Will Jarrod Uthoff Make the Toronto Raptors?

Feb 3, 2016; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes forward Jarrod Uthoff (20) controls the ball as Penn State Nittany Lions forward Payton Banks (0) defends during the second half at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa won 73-49. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 3, 2016; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes forward Jarrod Uthoff (20) controls the ball as Penn State Nittany Lions forward Payton Banks (0) defends during the second half at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa won 73-49. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports /

Will Jarrod Uthoff be on the Toronto Raptors this season?

It was shocking that Jarrod Uthoff went undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft. The All-American put together one of the best seasons in recent memory for Iowa as he scored the most points in the Big Ten last season, on his way to owning the second best points and blocks per game averages – 18.9 points and 2.5 blocks per game.

His offensive versatility and solid defense had many thinking Uthoff could have been drafted in the first round. In a weaker draft, international players became even more intriguing, and many teams jumped on the chance of selecting a draft-and-stash player. It left college stars like Jarrod Uthoff on the outside looking in.

Ironically, Uthoff told teams at the end of the second round not to draft him because he didn’t want to be stashed in the D-League for a season, but that’s where he might end up anyways. He and former Wichita State star guard Fred VanVleet are expected to compete for the final roster spot after both signed a partially guaranteed deal with the Toronto Raptors.

While VanVleet put together an impressive summer with the Raptors, Uthoff competed with the Sacramento Kings. Uthoff only made one start in four games as he averaged 4.5 points, 2.2 rebounds and one steal and block per game in 17.2 minutes. Although, his 40 percent field-goal percentage was underwhelming as he only attempted one three, not showing the range that made him so dangerous at Iowa.

Neither Uthoff or VanVleet will have a major role with the Raptors as rookies, and both could end up spending their rookie season in the D-League together. But being on the NBA roster comes with a significantly bigger payday and of course the chance to suit up and play in the NBA.

While both players want to get a shot to showcase their skills in the NBA, the money they passed up to attend the Raptors training camp is significant. Both could have easily made around $250K overseas, and then tried to make an NBA roster next season. That’s the route former Hawkeye Aaron White chose this season, rather than trying to make the Washington Wizards.

White is still part of the Wizards franchise as he was drafted in the second round a couple of years ago, but no team would have any affiliation with Uthoff. He would have been able to compete in summer league again and go through the same process next year, although, at 23-years-old his window won’t be open as long as underclassmen.

While going undrafted does let him control his destiny, it also comes with risk as he could be easily forgotten if he went overseas or struggled trying out for a team. No team is invested in him and struggling in summer league or training camp could mean the end of his NBA career.

However, now that he is competing in the Raptors training camp, it seems that Uthoff will stick in the D-League if he doesn’t make the roster and will be eligible to sign with another team during the season if he’s cut.

Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /

However, that only happens if Uthoff doesn’t make the team.

Fred VanVleet averaged 6.2 points and 1.2 steals per game this summer and shot 54.5 percent from three. He was one of the most skilled point guards in the nation at Wichita State during his four seasons, however his size made him overlooked by NBA teams. At six-feet and 186 pounds, VanVleet is clearly undersized.

With that being said, smaller guards have become more common over the recent years. Isaiah Thomas tied Calvin Murphy as the shortest All-Star in NBA history last season and Tyler Ulis was a second round pick by the Phoenix Suns this year, despite being shorter than VanVleet. It might be harder, but small guards can last in the NBA.

With Olympian Kyle Lowry and two second-year guards on the roster, a spot for VanVleet seemed unlikely. Sure, Jonas Valanciunas, Patrick Patterson, Jakob Poeltl and Jared Sullinger don’t leave much room for Uthoff or first round pick Pascal Siakam, but Uthoff has the ability to play small forward, as well.

He has the size, ball-handling and outside shot to help a somewhat thin small forward position for the Raptors. Although, his poor athleticism adds some worry to that transition from a stretch-four to a three. Uthoff’s long arms helped him become one of the best interior defenders in the Big Ten last season, but that doesn’t always translate to being able to guard on the perimeter.

Still, adding a skilled offensive player like Uthoff could eventually be implemented in the Raptors game plan. Maybe not this season, but in the near future because Uthoff is a perfect example of the modern day stretch-four.

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However, Delon Wright, the 20th pick in the 2015 draft, is out until December after undergoing shoulder surgery. While he only appeared in 27 games as a rookie, Wright was expected to see a bigger role in his second season.

That could leave the door open for VanVleet as he would add a little more point guard depth to the Raptors early in the season if they suffer another injury. However, with Wright’s minimal role last season, his loss for a couple of months won’t be detrimental and a lot of minutes won’t open up. Plus, the Raptors will want to try to develop Wright in his second-year after drafting him in the first round a year ago.

Therefore, while VanVleet could help aid the Raptors back court for a couple of months, it won’t be the deciding factor. Also, Norman Powell is able to man the point and Terrence Ross has the ability to play both shooting guard and small forward, making VanVleet far from a necessity.

In fact, with the great depth that Toronto holds, either Uthoff or VanVleet will be viewed as projects rather than instant contributors. It would give them another high-potential rookie to pair alongside Pascal Siakam in the future.

In the end, the Raptors seem to be huge fans of VanVleet. They added him to their summer league roster, offered him a partially guaranteed contract and guaranteed his second year if he’s on the roster past July 20, 2017. All of that makes me think that Uthoff will be spending his rookie campaign in the D-League, hoping for a call from an NBA team.

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Still, based on potential, Uthoff should get the roster spot. He has the potential to be a very good bench scorer in the NBA and his position versatility should speak loudly. Although, after drafting two big men in the first round this year, adding a third one might not be in Toronto’s plan.

Jarrod Uthoff should make the roster with a strong training camp, however, the Raptors seem to really like what Fred VanVleet brings to the table. Both will likely be teammates in the D-League this season, but VanVleet should slightly beat out Uthoff for the final roster spot.