As of late, Toronto Raptors rookie point guard Malachi Flynn has come into a much larger role due to injuries sustained by veterans Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet.
The 22-year-old is beginning to come into his own as a pro.
In six games (two starts) since assuming this larger role, Flynn has posted averages of 13.0 points, 6.0 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals while shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from deep in over 33 minutes per game.
During this span, it's been a common occurrence to see either Lowry or VanVleet - or both - in Flynn's ear during essentially any break in the action, imparting their savvy veteran wisdom upon their protegé. Based on the recent numbers, the tutelage is paying off.
'Thick like blood, where's my dogs- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 12, 2021
Uh, there's my dogs' pic.twitter.com/GL8BMzFlTg
While VanVleet remains sidelined with a hip injury, Lowry returned to the lineup on Sunday, sharing the floor with Flynn for the first time since March 29. After playing alongside Flynn for 16 minutes in a narrow loss to the New York Knicks, Lowry spoke on his relationship with the rookie and the maturation of his game.
TAKEAWAYS: Raptors fall to Knicks in Lowry's return to action
"I talk to him a lot and I just think he's understanding that the scoring will come," Lowry told reporters. "Before, I think when he first started playing, he was like 'I gotta score, I gotta score,' and I think now he's understanding that the scoring is gonna come but you gotta make the plays first and I think that's where the maturation is coming in."
The night before Lowry returned to the lineup, Flynn put forth the best performance of his young career to date, finishing with 20 points (on 8-for-14 shooting), 11 assists, two rebounds and two steals as the Raptors cruised to a 20-point victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Future is bright for the rook pic.twitter.com/wixL1A3XPM- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 11, 2021
The focus on playmaking has been clear.
Since seeing a major increase in playing time, Flynn has dished out at least four assists in each game which has opened up his ability to score, as Lowry wisely asserted. While Flynn finished with just six points against the Knicks on Sunday, he stepped up to hit a big-time 3-pointer in the fourth and could have had more had another big 3-pointer not been waved off after it was ruled that he stepped out of bounds.
"Comin' for ya" pic.twitter.com/IjvIX4ko2E- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 12, 2021
According to Lowry, it's all a part of the process, including finding ways to perform well on the second night of a back-to-back.
MORE: How have the Raptors fared in back-to-backs?
"He's trying to learn on the fly," the six-time All-Star continued. "He's trying to continue to say 'hey … I wanna make sure I play well,' and games like this, he played one game last night and then played tonight and the fatigue sets in.
"So it's still getting used to those types of things but he's just continuing to grow and he made some big shots and the one they took away from him, I couldn't see it. I thought he was still inbounds from what I've heard."
Given the mentorship dynamic, it's nearly impossible to ignore the parallels between the Raptors' three lead guards.
While the 6-foot-1 VanVleet went undrafted, he came into the league at 22 just like the 6-foot-1 Flynn, who was selected 29th overall - just five spots lower than where the 6-foot Lowry was taken in 2006. After coming into the league with chips on their shoulders, Lowry is a six-time All-Star while VanVleet is on the verge of becoming Toronto's next All-Star.
But neither had a stretch in their rookie seasons that rivals what Flynn has recently done (it's worth noting that Lowry's rookie campaign was limited to 10 games due to injury).
Regardless of what the future holds for Lowry with the Raptors franchise, the mentorship of VanVleet that has blossomed into dual mentorship of Flynn are contributions that will last for years to come.
As his rookie year comes to a close, Flynn is beginning to build upon the flashes of potential shown during the 2020 NBA preseason. As he continues to soak the knowledge from his vets, expect Flynn to continue to grow into exactly what the Raptors drafted him to be.
If the examples of Lowry and VanVleet have taught us anything, it's to not put a ceiling on where Flynn's potential can take him.
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