Box Score: Canton – 105, Raptors 905 – 107

The Raptors 905 season is over, and it was a glorious success. They finished 23-27 in their inaugural season after beating Canton at home, 107-105. They finished four games out of a playoff spot, which hardly matters since they delivered the promise on which they were founded on: providing playing time for the youth that aren’t developed enough for the big club, but someday could be.

Bruno Caboclo had scored 58 points in his last two games, and started this one ice cold and visibly frustrated. His three wasn’t dropping which made his head drop, but the Raptors more than made up for it through the play of the always reliable Scott Suggs (30 points, 10-19 FG) and E.J Singler (20 points, 13 rebounds).

Suggs could be the story of the season because all season long he’s been the Raptors most effective wing scorer, has looked the smoothest and most comfortable on and off the ball, and possesses a professional jumper that you’d think could yield results at a higher level. Unfortunately for him, he’s 26 and can’t be considered part of the youth movement for any NBA club, and isn’t a proven enough scorer for a team to bring him on to supply a dose of offense. The difference between him and Axel Toupane making the league is likely that the latter is three years younger, and plays better defense. Not sure what’s going to happen to Suggs next season, but I hope he gets a glimpse in some training camp and does well.

Back to Bruno, though, as he remains the key person of interest from a Raptors angle. He doesn’t stand out as much on the court anymore, which is good. Early in the year you could easily spot him because all you had to do was look for the most awkward and confused guy on the court, and you’d spot Bruno. He was usually found watching the play on defense, and having his own teammates run into him on offense because he simply didn’t know when and where to move. As the year has progressed, his upper body got visibly stronger, and he doesn’t look like the wacky inflatable arm-waving thing anymore. His defensive positioning and timing has increased tenfold, and tonight you saw him get two impressive blocks on the same play (he had a season-high six in total to go along with a line of 11 pts, 9 rebounds, on 5-15 FG):

Him primarily being a three-point shooter (33.5% for the season with 53% of his shots coming from there) shouldn’t fool you into thinking that he’s hesitant to drive. He’s become adept at absorbing contact on drives, and doesn’t shy away from attacking the rim when a chance presents itself. This is in big part due to his improved strength, and we saw a glimpse of that on the drive-and-dunk which was part of the sequence which finished off this game – I love how he took out his shooting frustration of the night on the rim, which surprisingly didn’t result in a technical.

Other notables tonight included Davion Berry (23 points, 9-14 FG) and E.J Singler, who was used as a replacement for the lumbering Sim Bhullar when the Raptors were forced to go small against the Canton lineup that looked to exploit the immobility of the giant on every turn. Jesse Mermuys probably left Bhullar in the game too long in the third before resorting to the lineup that had worked so well in the first half. Singler worked better because he was able to track back on defense, hit some outside shots, and ran the break which Canton didn’t even have to bother defending with Bhullar in the game.

There’s obviously great synergy between the 905 and the big club, and the constant recalls and assignments speak to how seriously the Raptors take the 905. This team has been a great idea, and just the fact that we’ve been able to casually enjoy Bruno Caboclo, Delon Wright, Lucas Nogueira, Norman Powell, and even Anthony Bennett (maybe not enjoy, but evaluate) this season is a luxury. If they were part of the big club, we’d probably hear moaning and groaning on how these guys need to be given a chance at the NBA level, but having the 905 eliminates that noise altogether.

It’s been a successful first season for the club, and it’s just unfortunate that Blake isn’t around to cover their final game, because he’s led the RR team in our Raptors 905 coverage this season, which has been second to none.