The Toronto Raptors are signing Jordan Loyd to a two-year two-way contract, Raptors Republic learned last week.
The reason for the week-long delay between that tweet and this post is that Loyd’s camp was working on a buyout with Turkish EuroLeague team Darussafaka, something that was able to pick up steam this week when the club signed Markel Brown for one of their import slots. The Raptors were unable to assist with the buyout on the financial side, as the collective bargaining agreement prevents such arrangements for two-way players. Sportando first reported Thursday that the buyout was being finalized, and Raptors Republic can confirm the situation is at the finish line.
Loyd was at Las Vegas Summer League with the Raptors for a second summer in a row, which should tell you how interested they’ve been in him. His Summer League performance was abbreviated some due to back spasms that cost him two games and the second half of another, and even in the limited window, Loyd was able to impress the Raptors’ front office and coaching staff. Originally thought to be more of a shooting guard, Nick Nurse began playing him more at point guard as the tournament went along, and that seemed to agree with Loyd and the team as a whole. In four games, Loyd averaged 8.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in only 17.3 minutes, shooting 45.8 percent overall and 4-of-13 on threes. He also committed just four turnovers to 11 assists, nice work for someone still figuring out his new position.
That transition is something Loyd’s been working on for a few years now. He was strictly a two-guard on a loaded high school team in Georgia and then again over four college seasons (one at Furman, three at Division II Indianapolis), and it was only when he landed with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in his first pro season in 2016-17 that he took on more of a play-making role. The returns were solid, as he turned in a terrific rookie season and averaged four assists to go along with 15.1 points and 4.2 rebounds, enough that the Raptors brought him to Vegas that year. (I wrote about him at the time, as I liked him at Fort Wayne and thought he turned in a pretty impressive Summer League.) This past year with Hapoel Eliat in Israel, Loyd took that even further, again posting an assist rate over 20 percent and averaging 17.4 points, five rebounds, and 3.6 assists. He also shot 39.9 percent on the shorter 3-point line, a key stat to focus on after a 34.2-percent mark in the G League and 42.4-percent mark in Division II.
In looking to move to point guard on more of a full-time basis, Loyd dropped nearly 20 pounds last summer, improving his explosion and his ability to guard at the one. In general, he’s a solid on-ball defender who can heat up the ball by putting pressure on it, and he’s posted strong steal rates, but he’ll need to continue to work on that end. It probably also wouldn’t hurt to have another ball-handler on the floor with him initially as he continues to develop his point guard skills, which should fit the way the Raptors and Raptors 905 want to play, anyway.
If the resume seems somewhat underwhelming based on where he’s played, that’s kind of the point here. Loyd has been almost entirely self-made to this point, with the bulk of his development having to come through hard work and his own self-guided (or lightly guided, at the team level) plans. It makes for an interesting development question that I wrote about for The Athletic last week: If Loyd has come this far largely on his own – through being under-recruited, through a Division II program, through lower-level European play – how quickly could he take off if given proper development resources? The Raptors are now invested in finding out, and they’re pretty high on where his game could get to after a year or two in their system.
The two-year deal here gives them an extended window to mold him and find out. In the interim, the soon-to-be 25-year-old Loyd can also be counted on as potential NBA depth. As a luxury tax team, the Raptors don’t figure to carry a 15th man on the roster, and last year they were able to cobble together a de facto 15th man by using their two-way players intelligently. As someone with two years of pro experience who can play on or off the ball and knock down open looks, Loyd can slide into the Lorenzo Brown role from a year ago – behind Brown himself, no less – offering injury insurance at either guard spot while helping lead the 905 when he’s not with the NBA club. Both Brown and Malcolm Miller earned something close to their estimated maximums on a two-way deal last year, and if Loyd does the same, he could earn an estimated $380,000 this season (that’s a rough estimate, as the NBA and G League scheduled will determine the exact amount). That makes the deal seam like a solid bet for both sides, and a clear boon for the Raptors if Loyd’s development takes off the way they think it might be able to.
Loyd has to negotiate his way out of a EuroLeague deal for this coming season to sign with the Raptors, as he’d signed on with Turkish outfit Darussafaka prior to Summer League. That on its own would have been a nice jump for him, and the Raptors – among other teams, according to league sources – thought he was ready to skip that step and jump into a two-way deal. As a reminder, a two-way deal allows a player to spend up to 45 days on the NBA roster between the start of G League training camp and the end of the G League regular season, plus unlimited days before and after those points. The two-year wrinkle here is interesting, too, as two-way deals can only be guaranteed for $50,000 (until Jan. 20) and the Raptors will be able to waive Loyd at any point without any cost to their team salary for cap and tax purposes. Meanwhile, they’ll also hold the right to convert his deal to an NBA contract at the minimum salary any time during the two years, offering some nice team-side flexibility.
This bring the Raptors roster to 15, although only 12 of those contracts are fully guaranteed.
Guaranteed NBA contracts: 12 (Lowry, VanVleet, Wright, Green, Powell, Richardson, Leonard, Miles, Anunoby, Siakam, Valanciunas, Ibaka)
Partially guaranteed NBA contracts: 1 (Brown)
Exhibit 10 contracts: 1 (Boucher; can have up to 6)
Two-way contracts: 1 (Loyd; can have up to 2)
Total roster spots: 15 (can have up to 20)