The preseason is mercifully over! Now we get a week to rest and relax (and finish our team previews!), and see how the Toronto Raptors shape their final roster.
1. Assist Man Barnes
Scottie Barnes is a point guard. And not just because it says so in his Instagram bio! He was a finalist for the NCAA’s Bob Cousy award last season, awarded to the best college point guard.
So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that he averaged 5.6 assists per game in the preseason… but I am. I really didn’t expect that from a 6’8”, 225 lbs. player with the shoulders of a power forward.
Really can’t wait to see what he can do next to a fully-healthy Pascal Siakam.
2. Gary Trent Jr.: Love him or leave him?
Raptors Twitter can be a lot sometimes, but the vitriol directed towards Gary Trent Jr. after a subpar showing in his first preseason game was a little extreme. I guess we really didn’t learn anything with the way we treated Pascal Siakam, eh?
While it’s true that Trent shot the ball poorly the entire preseason (35% on 12 shots per game), his shots after the first game were mostly good shots. And his solid defensive effort against both Boston and Houston caught the eye of Nick Nurse. Nurse said he was impressed with how hard Trent was playing, how competitive he was, and said he’s got the right mindset — he’s coachable and fun to be around.
And he’s 22. And had all of what, two busted-ass months with the team in Tampa? Trent’s gonna be fine.
3. Muddy waters
After last night’s game, in which Sam Dekker hit four threes, Ish Wainwright had a team-high +20, and even Freddie Gillespie had a solid fourth quarter, I have no idea who’s making the team. But, my final prediction:
- Chris Boucher
- Dalano Banton
- Fred VanVleet
- Gary Trent Jr.
- Goran Dragić
- Khem Birch
- Malachi Flynn
- OG Anunoby
- Pascal Siakam
- Precious Achiuwa
- Scottie Barnes
- Yuta Watanabe
- Svi Mykhailiuk
- Isaac Bonga
- Ishmail Wainright
- David Johnson (TW)
- Justin Champagnie (TW)
That leaves Dekker, Gillespie and Reggie Perry on the outside — though I wouldn’t be shocked if Wainwright is out and one of Dekker or Gillespie is in. I do hope that whoever doesn’t make it gets re-signed to the 905.
Nick Nurse said on Tuesday that they’ll make a decision quickly, so we’ll know soon enough.
4. Managing up
ESPN released their “Future Power Rankings” the other day, and the ranked 15th in the league in terms of their future prospects. Right smack in the middle of the pack!
What’s interesting here, is that when it comes to team management — one of five categories that ESPN ranks teams on, along with players, money, draft and market — the Raptors rank second-best on ESPN’s list, behind only the Miami Heat.
ESPN’s best managements in the NBA:— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) October 11, 2021
1. Miami Heat
2. Toronto Raptors
3. Milwaukee Bucks
4. Denver Nuggets
5. OKC Thunder
6. LA Lakers
7. LA Clippers / Brooklyn Nets
9. Golden State Warriors
10. Utah Jazz
That’s pretty cool, and speaks to just how highly regarded Masai Ujiri, Bobby Webster, and Nick Nurse are all regarded around the league. Now, if only they get a major free agent to sign here...
5. Latest on Kyrie
Obviously I can’t let this column pass by without commenting on Kyrie Irving. The Brooklyn Nets telling their star guard he’s either in or out, and can’t miss half their games, is probably the right move — we all know how important team chemistry is. And ultimately the whole thing is up to Kyrie — he has the choice to get vaccinated (and be allowed to enter his workplace), or not get vaccinated (and face the consequences of that choice).
Nets GM Sean Marks statement on Brooklyn's decision to sit Kyrie Irving until he fulfills NYC vaccination rules: pic.twitter.com/4LBIQXt7al— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 12, 2021
But this? Nah. Nope. I honestly can’t believe that The Athletic, whose work I’ve respected up to this point, would even print such garbage. Even for Charania, who's become little more than a mouthpiece for agents, this is a new low.
(Not surprisingly, they’ve deleted that Tweet. But the story is still up.)
Again, for the last time (ha! yeah right): no one has lost their job because of a vaccine mandate. People have lost their jobs for being unwilling to do the absolute least they can to help protect the people around them from a deadly virus. And that’s exactly what has happened to Irving.