The NBA G League comes at us at a furious pace. After the Showcase Cup leg of the season ended before Christmas, the actual regular season commenced right away. The second part of the season is the regular season, consisting of 32 games that last until the end of this month.
The Raptors 905 sit half a game outside the playoff picture with a 10-10 record. Coach Eric Khoury had a decent start to the regular season in January and a solid start in February. However, things got really hairy, going 1-3 to cap off their February campaign. Three straight disappointing losses, one against the Westchester Knicks, followed up by getting swept by the Windy City Bulls on the road. Fortunately, the Raptors 905 capped off their road-heavy schedule in February with a Motown beatdown.
The regular season saw several changes for the Raptors 905. Saben Lee briefly came back with the Raptors 905 to start the regular season, but the Phoenix Suns smartly picked him up, and he’s now signed on a two-way contract. Lee offered grit and defensive toughness similar to a Jrue Holiday starter pack.
Sterling Brown rejoined the team mid-January after a stint with the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s been pretty solid for the Raptors 905, giving coach Khoury better balance in the backcourt with his solid defense, perimeter shooting, effort, and playmaking. Watching him excel with the 905, especially the 47% on 5.1 attempts from deep, makes me wonder — hey, someone on the system might be worth looking into. You know, someone that has the skill set that the team is missing and also knows the system?
The Raptors 905 brass continued to reshuffle the roster to address the fit issues and prepare for the eventual assignment of Christian Koloko. Kenny Wooten survived the Showcase Cup purge but was jettisoned earlier in the season. His lack of offense and size at the position made spacing a little difficult for Reggie Perry and the guards’ downhill attacks. Despite the once-in-a-while SportsCenter blocks, he hasn’t looked as healthy as during his Westchester Knicks stint.
Hassani Gravett moved on to play in Europe, which is a bummer, as he’s provided solid backup point guard play for coach Khoury. The Raptors 905 picked up passing whiz Tra-Deon Hollins to provide backup point-guard play. Newly acquired Aaron Epps was traded over a week ago. The team already has Kylor Kelley as the third-string big and Jeremiah Tilmon as the part-time starter if Koloko is not assigned with the 905.
It’s been fun, Reggie
Last week, the Raptors 905 traded Reggie Perry to Windy City Bulls for RJ Nembhard, who’s currently playing in Europe. While there’s no formal word from either Perry’s camp or the team, this trade is, at the very least, a mutual decision or perhaps a request by Perry to move on from the team now that Koloko is expected to see more time with the 905.
Perry’s numbers this season might be slightly lower than last, but don’t let that dip fool you. There’s a lot of noise on those numbers because he was asked to do a lot to keep the team afloat. He had to earn more unassisted points, often going through multiple defenders. Perry’s also had so many possessions where the offense is dead, and he just had to unload a grenade before the clock expired.
Perry’s emotion got the best of him this season in quite a few moments. Still, it’s been a very trying season overall. You can tell that the frustration is rooted in his desire to win, especially after putting in the work to put the team in a position to win.
It’s disappointing that Perry did not even get a sniff of a 10-day contract from the Raptors despite his stellar stint with the minor club. Obviously, there’s some redundancy in his position. Still, he’s a much more NBA-ready player than a bunch of deep end of the bench roster we had these past two seasons.
Perhaps the most significant development in Perry’s game this season is his playmaking. He can set up shop at the nail or face up at the top of the key. He will not only make a good pass, but he’s quite capable of advanced passes that often lead his teammate to a lane that they didn’t know was open after all. He has no fear of attempting risky passes and can be too aggressive to a fault, but isn’t he there to develop as well?
Perry will always have this corner cheering for his success, and I’m hoping he makes it back to the NBA sooner than later.
What do we have in RHJ?
Ron Harper Jr. has adjusted well to not being the #1 guy on the team and settled into his role as someone who can offer secondary shot creation while also acting as a release valve from the perimeter (37%). He’s probably a streaky perimeter shooter, but he can get you 3-5 three-pointers a night when he’s on. One thing Harper Jr.’s carried from his Rutgers days — clutch scoring. His lateral defence has some limitations, especially against shifty guards/wings. Still, his length and effort almost always guarantee to block someone from the three-point line.
Christian Koloko, How many years?
While it’s a little disappointing to see Christian Koloko stashed with the Raptors 905, it’s an eye-opener that he’s probably not ready for the role the management envisioned him to be. He’s averaging a decent 13.9 points, 9.4 boards, and 3.6 blocks in less than 30 minutes per game.
Koloko’s done a better job adjusting at the G League level, but he makes a lot of mistakes that end up with him committing a foul. Still, he makes the opposing teams conscious of his presence in the paint, as he does a good job at protecting the rim as long as he’s in the vicinity.
There’s plenty of room for improvement, which is a topic for another day. Still, we’re seeing Koloko lab a few things, such as his perimeter shot, making decisions at the nail as a DHO or pivot, and post touches. One thing’s for sure — his half-court offense is pretty raw, which limits his effectiveness to dunks and lobs.
Dalano Banton’s G League regular season started with a bang, averaging 25.2 points, 6.8 boards, and 3.8 assists through the first six games. However, he hasn’t looked the same since injuring his hip. He’s struggled in his last three games, posting 12 points, six boards, and six assists. It may be a good thing. It allowed Banton to shift his gears down a bit and let things pan out (for good or bad) in the half-court offense. More half-court sets mean more reps, with Banton also getting the chance to play off-ball.
Playoff Push Reinforcement
With the Raptors’ Will Banton signing, expect Joe Wieskamp, Dalano Banton, and Jeff Dowtin Jr. to spend more time with the Raptors 905. Expect the same for Christian Koloko as they cleared the logjam in the middle for the final stretch. Koloko’s minutes and touches should go up now that Perry’s no longer there to overlap his position.
The Raptors 905 stacked lineup should include Ron Harper Jr., Sterling Brown, and David Johnson. It’s a little too guard/wing-heavy, with Banton and Harper Jr. needing to move up the front court to help Koloko protect the paint. Brown and Johnson are both playing well and will make it difficult for coach Khoury to not play them.
One thing to keep an eye on is the backcourt pairing of Banton and Dowtin Jr., as both players are much better with them massaging the ball and need to be more consistent to be a threat in the perimeter as a catch-and-shoot release valve.
The Raptors 905 have a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde personality, especially defensively. It’ll be a tall order for coach Khoury to quickly put things together, as they only have 12 games remaining, and they need to make ground to get back in the playoff picture. Lucky for them, it’s a home-heavy schedule to start the month, starting tonight against Raptors 905 old friend Justin Anderson and his Fort Wayne Mad Ants.