Why Raptors' Jeff Dowtin Jr. deserves a spot in the NBA

Amit Mann discusses Jeff Dowtin Jr.'s basketball journey and why the guard can be a valuable member on an NBA team for years to come.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: Jeff Dowtin Jr. has never received a guaranteed NBA contract, and I think that's got to change, just for his bench reactions.

- Oh, gee. Oh, my.

AMIT MANN: And a lot more. My name's Amit Mann. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more Raptors content, and let's begin. Coming out of his fourth year at the University of Rhode Island, Jeff went undrafted in 2020, signed an Exhibit 10 deal with Orlando in December, and they waived him the same day. A month later, he joined the Magic's G League affiliate.

And then, in September 2021, he signed an Exhibit 10 deal with the Magic, played in three preseason games, and didn't make the cut, so he was placed on waivers and picked up by the Warriors and signed a two-way contract with the team. Unfortunately, a month later, he was waived in January 2022. Afterwards, 10 days with Milwaukee and Orlando, and finally the Raptors bring him on to their Summer League roster.

Now, this isn't meant to be a sob story. A lot of players struggle to solidify themselves as NBA players. And going through the mud like this has helped Jeff become the player that he is today, and that is an NBA-caliber point guard. And the signs were apparent to me in Summer League.

- Changes speeds. Got it to go.

AMIT MANN: He's a steady point guard, smart with the ball, flashes of three level scoring, can attack mismatches, finish in the paint, and offers tenacious on-ball defense. I was intrigued by what he would look like in the NBA. And so were the Raptors, and that's why they gave him a two-way deal. Now, he's had moments in the NBA where he's shown spurts that he could translate his skills to the top level. And that really became clear in his most recent stretch of play, where he showed reliability with the ball, a hooper's mentality of adapting on the fly, and, of course, quick twitch foot speed that helps him get around screens, cut off drives, rear view contest, and just be annoying on defense.

And then his last game against Cleveland, where he showed confidence in his offense to hit these shots. Jeff is a player who knows the assignment. He doesn't veer from it. He knows his role, so it wasn't surprising to see him defer just a little bit.

But taking and hitting these shows he was getting more comfortable and was earning the trust where he could take the shots that he was hitting in Summer League and in G League. His stock was rising, and then the Raptors signed Will Barton. Now he's back in the G League, and his hopes of being converted to an NBA deal so he could be on the Raptors' 50-man roster in the event they do make the playoffs isn't a serious question.

JEFF DOWTIN JR.: I mean, I'm just the type of person that was made. My parents, I guess, instilled that in me when I was little. And just being a professional athlete, just knowing that this is my job, and I'm going to come in here every day prepared to work. And like I said, whatever opportunities come my way, I'll be ready for them.

AMIT MANN: I can see his point of attack defense being a nice asset for the Raptors in terms of closing the starting quarters and offering a new change of pace. But in the end, the Raptors do have Scottie Barnes. He is playing backup point guard. You've got Gary Trent Jr. and Will Barton coming off the bench, as well. A lot of depth there, and there just might not be room for Jeff.

And we can argue that Dowtin should have been given more opportunities during the season. He probably should have. But teams are also going to prioritize minutes for the guys that they drafted. In this case, Dalano Banton and Malachi Flynn. The Raptors aren't the first team to do this, and they won't be the last.

But if you are the Raptors and you're still tinkering with your win-now roster, wouldn't a steady guard who's good on both sides of the ball who executes at a high level be a welcome addition? You have your scorers, and it's unclear how much point guard Scottie is going to play next season, but he'll, at the very least, be your backup. A secondary ball handler who can be reliable as a one-on-one defender and be useful so Barnes can roam.

And as I said, there's more upside to his scoring and playmaking. He can work in the pick and roll, attack closeouts, and finish at the rim or kick it out to shooters. And his speed will be handy in transition.

- Like I told him before the game last night. I said, listen, I'm going with you tonight, and you got a matchup here with Alvarado. Like, you got to go after this dude because he's coming after. That's the way he plays, and you got to go out there and meet him with that. And I thought Jeff really-- when he checked in, you could just kind of see he was ready to get in the fight.

Nah, he's good. He's just really good defensively.

AMIT MANN: But from a more holistic perspective on the state of the NBA, Dowtin's ability to force teams into a second action during offensive possessions has to be recognized by franchises. Teams are playing more five out or four out with one screener, and also the point guard position has never been more stacked with talent. You combine all those and Jeff's skill set is vital.

JEFF DOWTIN JR.: I don't like when guys score on me, so I take that personal.

AMIT MANN: And teams often use their bench pieces for players who bring a unique skill. A scorer like Malik Monk. An elite playmaker like TJ McConnell. A rebounder like Bismack Biyombo. And Energizer Bunny like Jose Alvarado.

Jeff has a distinctive skill, too. As Will Barton said--

WILL BARTON: Anytime you step on the NBA court, it's an audition for the rest of the league.

AMIT MANN: So technically, Jeff could be signed to another two-way deal as the rule states that any player who's appeared in fewer than four NBA seasons could be signed to this deal. However, the average NBA career is 4 and 1/2 years, and Jeff Dowtin Jr. turns 26 years old in the month of May. And I think he should spend the next five years, at the very least, as a guaranteed, full-time NBA player.

JEFF DOWTIN JR.: Just playing with confidence throughout my whole life. It's just like I said, when you have the opportunity, it's not really anything different. You're just showcasing it on just a bigger stage.

AMIT MANN: My name Amit Mann. Follow me on Twitter at @amit_mann. Go ahead and subscribe to our YouTube channel, and we'll talk to you soon.