The Toronto Raptors are holding a two-day, 24-player free agent mini-camp at BioSteel Centre this week, casting a wide net in their continued search for information, diamonds in the rough, or organizational depth. Like with the pre-draft workouts, these may or may not materialize in meaningful roster action, but it never hurts to check in on the development of intriguing young players and learn more about them in the process.
“It gives us a chance to kind of check in on guys that we’ve been interested in for years, since coming out of college, and just tracking them from afar,” Raptors director of player personnel and Raptors 905 general manager Dan Tolzman said. “It gives us a chance to bring them back in, see how they’re doing and what process they’ve made and see how they’re doing.”
The Thursday-Friday summit includes some pretty interesting names, too, even if they may not be on the NBA radar. With Las Vegas Summer League around the corner and a roster to fill out, plus a Raptors 905 team potentially facing the usual D-League roster overhaul in the offseason, some of these players could register within the organization in the coming months. The introduction of two-way contracts could expand the market for fringy (“Quad-A”) style prospects, too, particularly those who possess certain skills the Raptors are after (it’s little coincidence that there are some dead-eye shooters in the group).
“I think this is a pretty important summer to kind of hold a camp like this and approach it from all angles of summer league, two-ways, guaranteed contracts, everything,” Tolzman said.
The morning’s session was a long one, starting at 8 a.m. with some players not getting in until late the night before. They’ll do it again later today, and then have a final session tomorrow. It’s a lot of ball in short order, and a nice window into not just the skill development but the mental preparedness and stamina of the players as they grind it out, some for the fourth or fifth time in the last few weeks.
Here’s the full list of players who attended the workout:
|Zach Auguste||Forward||6-4||Notre Dame||USA||Turkey|
|Alec Brown||Forward||7-1||Green Bay||USA||D-League|
|Will Davis||Forward||6-8||UC Irvine||USA||D-League|
|Cleanthony Early||Forward||6-7||Wichita State||USA||D-League|
|R.J. Hunter||Guard||6-5||Georgia State||USA||D-League|
|Alfonzo McKinnie||Forward||6-8||Wisc. – Green Bay||USA||D-League|
|Malcolm Miller||Forward||6-7||Holy Cross||USA||Germany|
|Patrick Miller||Guard||6-1||Tennessee State||USA||D-League|
|Xavier Munford||Guard||6-2||Rhode Island||USA||Spain|
|Stefan Nastic||Center||7-0||Stanford||Yugoslavia (Canada)||NBL Canada|
|Norvel Pelle||Forward||6-10||St. John’s||Antigua||Italy|
|Adam Smith||Guard||6-1||Georgia Tech||USA||Italy|
Rather than diving in on all 24 players at once, I figured the more prudent approach would be to cover 12 here and 12 tomorrow.
2016-17: LVSL/camp with Lakers; 12.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 59.7 FG% in Turkey
Undrafted out of Notre Dame, Auguste probably could have parlayed a D-League season into an NBA call-up if his overseas performance is any indication. Reports toward the end of the Turkish season had multiple NBA teams interested in the 6-foot-10 power forward, and his presence on the free agent workout circuit isn’t at all surprising. That Auguste is represented by the same agent as Ronald Roberts and Jarrod Uthoff points to a familiarity with the organization, and at 23, Auguste still has a lot of upside (especially if a team thinks he can play some center, since he’s not much of a floor-spacer at the five). He also has some terrific hair going on, with a yellow/orange strip through it. He’s among the most interesting names that attended the workout, which is saying a lot.
2016-17: 13.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 46.9 FG%, 33.8 3FG% in Cyprus
Burnatowski made it so I wasn’t the only person representing the 519 at the workout session on Thursday, as the Kitchener native was given a chance to show his stuff against some less experienced but more heralded competition. Undrafted out of Colgate in 2014, Burnatowski has been plying his trade overseas, most recently in Cyrpus, where he’s been able to develop at least show-me range from 18 feet and out. Since he’s just 6-foot-7 but profiles as a combo-forward, he’ll need to continue to hone that skill, something he might be able to do with the 905 if they want some additional Canadian flavor this season. His ability to move the ball could fit well off the bench there.
2016-17: 10.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 49.5 FG%, 43.3 3FG% in D-League
Perhaps the most familiar name on the roster sheet, the former No. 34 overall pick of the Knicks has 56 games of NBA experience under his belt. He never really got off the ground in two seasons, owing in part to missing significant development time after being sho.. Hoping to stay close to a call-up, the 26-year-old opted for the D-League instead of a season abroad, but didn’t debut until January and wound up playing just 14 games in total. He’s an interesting case, because while he’s older than most of the players here and was already an older prospect at draft time, a good deal of his development time has been eaten into. The biggest question might be whether the 3-point shot he flashed as a teammate of Fred VanVleet and then again in a small sample with Santa Cruz last year is legitimate or not.
2016-17: LVSL/camp with Jazz, camp with Pelicans; 4.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 34.2 FG%, 28.1 3FG% in D-League
Undrafted out of Northeastern last year, the Second-Team All-CAA wing earned a Summer League look from the Jazz and brief training camp invites from the Jazz and then the Pelicans before landing in the D-League. A five-year senior, Ford is already 24 and struggled a fair amount in the D-League. The counting stats are underwhelming, to be sure, but the bigger concern was a drop in 3-point percentage, a skill he’ll need to demonstrate with some consistency in these workouts (he had one solid season from long-range in college and a few average ones, and has been a decent free-throw shooter, so it might be there). Ford went down with an apparent injury late in the final game, but hopefully he’ll be OK to continue the minicamp.
2016-17: LVSL/camp with Celtics, 3 NBA games with Bulls; 18.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 38.6 FG%, 31.8 3FG% in D-League
Once the highest profile name in this group, the former No. 28 pick has had a tough go over two NBA seasons. His immense collegiate success hasn’t carried over, with the Celtics taking the nearly unprecedented step of waiving him after just one season and the Bulls only keeping him on for two months after that. Known most for his shooting (despite a really poor junior year from long-range), it’s not a skill that’s translated with any consistency yet, and Hunter will need to show he can do more than just spot-up or pull-up in these sessions, anyway. The pedigree and stroke are nice, and Hunter’s still just 23, but if the team is going to take a flier on a shooter, there may be options with a more well-rounded game, some defensive chops, or even just a proven NBA stroke.
2016-17: Camp/4 NBA games with Suns; 20.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 45.7 FG%, 38.6 3FG% in D-League
Of all the players working out this week, there’s the sense that Jenkins is the closest to having a meaningful impact at the NBA level. That’s probably because he’s been relatively close to doing so since being the No. 23 pick in 2012. No, it hasn’t really worked out with consistency – Jenkins has played for three teams over five seasons and totaled only about one season’s worth of minutes – but he’s at least displayed he can do the one thing he’s best known for: Shoot. Jenkins has hit 36.4 percent of his NBA threes after being a lights-out marksman at Vanderbilt, and while his preseason and Summer League numbers haven’t shone. he’s knocked down 36.1 percent of a high volume of D-League looks over 33 games (across four seasons) there. That’s a steady mark, and over time Jenkins has added enough to his game to perhaps supplement his potential role beyond just “specialist.”
“He’s one of those guys, he’s so close to sticking and being a rotation guy in the NBA just because of what he does and how he effects the game,” Tolzman said. “It’s always – guys are that close, to bring them in and get to know them a little closer and see what they can do, just get as comfortable with as many of those on-the-cusp players as we can.”
Jenkins also happens to be ineligible for a two-way deal due to his experience, and that changes his focus a little bit relative to some of the younger guys in the workout.
“I think everybody is different,” Jenkins said. “For me, I’ve been in the league. It’s my sixth year in the league so for me it’s trying to get on a camp or even get a guaranteed deal. Everybody’s different. Everybody’s different ages. For me, I’m probably little different, I’m probably one of the oldest guys here so I’m looking to possibly get in a camp deal or get a guaranteed deal.”
Whether the Raptors have the roster space and flexibility to even offer a guaranteed NBA deal is yet to be seen, but Jenkins would seem to be a reasonable candidate if that’s the approach they take to adding some shooting on the cheap.
2016-17: 13.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.3 APG, 4.2 FG%, 20.3 3FG% in Greece
For god’s sake, Lemon, we’d all like to flee to The Cleve. But free agents can’t just choose to join LeBron James and company, and so the Bradley product is left to work the free agent circuit after another year overseas. Prior to that, Lemon had spent a year abroad and then a year in the D-League. Despite that pro experience and four years at college, he’s still just 24. That could make him worth a look in Vegas, where the Raptors could need guard depth depending on which of their youngsters they send. He’ll have to show some development on his long-range shot, though, something he’s only shown for brief flashes during his career.
2016-17: LVSL with Celtics; 6.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 50.5 FG%, 38.5 3FG% in Germany
On the radar of the Celtics in back-to-back seasons after going undrafted out of Holy Cross, the 6-foot-7 Miller will look to build on a solid, if quiet, season in Germany, where he was fairly efficient in a smaller role. This, compared to a year prior in the D-League, when he shot nearly 50 percent overall and nearly 40 percent on threes in a much more substantial position. Still just 24, Miller would almost certainly be a boon for Raptors 905 but could be aiming higher, and he’ll probably be trying to parlay a decent Summer League showing into a two-way deal. There’s a fair amount to like with the length (7-foot wingspan), bounce (he can touch nearly 12 feet jumping), and stroke, particularly if he can add enough bulk to profile as a stretch-four.
2016-17: Camp with Clippers;18.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 5.3 APG in D-League; only played 25 minutes in Spain
It remains perplexing that Munford didn’t receive an NBA call-up late this season. Throughout the year, he was one of the better point guards in the D-League, he was solid in a brief stint with the Grizzlies in 2015-16, and the Clippers, who knew him well, probably could have used him at some point. Whatever the reason, the 25-year-old remains on the hunt for an NBA gig, and him leaving the D-League in February to land an overseas deal suggests he may not be game for a fourth D-League season, at least not without a two-way deal to sweeten the pot. Munford didn’t repeat a strong shooting season from 2015-16, which may be the sticking point for some teams, but he’s a quality floor general and a solid defender. Even a few years removed from college, he feels like the type of player the two-way deals were designed for.
2016-17: LVSL with Hawks, camp with Kings, 5 NBA games with Hawks; 24 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, 43.2 FG%, 34.6 3FG% in D-League
Man, was there ever some talent at this workout. Patterson is yet another recent NBA player, a second-round pick in 2014 who did a draft-and-stash year overseas before landing with the Hawks for parts of two seasons. Already 25, the Hawks apparently saw enough to bring Patterson into Summer League three times and re-sign him on several occasions (seriously, go look at this transactions page), but not enough to secure him long-term. The five-year senior spent the time between NBA stints with Reno in the D-League last year and was a moderately efficient volume scorer, getting to the rim and the free-throw line at will and taking a small step forward as a 3-point shooter. It’s a common thread here, but it’s that 3-point shot the Raptors could be looking for at the end of their bench, and Patterson will need to show continued growth with it to round out his resume.
2016-17: LVSL with Pacers; 14.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 48.7 FG%, 29.0 FG% in Germany
CanCon alert! The Whitby native went undrafted out of Dayton a year ago and opted to lay internationally instead of in the D-League. That seemed to work out, and he had a pretty successful year, though his 3-point shooting continued a five-year annual decline since his freshman season, a fairly major concern. At 6-foot-6, Pierre has some positional versatility but will need that 3-point stroke to become consistent at either forward spot. The Raptors haven’t shied away from that in the past, and Pierre brings enough other things to the table to make him an intriguing D-League prospect, should he be willing to go that route. You can never have too many local products with the 905, especially when they come with the track record Pierre has.
2016-17: 23.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 46.1 FG%, 41.5 3FG% in Italy
I want him to land with the 905 so badly so I can make Invisible Hand jokes all year. What wasn’t invisible – look at this segue potential! – was his scoring in Italy, where he filled it up to a substantial degree with pretty strong efficiency. He’s still never shown a ton as a playmaker, never averaging more than 2.14 assists over four college seasons with three teams, but he’s got the somewhat-undersized scoring guard role down pat. The 905 like John Jordan, their most tenured player, but if he’s not game for a third D-League season in a row, Smith could be a candidate to slide into that microwave man role (Jordan’s defense in that spot, despite his size, might be tough to replace though).
- The free agent camp continues later tonight with a second session, and then a third session tomorrow. There will be media availability tomorrow, and we’ll cover the remaining 12 names then.
- As a reminder, the draft takes place on June 22. The Raptors do not have any more draft workouts currently scheduled, having worked out 51 players already. As a reminder, the workouts are just one part of the process, so don’t look too much into who was/was not here.
- The adidas EuroCamp was also last weekend in Italy, for those looking ahead to 2018 and beyond.
- Raptors president Masai Ujiri is expected to speak to media sometime next week, regardless of if additional draft workouts are added.
- Bruno Caboclo, Norman Powell, Delon Wright, and Patrick Patterson are all presently around town, and Caboclo, Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira were working out at BioSteel Centre today. There may be more, too, but those names have been active on social media or were around. Caboclo was doing Pilates earlier in the day.
- I’ll be posting some things on my Instagram story throughout the process, if you want to follow along there, too.