The 2019-20 Toronto Raptors are not only defending their championship, they’re also replacing two starters at key positions on the wing. Each week on Swingin’ Wings, we’ll be tracking the progress of those possible replacements.
We’re only two weeks into this column, and already OG Anunoby is making me look foolish for even suggesting this thing. He’s been great as the starting small forward! And although Fred VanVleet’s scoring has dropped from his magnificent first game, he seems pretty entrenched as the starting two-guard.
So the interest level in this feature might have to come down to this: who on the rest of the Toronto Raptors wing crew can make the backup competition interesting week-to-week?
Who Did What?
The Raptors played two games on the road last week, in Boston (loss) and Chicago (win), and one at home, against the Magic (win). OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet started all three games, and Norman Powell was the first wing off the bench in all three.
Things do get interesting after that though.
- Stanley Johnson played about five minutes in each of the two road games, but didn’t see the floor against Orlando.
- Matt Thomas played some solid minutes against Chicago, but didn’t play in the other two.
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Malcolm Miller both played about four minutes of garbage time against the Bulls.
- Terence Davis II played in the road games, but a now-healthy Patrick McCaw took his minutes against Orlando.
I think it’s safe to say the wing rotation is still “fluid”.
Wing Stat of the Week: .285
That’s Norman Powell’s shooting percentage in the three games (4-for-14). Powell was lights-out in the preseason, and it looked like he finally had the opportunity to secure a consistent role on the Raptors after four years of flitting in and out of the lineup. The sixth man role has been all his thus far, but if he can’t turn that shot around, he’s going to lose minutes to McCaw and maybe even Davis.
Wing Highlight of the Week
OG Anunoby had four blocks against Chicago, and honestly, they were all highlight-worthy, but I think the first one was the best:
There are two things about this that make it extra enjoyable. First, I love it when both offensive and defensive player are sent reeling on a clean play. That their momentum knocked them both to the floor, with only the ball between them, shows how fast and strong these guys are.
Second, Thaddeus Young (the victim here) has been a mentor of sorts to Anunoby, who attended Young’s summer camps back in the day. Gotta love a good “student becomes the teacher” vibe!
What are the Wings Saying?
Matt Thomas, on his Raptors debut against the Bulls:
It felt good, I worked hard for this opportunity and I’m glad I was able to take advantage of it. My teammates got me going, you know, they were able to find me and it helps when those first couple shots go down.
OG Anunoby, on what having a shooter like Matt Thomas on the floor does for the team:
It helps the team a lot. We can run him off pin-downs, and then you can’t help off him, if you leave him open you have to pay.
What’s Coach Saying?
Nick Nurse, on Matt Thomas:
He was good, right? Comes in first of all and we’re hoping he can bang some shots and he does, right, right on cue and he really played solid D, right, I think there was only one possession there later on in the game where somebody got him inside and pump faked him into an and-1 foul but other than that, I think he got switched onto LaVine a lot and he did the right things, he did the right coverages and moved his feet pretty well and he did pretty well out there.
And in response to further questions about Thomas’ D, Nurse said:
I’m concerned about all those guys, all the new guys are are still trying to learn what we’re trying to do and how it’s done, and that was a big step forward for a couple of those guys tonight.
What Are the Rest of us Saying?
It was a rough week for Stanley Johnson, even in the meager 10 minutes he played, and, well, folks noticed:
I don't know what the question is, but Stanley Johnson is NOT the answer— Doug Smith: Raptors (@SmithRaps) October 27, 2019
Stanley Johnson is cancelled— Sean Woodley (@woodleysean) October 27, 2019
I might dabble in a little Malcolm Miller. Johnson has been brutal.— (((Eeriec Koreen))) (@ekoreen) October 27, 2019
Wing of the Week: OG Anunoby
OG Anunoby also won this last week, and he certainly didn’t do anything this week to lose it! He averaged 12.7 points on 59.3% shooting (70.4 TS%!), along with 7.3 rebounds, 2 steals and 2.3 blocks across the three games. This part of the column is gonna get real boring if OG continues to be this good.