How Raptors’ Malachi Flynn can turn explosive summer into breakout season

During a busy off-season, Raptors guard Malachi Flynn has kept his name in the news for all the right reasons.

Whether it was 73 points at Jamal Crawford’s CrawsOver Pro-Am, breaking 52 points at the Drew League, or scoring 54 points at the Toronto Pro-Am, Flynn has had plenty to tell fans this summer.

At 24, Flynn is gearing up for his third season with the Raptors after the franchise picked him 29th overall in the 2020 NBA draft, but he doesn’t have the high expectations placed on him ahead of his rookie season just fulfilled.

To be fair to Flynn, he has shown some flashes of his potential, but there have been a number of factors beyond his control that have made it difficult to adapt to the NBA.

All in all, this is a critical point in Flynn’s career. As the Raptors look to take another step toward title contenders, it would be a big development to see Flynn build on this breakout summer.

So Flynn can transfer his Pro-Am successes to the upcoming NBA season.

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As the 2021-22 season wrapped up, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse conceded that Flynn “needs to be able to be a great catch-and-shoot player,” adding that Flynn’s shooting is one area , in which he can improve it to fill an important gap.

Last season, Flynn shot a respectable 38.9 percent in catch-and-shoot threes, albeit at a low volume, as he shot 21 of 54 for the season.

As respectable as Flynn’s catch-and-shoot prospect was, he shot 7 of 34 (20.6) pull-up 3s last season, which is a stark contrast to his 31.0 percent shooting pull-up 3s as an even represented rookie.

In each of his goalscoring efforts, Flynn has relied heavily on his 3-pointer outside of dribbling, which would be an encouraging step forward in his growth and development.

Given the composition of the Raptors’ roster, Flynn will almost always be found alongside at least one other playmaker on the floor, whether it’s Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, or Fred VanVleet in two-guard lineups.

Flynn’s ability to fire off the bounce adds dynamism to his game and Toronto’s offense as teams will be forced to tighten their ball protection coverage, which in turn creates more space.

In addition to his 3-point shooting from the jump, Flynn has shown flashes from the middle. While the midrange jumper is often maligned in today’s game, it can be a useful tool for a smaller guard.

This possession from a Rico Hines run at UCLA is the perfect representation of the attitude Flynn develops on the half-court as he knocks down a middy over 6-foot-9 center Chimezie Metu for the game point.

He might not need to go there often, but having this in his pocket can open up more for Flynn when coming off ball screens.

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There’s something to be said for going downhill.

In the 2021-22 season, Flynn was 18th of 30 in the restricted area and seven of his 12 misses were blocked shot attempts. Not too shabby for a 6ft 1 guard who won’t blow you away with his leap.

En route to his 52-point performance in the Drew League and in the following clip at UCLA, Flynn was controlled on his drives and had some impressive under-the-rim finishes.

On a run by Rico Hines that was essentially an intrasquad scrimmage, Barnes presses down on Flynn, who manages the ball pressure and uses his body to parry Barnes’ 6ft 9 frame while hitting the off-hand finish accomplished.

Flynn is not expected to finish around the edge the often, but players will rush him hoping to speed him up and, if his knight remains constant, drive him off the 3-point line.

For a second session that requires a consistent scoring punch, Flynn has the tools to be something of a three-tier scorer.

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When discussing Flynn’s offensive play, it’s important to mention his ability to set the table and make plays for others. Nurse has cited Flynn’s ability to be a “ground general” as a strength, but also suggested how he can do more.

Summer runs aren’t exactly the place to see defensive takeaways, but Flynn may complete the Year 3 breakout by getting back to the kind of defender he was when he played for Mountain West’s 2019-20 season was named Defensive Player of the Year.

If Flynn can develop into a defensive pest, he can wear down opposing guards and make life a lot easier for VanVleet, who is already one of the best defensive guards in the league despite a heavy workload by the minute.

This upcoming season offers Flynn the greatest continuity of his young career and based on the confidence he has shown this off-season he is poised to make the most of it.

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