An extra off day in the middle of a west coast trip feels like a weird thing, right? Feels like the Toronto Raptors really should have been playing a game last night! Alas, we must wait another day — and for another late start — to see if our team can get back into the win column.
In the meantime: On to the thoughts! (Today with fewer typos and broken links, hopefully!)
1. Are the Raptors too cautious with injuries?
Sometimes I feel like the Raptors might be taking things too slowly when it comes to player injuries. Like when Scottie Barnes missed two games with a sore thumb, or now OG Anunoby being questionable after banging a hip in practice. And a “strained calf” that’s kept Yuta Watanabe sidelined for more than six weeks?
I wonder if this approach didn’t start during Kawhi Leonard’s “load management” year.
I get the desire to protect players’ health over the long term. But taking that extra time seems like a luxury that a team can afford when it’s on pace to win 50+ games every year. For a team that’s on the playoff bubble (assuming it’s trying to win), every game counts!
2. 47 on 23
The Milwaukee Bucks have gotten off to a slow start, and haven’t yet enjoyed the same post-championship victory lap that our Raptors gave us two years ago. But that Giannis cat, he’s pretty good right? Antetokounmpo dropped 47 on the Los Angeles Lakers last night, the same night that Khris Middleton returned from the health and safety protocols. And Antetokounmpo did it on just 23 shots!
If the Bucks can get healthy I still think they can challenge the Brooklyn Nets for top spot in the east.
3. Alex Caruso’s free agency
On the one hand, the buzz around Alex Caruso’s return to Los Angeles this week seemed like another eye-rolling case of everyone over-analyzing every damn thing the Lakers do. On the other it gave us this nice Bill Oram story in The Athletic about Caruso’s free agency.
It’s a nice little inside look at what goes through a player’s mind during free agency. I find it especially interesting to think about what a role player like Caruso is thinking, on the eve of his first big contract. It’s not max money or star money, but it’s still life-changing money, you know?
4. ROY is Scottie’s to lose?
With Evan Mobley sidelined for a couple of weeks and no one else from the rookie class standing out just yet, this road trip — Scottie Barnes’ first real NBA trip — is a chance for the youngster to cement his position as the rookie of the year frontrunner. He’s averaging 16.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, and playing pretty stellar team defense too.
Louis Zatzman has a nice breakdown of the two rooks at The All Star.
5. Backup PG battle
I feel like we’ve talked this one to death already, but, I always enjoy reading Yasmin Duale’s work so let’s join her in taking one more look at the Raptors’ backup PG role and the fight for minutes between Dalano Banton and Malachi Flynn. They really are exact opposites in style, as Yasmin breaks down nicely, but to me — on this team, anyway — I lean towards the chaos that Banton brings, rather than the slow steadiness of Flynn. I feel like the pick-and-roll gravity that Flynn can (potentially) create would work much better with more shooters on the floor — shooters the Raptors just don’t have. (Maybe if Yuta comes back and that preseason stroke is legit, though...)
Either way it’s nice to have both options and I hope Flynn’s solid play in Portland extends his leash a little bit.