The Looming Training Camp Battle

Samson Folk breaks down the upcoming training camp battle.

With media day, training camp, and the preseason all coming up pretty quickly it makes sense to walk through the back end of the Raptors roster and how things might shake out. Additionally, Myself & Louis Zatzman will be present at media day, so make sure to visit RR for an open thread on Monday. Back to the periphery of the Raptors roster, though.

Let’s begin with Juancho Hernangomez:

The Spanish National is fresh off a Gold Medal at EuroBasket wherein he was the MVP of the Final, and his brother Willy was the MVP of the tournament. That final? It featured 7 made threes from Bo Cruz. As I wrote elsewhere, Hernangomez is one of the rare players on the back end of the Raptors roster, who they aren’t worried about on the offensive side of the floor. He can stretch the floor, screen, pass a bit, and will more than likely plug into a lot of their live-read sets. The bet they’re making is that he can find more success defensively in the Raptors scheme.

There seems to be a very strong vote of confidence with Hernangomez from the Raptors side of things. Of the players on this list, he’s the only one with a fully guaranteed contract. We can probably look forward to the stylings of Juancho Hernangomez on this years Raptors.

Jeff Dowtin Jr.

The most explosive performer, and a standout from the Raptors summer league roster. His blend of handle + explosive first step makes for a player who gets two feet in the paint with regularity. A players ability to get two feet in the paint has been a staple of what scouts look for, forever. If you’re in the paint with a live dribble, the defense is rotating towards you, and if the defense is rotating towards you, there’s offensive opportunities elsewhere.

Dowtin Jr. is looking to confirm a couple things at the NBA level. The first? His defense. He’s been pretty good at the G-League level, but that needs to happen in the Raptors scheme and against better players. The second? His pop off the dribble won’t end up mattering much if teams sag off him to oblivion, so he has to hit threes at a respectable rate.

He’s on a two-way contract, so I’d expect a lot of 905 and a smidge of Raptors minutes this season. If you’re seeing a lot of him this season? He’s really popped off, or the Raptors are in a very tough spot with injuries. For a writeup on Dowtin, Mikai Bruce has you covered here.

DJ Wilson

Wilson is in a very tough position as far as the jump from G-League to NBA goes. He’s one of the best players in all of the ‘G’, but a lot of that success stems from advantages that evaporate at the highest level. His physicality, athleticism, and motor are good enough to fuel major success in the form of nearly 20 points a night, but his utility is mostly seen as a screener and cutter at the NBA level – and neither of those things are unique on the Raptors.

Defensively, he has the size and activity to have a very positive impact on the Raptors if the technique is cleaned up. We saw some positive plays last year in his frequent cups of tea with the Raptors, so that much is encouraging. However, despite obviously liking Wilson, we’d have to see some sort of offensive innovation on his behalf for him to make the league with the Raptors.

Gabe Brown

Wing sized, long, and in possession of a pretty sweet lefty stroke, Gabe Brown has the makings of a guy who could really find success in the Raptors organization. At the college level he was a plus athlete, but he’s merely in the “he can hang” realm as far the NBA goes. However, that’s enough when you can offer shooting and Brown is one of the better bets to provide that towards the back end of this roster.

On top of that, Brown could show promise as a guy who can really punish closeouts, but that’s something we’ll likely see at the G-League level before anywhere else. The Raptors having him in house now gives them the inside track to get him on the 905, or shuffle two-way spots if they so choose. For my money, I’d expect him on the 905 when that season kicks off. He’s currently on an exhibit-10 contract.

Dalano Banton

So, Banton obviously has the inside track for a spot. He’s the hometown kid, he played more NBA minutes last season than most of the players here, and he also fits the niche of player that the Raptors org seems to value more than other teams. However, he’s still on a partially guaranteed contract, and the Raptors have every right to be extremely underwhelmed by what his presence does to a halfcourt offense.

The bit of flair as a passer and ball handler that Banton has shown was almost always in the open court, and even then it didn’t outdo anyone else on the roster, really. It’s tough to crack the league as a late 2nd rounder, and Banton certainly has enough potential to keep the Raptors paying attention, but if someone like Justin Champagnie brings a much improved 3-point shot to camp? These decisions get much tougher. Banton has been lighting it up against less than NBA level competition with Team Canada, and the hope is that some of his on-ball stuff has improved to the point where the Raptors can indulge in some of their weirder lineup configurations with him on board.

Justin Champagnie

Justin Champagnie is really, quite good. When he went down to the G-League he put up huge numbers (21ppg/8rbs/1.6ast) while unloading over six three-pointers a game and hitting over 40-percent. Those scoring numbers cleared north of 30 a game in the G-League playoffs. On top of that, basically everything that works for him at the lower level, manifests in some way at the NBA level. He’s a tremendous cutter, an unconscionable presence on the offensive glass, and he really does seem like a guy who has found a 3-point shot. The finishing was in a weird spot with the Raptors, but if you’ll allow me to put on the scout’s hat for a moment, I think the film says that’s a bit of an aberration – he’s a good finisher.

He’s a really heady player, and despite not possessing the most gaudy measurements of the players competing for the back end of the Raptors roster, he seems primed to move well within that defense. He probably doesn’t have the inside track with the organization, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still with the Raptors when the regular season kicks off.

Ron Harper Jr.

Harper is a large guard, and the bet seems like it’s on the jumpshot here. Although, among the guys here, he’s probably had the most possessions initiating offense over the past year or so. There was a little bit of pop at Rutgers, where he could take a screen and do something with it. Whether that was getting all the way to the rim or clearing space for an in-between shot, stuff was happening. At Summer League though, that aspect of his game didn’t really pop. And the Raptors might be right to expect real difficulties for him defensively.

He’s on a two-way contract, though. If that sticks, he’ll likely have opportunities to pad out some of those on-ball possessions with the 905.

Josh Jackson

Of the guys here, Josh Jackson has the most NBA minutes under his belt. Which means he’s proven the most at the NBA level (some nice defensive stretches here, a little bit of on-ball pop there), but he also doesn’t have the ever sexy potential thing to fall back on. The former 4th overall pick has stretched his legs around the league and most everyone isn’t interested in what he has to offer. Even the contract he signed with the Raptors, and exhibit-9, is just about the smallest vote of confidence possible in contract form.

As I talked about in the swing skill piece, a decent jumper would help make the rest of what Jackson brings more palatable, but we’ll see. He’s got a shot but, I wouldn’t consider it a good one.

Hope you enjoyed this walkthrough of the looming training camp battle.

For a reference on the Raptors cap sheet, especially if you’d like to see what the partial in the partial guarantee entails, here’s something Blake Murphy put together.

Hope you enjoyed the piece.

Have a blessed day.

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