A word, a blurb on every Toronto Raptor before the season – Part 3

17 mins read
Credit: Alex Tansley, https://www.instagram.com/tansley24

A continuation of part 1 and 2.

Consider this a data dump of sorts to catch you up on the team this year. These are ready made packets of analysis and wisdom you can take directly to the water cooler, your friends, and perhaps even your enemies (make them feel stupid and small with your nuanced Svi Mykhailiuk takes). Enjoy!

Svi Mykhailiuk

Every once in awhile a player falls to the wayside of minimum contract territory, despite possessing the talent – and ability to apply that talent in meaningful ways – to become a much higher earner in the NBA. When given the opportunity, those players turn teams into launchpads. Mykhailiuk is ready for launch. Not only does he have a claim to “nicest surprise”, but he’s looked like one of the best players on the floor every time he’s touched it. This year is a pitstop in minimum territory for him, and he’s going to punch way above his contract for the Raptors.

In a Nurse offense that has been asking for dynamic reads from players for a couple years now (and has been a little short on structure), Mykhailiuk’s rapid processing of the floor and where to put himself has made him an agent of opportunity. Cutting into buckets for himself, dragging help-side defenders out of driving lanes for others, give-and-go’s, gritty and brutish brush screens – and with a jumper. Mykhailiuk looks every part of a ‘plug and play’ guy. Not to mention the little flashes of on-ball viability. He’s dribbled out of trouble before dishing dimes, and he’s dribbled into space to find himself a jumper. He looks the part of a player who you’d have no qualms with running a pick n’ roll with 10 seconds on the shot clock.

Defensively, Mykhailiuk doesn’t have tremendous footspeed to stonewall drives, but the same sense for reads he has on offense do translate somewhat to defense. He’s pretty aware on that end, is clearly high effort, big for his position, and pretty strong. Those are the trappings of a player who won’t wow you defensively, but has the ability to exist in good defenses all the time. In his NBA career thus far he’s spent time on what might be the most chaotic team every year – LeBron James’ first year in LA, then the Pistons, then OKC – so it’s tough to take any defensive metrics into account. This year is a huge proving ground for him.

Lastly, as I wrote up there, Mykhailiuk hasn’t been put in a positive basketball context yet in his career. The types of heady reads he makes become significantly more potent when he plays with teammates who can recognize his movement and help make teams pay for it. The advantages compound. No longer is he just a shooter trying to find minutes next to James, or an outclassed pick n’ roll creator on an OKC team that wants desperately to lose. The stage is set for Mykhailiuk to paint a mosaic of his strengths with the Raptors this year.

Justin Champagnie

A person who is at hand whenever needed. A ‘Johnny on the spot’, as it were. Players like Champagnie will always pop on screen because they wiggle their way around the court into advantageous positions almost by habit. I like Jaren Jackson Jr. a lot, but he makes 5 boards a game look really difficult. Champagnie’s reads make it seem like he has a magnet on his person that attracts basketballs. I’ve always wondered if it’s easier for an incredible rebounding guard/wing (at the college level) to translate that to the NBA, than it is for a big with the same skillset (relatively speaking, of course.) It should be mildly surprising to see a player like Champagnie come in and swipe 10 boards in just over 20 minutes, but it’s much less so when you watch him at Pitt (shoutout lewro) grabbing a mammoth 11 per game.

’45’ cuts, lanes in transition, the dunker spot, a soft spot in a zone – Champagnie is finding ways to leverage his court awareness into baskets as well. He’s pretty limited as far as on-ball creation at the NBA level, but with his court awareness, decent free throw numbers in college, and the Raptors famed farm system, Champagnie looks like a player primed to develop a jumper. A fairly stationary jumper, I’m sure, but a jumper nonetheless. A glass-eater, a range-y defender (who is prone to mistakes, of course) and a cerebral cutter. The bones of a very interesting young guy. If the way rosters shook out were purely based on merit, Champagnie looks like a guy who would absolutely nab a spot. However, since he’s on a two-way, the Raptors can get way more tape, data, and facetime with Champagnie before deciding whether or not to convert him later on. The two-way is a point of leverage for the Raptors, but similar to Yuta Watanabe last year, Champagnie looks to be a better player than some teammates who have cushier contracts.

Dalano Banton

A funkfest. An enticing enough collection of skills placed on top of an even more intriguing body, all wrapped up in the warm embrace of a cool as hell personality. Banton is the upside swing. He is the long-limbed forward who can slither through a pick n’ roll with the liquidity of water running down the side of a mountain, as intuitive grooves lead him. But, he can also get straight up stripped. Like, a guy just rips the ball out of his hands at a standstill. He also doesn’t shoot very well.

And with all that said, he glides across the open court like a gazelle with the ball in hand or not, he sees passing lanes and urges teammates into them, and he go-go-gadgets his arms into a bunch of places defensively that other players can’t reach. He is the type of player who can only be impactful, and that may swing positive or negative game to game, but you’re always going to feel his presence on the court (whether you’re a fan, or a player – and if you’re a player reading this, answer my text brother).

Not every basketball player is putty when they arrive to the NBA. Malachi Flynn, for example, had his archetype set when he arrived on the scene, because he had already elevated so much of his skill and body to a place where if he’s going to be successful, you know what that would look like. Banton is much closer to putty than many other players, and he could develop a couple different swing skills that drastically change what he might look like in the future. Most importantly though, he seems like he has the capacity to develop and apply whatever skill is necessary. Whether he’s in the G-League this year, or with the big club, he’ll be much watch film.

Freddie Gillespie

Gillespie had a super fun stretch of play during the ‘Tampa season’, but it seems increasingly likely that he won’t be on the roster this season. A ‘hustle big’ if you’ve ever seen one, Gillespie makes his hay with active hands, overzealous (at times) help-side rotations, and scrounging around in the dunker spot for second chance points and dump-offs.

Unfortunately, Gillespie’s Summer League and Preseason have been highlighted (lowlighted??) by defensive rotations that are consistently a step too late, and a heavy dosage of flubbed layups and passes. He hasn’t been able to leave a positive mark on many games, and he really would have to stand out as a big if he wanted to factor into the Raptors new long, wing-y playstyle. He would have to be undeniably good, and he hasn’t been.

Sam Dekker

Dekker’s boom from downtown during March Madness helped propel him up draft boards – nearly creeping into the lottery – only for that to occupy virtually no part of his NBA game. Five ‘milquetoast wing’ seasons later he found himself playing in Europe, and most importantly, launching accurately and often from downtown.

The 3-point shot is the thing with Dekker. He profiles as a plus athletically, and is more than capable of punching gaps and finishing at the bucket – if the space is provided. He went off from downtown in the Turkish Super League, launching over 4 a game and hitting on over 45-percent of them. This is what would make Dekker somewhat unique on the Raptors roster. He doesn’t have the boosted wingspan of many of the other 3/4’s on the Raptors roster, but if statistics are to be believed, he’ll bring much more shooting punch.

At the time of writing this, Dekker has logged 5 minutes in the preseason and is 2/2 from the field and 1/1 from downtown. Much of his game is still unknown to fans, but if he makes the team one would think that the Raptors are leaning heavily on the opinions of the scouts who suggested he come to training camp, and whatever is going on at practice.

Isaac Bonga

If you wanted to lean fully into the ‘defense first’ mantra, Bonga would very much be ‘a Guy‘. He’s been subjected to a bit of a roller-coaster thus far in his NBA career. From the Lakers G-League squad, to almost 50 games started for the Wizards in 2019-20, to a significantly diminished role that dovetailed with a cratering offensive game, Bonga has had a strange start.

With staggering on-ball defensive chops and a funky but functional handle, I wonder if Bonga would benefit more from G-League reps and an attempt to develop a swing skill that harmonizes with the rest of his game to create a far more positive player on the offensive end – provided that he would be open to it (as a 4th year player, he has to consent to G-League time).

David Johnson

More than likely a mainstay with the 905 this year. A big jump in responsibility in year 2 at Louisville, the playmaking and shooting bump that Johnson flashed had some teams imagining a future where Johnson could feature as a combo guard offensively, who could feature as a defender 1-3.

The early returns of his Summer League and Preseason games has shown a player whose jumper seems to have translated, but the other positives that he’d shown on-ball at Louisville still seem like they’re lagging way behind. Not to mention a slough of defensive missteps.

I wouldn’t expect much in the way of NBA minutes for Johnson this year, but his two-way contract seems to indicate a future (be it short or long) with the organization.

Ishmail Wainwright

After 4 years at Baylor, 2 years in Germany, and 1 year in France, Wainwright is making a play for an NBA roster. At 27 years old, he doesn’t represent the ‘upside swing’ that other, younger invites might. An extremely strong defender who can switch across multiple positions – and still achieve the defensive hallmarks of each – it’s clear why the Raptors wanted to have a look at him in the context of their long, wing-y playstyle.

Offense has never been his calling card. Save for one strange season at Baylor (40-percent from downtown), he hasn’t eclipsed 30-percent in college, or overseas – although he shot 33-percent at Summer League on a decent amount of volume. And there’s very little self-creation to join his shooting woes. On a team starved for defense, you could see Wainwright operating as a lynchpin in some strange bench units. We’ll see.

Reggie Perry

One of the G-League’s most productive players for the Long Island Nets, last season. He scored the ball, got on the glass, and dished out some assists as well. All while profiling as another one of those undersized centers, or at least a power forward in disguise as one.

Blake Murphy laid out a likely road for Perry:

“Given the number of legitimate third-string calibre centres available for cheap this off-season, the Raptors pretty clearly aren’t worried about playing small often. As a result, Perry’s path to a roster spot is probably having a good camp, joining the 905 as an Exhibit 10 player and impressing there in case a roster spot opens up later on, with Toronto or another team.” – Blake Murphy

All Done

There you have it. A word, a blurb (in most cases paragraphs) on every Toronto Raptor. If you haven’t read part 1 or part 2, they’re here: part 1 and 2. If I might be so arrogant to suggest it, this collection of writeups is probably the most thorough you can find on the Raptors, and I hope you enjoyed whichever ones you read.

Have a blessed day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.