Josh Lewenberg: Banton making case for role in Raptors’ early-season rotation

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TORONTO – Dalano Banton entered coaching camp as one in all seven Raptors avid gamers on a partly assured contract, combating for his spot at the crew, however he may pop out of it as probably the most eight-to-10 guys in Nick Nurse’s early-season circle of consider.

From the primary day of camp, when Nurse credited him as the finest participant at the flooring, the second-year guard and Rexdale, Ont., local has been a preseason standout for Toronto.

“I think the big thing is he just looks so comfortable out there,” Nurse stated of Banton, who had any other giant evening in Sunday’s 115-98 loss to Chicago, recording 11 issues, 5 rebounds and two assists in 17 high-energy mins off the bench.

The preseason has been a combined bag for the Raptors, who fell to 2-2 in exhibition. Their offensive struggles persisted into the weekend, as they shot simply 35 according to cent in opposition to the Bulls, together with 8-for-37 from lengthy vary. Admittedly, Fred VanVleet, who hit simply 3 of his 12 three-point makes an attempt, is operating his long ago into sport form, and the similar might be stated for some of the crew’s different common rotation avid gamers.

“Nothing,” VanVleet stated, relatively tongue in cheek, when requested what he’s preferred up to now. “It’s preseason.”

But for those who’re taking a look for shiny spots glance no additional than Banton. In 4 video games, the 22-year-old sophomore is averaging 10.5 issues on an effective 62 according to cent. And, by means of all accounts, he’s been each and every bit as spectacular in the back of closed doorways – right through apply and in crew scrimmages.

When he’s at his ideally suited, Banton comes into the sport and makes use of his elite mixture of period and velocity to push the pace and make an instantaneous have an effect on on each ends of the ground. With his bodily gear and ability set, he exams off numerous bins for the ever-versatile and position-less Raptors. It’s probably the most causes he was once in a position to overcome out the smaller Malachi Flynn for the backup level guard gig out of camp a 12 months in the past.

Now, due to his sturdy play and accidents to a few veterans at the roster, he’s making a push to earn common rotation mins as soon as this season guidelines off on Oct. 19.

“He’s playing at the tempo he wants to play at and I think he’s doing a little bit of everything, not only at the offensive end,” Nurse stated. “I think he’s playing in transition, he’s running the team pretty [well], and he’s executing the sets. But he’s really been good at the defensive end. He’s really noticeable, getting his hands on the basketball and poking it away or reaching in from the weak side or stripping one away. He’s done a good job using that length.”

“He just seems to be more comfortable with the reads, with the speed of the game,” stated VanVleet. “Obviously it’s going to be hard for a 6-foot-9 point guard not to have success in the NBA just with the size and the lanes that are available to him, being able to finish around the rim. He’s getting more comfortable with the jump shot, so it looks like a guy who has taken that step and feels like a guy that is ready to crack the rotation.”

With so little turnover at the roster – the Raptors have a league-most 13 avid gamers coming back from final season – Nurse got here into camp with a horny excellent thought of what his rotation may just seem like. When wholesome, final 12 months’s starters – VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, O.G. Anunoby and Pascal Siakam – appear more likely to open video games, with Precious Achiuwa, Chris Boucher, Thaddeus Young and Otto Porter Jr. making up the second one unit.

Banton and Flynn are the one different level guards at the roster as soon as once more, however Nurse has proven he is greater than relaxed the usage of Siakam or Barnes as the main ball handler when VanVleet rests. It seems that the plan was once to make use of a nine-man rotation with no conventional backup level guard. But plans exchange.

Porter, the crew’s greatest addition over the summer time, has neglected all of preseason with a hamstring factor he sustained in probably the most crew’s first practices. After taking a troublesome fall overdue in Friday’s loss to Houston, Boucher neglected Sunday’s contest, additionally with a hamstring pressure. Neither damage is thought to be “super serious,” in step with Nurse, however they’re anticipated to be out for a “little while.” With the opener simply 10 days away, there’s a cheap probability the Raptors will start the season with out one or either one of them. Flynn, who has been out after present process surgical operation on a fractured cheekbone final week, will have to be able to head by means of then however should play catchup as soon as he is cleared to go back, and put on a protecting face protect.

It’s a protracted season and, even in the best-case situation, this gained’t be the final set of accidents that they face. After spending maximum of final season looking for dependable manufacturing off the bench, Nurse is aware of that he’ll want greater than 9 guys he can consider.

Enter Banton, who has taken good thing about the chance in entrance of him.

“My confidence is there,” he stated following Sunday’s sport. “I feel like with these guys looking for me in my spots, helping me play to my strengths, trusting me and being there for me as a young guy, it’s been great for me and my development.”

That self assurance has carried over from a powerful and really busy summer time. Banton was once in Las Vegas for Summer League in July prior to becoming a member of his Raptors teammates at Rico Hines’ UCLA runs in Los Angeles. He additionally made his nationwide crew debut, main Canada to a fourth-place end on the FIBA AmeriCup in Brazil.

With this system prioritizing the World Cup qualifiers, happening in Victoria at more or less the similar time, Banton was once the lone NBA participant that represented Canada in Brazil. Given the expanded workload he would elevate there, and that he’d be taking part in for Nathaniel Mitchell – an assistant trainer with the Raptors – Nurse idea it will be a superb opportunity for the younger guard to get some much-needed reps operating an offence. Banton didn’t want a lot convincing.

“When we first talked about it I was all for it,” stated Banton, who averaged 15.7 issues, 5.2 rebounds and four.2 assists in six video games right through the event. “I’ve all the time sought after to play for Team Canada, it wasn’t even a query. So it was once very thankful for the chance.

“I feel like it helped me a lot. It’s going to help me in the long run and it’s helping me now. Just playing against different competition over there, guys are a lot more aggressive on defence – getting away with a lot more fouling and stuff – it definitely opens up the floor for you when you play [in the NBA].”

Having spent his rookie season going from side to side between the G League and NBA membership, Banton has performed numerous basketball since Toronto decided on him with the Forty sixth-overall select in the 2021 draft. At one level final November, he performed 4 video games in 4 days. But all the ones video games, all of the ones mins and reps, they’re paying dividends for him now.

“I’m young and I’m loving it, man,” he stated. “Whenever I get the opportunity to play in a live game, I’m all for it. I’m just continuing to try and build to have a long career in the NBA.”

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