The goal of a pro sports team, as we all know, is to win. The preseason, however, is played and viewed with a different set of priorities. Sure, the Toronto Raptors dropping 126-113 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was a disappointing result. But our takeaway from these games has less to do with the score and much more to do with what returning players have added from last year, or how new additions are gelling with the roster, or even how top-five draft picks look compared to the handful of Summer League highlights we’ve been replaying in our minds during the dog days of September.
With the Raptors missing Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, Khem Birch, and Yuta Watanabe, the team is without its most important offensive player and a large chunk of its frontcourt depth. While their absences are certainly a bummer (though we did get a lovely helping of preseason Watanabe), this does open up excitingly larger roles for new Raptors – namely, Scottie Barnes and Precious Achiuwa.
This matchup will look quite a bit different from when the Raptors took the Boston Celtics to seven games in the second round of the bubble. A different-looking matchup is normal since that was postseason and this is preseason, but the rosters have shaken up quite a bit too, considering that, in an alarming bit of news, the series was just... 13 months ago?!
Anyways, a lot’s changed since then, including the return of home games with crowds and an exponential increase in chevrons. Let’s see how these Raptors fare tonight.
Here are the details of the game:
Where to Watch:
TSN2, 7:00 PM EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Goran Dragic, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Precious Achiuwa
Boston – Marcus Smart, Josh Richardson, Jayson Tatum, Juancho Hernangomez, Robert Williams
Toronto – Pascal Siakam (shoulder – out), Khem Birch (health and safety protocols – out), Chris Boucher (finger – out), Yuta Watanabe (calf – out)
Boston – Jaylen Brown (Health and safety protocols – out), Juwan Morgan (rest – out)
Run run run
The Raptors’ roster is good for a number of things. Halfcourt offense is not one of them, especially with Siakam sidelined. To make up for their lack of offensive creation, the Raptors should — and have certainly made an effort to — push the ball in transition as soon as they gain possession.
One thing that stands out from watching Precious Achiuwa is his ability to put the ball on the floor off a defensive rebound and go coast-to-coast with surprising quickness and agility. In the first game against Philly, Dalano Banton did just that, prompting me to select him with the first overall pick of my dynasty league fantasy draft. These Raptors might not have the highest floor as a halfcourt offense, but their ceiling as a team that runs in transition is tremendous.
Anunoby as the primary scorer
The running theme of this preview, and basically every Raptors preview until he returns, is how Siakam’s absence affects the team (because, you know, he’s quite good). One major outcome is that the injury thrusts OG Anunoby into the most prominent offensive role he’s had as an NBA player. Factor in the loss of Kyle Lowry and we could see his usage rate climb from around 19% last year to somewhere around 25%.
While he’s shown numerous flashes of being an exciting, capable top scoring option, he’s also had some turnover issues — which is to be expected given the newness of his role. The preseason gives us a chance to see how Anunoby fares as a more on-ball offensive player receiving additional defensive attention. He’s expanded his game a ton in the last couple years, and now he has the chance to showcase his growth.
Role Player Auditions
While all eyes are understandably on Scottie Barnes, it’s understood that he’ll have a substantial role in the rotation as soon as the regular season begins. But it’ll be interesting to monitor two young players – Malachi Flynn (23) and Svi Mykhailuk (24) – who are likely auditioning to determine the exact prominence of their roles. While Flynn showed his defensive chops as a rookie, the key now is his ability to affect and penetrate defenses in order to create scoring chances for others.
Meanwhile, Svi Mykhailuk was a fairly under-the-radar addition who might earn some minutes on a team that doesn’t exactly have an abundance of backcourt depth. Mykhailuk has shown that he’s capable of more than just shooting, and can be an important cog in lineups this season.