In these virus-stricken times, with rosters riddled with 10-day contracts, what is a coach to do? Well, if you’re Nick Nurse, you do what you are known to do best: shamble a group of strangers together and win a championship. That’s what he did in the G-League, and then again in the NBA.
But what we’re seeing now is as confusing a situation as we’ve seen since the NBA returned via the bubble — games are being postponed with little-to-no consistency in which are chosen. The Toronto Raptors now have ten players in HSP — three more were added Christmas day (happy holidays!) — while the Cavs are sporting seven with such a tag, a much more reasonable number these days /s.
I’ll admit, much to my embarrassment, that I can’t give a very good preview of tonight’s contest because I’m still trying to find an updated roster on paper with positional descriptions, stats...anything that gives me a clue of what to expect from these guys. The Raps signed a centre this morning, finally, after they were staring at a frontcourt of Boucher/Watanabe, a tandem who also happen to be the team’s starting backcourt.
Kidding aside, Yuta Watanabe, Chris Boucher, Svi Mykhailiuk and Dalano Banton figure to be starters for the Raptors, and who the fifth will be is as up in the air as Omicron right now. Toronto will be bringing in the requisite amount of signings in order to field at least eight players — Juwan Morgan, Brandon Goodwin and Nik Stauskas (still attempting to clear their own set of HSP), Tremont Waters and Daniel Oturu, the newly signed 6-foot-9 centre from the Windy City Bulls of the G League.
Should Stauskas be cleared, I would factor him in as the fifth starter given he has the most NBA experience of the new signees (335 games in his seven year career). The Mississauga native has averaged 21.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game for the Grand Rapids Gold this season, knocking down 35.2 percent of his triples. Not bad Nik, not bad.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet One, 6 p.m. EST
let’s get funky
Toronto — Dalano Banton, Nik Stauskas, Svi Mykhailiuk, Yuta Watanabe, Chris Boucher
Cleveland — Darius Garland, Ricky Rubio, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love, Lauri Markkanen
Toronto — Precious Achiuwa, OG Anunoby, Dalano Banton, Scottie Barnes, Khem Birch, Justin Champagnie, Goran Dragić (not with team), Malachi Flynn, David Johnson, Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent, Fred VanVleet
Cleveland — Jarrett Allen, Ed Davis, Evan Mobley, RJ Nembhard, Isaac Okoro, Collin Sexton, Lamar Stevens, Dylan Win
New players to watch
So, amidst the chaos and confusion for Raps fans, there are a few signings that could prove to be extended tryouts for the rest of the season. Chief among them, of course, is Stauskas — putting up gaudy numbers for a Gold squad that’s roughly middle of the league in the standings.
Another is DJ Wilson, the bouncy forward who showed flashes of potential at times for the Milwaukee Bucks in the past. The lanky 6-foot-10 rim rocker has the body type for the 2021-22 Raptors roster and could find himself a forever home in Toronto if all goes well in his fill-in minutes. He’s most recently played for the Houston Rockets, averaging a notch over six points in 14 minutes per game.
Daniel Oturu, just signed this morning and probably on the freeway between Chicago and Cleveland as I type this, has had a nice individual season for the G League Bulls, averaging 20 points and nine boards per game. He played his college ball at Minnesota and is just 22 years old. Should Toronto look to make a deal at the deadline, having a productive Oturu’s depth up front could open up a few more avenues to explore.
Like the Raptors roster, the preview is thin, admittedly. I’ve been scrambling all morning gathering stats and piecing together roster pages, so expect more meat and potatoes in my game thread as I put together a real analysis. Until then, stay safe, kiss your loved ones and get vaccinated!