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Prospect Report: Jama’s 905 and Chris Boucher are off to a hot start

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Is Chris Boucher a unicorn for the Raptors 905? Is Malachi Richardson’s confidence back? We review the first week of 905 action.

The Raptors 905 started their 2018-19 G-League season with a 3-1 record — earning wins against the Delaware Blue Coats (126-125), Westchester Knicks (105-99), and Windy City Bulls (111-91). Their lone loss came from the hands of the Long Island Nets (90-97), which coincidentally is the only game that assignee Malachi Richardson played in. (We’ll have Dial 905 on Thursday handle the recaps for those games.)

Through four games, coach Jama Mahlalela’s 905 squad seems to be making a concerted effort to push the pace, get to the basket, and to shoot as many threes as possible. The team is so far different from Jerry Stackhouse‘s iteration, which was known for its slower half-court execution, hard-nosed defense, and strict discipline.

Jama’s Raptors 905’s furious pace creates more possessions and it caters to the offensive development of their two-way players and assignees. It’s evident that the top players have the green light to jack up as many shots as possible. Malachi Richardson, Jordan Loyd, and most especially Chris Boucher are thriving under this kind of environment so far. Let’s review.

Malachi Richardson

26 PTS, 42.1% FG%, 45% 3P% (5/11 3PM/A), 3 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, 2 TO, -14 +/-

Malachi Richardson made his lone appearance with the Raptors 905 against the Long Island Nets. I know this is a small sample size, but I’m confident in saying that this is not the same Malachi we saw last year in the G League.

Good

(Note: Malachi went down with an injury late in the third quarter and I based my observation up until that point as he looked significantly different when he came back.)

It’s a small sample size, but Malachi’s lone appearance against the Nets looked good. Malachi was confident and in control for the most part offensively — firing off perimeter shots with ill-intent and hitting them — and while he’s not the most athletic person, Malachi’s drives to the basket were much more fruitful. He got layups, even through contact, or a trip to the foul line where he’s money.

Defensively, Malachi showed sound positional defense — even taking a page from Kyle Lowry’s book and drawing an offensive foul on a fast break. For the most part, Richardson is much more aware defensively compared to last year. He made a few good reads on defence that led to steals, one almost turned into a fast break dunk if not for a hard foul that decked him.

Bad

Malachi’s performance tailed off in the fourth quarter, wavering between non-factor to liability. It’s probably a conditioning issue, as Richardson hasn’t logged this many minutes since the Vegas Summer League. In the summer, Malachi had similar output which would tail off in the fourth quarter. It doesn’t help, of course, that Richardson went down late in the third quarter with calf cramps.

Misc

We probably won’t see Malachi don the 905 jersey for a while, as injuries to Norman Powell and C.J. Miles mean that he (along with Lorenzo Brown) is the next man up on the rotation. Coach Nick Nurse, in attendance for the game against the Long Island Nets, was interviewed during one of the intermission and mentioned that by assigning Malachi to the 905, they are trying to make sure that he gets his rhythm despite being on the fringe of their rotation.

Jordan Loyd

19.8 PPG, 45% FG%, 27.8% 3P% (1.3 3PM/GM), 5.5 REB, 2.3 AST, 1.3 STL, 1.3 TO, +8 +/-

Through four games, Jordan Loyd has quietly put up decent numbers behind the shadow of Chris Boucher’s performance (more on that in a second). He’s one of those guys who gets a bucket here and there, and when you look at the box score in the fourth quarter, you’re surprised he’s pushing for 20 points (or more).

Good

Loyd is a bucket-getter, and I can’t wait to see him put forward his full package of skills once his perimeter game gets going. Heck, he’s already averaging almost 20 points per game even though he’s struggling a bit from outside.

Loyd is a capable scorer and what’s a bit underrated about him is how he varies his scoring throughout the game. Whether it’s going coast-to-coast in transition, driving to the basket absorbing contact, putting up a floater, and most especially his excellent off-the-ball movement that leads to an easy basket for him.

Loyd is pretty good at chasing loose balls and getting rebounds in traffic against taller defenders, which is evident in his stats: he’s averaging 5.5 rebounds per game.

Bad

Loyd is supposed to be a good three-point shooter, but we have yet to see him have a nice shooting game from the perimeter. He’s currently shooting 27.8 percent from deep, hitting 5-of-18 shots thus far. While Loyd has had his fair share of end of the clock “had to jack it up” situations, he also missed quite a few wide open shots.

Misc

Loyd is hovering around the top 30 in scoring in the G-League, averaging just a shade under 20 points. However, if one would look around the league, there’s a big uptick in pace and scoring — 20 points would get someone in the top 10-15 range last season. Also, it should be mentioned, it’s early season in the G League and nobody is paying attention to playing defense just yet.

Chris Boucher

27 PPG, 44.4% FG%, 38.7% 3P% (3/7.8 3PM/A), 12.5 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 4 BLK, 2.8 TO, +8.5 +/-

Canadian KD started his Raptors 905 G League campaign with a bang. For a late-bloomer, Boucher seems to be a quick study, showing flashes of things we’re used to seeing from Kevin Durant/Giannis Antetokounmpo (smooth long euro-step), coast-to-coast like Giannis/Pascal Siakam, and dead-on perimeter shooting for a big like Kristaps Porzingis. Yes, I went there.

Good

Where do we start here? I’m actually mind-blown by what I’ve seen so far. I know Boucher can hit his perimeter shots, but he’s shooting from range with no conscience, and he’s hitting at a good clip. Whether it’s a catch-and-shoot or off-the-dribble, as long as Boucher’s feet are set, there’s a good chance it’s going in. It doesn’t even matter whether he just checked in the game.

If the three-pointers were not a surprise, how about Boucher going coast-to-coast for a dunk looking like a gazelle? Boucher Euro-stepping? Putting up a floater off a drive? Rim-running? The more Boucher plays, the more he looks like a forward than a centre.

Speaking of “centre,” Boucher’s pretty good at being tall and long around the basket. As the lone big for the Raptors 905 for the most part, he grabs plenty of rebounds. If a player doesn’t put a body on him, there’s a good chance that the shot will either be blocked or a brick. Boucher’s doing this straight up or as a help defender. Hey, he can also do chase-down blocks.

Bad

Boucher’s playing at a high level to start the season, it feels like it’s blasphemous to write something bad about him. Nevertheless, he wasn’t perfect, and there are issues that do need to get resolved if he aspires to carve a career in the big league.

There’s still a lot to be desired strength-wise, as Boucher often found himself getting bodied by much more physical guys when they post him up. What’s unacceptable is that he was easily boxed out by smaller guys — even guards. Maybe because he had front row seat watching KD last year, Boucher had a hard time posting up smaller players and often had to resort to that KD/Dirk one-legged step back jumper off the post.

Lastly, this is something I’d probably look closer as he plays in more games: whenever Boucher gets switched with a guard on pick-and-roll defense, he sags like Jonas Valanciunas and his hands are down. We all know that guards’ with a quick floater/mid-range game will take advantage of that opening.

Misc

Not much to add here. Just enjoy the Youtube highlights: