Raptors 905 aren’t getting any good news lately, at least not any from a short-sighted perspective. After finding out Wednesday that they wouldn’t be getting Greg Smith back this year and finding out last week that Ronald Roberts is done for the season, the 905 now have confirmation that they’re not getting their most improved player back, either.
The Denver Nuggets are signing Axel Toupane to a two-year deal, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical.
The Nuggets initially signed Toupane to a 10-day contract on March 3, then re-upped him for another 10 days on March 14. His deal expired Thursday but the Nuggets could wait until Friday, when they next play, to make his new deal official. Once it is, drinks on Toupane, who’s already earned over $61,000 in his 20 days and will now receive a prorated amount of the NBA’s $525,093 minimum salary the rest of this season, a large raise from a $25,500 max salary in the D-League (plus the $25,000 guarantee the Raptors gave him to come to training camp).
As is often the case with these late-season contracts, the second year of Toupane’s deal is not guaranteed, likely for the $874,636 minimum for players with one season of experience. Depending on the Nuggets’ plans and how he progresses over the offseason, Toupane could remain with the team through next year, get cut to clear a roster spot, or stick around for only part of next season (his deal would become fully guaranteed on Jan. 10). In any case, it’s a huge deal for Toupane, who worked tirelessly to improve this year, and it’s a nice low-risk gamble for Denver.
Toupane has long looked like the prototypical defender the Toronto Raptors organization is trying to find and develop. He’s fast, long, athletic, and can switch across multiple positions, and his potential on that end was high enough that there was some concern he could be claimed on waivers when the Raptors cut him before the season. After taking a bit of time to adjust to the North American game once the D-League season started, Toupane really took off, averaging 16.7 points on 44.7 percent shooting, along with 5.1 rebounds and, most impressive, 4.2 assists from Dec. 31 on.
“I told him after he got called up, I have so many friends in Denver from my time with the Nuggets, I told him ‘man, if you just put your head down and do exactly what they’re looking for, you’ve got a really good chance to stick with them,” 905 general manager Dan Tolzman predicted after Toupane’s first 10-day.
The 23-year-old has done exactly that, providing solid, versatile defense across multiple positions in _ games with the Nuggets. He’s averaging just three points on 26.3-percent shooting, but he’s obviously flashed enough potential as a 3-and-D piece, despite going 7-of-24 from the corners, to warrant a longer look.
It’s tough for the 905, who spent all season developing Toupane into an NBA-ready player only to see him thrive with – and potentially get locked up by – another club, but that’s life with the current D-League setup. Helping a player reach their dream and doing well in the talent development department is never going to be a bad look.
“I hope they all get called up,” head coach Jesse Mermuys said in January.
This is really great, for Toupane, the Nuggets, and the 905.