The Raptors 905 came up with another positive week, following up a loss to the Westchester Knicks at home with a two-game win streak (vs. Windy City Bulls, @ Westchester Knicks). After taking losses late December up to early January, the Raptors 905 went 5-1 over their last six games to get the team back in contention at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Malachi Richardson played two games but had to sit the second against the Westchester Knicks due to an injury; Chris Boucher was dominant once again around the paint; and Jordan Loyd looking like the G-League point-god, dropping 15 dimes in one game, with a triple-double and a clutch shot to win another. And the week also saw the promising return of Malcolm Miller.
Some “legacy” prospect report news before we get started: The Memphis Grizzlies recently signed Bruno Caboclo, and he went off in his first game. Bruno posted 11 points (on 3-of-4 shooting from three), four rebounds, and two blocks. Did I mention that he played in crunch time to finish the game? Also, that he was used as a small forward in two games? That he had a clutch defense on Bogdan Bogdanovich, and followed it up with a clutch 3?
Is this real life? Why and how is this happening?
Let’s go back to the Raptors 905’s current prospects for now.
9.5 PPG, 28% FG% (3.5/12.5), 26.7% 3P% (4/15 3PM/A), 7.5 REB, 5 AST, 3 TO, +9 +/-
Not an ideal week for Malachi, as he didn’t look like one of the top players on the court on either game that he played in last week. However, Malachi showed some improvements on the intangibles, and he’s been trending upward on his play-making and rebounding.
During the last issue of the 905 Prospect Report, I brought up Richardson’s play-making, which is starting to look better and better. Case in point: Malachi logged 10 assists in his past two games, and that’s the most assists he’s had in any two-game stretch of his professional career.
Another thing worth noting is that with the Raptors 905 playing small, Malachi has been very active on the boards. He’s averaging a career-high in rebounds (5.8) and managed to tie his rebounding career-high in a game (11) against the Westchester Knicks.
Malachi’s offense seems to be trending down, which is not a good thing — especially if he’s doing this against inferior competition.
Malachi hasn’t shot over 50 percent in five of his last six games, and while his three-point shooting percentage is still good, his shooting inside the arc has been poor. Of the two games that he played last week, Malachi shot a combined 3-of-9 inside the arc.
I’ve touched upon Malachi’s issues putting the ball on the floor and trying to create his own shots in the paint from time to time since he started appearing on this Prospect Report, and that remains an issue.
Malachi did not play against the Westchester Knicks on Monday due to an apparent knee injury that he sustained early on against the Windy City Bulls. About three minutes into the game, Malachi drove to the basket, met multiple defenders, and landed awkwardly. He looked gimpy, but he managed to play for the rest of the game.
17 PPG, 37.9% FG% (2/11), 18.2% 3P% (2/11 3PM/A), 10.5 REB, 13 AST, 1.5 STL, 2 TO, +33 +/-
Last week, I mentioned how Loyd seems to be rounding into shape after getting banged up with an assortment of injuries around the holidays. Well, if the last two games are an indicator, we can definitely say that Mr. Loyd is back.
Against the Windy City Bulls, Loyd logged his first ever career triple-double, hauling in 24 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists, two steals, one block, with just two turnovers as a minor blemish to an otherwise excellent game.
Loyd’s 11 assists were mostly towards Boucher, but a lot of those passes were pinpoint lobs or pick-and-roll passes. Defensively, Loyd was all over the place, causing deflections, being a pest to his mark, and crashing the boards.
On Monday night against the Westchester Knicks was probably that best I have seen the Raptors 905 look when it comes to their ball movement. The ball was humming, quick and multiple passes were happening, and the ball kept finding the open man. For the first time this season, the 905 offense looked similar to what the Raptors gets up to.
I bring this up because at the centre of all of this action was Loyd, who had 15 dimes and more than a few hockey assists. If not for Josh Adams and Kyle Collinsworth’s bad shooting game, Loyd could have gone for 20 assists instead.
Loyd’s outside shooting escaped him a bit last week. He went 2-of-11 from range in the two games that he played. There seems to be a bit of hesitation whenever he finds himself wide open which could be disrupting his rhythm. If not that, it was an iso-mode, contested pull-up three. If Loyd can make that kind of shot, he’ll be really good — but realistically, he needs to create more separation (i.e. a step-back move) to have a cleaner look.
Not much to add here, so enjoy a couple of Jordan Loyd’s highlight package:
Oh, and he’s clutch:
25 PPG, 55.6% FG% (10/18), 23.5% 3P% (4/17 3PM/A), 10.3 REB, 0.7 AST, 1 STL, 4 BLK, 1.7 TO, +32 +/-
It looks like Boucher will be playing for the 905 at least until after the trade deadline, or worst case scenario, after waiver deadline activity around March. Boucher is almost out of NBA days, and I’m pretty sure that Masai Ujiri and the team would first explore adding a veteran big man or wing, rather than rely on Boucher in the post-season.
That said, Boucher is averaging 17 points per game in the paint on 65% 2FG% in January; both numbers are his highest as a Raptors 905 player. At least 80 percent of those points were assisted, and here’s how he’s doing it: Boucher is getting a steady diet of play calls where he’s catching the ball near the basket via pick-and-rolls or lobs. From here, unlike our flat-footed big men like Greg Monroe or Jonas Valanciunas, he doesn’t need to put the ball down. Heck, he doesn’t even need to gather, like Serge Ibaka to get a shot off.
Boucher’s combination of length, nimbleness, and shooting touch around the basket makes it worthwhile to get the ball to him down low, especially on single coverage. He’s also got underrated hops — not a high vertical jump, but a quick, springy jump that he can rely on especially to catch those seemingly overhead passes.
With the addition of significantly better players to shore up their bench and roster altogether — the likes of Derrick Cooke Jr, Josh Adams, Jordan Howard, MiKyle McIntosh, and now the return of Malcolm Miller, Boucher has recently found himself not getting the touches as often as he used to.
For the past few games, we have not seen a lot of “give the ball to Boucher and let him cook” type of offense from the perimeter. While coach Mahlalela’s doing a great job lately by calling his number to get his touches via pick-and-roll and lob actions, Boucher is not getting enough touches on a free-flowing heavy ball movement offense that the 905 have been displaying lately. It’s weird not to see Boucher on the floor and see a series of possessions where he’s not in a position to score.
Maybe it’s an issue that can be resolved via coaching or more practice time with the new teammates, but it’s a little alarming to see Boucher’s usage to dip. In fact, against the Windy City Bulls, Boucher’s usage in the first quarter was only at 12%, which shouldn’t happen unless he’s in foul trouble. He’s usually pushing a 30%+ usage rate this season.
Is it by design? While Boucher is still jacking up 6.5 3PA per game in January (he peaked at 7.7 3PA in December), there seems to be a much more concentrated effort to get Boucher in position to score in the paint. As mentioned above, Boucher’s getting a lot of reps in and around the paint via pick-and-rolls and lobs, and it’s easy to imagine that these are the types of plays that he’ll get if his number gets called up again and has to play with the Kyle Lowry + Bench unit.
7.3 PPG, 38.9% FG% (2.3/6), 40% 3P% (6/15 3PM/A), 2.3 REB, 1.7 AST, 0.3 STL, 1.7BLK, 0.7 TO, -4 +/-
I know Miller is no longer a two-way player for the Raptors, but since he’s still an affiliate with the Raptors 905 and he just recently returned from an injury that cost him a roster spot this season, I thought I should update everyone how he looked on his return.
Miller’s early stats might look underwhelming, but at the very least, you can tell that he’s a real 3+D player. Against the Westchester Knicks, Malcolm flexed his 3+D skill by not only being money around the perimeter (four 3PM on 44.4% 3P%), but also by using his length and quickness to bother his main mark and provide excellent help defense as well. Miller finished the game with a 77.4 defensive rating, which is pretty impressive for someone who was on the shelf for a while. It’s also worth noting that Miller has also swatted five shots in his last two games.
Miller looked too passive and deferential in his first two games, often giving up an open look for a swing pass. I know this is the right thing to do, but when you’re open, and you have the better 3P% than the person you’re passing to, I think it’s an overkill. I would chalk this up the adjustments that Miller needed to do since he needed to find his place within the offensive system.
It looks like Miller knows what the scouts (and our coaches and management) are looking for, and he’s playing with a sense of urgency to show just that. Miller’s defense looks like he did not take any time off, and he’s trying to get into his rhythm on offense, as he’s mostly shooting perimeter shots, going 6-of-15 from three versus 1-of-3 from inside the arc through three games.