Through lines for success are hard to find for any G League team, but the best ones usually subsist on continuity in talent — with guys sticking around and a team forming an identity, even through the inevitable shake-ups of a farm league system.
The Raptors 905 have seen that playbook before. Chris Boucher was a model of G League consistency last season. Though he spent some time up with the Raptors, his confidence exploded during G League playing time. Taking home the league MVP, he was a force on both ends of the floor — and showed tools that have since shown up for the Raptors proper.
This season, as anyone who’s a fan of this column knows (shout out!!), the 905 haven’t had those through lines. There have been guys like Tyler Ennis, Oshae Brissett, Devin Robinson, and — for the most part — Paul Watson. None of them, though, have been the kind of dominant force that Boucher (and Jordan Loyd for many games) were.
There have also been struggles with defence for stretches of games, shooting woes, and more. It adds up to a losing season right now for the 905, who are still fighting the roster whirly dervish as they played a 1-3 week in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference.
The major piece of news is that Justin Anderson, a freshly returned piece to the 905, was traded to the Long Island Nets — rejoining the Brooklyn organization that signed him to a 10-day over the holidays. In return, the 905 acquired the rights to Henry Ellenson, who’s averaged 19.3 points and 9.8 rebounds in the G League this season.
Ellenson, you might remember, was one of the reasons the Jakob Poeltl selection was a head-scratcher for many in 2016, with some wondering why Ellenson wasn’t the big brought in by Masai Ujiri.
Again... trust Masai always.
So, with Ellenson in tow towards the end of the week, let’s run back the whole seven days.
Friday, January 17 at Canton Charge
This column is always a bit of a time traveller, so picture if you will a 905 team that just re-signed Justin Anderson after he was waived from the Nets.
He comes back and quickly establishes his offence as the team begins a back-to-back in Canton. In 30 minutes, he scores a much-needed 19 points on 8-for-17 shooting, while grabbing four rebounds. The 905 win the game as he helps them to a 37-24 second quarter margin.
Enough on Anderson, though, as this was truly a team win — especially for the 905’s starters. Tyler Ennis was absolutely, Norman Powell-style, el fuego! He shot 16-for-21, including 3-for-5 from three, to tally a game-high 35 points and +21 plus-minus. For good measure, Ennis even knocked on the door of a triple-double with seven assists and six rebounds.
Devin Robinson chipped in 13, Oshae Brissett had 21, and Paul Watson had 12 as the 905 shot 54% from the field and 31% from three, playing the Charge even in the second half and rallying for the win.
Saturday, January 18 at Canton Charge
Some fairy tales are hard to replicate. The 905 shot well in their second game against Canton and even got a bit more from their bench, as both Jawun Evans and Matt Morgan scored ten points. Morgan actually almost helped the Raptors steal the win, making a three to cut the lead to one with 10.3 seconds left and making free throws to keep it at one with 4.1 left.
A drop-off in efficiency for Ennis hurt, though, as he went 11-for-23 for 25 points. Anderson similarly struggled in the backcourt, shooting 7-for-19, including a miss at the buzzer that would’ve sent the game to overtime.
A bright spot for the 905 was Oshae Brissett, who made a rare start at the five and had a nice game — making 6-for-11 and scoring 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds. He struggled with fouls, though, as he ended up fouling out late.
Monday, January 20 vs. Lakeland Magic
After what seemed like a decade away from Mississauga, the 905 finally returned home to take on Lakeland on Monday. Anderson was a DNP - Inactive in this game with his eventual trade underway, so Jawun Evans moved into the starting lineup for Jama Mahlalela.
Unfortunately, this took away from the 905’s depth and bench productivity, as nobody was there to prop up a starting lineup where the backcourt shot poorly yet again. Ennis and Evans went a combined 10-for-29, including 2-for-7 from three, as Lakeland outscored the Raptors by nine in the second half on their way to a win.
Another strong game from Brissett in this one, though, as he’s starting to assert the reigns for this 905 team that have had so many faces in and out of the lineup. Now that the Raptors proper are healthy, there’s more time for him to do this too — a 9-for-14, 24-point game with eight boards shows it’s happening. (No fouls either!)
Wednesday, January 22 vs. Greensboro Swarm
Welcome to the 905, Henry Ellenson. Mahlalela had a new toy for the 905’s final game of the week, as Ellenson joined the team and got the start for the Raptors — hitting the ground running and playing 33 minutes. His performance was really solid, 25 points and 15 rebounds on 8-for-19 shooting and 4-for-10 from three. The line led the 905 and created a whole bunch of intrigue for how this team will look with Ellenson slotting in at centre.
Ellenson’s addition came at the same time as a DNP for Brissett, who was an unfortunate scratch with a knee injury, which meant a wildly different starting lineup. Devin Robinson slotted next to Ellenson in the frontcourt, with Ennis, Watson, and Michael Bethea Jr. rounding out the group.
Shoot me for sounding like a broken record but... backcourt shooting hurt. Watson had a down week from outside, as he and Ennis finished 1-for-6 combined from distance and 7-for-19 overall. Greensboro won those matchups cleanly, with Joe Chealey and Kobi Simmons combining for 33 points and helping pace a 45/39 shooting split from the field. The 905 went just 40/31 overall.
Next up for the 905 is another brief road trip, as they play the Memphis Hustle tomorrow night and then a couple days off before Westchester on Monday.