It’s NBA draft season and teams throughout the league have turned their attention to the college and international ranks to find the top prospects they can add to their roster in November.
For the Toronto Raptors, that has meant scheduling pre-draft interviews with Maryland’s Jalen Smith, Arizona’s Zeke Nnaji, Stanford’s Tyrell Terry, Arkansas’ Isaiah Joe, TCU’s Desmond Bane, and an upcoming one with Kansas’ Devon Dotson. But maybe the most exciting unknown prospect for the Raptors is one already in their system, 25-year-old G-League standout Paul Watson Jr.
The 6-foot-6, 210-pound Watson signed a two-way deal with the Raptors in January and immediately began making a name for himself in the G-League. He started 30 games for the Raptors 905, averaging 19 points on 49% shooting from the floor and 42% from 3-point range, with 6.6 rebounds a game.
Once the pandemic hit the NBA in March and the G-League shut down, the Raptors brought Watson to the NBA Bubble in Orlando where he played in five games, including a 22-point performance in Toronto’s final seeding game against the Denver Nuggets.
After the game he earned praise from Raptors coach Nick Nurse.
“He’s pretty good. He can play,” Nurse said on August 14. “Talking about comprehending our defensive schemes, he’s done great; really good passer; worked on some of the mechanics of his shooting and he’s just eaten that all up and put in the extra work on that and it showed up here. He vaulted up and made shots. He’s got good size.
“He can play. He’s gonna be part of our future from what I can see so far.”
That performance caught the eye of NBA analyst Nate Duncan who said Watson could be a breakout player for Toronto, fitting the mold of Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn who seemingly came out of nowhere for the Miami Heat this season.
“One of the guys I really like a lot is Paul Watson out of Toronto,” Duncan said on the Locked On Hollinger & Duncan NBA Show. “He’s got a lot of athleticism, he can get up for some alley-oops, some hard drives, hit some 3s, I think he was in the high 30s from 3, and [I was] just really impressed by him. He’s actually on a two year two-way but you’d think they would bring him up next year and they’re always looking for more wings off the bench as well. I really liked him a lot, I’m sure you saw him in college, I was asking how is a guy who is this athletic, who can shoot, like not even get drafted.”
Watson has spent time this summer working out in Arizona and when the 2020-21 NBA season tips off he’ll certainly be a player to keep an eye on.