The rugged rookie forward out of Baylor returned from his second stint with NBA D-League’s Bakersfield Jam on March 26th and in April, he’s seen his numbers with the Raptors rise to season-high averages of 6.6 points and three rebounds in just under 17 minutes per game.
It’s a small sample size, but Acy’s teammates have noticed an improved player since his return.
“He’s been playing extremely hard,” noted Kyle Lowry on Thursday. “I think his stint in the D-League, the minutes he was playing down there definitely helped his confidence, definitely helped him understand where he’s going to be on the floor and definitely gave him confidence in his mid-range shooting.”
Acy posted solid numbers (13.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg) over 10 games in his second go-round with the Jam and said playing 30 minutes a night in actual game situations provided him with a boost he wouldn’t have received with the Raptors in March.
“You get a chance to work on things that you’ve been working on against other people and that was a big factor for me,” said Acy on Thursday. “Just getting more minutes, that gives you confidence right there.”
Head coach Dwane Casey agrees and credits Acy’s willingness to approach his time with the Jam as an opportunity as opposed to a demotion.
“A lot of guys look at the D-League as a put down, but that’s why Commissioner Stern put that in, was for guys to go down there, play, get confidence,” said Casey. “He would have never got that amount of time with the way Amir [Johnson] is playing for us and when we do go small with Landry [Fields], those guys are ahead of him. He wouldn’t have gotten the valuable time that he got in Bakersfield.”
Acy was also quick to praise some of the established big men he’s worked with in Toronto this season. He singled out Aaron Gray as a player who really took him under his wing, while Johnson, a veteran of 40 D-League games, offered him perspective on heading to the D-League.
“He said he played like three years down there so he had a lot to say,” Acy said of Johnson. “Mainly he just told me to always play hard and just have fun playing. Don’t look at it as a punishment. That really helped me.”
Thriving in April is just Acy’s next step towards earning a consistent role with the Raptors in October. Casey already has a suggestion on how he’s going to get there.
“His next step in his career is to be able to go out and guard guys like Carmelo [Anthony]. The big threes, the strong small forwards with the way the NBA is going. I think that should be his niche going forward. He’s going to have to work on his footwork on the perimeter to guard those guys.”
More from Casey and Lowry below: