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Prospect Report: Mid-season Report Card

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With three-fourths of the season done, we reviewed how the prospects have fared so far, while we bid “au revoir” to Malachi Richardson.

Raptors 905 centre Chris Boucher wins G-League MVP and DPOY awards Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

It was a slow two-week stretch for the Toronto Raptors prospects, as the trio of Chris Boucher, Jordan Loyd, and Malachi Richardson spent a lot of time with the main club as the Raptors battle through injuries. Coincidentally, the trade deadline depleted the roster in various ways, and Richardson was one of the casualties. We also officially welcome back Malcolm Miller to the “Prospect Report” after signing a multi-year deal with the Raptors.

With the NBA season heading into the all-star break, it’s fitting to look back at the progress that our prospects are making, and try to figure out what they need to do for the rest of the season. The main club will have 23 games after the all-star break, while the 905 have 13. Both teams are competing for a finals appearance, and the “prospects” will have to work hard to balance both assignments.

In other “Prospect Report” legacy news, we wish Lorenzo Brown (Iso-Zo) the best, as he recently signed with the Guangzhou Long-Lions — joining former NBA player Marreese Speights and Kyle Fogg, who played for coach Nick Nurse’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers championship team as the backup point guard.

Also, our boy Bruno Caboclo received (deservedly so) another 10-day contract. The Memphis Grizzlies have a decision to make on Bruno as his second 10-day runs out in less than a week. Heck, they might as well make Jerry Stackhouse the interim coach. Bruno was recently named to Mid-Season All-NBA G-League Western Conference Team.

I know he was not a Raptors “prospect,” but Kennedy Meeks was a big part of coach Stack’s team, and probably the recipient of 50 percent of Lorenzo Brown’s assists in the G-League. I recently came across Meeks’ Instagram account, and man, I suggest you look up those North Carolina Tarheel days and compare his frame to the current picture he has up right now. He looks like a lean power forward.

Now, onto the prospects.

Jordan Loyd

Grade: A-

In the G-League:

21.7 PPG, 47.1% FG, 34.3% 3P (2.1/6.1 3PM/A), 5.6 REB, 5.9 AST, 1.9 STL, 2.4 TO

It was a weird start of the season, as the Raptors 905 acquired Kay Felder and handed him the keys to the team as the starting point guard. Jordan Loyd played primarily off-ball with Felder manning the point, and Loyd was an excellent complimentary player, giving coach Jama Mahlalela a one-two scoring punch between him and Chris Boucher. Maybe the staff wanted to bring Loyd along slowly as a point guard, as there were talks that they wanted him to convert to point guard, having played mostly as a shooting guard before the season.

Circumstances befalling Felder forced the Raptors 905 to make Loyd the full-time starting PG, and he did not disappoint. In fact, he upped his all-around game, and was a constant threat for a triple-double every night.

Throughout the season however, Loyd demonstrated his streaky shooting. He can get hot and score in bunches, or he can have days where nothing’s falling for him — especially from behind the arc. At this level, Loyd showed that he can either take over the game effectively or take a step back and let his teammates — like Boucher and Collinsworth — cook. Defensively, he’s been solid, as Loyd likes to play the passing lanes and push the pace and create some transition opportunities.

I gave him an A- because of his seamless transition as the starting point guard with the potential to get even better.

In the NBA:

Loyd started the season as the fifth point guard, behind Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, and Lorenzo Brown. There was just no way he’d get the first crack at garbage time minutes — when Delon was the captain of the garbage time, and Lorenzo Brown the co-captain. Loyd did show us a glimpse of what he can do in garbage time against the Chicago Bulls last November, where his sank two perimeter shots. Unfortunately, the 905 waived Felder, and were forced to turn to Loyd, who got stuck with the minor-league squad lacking a solid back-up point guard (sorry, Myck :( ).

Rest of the season outlook:

Loyd had been eating up a lot of his NBA-days riding the pine, and unfortunately for him, the main club hasn’t been blowing their opponents away, so the garbage time is very few and far between. The team would most likely eat up all his remaining NBA-days, and give him a feature game or two, just like what they did with Lorenzo Brown last year.

G-League wise, I do expect Loyd to continue to lead the team back to the G-League Finals. With two adequate back-ups in Jordan Howard and Josh Adams, Loyd should be able to switch between guard positions, allowing him to get some reps as an off-ball shooter.

Unfortunately, we were robbed of seeing Loyd get minutes even in garbage time. I wanted to see whether he could get his offence going against bigger, stronger and faster defenders. On the flipside, I also wanted to see how he would fare defending second-string guards.

With the Jeremy Lin signing on the horizon, it’s doubtful that Loyd’s contract will get converted this year. However, I think he’s done well enough to at least get a Qualifying Offer, and a chance in training camp to turn that into a standard contract. For now, Loyd has to finish strong in the G-League, and also show up should his number get called for the Raptors in a “feature game.”

Chris Boucher

Grade: A+

In the G-League:

27.6 PPG, 50.9% FG, 31.2% 3P (2.1/6.8 3PM/A), 11.1 REB, 1.2 AST, 1.1 STL, 4.0 BLK, 2.0 TO

Veni, Vidi, Vici.

Chris Boucher came out of nowhere and conquered the G-League, and I did not see this coming. Heck, nobody saw this coming. Coach Jama unleashed Boucher in many different ways, and he played like a man possessed. He’s a three-point threat, and he can also put the ball down and drive to the basket. Boucher will grab a rebound/block/steal and lead the transition, preferably going coast-to-coast.

Boucher is also working on a rapidly developing pick-and-roll and lob game. Defensively, if he has the clear path at the dribbler, there’s a good chance he’s blocking the shot.

However, he is not without flaws — Boucher’s skinny frame make him susceptible to struggling against stronger opponents. Opposing coaches often try to get him in foul trouble by repeatedly posting him up in these matchups.

For his surprising rise to dominance, and constantly showing off new facets of his game, Boucher deserves the highest grade based on his G-League performance.

In the NBA:

Boucher is not shy. I repeat: Boucher is not shy.

Boucher is well-aware of his career timeline. He knows that at some point this season, he can’t be seen simply as a raw project player — he needs to put up some palpable production in the NBA. Boucher dominating in the G-League is a good sign, but his play in spot minutes in the big leagues is even more fascinating.

Boucher knows what he’s good at, and his strengths are transferable skills. He keeps his game simple, and so far it’s working for him. For instance, if he’s open for a three-point shot, he’ll take it, no hesitation. He’s 9/23 from behind the arc this year for the Raptors, and the first three-point attempt of each game he appears in seems to go in at an astonishing rate.

Aside from that, he’s shown that he’ll battle and protect the paint, relying on his length and quickness to block or alter shots. More recently, he’s getting the “Bebe” pick-and-roll treatment — where Lowry will just lob the ball on a whim to see if Boucher can reach it.

Like I mentioned above, physical players still get their way against him in the paint, and that will remain one of his biggest drawbacks.

Rest of the season outlook:

The Raptors converted Boucher’s two-way contract into a standard contract, but with Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby ahead of him in the depth chart, he’ll be part of the garbage time platoon. A soft schedule towards the end of the season should get him some extended looks, if not a “feature game.” It would be nice to see him get some minutes with a great passer like Lowry or Gasol, but that may be wishful thinking.

I’d like to see Boucher defend a 1/5 or a 1/4 PnR in an NBA game, as he doesn’t face this very often. If he can demonstrate an ability to defend smaller guards on switches, and/or defend the PnR correctly, his stock should rise up a bit.

Boucher should be back to help get the Raptors 905 back to the finals and continue to dominate. He’s getting a steady diet of PnR and lob plays so I would expect to see more of that.

Malachi Richardson

Grade: B-

In the G-League:

20.8 PPG, 41.3% FG, 39.3% 3P (3.5/8.9 3PM/A), 5.8 REB, 3.5 AST, 0.8 STL, 3.1 TO

Malachi started the season hot, scoring at least 25 points in five of his first six games with the 905, unconsciously hoisting (and hitting) 28-of-62 shots from behind the arc. Malachi did come in with a “now or never” attitude — he was aggressive in getting his shots, and the passive Malachi from the previous season was nowhere to be seen.

Injuries, tighter defence, and his lack of shot creation — combined with subpar finishing — brought his play back to earth, as his usual tendencies cropped up. Malachi tried to lean on his perimeter shooting, however, he had a hard time scoring from other areas of the floor. His lack of a quick first step, speed getting to the basket, and overall lack of tools in his bag ultimately limited his scoring production in the G-League.

Malachi’s playmaking has been a revelation, as he mixed up his possessions — because of a lack of versatile scoring — by looking to create for his teammates. Malachi also displayed the willingness to crash the boards, and his efforts fighting for those 50/50 balls were evident.

I gave Malachi a B- for the reasons mentioned above. Unfortunately for his timeline, a B- is not good enough.

In the NBA:

The Raptors’ wing depth just made it impossible for Malachi to break into the rotation. As per a continuing tradition, coach Nurse likes to have a two-point guard lineup at times so Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet would eat up some of the SG minutes. Danny Green has dibs on the starting spot, and whatever remaining minutes would be picked-up by Norman Powell. CJ Miles’ Go-Daddy struggle did not even make coach Nurse consider giving Malachi a look. In the end, it was all garbage time for Malachi whenever he checks in.

Rest of the season outlook:

I guess this is the part where we say goodbye to Malachi, as he was traded by the Raptors (and a 2022 2nd round pick) to the Philadelphia 76ers for cash considerations at the trade deadline.

Like his predecessor (our prodigal son, Bruno Caboclo), I believed that he has NBA potential. Malachi has an NBA-ready body and a skill set that’s quite a premium in today’s modern league. I’ve seen it up close — he can really stroke it from deep. Sure, at his current state right now, he’s a one-trick pony — but if you look around the league, there are a lot of players that are similar to Malachi. We recently saw Joe Harris — who’s similar to Malachi in ways — of whom the Nets were able to hone a skill-set worthy of staying in the rotation.

I would have to go back to how the Sacramento Kings ruined a lot of their draft picks by not having the development team and structure to support their young players. Sure, the Kings drafted DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans, but they failed to develop a lot of their prospects — the likes of Jimmer Fredette, Thomas Robinson, Ben McLemore (hello!), Skal Labissiere, Nik Stauskas, Georgios Papagiannis, and eventually, Malachi.

The Kings clearly did not have a plan, and Malachi wasted almost two seasons with the Kings (sure, the injuries don’t help). As a prospect, a player can’t afford to not have some progress in their development — let alone a setback.

Just like our boy Bruno, Malachi ran out of time with the Raptors. Masai had to make some tough decisions this year — the team is poised to contend for that hardware in June, while at the same time, try to balance the books while looking toward the future. If the situation were different — i.e. if the Raptors are tanking — maybe the Raptors would pick up his option, and keep him another year.

I would have liked to see Malachi be used in a C.J. Miles/Joe Harris/Klay Thompson role, where he would constantly be moving off the ball to get to an open spot for a catch-and-shoot three-pointer, but that never seemed to be part of his development plan with the Raptors.

Malachi is back to the drawing board, and he’s got an important next few months to work on his craft and get an NBA Summer League invite. I believed that Bruno would bounce back, and he did. I also believe that we have not seen the last of Malachi.