Judging from how Loyd looked in the Las Vegas Summer League, it was actually a surprise that we would be writing an end-of-the-season piece for him as a Raptor (on a two-way deal). His performance was underwhelming, especially for a non-rookie standard, and especially for someone with G League and Euro-ball experience under their belt.
Saddled by a bad back, Loyd was barely able to showcase his talent in Vegas, and he had only one memorable spurt, where he dropped 12 points in a quarter. The other guards that the Raptors brought in got the starting roles, and even the minutes that he received were not ideal. That he would go on and finish as the Raptors 905 starting point guard would surprise anyone who (barely) saw him play the point in Vegas.
Still, the Raptors liked what they saw in Loyd, and kept him on a two-way contract hoping he could transition into a full-time point guard. Before the season started, I wrote a player preview on Loyd, essentially pencilling in the season as a year-long tryout for him, and as a vehicle for him to transition into a potential combo guard role for the Raptors in the future.
If there was any indication the Raptors had some reservation about whether Loyd could successfully transition into a bigger point/combo guard role, it came when the team added Kay Felder to the Raptors 905 roster, essentially putting the ball on Felder’s hands for the most part. At the time, it was a sound idea — Felder would be the primary point guard and give Loyd his reps running the team.
Loyd excelled as the team’s starting shooting guard, putting up an impressive near-20-5-5 stat line in November, even while still trying to find his range from the perimeter. Loyd was expected to be a floor spacer for the 905, but his initial struggles with hitting his perimeter shot actually brought out all the other things that we didn’t know about him. Loyd could create his own shot off the dribble, find space in the mid-range, and make things happen for his teammates. (When all else failed, Loyd showed a knack for getting to the free throw line too.) Meanwhile, on defense, Loyd was able to play the passing lanes effectively to get his team out and running.
Then in early December, Loyd was thrust into the spotlight as the 905’s starting point guard. (Felder was waived by the team after a domestic violence charge came to light.) Loyd’s seamless transition into the role did not come as a shock as he was already doing a good job playing the part. It’s how he was able to maintain his production and balance this with his ball-handling duties which makes the transition even more impressive. From here on, Loyd looked like a legit point guard in the G League.
With Loyd as the team’s starting point guard, he solidified an excellent 1-2 punch with Chris Boucher. The lack of point guard depth also meant that coach Jama Mahlalela had to rely on Loyd extensively, and he responded to the challenge.
As fate seems to slide the controls on the degree of difficulty to make things even harder, Jonas Valanciunas got injured, and that meant a lengthy call-up for Boucher, leaving Loyd as the “guy” for the Raptors 905. Again, another challenge that Loyd had to overcome.
With the 905 in the battle for the top spot in the East, Loyd faced a daunting task — keep the team in contention while having to carry a squad that was severely lacking in talent, with the call-ups of Boucher, Deng Adel, and injuries to Kyle Collinsworth, and even himself peppered through almost half their G League season.
Loyd persevered, and transitioned into the go-to guy for the team, carrying them on his back for the most part. During this stretch, there were shades of Kyle Lowry in Loyd’s game, where you can pretty much expect him to do anything — especially the little things — to will his team to win or at least get back into the game. At the end of the season, Loyd got some buzz as a potential G League MVP candidate. The guys at Ridiculous Upside did a great job making the case here.
Unfortunately, the Raptors’ guard depth and the 905’s need for his services pretty much had him staying in Mississauga for the most part. Loyd appeared in just 12 NBA games, and all during garbage time. However, he did have a couple of good performances, during which the Toronto fanbase got a glimpse of what Loyd can do. In short minutes, Loyd showed that he can at least be the third point guard in the rotation. He did a good job facilitating and setting up his teammates and was able to provide floor spacing when hitting his perimeter shots. Unfortunately, his extended minutes were few and far in between.
Since Loyd did not get a chance to play competitive minutes in the NBA, it remains to be seen whether he could be good enough to be a rotation player in the NBA. Loyd’s G League campaign showed that he’s got some excellent transferable skills, and also that he still has ways to go in his development as a combo-guard in the NBA — something that could be accelerated with some competitive playing time in the NBA. Outside of all the offensive and defensive skill set that Loyd’s got in his bag, I think his biggest attribute is his ability to adjust to his role well and quickly learn on the fly.
And we’d be remiss in not mentioning Loyd’s reaction to Kawhi’s big shot (The Shot) to eliminate the Philadelphia 76ers. It was Loyd’s finest on-camera post-season performance. But his most significant contribution was the role he played in scouting Steph Curry in the Finals (and for other point guards in the playoffs). Loyd’s got the decent handle, shooting, and the aptitude to learn Curry’s habits, and plays to simulate his game in practice. It was a useful add to the Raptors as they made their way to the championship.
I have a feeling that Loyd’s game got better based on what he went through behind the scenes in the postseason. Now he’s got a chance to prove that he’s more than just a “random guy in a suit” for this upcoming NBA Summer League and the Raptors’ next training camp.