NBA world taking notice of Raptors' development system

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Yahoo Sports Canada
Siakam, left, and Anunoby are two of the Raptors' most important young players. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Siakam, left, and Anunoby are two of the Raptors' most important young players. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Kawhi Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA championship last month, but it was only possible because of the strong supporting cast assembled around the superstar.

Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Danny Green are all established veterans, but the Raptors don’t lift the Larry OB without contributions from homegrown talent like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Norman Powell.

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Toronto’s staff has done a great job seasoning these young players at both the G League and NBA level, and the work the franchise is doing isn’t going unnoticed.

“I talked to a lot of NBA guys, the young guys in the league and some veterans, and they said the Toronto Raptors have the best player development in the league,” Raptors second-round pick Dewan Hernandez recently told reporters at Las Vegas Summer League. “I’m very excited to be in the hands of the Toronto Raptors.”

The Raptors will be hoping they can catch lightning in a bottle once again with Hernandez, who was starting to garner attention at the University of Miami during his sophomore year before being declared ineligible for his junior campaign over alleged recruiting violations. The big man has good size and athleticism, but lacks the polish needed to be a contributor on an NBA playoff team, which is something he can hone with Raptors 905.

Another player who figures to see time in the G League in 2019-20 is undrafted guard Terence Davis, who the Raptors liked enough to sign to a two-year contract. VanVleet, who was also passed over in the draft before landing with the Raptors, is the template Davis can follow in his journey to reach the NBA. Davis eventually cracking the rotation is by no means a lock, but with the tools the Raptors have in place to help these types of players, it’s not a farfetched idea, either.

Finally, the Raptors will be looking for continued growth from OG Anunoby, who will aim to put a tumultuous 2018-19 season behind him. The 2017 first-round pick faced hurdles in his personal life last season and also battled through injuries, including undergoing an emergency appendectomy in April that sidelined him throughout the playoffs. With Leonard out of the equation, the Raptors will need Anunoby to take a step forward with his increased opportunity.

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