Dowtin making sure the Raptors cover -34.5
— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) October 16, 2023
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 15, 2023
— Eric Smith (@Eric__Smith) October 16, 2023
It appears that Dennis Schroder will be part of the starting lineup for Rajakovic, supplanting Gary Trent Jr. who has been almost exclusively a starter in Toronto since he was acquired at the trade deadline for Norm Powell during the 2021-22 season. Trent Jr. has come off the bench in both of the Raptors exhibition games so far, though nothing is set in stone yet.
“I think it’s going to come after the Washington game,” said Rajakovic. “Obviously, we want to use (the) opportunities that we have in the next three games to see different lineups, to see different guys. And after the Washington game, heading into the first official regular season game, that’s going to be kind of like the time for us to make some decisions.”
In addition to Poeltl being out the Raptors were without Precious Achiuwa (groin injury) and Otto Porter Jr., who is returning to playing shape after off-season toe surgery for the second straight game.
That was part of the reason there were some eyebrows raised last Sunday against the Kings when Gradey Dick, who the Raptors took with the 12th pick in the draft last summer, didn’t get any playing time in the first half against Sacramento. Dick didn’t have to wait as long this time as he saw action in the first quarter. He didn’t shoot the ball well but looked sharp in creating some shots for his teammates.
Dick started in the second half – as did Trent Jr. – as Rajakovic decided risking injury to his starters in a game that was already decided and meant nothing in the first place was unwise.
Trent Jr. found Dick for an open corner off some dribble penetration early in the third quarter as the rookie finished with five points on 2-of-7 shooting in his 18 minutes.
If there was one player who took advantage of the opportunity against Cairns it was probably Malachi Flynn. The fourth-year point guard who never cracked head coach Nick Nurse’s lineup on a steady basis seems to be getting every opportunity to do so by Rajakovic, who has pledged to run a steady 10-man rotation.
Flynn hit a pair of quick threes early and in general, looked like he was too much for the Taipans to handle as he was able to get where he wanted, when he wanted on his way to 10 points and four assists in 17 minutes. Proving he can be consistently productive in limited minutes against NBA competition is the hurdle Flynn will need to get over this season, but at least at this stage, it looks like he’s going to get some chances.
With the top three options at centre — Poeltl (illness), Christian Koloko (respiratory issue) and Precious Achiuwa (groin strain) out of the lineup — Boucher got the start. It was a bit of a surprise, as the passing of Thaddeus Young is a far better offensive simulation of Poeltl than Boucher.
Coach Darko Rajaković went with Boucher, though, which at least is a sign he expects him to be a regular part of the rotation. Given how many long forward/swingman types the Raptors have — if Boucher wasn’t in the plans — he probably wouldn’t have slid into that spot. Safe to say, if he does start the occasional game at centre, it will require some offensive alterations with Boucher just not used to slinging the ball around and getting everyone involved. (How Achiuwa fares in that role is also an open question).
“I learned that he is skinny,” Rajaković said of his first few weeks coaching Boucher. “Chris just brings so much energy. He is really good with roaming on defence. He can protect the rim. He runs (on) offence, transition, really well. … Now, I want him to be even more aggressive on the offensive end in the sense that he makes good decisions.”
This isn’t a new version of Boucher, but that’s OK. He remains great at running the floor, which is still the Raptors’ best offensive option, and is a very good cutter, which is important in the new offensive system.
Boucher had 12 points and eight rebounds in 13 minutes. He knows how to play with his teammates.
Shooting will be the free-agent signing’s swing skill. McDaniels has defensive versatility and plenty of length, but they’re going to need him to hit at a decent rate from deep to create dangerous units.
A lot of players fit that description, though. McDaniels has looked adept in the offence, making quick decisions, even if they are not setting up prime opportunities, and then moving to a new spot. Constant movement is key for Rajaković’s system to work with this roster, and McDaniels appears to be picking that up quickly.
“I really like his defence, his ability to get deflections, ability to get over the screens, to change shots,” Rajaković said earlier in the week. “And offensively, I think there is another layer to his game. I think that he can be a very good cutter, especially inside of our system. … I think he’s already a really good player, but I expect him to take it to another level.”
Thaddeus Young/Precious Achiuwa
Achiuwa hasn’t played yet due to a groin injury, but Rajaković keeps mentioning him in his scrums with the media. So long as Koloko is unavailable, the plan appears to be putting Achiuwa in behind Poeltl.
In the meantime, Young is connecting with his teammates, as he has done for the back half of his career. If he is your centre, you are going to have issues protecting the rim, making the Raptors’ switching and individual perimeter defence crucial. He is as good as there is on the roster with his ability to find his teammates, though.
“He likes playing at the elbows,” Rajaković said. “He’s good in (dribble handoffs). He’s also good at keepers, turning the corner, attacking the rim. Those situations fit him really well.”
Much has been made of Scottie Barnes having the ball a bit more, the use of a centre to distribute the ball from the elbow and a desire for split-second decision making from the Raptors this season. But Pascal Siakam remains Toronto’s most accomplished all-around player and he’s just rolling along, doing what he always does.
Siakam played just 17 first-half minutes against Cairns, but put up 12 points, seven rebounds and a team-high five assists. He hasn’t missed a beat, despite a slightly altered role.
“I feel like I always feel comfortable out on the floor,” he said. “Obviously it’s pre-season, just trying to figure out your spots, trying to figure out how you can help … everything is new for all of us, so just continue to use these games to focus on us.”
He made a terrific spin move to befuddle a Taipans defender for an early layup, knocked down his only three-point attempt and finished 5-for-7 from the floor. It was a tidy if unspectacular outing.
“You cannot hide the talent,” coach Darko Rajakovic said, “and he is one of the best players in the league. He is going to find his spots on the court. He is going to find his opportunities. I think he’s going to be as efficient, numbers-wise. I think he’s just going to be able to do it with a little bit less dribble and more (aggressive play).”
The Toronto Raptors continued their preseason schedule tonight as they welcomed the Cairns Taipans of Australia’s National Basketball League to Scotiabank Arena. It was the Raptors first preseason game at home in Toronto after they played last week in Vancouver, BC.
The team from Cairns — a small city located in Queensland, Australia — unfortunately was missing a lot of their roster due to injury and illness. They played with ten players total as opposed to the Raptors training camp roster of seventeen. On their roster was NBA Draft prospect Bobi Klintman.
In pregame media availability, Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic said that he has seen significant progress in the team over the last couple of weeks since training camp started. They’ve only had one preseason game so far, and therefore a lot of time to practice and build chemistry. Especially since the team is working to learn all the new systems and plays under the new coaching staff.
Toronto started Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Chris Boucher and Dennis Schroder — Jakob Poeltl was ruled out due to illness, causing Boucher to get the start.
The Raptors got out to a 21 point lead in the first quarter over the Taipans. The starters were pulled quite early on, and the team ended the quarter with a 38-17 lead.
There were a lot of lineup experiments in this game, especially when it came to trying out different combinations of the bench players.
If we are being honest, it wasn’t much of a competitive basketball game. The Raptors led from start to finish, with the biggest lead of the night being 41 points.
One highlight of the game was seeing Gradey Dick operate and play in Toronto for the first time. Though he only scored five sports, he was extremely active on the court and showed a lot of sparks of skill that could be useful for the Raptors in the regular season.
In the end, the Raptors win 134-93.
Even in the best of times, preseason basketball can be pretty meaningless. Last year, for example, the Toronto Raptors looked pretty good in their five preseason games. Little did we know what lay ahead.
This year, the story is very much the same. A 134-93 blowout victory over Australia’s Cairns Taipans moved Toronto to 2-0 in the preseason. What does it all mean?
“The regular season is a completely different ball game compared to the preseason,” said Thad Young prior to Sunday’s tipoff. “I think within the first 10 games (of the regular season), that’s how you know if a team is, like, whatever they did before has prepared them for the regular season.”
We’ll run through the starters quickly. Chris Boucher stepped in for Jakob Poeltl who missed the game with an illness. It was a bit of a surprise that he got the start over Gary Trent Jr., but Toronto, at least for now, appears to be prioritizing continuity in their starting lineup.
The ball whizzed around early, and Toronto rained down three-pointers courtesy of some stellar drive-and-kick actions. Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam got deep paint touches and found O.G. Anunoby and Dennis Schröder in the corners on back-to-back possessions and the rout was on.
Toronto connected on 10 of 24 three-pointers in the first half including two from Scottie Barnes who led the starters with 14 points before their night came to an end at halftime.
“The start of the game, we were locked in,” said Raptors coach Darko Rajaković. “Just the way, the stuff that we were working on, recognizing who are the guys on the floor, getting to extreme corners. The defensive energy was very good. …
“It’s human nature when you get a big lead to put your guard a little bit off. But that was our conversation in timeouts, as well, that we need to pick up our energy level and focus on what we’re doing, and I thought we were able in the fourth quarter with those guys on the court to get back to that.”
For some deeper bench players, though, every opportunity to impress the coaching staff can’t be taken lightly. Malachi Flynn was once again early off the bench and nailed a pair of threes on back-to-back possessions in the first quarter. Flynn found Trent for a three to open the second half after Toronto’s sixth man freed himself up with a savvy off-ball screen from Young.
Cairns looked a little better in the second half as Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic gave his starters the remainder of the game off, but it wasn’t like the visitors from Down Under put a huge dent in the lead Rajakovic’s starters had built.
The Raptors starters and first five off the bench combined to score 71 points in the first half to put the game away early.
Led by Scottie Barnes’s 14 points, the Raptors starting five spread the scoring around with Chris Boucher (playing in place of the under-the-weather Jakob Poeltl) and Pascal Siakam both finishing with 12 points and OG Anunoby with 10
Off the bench, Malachi Flynn had 10 points and Jalen McDaniels and Thad Young had nine each to led the way in that first half.
Payton, the 10th pick in the 2014 NBA draft, was eyeing a comeback in the NBA with the Indiana Pacers until a few weeks ago, when he was waived.
With the Taipans short of bodies, he was more than willing to use the opportunity to showcase his game. Peyton wound up playing 26 minutes and made the most of them by finishing with 21 points, one fewer than Patrick Miller, who led all scorers with 22 in the game.