Energetic wing has impressed coaches and teammates with his defense and hustle.
There’s nothing like starting off a Monday morning with good news, is there? And it is in fact great news this Monday, especially for Yuta Watanabe.
The Toronto Raptors announced early this morning that they had officially signed the forward to a standard NBA contract. Watanabe is the first Raptors player on a two-way contract to have his deal converted to a standard NBA deal this season.
We don’t yet know how much the deal is for or how long it is, but we expect it’s similar to the deal Paul Watson Jr. signed last season: guaranteed for the remainder of this season, with a partial guarantee for next season.
Watanabe has emerged as a key contributor for the struggling Raptors this season, especially lately as the team has been shorthanded, making this deal a very well-deserved one indeed. He scored a career-high 21 points just the other day against the Orlando Magic, and is averaging 8.7 points and 4.2 rebounds, on 60/46/77 shooting splits, over his past 10 games.
Where he’s most impressed, though, has been on the defensive end; his footwork allows to stay with most faster small forwards and he’s not afraid to bang with bigger bodies. He’s constantly in motion, and is one of the few Raptors this season who’s been able to effectively recover and close out on open shooters.
In other words, he’s kind of a perfect fit for Nick Nurse’s system.
On the season, Watanabe is averaging four points and 3.3 boards per game. He had previously signed two-way contracts the past two seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies.
He’ll have the opportunity to show more as the Raptors wind down their 2020-21 season in “showcase the young guys” mode, and that will hopefully earn him even more minutes next season.