Toronto Raptors Victory Over Sixers a Testament to Development Program

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Paul Watson
The benefits of the Raptors development program were on display Wednesday night against the Sixers, including Paul Watson Jr. (Photo by: Getty Images)

(Author’s Note: In light of the allegations against Toronto Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin by his ex-wife, we have removed the portion about him from the article. We at Raptors Republic stand with all victims of domestic abuse and will refrain from bringing up Adrian Griffin, in any capacity, until an investigation has been finished). 

Stanley Johnson probably won’t get any minutes in the playoffs.

Understandably so, since Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse likes to reduce his rotation in big playoff series’.

But in a meaningless game against the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night, Johnson had his moment in the spotlight.

Getting the game-winning basket as a bench player once again demonstrates the success of the Raptors development program.

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It was over one-year-ago when Johnson signed with the Raptors. While it was evident Johnson was going to be a bench player, he didn’t receive a lot of playing time this year with the Raptors, given the emergence of Chris Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

In 24 games, Johnson averaged just 1.5 PPG, with a 38.0% true shooting percentage. The Raptors forward played three games with their G-League affiliate, Raptors 905, where he averaged 22.7 PPG.

Amidst his struggles, Johnson still got playing time for the Raptors in the seeding games. He was criticized, rightfully, for his poor play. Until he became the critical piece that led the Raptors to victory.

Nurse preaches the importance of getting an opportunity and seizing it. Johnson did Wednesday night, banking the game-winning field goal, sending his teammates and Raptors fandom into euphoria.

The unlikely player emerging as the victor.

Johnson wasn’t the only Raptors 905 asset that raised the level of play. Paul Watson Jr, who averaged 42.3 percent from three for the 905 this past season, got a critical bucket underneath the rim to give the Raptors the lead late in the fourth quarter. Dewan Hernandez, who played nine games for the 905 before suffering an ankle injury, shot a three-pointer in the fourth, contributing to the Raptors’ comeback.

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Even from the bench players who will get limited minutes (if any) come playoff time, they still show the same compete and intensity levels as the Raptors starters. As Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry said after the game, it speaks to the winning culture that has trickled down to every crevasse of the organization.

“When you’re on the same page from top to bottom it makes life a lot easier,” Lowry said postgame. “It makes everything a lot smoother. We’ve got guys like Bobby, who started at one position and he’s now here, Masai started somewhere, coach started somewhere, I started somewhere, Norm, Freddie. It just shows the growth of the organization. Our culture is all about winning and uplifting the next person.”

Anyone who follows the Raptors knows that their development program continues to be the model of the rest of the league. Wednesday’s win against the Sixers offered a glimpse of Raptors 905 players not too far from achieving their NBA goals.

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