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Nets sign Yuta Watanabe, 6’9” Raptors free agent

2018 Las Vegas Summer League - Brooklyn Nets v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets have signed free agent forward Yuta Watanabe, the team announced Sunday.

Watanabe was given a standard, one-year, non-guaranteed NBA contract, per league sources, The Nets now have 12 players signed to guaranteed contracts, two signed to non-guaranteed deals and one on a two-way contract. NBA teams can bring 20 players to training camp which begins four weeks from Monday.

The signing suggests that David Duke Jr. will be signing the remaining two-way.

A 6’9” wing, Watanabe has appeared in 121 games (eight starts) across four seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies (2018-20) and Toronto Raptors (2020-22). In his two stops, he’s recorded averages of 3.8 points (40.9 percent shooting from the field, 35.2 percent from 3-point range, and 66.7 percent shooting from the free-throw line) to pair with 2.5 rebounds in 12.0 minutes per game.

Last year, he averaged 4.3 points on 40/34/60 shooting splits in 11.7 minutes over 38 games, four of them starts. In 2020-21, he played in 50 games for Toronto, averaging 4.4 points and hitting 40 percent of his three’s.

Our Collin Helwig notes that Watanabe ranked in the 94th percentile in defensive rebounding percentage per @cleantheglass. Last season, the Nets secured defensive boards at a 70.4 percent rate, the worst in NBA.

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.

He’s played for the Japanese national team as well, leading Japan in scoring in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup and in three gamest in last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, he averaged a team-leading 8.0 rebounds per game and 17.7 points.

Watanabe played for the Nets in Summer League in 2018 after going undrafted out of George Washington. After the Summer League stint, Watanabe signed a two-year, two-way contract with Memphis. He joined the Raptors as a free agent before the 2020-21 season.

In a tweet Sunday night, Watanabe thanked fans for their congratulations, adding that he’ll be fighting for a roster spot in training camp.

He is the first Asian player signed by the Nets since Joe and Clara Wu Tsai bought control of the Nets in October 2019. He and Cam Thomas were both born in Japan’s Kanagawa prefecture. Thomas mother was in the U.S. Air Force at the time of his birth.

Watanabe joins a Nets roster packed with wings — Joe Harris, Royce O’Neal, T.J. Warren and Edmond Sumner. Sumner is on a partially guaranteed ($250,000) contract.