The pre-season continued for the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday with a 106:102 away win over the Chicago Bulls.
Here are the takeaways from an encouraging evening for Darko Rajakovic’s side:
The biggest positive might be the play of third-year forward Scottie Barnes. Barnes arguably had the best all-around game of any player on the field. He scored 22 points, hit 2 of 3 from three-point range and all four free throw attempts, blocked four shots (in regular season games he blocked four or more only three times), grabbed six rebounds, had three assists and two steals.
Barnes did what he wanted on offense, which we’ve seen before, but was also a disruptor on the other end, which is rarer. Barnes said he had been working on his conditioning and seemed like he was moving a little quicker and getting up off the ground on second jump opportunities, just like he did as a rookie.
TRENT THE PLAYMAKER?
Gary Trent Jr. seemed to be on his way to a fantastic game. He led Toronto with 11 points and four assists in the first half (eight of the points came in short order), but didn’t increase those numbers at all from there. Still, he works well as the offensive lynchpin of the second unit and has been a far more willing passer than we’ve seen in the past.
He has always been a player who gets the ball and shoots the ball, but this pre-season Trent has moved the ball well. Four assists were his season high last season. His best career average was two assists per game when he started 69 of 70 games two years ago. We’re betting he’ll average closer to 2.5 or more this year.
Trent is still only 24, he’s got more and he’s showing it.
GET WELL SOON
There’s a reason the Raptors dealt a future first-round pick to San Antonio to bring back Jakob Poeltl. He’s a quality starter and the team is much better – especially on defense – when the big man is in the lineup. He was once again poor and missed, as was Precious Achiuwa, who was listed as questionable but couldn’t go. Christian Koloko is still out.
Thanks to outliers like seven from Malachi Flynn and five from Jalen McDaniels, Toronto surprisingly even came through in the rebound duel.
ROOM FOR EVERYONE?
We’ll see if that continues once the frontcourt is healthy again, but Thaddeus Young has a new lease on life under Rajakovic so far. Nick Nurse ruled Young out for the year in March and sat him out for the final 14 games of the season. Young had previously been in the rotation for most of the year, but had been a solid addition from San Antonio the year before.
Young is the second oldest Raptor, but unlike elder statesman Garrett Temple, he appears to be part of Rajakovic’s plans. Rajakovic has now used Young as a substitute in consecutive games for the first time. Even if the coach plans to play up to 10 a night, Young could still stand out from the crowd when Poeltl, Achiuwa, Koloko and shooter Otto Porter are ready to go.
Are the cops hitting the wall?
Where do the Bulls go from here? The team has a big payroll, but isn’t even the favorite to finish in the top four in the East, let alone advance to the conference finals or beyond. DeMar DeRozan is heading to unrestricted free agency but will turn 35 before next season. Barring extensions, DeRozan and his former teammate Pascal Siakam will be two of the most sought-after free agents. Additionally, Lonzo Ball still owes a lot of money through next season, but it’s unclear if he’ll ever be able to play again. Defensive guard Jevon Carter has been a good backup, but depth is an issue.
– A fun twist: In addition to Siakam and DeRozan, other prominent unrestricted free agents next summer include Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and OG Anunoby. Someone could rebuild the We the North Raptors.