The Raptors 905 split a couple of games last week in a similar fashion. The winning team in both contests stole the win in the final period. Coach Jama Mahlalela’s team did it to the Windy City Bulls on the road, but then let the Delaware Blue Coats do the same to them on their home court.
The 905 have now played over a quarter of their season, yet the team looks like they are figuring out their chemistry. Given their disastrous start (0-3), the team normalized as a .500 team over the past ten games. With players in and out of the lineup due to injuries, call-ups, new additions like Justin Anderson, coach Mahlalela has carried out a tough task in trying to find the right mix.
Such experimentation can go well or blow up. For example, coach Jama ran with a trio of small guards in the fourth quarter against the Bulls, and that’s how they got the W. On the flip side, a similar small lineup got massacred in the fourth quarter against the bigger and stronger Blue Coats.
Also, a quarter of the season in, it’s apparent that the prospects have a long way to go before they can be looked at even as potential bench pieces for next season. Justin Anderson and the other affiliates look more “NBA-ready,” but there are plenty of others like them around the league.
Right now, the 905 prospects are hitting a bit of a wall on what they can and can’t do at the G League level. To put it in perspective, what’s important is that they continue to work hard (and smart) and show signs of development. Now, let’s look at how our Mississauga boys are progressing (or not).
12 PPG, 37.5% FG%, (4-16) 25 3P%, 3 REB, 1 AST, 1.5 STL, 0 BLK, 2 TO, -24 +/-
Justin Anderson’s production is trending down for the past few games, as the touches, shots, and minutes have changed with the return of Paul Watson. It will be interesting to see how Anderson will adjust to this development, especially once Devin Robinson comes back from his injury.
While his points and percentages might take a hit, there’s no excuse for Anderson’s hustle stats to be down as well. He tallied only a total of six rebounds, three steals, and no blocks without being in foul trouble.
Given Anderson’s strength and athleticism advantage, he’s shown that he can finish well at the G League level. Unfortunately, it looks like he’s too preoccupied in showcasing his perimeter shooting and overlooking what can get 10-15 points easily: driving to the basket.
In all, Anderson may be deferring a bit, as the touches for the past two games appear to be more spread out, and Watson is sharing minutes (and touches) with him as a starter. Still, I’m expecting Anderson to figure this out, and bounce back for the 905’s next game.
We’d like to see more of this:
Why they not boxing out @JusAnderson1??? pic.twitter.com/hjHssf0pok— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) December 14, 2019
20.5 PPG, 55.6% FG%, (8-17) 47.1 3P%, 6 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 3 TO, 12 +/-
Paul Watson returned to action last week, and it looked like he didn’t miss five straight games at all. Except for his first game back against the Bulls, Watson hasn’t shot less than 40 percent on high volume attempts from deep (7.7 3PA). Last week, he also shot 70 percent inside the arc. Given the production, he’s probably the team’s best pure shooter right now.
14 PPG, 39.3% FG%, (4-7) 57.1 3P%, 9.5 REB, 7.5 AST, 2.5 STL, 0.5 BLK, 4 TO, -9 +/-
The 905’s floor general had a decent week, as Ennis did a solid job running the offense while ensuring Watson did not look out of place within their offensive scheme.
Ennis had a rough shooting night against the Bulls but bounced back against the Blue Coats, where he was in his element. His floaters were on point, and he repeatedly collapsed the Blue Coats’ defense and found the open man.
The game against the Blue Coats also showed some interesting development. Ennis was dared to shoot the perimeter shot, with his man sagging on pick-and-rolls. He took advantage of the extended daylight and shot 3-for-3 behind the arc to start the game. Unfortunately, I suppose Ennis wanted to end things on a high note and did not attempt another three-pointer.
11 PPG, 45.5% FG%, (2-5) 40 3P%, 2 REB, 4.5 AST, 2.5 STL, 0 BLK, 0.5 TO, 11 +/-
If Paul Watson is the team’s best pure shooter, Shamorie Ponds is the team’s best bad/difficult shot maker... and taker.
Ponds made ten shots in two games last week, and pretty much every shot had varying levels of difficulty. There was a shot made 1-vs-1 against Bol Bol, taking him to the basket. Another slashing through the lane, double-clutching against three defenders. A hard jump-stop at the midrange area, to catch Brissett’s almost a hand-off pass and Ponds hand to do a one-handed floater against outstretched arms for a big 7-footer. A step back three-pointer with a hand in his face.
Ponds carries a demeanour that he can score on anyone, and maybe in time he’ll get to be at the (G League) level of Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford as microwave scorers. But right now, he’s a high-volume inefficient scorer. However, it’s what the 905 need from him, and he’s getting better at it.
One underrated aspect of Ponds’ game is his passing. He’s got a good eye seeing his teammates when they cut, and he’s got excellent chemistry with Nicholas Baer and Brissett. That is if he’s not hell-bent shooting the ball. Still, he’s probably the team’s best option to get a shot off anywhere on the floor in ISO mode.
13 PPG, 44% FG%, (0-4) 0 3P%, 3 REB, 1 AST, 1.5 STL, 1 BLK, 0 TO, -19 +/-
Oshae Brissett is settling in well as the 905’s Energizer bunny off the bench. While his game is still very raw, he’s starting to get more and more opportunities where he can use his athleticism, quickness, size, and strength to put up points.
Brissett’s shown some good instinct in reading how the play is unfolding and makes the appropriate cuts to the basket. As a slasher, he’s a highlight waiting to happen with two dribbles or less with a full head of steam on straight-line drives to the basket (Mahlalela tends to use him as the “Pascal Siakam” of the Siakam/FVV DHO from the top of the key). His midrange game is still developing but Oshae is already showing a nice step-back to create some separation.
WE ALREADY TOLD YOU@Obrissy AIN'T SCARED OF NO ONE! pic.twitter.com/Vsb6CfZZCT— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) December 11, 2019
Brissett’s outside shot is still a project with a capital P. His defense is also inconsistent — he shows lapses on defense one time, and then flash some good effort on another. It’s also worth noting that coach Mahlalela’s has experimented with Brissett as the team’s centre in an extreme small-ball lineup.
9.5 PPG, 32% FG%, (0-6) 0 3P%, 8.5 REB, 2 AST, 1.5 STL, 1 BLK, 1.5 TO, -5 +/-
It’s been a rough stretch for Dewan Hernandez, as he continues to trend down offensively and defensively. His confidence seems to be wavering at times, and it looks like it’s affecting him on both ends of the court.
Hernandez’ perimeter misses are liveable even on 3-of-22 shooting for the season. He should shoot those shots that he’s working if he’s open. However, his forays around the basket need some tinkering. For one, Hernandez needs to come up with better shot selection if he’s had a chance to size up his defender. From there, he needs to take it strong to the basket. He’s competent enough and skilled enough to be able to get his shots up.
Defensively, if Hernandez gets a good read that a player will go for a layup, he can be quick enough to bother, if not block the shot. Unfortunately, these plays are few and far in-between. Often, he’s out of position or a step late, assuming he figures out the play unfolding at all.
Worse, G League big men are roughing him up in the paint without much resistance. Hernandez is even starting to lose minutes to (and getting outplayed by) Nicholas Baer, who is an inferior player in terms of athleticism and overall skill set.
A couple of silver linings here is that Hernandez’ is starting to find scoring opportunities off the ball — he just needs to convert them. He looks good in transition, whether doing it all coast-to-coast or as a trailer. Could he be two years away?