Photo credit: MattAzevedo.com
The run of hardware continued for Raptors 905 on Tuesday, just hours before they’ll attempt to keep their hopes of bringing the D-League Championship to Mississauga alive.
Edy Tavares was named to the All-NBA D-League First Team, while Axel Toupane was named to the Third Team. They are the first two Raptors 905 players to make an All-D-League team in the franchise’s two-year existence, and the honors follow Tavares being named Defensive Player of the Year and Jerry Stackhouse winning Coach of the Year.
Signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers early in the D-League postseason, Tavares was among the most impactful players on the junior circuit this season. Cut by the Atlanta Hawks just after training camp, the 905 used a top waiver priority to secure Tavares, figuring he’d only be with them a limited amount of time. Instead, he lasted the bulk of the season, helping anchor the No. 2 defense in the league. As a result, Tavares was also named to the All-NBA D-League All-Defensive Team.
With a 10.1-percent block rate, Tavares was among the best deterrents in the D-League, and that mark ranked first among players with 500 minutes played. He was also a top-20 defensive rebounder, top-three in his team’s defensive rating, and ranked in the top 12 in a number of other categories, including PER, VORP, BPM, and Win Shares. In 48 games, the 25-year-old 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.
Tavares getting the call from the Cavaliers is a big victory for the 905 organization, but his absence was pronounced in Game 1 of the D-League Finals against Rio Grande Valley, where Tavares’ rim protection and defensive rebounding were sorely missed.
Toupane’s individual performance has led to him leaving the 905 on two occasions this year, giving him three call-ups in two seasons. Last year’s Most Improved Player, Toupane was cut by the Denver Nuggets late in training camp and opted to re-join the 905 program in hopes of getting another NBA look. The Milwaukee Bucks came calling but changed course after a few days in order to sign Terrence Jones, but it took only a franchise record 41 points in the 905’s postseason opener for the New Orleans Pelicans to scoop Toupane back up.
Over 36 regular season games, Toupane averaged 16.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.1 steals while guarding any of four positions, helping lift the 905 defense in myriad ways and working as Stackhouse’s go-to option late in possessions or at key junctures. Like Tavares, his absence hurts in the finals, especially with Will Sheehey also sidelined with a dislocated elbow.
As a side note, RGV Vipers guard Isaiah Taylor was named to the All-Rookie Team and should be a nice test for Fred VanVleet on Tuesday night at Hershey Centre. Plenty of Toronto Raptors are expected to be in attendance for Game 2 of the D-League Finals.