The Toronto Raptors waited far too long to address their lack of size and rebounding, but Masai Ujiri finally capitulated by signing former Baylor star Freddie Gillespie, who spent the earlier parts of the 2020-21 season with the Memphis Grizzlies’ G League affiliate in the Orlando bubble. A double-double machine, Gillespie finally got his shot in the pros.
He’s only played four games, but his 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game on 61% shooting is an impressive tally for someone that is just getting his feet wet in the NBA. The lack of rebounding and post-defense has killed the Raptors this season, and Gillespie is doing everything he can to rectify that.
While he was originally signed for depth, Gillespie has quickly become a part of Toronto’s rotation, and he’s earned high remarks for his drive and hustle. While the Raptors might need to get creative with regards to finding a way to retain him, his performance has crystallized the fact he is everything this team needs in a backup center.
Coming just a few ticks shy of a double-double despite playing some minutes against one of the best defensive centers in the game in Jakob Poeltl and a San Antonio Spurs team that emphasizes interior defense, Gillespie has more than warranted a second 10-day contract or a multi-year, non-guaranteed deal.
Freddie Gillespie deserves another contract with the Toronto Raptors
Per 36 minutes, Gillespie is averaging 11.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals, and 3.1 blocks per game. Toronto is averaging 131 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor, and the defense is allowing 107 points per 100. On both ends, Gillespie is making an immediate impact despite the fact he hasn’t had a ton of practice time.
The Raptors aren’t asking Gillespie to do a ton on either end of the floor. All he needs to do is rebound, set good screens, finish easy shots on the inside and block a few shots. It sounds simple, but Aron Baynes categorically failed to do those tasks, and Gillespie has taken to them instantly.
One potential obstacle towards Gillespie sticking long-term is the presence of another low-post big in Khem Birch. His arrival combined with the fact Toronto will almost assuredly add a center in 2021 does not bode well for him.
Despite that, Gillespie should be back in red and black next season, as his interior presence and hustle could come back to hurt the Raptors if they let him go.
Toronto already has the core of this team locked in for the next few years, should they resign Gary Trent Jr. long-term, so surrounding them with key role players is imperative. Gillespie has proven beyond a shadow of doubt in his short stint with Toronto he is an NBA player, and the Raptors shouldn’t let him slip out of their grasp.