Raptors 905 basketball is back!
The Toronto Raptors are not the only team in town that’s in for a reboot. The Raptors 905, Toronto’s NBA G League team, not only faltered last year, but the program has yet to deliver a developmental success in years.
Previously, on Raptors 905 2022-23 Season
It was an underwhelming season for Eric Khoury’s Raptors 905, who, on paper, should be a middle-of-the-pack playoff team. The team was consistently inconsistent for the most part and has had quite a few letdown games. It was also a struggle for first-year coach Eric Khoury, who showed growth as the season went by.
The Raptors 905 started off well, winning four of their first five games, with Jeff Dowtin showing growth in his playmaking and game management, while they rely on the always-reliable Reggie Perry. However, despite the Ws, the warning signs were already there, and the wheels fell off, finishing the Showcase Cup and losing 10 of their last 13 games.
It took a few games before the Raptors 905 got their ship right, starting 1-3 in the Regular season portion of last season, and it took a Dalano Banton assignment to restore the vibes back. They won 12 of their next 19 games, sitting in an excellent position to get a play-in spot. Still, their issues reared their ugly head again, losing six of their last nine games and eventually missing the playoffs.
Covered by the losses and disappointments were incremental and exponential growth of some of the team players, which this coaching staff should be proud of. Unfortunately for the Raptors 905, they underestimated the parity that’s been going on at the G League level for the past 3-4 years. They lost several winnable games that could’ve propelled them to the top of the standings.
Charles Kissi left the Raptors 905 early last season after being appointed Justice of the Peace assigned to St. Catharines.
Noah Lewis appears to be moving to a player development coach with the main club. He’s also one of the defendants in this hilarious New York Knicks lawsuit.
Demetris Nichols moved on and found another gig as an assistant coach with the Wake Forest men’s basketball team.
Gabe Brown went to Italy to play for Openjobmetis Varese.
Sterling Brown also went to Europe and signed with Alba Berlin, playing alongside old friend Matt Thomas.
Jeff Dowtin recently joined the Delaware Blue Coats (Philadelphia 76ers).
The Raptors 905 traded Ryan Hawkins to Capital City Go-Go for Makur Maker.
David Johnson was traded to the Memphis Hustle this summer.
Kylor Kelley got a pay bump by signing an Exhibit 10 with the Boston Celtics and suiting up for the Maine Celtics.
Koby McEwen is in Poland playing for GTK Gliwice.
Jeremiah Tilmon is now with the Greensboro Swarm.
Brandon Leftwich joins coach Khoury’s bench after a season as a player development coach with the Wisconsin Herd (Milwaukee Bucks NBA G League team). Before that, he was a basketball operations graduate assistant at George Washington University after his stint as a grad transfer for the Colonials.
Fortune Solomon was recently an assistant coach with the South Bay Lakers (Los Angeles Lakers NBA G League team). Before that, he served as a player development analyst for the Oklahoma City Thunder when coach Darko Rajakovic was also an assistant coach. Solomon was the top assistant coach for the South Sudan Men’s National Team that made waves during the FIBA World Cup, helping lead the team to its first Olympic berth.
Joshua Henderson joins the Raptors 905 bench after spending the last four years with the Memphis Grizzlies as a player development coach. He was in charge of developing the Grizzlies’ two-way contract players and NBA assignment players. “Coincidentally,” Henderson’s tenure with the Grizzlies overlapped with coach Darko’s.
Myles Burns was the Raptors 905’s 2023 1st-round pick, where they selected him 11th overall.
Makur Maker was obtained via trade with Capital City Go-Go.
Justise Winslow joined the team as an Exhibit 9 this past summer.
Kevin Obanor was the first Exhibit 10 post-draft signee by the Raptors.
The Raptors 905 traded Alize Johnson’s returning rights to Austin Spurs in exchange for several players, including Jaylen Morris’s returning rights.
Weirdly, the last time Jaysean Paige played in the NBA G League was against the Raptors 905 back in 2022 while playing for the Maine Celtics. Unfortunately, he suffered a thumb injury in that game that cost him the rest of the season. The Raptors 905 acquired Paige’s returning rights last year when they traded Josh Hall to Maine Celtics.
Omari Moore was a late sign-and-trade by the Raptors (post-deadline) as an affiliate player with the Raptors 905.
Markquis Nowell and the Raptors quickly agreed to a two-way contract deal right after the draft.
The Raptors stole Javon Freeman-Liberty from the Chicago Bulls after a stellar summer league performance and quickly signed him to a Two-Way contract.
The Raptors also poached Mo Gueye from Texas Legends (Dallas Mavericks) by signing him to an Exhibit 10 contract.
Raptors 905 Opening Night Roster
|Player||Height||Position||Draft Year||Age||NBA/GL EXP||Status|
|Player||Height||Position||Draft Year||Age||NBA/GL EXP||Status|
|Mouhamadou Gueye||6'9"||F/C||2022||25||1||Affiliate Player|
|Ron Harper Jr.||6'5"||G||2022||23||1||Two-Way|
|Makur Maker||6'11"||C||2022||23||1||Affiliate Player|
|Omari Moore||6'6"||F||2023||23||R||Returning Rights|
|Jaylen Morris||6'5"||G||2017||28||4||Returning Rights|
|Darryl Morsell||6'5"||G||2022||24||1||Returning Rights|
|Kevin Obanor||6'8"||F||2023||24||R||Affiliate Player|
|Jaysean Paige||6'1"||G||2016||29||2||Returning Rights|
|Keith Williams||6'5"||G||2022||25||1||Returning Rights|
|Justise Winslow||6'6"||F||2015||27||8||Affiliate Player|
Depth Chart Quick Analysis
The Raptors 905 are thin (literally) upfront, with lanky bigs in Mo Gueye and Makur Maker as their only legit bigs. They’re undersized, with seven players around 6’5”/6’6”, with Kevin Obanor as the only forward with some size at 6’8.” That’s going to limit what coach Khoury could do with smaller guards Markquis Nowell and Jaysean Paige likely to take a lot of rotation minutes.
Despite being guard-heavy, this team is not projected to be a good perimeter shooting team. Jaysean Paige is the only credible volume perimeter bomber who can still shoot at around 36%. Everybody else is considered a non-shooter or a streaky shooter at best.
The team also lacked backup point guard play unless they plan to use Ron Harper Jr. as a point forward in transition lineups. Paige is a combo guard and can run the point, but he’s better suited as a floor spacer than a ball handler on this team.
Worse, this team doesn’t really have an “every-down” go-to guy, someone that can consistently make plays like Jeff Dowtin and Dalano Banton’s done in the past.
️ 2023-24 SCHEDULE RELEASE ️— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) September 5, 2023
Ready to welcome y’all to back Sauga City soon❗️ pic.twitter.com/tk0FwrQll4
Ron Harper Jr.
Harper Jr. grew more comfortable as the season progressed last year. He’ll likely be featured more prominently this season on this team, as they lack firepower and playmaking skills. Harper Jr. will need to show that he can hit his perimeter shots and make winning plays consistently. Defensively, he might have to play his natural position down low. Still, he’ll need to show that he can keep up against opposing wings on the perimeter. Two-way contract players don’t get a lot of rope; just ask Justin Champagnie, so he’ll need to show another level of improvement in his game.
Nowell should have the keys at the point guard spot and be out to prove all of his doubters wrong. His first step towards his #ProveEm tour is to show the scouts that he’s a top-level NBA G League point guard. He’ll have to learn how to navigate through bigger, stronger, and quicker defenders at this level while showcasing that he can run a team. Not just to dish out highlight-reel passes but also to manage the team’s offense and ensure the offense is on point. Defensively, he’ll have to find ways to overcome his size limitation when teams target him or put him in tough positions.
Freeman-Liberty’s role as an energy guy who can come in and make positive contributions in limited minutes is probably at the NBA level, but what’s probably holding him back is his perimeter shooting. With the Raptors 905, he should be “1B” at worst on the offensive pecking order. Freeman-Liberty should get plenty of reps, whether it’s on-ball or off-ball. It’ll be interesting to monitor when and how he’s getting his shots within the framework of the half-court offense. His stock is on the rise after going undrafted last year, patiently waiting for his opportunity (and taking advantage when he got the opportunity) while playing for the Windy City Bulls, and taking advantage of the Summer League to showcase his talent. Expect Freeman-Liberty’s case to get some look with the main club if he can hit his perimeter shots consistently.
Showcase Cup Game 01: Raptors 905 could not complete their comeback, drop their season-opener, 120-123
Raptors 905: Markquis Nowell (TW), Javon Freeman-Liberty (TW), Ron Harper Jr. (TW)
Long Island Nets: Dariq Whitehead (NBA), Jalen Wilson (TW), Noah Clowney (NBA)
Raptors 905: Markquis Nowell (TW), Javon Freeman-Liberty (TW), Ron Harper Jr. (TW), Mo Gueye, Makur Maker
Long Island Nets: Kennedy Chandler, Kyler Edwards, Dariq Whitehead (NBA), Jalen Wilson (TW), Noah Clowney (NBA)
The Raptors 905 had a chance to win it down the stretch, but the Long Island Nets showed better poise during crunch time. The two teams went toe-to-toe down the stretch, but the Raptors 905 lacked the discipline to complete their comeback as they fell short on their season opener, 120-123.
Mo Gueye showed why the Raptors are intrigued by his skill set. Scoring looked easy for him, dropping 26 points on 10-for-12 shooting. He also added eight boards and two blocks. Javon Freeman-Liberty was solid in his Raptors 905 debut despite turning his ankle 90 seconds into the game, finishing with 26 points and six boards. Ron Harper Jr. came up clutch down the stretch, scoring nine points late in the game en route to 25 points, three assists, and two steals.
Jalen Wilson, Brooklyn Nets’ 2nd round pick this recent draft, had an excellent debut for the Long Island Nets. He was clearly the best player on the floor, carrying his team with 33 points and 10 boards. Noah Clowney was a thorn in the Raptors 905’s neck with his rim protection, finishing the night with 12 points, 11 boards, and four blocked shots before fouling out.
The Raptors 905 expectedly shot poorly from the perimeter, hitting only 27.3% of their 44 attempts. That’s usually fatal in a close game, but they lost the game at the line, allowing the Nets to outscore them 34-16 on freebies (G League does this gimmick where you get one free throw shot equivalent to two points).
The Raptors could have used some talent and size against the Nets, but Justise Winslow and Kevin Obanor missed the opener due to injuries. The Nets also could have used some firepower, as Keon Johnson and old friend Armoni Brooks did not play either.
Markquis Nowell had an excellent debut, almost finishing with a triple-double. The team had a much better semblance of offense when he was on the floor, and he was opportunistic with his scoring. The transition lineups with no Nowell were horrible, similar to the main club’s bench, where the half-court offense was non-existent. Nowell finished with 19 points, 13 dimes, eight rebounds.