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Raptors Draft Watch: Can Keyonte George Help Toronto Get Buckets?

The Raptors can definitely use some dynamic scoring punch in the backcourt. Can Keyonte George help open the floor for Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam?

The Raptors have not had a guard that can do more than one thing offensively well since Kawhi Leonard and Norman Powell moved on. We were left only with one-dimensional guards that were “OK” at best over the past few years. Enter Keyonte George, who, if the Raptors’ front office decides to take a chance on him, should bring dynamism to the new head coach Darko Rajakovic and can potentially open up his playbook even more.

George is Baylor’s freshman bucket-getter. He’s the engine of their offense, often having to be a tough (and sometimes bad) shot taker and maker. He’s got a stage presence to his game and won’t shy away from taking the biggest shot of the game, which is amazing as George played most of his freshman campaign as a young 19-year-old kid.

George put up a modest 15.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.1 steals while shooting almost seven attempts from behind the arc. Unfortunately, there are no official measurements, but he’s listed as 6’4” and 185 lbs. If I have to guess, he’s probably around 6’3” barefoot. I have also heard on podcasts that he’s been at around 200 lbs recently. Those are great news to hear, as he’s looking more and more shredded after every new workout that’s coming out.

We brought back our friends from Basketball Rewind; this time, our buddy BeyondTheLockerRoom indulged me with a fun Keyonte George conversation.

Why Keyonte?

Beyond: what I like about the first thing is his size, listed at 6’4” and 185 lbs. But I think Raphael Barlow LockedOn NBA said he’s about 200 lbs. Keyonte has a frame that looks like he’s put weight on. No disrespect but a comp, in this case, to Nick Smith Jr., who’s about the same height, but you could tell their physiques, that they definitely carry the weight differently.

JD: he’s got a strong upper body.

Beyond: Exactly. Keyonte’s got a good physique that you can see as an NBA-type physique. Secondly, of all the guys in that range with the Raptors, I like that he’s probably the closest to being a three-level scorer and a big-time three-level scorer if things work out perfectly. Keyonte takes shots and makes shots that are NBA-level type shots. There’s a lot about him and dynamism in his game that I like a lot. There are a lot of ways he gets his shot off.

One of the things that helped, in this case, is that Keyonte’s ankle injury made him slip. Early in the year, he was a top-six pick, but after his injury, some of his numbers were affected a little bit in certain areas — around the rim, for example. Still, when he’s healthy and right, he’s the type of player who, you know, can be used by many teams.

Overall, the part that excites me is how Keyonte can get his shot. He can get it through stepbacks on his own; he could do a little bit with the pick and roll, come-off curls, etc. His catch-and-shoot is probably the weakest of his game right now. But when you’re in college, you’re asked to do so many things. The odds of him being the catch-and-shoot guy were much less in Baylor than if he comes on an NBA squad. So it’s something that he will grow into because the form man, I mean, the form’s a work of art.

JD: It looks really nice; regardless of how off-balanced he is, it’s the same form. You mentioned his catch-and-shoot, I was listening to the “No Ceilings” pod, and one of the guys said that he’s shooting 46% on catch-and-shoot threes when wide open.

JD: We’re on the same page here. I like that Keyonte’s dynamic enough to play on/off the ball. His self-creation - he can attack the rim, score at the finesse/floater range, he can hit his perimeter shots, and he projects to be a free-throw merchant. I didn’t see a lot of middies, but given his shot profile, there’s no reason he can’t hit them.

Beyond: Exactly. You’re hitting on something that I’ll expand on because I agree with you. I liked Keyonte much more than many other guys in that range. You’re hitting on the part of one other element that a lot of guys when you get to like all-star potential, which I say he can get there. If his game expands in the way he can shoot it, with the type of coach that we have, if he developed his game, he could pick on smaller guards and post them up. That’s another element: if he gets to the right team and puts them in there, and you get some mismatch in the block, that’s barbecue chicken time.

JD: And you know one thing I really like about his game? It’s something that we don’t have right now. He’s got an F-U to his game. There are levels to this, right? Anybody can be “I’m not scared of the moment,” but you must also deliver.

Beyond: Right! That was the point I was getting at. That’s his game. There’s a “moxie” to his game that we don’t have. He has a “No Fear” factor about him. We can definitely use some guys with a little moxie, to put their chest down a little bit.

JD: If everything went well for Keyonte for the next five years, where would Keyonte be if they did a redraft?

Beyond: I think he could be one of the five best players in this draft.

JD: If there’s anybody in this draft (top 20) that I would like to see run with better teammates, he’s the one. I’m interested to see his game take off.

Areas of Concern

JD: What’s his real position on the floor?

Beyond: It’s funny; you mentioned that because I heard on one show where it sounded like they positioned Keyonte as a point guard. And if you position him as a point guard, I could see why you wouldn’t like him as much. To me, it’s not his natural position. But what I do like about him is he’s willing to pass to you, almost got up to three assists a game. Naturally, to me, he’s a two-guard. He’s more of a guard that can play some PG if need be. He could be a combo guard, but you have to see his natural position as a two-guard.

JD: Some of the games I saw, especially on tight games, I’m thinking, “Why should he pass to some of these guys when the chances of scoring instantly lower.”

Beyond: Yeah, I think some of the stuff you see as his weaknesses speak to that. The first few things you hear during a Keyonte discussion - are quick triggers and takes bad shots. They’re not a good team (Baylor); to your point, you might be better off taking a bad shot than giving it to the other guys.

JD: It’s like the Allen Iverson problem, right? Why would I pass to Eric Snow or Ty Hill, right?

Beyond: Exactly. Right.

JD: He’s also got some turnover issues;. At the same time, he does make some bad turnovers, some of these turnovers are too advanced for the receiver, or they’re not good enough to complete the pass.

Beyond: A perfect example you see many times Keyonte tries a pocket pass when trapped. The bigs don’t roll hard enough to get to where he thinks he should be.

JD: many draft pundits say he’s too quick of a trigger, and he lacks the burst on his first step, including subpar lateral quickness. Can he be efficient with fewer touches? While his handle, footwork, misdirection, and change of pace get him enough separation at the NCAA level, I’m worried about the lack of burst. His lateral is also “just OK” when I expect above-average, given he’s undersized as a two-guard. What do you think?

Beyond: I think it’s more about reducing the bad habits. Let’s put it this way. If he’s out there with Pascal Siakam or Scottie Barnes, you’ll see the ball more with these guys before Keyonte. That removes the risk of him having to handle the ball too much. This situation should help him work his way into the system. At times he might get an opportunity to make plays is off the ball from the weak side.

My biggest concern with him from a weakness standpoint is when it comes to the defensive end. Some guys, if they don’t have it going scoring-wise, they get down defensively. That’s something to keep an eye on him. It’s not a huge thing, but he does get down on himself when he’s not having a good game offensively. That’s something where you hope you could coach it out a little bit when he has the right culture. For some other things, technique-wise, he gets caught up on screens and gets blown up.

JD: I see that; he dies on screens sometimes.

Beyond: Yup, sometimes, he dies. Now the question is how much is that about who he’s playing with, and they’re not calling out the pick, but I think those are the type of things over time, with the kind of personnel around him, I think you can work those things out. Let’s put it this way, there’s nothing about his weakness that I’m like, oh boy, this is not gonna be good.

JD: So I want to return to the questions about his first step. Can he get enough separation at the NBA level?

Beyond: is it the lack of a quick first step, or to your point, the defense is all geared towards him. Therefore, it’s no surprise everyone knows where he’s going in. As his shot gets better, and to your point, his shot diet gets better, it makes his first step more lethal. They will have to respect his shot, and defenders must chase him off the perimeter. It opens up his first step a lot more that way, and I think his ball handling could get better, and it should help his first step. I’m not as concerned about that issue because this new head coach will obviously try to put more movement in this offense. One of the things I’ve always wanted to see more is having guys on the move. That’s a strength that we don’t use.

JD: that sounds like a foreign concept to me.

Raptors Fit

JD: You mentioned earlier, Keyonte as a potential top 5. Do you see a pathway for him to be a top-five draft pick quality with the Raptors in the immediate future?

Beyond: Yeah, there’s an interesting scenario that could play out. Barnes could potentially plateau, giving you 18-19 points a night with about 8-9 assists. I can see George putting up 20-23 points per game to help the offensive load with Siakam.

JD: This is with VanVleet and Trent Jr. not returning, right?

Beyond: I’m of the mindset that’s gonna happen.

JD: Do you see Keyonte starting?

Beyond: Anyone drafted at this spot should be able to start unless they pick the fella you went over with Kenyon the other day (Bilal Coulibaly); that’s one asterisk there. If Keyonte’s playing like, you know what they say, “the cream rises to the top.” If you’re a natural scorer and playing with good players, you can pick up 17-18 points easily. Also, to your point, especially if you can get to the free-throw line.

JD: I totally agree. One thing I want to add is in terms of floor, I can see him as somebody like Lou-Will with the second unit. I want to see him with Barnes on one of the transition lineups with the bench players. One of the weaknesses of our transition lineups was the lack of “seek-and-destroy” guys that could score with most of the starters sitting.

Beyond: Another intriguing lineup is a big one with Christian Koloko, Siakam, OG Anunoby, Otto Porter Jr., and Keyonte. I would love to see that.

JD: Oh man, OG and OPJ’s floor spacing, Siakam’s gravity, Koloko as a rim runner. Keyonte can play on/off the ball with this lineup.

JD: One thing I want to add is we’ve had too many guards like Matt Thomas, Svi Mykhailiuk, heck, even pre-childbirth VanVleet, where they all get spooked very easily with the perimeter closeouts by the defenders. This kid’s not like that, and I think Keyonte’s someone that you can throw a grenade with 3-4 seconds left and still manufacture a better shot than VanVleet can get you.

Beyond: Yeah, I agree. Sometimes the Raptors get branded as an athletic team, but they are less athletic than people would like them to be. If the Raptors draft Keyonte, he’s arguably the second most fluid athlete behind Siakam. Our guys are definitely strong guys; they’re athletic in certain places but otherwise very clumsy or robotic.

JD: Like Joey Graham. He is athletic but has no fluidity in his game.

Beyond: Right! They have a physique that tells you they should be athletic. Still, when you watch them play, they’re not moving great for a guy that’s supposed to be athletic because of the lack of fluidity, skill, and dexterity. They’re mostly straight-line drive guys.

JD: what’s intriguing for me with this new coach and whatever new system he’ll bring is how much this guy can unlock somebody like Keyonte. With this new coach, Keyonte’s ceiling would be even more explored, right?

Beyond: I think yeah, I think what you could do with Keyonte, as a creative offensive guy as they claimed Darko to be, you can open up a bit more of the playbook with Keyonte. There’s a pop to his game that we need in our offense to make us more unpredictable.


Thanks to BeyondTheLockerRoom and the Basketball Rewind for taking the time to review Keyonte George. Please check out their channel, watch their videos and subscribe.

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