The Raptors dropped a 101-89 decision to the Timberwolves on Wednesday night to fall to 1-1 in the pre-season, but the real story is that the exhibition campaign is already a quarter of the way done (Thank God).
Since the results and individual games don’t actually matter, I’ll just post some thoughts and observations on each player through two games.
Kyle Lowry – Lowry looks lighter and quicker than he did last season and the benefit is in how crisply he’s turning the corner on screens (offence) and moving on defence. It’s encouraging to see, though I’d still like to see him have a bigger piece of the offensive pie.
DeMar DeRozan – DeMar’s improved three-point shot hasnt been on display yet, but he’s scoring efficiently (30 points on 12/19 shooting) and seems to be more active on D.
Rudy Gay – Gay’s shot hasn’t looked much different but his ability to get to the line Wednesday has kept his efficiency up (28 total points on 18 field goal attempts). Whether it’s a mere early October blip or Gay is actually serious about getting to the line remains to be seen.
Amir Johnson – Standard fare for Amir.
Jonas Valanciunas – He’s commiting some unnecessary fouls and looks gassed at times (is it the extra weight?), but Jonas has been solid on both ends of the court. It’s also quite evident that the offence will run through JV in the post a lot more this season, which is a welcome addition.
D.J. Augustin/Dwight Buycks – I know it’s early in the pre-season and I know one of these guys is a rookie, but yeesh, if this is what we’re going to see from the backup point guards this year, the second unit and the team as a whole is going to struggle. The backup point guard spot looks like a legitimate concern…again.
Terrence Ross – Much like his rookie season, Ross has had an up and down start to his sophomore pre-season. The 22-year-old was solid on both ends of the floor Monday night in Boston but disappointing on both ends Wednesday in Toronto. To his credit, he’s making good on his word to attack the basket more and use his athleticism as a slasher, but he forced a lot of things Wednesday and looked absolutely lost at times defensively.
Landry Fields – Strong defence, good rebounding, plenty of hustle plays and smart offensive movement, but still an offensive liability outside of that movement, with a jumper that looks as wonky as ever. I will say though, I was intrigued by his spell as somewhat of a point-forward in the second half against Minnesota. If Augustin and Buycks continue to struggle, Dwane Casey might actually have to think about it.
Tyler Hansbrough – Through about 42 pre-season minutes as a Raptor, Psycho-T has already lived up to his billing as a feisty power forward who will give you rebounding (especially offensive rebounding), defence and energy off of the bench while drawing plenty of fouls (and handing them out). As long as he continues to know his role, so to speak, on the offensive end, Hansbrough will be of value to the Raptors. He sometimes has the tendency to fall in love with his inconsistent jumper, but we thankfully haven’t seen too much of it yet.
Steve Novak – Novak didn’t play on Monday given that Casey already knows what he is and isn’t, but just minutes into his Raptors career on Wednesday, he already had six points on a couple of splashed three-pointers. Fans are going to fall in love with Novak’s automatic threes (wait ’til he brings out the championship belt!), but the issue is that he doesn’t do much else on either end, and when teams begin to guard him tightly and run him off the three-point line as Rick Adelman’s Wolves did in the second half, his value diminishes. Having said that, whether he’s getting his shot off or not, Novak is stretching opposing defences thin with his mere presence.
Austin Daye – He didn’t look good in 13 minutes on Monday (4 points on 1/5 shooting, 3 rebounds, 4 fouls) and he barely played (2:55) on Wednesday. Unless he makes the most of his next major pre-season opportunity or unless an injury forces him into the rotation, Daye will have to attempt working his way up the depth chart in practice.
Aaron Gray – There’s a reason Gray has played less than 10 minutes so far, and it’s that you probably know exactly what you’re getting from Gray come opening night (if he plays on opening night). He’s going to rebound and get physical with opposing bigs while providing little to no offensive value in his role as the team’s fourth big man. Nothing he does in October changes that.
Quincy Acy – The youngster hasn’t touched the floor yet. There’s been no report of an injury and you figure that he’s a player the coaching staff would want to get a good read on before the regular season, so what gives?
Julyan Stone/Carlos Morais/Chris Wright – The three have combined to play less than eight minutes thus far after DNP-CD’s Monday night, so it will be tough for anyone outside of the team to actually know which of the three, if any, have gained the upper hand in the quest for the 15th and final roster spot.
Extras – One positive has been the movement we’ve seen in the Raptors offence, specifically when the starters are on the floor, whereas last season there was way too much standing around and ball stopping. I wonder how much of the more imaginative offence is due to Nick Nurse’s presence on the coaching staff, as Nurse is known for his impressive playbook.
- If the offensive movement is a positive, the 40 turnovers through two games is an obvious negative, though in fairness 26 of those came in Monday’s opener.
- The only real piece of news we have so far this pre-season is a devastating one at that, as the best mascot in the NBA, THE Raptor, has been sidelined for the year…
Crushing blow! #Raptors say The Chicken blew out Achilles, done for year. Best mascot in NBA. Team has plans for successor by opening night.
— Doug Smith: Raptors (@SmithRaps) October 9, 2013
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 9, 2013
Dwane Casey says his daughter cried when told of the Raptor’s Achilles tear. Dwane spoke with him and, “the Raptor will be back.”
— Holly MacKenzie (@stackmack) October 10, 2013