Victoria – The math is tough and the runway is short.
This is how the NBA works, unfortunately. There are only so many jobs available, and even being one of the most talented athletes on the planet, that doesn’t guarantee you anything until the contract is guaranteed.
The Toronto Raptors broke up their training camp Friday, covering it with an in-group brawl in front of a crowd at the Save-On Food Memorial Center.
For most of the crew, this was just another step forward toward the regular season opening on October 17, a week of action and fun setting the tone for the upcoming campaign.
For Victoria, this was a must-see as the arena sold out in a matter of minutes and was filled with a boisterous early crowd looking for autographs and photos from and with every player on the road, with everyone from super-fans Nav Bhatia to General Manager Bobby Webster Low level on purpose.
But for the few players vying for fewer jobs, even an event with as little objective meaning as a general melee means the clock is ticking even louder, and the chances of proving they’re worthy of one slate are open. Raptors have to offer a smaller number.
Unfortunately, no one exactly took the ball and ran with it. Expected starters dominated the first part of the melee, and it was a bit of a mix-up after that.
“I don’t think it was a great night from an evaluation point of view for a lot of these guys,” said Raptors coach Nick Norse. “I thought each of the newbies did some things that turned out really well and then? I’m not sure, to be honest with you, that anyone else did so much to impress any of us who were there watching tonight.”
For the Raptors, the roster’s calculations run as follows: Of the 20 players who took part in this week’s training camp, 13 are on guaranteed contracts, and four are on partially secured contracts: returnees Justin Champagnie and Dalano Banton, along with DJ Wilson (who has been with Toronto on three Various 10-day deals last season) and Josh Jackson (who finished fourth in 2017 by the Phoenix Suns, but has already made four teams in four seasons)
The expectation is that Banton, the gritty six-foot-nine-foot guard from Rexdale who was drafted by the Raptors for 46th in the 2021 NBA Draft, will make up the team. He would have given Toronto another ball-handling option that could comfortably switch defensively. His ability to shoot – or not – will likely determine his long-term future in the NBA, but he has the biggest guarantee of the four without completely guaranteed deals and he has excelled in the Summer League, League G and while playing for Canada at the AmeriCup under the watchful eye of Raptors assistant Nate Mitchell. .
But then? It is wide open.
Jackson, Wilson, and Champagne all have the potential to offer something a little different, so the final decision can fit into a roster of players, but there’s always the possibility that someone will play better and make their way into the final mix.
None of them were among the 10 starting players in a melee that featured starter model Fred Van Fleet, Pascal Siakam, Scotty Barnes, Gary Trent Jr and OJ Anonobi in the black against Banton, Chris Boucher, Malachi Flynn, Precious Achiwa and newcomer Juancho Hernangomez in the gray jersey, with the following substitutions freely.
said a nurse, who was playing close attention during the brawl and will be back when the Raptors host the Utah Jazz in pre-season work Sunday in Edmonton before visiting Boston and Houston this week. “It could be on both sides of it: is it a need to list by position or size or who plays the best? It will be fun. You can make a case for almost everyone. We will start calling him now.”
Champagnie has some credit in the bank for having established himself as a hard worker and positive presence while with Toronto on a two-way contract last season. He’s somewhat of a ‘tweener in terms of his skills and strengths – he has a great nose for the ball that shows off offensive glass, in particular – more suited to a power forward but his size – at just six feet six – requires him to be able to space the ground. and shooting. He made progress but was hampered this summer when he suffered a broken thumb and had to miss some crucial development time.
Champagne’s first few seconds on the ground were typical: He came out of nowhere to make an offensive bounce to gain possession, first hit a loose ball to keep it alive and then scored a three-point play. It’s a kind of opportunism that’s hard to teach. He looked good dropping one triple but missed two more massively.
Jackson is interesting. High percentage. The six-foot-eight jumper was the #1 recruit of his high school class, was the 12th player of the year in his only season in Kansas, was a star in the summer league and made the second-team all-rookie team. The Suns, where he played with current Raptors assistant Earl Watson. He can score and has shown his ability to have a defensive effect.
“I would say his strength is on the defensive end,” the nurse said. “We feel he’s one guy who has had some success and experience denying a whole player and playing with some speed and fitness and some length, to just be one of those guys who is a nuisance to the defense. That’s kind of a thing for him. That’s why he’s there and we’re looking at him.”
Jackson’s being with his fifth organization is also interesting: He’s faced a number of out-of-court disciplinary cases dating back to his only season in Kansas.
At 25, the hope is that all of this is behind him and he can find a way to use his talent to earn a steady job in the NBA.
Wilson is another interesting possibility. He was taken 17th overall by Milwaukee in the 2017 draft and spent four years with the team before being traded to Houston for PJ Tucker as the Bucks were loaded into the 2021 Championship. He’s the type of tall, graceful defender who loves the Raptors but working against him is a reality That roster swims in players that reflect his skill set.
Neither Jackson nor Champagne nor Wilson did much to advance or harm their cause in what was a fun night for the crowd but it made sense for those trying to secure a place on a list that would be hard to break.
They’ll get another chance on Sunday in Edmonton, and the coaching staff will be watching.
“We vote for employees every day,” a nurse said. This vote changes every day. You could tell it’s competitive.”