The G League season is almost here, and that mean’s the Prospect Report is back too. Every Tuesday, we’ll keep you updated on the team’s assignees, two-way contract players, and potential call-up candidates for the Raptors. As a reminder: here are the details for the coming G League season and the current 905 roster.
As it stands, rookies Malachi Flynn and Jalen Harris headline the squad. Flynn is the Raptors’ late first-round pick, while Harris is a second-round pick under a two-way contract with Toronto. Yuta Watanabe, the Raptors’ other two-way contract player, is technically on the 905 roster as well, but he’s played well enough to crack coach Nick Nurse’s regular rotation. It’s unlikely we’ll see him with the 905 this season given all the protocols required to get into the reinstated Orlando Bubble being used for this shortened G League season.
Before the team tips off, let’s look at the key players on this 905 team, starting with the player we’ve already seen play some minutes for the main club.
After the 2020 NBA Draft, there was some uncertainty surrounding Fred VanVleet’s return, so Flynn filled in as a decent Plan B if things went wrong during the Raptors’ free agency. In this, Flynn was touted as someone who can contribute right away, given his playmaking and shooting skills. At the very least, he was thought to be good enough as a third point guard. His pre-season performance had everyone thinking of that likely scenario — and he did get a chance with the main club.
As expected, however, Flynn showed typical signs of rookie struggle. With no consistent role on Toronto, especially with Kyle Lowry and VanVleet soaking up most of the point guard minutes, it made sense to give Flynn some extended run with the 905. In his NBA appearances, we saw a player who had obvious ability — getting to his spots, taking and making shots — but who was also a tad tentative. It didn’t help that Nurse kept changing his role in the rotation around, which is sure to mess with any inexperienced player.
Don’t expect Flynn to dominate the G League like last season’s G League MVP Frank Mason III. Flynn will be expected to score, but it’ll be via perimeter shooting and most frequently in pick-and-roll situations as the ball handler. Aside from that, Flynn will be tasked with being a solid floor general and setting his teammates up throughout the game. Flynn will have plenty of targets — Dewan Hernandez and Alize Johnson are good roll men, while Henry Ellenson is an excellent pick-and-pop target.
Are we going to see Flynn spend the entire time in Orlando? Maybe. But given Lowry’s exit due to back spasms against the Grizzlies on Monday, the Raptors might consider pulling him back earlier to give Lowry a break here and there.
Yes, despite being waived by the team, Hernandez has returned to the Raptors 905 as an affiliate player. While he’s not exclusive with the Raptors, given the team’s hole upfront, it will be interesting to monitor whether someone with his size, mobility, and potential skill set could earn his way back into the Raptors’ main rotation. It’s a work in progress, but Toronto clearly still has their eyes on Dewan.
It was a shock to see the Raptors give up on Hernandez just after one season. Maybe the Raptors’ front office expected either Marc Gasol or Serge Ibaka to come back; and presumably they assumed some better production would come from Aron Baynes and Alex Len. But Hernandez’ lost season, marred with injuries and underwhelming performance at the G League level, probably led to the Raptors’ decision to move on from him.
Hernandez just turned 24, and despite having multiple lost seasons due to eligibility and health issues, he looks like he’s on the right track. He’s been healthy for most of 2020 — the pandemic allowed him to recover from his injuries. Hernandez also looks to have bulked up, which could help him as a forward. Hopefully, he was able to work on fine-tuning his skills, however.
With the Raptors 905, Henry Ellenson is Dewan’s only real competition at the center spot. Hernandez is more of a PF/C (I see him more as a power forward), and his mobility should allow him to share the floor with Ellenson. There should be plenty of minutes for him, as the 905 doesn’t have a lot of size up front. As mentioned, Hernandez will be an exciting target for Flynn on various pick-and-roll scenarios due to his decent combination of touch, handle, and fluidity on such actions.
Jalen Harris’ situation is a curious one. After the Bubble, the Raptors realized that the team lacked facilitators and scorers off the bench. Harris is a ways away from being a regular contributor, but he is a guard who can score and make plays. He’ll just need to prove he’s worth a more extended look. It’s the same route Chris Boucher, Lorenzo Brown, Jordan Loyd, Paul Watson, Oshae Brissett, and Shamorie Ponds took — in which some succeeded and some did not.
Harris won’t get any Raptors minutes outside of garbage time this season due to a logjam in the team’s backcourt. In contrast, Watanabe had a much clearer path to compete for a rotation spot due to the Raptors’ thin frontcourt. Harris would have to make a dent as a bonafide scorer for the Raptors 905 to show that it’s worth investing more in his growth.
Harris’ projected role with the main club is what the Raptors are trying to get out of Terence Davis and Matt Thomas: someone who can come in and do some scoring damage. The ceiling (or hope) for Harris could be a super-sub like Norman Powell. However, it will be a bit tricky for Harris to find his place with the Raptors 905 as the team is loaded with guards, including veteran guards looking to get back to the NBA.
Raptors 905 Roster Review
The Raptors 905’s roster this season is frustratingly similar to their mother club — with six to seven players under 6’4”. Unfortunately for them, they don’t have a Chris Boucher, OG Anunoby, or Pascal Siakam to provide defense and size up front. Meanwhile the forwards they do have, Ellenson and Hernandez, are not known for their defense. If anything, the roster is closer to last season’s Raptors 905 roster, when they’d play three small point guards on the floor simultaneously.
The team added fringe NBA players in Gary Payton II, Matt Mooney, and a real 905er in Nik Stauskas to their backcourt. All three could be better than Flynn and Harris at this point, mainly because of the experience factor. These three players may also eat up minutes that the Raptors’ prospects should be soaking up. We’ll see what kind of competition happens between the 905’s newest players and these vets.
We saw a similar scenario play out last season. Shamorie Ponds, the Raptors’ other two-way contract player, struggled to find his role on the floor early on and had to settle in as the team’s spark plug off the bench. He couldn’t really run the team as a score-first point guard, and instead filled a Norm-like role on the 905 due to the abundance of better point guards on the squad. The difference here: it seems fair to assume Flynn will get guaranteed minutes — he is a first-round pick after all. Meanwhile, with guards Breein Tyree and Matt Morgan on the 905 roster as well, Harris might be fighting for his job every game.
The Raptors 905’s first action of the season is against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 at 7:30 PM EST.