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Prospect Report: Malachi Flynn and Jalen Harris had an impressive week

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Malachi Flynn and Jalen Harris showed up last week for the 905, with each player putting together statement games and perhaps giving us a glimpse of the future.

Agua Caliente Clippers v Raptors 905 Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

The Raptors 905 bounced back after their 1-2 first week with a much better performance. Over the past seven days, the 905 went 3-1, only falling short in a double OT game against the Mad Ants in which our old friend Oshae Brissett helped to defeat his old team.

If that first week was a feeling out process, the second showed signs of improvement and stability, with the 905’s prospects playing up to their potential and the rest of the key cogs on the team settling into their roles. We got to see what Malachi Flynn and Jalen Harris are capable of, and in all it felt like preview of what’s to come for the 905. Unfortunately, for now all we can do is wonder, as Flynn was recalled to the Raptors’ bench after an injury to Kyle Lowry.

This past week, Flynn broke out of his shell against the Santa Cruz Warriors. He was sensational, dropping 35 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 steals to go with just one turnover. Jalen Harris, meanwhile, chipped in with his then G League career-high 22 points. The mid-major backcourt led a balanced attack to defeat the Warriors 135-125.

The Raptors 905 played the front-end of their back-to-back against the Agua Caliente Clipper last Wednesday. Flynn was once again able to show his skills. He effectively controlled the game by putting consistent pressure on the Clippers’ defense, repeatedly getting into the paint and scoring in the process. Things opened up for Henry Ellenson too, and he came up with a game-high 27 points as the 905 won 121-115.

The following day saw the Raptors 905 blow out the Salt Lake City Stars 117-92. Flynn had an off-night shooting, but Harris’ aggressive scoring mentality and Alize Johnson’s near triple-double were too much for the Stars. Harris led all scorers with new career-high of 32 points, while Johnson added 13 points, 21 rebounds, and 7 assists. Flynn would get recalled to play in Minnesota later that night.

The Raptors 905 capped off the week with a double OT loss against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. It was a reunion of sorts, as Oshae Brissett and Devin Robinson made life difficult for the 905ers. The 905 missed Flynn’s playmaking in this one, as they were not as successful at getting to the paint to collapse the Mad Ants defense. Still, not a bad run of play for the 905 in all.

Let’s do a bit of a deep dive on Harris’ and Flynn’s week.

Jalen Harris

Harris’ Numbers Last Week (Four Games):

22.3 PPG, 50.8% FG% (8/15.8 FGM/A Per Game), 51.7 3P% (15/29 3PM/A Total), 5.8 REB, 1.5 AST, 1.3 STL, 0.3 BLK, 2.3 TO, +38+/-

My take on Harris this week is heavily influenced by his top-notch performance against the Stars. He routinely imposed his will — attacking the basket whenever he wanted while shooting the lights out from behind the arc. This is the kind of vintage Nevada Jalen Harris performance the 905 anticipated getting when the Raptors drafted him in the second round of the 2020 Draft. In fact, it’s even better than his college performances because this time: he never attempted a midrange shot.

Harris’ shot selection against the Stars was not an aberration. Looking at his shot selection for the entire week, he only attempted one midrange shot. That’s significant progress considering how he lived off the mid-range during his Wolf Pack days. And it will help him fit into Nick Nurse’s offensive schemes if and when the time comes.

Jalen Harris’ shooting - Week 2

Harris’ finishing at the basket also took a big jump after he shot a miserable 6-of-17 (35%) at the basket during his first week. Last week, he was just under 53 percent while almost doubling his attempts (17-of-33). Harris is already getting better at breaking down his defender, leveraging his quick first step to get the angle he needs. I suspect his bum left hand was a bit of a factor for his slow start (he fell on his left arm/hand contesting a three-point shot two weeks ago) and his sometimes shaky handle. Things are looking better now.

Harris looks natural as a secondary playmaker. He routinely got opportunities to either run the 905’s set plays or improvise and successfully find his teammates — especially around the perimeter. That strategy plays to his strength as that’s basically the offense at Nevada — score at the rim or look for his teammates around the perimeter. The seamless transition from Harris between being a playmaker, playing off-ball, or being a three-level iso guy is encouraging.

Unfortunately, Harris dislocated a finger on his left hand which caused him to miss the latter part of their game against the Mad Ants, and the game yesterday against the Memphis Hustle.

Malachi Flynn

Flynn’s Numbers Last Week (Three Games):

25.7 PPG, 52.8% FG% (9.3/17.7 FGM/A Per Game), 52.6 3P% (10/19 3PM/A Total), 4.3 REB, 6 AST, 2 STL, 0.3 BLK, 2 TO, +30+/-

After a subpar first week, we knew Malachi Flynn would bounce back. Not only did he do so, but he had a statement game. Flynn shook off the nerves and settled in as the Raptors 905 lead guard, and a really good one at that.

Flynn’s first week was marred by inconsistencies in playmaking and shot selection. Tack on poor defense, and it makes sense to have coach Patrick Mutombo lamenting his performance against the Erie Bayhawks two weeks ago despite dropping 25 points.

In Mutombo’s own words, Flynn “has to be better, could be much better“ and that it’s his job “teaching him how to be a leader.” While Flynn’s offense was on display early in the game, he clearly had issues on the defensive end. “Defensively, set the pace, set the tone, picking guys up, turning guys, getting into the ball, defeating screens by himself,” was the litany of needs Mutombo outlined for Flynn.

This past week, however, Flynn went from looking wet behind the ears to a savvy two-way floor general. Offensively, he got into the teeth of the defense at will, attracting multiple defenders, and his decision-making on when to pass or accelerate to the rim was on-point. Flynn’s total assists don’t do justice to how much pressure he put on the opposing team’s defense just by easily getting into the paint/midrange area. Flynn’s ability to size up anyone and either pull-up from the perimeter or midrange is lethal.

Speaking of perimeter, he’s pulling up near the logo on some of his shots.

Malachi Flynn’s shooting - Week 2

It looks like Flynn’s got the physicality and the game speed down at the G League level, as his forays to the basket were much more successful last week. He was able to size up his defender and leverage his quickness, handles, and acceleration to turn the corner to go for a quick layup. When defenders were able to keep up with him, Flynn has displayed the ability to absorb the contact and still finish the shot.

Defensively, Flynn has been better fighting through screens and staying in front of his man. This part is still a work-in-progress, as he needs to get stronger and add more reps to handle the physicality. Flynn shined the most in the passing lanes. He does an excellent job making reads to poach or deflect a pass. He’s also quite capable of the Fred VanVleet dig-in special when he’s in the vicinity of a big trying make a move in the post.

Against the Salt Lake City Stars, Flynn had a more subdued game — mainly because the Stars game-planned for him specifically. They loaded the strong side whenever Flynn was trying to execute a pick-and-roll action or just probing the paint. It prevented Flynn from making short passes and getting to the basket. It’s something we’ll have to keep an eye on when Flynn returns to the G League as teams key in on him more and more.

Flynn was recalled last week right after his matinee game against the Stars, which is a bit of a bummer because he didn’t get to play much for the Raptors. With Lowry out, Flynn is basically there as an emergency player should VanVleet get hurt or into foul trouble. As much as we would like for him to have a bigger role, it’s unlikely we’ll see Flynn get bigger minutes now, especially with minimal practice time — to say nothing of his hyper compressed schedule. Look at the appearances he’s put in over the past little bit:

  • Feb 12 - 905
  • Feb 13 - 905
  • Feb 14 - Rest
  • Feb 15 - 905
  • Feb 16 - Rest
  • Feb 17 - 905
  • Feb 18 - 905
  • Feb 18 - Raptors
  • Feb 19 - Raptors

That’s quite the workload for a rookie player. And that’s where will leave off for this week’s Prospect Report. In all, the 905 are coming together, which is nice to see, and now we’ll see if/when Lowry returns and Flynn can rejoin his teammates in the G League Bubble.