The Raptors 905 failed to impress during the G League Winter Showcase, as they absorbed a couple of close losses in front of NBA scouts. The team’s prospects did not dress due to call-ups and injuries, but the team's top call-up players made an impression.
With the moratorium to sign 10-day contracts about to be lifted on January 5, 2020, I fully expect at least one of Justin Anderson, Tyler Ennis, Paul Watson, and Devin Robinson to get a look from any team in the NBA.
Since we are at the end of the year, it's customary to come up with New Year's resolution. In that spirit, here's what I have for the notable 905 prospects for the coming year.
Devin Robinson: Let it fly from deep
Devin Robinson came back from his injury right on time for the Winter Showcase, albeit on a minutes restriction. He hasn’t played more than 25 minutes since coming back — I believe the coaches wanted to keep him at around 20 minutes per game — however, his production is similar to what it was before his injuries.
Robinson was back to his old pogo-stick self: dunking on people, catching lobs, slashing, skying for rebounds or trying to alter shots. He’s got the mid-range shot going a bit, although it looks a bit shaky. It was fun a few times seeing Robinson and Justin Anderson somewhat collide mid-air trying to catch lobs/tips.
As a New Year’s Resolution for Robinson, he should just let it fly when the opportunity presents itself in the perimeter. Often times, he’s too hesitant to shoot it, and his instincts tell him to go dunk on someone’s head. That’s good if it’s a wide open lane, not with 2-3 defenders waiting to greet him.
It’s clear that Robinson needs a lot of reps from the perimeter, and he won’t be a 3+D player overnight without executing the work that he’s putting in on practice. He needs confidence just to let it fly and not fumble into his mechanics on the way to getting his shot up.
Paul Watson: Be more assertive
I won’t be surprised if Paul Watson becomes the first 905 player this season to receive a 10-day contract. There aren’t that many players in the G League right now that can shoot perimeter shots like him with better accuracy (47.1 percent on 7.7 attempts per game). His size and NBA-ready body should make him a decent wing option at the NBA level.
However, my resolution for him is to be even more assertive. Watson has had games where he catches fire early on, only to disappear for stretches. He should be pushing 30 points every game, not a pedestrian 18-20 points. I know he’s a little bit at the mercy of his teammates, as he relies on the playmakers to find him open around the perimeter, but we’ve seen Justin Anderson get assertive when he’s cooking.
With the Raptors 905 playing Watson out of position, it’s hard to gauge how he’d fare with guarding opposing wings, as he’s often tasked to guard the other team’s power forward in coach Jama Mahlalela’s ultra-small ball lineup. He’s a long, volume and high-accuracy shooter from deep that should make Houston Rockets drool.
Tyler Ennis: Consistently hit his perimeter shots
I have said this before, and I’m trying to speak this into existence — Tyler Ennis needs to hit his perimeter shots consistently. This particular aspect of his game could very well be his weakest point, but he needs to take 2-4 perimeter shots per game and hit them at a decent clip.
Sometimes Ennis finds himself with the ball on the perimeter, and either he’ll hesitate, make a swing pass, or penetrate where the defense is already waiting. He’s currently shooting 31 percent for the season, but his last five games show that he should be better than that, shooting under 44 percent (7-of-16).
Ennis also had a sub-par showing at the G League Winter Showcase. This event is an important one for NBA hopefuls, as scouts from every team were in attendance. While Ennis managed to run the team well, his turnover issues reared their ugly head late and cost them both games — and perhaps, scored Ennis a few negative points in the scouts’ eyes. He did bounce back against the Greensboro Swarm, though, dropping a cool 17 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 2-of-4 from three, to go with only two turnovers.
Justin Anderson: Variety on offense
I believe Justin Anderson has accomplished what he wanted to do at the G League level: he’s proven he can shoot from anywhere. I initially wanted to put “he can shoot around the perimeter,” but then he’s pulling up 2-4 feet behind the arc, and I’m being modest here.
Anderson had an inconsistent showing at the Winter Showcase. In the 905’s first game against the Santa Cruz Warriors he was one of the best players there, dropping 30 points, including a run of 6-of-10 from behind the arc. The same thing can’t be said against Sioux Falls Skyforce where he only made 3 field goals in 14 attempts, and that includes going 1-of-11 from behind the arc.
This overreliance on perimeter shots is what I wanted Anderson to change for this year. I think it would serve him much better if he can show that he’s an all-around scorer and still get to shoot 5-8 threes. Anderson is too strong, athletic, and powerful to settle for perimeter shots. As he’s shown elsewhere, he’s almost unstoppable inside the arc as well.
Shamorie Ponds: Be a triple threat
Shamorie Ponds can make a play; in fact, I think he’s a gifted passer and has a knack for leading his teammates to the shot with his passes. The problem? Sometimes he gets into some tunnel vision trying to break down his defender.
Ponds’ struggles are tied up with the quality of shots that he’s taking. The majority of his shots, or misses, have been iso-driven. While he’s quick and crafty enough to get by his defender, help defenders are recognizing that he’s less likely to pass once he starts dancing his way into the basket. Sometimes, if Ponds is defended well and forced to kick the ball out, it doesn’t look as if he’s aware of where his teammates are.
To make a comparison: part of Lou Williams’ growth as the Sixth Man legend has been his development as a passer. Sure, he’ll cook his defender as much as he can, but he’s much more aware now of the small cracks that can become available for an assist. If Ponds can incorporate this to his game, it could open up the floor for him even more, and get him higher percentage shots.
Oshae Brissett: Stick to the calling card
No, I’m not saying Oshae Brissett should just be a rim-running energy guy. In fact, he’s shown flashes every now and then that he’s capable of doing much more. However, that “much more” should only be rolled out every now and then, and Brissett has to keep honing the skill-set that is earning him NBA minutes right now: as an energy guy.
We have all seen what he can do in the NBA — he’s an active body, will crash the boards, be a switchable defender, run in transition, and catch lobs. It was fun seeing him get some run with the starters, especially Kyle Lowry.
At the G League level, Brissett has to show what his calling card is at all times while integrating all of those other skills he’s trying to develop. We’ve seen how his three-point shot is not quite read yet, and he can get out of control trying to drive against solid defenders. Oshae can take comfort in what he’s already good at.
Dewan Hernandez: Get healthy
Given Hernandez's situation last year, he can't afford to have a lot of downtime that could affect whatever incremental development he's made so far. As it is, his play on both sides of the floor can be better, but at the same time, it's undeniable that there's plenty of improvement once he gets it.
With injuries to the Raptors big men, Nick Nurse can't even use him during this stretch as Hernandez is out again with an injury. He's only played about half of the games in the G League so far, and he needs more reps and experience under his belt.
Hernandez is figuring out what works for him offensively, and has a tough task anchoring the middle playing alongside a small lineup. Coach Mahlalela will afford him the chance to make and learn from his mistakes, but he needs to bring intensity with or without the ball. And he needs to be on the court for any of this — the good or the bad — to happen.