In the past couple of days, there has been a lot of action in the Front Office of the Toronto Raptors organization, and many fans are happy to hear that the Raptors have re-signed both Yuta Watanabe and Freddie Gillespie.
It is official . . . the Toronto Raptors have finally re-signed Yuta Watanabe to an NBA contract. Previously, Yuta was on a two-way deal, playing for the Raptors 905 when the G-League season was in full throttle, while at the same time, being called up to play for the Toronto Raptors fairly often. As of now, there are no official details that have been released by the Toronto Raptors regarding Yuta’s contract. But, Blake Murphy of The Athletic reported that it is a minimum deal for the remainder of this NBA season (2020-21), and a fully non-guaranteed minimum deal for the 2021-22 NBA season. It is also important to note that his deal for next season will be fully guaranteed if he makes the team out of training camp.
This new contract is great news for both the Toronto Raptors and Yuta Watanabe, and frankly, this standard NBA contract for Yuta is very well-deserved. Over the last three games, when the Toronto Raptors have rested a bunch of their star players including Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Kyle Lowry, Yuta has stepped up big-time and is one of the reasons why the Toronto Raptors are currently on a three-game winning streak. Over his last three games, Yuta is averaging 14.0 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game, and 2.3 assists per game, all while shooting an impressive 61% from the field, and 55% from three. It is almost like Yuta has truly found confidence in himself and his shot. Throughout the season, Nick Nurse has commented on Yuta’s lack of aggressiveness, but it seems that as of late, Yuta has proved him wrong. Along with his recent assertiveness on the offensive end, Yuta has also cemented himself as a stellar defender, and on many occasions throughout the season so far, he has been tasked with defending the best wing player on the opposing team. Yuta is even blocking 3.1% of shots when he is on the floor, which is the best block percentage in the league among forwards. This stat shouldn’t be all that surprising given Yuta’s six-foot-nine frame and seven-foot wingspan, along with the energy and effort that he exerts and displays on the defensive side of the ball.
Throughout the last three games, Yuta has capitalized upon his additional minutes on the court, and he has shown that he belongs in the NBA. Yuta is a great fit with this current Toronto Raptors squad, and it seems that he is the spark-plug off the bench that the Raptors have been desperately needing all season. In a way, he reminds me of a more defensive-minded Toni Kukoc, but another great player comparison could be his teammate, Rodney Hood. In the words of Yuta Watanabe himself, “this is just the beginning” . . . and going forward, Yuta can be a massive part of the Toronto Raptors organization.
The Raptors have also re-signed Freddie Gillespie to another 10-day contract. Freddie didn’t have very high expectations coming in on his first 10-day contract, but so far, he has been extremely impressive.
Since joining the Toronto Raptors, through six games, the six-foot-nine forward has been averaging 6.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, while shooting 68% from the field and only playing 16.5 minutes per game. It is safe to say that he is easily outperforming the likes of Aaron Baynes, who has found himself racking up DNP’s on a nightly basis as of late. Throughout his games with the Raptors so far, Gillespie has been doing all of the right things on the court, and that is what he was brought in to do. His main priorities are rebounding and defending the paint, but when given the opportunity, he has shown that he can finish with great efficiency around the rim on the offensive end. Freddie reminds me of a more athletic, mobile, and versatile version of Andre Drummond, who is someone the Raptors were heavily linked to at one point during the trade deadline. Freddie is a great, young big man with tons of potential on the defensive end, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is signed to a longer-term deal after his current 10-day contract. Given the track record of the Toronto Raptors in terms of developing young players, Freddie Gillespie could very well become a solid starting big man in the NBA sooner rather than later.
The re-signing of both Yuta Watanabe and Freddie Gillespie was a great decision that was made by the Front Office of the Toronto Raptors organization. Both players are here to stay, and hopefully one day, they will be able to experience what it is like to play in Toronto, in front of the hometown fans.