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Toronto Temperature: A slow start with glimpses of hope

After a 1-3 week to start the season, there have been a plethora of ups and downs.

Toronto Raptors fall to the Chicago Bulls 111-108
Scottie Barnes soaking it all in.
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

In the famous words of Daryl Morey, “buckle up, this could be a while.” While the context of Morey’s quote could cause long-lasting, franchise altering damage to the 76ers, the Toronto Raptors’ future appears to be in much better shape, despite the slow start to the 2021-2022 season. Nonetheless, fans’ buckles should be tightly fastened, as games where the squad is down 20+ points could become routine until a certain All-NBA forward steps back onto the court.

And in what could be the best news of the week, that return could be sooner than anticipated! Both Pascal Siakam and Yuta Watanabe have had full practices and will be getting some run in with the Raptors 905 during their training camp. Could that be the light at the end of a 1-3 tunnel, which, really, hasn’t felt too bad?

Let’s take the temperature and find out!

Who’s Hot

Scottie Barnes, Utility Knife

The initial, pre-season Toronto Temperature touched on this, but it’s important to reiterate — Scottie Barnes is so much fun. As it turns out, he’s more than just pure, unadulterated joy and exuberance. He’s dominance. He’s smooth. He does a little bit of everything and is doing some of those things — like most everything on the offensive end — at a much higher level than was initially expected.

It would appear that the shooting woes were exaggerated to say the least, but, the “small sample size” caveat is still very much in play. Really though, Raptors fans shouldn’t care a lick when he’s leaving opposing players looking like this.

Gary Trent Jr., Defensive Player of the Year?

Okay, no, but, how about the chops Gary is showing on the defensive end to start the season?

Labeled as a 2-way player in Portland, Trent Jr. played a level of defense that was acceptable in a Western Conference, high-scoring system. Lauded even! That, of course, was not a level that Coach Nick Nurse found acceptable, as the Raptors trot out a much more aggressive defensive scheme than the Trail Blazers. Things change and young players grow as, after a full offseason with the coaching staff, the defensive schemes and mentality required to execute those schemes on a high and consistent level have seemed to sink in. So much so, that Gary is tied for 4th in the NBA in steals and is in the top 10 in deflections!

That defensive uptick (and maybe a little bit of Masai Ujiri forecasting) has lead to Gary finding his way back into the starting lineup after coming off of the bench in favour of that Slovenian guy who I can’t bring myself to write positively about. You know the one, right? And not a moment too soon, as, if he weren’t in the starting lineup in the obliteration of the Boston Celtics, would Raptors have fans have received this excellent post-game reaction?

Dalano Banton, Rexdale Proud

It literally doesn’t get any better than that for your first ever basket in the NBA. A half-court buzzer beater, playing for the city you’re from and for the team you loved watching growing up? Come on!

While Banton hasn’t received a ton of tick this season, the tools of a really good basketball are there. Do you know who recognizes that? Read on.

Get this guy to the 905 so he can win G-League MVP and then start for the Raptors next year, stat! Also, here’s a great piece on Dalano by my guy Alex Nino Gheciu. Rexdale forever!

Who’s Not

Svi Mykhailiuk, No Longer the Preseason

Remember when it looked like there would be a challenge for wing minutes in the preseason? Well, Svi Mykhailiuk has looked uninspiring, Justin Champagnie and Isaac Bonga have played a combined 6-minutes and Sam Dekker has yet to touch the court. Coach Nurse absolutely cannot wait for Yuta Watanabe’s return.

Chris Boucher, Chucker

Speaking of Nick Nurse not being able to wait, how much longer can he wait on Chris Boucher snapping out of this funk? Boucher has shot a dreadful 26% from the field and 17% from three-point range. Some of the misses mixed into that three-point percentage have been long bombs with time on the clock that carom wildly off of the rim at best.

While airballs and shots off of the glass remain the regular, don’t expect Boucher’s 12 minutes a game — down from 24 minutes a game last season — to increase any time soon.

Rogers Media, Foul Cretins

A lot of digital ink has been spilled about this absolute gong show of a stance by Toronto media overlords, Rogers, and I’d like to highlight two voices that are not my own to tell the tale. Please start here with Katie Heindl’s piece that sums up the total story and end here for Morgan Campbell’s op-ed that provides a look into the coded racism behind Edward Rogers’ comments.