Adding Gradey Dick is exciting, and re-adding Gary Trent jr. is a relief, and adding Darko Rajakovic is fantastic, and losing Fred VanVleet is awful, and keeping Jakob Poeltl is a relief. Sure. But there’s so much more that has happened this busy offseason for Toronto.
First of all, the Raptors have added a number of players beyond Dick — albeit in mostly theoretical means. After the draft, Toronto signed Markquis Nowell to a two-way contract, locking him in as a virtual certainty for Toronto’s short-term future. Nowell is an exciting point guard — standing five-foot-seven — who played all five years in college, including the latter two at Kansas State. He led the nation in assists last year, averaging 8.2 per game, as well as 17.6 points and 2.6 steals.
According to Bart-Torvik, Nowell was a top-30 player in college last year. He was a great shooter off the catch and the dribble, and he ran a mean pick and roll. His size will be a real hindrance at the NBA level, but he is a true floor general, and a two-way spot is a low-risk flyer on a guard who can control the half-court.
But he’s far from the only player the Raptors have added since the draft. Toronto also signed Kevin Obanor to an Exhibit-10 contract (per Bryan Kalbrosky) and Desmond Cambridge Jr. to an Exhibit-10 contract (per Jon Chepkevich).
Obanor was a huge forward who starred for three years at Oral Roberts before having two down years in efficiency at Texas Tech. He was extraordinary in transition and did most of his damage in the half court on cuts and finishes around the rim. Cambridge was a high-volume and inefficient shooter who spent the majority of his time spotting up in college, yet while he was only average shooting off the catch, he hit 37.5 percent of his triples off the dribble, per Synergy. There could be some latent juice for the Arizona State standout.
An Exhibit-10 contract is usually used by NBA teams to give players a small financial incentive to join their G-League affiliates. They will compete for the Raptors’ two-way spots, but with Nowell having been signed to one and Jeff Dowtin jr. a likely lock for the other, expect to see one or both Obanor and Cambridge with the Raptors 905 next season. They should also, along with Nowell, play in Summer League for the Raptors.
But the Raptors have done much more than just add players this offseason. They’ve also gone a long way to filling out new coach Darko Rajakovic’s staff.
The first and most familiar hire was Jama Mahlalela (per Woj). The former Raptors 905 Head Coach returned from his time with the Golden State Warriors. I covered the 905 during his time there, and he was a delight. He’s a beloved individual, and his demeanor and knowledge are incredible to have back in Toronto.
Woj also reported the Raptors signing Pat Delany from the Washington Wizards. He’s been described as a defensive-focused coach who has also had significant player development responsibilities.
Toronto also hired Imo Simovic (per Pete Thamel), who is considered a brilliant international recruiter. The fellow Serbian was previously an assistant coach for the UCLA Bruins.
Finally, per Michael Scotto, the Raptors have also hired Vin Bhavnani and Mike Batiste as assistant coaches. Bhavnani was a long-time coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and his roots came from the video and scouting departments. He has been in player development for a long time. Batiste is the only former NAB player of the bunch — he spent one year with the Memphis Grizzlies in the early 2000s. He is another player development specialist.
Toronto’s new coaches have histories in player development with plenty of experience outside the United States. And with no point guard and plenty of question marks going forward for the roster, development might be the most important thing the Raptors could prioritize.