Juan Toscano-Anderson has created a space for himself in the NBA. Whether he stays with the Warriors after this season, or beyond this month, is up to them.
He is chasing a guaranteed contract and wants it to be with the Warriors, who throughout his entire childhood played its home games at Oracle Arena, a 20-minute walk from his East Oakland doorstep.
“That's the next step for me, is to get a contract,” Toscano-Anderson said Monday after shootaround before a 7 p.m PT. tipoff against the Cavaliers at Chase Center.
The 6-foot-6 utility man -- he has played small forward, power forward and a few minutes at center -- is a rarity insofar as he has become an integral part of the Warriors yet operates on a two-way contract that essentially means he’s an NBA/G League hybrid.
With big men James Wiseman and Kevon Looney sidelined by injury, Toscano-Anderson has played heavy minutes over the last seven games, starting the last six, and made himself valuable enough to stay in the rotation when the roster is healthy. His numbers are decent -- 9.7 points (51.8 percent shooting, 43.8 from deep), 6.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
It’s his presence, though, that has boosted his stock. He’s smart and versatile and makes positive contributions at both ends, with a not-on-the-stat-sheet impact that coach Steve Kerr compares to three-time All-Star Draymond Green.
“It’s almost like a ‘mini’ version of Draymond,” Kerr said last week.
Kerr also has gone on record expressing his opinion that Toscano-Anderson is an NBA player and deserves a commensurate contract. The two-way contract limits JTA to 50 NBA games this season -- adjusted from the normal 45-day limit -- due to the effects of COVID-19.
Toscano-Anderson’s salary this season is $450,000, roughly a third of what he’d make under a guaranteed deal -- which has the significant benefit of salary security. JTA, who turns 28 in April, concedes that he often ponders the prospect of an upgraded contract.
“If you want my honest answer, that gives me more anxiety,” he said. “It makes me more nervous than anything because I feel like that's when the real work starts. I'm working every day and I'm working to stay in this league, but when somebody pays me, now I feel like I really have to ... solidify the fact that you feel confident enough to pay me.”
Toscano-Anderson has moved past 2019 Warriors draft picks Jordan Poole and Alen Smailagic, both of whom have guaranteed contracts and are trying to refine their games at the G League level. Meanwhile, JTA is averaging 29 minutes a game for a squad aiming for a berth in the postseason.
And, by the way, it’s a relentless 29 minutes.
“I attack every opportunity like this my last,” Toscano-Anderson said, “because it could very well be (my) last, based on me being on two-way or something more significant, like me having a career-ending injury. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen.
“But you just don't know when your last day is and somebody wants your spot. I'm not going to let anybody take my spot. You can take it on your own behalf, but I'm not going to give it to you.”
That desire is evident. In a league where a productive “energy guy” can earn a handsome living, it’s one of the reasons Toscano-Anderson should have a job for years to come.