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Grand Rapids Gold v Raptors 905

Dial 905: Looking back at the Grand Rapids Drive series and Javon Freeman-Liberty’s case for a call-up

The Raptors 905 split their series against the Grand Rapids Drive; Javon Freeman-Liberty is playing himself into a call-up, and Marquis Nowell: NBA G League All-Star.

Photo by Christian Bonin/NBAE via Getty Images

The Raptors 905 hosted the Denver Nuggets’ affiliate team, Grand Rapids Drive, for a two-game series, letting the visitors leave the border with a split. It should have been a sweep for the home team, as the Drive came to Mississauga missing their top two scorers, Hunter Tyson and Jalen Pickett. Instead, the Raptors 905 let the Nuggets’ Two-Way player Collin Gillespie pick them apart, especially in the fourth, to steal the first game, 115-109. Coach Eric Khoury and the 905ers exacted revenge the next game, out-executing the Drive AND limiting Gillespie the entire game, winning a 110-107 thriller to even their series to 1-1.

Toronto’s Two-Way player (and deserves a call-up) Javon Freeman-Liberty had an efficient yet explosive series, averaging 30 points, six boards, and 4.5 dimes in two games. He’s scorching hot from the perimeter, something that the Toronto Raptors can use – Freeman-Liberty shot a whopping 63.2% on 68 total perimeter attempts, many of them in catch-and-shoot reps.

It was a balanced attack for the Raptors 905 despite Freeman-Liberty’s scoring binge, with seven other players averaging double figures in both games. Gradey Dick made an appearance in the first game, and while he looked more comfortable by the day, he struggled overall on both sides of the floor. Kira Lewis Jr. is still finding his rhythm in coach Khoury’s offense, averaging 12 points and eight dimes in just 31 minutes in this series.

Justise Winslow had shooting woes in this series but didn’t let his poor shooting affect his game, as he filled out the box score with 13 points, 10 boards, 3.5 dimes, and 1.5 steals. Most notably, Winslow brings defensive toughness to the team, as exemplified by his clutch defensive possessions, including the game-winning stop on Braxton Key to seal their win on their encore match.

The Raptors 905 are now 5-8 this season, slowly moving up the standings, as they are just 2.5 games away from the play-in range. The team is playing much better – the offense is surviving without Markquis Nowell and leaning hard on their new-found defensive identity. Speaking of Nowell, he’s been out for a few games due to a hamstring injury, but he’s been selected as an NBA G League All-Star this season.

Congrats, Markquis!

Free and Liberate (CALL UP!) Javon

Javon Freeman-Liberty is having the best stretch of his professional career. He’s putting up 23.9 points while shooting 38.5% from the perimeter in this “Regular Season” segment of the G League season. He’s elevated his game over the past six games, leading the team with 26.8 points on 50.4% shooting from the field. He’s also made 43.9% of his 6.8 perimeter shots during this stretch. What’s more impressive is his improving playmaking chops in the half-court setting. Freeman-Liberty plays with a lot of energy on both ends of the floor, and he’s a great off-ball cutter, with a nose for the ball. It’s starting to get frustrating to see the main club start or play parts, if not the entire game, looking like they’re ready to go “1-2-3 Cancun” when you have someone like Freeman-Liberty waiting and, for sure, eager to get his turn.

See You Every Now and Then, Gradey

Gradey Dick only played in two of the Raptors 905’s last seven games, and that may be the right call. It’s been quite a struggle for Dick to find his rhythm at the NBA G League level, where every weakness that he has got exposed. It didn’t help that he spent most of the time with the 905 when the team was in disarray due to a barrage of injuries. Dick had a hard time finding the right balance on when to be aggressive and look for his shot versus deferring and playing within the flow of the game.

While he’s looked much more comfortable in the last two games that he’s played with the 905, some of the bad habits that he’s developed haven’t gone away. Dick still makes a lot of possession-killing decisions, where he gets the ball with a move made up in his mind instead of reading how his defender is playing him. The good news is he’s doing a much better job reading and reacting to what the defense is doing and coming up with a better move against it.

Defensively, while Dick’s shown some flashes of making good reads in playing the passing lane, he’s often caught out of position and overpowered when he isn’t. The Raptors may have thrown him into the deep end to accelerate his development but may not have thrown him into the correct body of water initially, as he’s doing a much better job picking his spots with the defense not focusing on him with the main club.

Regular Season Game 12: Grand Rapids outlasts Raptors 905

Final Score: Raptors 905 109, Grand Rapids Drive 115

Assignee(s)

Raptors 905: Javon Freeman-Liberty (TW), Kira Lewis Jr. (NBA), Gradey Dick (NBA)

Grand Rapids Drive: Collin Gillespie (TW), Braxton Key (TW)

Starters

Raptors 905: Kira Lewis (NBA), Javon Freeman-Liberty (TW), Gradey Dick (NBA), Justise Winslow, Mo Gueye

Grand Rapids Drive: Collin Gillespie (TW), Andrew Funk, Braxton Key (TW), Zak Irvin, Au’diese Toney

The Raptors 905 could not contain Denver Nuggets’ Two-Way player Collin Gillespie, and he made them pay late in the game. It looked like the school kids were in for a treat, with the Raptors 905 pulling ahead in this matinee game, building a 13-point lead early, and being in control for most of the third period. However, the pesky Gillespie and the Grand Rapids Drive outworked and out-executed the home team in the fourth despite a stellar performance from Javon Freeman-Liberty.

Javon Freeman-Liberty tried to put his team on his back, dropping 32 of his 37 points in the second half. He also added five dimes. Mo Gueye added 17 points and 14 boards, while Kira Lewis Jr. finished with 11 points and nine dimes. Justise Winslow filled out the stat sheet with 14 points, 11 boards, five dimes, and three steals. Unfortunately, he also coughed up the ball four times in this game.

The Two-Way contract players brought it home for the Grand Rapids Drive, with Collin Gillespie and Braxton Key combining for 24 points in the pivotal final frame. Gillespie finished with a 36/11/12 triple-double, while Key added 30 points, 15 boards, and three blocked shots. Jamario Pickett came off the bench and provided a spark for the Drive with his 18 points, including going 4-for-5 from behind the arc.

Regular Season Game 13: Freeman-Liberty Stays Hot!

Final Score: Raptors 905 110, Grand Rapids Drive 107

Assignee(s)

Raptors 905: Javon Freeman-Liberty (TW), Kira Lewis Jr. (NBA)

Grand Rapids Drive: Collin Gillespie (TW), Braxton Key (TW)

Starters

Raptors 905: Kira Lewis (NBA), Javon Freeman-Liberty (TW), Kobi Simmons, Justise Winslow, Mo Gueye

Grand Rapids Drive: Collin Gillespie (TW), Andrew Funk, Braxton Key (TW), Zak Irvin, Au’diese Toney

The Raptors 905 and the Grand Rapids Drive were back for an encore, and much like the first game, the home team put up a big lead early. However, having learned their lesson on that previous game, coach Eric Khoury and the 905ers bent but did not break by limiting Collin Gillespie to get a split against coach Andre Miller and the visiting Grand Rapids Drive.

Javon Freeman-Liberty led all scorers with 23 points, eight boards, and four dimes, shooting an efficient 7-for-11 from the floor. Even more impressive was his going 5-for-6 on catch-and-shoot trifectas (the last one was more of a heat check). Kobi Simmons added 16 points after getting the start for this game. Justise Winslow added 12 points and nine boards, including the defensive stop of the night.

Denver Nuggets’ Two-way Contract players led the Grand Rapids Drive, with Braxton Key dropping 22 points and 11 boards. Collin Gillespie had a bit of an off night compared to the previous game but managed to put up a near triple-double with 18 points, 14 dimes, and nine boards. Au’diese Toney added 15 points, with 11 coming from the fourth period.

The Raptors 905 led from wire-to-wire, but the Drive made it a game in the second half, cutting the once 18-point lead to one point with about a minute to go. It was a balanced Raptors 905 attack, with the bench outscoring their counterparts 35-23.

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