He might have made his NBA debut on Dec. 23, 2020, but it would be another eight months before Toronto Raptors guard Malachi Flynn would first take the floor at the NBA's premier Summer League in Las Vegas.
While it may seem trivial for a player that earned Rookie of the Month honours this past April, the importance of the Summer League for a young player like Flynn should not be understated or overlooked. These are extremely important reps for a prospect that was drafted less than a year ago.
Similar to how I looked at Flynn's time in the 2021 NBA G League Bubble, the Summer League period is a time for the 23-year-old to continue to familiarize himself with Toronto's system, doing so in a larger role than he had in Year 1.
He wasted no time finding his groove.
In the Raptors' Summer League opener against the New York Knicks, Flynn was by far the best player on the floor, finishing with 23 points (on 8-for-13 shooting), six rebounds and an assist. From the get-go, it was evident that Flynn wasn't fazed by much out there, displaying the poise of a player that was given real responsibilities in his rookie campaign.
The poise and confidence were on full display as Flynn calmly knocked down a number of triples off the bounce, doing so in transition…
Pull up on 'em, @malachiflynn pic.twitter.com/rgrnc8rDuz- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 8, 2021
… contested in isolation…
Hand up, hand down doesn't matter.- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 8, 2021
…and after losing his defender with a smooth behind-the-back cross.
Sheeeeeeeshh, that's confidence, @malachiflynn pic.twitter.com/tgqkNGSIUt- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 8, 2021
Flynn shot 36.3 percent from deep over the course of his college career, but shot just 32.1 percent from 3 as a rookie with Toronto. During his six-game stint with Raptors 905, he converted an impressive 40.9 percent of his 3s at a high volume of 7.3 attempts per game.
Through his first four Summer League games, Flynn is again attempting 7.3 3-pointers per game, this time doing so at a 41.4 percent clip.
At times, Flynn's performance could cause you to question why he's even out there. He has a year under his belt and looks too good to be playing in the Summer League, but I'd argue that's a part of the point. Flynn is supposed to be too good to be out there, and his performance checks the first box with regards to his preparedness to take the next step in the 2021-22 season.
Flynn playing with the team in Vegas also helps for integration purposes, as changes within the organization mean that he'll assume a larger role during his sophomore campaign. For a lead guard, it's especially important to learn your teammates in order to lead your teammates, and the summer has granted Flynn the opportunity to become familiar with Precious Achiuwa, Scottie Barnes, Dalano Banton, Justin Champagnie, David Johnson and Ish Wainright, all players that will see varying roles with Toronto next season.
Kyle Lowry's departure and the accompanying acquisition of Goran Dragic (for now) means the Raptors' guard depth will look a bit different in 2021-22. While Barnes projects to be a point forward, the injury that will delay Pascal Siakam's start to the season likely means the fourth overall pick will be playing much more forward to start the season.
Fred VanVleet is capable of playing a lead guard role, but we've seen him at his best while playing off the ball, which is where Flynn's development at the one becomes even more important. Last season, Flynn and VanVleet shared the floor for a total of 192 minutes, a figure that stands to increase this upcoming season.
Nick Nurse is no stranger to experimenting with lineups, so Flynn could be tasked with being the main distributor in three-guard lineups alongside VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. Conversely, Flynn could be the sole traditional guard in a jumbo lineup that features the likes of OG Anunoby, Khem Birch or Chris Boucher, Barnes and Siakam.
We know he can pass the ball - Flynn averaged 5.5 assists over 14 games as a starter - so, in order for any of those lineups to work, Flynn must maintain the aggression he's shown as a scorer to close the 2020-21 season. After averaging 19.0 points over the last five games of the regular season, Flynn has continued showing his aggression in the Raptors' system on the Summer League stage, building upon his progression into becoming the next great Raptors guard.
It's the main reason you'd bring a player of his calibre to Vegas.
Should Flynn continue to build upon the progress he's made up to this point, a breakout Year 2 is on the way.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.