The Prospect Report is back covering the last three-game stretch for the Raptors 905, with a rare two-game winning streak (wins against the Grand Rapids Drive and the top seed Wisconsin Herd) snapped by a loss to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
We saw Stanley Johnson play against the Drive, and he’s shown us a lot of things that he can do. More on that below. Henry Ellenson also played well overall this week, despite having an off night in the same game, but after the jump, I went through some of the things that impressed me about his game (no, it’s not his defense).
Oshae Brissett is playing at an all-time high, and the work that he’s putting on is starting to show on the court, as he’s looking more and more comfortable out there. Unfortunately, he suffered an ankle injury last night, and I hope this doesn’t set him back, as he has some good momentum going for him.
Matt Morgan had an underwhelming three-game stretch, where he only shot 3-for-12 from the field, while his only makes were coming from the perimeter (3-for-10). What’s even more disappointing is that Morgan had a chance to play full-time backup point guard duties with Juwan Evans out against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, but he was a non-factor during the stretch where he was the main floor general.
There’s really nothing new on Devin Robinson based on the last couple of times that we’ve covered him; he’ll always be long and athletic, will catch lobs and crash the boards. He has been trying to get a few perimeter shots per game but to no avail (0-for-8 in the last three games). Aside from that, he needs to get stronger, as he struggles to finish in traffic if he can’t leverage his quick spring nor his go-go-gadget limbs for a layup.
Tyler Ennis’ up-and-down stretch continues, as he had a pretty good game against the Wisconsin Herd sandwiched by two bad games against the Grand Rapid Drive and the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
When Ennis is in his element, he’s surgical at dissecting the opposing team’s defence. He’s pretty good at surveying the field, taking note of where his teammates are, and where he expects them to move as he goes downhill and tries to collapse the defence. He would typically have a good angle to a couple of his teammates for the kick out, and if his defender plays the pass, that should be good enough for him to get that extra step or angle to get his shot up.
Ennis’ PnR game with Devin Robinson is unstoppable, and I don’t know why they don’t run this play more often. Occasionally, he’ll back down his defender a-la Andre Miller or Mark Jackson and try to use his strength to get a layup in.
The problem is when the defence adjusts to Ennis’ drive game, as the opposing teams send multiple defenders (especially the bigs) not just to contest his drive, but also to cut off his angle/passing lane. It either ends up a bad shot or, worse, a turnover.
Another thing that’s worth noting is Ennis’ play whenever the Raptors 905 are “stacked” with assignees. He seems to take a backseat too much and treats himself as the last option on the floor and even relinquishes too much play doing duties to the likes of Stanley Johnson, Ellenson, etc. While it’s good to see Ennis play off the ball (he’s a much more willing perimeter shooter these past few weeks), it’s good to find a balance between the two.
Offensively, there’s a lot of things to like about Henry Ellenson’s game. He’s a good perimeter shooter — he can catch-and-shoot, shoot off the dribble, and sometimes, create some separation for himself to get that shot off. He’s tall enough, and with a high release point, combined with how fast he can get his shot off, it’s tough to block.
That much, we know. What’s surprising to see is that Ellenson is fundamentally sound offensively. He’s got pretty good handle, footwork and can finish with either hand, but I believe I already said this last week. He had an off-night against the Grand Rapids Drive, and with Stanley, Oshae, and Watson all with the team, his play was very complementary to those other guys and fit seamlessly. He was able to adjust seamlessly as a playmaker for his teammates, or an outlet for a kick-out.
His playmaking/passing game is an eye-opener, as not only he can quickly identify and hit the open man, he can lead his teammates into the play. It feels like he’s a small-forward trapped in a centre’s body watching him play sometimes.
Unfortunately, his lack of athleticism/quickness severely limits his options to counter when his perimeter shot is taken away. There has to be a guard or someone that can get the kick-out from him and set him up in the perimeter again.
Defensively, to add to my previous piece on Ellenson, he needs to get stronger. Even smaller guards are taking it to the hole against him, inviting contact and getting daylight as he bounces back. He can get easily boxed out by stronger players as well.
His lateral quickness is just not there, as guards repeatedly took advantage of him and easily blew by him. It’s not like he’s a bum and he’s not trying; he’s had a few plays where he predicted the offensive player’s move correctly, and beat them to the spot and forced them to take a bad shot or kick the ball out.
Paul Watson hasn’t really had a lot of efficient games since returning as a two-way contract player for the 905, but against the Grand Rapids Drive, he looked the part of what made him look like an intriguing prospect earlier this season.
Against the Drive, he was money from the perimeter, dropping 5-of-8 from behind the arc, and his forays to the basket were more in control and ended up getting him to the line a few times.
Defensively, he was a solid help defender; he can often be seen flying from the other side to contest a shot at the rim. He even had one play where he coughed up the ball near mid-court and had a chase-down block as a result.
I suppose the edict to him offensively is to work on his counters, especially his drive game if his three-point shot is taken away. He has the length and athleticism to be able to do this, I’m just not sure if his first step is fast enough, nor his handle is tight enough to enhance his moves to the basket. Regardless, it’s still a work in progress, as we can see him take a lot of tough, and sometimes out of control attempts to the basket.
As Oshae’s NBA days dwindle down, we might see more and more of Watson during the Raptors’ garbage time.
Oshae Brissett’s confidence and play have been sky high since the turn of the calendar year, and not counting last night’s game against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants; he’s been averaging almost 20 points per game.
Unfortunately, Brissett went down with an ankle injury early in the game, as he turned his ankle as he shot a desperation heave, landing on an opposing defender. He seems to be OK, as he was back on the bench, but he was done for the night.
Brissett’s three-point shot is still a work in progress, but he’s starting to look good on some set plays where he can catch and shoot them. Heck, I was even surprised with the confidence as he used a screen and dribbled away from a defender to make another three-pointer.
It looks like Brissett has found the right balance of aggression (he was either just an energy guy or would have games where he was just looking for the shots that he worked on) and “lab work,” and he’s starting to shine showcasing both “will” and “skill” plays.
His drastic improvement makes me wonder if the Raptors have found the right formula on how to accelerate the growth of their prospects, and in a way, excites me what a full off-season of skills development would bring to someone like Brissett.
My lazy count has Brissett at 16 games played and 11 DNPs, and I didn’t get a chance to keep track when he was assigned or recalled, but my guess is his NBA days are almost done (45 days max for two-way contract players).
I really wish the Raptors got Stanley Johnson much earlier.
I think Johnson got off to a bad start with how he pressed and looked for his shots often when he got his first few minutes with the Raptors. Then it was followed with tentativeness as he got some rotation minutes. With the Raptors 905, we got to see his entire toolbox of what he can and cannot do — which got me thinking that he’s actually not that bad.
Johnson looks like a freak athlete, but his game doesn’t really show it that much. Sure, he’ll have plays — offensively and defensively — where you can see his brute strength, but his drive game lacks the above-average explosiveness, finesse, and creativity to finish around the basket one would expect given his physical tools. In a way, Johson reminds me of Joey Graham and Ron Artest. Because of this issue, he gets a lot of his shots blocked, even at the G League level.
Johnson’s perimeter shot is streaky at best, but he’s demonstrated well enough that he’ll take shot with no hesitation and expects them to go in. The shot mechanics seems to be OK, so he would need plenty of in-game reps to get his confidence up.
What caught my eye is how well he is at finding and making plays for his teammates. He had a few nifty assists/passes where, based on his earlier play with the Raptors, were unexpected. Being able to see the floor, and read how things are flowing, and be able to play-make off that demonstrates a certain level of basketball IQ, and for Johnson, it feels like we’re still scratching the surface of his potential.
Stanley Johnson requested to be sent down to the minors to keep him in shape, which is admirable. Seeing him come in and play with confidence as “the man” for the team was refreshing to see. Watching him play, I wonder what an extended time with the 905 does for someone like Stanley Johnson.