Overreaction Monday: Observations from Raptors-Clippers Pre-Season Debut in Honolulu

Destination notwithstanding, the Toronto Raptors pre-season got off to a sunny start last night following a 121-113 victory over the new look Los Angeles Clippers.

Both teams have underwent some impactful personnel changes, most notably the Clippers losing Chris Paul. For the Raptors, this marked the first real game action without Patrick Patterson (OKC via FA), PJ Tucker (HOU via FA), and DeMarre Carroll (BKN via Trade) — it also served as C.J Miles debut in a Raptors uniform.

While nothing witnessed in a Hawaiian hosted pre-season game should be taken at face value, it’s worth noting that Miles got the starting nod at SF — with his main competition for that role likely coming in the form of Norman Powell. Miles makes sense to me with his ability to space the floor, and leaves Powell to be a crucial bench piece. In Powell’s case, maximizing his time with one of either DeRozan or Lowry will be beneficial — last season, Powell and Lowry had 669:31 MP together, the highest of any 2-man combo involving Powell. The results for Norm, per net 100 possessions were: +7.0 PTS / +3.0 STL / -4.4 TOV / +.015 eFG%. Look for Casey to favour a Powell-Lowry combo over a Powell-DeRozan one.

Nonetheless, the day after the first pre-season game — a game by the way played on an island…surrounded by water, big water…ocean water — is not the time to solve, dwell on, nor celebrate all the good and bad put on display.

With that, here is a laundry list of observations from last night:

  • I laughed every time Doc or Dwane felt compelled to get up and actually coach — those shirts were so obnoxious lol.
  • Albeit only his first appearance, but BRUNO seems far from ready to contribute consistently at the NBA level. A G-League demotion will be more difficult this year with Caboclo having the right to accept/refuse such a demotion due to years of service.
  • Lowry was exceptional. 17 points in as many minutes, 3-4 from distance, 3-5 overall and 8/8 from the FT line (I also noticed a slight change to his pre-shot routine. Whatever works).
  • Milos Teodosic can play on my team any day. Reminds me of a more dynamic Jose Calderon early in his career. Still needs to polish up his shot.
  • Somebody tell Ibaka the “More 3s” narrative did not include him pulling up from 30-feet. BAD SERGE!
  • DeMar DeRozan only took 1 mid-range shot in his near 16 minutes played.
  • 22 assists on 39 made field-goals is encouraging. Raptors finished last in AST% and Assists-Per-Game a year ago.
  • 11-43 from distance is encouraging from a volume standpoint, but will obviously need to improve percentages as we progress to the season. Notable lines include DeRozan 0-2, Ibaka 1-9, Miles 2-7, BRUNO 2-7, and JV…0-0 — the watch continues…
  • Norman Powell is going to feature on A LOT of posters this season. Hops for days!
  • Unless he finds his way into the starting lineup, Norm Powell can easily contend for 6th man honours this year.
  • I miss Lou Williams drawing fouls on off-balance drifting shots — what a skill!
  • Somehow, someway Casey needs to find time for Van Vleet. Perhaps that means Delon spends some time at the 3, but FVV deserves more than DNP-CD night after night.
  • Alfonso McKinnie is a tenacious offensive rebounder. Unsure at this point where he fits in, but showed encouraging signs last night.
  • With all 3 showing flashes of what makes them effective, the battle for minutes between Bebe, Poeltl, and Siakam will be a compelling storyline through camp and pre-season.
  • I like the chemistry between Wright & Poeltl (college teammates at Utah).
  • Bebe (0-1), and Siakam (1-3) each attempted three-pointers. Definitely feel it’s more crucial for Siakam’s development than Bebe’s. Bebe needs to feast around the rim and likely is the team’s most effective rim protector.
  • JV looked confident and poised. 10 points & 10 rebounds in 20 minutes, AND 4 ASSISTS! You got that right! 4 helpers! Valanciunas dropped several uncharacteristic passes, leaving Raptors fans collectively wanting more. A more polished post-passing game would do wonders for this work-in-progress offence.
  • Auston Rivers struggled, but his daddy bought him pizza after the game so hopefully he turns the page on an otherwise rough performance.
  • DeRozan, for what it’s worth, looked more engaged defensively. With all the talk being about him adding a three-point shot this off-season, a more consistent effort on defence is of equal importance in my opinion. Will never be Kawhi, but can certainly be a lot better than he has been in the past.
  •  DeMar showed a nice ability to create off curl screens into the lane — found Miles and JV a few times for quality looks. An unselfish DeMar should help drive up the confidence of others, so long as they make shots. DeMar is like Kobe, remember that!
  • Mile’s drive game is underrated. Few high degree of difficulty finishes in traffic.
  • The Raptors young guys, specifically Powell/Wright/Caboclo/Siakam/Bebe showed an excellent ability to scramble on D, chasing guys off the line and rotating quickly and effectively.
  • The offence at times looked very much like last season’s but there were flashes of *new thinking* mixed in. The transformation will take time and must not be so pronounced that it takes away from the strengths of players.
  • If Delon can develop a post-game, look out opposing point-guards. Shot looks more comfortable and fluid, and he has the ability to get to the rim at will where he can finish and fine the right kick-out pass. Big year ahead for Wright.
  • Those FOX announcers really loved talking about Tiki-Bars
  • Nothing wrong with having a larger than normal rotation. Players stay fresher and game ready over the course of a long season. Raptors could benefit from that luxury if the young guys breakthrough in camp.
  • Last season, the Spurs, a team with a reputation of having broader rotations, had 11 players over 1,000 minutes. The Raptors had 9 so room for more contributions to help with fatigue and production.
  • As promising as they looked at times, the young contingent of the Raptors looked every bit their age at times: arrant passes, turnovers, and poor shots — no major flags, but still a reminder of their youth and relative inexperience.
  • Poeltl is an underrated screen setter and flasher in the paint. Seems to always present himself for drop-offs on drives. Soft hands around the basket as well.

 

I’m sure I missed some points — forgive me — but will continue to provide thoughts and opinions as we approach the regular season. Trying not to overstate what happens in pre-season is always difficult, especially when so many young players are involved, most of which have little to no legitimate NBA experience.

An encouraging start for Casey’s troops but still a long way’s to go…

Pre-Season continues Wednesday, October 4th (1:00am EST) from the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Hawaii…Raptors-Clippers Round 2.

 

 

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