Today’s preseason game between the Toronto Raptors and the Utah Jazz — the first 2022-23 game action for both teams — is a contest between two teams that took exact opposite tracks in the 2022 offseason.
The Raptors? They stood pat, bringing back almost entirely the same team as last season, with only a couple minor additions to bolster the bench.
The Jazz? They blew up the whole dang thing!
Which means tonight is a matchup featuring one team we’re all very familiar with, and one for whom we’ll probably need a cheat sheet to remember all the new faces.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 6:00PM EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes
Utah – Mike Conley, Collin Sexton, Kelly Olynyk, Malik Beasley, Lauri Markkanen
Toronto — Otto Porter Jr. (hamstring – out), Thad Young (knee – questionable), Khem Birch (knee surgery recovery – questionable)
Utah – Udoka Azubuike (ankle surgery recovery – out)
I’m sorry, who?
After three big trades, including moving superstars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell out of town, this is a very different Utah Jazz team than the one that’s dominated the regular season (and flamed out in the playoffs) over the past five years.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, I suppose — most teams only have so much patience, and bringing in a new GM (Danny Ainge, no less!) usually heralds “blow it up” time. The Jazz probably aren’t done, either — I can’t imagine Jordan Clarkson, Malik Beasley, Mike Conley or Kelly Olynyk are in their future plans. Are we even sure Collin Sexton and Lauri Markkanen are a young core to build around?
I guess they have to be, for now. For tonight, I’m mostly just looking forward to seeing Sexton and how he looks coming off of knee surgery that cost him almost the entire 2021-22 season. If Sexton recovers and reaches his potential, I think he can be an even more impactful player than Mitchell. I also hope to see more of Nickeil Alexander-Walker — this rebuilt Jazz team is a great opportunity for him to get consistent, impactful minutes!
Familiar faces on this side
The Raptors started their “core five” from last season during Friday’s open scrimmage, and I imagine that’s who we’ll see tonight. Whether or not that remains the starting lineup heading into the season is one of the two real questions facing the Raptors this camp (“who lands the final roster spots” is the other).
Will Gary Trent stay as the team’s starting two-guard? Or will Anunoby-Siakam-Barnes shift down a spot, allowing Precious Achiuwa to start (and Gary Trent to become the offensive spark off the bench? Will head coach Nick Nurse — who’s said the starting lineup may remain fluid, though he’s said that pretty much every season and it rarely happens — platoon Achiuwa, Birch and even Christian Koloko depending on big man matchups? We won’t get those answers tonight but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on during the preseason.
As for what I am looking for tonight, well, without Porter, the new faces are limited to Koloko and Juancho Hernangomez; I hope Koloko gets into the game, especially with a couple of starters, I definitely want to see how he looks next to a VanVleet or Siakam.
Injury report TBD
Given how little information I’ve been able to glean about this game, I’m halfway convinced it’s not even happening. There’s no official injury report available from the NBA, neither team provided game notes, there’s no nba.com preview... so I’m “best-guessing” starters and injuries up above! What we do know is that Otto Porter has a hamstring issue, and that Thad Young has a knee issue, and that Khem Birch is still recovering from offseason knee surgery.
The Jazz, helpfully, tweeted that Udoka Azubuike will miss the game as he recovers from ankle surgery.
As always with preseason games, you never really know what you’re gonna get. The starters might get extra minutes to help with conditioning! They might barely play (or play at all) to help avoid wear and tear. Deep roster guys may get a chance to show their stuff! They may also get on the court with oddball lineups that don’t suit their skillset.
It’s easy to say “it’s preseason, it doesn’t matter” but I, for one, enjoy the completely unpredictable nature of it. Enjoy the game, everyone!