With the 29th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft on Wednesday, the Toronto Raptors took San Diego State redshirt junior guard Malachi Flynn.
Coming off a fabulous season that saw him win both Mountain West Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, Flynn looks to be exactly the kind of player that Toronto’s front office has valued over the past few years: someone who’s a little overlooked because of some supposed physical limitations, but has maturity, natural leadership and is a winner.
Here’s a little more on the newest Raptor.
Position: Point guard
Height: Six-foot-one | Weight: 185 pounds
School: San Diego State
2019-20 stats: PPG: 17.6 | APG: 5.1 | 3P%: 37.3
Flynn is the youngest of seven children, hailing from Tacoma, Wash. He played his high school ball at Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, but likely wasn’t on the radar of Division I schools, let alone the NBA.
Just five-foot-two in his freshman year, Flynn was fortunate to hit his growth spurt as his skills were developing, finishing high school at the six-foot-one he stands today.
As a senior in high school, he put up monster numbers averaging 29.7 points, six rebounds and four assists per game en route to being named the Associated Press’ Washington player of the year.
Thanks to that campaign, Flynn managed to secure a scholarship to Washington State University where he played well for two seasons before deciding to transfer after his sophomore year when he was getting more interest from other programs, ultimately deciding on San Diego State.
After a redshirt year, he didn’t disappoint and managed to turn himself into a first-round pick.
As a redshirt junior and already 22-years-old, Flynn has a bit more seasoning behind him than most NBA draft prospects, and should figure to be able to step in and contribute with the Raptors.
“He’s a modern NBA point guard,” said Raptors general manager Bobby Webster. “I think he can do it all on the offensive end. A lot of people are going to talk about the pick-and-roll, shooting off the dribble, shoots the three-ball well, obviously defends at a high level as well.”
More specifically, Flynn already has an advanced understanding of how to run the pick-and-roll, can make passes with either hand and figures to be a good shooter in the NBA as he hit 37.3 per cent from three this past season at a high-volume rate of 6.4 attempts per game.
Those are all skills NBA point guards need to have, and Flynn already has them.
Similar to other Raptors guards
One thing you may notice about Flynn is his height makes him very similar to the two point guards currently on the Raptors' roster: Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet.
But it’s not just in size that Flynn draws comparisons to those two Toronto stars.
Flynn is ultra-competitive particularly on the defensive end and has similar qualities to Lowry and VanVleet in that he’s unafraid to get into guys and make people uncomfortable, confident in his ability to poke the ball loose or use his quick feet to stay in front of players.
As such, it should come as no surprise that Flynn has paid attention to the Raptors and has looked to Lowry and VanVleet for inspiration.
“He was someone who played four years in college and guys like that are usually slept on,” said Flynn of VanVleet. “He ended up going undrafted, but then his first couple of years he was doing all right and then he blew up and he just continued to get better.
“He’s six-foot, six-one, right around there, and guys like that they get underlooked. Seeing him able to do it at the highest level, win a championship, put up great numbers in the Finals, it’s definitely inspiration for a guy like me.”
Flynn later added in regards to Lowry: “They’re super savvy. Kyle Lowry’s great at getting you in foul trouble, just keeping you on your toes, he knows what play to make. He’s going to come up in big moments, he does all the little things.
“I’m a guy who has just watched the Raptors in general, just how well they play and you’re talking about those two guys, that’s my position so I really have paid attention to the little things they do that contribute to winning.”
Does the pick say anything about VanVleet’s free agency?
Obviously, it’s worth mentioning that seeing the Raptors take a player who looks to be incredibly similar to VanVleet when he is about to hit free agency might make it seem like they just drafted his replacement.
And they very well may have, but that’s just speculation and it’s impossible to say for sure if the Flynn selection was made with an eye toward that.
Having a third point guard is never a bad thing, after all, plus there’s a chance Flynn may have been drafted as a possible replacement for Lowry, who will be 35 next year and will see his contract expire at the end of the coming season with no indication either way at the moment about his future.