The Raptors benefited from their new NBA Development League affiliate even before they officially introduced the Raptors 905 franchise on Monday.
General manager Masai Ujiri said as much at his post-NBA Draft press conference last Thursday night, explaining that the team could approach the second round differently knowing that it can stash players in the minor league if necessary. And in the Raptors’ case, the minor league will be mere miles from the Air Canada Centre — in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto.
Bobby Wagner, the team’s vice president of basketball management & strategy, said Toronto sent six front office members to this past year’s NBA D-League Showcase in Santa Cruz, Calif. Their scouting operation will only expand from there given the resources that will now be at their disposal.
“Without a D-League team, you go to Summer League looking for guys for training camp that you think can make the team. But now you have an extra eye for D-League guys,” Webster said. “Any scout will tell you that they have lists and lists of players that they would love to take a closer look at. Now we have that opportunity.”
Before the Raptors embark on a new era in their franchise’s history, here’s a rundown of their previous ties to the minor league:
12 GATORADE Call-Ups
The Raptors have called up 12 players* from the NBA Development League in its 14-year history. Most recently they tapped into the talent pool by finding shooting guard Alan Anderson, who went on to average 10.7 points in 2012-13 and sign a free-agent contract with the Nets.
But most notable among those Call-Ups was the 14th Call-Up in league history: former AND1 street ball legend Rafer “Skip 2 My Lou” Alston, who enjoyed two of his best seasons with Toronto after being signed from the Mobile Revelers during the 2002-03 season.
(*Note: Players in the NBA D-League who are not under contract with an NBA team can be called up by any of the 30 teams. In 2014-15, an all-time high 47 players received an all-time high 63 total GATORADE Call-Ups.)
9 Players Assigned
The Raptors have assigned nine different players* to the NBA D-League over the past 10 seasons. Those players have suited up for six different teams (Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Bakersfield Jam, Erie BayHawks, Idaho Stampede, Colorado 14ers and Arkansas RimRockers) as Toronto’s minor-league affiliate changed over those years.
This past season they assigned young Brazil natives Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira to the Mad Ants for seven and four games, respectively.
(*Note: Assigned players are under contract with an NBA team and thus can be recalled by the NBA team that owns their rights at any time. In 2014-15, 56 players were assigned to the NBA D-League an all-time high 195 times.)
James Johnson, Former RGV Viper
Just two seasons ago, Johnson had slipped through the NBA’s cracks, opening 2013-14 with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
Not surprisingly, he filled up the stat sheet (18.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.9 steals and 3.4 blocks) during his 10 games before earning a Call-Up to the Memphis Grizzlies. Now, signed by the Raptors as a free agent last summer, he’s one of the most athletic, high-energy backup forwards in the game, producing highlight after highlight.
Alums Amir Johnson and Louis Williams
After being drafted out of high school, both Johnson and Williams gained seasoning in the NBA D-League during the early stages of their careers.
Johnson averaged 18.2 points and 8.6 rebounds in a combined 40 games over two seasons with the Fayetteville Patriots and Sioux Falls Skyforce. Williams posted 26.0 points and 8.0 assists in three games with the Fort Worth Flyers in December 2006.
Assistant Coach Nick Nurse
Nick Nurse took the long road to an assistant coaching position on Toronto’s bench over the past two seasons. He made 12 different coaching stops in seven different leagues over 15 years, spending the last six in the NBA D-League with the Iowa Energy and Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
In 2012-13, Nurse led the Vipers to a 35-15 record and the NBADL title before being hired by the Raptors.