The Raptors 905 literally limped into the end of 2018. With call-ups (Chris Boucher) and injuries (Jordan Loyd, Rodney Pryor) affecting the roster, coach Jama Mahlalela and the 905 struggled to finish the calendar year and to start the new one. The games during that span showed some good (performances by Malachi Richardson), bad (Boucher running out of gas), and ugly (Loyd’s injuries).
21.3 PPG, 44.2% FG% (6.3/14.3 FGM/A), 33.3% 3P% (5/15 3PM/A), 5.3 REB, 6 AST, 1.3 STL, 0.7 BLK 1.7 TO, +6 +/-
Loyd finished 2018 going down with an injury, and started the first week of 2019 going down with another. Tough two-week stretch for Loyd, but to his credit: he was pretty good when he was on the floor.
Against the Lakeland Magic, Loyd did a great job relying on his instincts while turning in a credible Jose Calderon impersonation in the first quarter. Loyd was content with setting up his teammates and letting them cook once he saw them catching fire from the field. Loyd racked up five assists and only took one shot in the quarter, allowing Kyle Collinsworth and Deng Adel to call their own number in multiple occasions. When the rest of the team hit a wall, he put his team on the back, scoring 23 points after going scoreless in the first quarter.
Loyd powered through his injury and did his best to help Malachi Richardson carry the team against the Westchester Knicks. His shots weren’t falling, the explosion wasn’t there, and he didn’t look 100 percent at all, but he took his game to the free-throw line instead, forcing the Knicks to send him to the line over and over. Loyd was, no joke, 17-of-18 from the line that night.
The Lakeland Magic came in prepared for Loyd, as they did something that I thought more teams would do against a newbie point guard: the press/blitz. The Magic made a few successful defensive stops or at least disrupted the Raptors 905’s offense by pressuring Loyd. While Loyd adjusted after a while, it’s something he needs to refine if he wants to make the jump to passable backup PG in the NBA.
Just awful timing for Loyd to have an assortment of injuries. With the Raptors right around the midpoint of their regular season having played 42 games, they should be thinking about giving Loyd a look to see how he’d do in spot minutes. The 905 signed Jordan Howard late last week to provide some point guard depth, and a decent insurance policy at the position in case Loyd gets a call-up. The Raptors also waived last year’s 905 starting point guard and two-way player Lorenzo Brown, a potential path for Loyd for some third string minutes, assuming he gets the call.
Loyd suffered an ankle injury last December 27, 2018, against the Lakeland Magic that caused him to miss the following game against the Maine Red Claws:
Loyd drove to the basket vs 2+ defenders, stepped on caupain's foot when he took-off off his left leg. Loyd still managed to finish the layup but he had all his weight on that lead leg when he turned that ankle. He could not put weight on that leg & had to be helped to the locker— JD Quirante (@jdkeyrants) December 28, 2018
He returned eight days later to play against the Westchester Knicks, and while he played an excellent game, his explosiveness was not there. The following day, playing on a back-to-back, Loyd left the game with a knee contusion.
14 PPG, 28.6% FG% (4/14 FGM/A), 28.6% 3P% (2/7 3PM/A), 8 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 2 BLK 0 TO, -9 +/-
Fresh off his call-up, the Raptors assigned Chris Boucher to play against the Maine Red Claws, as the 905 were short of offensive power with Loyd out with an ankle injury.
It’s tough to find a silver lining for a bad game, but if anything, Boucher started the quarter looking like his old self. He scored eight points including two 3-pointers in the frame. What’s commendable is the fact that he played against the Indiana Pacers the night before on the road, got off the plane around 2 AM the following day, and played a 2 PM game in Mississauga.
Still, it was definitely the worst game of his 905 career. Boucher pretty much ran on fumes to start the game, and totally ran out of gas in the second half.
After the first quarter, Boucher shot 1-of-8 from the field, including 0-of-6 in the second half. If there’s any further proof of someone gassing out, you just have to look at how they did from the free-throw line. Heading into the game, Boucher was shooting 77.5 percent from the line this season; he ended up shooting 4-of-8 that night, while going noticeably short on his misses.
For the 905, I’ve seen Boucher come in cold — whether at the start of the game or after coming back into the game — and just casually hit his first three-point attempt. I’ve done some lazy stat-digging, and with the Raptors, Boucher is shooting a whopping 60 percent on his first three attempt in a game. He’s actually 4-for-4 on those particular shots in his last four games. Maybe coach Nick Nurse can put him in for two minutes, get him to jack up a couple of threes and call it a day? That’s more production than we’re seeing from C.J. Miles at least.
30.7 PPG, 47.5% FG% (9/22 FGM/A), 45.5% 3P% (15/33 3PM/A), 6.3 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 0 BLK 2.3 TO, -29 +/-
The last time Malachi got assigned to the 905, it didn’t look pretty. His offense abandoned him en route to a 0-for-12 shooting night against the Grand Rapids Drive early in December.
Malachi recently got assigned to the 905 and has played three games between the last week of 2018 and the first week of 2019. This entire stint has been way, way better for him so far.
Malachi shot 15-of-33 behind the arc in three games, and, at 45.5 percent at a high volume attempt, that’s pretty impressive. It’s fun to watch Malachi catch fire from the perimeter, as every shot looks like it’s going in. So, while Malachi went win-less on his most recent assignment, he’s demonstrated the will and ability to put the team on his back. Here are a few notable instances:
Against the Maine Red Claws, with Loyd sidelined and Boucher ineffective, the 905’s offense was non-existent. Richardson basically broke out of their offensive sets and called his number, tried to will his team into the game, rallying to troops into shrinking what had been a 17-point lead down to two points.
Against the Westchester Knicks, Malachi almost forced the game into overtime, in the process of overcoming a 19-point deficit. Malachi got hot and erupted for 24 second-half points in that one.
Three-point shooters should have an upper hand when it comes to getting that first step against that defender. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Malachi. He doesn’t have the explosive first step, nor an athletic enough finishing ability to make up for it. Richardson also struggles to get his shoulders squared or past his defender to get by them. While Malachi shot almost 50 percent inside the arc (going 14-of-28 during this stretch), his drives to the basket have been predictable and he’s generally found limited success at the G League level.
This part may be a coach Jama Mahlalela issue, but Malachi is struggling right out of the gate. If you only look at Malachi’s first quarter stats during this stretch, he’s shooting just 3-of-12 (including 1-of-6 from three), with a -22 in games where he’s expected to be one of the main sources of offense. While Richardson has time to course correct in a 905 game, that’s not a rope that Nick Nurse would be willing to give him with the deep Raptors bench.
Still, Malachi’s only had one truly bad game as a 905er this season, and he’s averaging 25.7 points for the season, including 4.7 3PM on 45% 3P%. That’s a big jump compared to his lost season last year, and significantly better than his rookie season with the Reno Big Horns.