Morning Coffee – Wed, Oct 5

Barnes has all the things to be special | Flynn suffers another setback with broken face | Raptors have best home court advantage | OVO gets new shiny screens that show stuff

Toronto Raptors 2022-23 Player Preview: Scottie Barnes – Raptors HQ

Scottie seems to thrive under the spotlight. He’s already making waves in commercial spots, always has the perfect quote or response, and his personality makes him just so darn likeable. Mix that with his undeniable skill, and the kid was born to be a generational franchise superstar.

If you followed his journey this summer, he put in WORK. I mean, even if you just watched him in the Raptors’ first preseason game, you may have been able to tell he got BIGGER. He looks less like a lanky teenager and more like a nearly seven-foot brick wall. If he was already defending players like MVP Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo, imagine what he is capable of now, with this new strength.

Based on what we’ve seen so far in the preseason, it also looks like his shooting has improved. His jumper in particular looks silky smooth — which will be necessary for the Raptors, a team that often goes through shooting slumps late into games.

Speaking of the preseason, we got a little glimpse of Sophomore Scottie on Sunday’s preseason opener against the Utah Jazz. While the game ended up being more of a showcase/tryout for some of the non-guaranteed players on the roster, we did get some glimpses of Scottie goodness.

See what I meant about that silky shot?

In terms of projections, the stat-makers predict Barnes could increase his field goal percentage to just over 50%, and average over 16 points per game this season. He is projected to see an increase in every stat as he progresses through his NBA sophomore year — not surprising.

Yet, Scottie is the type of player whose impact goes beyond the stat sheet. His defensive energy has always been there, and has only grown on a team with a defence first mindset. In the first preseason game against Utah, he was already getting deflections and doing the most on defense, being seen getting frustrated when his play didn’t turn out as intended.

If we saw him hold Nikola Jokic to zero points in a whole quarter during his rookie year, imagine what he is capable of now, at his new size?

On offense, his size will lend to the physical nature of the NBA. Coming from college ball, it may be hard for some players to adapt to the physicality of the NBA. Now that Scottie is a little bigger and stronger, he can use that strength to get to the rim more, but his speed will help him shake defenders as well. You gotta be a big guy to defend Scottie, and many of those size guys in the league don’t have his speed.

With a seemingly new-found confidence to initiate contact, he can also get to the free throw line more, creating more opportunities.

Rookie Christian Koloko already fitting into the Raptors way | The Star

If it’s always dangerous to take pre-season performance as a measure of much, the early training-camp indications suggest the Raptors just might have shored up their depth when they selected Christian Koloko as the 33rd pick in the June draft.

Maybe that’s to be expected from an athlete who spent three years at the University of Arizona and arrived in camp aged 22 — hardly a youngster in a league eyeing to lower its draft-age limit from 19 to 18 in the coming years. Still, Koloko’s developmental curve is similar to that of Cameroonian countryman and Toronto teammate Pascal Siakam. Both came to basketball, and North America, relatively late in life after beginning their athletic journey on a soccer field. So it won’t be a major shock if Koloko, a seven-footer with a seven-foot-five wingspan who only started playing basketball at age 12, turns into a longer-term project who’s not quite ready for prime time, spending decent chunks of his rookie season playing with the developmental Raptors 905 than with Toronto’s NBA club.

That said, Raptors coach Nick Nurse sounds optimistic about Koloko’s big-league viability.

“We’re going to be able to use him,” Nurse said Tuesday, when the Raptors held their first Toronto-based practice after a Western sojourn that included training camp in Victoria and a Sunday pre-season win over Utah in Edmonton. “Solid player, moves his feet, sets screens, finishes around the rim a little bit, has a good IQ out there.”

Koloko acknowledged Tuesday he was nervous for his NBA pre-season debut; “scared” and “anxious” were the words he used. But he looked more than comfortable in 17 minutes of playing time, ably running the floor while aptly taking a pass from Siakam en route to converting his first pre-season bucket. Given how Siakam and Koloko both grew up in Douala, Cameroon’s largest city, the moment meant a little more than a typical exhibition-game score.

“I saw a lot of people posting about it, ‘Cameroonian connection,’ and all that stuff, and people from back home sent me videos and they were just happy, proud,” Koloko said. “That’s a good moment, proud moment. To be Cameroonian and my first basket in the NBA is assisted by someone from the same city as me, it was really nice to see.”

Raptors Add State of the Art Screen to Practice Facility – Sports Illustrated

The screen is the newest addition to the practice facility and makes the Raptors the first team in the league to install a screen of such size into their gym, a spokesperson for the team said. It’s nothing particularly revolutionary but rather acts as a way to disseminate information easily to the players while holding them accountable for their performance.

“I love it. It’s great,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse whose idea it was to add the screen to the gym. “There’s a lot of information flowing across those boards, from the NOAHlytics, from the shooting stuff, from the last game’s footage to the next opponent footage, to a bunch of charted things we have up there. So there’s a lot of stuff we can put up there and we can definitely use it. It looks really cool, too. The players really like it.”

The Raptors have used the NOAHlytics program for a few seasons now. It’s a camera-based software that hangs above each basket, collecting data on every shot that goes up. That data is then broken down into the depth, trajectory, and angle of each shot allowing the players to tweak their shooting mechanics as necessary.

“The analytics is crazy,” said Christian Koloko, Toronto’s 2022 second-round pick. “Every time you shoot they tell you how off your shot was, like if the [arc] was 45 degrees. So we got everything, we got everything to get you better.”

Beside the shooting analytics are statistics from Toronto’s most recent game breaking down the leaderboard in deflections and assists. On Tuesday, for example, Gary Trent Jr. and Josh Jackson led the team with five deflections apiece while Scottie Barnes and D.J. Wilson each collected three assists. Having that data on the wall allows the players to be accountable for their stats without being constantly reminded by the coaching staff where they rank, Siakam said.

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