Alfonzo McKinnie has been on cresting like a tidal wave over the last year of his still-young career. Coming from overseas to pay to tryout for his hometown Chicago Bulls’ G-League affiliate, McKinnie played himself onto the G-League All-Star team and was rewarded with a partially-guaranteed multi-year deal to try out for a roster spot with the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors (marginally) invested in him and hope to see a return in kind. The question for McKinnie is whether G-League dominance is the extent of his potential, or whether he has the ability to contribute at the NBA level.
For a career arc similar to Jonathan Simmons – both paid to try out for G-League teams to achieve a foothold of some kind – McKinnie also has a skill ceiling similar to that of Simmons (both are athletic swingmen). McKinnie is incredibly bouncy and relatively smooth as a finisher around the rim. His 3-point stroke is somewhat awkward, but he can heat up and hit threes in bunches.
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McKinnie averaged 14.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 30.5 minutes in 50 games last season during his All-Star G-League campaign, which shows that he is not a dominant scorer, not that the Raptors will ask him to be that. He rebounded well for his position both during the G-League season last year and at Las Vegas Summer League for the Raptors; McKinnie needs only to jump, offering a massive vertical and infinitely-extendable arms, to retrieve a rebound. He competed in the G-League 2017 Slam Dunk Contest, which is often more impressive than the NBA version, as well as the Slam Dunk Contest at the FIBA 3-on-3 World Championships last year.
McKinnie’s skillset is not a finished product, and he has a lot of growing left to do at age 25. He draws nothing but praise from Raptors assistant general manager Dan Tolzman and president Masai Ujiri, the former of who likened him to a young DeMarre Carroll (that’s a compliment, as Carroll bloomed at a late basketball age into a 3-and-D wing player, before kind of un-blooming during his tenure in Toronto). McKinnie could very well follow the career arcs of players like Simmons, Carroll, Danny Green, and others who grew into useful NBA role players in their mid-to-late 20s.
Like with those players, locking down one of the “3” or “D” components is still necessary. Carroll had to begin hitting threes, Green’s defense had to be solidified, and Simmons needed to show dramatic improvement as an outside shooter. McKinnie is no different despite a smooth stroke, as he hit just 30.8 percent of his G-League threes and has never consistently shown that to be a plus tool at any level. Our own Blake Murphy has reported that the Raptors see him more as a wing than a power forward (where he primarily played last year), and knocking down corner threes in preseason will probably be is biggest goal.
Unlike many athletic players who wash out of the NBA, McKinnie tries hard on every possession. Though he has the size at 6-foot-8 to play power forward, he is too slender to spend many minutes banging with NBA starters at that spot. That was less of a concern in the G-League and might not be a problem against opposing benches.
Going into camp to compete for Toronto’s 15th roster spot, McKinnie has difficult competition, including Kennedy Meeks, K.J. McDaniels, and son-of-broadcaster Andy Rautins (plus Kyle Wiltjer). While each player offers a different skill sorely needed by the Raptors, McKinnie presents the most upside as a potential wing who can hit threes, defend on the perimeter, and dunk on anyone’s head (friend or foe). If McKinnie can’t crack the roster but clears waivers, Raptors 905 would need to acquired his rights from the Windy City Bulls in order to keep him in the system.
But if anyone is able to parlay a training camp deal into a roster spot and semi-meaningful minutes for the Raptors in 2017-18 (think Fred VanVleet from 2016-17), bet on McKinnie.