'Nix in the Pros

Can Alfonzo McKinnie be Green Bay’s first NBA player since 1998?

mckinnie - raptors

Alfonzo McKinnie (Photo: Getty Images)

When Toronto Raptors training camp opens next week in British Columbia, Alfonzo McKinnie will look to do what no former Green Bay Phoenix player has been able to do in nearly 20 years – make an NBA roster.

The 6’8” McKinnie signed a partially guaranteed contract with the Raptors back on July 9th after performing at an all-star level in the NBA D-League last season with the Windy City Bulls.

According to Vice Sports, McKinnie had 17 offers to sign a two-way contract with NBA teams, a new wrinkle that allows teams to have G-League players move between the minor league affiliate and the NBA squad. He also had other NBA offers but ultimately chose the Raptors.

He could face an uphill climb to make the roster, however, as Toronto currently has 19 players on its training camp roster and must trim it down to 15 before the regular season starts next month. Two of those spots are for the aforementioned “two-way” contracts of Lorenzo Brown and Malcolm Miller, which means there are at least 17 players vying for 15 spots.

According to Vice, the Raptors project McKinnie to play out on the wing at the NBA level, which means he will need to shoot well from beyond the arc to compliment his explosive athleticism.

In what could be a three way battle, McKinnie will likely have to fight for one of the final roster spots with KJ McDaniels and Kyle Wiltjer, both of which were signed by the team last month. All three basically play the same spot on the floor. Other wing players on the Raptors roster include CJ Miles, Norman Powell, and OG Anunoby, who is expected to miss the first few months of the season due to injury.

If he were to make the roster, McKinnie would be the first Green Bay player to play in the NBA since Jeff Nordgaard played for the Milwaukee Bucks in 1998.

Other former Phoenix stars to play in the NBA include Tony Bennett, who played for the Charlotte Hornets from 1992-1995, and Logan Vander Velden, who played with the Los Angeles Clippers in 1996.

Alec Brown was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in the 2nd round of the 2014 NBA Draft and has taken part in several training camps but has not appeared in an NBA game and is currently playing in Spain for Estudiantes. Keifer Sykes also took part in an NBA training camp, working out with the San Antonio Spurs in 2015 before being cut and joining their G-League team in Austin for that season.  He is currently playing professionally in Turkey.

The Raptors training camp begins Tuesday and runs until Friday at the University of Victoria in Victoria, BC. They then will play five pre-season games beginning with two games in Hawaii against the Clippers on October 1st and October 4th before playing in Portland against the Trail Blazers on October 5th. They finish the preseason with a home game against Detroit on October 10th followed by the preseason finale in McKinnie’s hometown of Chicago on October 13th.

Should he be cut, there would no doubt be some NBA interest in McKinnie’s services, at the very least on a two way contract. The Raptors do not own his G-League rights – they still belong to Windy City – so after the preseason Toronto will either have to put him on their roster, cut him, or trade for his G-League rights.

“Going into the summer with different NBA teams knowing my name, man, the journey,” McKinnie told Vice. “My words get mixed up. I’m just so happy to be here right now. It’s all surreal right now, to be honest. I get on every social media outlet and it’s just like, my mentions and notifications are blowing up and you just see how much everybody supports. It just feels great.

“I’m just ready to continue it and try to be an official Raptor.”

 

 

Green Bay players in the NBA:

 

Tom Anderson – 10th round (196 overall) – Milwaukee Bucks – 1978

Ron Ripley – 4th round (75 overall) – Golden State Warriors – 1979

Tony Bennett – 2nd round (35 overall) – Charlotte Hornets – 1992

Jeff Nordgaard – 2nd round (53 overall) – Milwaukee Bucks – 1998

Logan Vander Velden – undrafted, played with LA Clippers in 1996

Alec Brown – 2nd round (50 overall) – Phoenix Suns – 2014

 

 

Horizon League NBA players since 1990 (current members):

 

Cleveland State – Cedric Jackson (2010), Norris Cole (2012-present)

Detroit-Mercy – Jermaine Jackson (2000-2006), Willie Green (2004-2015), Desmond Ferguson (2004), Ray McCallum (2014-2016)

Green Bay – Tony Bennett (1993-1995), Logan Vander Velden (1996), Jeff Nordgaard (1998)

IUPUI – George Hill (2009-present)

Oakland – Rawle Marshall (2006-2007), Keith Benson (2012), Kay Felder (2016-present)

UIC – Sherell Ford (1996)

Wright State – Bill Edwards (1994), Vitaly Potapenko (1997-2007)

 

 

 

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