Former Raptors Favorite Announces his Departure from the NBA

Former Toronto Raptors favorite Yuta Watanabe announced he will leave the NBA to return to Japan for next season
Apr 10, 2022; New York, New York, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Yuta Watanabe (18) dribbles up court
Apr 10, 2022; New York, New York, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Yuta Watanabe (18) dribbles up court / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Yuta Watanabe is stepping away from the NBA.

The former Toronto Raptors forward took to Instagram to announce he plans to decline his player option and return to Japan for next season.

Watanabe broke into the league in 2018-19 with the Memphis Grizzlies after going undrafted out of George Washington.

He latched on with Toronto in 2020 and was a surprise to make the roster. He became a rotation player that season, appearing in 50 games while averaging 4.4 points in 14.5 minutes per game. He was repeatedly praised for his hustle and work ethic that caught the attention of Toronto’s coaching staff.

Watanabe returned with the Raptors for the following season but was never able to stay healthy. He appeared in just 38 games and the dip in his three-point effectiveness forced Toronto to move on at the end of the year.

The 6-foot-9 Japanese native has spent the past two seasons with the Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns before returning to Memphis for the end of this past year. He shot 44.4% from three-point range with the Nets in 2022-23 before signing a multi-year deal with the Suns last summer. Phoenix dealt Watanabe to Memphis just before the February trade deadline.

He appeared in 34 games this past year, averaging 3.4 points and 1.6 rebounds per game while shooting 35.3% from the floor and 29.4% from three-point range.

Watanabe leaves as one of just three Japanese players to play in the NBA alongside Yuta Tabuse and Rui Hachimura.

Aaron Rose


Aaron Rose is a Toronto-based reporter covering the Toronto Raptors since 2020.