Welcome to Day 2 of the new Five Thoughts! I realized yesterday there’s a better way to describe this column than the rambling way I did so yesterday; these are basically the thoughts I’d tweet out if I had enough time in my day to actually be active and engaged on Twitter.
1. OG Anunoby, diversifying
Friend of HQ Joshua Howe made an observation on Twitter the yesterday about OG Anunoby’s expanding game:
Last season, OG Anunoby averaged a mere 1.6 pull-up shots per game and connected on just 27.9% of them.— Joshua Howe (@Howevolution) October 11, 2021
Through three games this pre-season, he's taking 5.0 pull-up attempts and shooting 46.6%. Of those attempts, 2.0 are triples on which he's shooting 66.6%.
That diversity was even more on display last night. Anunoby dropped 12 first quarter points, and while none of them came off of pull-ups, they came in a wide variety of ways. He started off the game by draining a step-back three, then drove into the lane and drew a foul on Jalen Green. He then abused Alperen Sengun on the drive, bullying right past the Rockets rookie for a two handed jam.
He followed that up with a catch-and-shoot three from the right wing. Basically it seems like he’s trying something new every time he has the ball. And sure, some of those moves have me raising my eyebrows, but more often than not, they leave me nodding in appreciation.
2. Run ‘n’ gun
You can’t take too much away from the preseason of course, but one thing seems pretty clear — if their opponents are at all undisciplined or sloppy, the Raptors will turn them over and jet the other way. They Raptors are hyper-active on defense, making the most of their length to force their opponents into longer and more awkward angle and passing lanes. And pretty much every player on the roster can pick up the ball in the backcourt and handle it end-to-end, they’re a threat to run — every time. There were times last night when the Rockets looked like they had no idea what hit them.
In the regular season, it’ll probably play out in such a way that sees the Raptors beat up on younger, less fundamentally-sound teams (like the Rockets) but struggle against veteran, disciplined teams.
3. Extended bench minutes
Who saw Ish Wainwright coming into last night’s game in the third quarter and draining back-to-back threes? I sure didn’t! I don’t know too much about Wainwright’s game but I was surprised to see just how big he is; he’s like Barnes in that once you see him out there you immediately can’t help but notice how broad his shoulders are.
Speaking of big dudes, how about Reggie Perry? He’s even bigger than Wainwright. Perry played almost the entire fourth, and it was our first real look at him; he’s raw. Real raw. If he sticks around, he’ll surely be heading to the 905 for more reps.
Post-game though, it was Isaac Bonga who got the most praise from coach Nurse, who called Bonga’s play “impactful” and said he did everything the team wanted him to do, including crashing the offensive glass.
4. Khem Birch returns
Raptors centre Khem Birch made his preseason debut last night, and tallied just two points and two rebounds in 17 minutes. But it was good to see him on the floor, and post-game, Nick Nurse said he liked what he saw from Birch, and expects even more as his conditioning improves.
Beyond his on the court debut, Birch spoke to the media yesterday for the first time since he entered the health and safety protocols. He shared that he and his family all had COVID — despite being vaccinated.
Birch said his wife and daughter also tested positive. All were fully vaccinated “thank God or it probably would have been worse.” His wife lost sense of taste and smell; his daughter was asymptomatic. https://t.co/6T7PocEcx5— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) October 11, 2021
Thankfully Birch and his family seem to be on the mend, and thank goodness Birch added that bit about COVID likely being much worse if they weren’t vaccinated. With folks like Bradley Beal failing to understand how vaccines work and spreading misinformation, it’s important to continue to get this message out.
5. Speaking of returns... Ben? Ben Simmons??
Looks like the Ben Simmons vs. Philadelphia 76ers problem is resolving itself in pretty much the only way it could — at least in the short term.
Sixers officials and Klutch CEO Rich Paul have progressed in talks over recent days on a resolution to bring All-Star Ben Simmons back to Philadelphia in the near future, sources tell ESPN. Discussions are ongoing.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 11, 2021
This was the dumbest standoff imaginable; neither side had any leverage and the harder they insisted otherwise, the less leverage they got. Every day this goofy holdout went on, the less valuable Simmons became in the market, and the less likely a trade became.
Things got even weirder, of course, by the end of the day:
Sources: Sixers were unaware Simmons was flying into Philadelphia today. The organization was in constant contact with agent Rich Paul, but Simmons simply showed up at arena to take his Covid test prior to Sixers-Nets tip -- and that's when team officials knew he was in town. https://t.co/j3cGnC6mgG— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 12, 2021
And now, like everyone else, I look forward to seeing Simmons’s first media performance, and the reception that the Philly fans give him in his first home game.