Blake Murphy – Raptors905.com
Raptors 905 begin training camp at the Mississauga SportZone this week, the first step of a new season as they look to repeat as G-League Champions. The nature of the G-League means that there aren’t many pieces returning from that championship roster, but head coach Jerry Stackhouse and company will have a few familiar names and some exciting new ones battling for roster spots over the next 10 days.
How the roster has been constructed to this point is a fun adventure through the oddities and intricacies of G-League life, both for players and staff. What follows is a look at how Raptors 905 have assembled this group for camp.
NBA teams can assign any player within his first three years in the league to the G-League an unlimited number of times. Players with more experience than that have to consent to an assignment (as does the players union). Teams can assign up to three players at a time, which expands the G-League’s teams maximum roster size (so instead of 12 players, they can have 15 if three players are on assignment). Over the past two years, the Raptors have assigned players more frequently than any other NBA team, doing so 127 times.
The following Raptors are eligible for assignment to Raptors 905 once the G-League season begins: Alfonzo McKinnie, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, Norman Powell.
Beginning this season, every NBA team was given two additional roster spots for two-way players, players who can spend time in both the NBA and G-League. This allows NBA organizations to continue putting an emphasis on player development and affords players the chance to see NBA time and earn a more competitive salary than G-League players have in the past.
Now that G-League camps have opened, two-way players can only spend 45 days on the NBA roster from here until the conclusion of the G-League regular season, so they’ll be in the G-League for at least 108 days during the season. How, exactly, the 905 and other teams will utilize these NBA days and handle the two-way players remains a mystery, and a few different approaches could make sense as team situations develop.
Lorenzo Brown and Malcolm Miller are the two players the Raptors have signed to two-way contracts for the season. Brown is a 27-year-old point guard with good size and three partial seasons of NBA experience, while Miller projects as a potential “3-and- D” player at either forward spot once healthy (he had offseason ankle surgery).
Returning Player Rights
The easiest way to fill a roster would seem to be just bringing the players back from a year ago. It turns out that’s pretty rare, particularly for a team that’s had the success the 905 have – a championship season has helped multiple players develop into bigger NBA roles or find great situations overseas. Of last year’s championship team, only two players are back, one of whom was called up to the NBA by the time the finals rolled around.
Edy Tavares was in camp with the Cleveland Cavaliers, was waived, and will re-join the 905 early this season. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year was a huge part of Coach Stackhouse’s elite defensive system, is a monster on the boards, a smart passer, and a deft finisher around the rim. He was called up by the Cavaliers late last season and would seem a likely candidate to earn a call-up again this year. Joining him from the championship team is Negus Webster-Chan (Canadian), a Scarborough product who made his way onto last year’s team through the open tryout process and carved out a bigger and bigger role thanks to his length and shooting.
G-League teams also retain the Returning Player Rights to any player who has played for them within the last two seasons, so long as the team hasn’t traded or waived that player. The 905 will use those rights to bring back Davion Berry, who played 10 games with the team in 2015-16 and was in training camp with the Raptors on an Exhibit 10 contract (explained at Raptors.com). A combo-guard with good range on his jump-shot, Berry split last season between Greece and Germany.
The 905 hold the returning player rights to 14 other players playing elsewhere in the event they return to the G-League player pool.
When NBA teams construct their rosters for training camp, they’re looking ahead to the G-League season, too. Every player wants to crack the NBA, but those who are waived and open to the G-League can be made Affiliate Players. Basically, if an NBA team cuts a player in camp, they can claim dibs on them for the G-League, so long as their rights aren’t already owned by another team and they didn’t receive a camp guarantee exceeding a certain amount (K.J. McDaniels, waived Sunday, would not be eligible). Teams can do this for up to four players each year.
The Raptors opted to do this with Kyle Wiltjer (Canadian) and Kennedy Meeks this year. Wiltjer spent time in the G-League last year as a member of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, giving the 905 a tough challenge in the finals thanks to his proficiency from behind the 3-point line, but that time came on assignment from the Houston Rockets, so his rights were unowned. Meeks signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Raptors after the draft, had a strong Summer League performance, and will be looked to for rebounding and interior scoring as part of a deep frontcourt rotation.
The G-League held their annual entry draft on Saturday, allowing its 26 teams to select from a pool of 146 players. The 905 had five draft picks over the four-round draft but only used four. With them, they selected Kethan Savage (#26 overall), Liam McMorrow (#52, Canadian), Eric Washington (#73), and Jamaal Brantley (#78).
— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) October 21, 2017
Looking at the history of the G-League draft, one or two of these players making the roster would be considered a success. In 2015-16, three players the 905 selected made the team, though one was later waived and the other two were traded. A season ago, Antwaine Wiggins proved to be a great find with the team’s first-round pick, while J.T. Terrell was waived early on.
The 905 were busy on Saturday, not only drafting four players but making a trade, as well. They acquired Aaron Best (Canadian), who the Long Island Nets had selected 42nd overall, for the returning player rights to Shannon Scott. Best impressed at the 905’s open tryout in September and could become the first CIS/USports graduate to suit up for the 905 following five strong years at Ryerson and a season in Lithuania.
Local Tryout Players
Each G-League team is allowed to hold tryouts during the offseason, inviting players to participate or opening the doors up to local athletes to pay to participate. Up to five players from the open tryouts can be invited to training camp.
The 905 have invited Kaza Keane (Canadian), Richard Amardi (Canadian), Andre Washington, and Roger Moute a Bidias to camp as local tryout players. Keane and Amardi are familiar names from the Canadan basketball scene, with Keane leading Carleton to national championships in each of his two years there and Amardi suiting up for Canada at the FIBA AmeriCup this summer. Moute a Bidias is the brother of NBA player Luc Mbah a Moute. Best, Brantley, and Washington also participated in the open tryout.
The 905 enter camp with one spot on their roster open still, and they have means of adding another piece. Any player who enters the G-League player pool from here on out will be subject to the waiver process, where teams can make a claim to add the player and he’ll be awarded to the team with the highest waiver priority. This is how the 905 originally landed Tavares last year, and they added Greg Smith mid-season via the waiver wire in 2015-16. The 905 have the No. 14 waiver priority to start the season.
Tickets to watch the champs are officially on sale!
— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) October 5, 2017
The roster for camp stands at 16 players, one shy of the limit. By Nov. 2, they have to trim that number down to 12. The two two-way players are a lock, and the Returning Rights and Affiliate players will be expected to make the team. That would leave nine players – Best, the four draft picks, and the four tryout players – competing for five spots or looking to steal a spot from one of the Returning Rights or Affiliate players.
Two-Way Players: Lorenzo Brown and Malcolm Miller
Affiliate Players: Kyle Wiltjer, Kennedy Meeks
Returning Rights: Edy Tavares, Davion Berry, Negus Webster-Chan
Rights Acquired: Aaron Best
Draft Picks: Kethan Savage, Liam McMorrow Eric Washington, Jamaal Brantley
Local Tryout Players: Kaza Keane, Richard Amardi, Andre Washington, Roger Moute a Bidias
The 905 begin camp on Tuesday and play exhibition games Saturday in London and next Monday at the Hershey Centre.