The Raptors 905 barely split their games last week, dropping a stinker against the Maine Red Claws and eking out a triple-overtime win against the Erie BayHawks.
Through five games, coach Jama Mahlalela’s 905 still look like they could use more time to recover and get familiarized with each other. Tyler Ennis has been a constant bright spot for the team, and Devin Robinson has had games that suggest he belongs in the NBA and others that make it clear why he’s not.
Then there are the prospects — assignee Dewan Hernandez, and two-way players Oshae Brissett and Shamorie Ponds. Hernandez and Brissett’s overall game needs some polish, and they are certainly long term projects at this point. Meanwhile, Ponds is an interesting case. While I do believe his scoring can transition well at the NBA level, other elements of his game need more work.
More help is on the way for coach Mahlalela though. Justin Anderson is signing with the Raptors 905. His brief career has included stints with the Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers, and, most recently, with the Atlanta Hawks. (To make the deal work, the 905 traded Paul White to free up a roster spot.)
.@Raptors905 have traded Paul White to the Salt Lake City Stars in exchange for their third round pick in the 2020 NBA G League Draft. The trade is pending successful completion of a physical.— Raptors905MR (@Raptors905MR) November 25, 2019
.@Raptors905 have claimed Justin Anderson from the waiver wire. Anderson played 48 games with the Atlanta Hawks last season. He will wear #8.— Raptors905MR (@Raptors905MR) November 25, 2019
(In my opinion, the 905 should have retired Jordan “Random Guy in a Suit” Loyd’s jersey number. But that’s just me.)
Now let’s review what the 905’s top prospects did this week.
After some subpar perimeter shooting in his debut, Matt Morgan’s three-point percentage has been trending up since then. He’s now sitting just under 40 percent from deep and has connected on 11-of-28 shots.
Defensively however, the Red Claws’ Tremont Waiters went through Morgan as if he didn’t exist. He was also posted up multiple times by the BayHawks bigs for easy shots. Morgan tried his best to put up a fight in the paint but the size difference is just huge.
Devin Robinson’s week can be summed up with the following statements:
- Robinson will always put up highlight materials offensively and defensively;
- Robinson still doesn’t look comfortable taking those perimeter shots; and
- Robinson can get out of control and will rack up fouls and/or turnovers at times.
Opposing teams are starting to adjust to Robinson’s scouting report. They are daring him to shoot from the perimeter, where he’s sitting on 4-of-23 for the season. His confidence seems to go down with every miss.
However, Robinson is probably the player on the team that best embodies the Raptors’ defensive philosophy: He will challenge all the shots around the rim, and he will make decisive rotations with excellent effort to contest three-pointers.
Robinson’s shot may be shaky, but he wasn’t this bad last year or the year before. I would expect to see him keep shooting and improve those percentages.
Amidst the struggles of the 905’s start to the season, Tyler Ennis has been the lone consistent bright spot for the team and the guy keeping this team competitive. Last week, Ennis tried to carry the team on his back, leading to two different outcomes: A drubbing from the Red Claws, and a gutsy 3OT win over the BayHawks.
On both occasions, Ennis’ leadership was put to the test. The Red Claws tried to put the game away early a few times during the game, only for Ennis to stop the bleeding and help the team clawback.
Unfortunately, Ennis also overdid it at times, resulting in costly turnovers the Red Claws quickly turned into transition points. For example, his third and fourth turnovers led to a couple of quick transition three-pointers for the Red Claws. Ennis ended up with five turnovers in the second half, and the majority of them happened amid the Red Claws trying to put the game away.
Against the BayHawks, Ennis started hot, scoring at every way possible — perfectly leveraging his dribble, using angles and overall craftiness to get his buckets, shooting 7-of-11 in the first half. He appeared to be running on fumes in the second half, as his scoring deteriorated. However, Ennis dug deep enough to hit a clutch three-pointer to force the second overtime. It’s worth noting that Ennis did a better job taking care of the ball, only forking the ball over twice in 43 minutes.
Ennis took six perimeter shots last week, only converting once. But that one shot was huuuuge. I think I have emphasized this enough. However, he needs to show the prospective teams that he can hit those at a decent rate.
Hernandez only played one game last week, in which he dropped 13 points, 8 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks to go with his three turnovers against the Red Claws.
It was a learning experience for Hernandez as he had to recover from some big man mistakes. Earlier in the game, Tacko Fall had his way in the paint easily, but Hernandez managed to adjust his defense and make it harder for Fall to get to his sweet spots.
All in all, it was an inconsistent game for Dewan. He showed flashes of his potential; a few times he drove to the basket coming from the three-point line, and he was able to get past his defender. Another time, Hernandez showed that he could incorporate a Euro-step into his drives to the basket. On the flipside, his offense was nowhere to be found in the second half.
Defensively, Hernandez is still figuring things out. While he had a couple of good blocks as a help defender, his hesitation and decision making as a weakside help defender has to get better, as quick and decisive rotations are a staple of the Raptors’ defensive mantra.
Hernandez will probably need more reps as a pick-and-roll defender, as he looked a bit lost on such situations. He’ll need to work on not letting the roll man use momentum to push him under the basket as it creates a wide-open shot for the ball-handler.
Malcolm Miller made his 905 season debut in a Tuesday matinee. The Raptors happened to be at home too, with a game later that evening.
Miller posted a modest 13 points, three rebounds, and two assists. While he had an uncharacteristically bad shooting night (0-of-4 from the perimeter), it was refreshing to see Miller aggressively look for non-perimeter shots.
In the past, Miller would get a transition dunk or layup every few games, but often, he would run to the perimeter to space the floor or just let his teammates finish the fastbreak. Last Tuesday was different: Miller was actively leaking in transition, if not trailing hard.
Miller also showed off that he’s not a one-trick pony. He had multiple touches where he either attacked the basket or posted up and created a shot for himself or his open teammates.
The only downside here is that Miller’s overall performance was average (to his standard) at best, and the team needed everyone, including him, to step their game up.
Brissett only played against the Red Claws last week, as he was called up later that week to provide Nick Nurse with some additional bodies against the Atlanta Hawks.
It’s easy to say that Brissett had an off-night shooting, but was productive if one looked at the boxscore. I mean, he did drop 25 points on 6-of-14 shooting. However, the Red Claws game was the full Brissett experience, where you can see a lot of promise, and a lot of things that he can improve on.
Brissett opened the game scorching hot, hitting a couple of really nice midrange jumpers, one a side-step and another a step-back. He looked fluid in both moves, and followed this up with a pretty good drive to the basket, finishing with his left hand. All indications from this point were that Brissett might be off to a great start, right?
Unfortunately, Brissett went on to miss eight straight shots (really just seven because the end of period heaves don’t count for me) in a variety of ways. He eventually broke the dry spell during garbage time in the last couple of minutes of the game with three straight buckets in the paint, including this one on Tacko Fall.
Brissett’s struggles also include an off-night from the perimeter, where Brissett went 0-for-5 (including the heave). Brissett’s activity and energy will always be good, but his lack of shooting left coach Mahlalela no choice but to start Paul Watson ahead of him that night.
Heading into the season, my reservations for Ponds were major: defense, playmaking, and off-ball scoring. I was never concerned about him putting up points in general. Sure, Ponds did struggle in his first couple of games, but he was trying to find where his scoring would come from under a new offense that’s not centred around him, and not having the minutes and touches to which he’s accustomed.
Fast forward to the Erie BayHawks game and we can officially say that Ponds has arrived. He was on in that contest as the professional bucket-getter the 905 needed in the second half when it looked like they were about to fold in the second half for the fifth straight game.
Ponds’ three-point shooting was on display too — he was taking (and making) them whether it was in isolation or a catch-and-shoot situation. He was also able to get his drives to the basket going, as he went 6-of-7 inside the arc. Ponds finished the game with a new G League career-high 27 points.
While everyone’s eyes are focused on Ennis and the rest of the Raptors prospects, Paul Watson seems to be flying under the radar. He could be playing his way onto the list of potential call-ups. He’s got the physical tools you’d want in a wing — a 6’6”/6’7” NBA-ready body, decent wingspan, athleticism, and his defense was ahead of his offense in college.
It looks like Watson is starting to put things together, and he’s enjoying a G League career-high average of 20.5 points, including a high volume rate of 4/7.8 3PM/A per game. He’s got a decent first step, and he can put the ball on the floor and explode for a finish at the rim. Watson’s handle seems to be still a work in progress. Defensively, coach Mahlalela has had him guarding anyone from 1-5 though, including Tacko Fall. I sometimes wonder if he’s the best prospect on the 905 right now. Anyone in need of more 3+D?