Svi Mykhailiuk: It’s tough to know what to make of the Raptors’ wing/forward rotation, since three players — Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher and Yuta Watanabe — have not been available. Those guys will obviously figure into the Raptors’ regular rotation, to varying degrees, when they are healthy.
Saying that, Mykhailiuk is probably the player who has taken the most advantage of the extra playing time in their absences. Mykhailiuk was signed late in the offseason, largely because he has a track record as a solid 3-point shooter. He has flashed that, for sure.
He has displayed a lot more than just a shot, though. Mykhailiuk has been one of the most forceful drivers on the team, creating for both himself and others. He has shown surprising physicality as an offensive player. You’d like to see that carry over to defence, but for the minimum, that element is nice to see.
“He’s kind of a playmaker, not just a shooter,” coach Nick Nurse said Thursday. “He’ll touch the paint a lot, which is good, and he flies off those screens.”
Mykhailiuk has seven assists through three games, a nice bonus.
Mykhailiuk’s play has added an unexpectedly interesting angle to figuring out the Raptors’ rotation, at least to start the season.
If he’s able to keep it up, to attack and create as well as shoot, he’s likely going to give Gary Trent Jr. a run for playing time.
Trent, who made his second pre-season appearance Saturday after missing the opening game, is a good shooter and scorer, but his ability to create with the ball needs improvement. If Mykhailiuk keeps getting into the paint, that might give him a long-term advantage.
Nurse took a long look at both of them in Saturday’s game, and each provided the kind of offence the Raptors are going to need from them.
Trent, who had 14 points in 24 minutes, had a couple of nifty cuts down the lane to finish buckets off passes from Scottie Barnes in the first half, and Mykhailiuk knocked down a couple of three-pointers in a 12-point outing and got into the paint with the ball.
Whether they can give Nurse the kind of defensive presence he demands remains to be seen, but with Toronto’s offence very much a work in progress, their scoring is going to keep them high in the rotation.
“I think you’ve got Goran (Dragic), Freddy (VanVleet), Malachi (Flynn) who kind of play the same position; you got Gary and Svi who are very similar,” Nurse said after the game. “I’m playing Goran right now to play with Freddy for a little bit. I think Gary’s one of eight guys that could be a starter at times, as well. He could be offence off the bench, whatever. Gary’s getting better defensively, that’s what I’m concerned about now.”
It was because of the legitimate chance at playing time that Mykhailiuk decided to sign with Toronto after some off-season interest from the Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers.
“I heard a lot of great things about the organization and the people who work here, front-office staff, coaches, players … I feel like it was a great fit,” he said earlier in camp.
The time has arrived to carve out a new identity.
Not only is that statement relevant to the Toronto Raptors, but to this very podcast. For over three years, That’s A Rap has used a logo that was assembled quickly, yet rather effectively, by our very own co-host, Dre.
However, the time has come for a fresh new look.
That’s also true for this season’s Raptors squad, as it’s already shown the kind of pace (fast!) and personnel (Toronto 6-foot-9ers) Nick Nurse is going to employ.
From logo design to final roster spots, there was a lot to debate on the latest episode. Make sure to include your thoughts/comments below.
The intricacies of what the Raptors are doing are many, given the newness of much of the roster and the absence of four key rotation players in Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, Khem Birch and Yuta Watanabe.
They are changing the offence a bit so that there’s more ball-handling being done by wings and forwards rather than guards, and every player on the court seems to be setting screens somewhere. They are trying to capitalize on their length and athleticism on defence to switch on almost every screen, and that takes split-second decision-making and communication that’s not nearly as ingrained as it should be.
It’s a process, and it’s why they’ve looked great at times in some games and like a bunch of strangers in others. But they were better in a Saturday loss in Boston than they were in a Thursday defeat in Philadelphia and are, they say, improving daily in practice.
With two games left in the pre-season and then a week of practice before the Oct. 20 regular-season opener at home against Washington, there’s time for the necessary fine-tuning.
“I’m watching the film, saying ‘Geez, I’m talking about that a lot.’ We’ve got to go kind of redefine it, re-explain it, re-walk through it, and it’s just a little bit more going over some of that stuff with a fine-tooth comb and then redrilling a lot more,” Nurse said. “It’s interesting and it’s fun, It’s fun to watch them grow, and they’ve grown a lot since the summer. A lot.”
The positives have been the overall game of rookie Scottie Barnes, the emergence of Svi Mykhailiuk and Precious Achiuwa, and rookie Dalano Banton looking more comfortable.
But Malachi Flynn has struggled at times, and Freddie Gillespie’s difficulty finishing at the rim is an issue. There are spots that need work, without question.
Trying to guess who’ll play how much in the regular season is pointless, in part because of the missing players and in part because matchups and nightly absences are going to factor in.
Toronto’s frontcourt is in shambles. Khem Birch has missed early camp, Chris Boucher is out three to four weeks with an injured finger, and Pascal Siakam will miss a medium-sized chunk of the season. Precious Achiuwa might have won the starting center job anyway, but that’s a lot of early adversity.
Siakam leaves a huge void. I was (and am) interested to see how much Nurse might play him at center; between Goran Dragic, Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr., and one or two other perimeter guys, Toronto has the depth to get to those lineups — unless their centers play them out of existence. (Toronto can go the other way and play Boucher and Achiuwa some at power forward — or together.)
The Raptors are long and nasty, and given Nurse’s creativity, they should be a good and maybe a very good defensive team capable of playing lots of styles.
The offense could be a slog, with some core lineups light on shooting and playmaking.