A step away from the NBA

Raptors 905 aims to help young players achieve their pro basketball dreams

Raptors 905 introduce the team and staff on media day. From Left, Dan Tolzman, Jesse Mermuys, Shannon Scott, and Sim Bhullar.
Raptors 905 introduce the team and staff on media day. From Left, Dan Tolzman, Jesse Mermuys, Shannon Scott, and Sim Bhullar. (Mitch McClure/toronto observer)

The Raptors 905 plan on making their first season the year of development, with coaches focusing on player improvement as a key priority.

Like most teams starting from scratch, Raptors 905 hope to win a future championship, but for now the focus is on enhancing skills and creating professional, NBA-ready players.

After a big week for the team, which included the D-League draft, the climax of training camp, media day, and their first pre-season game, head coach Jesse Mermuys knows that the team has a lot of work to do before they think about a deep playoff run.

All of the players just met in training camp, so it will take some time for them to grow into an elite team in the league.

“As a coach, you really want to win in every game,” Mermuys said. “But we are really going to do the best we can as a coaching staff to keep development at the forefront of our mind, game in and game out. So as long as we aren’t sacrificing development of our players and our young players and an organization for wins, we want to try and do both. As long as we are developing our guys, winning comes secondary.”

One possible problem for this team is having prospects that are unprotected. They may have breakout prospects that won’t get the opportunity on the parent team in Toronto if there is no roster room. Another potential issue is hiding their prospects from other teams. Any NBA team could sign 905 players to contracts, which is a tricky situation for the farm teams’ GM, Dan Tolzman.

NBA FACTS

— 30% of current NBA players have D-League experience

— Six players on the Toronto Raptors have played in the D-League at some point in their careers; Demarre Carroll, Patrick Patterson, Cory Joseph, Bruno Caboclo, Lucas Nogueira, and James Johnson.

Source: NBA.com

“As much as we can develop our guys to prepare them for eventually being rotation players for the Raptors, and hopefully assisting in playoff success and whatever else, that’s the ultimate goal,” Tolzman said.

“It’s tough though, because the more we develop these young guys on our team in the D-League right now, other NBA teams can call them up so it is a balance. You kind of want to protect some of those guys or hide them because they are our prospect and we are intrigued by them or whatever, but at the same time, we have to do everyone justice and our goal is to create NBA players.”

Most of these players had other, more lucrative options that they could’ve taken this season, but playing in the D-League is intriguing in its own way. Player contracts range from $13,000 to $26,000 and include room and board, along with a few other bonuses. The salary isn’t what’s exciting about the league, but the opportunity to be helped by coaches that have NBA experience, while being right there and ready to go if they get called up holds great appeal.

“You’re a step away from the NBA,” Mermuys said.

“You’re a direct flight away to an NBA city, to where you can suit up that night, get a call up and you play well in that call up and you might stay for the rest of the season. It’s very attractive and the competition here in the D-League is really impressive. It’s actually undervalued or under respected and you’re seeing all these franchises buying more teams and the league is expanding and growing so it’s starting to garner the respect it actually deserves.”