Update: Kawhi Leonard is ruled out with left knee soreness. So… nine bodies.
I’m going to be honest. I had this all pre-written, assuming that the Raptors stood pat at the deadline. I had a bunch of words about the return of Valanciunas, and what he brings to the team, and how exciting it would be to have the full complement of players. It broke my heart to delete them (for a couple different reasons). There was a little smoke, but I assumed that they wouldn’t make any moves. Boy, was I wrong.
There are obviously more players coming to Toronto, and soon. They have 10 players and two two-way guys, one of whom is almost out of NBA days. You have to assume Chris Boucher will sign an NBA deal, but Toronto will also have to sign a few other guys. More will be made of that in coming days, but for now, to the Atlanta game.
Primarily, tonight will be an emotional night, and it won’t be because of the Atlanta Hawks. The Raptors no longer employ Valanciunas, CJ Miles, or Delon Wright. I imagine tears will be shed, as those were three beloved teammates. Playing against the Hawks will be one of the things furthest from the Raptors’ minds ahead of the game, although surely that will change when the ball tips. Similarly, Marc Gasol will almost certainly not be available in time for tonight’s game. The Raptors will roll with 10 bodies, including only one center and one natural power forward. Expect OG Anunoby to play a lot as the lone big on the floor, I guess?
If you want to actually talk basketball, the Raps kept all of their key contributors from the past few weeks. The same concerns remain. Ibaka has probably been playing too many minutes, and this certainly won’t help, at least tonight. The Raptors also have more work to do in search of having players hit their top performances at the same time. Against the Sixers, Lowry played mostly perfectly, while Kawhi Leonard played perfect defence and mediocre offence. Pascal Siakam played great, but his finishing left something to be desired (even if he multiple times displayed fantastic ability to get open shots at the rim for himself). Atlanta is a great chance to give Leonard and Lowry yet more time to learn to play together. The last outing against Philadelphia was one of their best games together, especially in the first half. This is a chance to build on that. Mostly, this game will be about hanging on and taking care of business while short-handed, but without getting injured.
The game tips at 7:30 PM ET on TSN for TV and SN590 for radio. You can read the excellent preview from Samson here. I’ll have coverage of the NBA all-star draft before then.
Yeah, not too many players. Especially bigs. Boucher shouldn’t be available, as he played last night with the 905 in Wisconsin. No Kawhi Leonard either. That’s nine players.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Jordan Loyd
SG: Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell
SF: Danny Green, OG Anunoby, Patrick McCaw
PF: Pascal Siakam
C: Serge Ibaka
Miles Plumlee (knee) is out indefinitely.
PG: Trae Young, Jeremy Lin
SG: Deandre Bembry, Kent Bazemore, Daniel Hamilton
SF: Taurean Prince, Kevin Huerter, Vince Carter, Justin Hamilton
PF: John Collins, Omari Spellman
C: Dewayne Dedmon, Alex Len
Vegas had Toronto -9, before the trade, which I would have bet millions on. Now it’s -8.5, which is crazy. How did it only change so little? Over-under is 234.5