Former Syracuse Orange forward Oshae Brissett returned to Mississauga, Ont. to ink an Exhibit 10 contract less than a marathon’s distance away with the NBA champion Toronto Raptors. After a cross-country journey to chase the NBA, the deal gives him a chance to play pro basketball in his backyard.
Much has changed for the champs with the departure of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green — the Spurs duo that Masai Ujiri landed a year ago to form a title team bolted to L.A. Home still presents an incredible opportunity for Brissett on multiple fronts. The popular Exhibit 10 deal granted him a training camp invite, monetary incentive to stay in Toronto’s successful development system and a young, rebuilding franchise that could call on him later.
Dozens of players signed Exhibit 10s this summer including Tyus Battle with the Minnesota Timberwolves. In the past, teams that wanted to sign up to 20 players going into training camp needed to pay rookie minimums — now worth $897k.
Once rosters slashed to 15 for opening night, anyone cut would be dead money for that season. Exhibit 10s allow those same players to be waived for minimal cost, then receive a $5,000-$50,000 bonus for staying with that team’s G-League affiliate for 60 days. It’s part of the league’s effort to construct a G-League-to-NBA funnel.
Toronto’s G-League team is based in nearby Mississauga — Brissett’s hometown. That proximity, the Raptors’ investment in the team and Jerry Stackhouse’s coaching led them to the 2017 G-League title. Jama Mahlalela assumed the job when Stackhouse departed for Vanderbilt last year.
Paschal Siakam and Fred Van Vleet became critical components of the 2019 champions after their experience in Mississauaga in 2017. Siakam blocked shots, made plays and scored off Leonard — winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player. Van Vleet shot 16-of-40 from three in the NBA Finals — earning the only non-Kawhi Finals MVP vote.
Despite their losses, the Raptors retained veterans Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry. They maintain the sanctimony of the title team, but Toronto’s signing of Cameron Payne, Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson signaled a forthcoming youth movement. Defensive forward OG Anunoby returns after missing the playoffs following an appendectomy.
Toronto’s cluster of wings could make it difficult for Brissett to crack the roster. The Raptors claimed Kostas Antetokounmpo off waivers from the Mavericks immediately following Brissett’s signing. Since the Raptors already have 20 players, he’s a strong candidate for their second two-way contract with Jordan Loyd.
The Raptors need to cut ties with a player competing for a job with Brissett to complete the signing. Such is the state of NBA affairs, the spotlight shined toward Giannis Antetkounmpo’s free agency in 2021 following a summer of NBA upheaval. The Nets’ signing of Kevin Durant without him ever speaking to the team indicated free agency starts months before July 1.
Poor Kostas might as well not have a first name to analysts of the move, but it wouldn’t be a terrible coincidence for the Raptors to carry forward. Milwaukee recently signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo. The Athletic’s Blake Murphy reported that Toronto wanted Kostas last summer on a two-way.
Ole Miss rookie Terence Davis, Miami’s Dewan Hernandez, Iowa State’s Matt Thomas joined Toronto on rookie minimums. The Raptors also hold partially guaranteed deals on Malcolm Miller and Chris Boucher.
Brissett played Summer League in Las Vegas with the Los Angeles Clippers, Leonard’s new team and a title contender with youth he had slim chance of joining. He shot 12-for-41 (29%), averaging 6.6 points and 4.0 rebounds in five games.
The homecoming began earlier in the week for Brissett when he earned an invite to Team Canada’s training camp ahead of the FIBA World Cup in China (Aug. 31-Sept. 15). Brissett joined No. 2 overall pick RJ Barrett, Denver’s Jamal Murray and former Syracuse forward Andy Rautins among 29 vying for spots. That field dwindled to 28 when the Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson backed out Thursday.
Rautins played for Syracuse from 2005-2009, while his father Leo Rautins coached Team Canada through 2011. The elder Rautins played a role in developing the fast-rising basketball infrastructure across the hockey-dominated country after his NBA career. Canada basketball last made the Olympics in 2000, and the World Cup is part of the qualifiers for the 2020 games in Tokyo.
Whether or not he makes it, the team’s scrimmages between Toronto (Aug. 7 vs. Nigeria) and Winnipeg (Aug. 9) provide an early opportunity for Brissett to sway Raptors head coach Nick Nurse on his talent. Team Canada named Nurse the country’s head coach in June.
The order of operations work in Brissett’s favor. He joined on a cost-effective deal at 21 years old with the ability to play him in Mississauga for a season. If he were older, his status on the team would be concerning. But he can use a year of his youth to showcase his abilities, wait nearby until he’s needed, then fight for a roster spot once the team’s veterans depart.
If Giannis is part of the team’s long-term strategy, Brissett could work himself into those plans while they all wait.