This is my first Raptors game preview of the season, so I’ll be sure to make it as intricate as possible:
Anthony Davis is a tall, good basketballer.
I could end my article right here, but I have a feeling that wouldn’t fly with the editors. So, let’s talk about the Pelicans. With the offseason addition of Julius Randle, the Pellies added more intrigue. After never having attempted more than 0.9 threes per game throughout his career, Julius has found himself in a tough spot. Considering the NBA’s current climate (with the league’s best teams come seemingly infinite spacing), Randle is likely going to expand his game to the three-point line, à la Jonas Valanciunas. In his three preseason games so far, he has already attempted six three-pointers, a trend that I anticipate will stick this season. If Randle can open up the floor next to Anthony Davis, it would dramatically help offset Elfrid Payton’s inability (and unwillingness) to shoot threes (career 30 percent from downtown).
At the beginning of last season, the Pelicans trotted out the league’s eighth-worst defensive rating (if you didn’t know, this is quite bad); however, after DeMarcus Cousins went down with an Achilles injury this past January, New Orleans finished off the regular season with the NBA’s fourth-best defensive rating. The Pelicans are poised to make a defensive leap this year, employing a starting lineup with two seriously staunch defenders and a revitalized, switchable Julius Randle.
But, let’s forget about the Pelicans for just a second. This is a Raptors website, and Kawhi Leonard lives in Toronto now. I feel obligated to, at the very least, mention his name in every article I write (even though it’s extremely unlikely he plays tonight). So far, it looks like Kawhi fits right in. With every minute Leonard spends on the court, he appears increasingly comfortable. With every bucket Leonard makes comes another quote about how he “looks like he feels at home” (excuse me while I swoon so hard the ghost of Hedo Turkoglu gets freed from purgatory). Seeing a true, top-level talent put on a Raptors jersey and perform to the height of his abilities is not something I’ve grown accustomed to. If all goes according to plan, I’m accepting resumés for an intern to pinch me full-time. You know, just to make sure I’m not dreaming.
Anyway, I digress. Here are the game details:
Where to Watch:
8:00pm, at press time the game is... not televised?
(Note: Both teams are playing on the second night of a back-to-back, so these starting lineups are prone to change dramatically.)
Raptors – Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka
Pelicans – Elfrid Payton, Ian Clark, Solomon Hill, Nikola Mirotic, Julius Randle
Raptors – Norman Powell, Delon Wright
Pelicans – Alexis Ajinca, Jahlil Okafor, Anthony Davis (rest), Jrue Holiday (rest), E’Twaun Moore (rest)
Ain’t Nobody like Anunoby
OG Anunoby is back in the lineup after playing last night against the Nets, and it was a welcome sight. Despite this being the second night of a back-to-back, he’ll likely see some extended run in this game to re-acclimate him to NBA minutes.
The Raptors’ starting lineup is currently unknown due to rest, but it’s entirely possible that OG may be the first or second scoring option on the floor tonight.
New Raptors head coach Nick Nurse wasn’t afraid to play small-ball against the Utah Jazz, even though they were starting Rudy Gobert, one of the best (and tallest) centres in the league. Throughout the season, it will be interesting to monitor Nurse’s lineups against supremely talented big men like Anthony Davis. Especially with Davis likely out tonight, I expect Nurse to play either Serge Ibaka or Pascal Siakam heavy minutes at the centre position.
Considering the Raps are playing on the second night of a back-to-back though, who really knows? At this point, Nick Nurse is as unpredictable as Dwane Casey was predictable. (“Sure Lou Williams, waste every end-of-quarter possession with an isolation three-pointer fading left! It’s not like we have two All-Star calibre players who are perfectly capable of running a real offense or anything.”)
Don’t Worry About It
This is the Raptors’ final preseason game. Between you and me, nobody should really be putting too much stock into what happens tonight. The Raptors could play their usual starters and annihilate the Pelicans’ bench, or Nick Nurse could inexplicably start Kyle Collinsworth again and play Chris Boucher 30 minutes. To be perfectly frank, it’s a crapshoot. The season starts in less than a week, let’s just get hyped to watch Kawhi play at the Scotiabank *cough, Air Canada Centre, cough* Arena in a Raptors jersey and pray for no injuries.