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NBA G League Alumni Propelling Raptors’ Early Success

By Keith Schlosser | November 13, 2018

The Toronto Raptors are 12-2 and have an NBA championship in their sights. The team has come together early and that has resulted in fast success. Eight players gracing Toronto’s roster (and not to mention, head coach Nick Nurse as well) had previous NBA G League experience entering the campaign, meaning every individual began to lay down the groundwork for their contributions to this team’s winning ways before they arrived. The group is flowing, with each individual prepared to make positive contributions in part thanks to their time in the minor league.

In fact, including two-way players Chris Boucher and Jordan Loyd, Toronto has 10 G League alums on its roster, tied for the most in the NBA.

Nurse has quite the resume for an NBA G League coaching alum. He’s the only head coach in NBA G League history to lead two different franchises to championship titles, having spearheaded the efforts of the Iowa Energy in 2010-11 and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers during the 2012-13 season. He was recognized as the NBA G League Coach of the Year in 2011 following his first championship run in Iowa. Given his own history, it makes sense that he has chosen to put his faith in a slew of players who initially put the building blocks for their careers down in the NBA G League.

Even Nurse’s assistant Nate Bjorkgren has strong G League roots, having coached with four different organizations from 2007-15.

Before he emerged as starting power forward in Toronto, Pascal Siakam learned what it meant to be a winner as a G League assignee. In 2017, Siakam led the Raptors 905 to an NBA G League title. He averaged 18 points and 7.9 rebounds in the postseason, and was joined by teammate Fred VanVleet as the squad secured the championship victory. The guard also averaged 16.9 points through sixteen regular season games that year, and has also come up in the clutch as a key contributor for Toronto off the bench. Other players to cut their teeth with the Raptors 905 on assignment include Norman Powell, Delon Wright, and Malachi Richardson.

Toronto has had success in utilizing their NBA G League affiliate as a place where young players can see valuable game action before they prove they can be depended on at the next level. In addition, the organization has kept its eyes peeled for diamonds in the rough to bring up to the Association as well. Lorenzo Brown signed a two-way deal with the Raptors last season, and was well on his way to earning M.V.P. honors before the organization rewarded him with a standard contract towards the end of last season.

Raptors veterans Danny Green and C.J. Miles also boast G League experience, proving that dedicated athletes can carve out niches and find staying power in the NBA.

This team has been on fire out of the gates, and its early efforts have been propelled by the many familiar NBA G League faces. They’ve all had success in the minor league, and now are building something together at the next level.

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