Shoutout to Sauga City.
At long last, the Toronto Raptors have secured their own D-League team. The franchise will be based in Mississauga at the Hershey’s Centre and will be named something along the lines of “Raptors905”, according to a report from Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. The report has also been confirmed by Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun.
It appears that the Raptors will convert the Mississauga Power of the National Basketball League of Canada into the proposed D-League team, reports Morris Dallacosta of the London Free Press.
The team will be in place for next season. An official announcement will be made by the Raptors as early as next Monday.
Altogether, the franchise cost MLSE $6 million, which is approximately what Chuck Hayes received last season. It’s a relatively cheap acquisition by the franchise, but a significant one.
First, the Raptors will have an actual development vessel for their young players. Last season, Bruno Caboclo and Bebe Nogeuira spent much of the year watching from the sidelines instead of getting into game action. The cost was a year’s worth of development and a season off their rookie deals. Poor DeAndre Daniels (37th pick) had to play overseas in Perth, Australia.
This quote from Jaren Jackson, an assistant with the Mad Ants, says it all:
“The experience was tough in Fort Wayne for Bruno, it was,” Jackson told Dave Zarum of Sportsnet. “We didn’t have a one-on-one affiliate like some other teams do, and it meant we had different priorities [than the Raptors],” he says.
“We were an experienced team. We had a number of veteran players brought down to us, players who we could throw out there and say ‘Go’ and they could contribute and help us win. But a younger player like Bruno sometimes gets lost on assignments figuring out who he’s supposed to defend, situations like that where he walks away feeling uncomfortable.”
The Raptors shared the Fort Wayne Mad Ants with 12 other clubs last season. With a roster full of D-League veterans, raw prospects like Bruno Caboclo were routinely benched, thus defeating the purpose of a “Developmental” league.
Having their own exclusive affiliate should allow the Raptors to run their own systems, control playing time and most importantly, to give every opportunity for development. Expect Bruno, Daniels and Bebe to spend much of the season in the Hershey’s Centre along with the 20th pick in Thursday’s draft.
Second, having it based in Mississauga is an optimal location. It allows players to be called up relatively easily (say, if a rotation player is sick and can’t play; logistics will not be an issue) and fans will be able to attend games. With actual prospects in the pipelines and booming interest in basketball, expect Raptors905 games to be well-attended.
Third, the D-League gives the Raptors a chance to showcase talent, either for potential free agents that they wish to sign, or to boost the trade value of their own prospects. For example, the Raptors could sign the Scrubbs brothers to D-League contracts (if they’re not drafted or sign elsewhere), and evaluate their games. If it works out, they can sign them to 10-days or full-season contracts. If not, they get a chance to showcase their talents while playing in Canada.
All in all, it’s a great — if not overdue — move for the franchise. To take stock: in the two seasons with Tim Leiweke and Ujiri in charge, the Raptors have posted two franchise-highs in wins, made in playoffs twice after missing out for six seasons, inked Drake as the global ambassador, freed up the cap, stockpiled picks and prospects, secured an All-Star Game, built a new practice facility and established a locally-based D-League team. All of that in two seasons.
It’s been an impressive run and I sincerely hope MLSE can find a way to keep Leiweke around.
— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) June 24, 2015