Jerry Stackhouse and the Raptors 905 became D-League champions on Thursday night with a 122-96 blowout victory over the RGV Vipers to win the final game of the best-of-three series.
That title-clinching victory was led by two Raptors assignees, Bruno Caboclo and Fred Van Vleet, who both made huge impacts on both ends of the court. On Thursday night, Caboclo posted a career-high 31 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks on 13-19 from the field and 5-7 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Van Vleet had 28 points and 14 assists on 10-17 from the field, 2-3 from beyond the arc and 6-6 from the free throw line.
Among those two players, Caboclo shined brightest as he stood as a dominating force throughout the game. Of course, his biggest impact came on the offensive end as he shined from the opening tip-off to the final buzzer. Versatility was Caboclo’s middle name as he just slowly tore into the Vipers soul by hitting a slew of perimeter jumpers or driving to the rim for emphatic slams like this.
While the Raptors probably didn’t draft Caboclo in 2014 to help them win D-League titles, this game was a shining example of why the team took a chance on a player that was “two years away from being two years away”. It was so impressive to watch Caboclo be able to sense the moment that he was in and take control in so many different ways. Although his future with the big league squad might still be in question, it was still impressive to see Caboclo be able to control of a game just two years after being a DNP with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
On the other hand, Van Vleet stood as that squad’s veteran presence. Throughout the game, he did an amazing job of controlling the pace of 905’s offense as their main facilitator. Within that role, Van Vleet shined as he was repeatedly able to throw precise passes whether he’s working in transition, on the perimeter or in drive-and-dish situations.
Of course, it’s always impressive when a guard puts fourteen assists in a championship game, whether it’s college, D-League or NBA. That achievement becomes even more impressive when you realize that Van Vleet was working with a depleted 905 roster, that lost both Axel Toupane and Edy Tavares during the NBADL playoffs.
Although both Van Vleet and Caboclo were spectacular in their series-clinching win, Pascal Siakam ended the night as D-League Finals MVP. Siakam is definitely deserving of that award as he stood as the team’s most consistent player during that three-game series.
During the three D-League Finals games, Siakam averaged 23 points, 9 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks per game on 56% from the field. As we mentioned in our game 2 recap, Siakam does a fantastic job of dominating in a variety of different ways from post-ups, mid-range jumpers and driving towards the paint.
While the 905’s on-court performance was undoubtedly the most entertaining part of the night, the biggest takeaway is the performance of head coach Jerry Stackhouse. As we’ve said countless times during the season, Stackhouse has done a phenomenal job of creating a great system reliant on ball movement and hard-nosed defense where every player on the court just works together as one cohesive unit.
After winning that D-League title, what’s next for Jerry Stackhouse? Ideally, we’d see him make the transition into becoming a head coach for a random NBA squad. While he’s deserving of that role, we’ve never seen a coach go from the D-League to being an NBA head coach in only one season. Although that possibility may not seem likely for most coaches, we definitely haven’t seen a coach in the NBA D-League like Jerry Stackhouse.
No matter what’s in the future for Stackhouse, Caboclo, Van Vleet, Siakam and the rest of this 905 squad, there’s no doubt that they’ll go down as one of the finest teams that the D-League has seen. Within the seventeen-year history of the NBADL, we really haven’t seen a squad that can dominate no matter which players are in their rotation for that given game. Will we see teams that are more entertaining or have better all-around talent? Sure. But there might not ever be a squad that’s unique as the 2016-17 Raptors 905.