In part one of this current series breaking down Raptors 905’s success, I utilized both base and advanced statistics to showcase the reasons as to why they were able to capture a 12-3 record and stake their claim as the best offense in G League history. During that analysis, it became clear that their excellence came through moving the ball and creating open looks around the perimeter and dominating the paint. That claim is backed up by how the team led the G League in assists (27.1 per 100) and 3-point percentage (37.6%) while having their 53.7 points per 100 possessions placed them 3rd in the G League behind the OKC Blue and Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
While those statistics can give you some baseline reasons as to why the Raptors 905 have had their success, it takes actually looking at the film to get a full understanding of their brilliance on the offensive end. Once your eyes start to get transfixed on how the Patrick Mutombo-coached team plays, it’s clear that they do a great job of working as a cohesive collective despite only being around each other for less than two months. A lot of their movements, both and off-ball, along with their ability to quickly move the ball around and be able to get it to an open man has been a sight to see.
That ball movement comes from how the 905’s roster construction made it so that all of the players on the court are plus passers for their position. A statistical example that points to that six players that are currently on their roster are averaging 2 or more assists, with the top facilitator, Matt Mooney, who is averaging 5.7 assists per game. The collective distributing skill is seen when you watch them play as basically every player that is within the 905 team can make swift passes whether that’s to push the ball around the perimeter to an open corner shooter or a teammate cutting to the rim.
A great visual example of the team’s tremendous ability to work as a cohesive unit with a slew of high-quality passers is seen in the clip below. Starting out with Matt Morgan driving and kicking it out to Tres Tinkle to Kevon Harris making a slick feed while on the move, that ten seconds is a great showcase of everything that I’ve described.
Along with it exhibiting how their multiple passers is able to keep defenses on their toes and confused about where everyone is on the court, it also shows that all of the players able quickly able to get in their position on the court as Morgan moving to the corner gave the restricted area freedom for Harris and Donta Hall to end the play with that beautiful connection.
While on the topic of gorgeous hookups that the 905 have created, this play is an example of great ball movement and off-ball play. The play starts out with off-ball movement which eventually leads to two men on each corner (Alize Johnson and Kevon Harris), Jarron Cumberland on the right wing, and Tres Tinkle with the ball on the top of the key with Gary Payton Jr right by him above the break. That positioning only lasts a split second or two as Payton Jr receives an over the head pass from Tinkle as he’s cutting to the paint.The ball only remains in the veteran guard’s hands for a split second as he makes a quick pass to the cutting Kevon Harris, who finishes at the rim.
Although the 905 have been able to make beautiful things happen when they’re working as a five-man unit, it isn’t the only way they have been able to shine offensively. For one, the team has had consistent success with working side pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop actions when the 905 have five-out sets.
While a lot of those sets end with a knockdown threat like Nik Stauskas or Matt Mooney hitting a perimeter jumper. However, the threat of Henry Ellenson and Alize Johnson, who are both good shooters, can create some unique actions like what you see below where a 6’2 guard in Matt Morgan is the one setting the screen while handing it off to a 6’10 sharpshooter like Ellenson.
From the jump, the sets and gameplans that Mutombo has implemented has helped push the 905 to maintain the best offense in G League history. However, a lot of the credit goes to the players themselves as the 905 honestly have three players (Alize Johnson, Nik Stauskas, and Henry Ellenson) that are logical picks for MVP.
Johnson is the favorite of that trio has stood as arguably the most dynamic player in the entire G League. If you want statistics to back that up, you have that as the forward averaged 16.6 points, 13.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.3 steals per game on 57% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc on 1.6 attempts per game. Although those numbers are great in their own right, watching him play is a lot more impressive. Throughout the course of a single game, you can watch Johnson help the 905 out in so many different ways.
The most glaring example of his unique skill set with how he’s able to combine elite defensive rebounding with being able to push the ball up the court in transition. Although he’s able to push the ball up the floor from rim to rim, the best use of his skill comes from how this ability opens up the team’s offense. With a non-guard moving it up the floor, Johnson has numerous players that he can push the ball to once he crosses half-court. Even if he doesn’t make the assist, the unique positioning combined with the 905’s ball movement helps push the team to be as great as they are from three.
Along with helping orchestrate the offense, the forward has been a dynamic scorer in his own right through the work that he can do with the ball in his hands. Working on the perimeter, he’s established himself as someone that can make strong drives to the rim through his ability to use nice burst to get around his man or utilize a strong spin move. In addition to that, he can make strong cuts to the rim and be a beneficiary of the 905’s ball movement or attack the rim to snag offensive rebounds.
While Johnson is a threat closer to the rim, Stauskas and Ellenson’s elite status starts with their work away from the paint. For Stauskas, the veteran guard has stood as one of the best off-the-dribble threats in the league through shooting 42% on 36 attempts, which helped place him in the 83rd percentile, according to Synergy Sports. The pressure that defenses have to place on him when working on the perimeter opens up the veteran in different ways, as he does a great job of working as a facilitator in pick-and-rolls or using a quick first step to burst to the rim when he gets closed out. Those keys have allowed him to average 18.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and a steal on 42% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc on 8.7 attempts per game.
While Stauskas has been a great off-the-dribble perimeter threat, Ellenson stands as one of the finest catch-and-shoot threats in the G League, as he shot 47% on 98 total catch-and-shoot attempts, according to Synergy Sports. In addition to that great knack as a perimeter shooter, the 6’10 forward has shown a knack of working on the move to either score around the rim, work the ball off to cutters, or snag offensive rebounds. Those abilities have allowed him to average 21.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists on 49% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc on 8.3 attempts per game.
The mix of Mutombo’s ability to have his teams execute brilliantly, the performance of the three aforementioned players, combined with the work that role players like Matt Mooney, Matt Morgan, Gary Payton II, and Tres Tinkle have all put in on both ends have allowed the 905 to be only one win away from reaching the G League Finals for the first time since 2018. Whether or not the team reaches that destination and surpasses it to become G League champions, head coach Patrick Mutombo has used this season to stake his claim as a man that you should be in the conversation for a head coaching job in years to come.