Is it possible for the preseason to be shorter and still feel too long? We’re about to find out, as the Raptors play their penultimate fake game tonight in... [checks paper; squints] ...Toronto against the Detroit Pistons.
Yes, the Raptors make their return to Toronto tonight, which is both a big deal and not. On the one hand: basketball! in Toronto! On the other: a preseason game against, of all teams, the Pistons. We’re not even sure which members of Detroit will dress yet. (And we may not get to see Jonas Valanciunas take it to Andre Drummond again — that’s always fun.)
In any case, there is but one more preseason game to get through. For now, read up on what you need to know for Raptors vs. Pistons tonight.
Where to Watch:
TSN at 7pm
Raptors - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, C.J. Miles, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Pistons - Reggie Jackson, Avery Bradley, Stanley Johnson, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond. (Note: these are all guesses at this time — the Pistons have been all over the place with their starting lineups in the preseason.)
Raptors - OG Anunonby is presumably still off.
Pistons - Bradley and Drummond are listed as day-to-day, so maybe they don’t play tonight. Same goes for Dwight Buycks (nooo!) and Langston Galloway.
Setting the Rotation
With the preseason winding down, look for Toronto head coach Dwane Casey to start tightening the rotation into its realistic form. That means we’ve likely seen the end of the Bruno Caboclo Starting experiment (and not a moment to soon, I say). It could also mean more clarity on the Miles vs. Norman Powell debate. I’ve listed Miles as the nominal starter right now, but that could change. The rest of the Raptors lineup feels far more set, and with the recent cuts to the roster, we’re definitely getting a clearer picture of who is in and out of the rotation.
Still, that Norm vs. Miles question is something. Last week Powell and the Raptors agreed to a cool $42 million, 4-year extension, so maybe Norm will get to flex his muscle a bit more tonight in an expanded role. Given the Pistons totally willy-nilly preseason rotation it’s hard to even predict matchups for tonight. Detroit rolled out the young guys (Luke Kennard, Johnson, Henry Ellenson) in their previous game, so the utility of Norm (or Miles) is still very much up in the air.
Will the Real Serge Please Stand Up
It’s just preseason, so we probably shouldn’t worry, but Ibaka has not looked great so far for the Raptors. I repeat, it’s just preseason — and Ibaka is definitely aware that you don’t get points for effort in a run of games that don’t count — but can we just raise our voices a little bit in concern? That’s what I’m doing.
In three games, Ibaka has shot a combined 8-for-26 (31 percent), and a remarkable 2-for-17 from deep (I’m not even going to do the math on that one). It’s clear from both his defensive effort and his shot selection that he’s merely putting himself through his preseason paces, and that’s... fine. It’s fine.
But still. Some positive signs from Serge in the early going tonight against the Pistons — with their creaky lineup — would be a welcome reprieve.
Keep it Rolling, Jonas
Yes, Drummond is listed as day-to-day with an eye injury, but I’m looking forward to his matchup with Valanciunas anyway. For one, Jonas always seems to get it going against Detroit’s big man; and for two, JV has been playing lean-and-mean this preseason. In limited minutes (e.g. less than 20 per game), Jonas has managed a double-double, a career high in assists, and his usual reliable shooting touch from around the court and on the free throw line. (Though he remains just one of two Raptors — along with Jakob Poeltl — who has yet to shoot a 3. You know he wants to!)
We’re into the stage of Jonas’ career where there are always caveats — the modern NBA is passing him by, he’s a step slow on defense, he’s not much of a creator, whatever. These are valid criticisms. But at the same time, Valanciunas is doing what he’s always done, for better or worse. It’s the kind of reliability that provides a certain comfort. Like knowing it’ll be fun to watch JV take it to Drummond in a random preseason game in early October.