Nets Sign 27-Year-Old Former Raptor in Free Agency

Yuta Watanabe

Getty Yuta Watanabe #18 and Chris Boucher #25 of the Toronto Raptors

After the Kevin Durant trade request hijacked the NBA offseason, the superstar forward met with the Brooklyn Nets contingency of team governors Joe and Clara Wu Tsai, Sean Marks, and Steve Nash and the four sides successfully negotiated a plan to keep Durant in Brooklyn long-term. With Brooklyn keeping Durant, other free agent moves can start to be made. One NBA player tweeted immediately after the news, “Finally lol. Can we sign now lol,” confirming Durant’s negotiations were holding up the free agent market. 

The Nets now have open roster spots to fill and have been linked to players like Hassan Whiteside, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, and Markieff Morris. While the Nets look to finalize their roster, they recently added a new player in the 24-year-old 6-foot-8 Japanese-born big man, Yuta Watanabe. 

Nets Sign Free Agent Big Man Yuta Watanabe

On August 28, the Nets announced their recent signing of free agent forward Yuta Watanabe. Shams Charania of The Athletic first announced the news via Twitter before the news was shared in a press release from the Nets’ Twitter account. 

“The Brooklyn Nets have signed free agent forward Yuta Watanabe. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not released.

Watanabe (6’8″, 214) has appeared in 121 games (eight starts) across four seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies (2018-20) and Toronto Raptors (2020-22), recording averages of 3.8 points on 40.9 percent shooting from the field, 35.2 percent shooting from 3-point range and 66.7 percent shooting from the free-throw line and 2.5 rebounds in 12.0 minutes per game. Most recently, the 27-year-old saw action in 38 games (four starts) with the Raptors during the 2021-22 season, posting averages of 4.3 points and 2.4 rebounds in 11.7 minutes per contest. In addition to his NBA experience, Watanabe has also played in 56 NBA G League games (55 starts) split between the Memphis Hustle and Raptors 905, averaging 15.5 points on 47.8 percent shooting from the field, 34.8 percent shooting from distance and 82.7 percent shooting from the free-throw line, 6.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 blocks in 33.5 minutes per game. The native of Kagawa, Japan, has competed on the international stage for his home country, including in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, where he led Japan in scoring,” the press release read

Watanabe was part of the Nets’ summer league roster in 2018 after going undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft. The forward showed an ability to shoot from deep, defend, and even block shots. Watanabe could become a solid young rotation player off of the Nets bench. 

Nets Other Potential Moves

According to Marc Stein’s August 28 report, the Nets are also hoping to add a veteran that Irving and Durant would respect. So far, the team has been linked as the most serious team in adding forward Markieff Morris. It doesn’t appear that the Watanabe signing would change their pursuit. The team is also linked to veteran backup big men with athletic shot blockers of the previously mentioned Whiteside and Howard. 

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