It's only preseason, but it's hard not to get excited about what we've seen so far from Toronto Raptors rookie Malachi Flynn.
The No. 29 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft has looked wise beyond his years through Toronto's first two games of the preseason, orchestrating the second unit offence, knocking down 3s at a 42.9% clip and playing tough, hard-nosed defence - exactly what was anticipated of him when Toronto made the selection on draft night.
His first two outings are even more impressive when you consider that this year's rookie class didn't have any sort of Summer League and just a few practices before play for the upcoming season began.
Flynn played a key role in Toronto's close 112-109 win over the Charlotte Hornets, making the right reads and knocking down clutch shots down the stretch. His NBA-ready skill set and defensive intensity has certainly stood out, but his confidence and demeanor is what separates him from a typical rookie.
"He's eager to learn and he's humble enough to ask," VanVleet said of his rookie backcourt mate. "That's a dangerous combination, when you're humble enough to seek out the info but still have that swagger and confidence."
His confidence shone through during a competitive fourth quarter in Monday's preseason victory, knocking down this clutch 3-pointer over a bigger defender in rookie centre Vernon Carey Jr. to extend Toronto's lead:
This play stuck out to me because Flynn had success taking Charlotte's bigs off the dribble all night. He had veteran Cody Zeller lost on one dribble-drive-pull-up and turned on the burners in a pick-and-roll switch to blow by forward Jalen McDaniels. With 10 seconds remaining on the shot clock, he had plenty of time to try and take Carey off the dribble. Instead, Flynn had the confidence to make the quick decision to fire from long range when the big dropped his hand, knocking down a 3-ball to give the Raptors some breathing room.
And he was even more impressive on the very next possession.
Flynn had the hot hand in the fourth quarter, but that didn't give him tunnel vision. Just after hitting that tough 3-pointer, Flynn had the ball in his hands late in the shot clock again:
Running a pick-and-roll with Alex Len, he turned the corner trying to attack the basket but when the entire Charlotte defence collapsed on Flynn, he had the court vision to make a perfect swing pass to the corner to find Terence Davis wide open for 3.
He delivers a strike through the congestion of all five opposing defenders - a read that would be exceptional for any NBA player, never mind a rookie playing in his second professional contest.
And lastly, the defensive side of the ball.
This clip comes from the first preseason meeting with the Hornets, where Flynn finds himself slightly out of position during a defensive rotation:
He drops down for backside help the way he was supposed to but stays in the paint to help on Devonte' Graham's drive. Once he realizes a shooter in Terry Rozier is left unmarked on the perimeter, he quickly recovers. Instead of flying at Rozier out of control to contest the shot, he closes out perfectly, slides his feet to get him to pick up his dribble and ultimately forces a contested shot. A win for the Raptors defence.
"Getting the offence initiated and breaking down the defence has been a pleasant surprise," head coach Nick Nurse said of Flynn postgame. "That's not easy to do in this league and to come in and be able to do that, I mean listen, it's still preseason and don't want to get carried away here but he's looked good."
If those three plays and his performances in either of the first two preseason games are any indication of what can be expected of Flynn in his rookie season, Toronto has certainly found another draft gem.
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