The Raptors have some specific roster needs at the moment, but the most basic one to address is: the actual number of players on the roster. As per league mandate, all teams have to carry a minimum of 14 players on their roster. This is worth keeping in mind as the Raptors have been running around with 13 players, plus their two players on two-way contracts, which do not count towards the minimum. They’re granted a window of two weeks to solve that problem.
To remedy the situation, the Raptors are reportedly set to sign forward Freddie Gillespie from the G League’s Memphis Hustle squad. The report comes in from Shams Charania of the Athletic, who deigned to include Blake Murphy in the scoop (congrats Blake).
The Toronto Raptors plan to sign forward Freddie Gillespie of G League Memphis to a 10-day contract, sources tell me and @BlakeMurphyODC.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 7, 2021
So, who is Freddie Gillespie? Besides having a really jazzy name, Gillespie is a 23-year-old forward listed at 6’9” and 245 pounds. He went undrafted in the 2020 NBA Draft but ended up with the Dallas Mavericks during their training camp — without making the final roster. To date, he’s yet to appear in an actual NBA game. (Coincidentally, Gillespie spent the majority of his collegiate career playing for Baylor, who just won the 2021 NCAA championship.)
Nevertheless, Gillespie appeared in 15 games for the Memphis Hustle in the most recent Bubble-ized G League season. In those contests, he played 27.8 minutes per game, posting averages of 10.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks, while shooting 57 percent from the field (and 42 percent from the free throw line). While playing time on the Raptors may be tough to come by for Gillespie (despite those aforementioned roster shortages), the rebounding and block numbers suggest what he’s currently good at — and how he’d slot in for a Raptors team currently ranked dead last in boards per game.
It is of course fair to point out that Gillespie is not a long term solution for the Raptors, currently sitting at 20-31 and coming off a loss to a reduced Lakers team last night. They’ve limped along, weathering COVID-related absences and injuries, while not exactly racing to fill the roster spots — to say nothing of the talent gaps — on the squad. Meanwhile, their two standout Raptors 905 frontcourt players, Alize Johnson and Henry Ellenson, have come and gone as options for the big league squad. Johnson is still on the Brooklyn Nets, and Ellenson is back to wandering the world like a ronin in search of a master.
We’ll see if Gillespie gets a chance to make his mark on the Raptors, or if he is just an emergency player in case of injury or other circumstances. Either way, it seems clear now that the Raptors are not planning on making any bigger free agent/buyout gambles — and no name-brand players will be occupying the end of Toronto’s bench, to say nothing of the floor, any time soon.