The NBA preseason is technically much shorter than its been historically, and yet it still feels interminably long. The Raptors play tonight against a non-NBA team, Melbourne United, in what is their lone preseason home game, and then we have to wait another 12 days for their return to Toronto.
In that sense, this is the best way to satiate your desire to see the Raptors with Kawhi Leonard right now, today — even if their opponent is, as mentioned, not an NBA basketball team.
The Raptors head into this one at 1-1, and while they are one of the few NBA franchises to drop an exhibition game to a non-NBA team before, it feels safe to say they’ll be 2-1 come Saturday morning. Melbourne’s lone NBA-adjace player is former New Jersey Net Josh Boone, drafted 23rd overall in... 2006. (Also, Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor.)
Here’s what you need to know and watch for:
Where to Watch
7:00pm on NBA TV Canada
Raptors - Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, C.J. Miles, Jonas Valanciunas
Melbourne - Here’s the roster, care of Real GM. Make your picks.
Raptors - OG Anunoby is still absent for personal reasons. Take care, OG.
Melbourne - All good, mate.
Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor
I hate to belabour this point, but it bears repeating: Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor. He’s still working the rust off, he’s still finding his groove with his new teammates, he’s still waiting for actually basketball games that count in the standings — and yet, he remains, for all time, Kawhi Leonard.
To that end, so far Leonard has looked great — on the ball, off the ball, at the rim, behind the arc, in front of dudes, in their periphery, everywhere. (Poor Jae Crowder may never be the same.) On top of that —and I don’t want to get overheated here — to see how quickly he’s developing a chemistry with Kyle Lowry, only the most important player on the team, is heartening. Tonight’s contest will be a bout of light work for Leonard and Lowry, but as always we’ll be watching to see how the two of them fit together.
Can Toronto Learn Anything From A Preseason Loss?
I mean, other than starting Kyle Collinsworth and telling him to try and check Donovan Mitchell? After the Raptors got beat up in Utah, let's run through a few things:
- Maybe don't let Danny Green be the lead ball handler in a pick and roll.
on halloween im going to release a horror movie that's just a compilation of danny green inexplicably running pick and rolls while fred vanvleet and kyle lowry stand around spacing the floor and looking on in helpless terror— Friendshipcore (@Jacob_M_Mack) October 3, 2018
- Serge Ibaka is out there trying things, but is still rounding into, uh, basketball form.
Seriously it was a nice fake. Just couldn't finish. More of that.— William Lou (@william_lou) October 3, 2018
- Pascal Siakam is a thrill to watch in the open court (unless he’s trying to do too much, e.g. amassing four turnovers in a game).
- And Jonas Valanciunas is having himself a time.
Big fella doin' his thing | 21min - 18pts - 9reb pic.twitter.com/RK81UIoigP— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 3, 2018
Obviously it’s preseason, everything is at half-speed, people are still finding their legs — so let’s not read too much into the good (or the bad).
The Bench’s Bench
When we were prognosticating on how the Raptors would fill out the back third of their roster, some names were bandied about: Chris Boucher, Eric Moreland, Kay Felder, etc. So far this preseason, most of the Raptors in training camp roster spots 14 to 20 haven’t gotten much run. Boucher, Moreland, Jordan Loyd, and Felder played 3-7 minutes in Portland, all but Loyd sat in Utah (with the aforementioned Collinsworth getting the BYU-inspired start).
What we’ve seen from all of the camp invites is... not much. This is not a huge surprise, but there’s always a hope Toronto will unearth some gem in the preseason process (which we must trust). On paper, a player like Felder doesn’t have a ton of utility to a guard-heavy Raptors roster, but what of Moreland and Boucher, big men with some skill? Obviously, regardless of how they play in the preseason, these names won’t be much more than 14th-15th men on a loaded Raptors roster, but it’s still interesting to watch their performances and see what, if anything, shakes out.