Photo credit KarynStepien.com.
Raptors 905 are finally becoming victims of their own success.
Just days after losing Axel Toupane to a call up to the New Orleans Pelicans, the 905 are now losing Edy Tavares. Tavares will sign a multi-year contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical, ending his postseason run with Jerry Stackhouse’s squad. The Cavs are reportedly releasing Larry Sanders to make room for Tavares, which either says something about Sanders’ progress in his return, Tavares’ potential, or both.
This is obviously a massive loss for the 905, who have now lost their two best players in the span of a week. They’re success has been built on their depth and ability to withstand short-term absences, but with Will Sheehey also lost for the season due to injury and only two Toronto Raptors on assignment, the 905 will find themselves running thin in the Eastern Conference Finals. That series is expected to begin Friday and run through as late as next Tuesday, with the 905 playing Game 1 on the road against the winner of Wednesday’s game between Maine and Fort Wayne before returning home for Games 2 and 3.
A call-up is a bit overdue for Tavares. Given his immense size, the fact that he’s still just 25 years old, and the speed of his development this season, it was only a matter of time before an NBA team came calling. As far back as the D-League Showcase in January, NBA teams were checking on Tavares’ progress, and while this is a big loss to the championship hopes of the 905, the organization will surely see this as a victory. Graduating players to the NBA and putting them in a better position to realize their dreams is Goal One with the Raptors’ minor-league program, and like with Toupane, the 905 will likely be thrilled for their teammate and take a next-man-up approach to filling the void he leaves behind.
There remain questions as to how well Tavares’ defensive value will translate at the NBA level, as modern NBA offenses will be better equipped to exploit his lack of lateral mobility. But he’s spent the entire year answering those questions at the D-League level and was a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate, anchoring the No. 2 defense on the junior circuit. The 905 staff deserve a world of credit for that, but so too does Tavares, who has worked tirelessly to improve his range on that end of the floor, and who has become expert at using his length to disrupt shots around the rim even as he recovers back to the paint. His 10.1-percent block rate is immense and is third in the D-League (first if you cut it off at 500 minutes played), his 18.3-percent rebound rate ranks 18th, and only two players had a better team defensive rating.
Offensively, Tavares is more savvy than players his size are normally expected to be. A gifted and willing passer, Tavares can work the short-roll or dish on the move, present in the post, or finish on the dive. The 905 have several pet plays that involve running the ball through Tavares at the elbows or in the post, and he’s been a huge plus at both ends of the floor as a result.
In 48 games this year, the former Atlanta Hawk averaged 10.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 2.7 blocks in just 23.6 minutes while shooting 59.1 percent from the field, and the 905 outscored opponents by a resounding 20.5 points per-100 possessions with the 7-foot-3 center on the floor. That rate is seventh-best in the D-League, lining up with his 11th-ranked player efficiency rating, his No. 6 mark in Win Shares (shout out to Brady Heslip in fifth), No. 5 rank in Box Plus-Minus, and league-leading Value Over Replacement Player. Tavares has been damn good, is the point here.
He probably doesn’t figure to be a factor for the Cavaliers in the postseason, given the short notice of his call-up and the questions he could present in a playoff matchup. Still, he’s an intriguing medium-term piece, and the Cavs are somewhat short on size and rebounding inside, areas Tavares may be able to help with a minimized bench role. If nothing else, it’s a great reward for Tavares after a phenomenal season helping make the 905 one of the best teams in D-League history.