The Toronto Raptors are boosting the incoming Raptors 905 season with two new names for their two-way roster spots: Jordan Loyd and Chris Boucher. Based on the Raptors depth chart, Malachi Richardson is also projected to spend time in the G League at some point — most likely as soon as Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright are healthy. That’s where things start with the 905 for 2018-19.
Just a quick recap: the 2017-18 Raptors 905 season featured Malcolm Miller and Lorenzo Brown as their two-way players; and Alfonzo McKinnie, Bruno Caboclo, Malachi Richardson, and (for a little while) Nigel Hayes as their end of the roster assignees. That’s changed for this season.
The Raptors initially extended a qualifying offer to Miller (same two-way contract). Apparently he was on his way to getting a roster spot with the Raptors, until a shoulder injury took him out of the Summer League action. This unfortunate situation led to the Raptors pulling the qualifying offer. The Raptors have since signed (and waived) him to an Exhibit 10 contract and signed with the Raptors 905 so that he can rehab with the organization.
Meanwhile, Malachi Richardson is coming off his first healthy summer and has been getting spot minutes with the Bench Mob rotation as of late. Likewise, Alfonzo McKinnie is now making strides, albeit with the Golden State Warriors. He’s earned a spot (and looked really good) in their rotation, displaying the work that he’s put in with the 905.
Lorenzo Brown earned a full-time Raptors roster spot, and was notably seen early this season carrying Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry on his back en route to a scrappy win against the Dallas Mavericks.
(Bruno Caboclo and Nigel Hayes, for those wondering, are lost in the wind at this time.)
Not to be overlooked, coach Jerry Stackhouse is out with the 905, and new head coach Jama Mahlalela is in. Based on Jama’s close relationship with Nick Nurse, one should expect the Raptors 905 to be playing as close as possible to what Nurse is doing with the main club.
The Raptors are mainly using their two-way contracts and the 905 assignment as their “second draft.” It’ll function more like a season-long try-out for potential roster spots next season — players they have their eye on, and players that are diamonds in the rough.
This season, Toronto clearly has their eye on Chris Boucher and Jordan Loyd. These are the players the Raptors would normally gamble a second round pick on based on their “diamond-in-the-rough” potential. Along with them comes Malachi Richardson who did not pan out with the Sacramento Kings despite being a first round pick.
It looks like a summer well-spent for Malachi. He looked good on those glorified ball-runs with the Bench Mob, his three-point shot was on point, and he showed out during the Vegas Summer League.
Malachi needs to demonstrate that he can play decent defense to be able to get (and stay) on the court. While Malachi’s not an athletic above-the-rim type of wing, he can work on being a good positional defender — something he’s demonstrated in flashes when able to read the defense to draw an offensive foul or to strip the ball.
Coach Nick Nurse seems to be much more willing to get Malachi’s feet wet with non-garbage time minutes than Dwane Casey, which should be a confidence booster for Malachi. However, if Richardson wants to get more reps, he would have to go to Mississauga, and once he does, he should be one of the featured players on the roster, now that Brown, McKinnie, Kennedy Meeks, and (for a time) Miller are all gone from the roster.
Keep An Eye On: Defense, off-ball movement, shot creation off the dribble.
I created a player preview for Jordan Loyd before the season started, and I did mention that this is a season-long try-out for him. Depending on what happens in the post-season and in free agency, Loyd might have a chance to crack the Raptors roster next year — that is, if he develops in the G League as expected.
While the Bench Mob was excellent last year, there still remains a void on the roster that hasn’t been filled since 6-man Lou Williams left: a scorer off the bench that can create his own shot. With Loyd’s potent outside shooting and his ability to get his shot off the dribble, he can sharpen these skills while adding play-making to his arsenal.
Keep An Eye On: Play-making (for himself and teammates), defense, perimeter shooting.
An NBA Draft prospect’s stock derailed by an ACL injury — sound familiar?
Boucher is an intriguing prospect who’s coming off a rookie season as a two-way player for the defending champion Warriors. Unfortunately, Chris suffered an ACL injury during his last collegiate season that put him on the shelf or rehabbing for the majority of his rookie campaign. The Warriors also moved on from him when they acquired Damian Jones and refocused their two-way spots on wings. Who knows where Boucher would have ended up in the draft had he remained healthy and done more damage in the NCAA tourney.
Defensively, Boucher is tall and long, which makes him a defensive threat around the basket. It also helps that he has excellent shot blocking instincts. Offensively, Boucher is either a dunk/layup or three-pointer attempt waiting to happen. Yes, I said three-pointers. Boucher’s got the range and can hit it consistently.
The downside with Boucher is his age and physical development. Chris is a late bloomer, and his body hasn’t caught up to the physicality the game requires. Chris also needs all the game reps that he can get since he’s only been playing organized basketball for a few years, and last year was spent recovering from his ACL injury. While Boucher doesn’t need to be on the Jonas Valanciunas bulk-up plan, he’ll need to get stronger to hang with more physical players in the NBA.
Keep An Eye On: Defensive awareness, defending 1-5 pick-and-rolls, rebounding.