More than two weeks into training camp, the Toronto Raptors are finally getting their feet wet at home Tuesday, hosting the Detroit Pistons at the Air Canada Centre. It will be the Raptors’ only preseason game at home, which doesn’t really matter all that much. I suppose it’s possible that more games on the home court could be beneficial, or that extended time at home would be good with a six-game road-trip early in the season, but really, most of the important pieces know the ACC well enough and, you know, this is just how it goes.
Speaking of home games, we got hooked up to give away tickets to the home opener courtesy of Get In The Action. If you follow their account and retweet the following, you’ll have a chance to win a pair of tickets to watch the Raptors beat the Chicago Bulls despite 40 points from Paul Zipser or some random create-a-player who’s not even on their roster yet.
— Raptors Republic (@raptorsrepublic) October 2, 2017
I’ll also be giving away some copies of Shea Serrano’s Basketball And Other Things tomorrow, so make sure you’re following me on Twitter and/or Instagram for that. (If you have neither, I understand, and you are likely a better and more well-rounded person than I am. If you don’t have those and wish to be included for a chance at the books, email me and I’ll make sure you get in the draw.)
As for tonight’s game, it’s the penultimate preseason game, and as every game passes, the leverage for certain players ratchets up. The Raptors have only played their likely starters together once so far, and it went fairly well; they’ll probably want more three-quarter speed reps here. The team is also still working through their 3-point volume and figuring out what are and aren’t good shots in the new paradigm. Head coach Dwane Casey suggested Sunday that the team will begin paring down who has the green light from outside and just how many the team wants to shoot (30 seems to be a sticky number), which is a natural progression after going 30-for-123 in three games. (They’re not abandoning plans, it just always made sense to break and create habits with a high volume early and then work the base offense back in, too.)
The Pistons should provide an interesting enough foe, with plenty of battles for playing time raging on and some serious questions about where their contributions are going to come from at each end of the floor. The Pistons probably fancy themselves a playoff team in the thinned-out Eastern Conference, but they’ve locked themselves into mediocrity with poor cap management, and even reaching a 45-win ceiling depends on Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond being the 2015-16 versions of themselves, if not even better. It could be an anxious year in their new arena, and that could mean a hungry team most nights.
The game tips off at 7 p.m. on TSN 1/3/4/5.
We’d normally have a back-and-forth with a Pistons writer here but weren’t able to secure one this time around. Preseason, and all. Apologies.
There’s a bit more clarity for the Raptors now that they’ve made three cuts and have the training camp roster down to 17, the number they could enter the season with thanks to a pair of two-way contracts. Whether they will remains to be seen, and the battle between Alfonzo McKinnie and K.J. McDaniels – whether for a roster spot or a position on the rotation hierarchy on Oct. 19 – is probably the biggest storyline left in camp. McKinnie has played better in a greater share of preseason action. Look for McDaniels to get an extended audition at some point in the next two games, an opportunity for him to shake off a rough outing last time out.
There are other questions still to answer, of course. It would look as if Delon Wright is solidified as the backup point guard – never a real serious question – but Fred VanVleet’s had a strong camp and could shift Wright to the wing more. C.J. Miles has started two games to one for Norman Powell, and it’s hard to get a clear sense of the battle there (if there is one) since they’ve only played in one game together. Lucas Nogueira and Jakob Poeltl have traded the backup center spot back-and-forth, with neither running with it or floundering entirely. These are all important rotation questions head coach Dwane Casey has to figure out by next Thursday, and it’s been clear in hearing him talk that he’d like to be able to focus on the nine or 10 players who will be playing meaningful roles when things get going.
Elsewhere, Malcolm Miller has progressed to half-court 5-on-5 but not full-court activity, while OG Anunoby has been playing 5-on-5 and could, at least theoretically, see some preseason action to get his feet wet this week.
Oh, and I’d expect Serge Ibaka to sit one of the next two games given he’s played more minutes than anyone else and is pretty secure in his role, but that’s just my running assumption given that Miles, Powell, VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan have all had nights off, too. One of the games will probably be treated like a dress rehearsal of sorts, the other could see some rest.
Assuming relative health and no rest, here’s how the rotation might look:
PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet, Lorenzo Brown
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, K.J. McDaniels
SF: C.J. Miles, Bruno Caboclo, Alfonzo McKinnie, (OG Anunoby)
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl
TBD: OG Anunoby
INJ: Malcolm Miller
Check back in the pre-game news and notes for firm updates on the starting small forward and the status of Anunoby.
As usual, we’ll track the minutes and battles in this space, noting how the playing time is breaking down over the five games. It doesn’t necessarily mean someone is ahead because they’ve played more, it’s simply meant as a refresher.
Known commodities: Ibaka 59, Valanciunas 56, Lowry 41, DeRozan 38
Competition 1: Powell 50 (1 start), Miles 39 (2 starts)
Competition 2: Nogueira 46 (2 times as C2), Poeltl 39 (1 time as C2)
Competition 3 (maybe?): Wright 75, VanVleet 31
Competition 4: McKinnie 46, McDaniels 12
The LeBron Stoppers: Siakam 61, Caboclo 48, Anunoby 0
Two-Ways: Brown 16, Miller 0
RIP in Peace: Rautins 36, Wiltjer 20, Meeks 3
Note: There was a box score error in the opener that may have exact minutes for Lowry/DeRozan/Powell/Wright a little off.
The Pistons have the rare (and ridiculous) preseason back-to-back, and it seems they put a greater focus on Tuesday’s game in Toronto than their Monday affair. That, or a lot of guys will sit both nights. Detroit went without Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Andre Drummond, Jon Leuer, Dwight Buycks, Luis Montero, and Beno Udrih yesterday, and only some of those names had injury or medical reasons for their absence.
Quickly: Drummond has pinkeye and, if he sat yesterday, it would seem unlikely he plays here; old friend Buycks (on a two-way contract) is dealing with a hip flexor issue; Bradley has already been deemed unlikely to play due to a tweaked ankle; Udrih, Harris, Montero, and Leuer are all healthy as far as I can tell. (The Pistons did not hold a shootaround today due to a back-to-back, so I was unable to clarify.)
So, your guess is as good as mine on what the rotation might look like for right now, though it seems unlikely we’ll get to see Drummond and Valanciunas battle again. That’s disappointing, because it’s always a fun matchup and because this year it’s very clearly going to be a war waged on the perimeter rather than inside – they’re a combined 0-for-1 on threes in the preseason, but each team has talked up their center shooting the three ball more.
In other Pistons notes, Stanley Johnson looks to have made some overdue strides on offense that will once again prevent me from giving up on him as a potential impact player, Henry Ellenson appears to be trying to make me eat my words with a really nice camp, and a fully unleashed Boban Marjanovic has been the most fun and terrifying of the last two weeks.
PG: Reggie Jackson, Ish Smith, (Dwight Buycks), Beno Udrih
SG: Langston Galloway, Luke Kennard
SF: Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock, Luis Montero
PF: Jon Leuer, Henry Ellenson, Anthony Tolliver
C: (Andre Drummond), Boban Marjanovic, Eric Moreland
TBD: Andre Drummond, Dwight Buycks
INJ: Avery Bradley
The preseason lines remain off the board. A shame. Lemme get these $5 bets off.