Lost in the midst of an exceptionally hectic offseason, the Toronto Raptors signed Alfonzo McKinnie to a budget, multi-year deal. The transaction got little attention and was largely swept under the rug. Alfonzo was, and still is, a largely unknown commodity. This could easily change, however, in the coming months.
At age 25, McKinnie is just now making his entrance into the NBA, definitely not for a lack of trying though.
Coming out of college, McKinnie went undrafted and bounced around the international scene. He played in leagues all the way from Luxembourg to Mexico, quietly decimating the competition wherever he went. According to Austin Cracraft, McKinnie averaged 26 points per game during his stint with the East Side Pirates in Luxembourg.
Despite his play internationally, McKinnie struggled to find a way back to basketball in North America. He was never recruited and had to work diligently for every opportunity he got. In fact, according to Dave Zarum, McKinnie actually paid to attend an open tryout for the Windy City Bulls of the G-League. He went on to make the team, of course, quickly becoming one of the best players in the league, averaging about 15 points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes per game.
His play drew the attention of Toronto's front-office, who were likely attracted by his frame, athleticism, and propensity for crashing the glass. At six foot eight and about 215 pounds, McKinnie has excellent size for a swingman. His game isn't super polished yet; however, he's been able to get by playing a hard-nosed brand of basketball and outworking his opponents.
Now, in the midst of preseason action, McKinnie is making a strong case for a permanent spot on Toronto's roster, his play also garnering plenty of well-deserved attention from the Raptors faithful.
Playing against the Portland Trailblazers last Thursday, McKinnie scored 13 points, grabbed eight rebounds and nabbed four steals. He also shot 60 percent from beyond the arc, which is significant because his shooting has been noted as an area that needs improvement.
The play above exemplifies McKinnie's style. When everyone else had given up on the play, McKinnie used his size and quickness to steal back the ball and get a quick basket. If McKinnie continues to convert plays like the one above, plus shows an improved jump shot, he should be able to get regular minutes at the small forward spot, beating out guys like Bruno Caboclo and KJ McDaniels.
Per Louis Zatzman, Toronto's brass see McKinnie as a '3-and-D' guy in the making. While McKinnie should be able to get by in the league by simply working hard, he'll have to show that he's a legitimate threat to knock down threes on a nightly basis if he wants to be truly impactful for the Raptors.
McKinnie, unfortunately, didn't get much run in Toronto's most recent game against the Detroit Pistons, stepping onto the court for less than two minutes total.
His next opportunity should come on October 13th against the Chicago Bulls, and this one could be the game that makes or breaks McKinnie. If he maintains his stellar play, which seems likely, he might be turned to as a permanent solution to Toronto's current wing depth situation. If McKinnie doesn't step up, however, he might end up back in the G-League. Hopefully, McKinnie plays well and earns the recognition which he's been working so hard to attain.