Raptors’ Wieskamp, ​​hoping to prove his worth, gets job in ‘cutthroat’ league – Sportsnet.ca

Las Vegas — Many people come to the desert hoping to win big and go home with a nice payday, and Joe Wieskamp is no different.

But instead of feeding slot machines or spending long nights at the blackjack table or a sportsbook, the third-year pro is playing a longer game, albeit not with house money.

Since joining the Toronto Raptors last January on the first of two, 10-day contracts before eventually being signed for the remainder of the 2022-23 season, the University of Iowa sharpshooter has been on an extended job interview. Should he continue to impress, the rewards are both tangible and lucrative: a guaranteed contract for the 2023-24 season worth $1.9 million.

The timing is also critical, as Wieskamp and his college sweetheart now wife — they met when they both started for the Hawkeyes — are expecting their first child in November.

He has until July 18th to prove he’s worth the Raptors committing a roster spot, making his appearance on the Summer League team in Las Vegas its version of the Super Bowl. If Wieskamp is on the roster on July 19th, he is a made man. If he isn’t, his NBA odyssey continues.

There is no dancing around it. That’s a lot of pressure for the third-year pro, who was taken 41stStdrafted by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2021 draft and had his two-way contract converted to a regular-season deal after toward the end of that season, only to be waived on the eve of the 2022–23 season by the Spurs.

He’s not in Summer League trying to gain experience or hone some developing skills. He is competing for a job.

“I think it’s important for me to come out and just be aggressive, play my game and show what I can do,” Wieskamp said Saturday as the Raptors practiced ahead of the second game of the Summer League schedule scheduled for Sunday afternoon at Cox Pavilion on the campus of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. “I mean, they watch everything; practice; I was there [in Toronto] for three weeks, this summer in June in May. So every day is, you know, they’re evaluating me and so I just have to put my best foot forward.”

He had eight points and was 1-of-3 from three in the Raptors’ loss to the Chicago Bulls in their summer league opener on Friday.

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On paper, the six-foot-six shooting guard and the Raptors should make for a good fit. The Raptors – you may have heard – have been one of the worst shooting teams in basketball the past two seasons. In 2022-23 they ranked 28thth in three-pointers and three-point percentage, and if anything, their roster of capable shooters took another hit when Fred VanVleet signed with the Houston Rockets in free agency, taking his team-best 207 made threes with him.

Drafting Gradey Dick with the 13th pick out of Kansas should help, but it may take time for the 19-year-old to find his footing in the NBA. There is room for someone like Wieskamp to create a role for himself.

“I feel that [it’s a good opportunity] for sure,” said Wieskamp, ​​who shot 46.2 percent his senior year in college and 37.8 percent in 32 G-League games over two seasons. “I feel like I can space the floor. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of playmakers — Scottie and Pascal, guys like that — that can get to the goal and draw double teams. And I can space the floor and knock down the shot . So that’s what I’ve been trying to show and hopefully I can get a chance to do that next season.”

He showed some flashes last season, especially when he came off the bench and hit all three of his threes in his first appearance as a Raptor in what ended up being a loss to Minnesota. After that, playing time was sparse as the Raptors scrapped to make the playoffs and played a tight rotation. But Toronto had chances to release Wieskamp — especially when they considered converting Jeff Dowtin Jr.’s two-way contract but didn’t have a roster spot — but chose to stick with him.

Much will depend on how Wieskamp performs in the Summer League. With the departure of former head coach Nick Nurse and the arrival of Darko Rajakovic and a completely revamped staff, Wieskamp – like everyone else – is starting from scratch.

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Fortunately, he has some experience, which is the plight of the journeyman. He has played for two NBA teams, three different coaching staffs and three different G-League teams since being drafted in 2021.

“It’s a blessing and a curse just to be on multiple different teams,” he said. “You must [adapt] … like coming to the Raptors in the middle of the season. I had to pick up their new play and all quickly. So it’s really nothing new to me, just trying to learn quickly. Just be a sponge, listen to what they say, just try to remember it and don’t make the same mistake if you do it once.”

The only mistake he tries not to make is to make the whole process bigger than it is. Yes, he’s playing for a job and a nearly $2 million salary, but focusing on that doesn’t help.

“You kind of learn that it’s a cutthroat business and you have to perform, but I feel like it’s too overwhelming if you think big and like, ‘Oh, I have to wait until my guaranteed day,’ or ‘I have to wait until first game of the season [to relax]’. But my mentality is trying to take it one day at a time and – like Coach always said – just win the day. If you can become a better player the next day, it will add up to more down the road. So I feel like if you just keep that short-term mindset where you’re just focused on each day, I don’t think I’m going to allow you to get too overwhelmed.”

It hasn’t been easy.

“All my life I’ve been a planner,” he said. “Like I love having my days planned out. But now I’ve just come to realize that you have to expect the unexpected and just be ready for anything, so I’ve definitely adapted that way.”

The hope is that the experience will pay off and Wieskamp will be one of the lucky ones to leave Vegas a winner, after all in this case baby really needs a new pair of shoes.

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