Back when the Raptors 905 announced that former NBA All-Star Jerry Stackhouse would take the reins as the team’s starting head coach, nobody really knew what to expect. While Stackhouse spent the prior season working under Dwane Casey, former NBA players haven’t had the best success as coaches in the NBADL. Just over the last few years, we’ve seen the likes of Eduardo Najera, Dee Brown and Darvin Ham be unable to succeed during their time on D-League sidelines.
However, the world quickly learned that Stackhouse wasn’t like that trio as he immediately pushed the Raptors 905 into maintaining a league-best 39-11 despite not having an “elite” D-League prospect. The Raptors 905 were able to accomplish that by just thriving on the defensive end as they held opponents to average a league-worst 98.8 points per game.
Although the Raptors 905 didn’t necessarily have a go-to offensive weapon, they made up for it by having a great supporting cast that spread from the starting 5 to the back of the bench. Among that incredible depth, the squad featured a diverse set of players that included: two-way wings (Axel Toupane, EJ Singler and CJ Leslie), a perimeter marksman (Brady Heslip) and a mobile 7’3 center (Edy Tavares).
On the other end of the spectrum, the Canton Charge is set to begin the D-League playoffs as a pretty big underdog. While much of that status is due to them facing the best NBADL squad, they’ll be entering the playoffs without MVP candidate Quinn Cook, who’s currently under a 10-day contract with the Pelicans.
The Charge will look to make up that absence by leaning on the hard-nosed defense of Eric Moreland and Cavs assignee Larry Sanders. Alongside that front-court duo, both John Holland and Kay Felder will look to play a major role from an offensive perspective. Despite the clear challenge that may come with competing against the best defense the D-League, both players have shown an ability to put up 20+ points on a nightly basis.
The Raptors 905 will win if...
The Raptors 905 should be able to make their way past the Charge if they stick with the strategy that allowed them to maintain a 39-11 record. On their best nights, the Raptors 905 defense is just beautiful to watch as you can just watch CJ Leslie or Axel Toupane switch off from between defending point guards to being able to occasionally match up against power forwards or even some centers. While that may seem like a stretch, the 6’7 Leslie matched up against Henry Sims, who stood as one of the finest centers in the D-League.
Of course, the cog of that Raptors defense still remains 7’3 Edy Tavares. As a potential Defensive Player of the Year, Taveres is very mobile for a player his size as he can work his way to the perimeter and hedge on pick-and-rolls. Tavares’ mobility is also seen from how he works as a help side defender as he can close in on a penetrator at a moments notice.
Coinciding with their great defensive effort, the Raptors 905 will also need to depend on the perimeter jumper of Brady Heslip. Aside from possibly Warriors forward Scott Wood, Heslip stands as the best perimeter shooter in the NBA D-League as he shot 48% from beyond the arc in nine perimeter attempts per game.
The Charge will win if...
Honestly, Charge head coach needs to push the Charge to be aggressive and try to push CJ Leslie and Edy Tavares into immediate foul trouble. If they’re able to accomplish that, then the likes of John Holland, Kay Felder and even Cameron Jones can have an opportunity to shine without having to worry about a 7’3 big getting in their grill. As any D-League fan can tell you, each member of that trio can just score at will when they just have total freedom.
If they’re unable to do that, the Charge might have to try to beat the Raptors 905 at their own game? Would that be extremely difficult? Absolutely. However, the Charge does maintain their own crop of solid defensive weapons. From a wing perspective, Jonathan Holmes and Roosevelt Jones has shown an ability to out-hustle the opposition to get some key blocks or steals. Alongside that, the Charge do have potential Defensive Player of the Year Eric Moreland and Larry Sanders, a Cavs assignee that was one of the best defensive player in the NBA just a few years ago.
Although the Raptors 905 will enter this series as the huge favorite, the Canton Charge could create definitely give Jerry Stackhouse some headaches. To accomplish that, the Charge will need to stay aggressive on the offensive end while having their wings and bigs just step up on the offensive end. If they’re able to accomplish those two things, then there’s a chance that they can win this series.