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Cleveland Cavaliers v Toronto Raptors

Game Thread: Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers

The Raptors visit the Cavaliers as they look to snap their two-game losing streak, plus a bonus Armoni Brooks scouting reoprt.

Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors begin their six-game road trip with a stop in Cleveland as they look to break their recent two-game losing streak AND their head-to-head losing streak against the Cavaliers tonight. The Cavaliers should expect a much better resistance this time, as they won’t be facing a bunch of replacements players like they were in December. However, the Raptors will still be shorthanded tonight, as Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby will miss tonight’s game due to injuries.

This road trip is significant for the Raptors, as only three games separate them from the 10th play-in spot. Unfortunately, it’ll be an uphill battle starting tonight, as Malachi Flynn joined the injury report and will be out for tonight’s game with a left hamstring injury. Their two-way players, Justin Champagnie and David Johnson, are on assignment with the Raptors 905, as they look to keep their top spot in the East against the Maine Celtics. Watching the Raptors 905 game right now, and Isaac Bonga is not with the team.

As such, the Raptors are looking for reinforcements. DJ Wilson’s 10-day tenure seems to be over, as the Raptors signed Armoni Brooks to a 10-day contract.

Here’s the details for tonight’s game, and below, a brief scouting report on Brooks:

Where to Watch:

Sportsnet, 7:30 PM EST

Lineups:

Toronto – Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Khem Birch, Precious Achiuwa

Cleveland – Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, Lauri Markkanen, Evan Mobely, Jarret Allen

Injuries:

Toronto – Malachi Flynn (hamstring – out), Fred VanVleet (knee – out), OG Anunoby (finger – out)

Cleveland – Rajon Rondo (toe - out), Caris LeVert (foot – out), Colin Sexton (knee – out)

Scouting Report: Armoni Brooks

Armoni Brooks was a former Houston Rockets two-way contract player. He was initially with the College Park Skyhawks (Atlanta Hawks’ affiliate) during his rookie season, before the Rockets signed him, and showed his marksmanship by shooting 38.2% from behind the arc on 7.9 attempts per game. Brooks was recently waived by the Rockets and might have impressed the Raptors brass when he came off the bench for the Skyhawks and dropped 24 points on 6-for-11 shooting behind the arc against the Raptors 905 just last week.

Physical Profile

Armoni Brooks measured at the G League Invitational a few years ago at 6’3” without shoes and with a 6’9” wingspan. 6’9”??? OK, now the signing makes sense! Brooks has a slim body profile; think Malik Monk. However, he’s quick and athletic enough (33 in max vertical) to counter closeouts and get to the basket.

What’s in the bag?

Armoni Brooks’ M-O is to do one thing: hit perimeter shots. He’s a much better catch-and-shoot three-pointer, but make no mistake about it — if given the rope, he can get some separation to get a shot off from the perimeter. Brooks has deep range and won’t hesitate to take contested perimeter shots, and sometimes, to his detriment. It’s a change of pace to what we’ve seen from Matt Thomas and Svi Mykhailiuk, as both players prefer to get a clean shot and will turn down a sliver of opening if they hear the ghost steps of the defender’s closeout.

Brooks is aggressive in getting himself open around the perimeter and will constantly give the ball handler an angle to hit him with a pass. He leverages his quickness and athleticism to make a quick drive to the basket as a counter or a cutter. When he drives to the basket, Brooks knows how to use his body to shield his shot from the defenders or hit an open teammate for a drop-off pass.

Defense

It’s a little hard to evaluate Armoni Brooks’ defense, but at the very least, he wouldn’t be with the team if the Raptors’ top brass didn’t see his defensive upside.

Brooks likes to float between the passing lanes and use his length and quickness to pick errant passes or provide “help defense” with his active hands. I’m not sure if it’s Houston’s defensive scheme, but it’s hard to evaluate whether Brooks is a decent point-of-attack defender. From a few games that I’ve seen in the G League, including more recently against the Raptors 905, he’s had a few instances where he was able to stay in front of his man, and even picked the pocket of Ashton Hagans.

How can Brooks help?

It’s not a secret that the Raptors’ offense is in dire need of perimeter shooting. With Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby out of the lineup, that’s already two of their five best shooters on their rotation. The vacuum created puts too much pressure on Pascal Siakam to come up with something offensively while having to fend off multiple defenders sagging and waiting for his move.

If Brooks can be a microwave and hit a couple of threes, that might be enough to keep the defense honest and open up lanes for his teammates. He can also bring instant play for the Raptors without eating up the shot clock. Brooks can get a shot up quickly from the perimeter with a simple DHO, and he’s confident enough to pull up even a contested shot. You know your bench is bad is a 10-day contract signee could immediately become the 3rd person off the bench capable of scoring more than 10 points.

Outlook

This 10-day contract is a tryout of sorts for Armoni Brooks. If his shooting pans out, he can be a good fit off the bench. The Raptors don’t run a traditional point-guard-driven lineup, so we might even see a four 6’8/9” big wings plus Brooks if he gets the chance to get in. Brooks is undersized as a shooting guard, and I’m not sure if he’s feisty enough to play with VanVleet in the backcourt, but definitely not a good fit with Malachi Flynn, as it will be terrible defensively.

There’s also a chance that Brooks might shoot his way out of his 10-day contract. Despite his shooting acumen, he’s been very streaky even with the minutes and reps he got with the Houston Rockets. He had a couple of bad shooting slumps with the Rockets this season, including going for 8-for-39 from the perimeter since January 1st.

Brooks will have to be a microwave shooter who can get hot immediately and maximize his minutes. That’s an arduous task; just ask Svi Mykhailiuk. Otherwise, the Raptors might have to look elsewhere for their shooting needs.

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