The biggest success story in the early history of Raptors 905 is coming back.
Axel Toupane has opted to return to the D-League for the 2016-17 season, according to a report from D-League Digest. Cut by the Denver Nuggets at the end of training camp, Toupane was considering his options, which included overtures from international clubs. Considering the differences in salary, the decision was likely a difficult one, and it speaks to the impression the Toronto Raptors organization made that Toupane’s opted to return.
It probably doesn’t hurt that the 905 helped elevate Toupane from relative unknown to NBA player last season. The D-League’s Most Improved Player began the season looking for a role on offense while establishing himself as a multi-position defender, eventually settling in as a secondary ball-handler and corner 3-point threat. His expedited learning curve and impressive defense across four positions earned him a 10-day deal with the Nuggets, then another, and then a two-year contract with a non-guaranteed 2016-17.
It’s that time with the Nuggets that probably made another D-League season more palatable. Last year, Toupane received a $25,000 guarantee from the Raptors to come to training camp, then likely earned the $25,500 D-League maximum, then topped it off with roughly $126,500 of the prorated NBA minimum. So while he’s set to earn just $26,000 on his D-League deal, he did well for himself a season ago, and if he gets the call again, he’ll earn at an even higher rate as a second-year NBA player. It’s still a tough call, but a strong relationship with the Raptors, proximity to the NBA, and a potential need on the wing for the parent club, the 24-year-old Frenchman is making what looks like a smart bet.
In 21 NBA games last year, Toupane averaged 3.6 points and 1.5 rebounds in 14.5 minutes, shooting 35.7 percent and 13-of-40 on threes. He scored 11 points in 19 minutes in his lone preseason action, adding seven rebounds and three assists,, coming off of a solid if unspectacular Summer League performance. In 32 games with the 905, he averaged 14.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists and was tasked with guarding one-through-four. Still more of a defensive prospect than an offensive one, it will be interesting to see how his outside shot has developed since he was last with the team, as it’s likely the biggest area he could improve upon to help his NBA chances.
For what it’s worth, Toupane is an NBA player. The Nuggets had a lot of interesting young names in camp, and while it was a little surprising to see Toupane cut, it shouldn’t confuse that he’s very, very close to where he needs to be. There just aren’t many defenders this big, quick, and physical who can also contribute in transition and spotting up. His offensive game is behind his defense, but if you’re looking ahead to what the Raptors’ roster could look like in January (if they were to make a change in the 15th roster spot), he fits the bill of what the Raptors appeared to need before injuries struck.
Here’s how the 905’s rights sheet looks ahead of Sunday’s draft, in which they have a second-round pick and three fourth-round picks:
|Player||Last Season||Years Remaining||Notes|
|E.J. Singler||Raptors 905||2||Cut by Raptors, agreed to 905|
|Brady Heslip||Italy||2||Cut by Raptors, agreed to 905|
|Yanick Moreira||Spain/France||0||Cut by Raptors, likely Affiliate Player|
|Jarrod Uthoff||NCAA||0||Cut by Raptors, agreed to Affiliate Player|
|Axel Toupane||Raptors 905/Denver||2||Cut by Nuggets, agreed to 905|
|John Jordan||Raptors 905||2||Confirmed Raptors 905|
|Will Sheehey||France||1||Confirmed Raptors 905|
|James Siakam||Delaware||2||Acquired in April, status unknown|
|Ashton Smith||Raptors 905||2||Status unknown|
|DeAndre Daniels||Raptors 905||2||Raptors own NBA rights; Signed in Italy|
|Greg Smith||Raptors 905/Minnesota||2||Signed in Turkey|
|Shannon Scott||Raptors 905||2||Signed in Greece|
|Davion Berry||Raptors 905||2||Signed in Greece|
|Michale Kyser||Raptors 905||2||Signed in Lebanon|
|Scott Suggs||Raptors 905||2||Signed in Spain|
|Sim Bhullar||Raptors 905||2||Signed in Taiwan|
|C.J. Leslie||Israel||1||Signed in Cyprus|
|Ramone Moore||Lithuania||1||Signed in Australia|
|Mitchell Watt||Germany/Israel||1||Signed in Italy|
|Mustafa Shakur||Germany||1||Signed in Turkey|
|Drew Crawford||Israel||1 (Erie)||Rights owned by Erie; likely overseas|
With the Raptors banged up at the NBA level, it seems unlikely that anybody other than maybe Bruno Caboclo will be assigned initially, but a lot can change between now and the Nov. 18 opener. Expect plenty of Jakob Poeltl throughout the year, with a rehab stint for Delon Wright and potential assignments for Fred VanVleet and, later in the year, Pascal Siakam. Norman Powell and Lucas Nogueira also remain eligible to be assigned without permission.