It was another injury-plagued week for coach Jama Mahlalela’s Raptors 905, but the team’s talent is on the rise, and so is their record. Last week, the Raptors 905 rudely hosted the Windy City Bulls and the Long Island Nets. The Bulls were blown out despite having a few fringe NBA players, while Shamorie Ponds broke the Nets and Deng Adel’s hearts with a dagger.
Speaking of Ponds, he’s starting to get more and more comfortable, and has provided the 905 the scoring punch they needed in certain pockets of the game, and especially during crunch time. More on Slick Morie below.
Last week also featured the debut of Justin Anderson, who bounced around from the Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, and failed to earn a roster spot on the Wizards roster — which is mind-blowing because he’s definitely better than at least a third, if not half of that roster.
Call-ups and injuries limited Dewan Hernandez and Oshae Brissett’s appearances last week, with Hernandez unable to play at all and Brissett only played against the Bulls.
Justin Anderson Effect
Justin Anderson was claimed by the Raptors 905 recently, and the former NBA first-round pick brought tons of value in his first couple of games.
From my recollection of Anderson, I saw him as an energy guy. He’ll hustle on defence, boards, transition, and will throw down a powerful dunk. Based on this, he’s as good as advertised, and actually way more than that.
The Raptors 905’s defence instantly looked better with Anderson on the lineup; he brought in the intensity and the toughness that the team lacked previously. Watching his debut against the Windy City Bulls, I can’t even remember if anybody scored in front of him. Of course, he’s got this chase-down block:
After hearing the signing, I was more curious to see what Anderson could do offensively. He’s a lefty, and of course his drives to the basket will always be going left and extreme left, but his physique enabled him to just bully his way in and get to his spots. A few times he drove to the basket and the defenders wanted nothing to do with him at top speed.
His three-point shot looks like it’s still in development, but he’s at a point where he’s confident hoisting them, even off the bounce. Against the Long Island Nets, he shot 5-11 from deep, and some of those makes were off the bounce and had a hand in his face.
I guess what’s more surprising to me is how well he moves the ball. He’s well aware of where his teammates are around the perimeter, and will make quick swing passes to the open teammate.
Anderson had committed ten turnovers in two contests, but I’m not going to nitpick this for now as he’s only had a few days of practice with the team.
Devin Robinson only played against the Windy City Bulls last week, and he dropped a pedestrian 25 and eight, with the usual highlight reel plays. If the opposing team gives this guy a runaway to take off, it’s an automatic jaw-dropping play.
Robinson did his usual excellent rim-running, cuts to the basket, and hustle plays that makes up most of his production. However, he did hit a couple of nice three-pointers during the game. His shot is still a work in progress; it takes forever for him to launch the shot, and oftentimes, he’s too hesitant to pull the trigger.
Robinson is already in the G League’s top five scoring list, putting in 23.7 points per game. Just imagine what it could be once he gets comfortable shooting (and making) those perimeter shots.
Tyler Ennis had a couple of contrasting games last week — he gladly took a step back scoring-wise against the Windy City Bulls but felt the need to put the team on his back early on against the Long Island Nets.
Against the Bulls, Ennis showed that he can repeatedly get to the paint to collapse the defence, only for him to find an open man for a kick out. He set the tone for the team offensively, as the ball was moving fast and often. He was content facilitating scoring opportunities for his teammates; he only had four shots heading into the fourth quarter.
The game against the Nets brought the Ennis that we’ve known this season. The Nets tried to pull ahead early in the first quarter, but he took it upon himself to inch their way back into the ball game. For this game, Ennis showed a back-to-the-basket game that would make Andre Miller and Mark Jackson proud, as he repeatedly scored or collapsed the defence by posting him the Bulls’ guards.
Ennis earned his first ejection against the Long Island Nets mid-fourth quarter. It wasn’t about him shouting profanity to the refs nor obscenely showing emotions, he merely tossed the ball towards the referee with a bit more sauce, and that’s more than enough for another wannabe G League referee to make himself part of the game. Did the ball even hit the ref? So why would a referee try to make a hotly contested game about him? Also, at this point, coach Mahlalela needs to stand up for his player. He can’t be Mr. Nice Guy game in and game out.
I was a little bit worried about Oshae Brissett’s touches/minutes when the Raptors 905 signed Justin Anderson. In fact, I’m a big believer that the team’s prospects should get first dibs of starting spot and a big chunk of minutes, but I guess the Raptors 905 have a different plan for Brissett.
Brissett’s intake of his 905 development is similar to how the team approached their development of Malcolm Miller, Alfonzo McKinnie, and the latter years of Bruno Caboclo. He is basically getting reps similar to how his number could be called in the NBA; limited minutes off the bench, and with a role of hustle/energy player.
With that being said, Brissett has been experimenting on what works for him and which moves need to be fine tuned. His drives to his left looked much more polished than when he tries to finish with his strong hand. His three-point shot, however, still has a long way to go for it to be at an acceptable level in the NBA.
He is also starting to show some refined defensive reaction — against the Bulls, he showed that he can keep up laterally as an on-ball defender, preventing a blow-by against him.
So for now, we’ll have to live with Brissett’s constant inefficient 15 points in 15 shots while shooting in the low 40s.
He looks like John Wall, but his game has a lot of James Harden iso-mode, Manu Ginobli’s craftiness finishing around the basket, and a floater that will make Mike Conley and Tony Parker proud.
As long as Ennis is with the Raptors 905, expect Ponds to come off the bench, but Ponds has embraced his role, and is relishing it as the team’s instant offense.
Ponds is a threat to score from anywhere in the court, and it doesn’t matter if he’s got a defender on his face. If you look at his three-point percentage, it’s a mediocre 26.8%. However, he’s not afraid to shoot, and still trying to get his timing against longer and quicker defenders. A lot of his misses from the perimeter were contested shots, but those were high-degree of difficulty shots where he has to create some separation between him and his defenders. It’s clean most of the time, and it’s just a matter of time before he nails them consistently.
What’s impressive with Ponds’ scoring is that he’s a bigger threat to score inside the arc. He’s gotten the mid-range/long-two shots off the bounce going, and anything closer, he would go with a floater. Heck, even if his floater starts from before the free-throw line. Anything closer than the free-throw range, he’ll have various ways of finishing, using his handles, misdirection, angles, and ability to change his shots mid-air. These past three games, he’s shooting a whopping 77.8% from inside the arc. Not bad for a 6’ guard.
Ponds is not just a one trick pony. He’s pretty good at drawing multiple defenders and getting the opposing team’s defense watching him. From here, he’s able to find the right open man and make a crisp pass even with his off hand.
Lastly, did I mention he’s clutch? I’m just going to leave this game winner right here (jump to the 2:00 mark or enjoy the full game highlights):