The final preseason game before heading into the regular season. It’s fitting that the Toronto Raptors travel to meet the Chicago Bulls, against whom they regularly struggle. Lucky for them, this is an entirely different Chicago team. One that is destined for a cellar finish in the weak Eastern Conference. In fact, they are the clear favourites to close with the NBA’s worst record this upcoming season. Jimmy Butler? Gone. Dwyane Wade? Adios. Rajon Rondo? Sayonara. In bitter-sweet fashion, renown Raptors killer, Doug McDermott (or when he faces Toronto, Dougie McBuckets) has left Chicago for the Atlantic Division’s New York Knicks. For all we know, Paul Zipser will step into the McDermott’s shoes and go gamebreaker-mode on Toronto all season long.
In what is likely to be considered a tune-up game for both teams, each will be looking to gain momentum heading into their rematch in the Bulls’ home opener just six days later. Don’t be surprised to see key rotation pieces such as Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, or Serge Ibaka (potentially even more players) play limited minutes in this game for precautionary reasons and to get a longer look at players competing for roles and roster spots. Dwane Casey told reporters Wednesday that “we’re gonna play people” but noted Tuesday’s game was maybe as close to an actual rotation as they’ll get.
Toronto is coming off an encouraging win against the Detroit Pistons, which saw them throttle Andre Drummond and Co. with a 116-94 victory. Toronto held Detroit to 23 points or less in three of the four quarters while limiting them to a pedestrian 44% shooting. Oh, and we all finally witnessed the debut of rookie OG Anunoby, who dazzled and showed promise throughout the game. The Bulls, on the other hand, faced off against the Cleveland Cavaliers in their previous preseason game, picking up a well-fought 108-94 victory that showed some unexpected defensive promise.
The preseason finale will be televised on TSN2 at 8:00pm ET.
*Earlier this week, Toronto signed Davion Berry to an Exhibit 10 contract. He probably won’t factor in much here.
*A report from the Washington Post was released late Thursday night that stated the Raptors would not be staying at Trump hotels this season, effectively boycotting the Trump-owned establishments. Eleven out of the 12 NBA teams who would normally stay at the hotels have stopped, as per reports.
*According to TSN Sports’ Josh Lewenberg, the Raptors appear to view Norman Powell as the starter over CJ Miles as we approach the regular season opener, though that could still change in the coming week.
Raptors seem to like how the vet Miles fit with young 2nd unit. May be fluid but Powell appears to be favourite to start next week's opener
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) October 12, 2017
This preseason game, as mentioned above, will probably be extensively played by the back-end of the rotation. Players like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Alfonzo McKinnie, Lorenzo Brown, Bruno Caboclo and K.J. McDaniels will likely see the bulk of time on the court. This game may be the final grading mechanism that the Raptors’ staff uses to finalize their regular season roster. It currently stands at 18 players, and will most likely be cut down to 15-17 before the season opener (rosters are 17 players now because of the two-way deals).
This is how the rotation may play out on Friday night:
PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet, Lorenzo Brown, Davion Berry
SG: DeMar DeRozan, C.J. Miles, K.J. McDaniels
SF: Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Bruno Caboclo, Alfonzo McKinnie
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl
INJ: Malcolm Miller
Potentially limited time: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, CJ Miles, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas, Norman Powell
Check back in the pre-game news & notes for the status of OG Anunoby and exactly which Raptors, if any, will be resting Friday night.
Here’s where I expand on the Bulls’ impressive preseason win vs. the Cavaliers. Justin Holiday exploded with 28 points (on 8/16 shooting) and 11 rebounds. Rookie Lauri Markannen also impressed with 18 points (on 7/12 shooting) with five rebounds and four threes. I want to quickly mention that 15 of Markannen’s 18 points came in the fourth quarter. He got HOT. Denzel Valentine, who the Bulls will surely rely on heavily this season, chipped in with 14 points, seven boards, four assists, two steals and a block. Again, very encouraging for the young roster.
Bulls point guard Kris Dunn suffered a dislocated finger injury last week, which will sideline him for roughly two-to-four weeks. Nikola Mirotic will likely sit out with a mild sprained ankle. Fred Hoiberg did clarify that if this were the regular season, Niko likely would’ve continued playing. He’s day-to-day. For what it’s worth, I don’t expect Hoiberg to risk playing him against Toronto. Cameron Payne is on the shelf for three-to-four months to repair a fifth-metatarsal foot injury. According to K.C. Johnson from the Chicago Tribune, Hoiberg has revealed that guard Zach LaVine has recently been cleared for “unpredictable movements,” but still cannot take any contact. Quincy Pondexter’s been dealing with a hamstring issue, too.
Contrasted from Toronto, I don’t expect the Bulls to rest many players. Maybe old man, Robin Lopez (so he and archnemesis Serge Ibaka can stare one another down when they get bored). Mirotic may also rest and sit out to prevent further risk of injury damage.
This is what I think the Bulls may come out with:
PG: Jerian Grant, Ryan Arcidiacono, Bronson Koenig
SG: Justin Holiday, Denzel Valentine, David Nwaba, Antonio Blakeney
SF: Paul Zipser, (Quincy Pondexter), Jarell Eddie
PF: (Nikola Mirotic), Lauri Markannen, Bobby Portis, Jaylen Johnson
C: (Robin Lopez), Cristiano Felicio, Diamond Stone
INJ: Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Cameron Payne
TBD: Robin Lopez, Nikola Mirotic, Quincy Pondexter
Once again, the preseason line stays off the board.