ESPNU Player to Watch: Raphiael Putney, Rio Grande Valley Vipers

By Brian Kotloff | January 22, 2016

Never heard of Raphiael Putney?

Two years ago, he was the seventh-leading scorer on the UMass Minutemen. After graduation, he worked his way onto his first pro team — the NBA D-League’s RGV Vipers — through an open tryout with a $150 registration fee. Even as recently as the summer of 2015, he was playing pro ball in obscurity in far-away Malaysia and Australia.

Now the 25-year-old has rocketed firmly onto the NBA’s radar. He will take on another high-upside forward in Golden State first-round pick Kevon Looney when RGV visits Santa Cruz Friday (11 PM ET) for the third of 12 ESPNU games this season.

Full Schedule: NBA D-League Regular-Season Games on ESPNU

After playing just 9.9 minutes per game during his rookie season as a Viper, Putney has been the league’s breakout player this season, ranking ninth in scoring (20.0 PPG), tied for sixth in rebounding (9.5 PPG) and second in blocks (2.7 BPG).

At a time when the “stretch power forward” may be the NBA’s most coveted position, Putney is a 6-foot-10, athletically gifted 4-man making nearly three three-pointers per game while shooting 39% from deep.

And if NBA teams weren’t already paying attention, he announced his arrival at the NBA D-League Showcase with the top performance of the league’s marquee scouting event: 38 points, 18 rebounds, 14/22 FG, 6/11 3FG.

Now Putney awaits a call from a team with a roster spot open and patience to let him develop. Listed at just 185 pounds, a lack of bulk remains his main shortcoming as a prospect.

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