Since Jerry Stackhouse first stepped foot onto the sidelines of the Paramount Fine Foods Centre in the fall of 2016 looking as dapper as can be, the Raptors 905 have consistently been able to be arguably the finest organization in the G League. Stackhouse was the one that helped establish that reputation simply through the small task of pushing the team to back-to-back D/G League Finals appearances during his first two seasons as the head coach with winning the title in the 2016-17 campaign. Along with that success, current key Raptors stars Pascal Siakam and Fred Van Vleet both developed their games with the 905 during Stackhouse’s run with the team.
Following Stackhouse’s move to be an assistant for the Memphis Grizzlies for the 2018-19 campaign, Toronto looked within for his replacement by adding Raptors assistant Jama Mahlalela to lead its little brother. In terms of both success and player development, they didn’t didn’t lose much of a step. While the team didn’t make it to the G League finals, solid on-court success persisted as Mahlalela finished over .500 in both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. Along with that, stud Toronto forward Chris Boucher arguably had the best individual season in G League history under Mahlalela as he averaged 27.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.2 steals, and 4.1 blocks per game on 51% from the field.
After the last four years of the 905’s success, it was clear that Patrick Mutombo had huge expectations when he took the reins as the team’s head coach on December 4th, 2020. However, it’s now clear that the Mutombo-led team has not only reached the expectations but has significantly surpassed them. After a 122-100 victory over the Lakeland Magic on Saturday morning, the Raptors 905 finished the regular season with a 12-3 record, which is good enough to clinch the 1st seed for the playoffs. That great season was capped with a massive eight game winning streak, which pushed them from being below .500 to holding the best winning percentage in franchise history.
Unlike in the Stackhouse and Mahlalela years where defense anchored their success, the current version of the 905 have succeeded through their play on the offensive end. Prior to the win over Lakeland, the 905 were averaging 118.3 points per 100 possessions. Not only is that average good enough to lead the league, it allows the 905 to be the best offense in G League history, dating back to the 2007-08 season.
Compared to the 2014-15 Reno Bighorns, who were the previous record-holders, the 905 have excelled more with ball movement and creating high percentage shots than pushing the ball up the court at all times like the Arsenault-led teams from years gone bye. My claim is backed up by data as the 905 lead the league in assists (27.1 per 100) and 3-point percentage (37.6%). That combination ultimately is a factor behind them maintaining a league-best 56.4% effective Field Goal Percentage, a statistic that adjusts the regular field goal percentage to compensate for the extra value of 3-pointers.
Along with perimeter jumpers, which were obviously a massive part of their offensive success during the regular season, the 905 also dominated inside the paint. For the season, the 905 averaged 53.7 points in the paint per 100 possessions, which placed them 3rd in the G League behind the OKC Blue and Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Sticking with that great work in the paint, the team also were 4th in the G League in 2nd chance points.
Their elite status in both of those areas is largely due to the presence of possible G League MVP Alize Johnson. While the third-year forward impresses with his versatility, he has been able to dominate within the restricted area. That’s shown by Johnson finishing in the top-20 in points in the paint. In addition to that, his 3.1 offensive boards per game created a lot of 2nd chance opportunities for the 905, both with Johnson’s ability to score around the rim and his unselfishness that allows him to push the ball out to one of his teammates.
Although the 905 haven’t been the best defense in the league, as their defensive rating of 109.5 places them 14th out of the 18 teams in the G League bubble, their play on this end is still good enough to not really hurt in the grand scheme of things. Also, you can argue that the way that Mutombo has pushed the team to approach the defensive end helps them out on the other end of the floor. The most glaring example of that has been their ability to use perimeter pressure to force turnovers, as their 17.6 opponent turnover percentage is 4th in the G League.