As sports fans, growing up we often fantasize about playing for favourite team, our hometown team. Hearing the crowd noise as we hit a home run or make a big save — or drain a game-winning shot.
Rarely do any of us actually get the chance to do it.
Imagine, then, being Dalano Banton, a Rexdale kid who grew up a Toronto Raptors fan. Being a Canadian basketball player, with only one NBA franchise in your whole country, it’s got to seem impossible to ever actually play for that franchise, right? So imagine getting drafted by that franchise. Imagine putting that uniform on, even in summer league. Imagine standing there on the court as the national anthem plays — and then The Anthem plays, and Kardinal Offishall actually calls you out by name in verse.
And then actually getting on the court in the team’s first home game of the season — their first home game in 19 months, no less — and hitting a half-court shot at the third-quarter buzzer?
It’s almost unimaginable. But Dalano Banton fucking did it, man.
Now, it’s not like Banton’s 2021-22 season was all straight out of fairy tale. For one thing, the Raptors were down by 25 when he hit that shot. And despite some early flashes as a change-of-pace guard off the bench, Banton’s limited shooting and limited defense kept him mostly glued to Nick Nurse’s bench. Ultimately Banton appeared in 64 NBA games in his rookie season, and averaged 3.1 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 11 minutes per game, on 41/26/59 shooting splits.
Hardly legendary. But that doesn’t mean the season wasn’t a success. Playing for the team — heck, making the team — in itself is a success for a player picked 46th overall. anyone picked in that range is usually a project, and you’re looking for consistent development in their early months and years.
And Banton did indeed develop, perhaps not particularly visible in his NBA minutes, but definitely in his G League minutes. Across the Showcase Cup, the G League regular season and the G League playoffs, Banton played in 11 game for the Raptors 905, averaging 26.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.4 steals, on 51/31/67 splits.
With numbers like that, had Banton played in enough games, he would have been in the G League MVP conversation.
Banton was the primary ballhandler whenever he suited up for the 905, and was usually the #1 scoring option too. He was constantly in attack mode, pushing the pace and experimenting with different ways to get to the basket and score — including a Lowry-esque drive and spin-into-a-jumpshot move. Banton showed a varied attack as the season went on, developing from a bowling ball attack to more effectively reading the D and picking his spots.
On the defensive side, Banton was active in the passing lanes, using his quick hands to disrupt opponents’ perimeter actions. With his athleticism, he even flashed some rim protection at times, and was a capable defensive rebounder.
There’s still plenty of room for Banton to grow, of course. He needs to improve his ball handling and take care of the rock better; he averaged almost 4 turnovers per game with the 905, and teams often targeted him with traps or backcourt pressure to disrupt his progress.
And then there’s the shooting; Banton’s form is a bit slow and mechanical, and he needs a lot of space to get it off. He was atrocious shooting threes from the corner — just 15% in the G League — and that’s likely a spot he’ll have to make an impact from with the big club.
With a tighter handle, his athleticism should allow Banton to beat his man one-on-one more often and get straight to the rim. And if he can start hitting outside shots, that varied attack should allow him to find a place in the league for years to come.
Overall grade: C
Huge thank you to Raptors 905 correspondent extraordinaire JD Quirante for sharing his notes on Banton’s G League time!