention of NBA teams.

When the Windy City Bulls started their G-League franchise in 2015, McKinnie actually paid the $125 application fee to attend an open tryout. He not only made the team, but went on to average 15 points and nine rebounds, enroute to being named a G-League All-Star.

McKinnie was signed to a partially multi-year, partially guaranteed contract over the summer and headed into training camp looking to seize his first NBA roster spot. As camp went on, other Raptor hopefuls such as Kyle Wiltjer, Kennedy Meeks and Andy Rautins, were given the bad news that they’d been cut. And now, with two roster spots left, it’s a good bet that McKinnie and/or K.J McDaniels could make the team.

The Raptors have one final tune-up game against the Bulls on Friday night and despite it being a preseason contest, it may be the biggest game of these young hoop hopefuls lives: it will be their last chance to shine before the roster is set.

At 6’8’’ inches, McKinnie is extremely mobile and athletic with the ability to strike in an instant at either end of the floor. His explosiveness meets the eye test and his defensive ability is right there, but like any young player, it will take reps at an NBA level to let him explore his potential.

Check out his ability to explode from underneath a blanket of defenders and finish strong at the rim on the put back.

The Raptors have finished top six in offensive efficiency over each of the last three campaigns and if I had to bet, I would say that happens again this season. That said, McKinnie’s defensive ability becomes all the more valuable, especially in losing stronger defenders in Patrick Patterson and (kind of, not really, but sure) DeMarre Carroll this off season.

McKinnie’s size and mobility allows him to cover more space than the average NBA defender and clog up passing lanes with those gangly limbs. These qualities also allow for McKinnie to guard players from the two to the four spots and having him in the lineup could give the Raptors an advantage when it comes to standard switches and rotations.

Offensively, the 25-year-old can play above the rim with the best of them and is slowly beginning to understand the different ways that he can contort his long and lanky frame to make life hell in the air for his defender. The outside game however, not as promising — yet. McKinnie shot just 30 percent from three-point land with the Windy City a season ago on nearly three attempts per game. He does look competent shooting from the corner though — a sign of his potential at least.

Have a look at McKinnie’s highlights from last season’s G-League All-Star game and conduct an eye test for yourself.

The NBA can be a cruel, cruel place. With so much talent and only 450 roster spots to go around, there will be players, like McKinnie, who possess the talent but can’t quite make the cut.

McKinnie has to look no further than Fred VanVleet, who was in the same position a season ago and ended up hanging on for that 15th spot on the roster. Whether it is McDaniels or McKinnie (or both!) who snag a spot, the Raptors are going to be a great mix of youthful and veteran talent — something fans should look forward to not only this season, but in years to come.