Maybe, it’s just a crack, but the window for a spot on the Raptors roster remains open for Julyan Stone.
The 24-year-old point guard is an intriguing prospect. Stone played sparingly over two years with the Denver Nuggets but caught the eye of Masai Ujiri who, you might have heard, left the Nuggets for the Raptors this summer.
Stone seemed ready to sign with Toronto during the summer but an undisclosed injury scuttled the deal. He earned 24 minutes in playing time in Wednesday’s 99-97 win over Boston and that contest showcased all the good and bad of what Stone has to offer.
At six-foot-six, Stone is a point guard who can defend fellow point guards, let alone shooting guards and even small forwards. He showed his defensive acumen on a steal that resulted in a Terrence Ross dunk.
Then again, with a few seconds left, Stone came up embarrassingly short on a dunk attempt and despite his sustained time on the court he recorded only one basket and two assists.
“I feel like I’m 60, 65 per cent back to where my body can do what I’m asking it to do,” Stone said. “I have to live with the ups and downs of the gradual process.”
In Dwane Casey, Stone has a coach with a keen appreciation of defence but the presence of three point guards in front of him, Kyle Lowry, D.J. Augustin, and Dwight Buycks, seems to militate against Stone.
It’s just that defensive ability that keeps coming back to Casey.
“He can guard multiple positions, point guards, twos, threes and probably some small forwards,” Casey said. “He reminds me of a younger Nate McMillan with that long, lanky body who can defend.”
Stone could live with that comparison all day. McMillan played 12 stellar seasons in Seattle thanks to his superb defensive play but he also delivered an offensive component that Stone may never offer.
Stone was not drafted by an NBA team. In his senior year at Texas El Paso, Stone banked an unremarkable 8.5 points a game but it was the breadth, if not the dazzle of his talents that stood out. He turned in an astonishing 7.5 rebounds a game and 5.3 assists. His NBA resume includes two stints in the NBA D-League, 26 NBA games and just 1.7 points per game.
But his versatility has been impossible to ignore at practice and in games.
“I’m able to guard Kyle on one possession, Rudy on one possession and DeMar and I think it helps me on the court,” Stone said. “When coach can say, ok, ‘go guard this person, go guard this person’ it gives me more time on the court and it gives me a competitive advantage somewhat.”