Last season, the Raptors secured the franchise’s first NBA championship with the help of a plethora of NBA G League alums. As the team looks to defend its title with proper glory, they’re doing so minus Finals MVP turned Clippers star Kawhi Leonard. With that in mind, many of the aforementioned minor league alumni have taken on elevated roles to help Toronto maintain the same kind of quality product on the hardwood.
So far, a trio of familiar faces from the NBA G League have stepped up their games for the Raptors, and there are two more guards from across the league who aren’t far behind, in terms of producing at a high level. Here’s a look at who these athletes are.
Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors (Raptors 905 Alum)
Siakam first flexed his true basketball muscle in 2017, when he emerged as NBA G League Finals MVP and champion. While he did play a complementary role to Leonard last season, the big man still flashed traces of big league stardom at the NBA level in June, even scoring a historic 32 points in Game 1 of the NBA Finals to get Toronto started on the right foot.
With the first few weeks of a new basketball season officially in the rearview mirror, Siakam has used this most recent time to prove there’s certainly more star power where that came from. Assuming a new role as the Raptors’ clear cut headliner, the versatile talent has averaged 30 points and 9.3 rebounds through his last four appearances.
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) October 21, 2019
Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors (Raptors 905 alum)
Much like Siakam, VanVleet has also taken on increased responsibilities. Less than three years removed from serving as Siakam’s running mate in the 2017 NBA G League Finals, the sharpshooting guard has joined his buddy in Toronto’s starting lineup at the next level. An injury to five-time NBA All-Star Kyle Lowry has only intensified the kind of leadership role VanVleet will be tasked with continuing to assume on both ends of the floor going forward. Lucky enough for the Raptors, this floor general has commanded his troops in a steady direction as of late, averaging 19.8 points, 9 assists, and 2.5 steals in his last four games. Such numbers are impressive, but VanVleet’s team certainly appreciates this one even more: his success has resulted in wins during 3 of these contests.
Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors (Raptors 905 and Santa Cruz Warriors alum)
Next up on Toronto’s carousel of NBA G League success stories is Chris Boucher, whose inspiring journey keeps reaching brand new heights. Making the jump from NBA G League MVP and DPOY to NBA champion hasn’t been enough for the continuously hungry big man. The next step up the ladder for Boucher has been carving out a consistent NBA role for himself. His most recent play suggests he’s well on his way. An injury to Serge Ibaka has opened up additional playing time, and Boucher has efficiently averaged 8.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 18.8 minutes in his last four contests.
Kendrick Nunn, Miami Heat (Santa Cruz Warriors alum)
It takes little convincing at this point that Nunn has splashed onto the NBA scene this season unlike anyone else. Seemingly shot right out of a points-exploding cannon, the offensive spark plug made early headlines. His 112 points through his first five NBA games represent the most by an undrafted NBA rookie and the third-most by any player in league history. He’s continued to score with abandon, already tallying five games of 20 points or more this season with the Miami Heat. Currently averaging 17.5 points overall, the first sign of such skill came last season, when the young gun averaged 19.3 points off the bench in Santa Cruz last season.
Devonte’ Graham, Charlotte Hornets (Greensboro Swarm alum)
Kemba Walker’s departure from Charlotte left a door wide open for Graham, who wasted no time swarming through his opening with gusto to start the year. Of course, such a pun is wildly appropriate here. The Greensboro byproduct has so far excelled in Charlotte, averaging 18 points and 7.5 assists mostly off the bench this season. He reached a career-high in points with 35 on November 5 and has three double-doubles in his last four games after appearing 13 times as an NBA assignee with Greensboro last season.