With the 29th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors selected Malachi Flynn, a point guard out of San Diego State. At first glance, he looks to be undersized and underwhelming, of perhaps lesser value than other guards in this draft class. And for the Raptors, he could be considered just another deep-bench piece on an already guard-heavy Toronto roster.
But Malachi Flynn is more than that. Recall the saying: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work as hard.” Now in the NBA, about to begin his rookie season, Flynn proves just that.
The youngest of seven children, Malachi often found himself being challenged by his older siblings. He learned at an early age that if he wants to make it in basketball he would have to find a way to work around what he lacks and prove himself. When you’re only 5’2” as a freshman in high school, as Malachi was, you have to get creative. You have to find other ways to be effective, especially against bigger players.
“Being undersized, you gotta find a way to make up for it,” Flynn said in his post-draft interview. “You gotta be tough. I look at it as mindset not so much a skillset but a mindset.”
Flynn played all four years in college, the first two at Washington State before transferring to San Diego State. At Washington State he ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring and eighth in assists. Not bad, but after transferring to SDSU, Flynn earned a series of accolades: 2019-20 All-American Second Team, Mountain West Player of the Year, and All-Mountain West First Team.
Before all the awards though, per NCAA rules, Malachi had to sit out one year after his transfer. He wasted no time that year, however, learning and absorbing everything he saw, while also working to get stronger. When you’re forced to sit out and watch, observing is your most valuable resource. And Malachi took full advantage.
“In that off year, I got a lot stronger, worked on my body. You’re just learning more and you see a different perspective when you’re just sitting and watching for a whole year,” Flynn told reports on Raptors Media Day. “You look at the game in a different way. When I came back out it helped me a lot because I used all of that, everything I learned.”
Because he’s a student of the game through and through, Flynn has a high basketball IQ, which helps in his point guard role. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also carried a 2.84 assist-to-turnover ratio, which put him in the top 10 in the country, and a 37 percent shooting percentage from deep. Coupled with his work ethic, Flynn has been able to develop himself into a dominant force on boths ends of the court. His senior year, he led the team in minutes while maintaining his role as captain. In this, Flynn proved his true two-way player value as a player who takes care of the ball and organizes his team from the point of attack. Having a player with that kind of passion for learning — and ability to develop — is something you truly can’t coach. It’s an asset to any squad looking to add leadership and drive in the longer term.
“Growing up, I definitely watched a lot of hoops. I still watch a lot of hoops. I watch a lot of film not only of myself but other point guards who I think play the game with a high IQ as well. I always use the offseason to continue to get better,” Flynn explained to Bryan Kalbrosky of USA Today Sports.
Statements like that really highlight why teams would — or should — be attracted to Flynn’s game. He has reliable decision-making skills, particularly in the pick-and-roll, and an ability to shoot off the dribble. He’s learned how to effectively run the offense, an absolute must for point guards. And as noted, Flynn shoots the three-ball even better, a great skill to have in today’s game, particularly with the range he’s shown in the past.
Now as a new member of the Raptors organization, Flynn brings natural leadership, versatility, and advanced scoring instincts to the team’s backcourt. He’s fiercely competitive on the defensive end and knowledgeable on the offensive end. Though he is playing behind Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, which could limit his chances on the court this season, he’ll also be learning from two of the smartest point guards in the league. Paired with the organization’s proven ability to develop players, the Raptors have a great shot at success here with Flynn.
To sum it all up in his post-draft media availability Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said of Flynn: “He’s a modern NBA point guard. He can do it all on the offensive end. A lot of people are going to talk about pick-and-roll, shoot off the dribble, shoots the 3-ball well, and obviously defends at a high level as well. He’s just a guy we really like and think can come in and play a little bit for us.” That’s quite the endorsement.
Flynn was a great choice for the Raptors in the 2020 Draft. He’s a young man who is highly regarded as an observer, looking to learn from those around him. He’s going to be the guy capable of finding and creating the clutch shots when the team needs them, the missing piece for the future who is ready to contribute to winning games now.