The NBA season has just started, and the Toronto Raptors have played their first NBA game. The result was a win against a Zion-less Pelicans done in overtime, 130-122. The defending champs did their jobs and won the game as expected. This game showed the new look Raptors: these are the takeaways.
1) Fred VanVleet is Ready
The only Finals MVP vote that was given to Fred VanVleet may not have been a fluke. Fred VanVleet was a starter today: the first time at league tip-off, and the young point guard did not disappoint. Fred VanVleet set a new career high with 34 points, and made 5-7 from deep. He has always been a sniper: people just doubted him because of his size, including myself. However, there was certainly improvement: VanVleet got to the basket for layups, even against longer defenders. While his height will limit him in certain matchups, it definitely seems like VanVleet has gotten better at driving to the basket, and his pesky guard defense is still there. While it would be ridiculous to suggest anything like All-Star recognition from one game, Fred VanVleet has earned his starting role.
2) Terence Davis is… Solid
Terence Davis is solid. Obviously he has to be competent, as he made the rotation while players like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson didn’t even make the cut. He is long, plays good defense and shot the 3 well his senior year at Ole Miss. There is a lot to like from the young man: he fits into the Raptors underdog mentality perfectly. Part of that is being undrafted, and the other part that leads from that is being undrafted and going straight into the rotation. I want to see what Davis can be: he projects to be a defensive stopper with some long distance range. Terence Davis is one of the positive changes to this roster. His statline isn’t notable by itself. However, he did get 5 rebounds (2 Offensive!) and 2 steals in 15 minutes of game time. This is a Masai player: hard working, athletic and defensively minded.
3) Siakam can be the Man
I remember saying that the Raptors may play a more team oriented, ball movement approach. While that will mostly be true, the Raptors still need a star. There were questions of whether he could do it. Would he take another leap? Would he be fine without one of the best scorers in the league, getting double teamed more consistently? It’s been one game so there hasn’t been a definitive answer to that questions. But the way he played should should inspire excitement for the next 81 games at least. Season opener with a monster statline of 34-18-5? His efficiency wasn’t particularly great and he fouled out, but to be honest there’s a lot to like.
Improved passing and rebounding. Faster jump shot. Siakam has always worked relentlessly, and we all know what you have to do when you get paid 130 million: you show up for the challenge. Safe to say this first game, Pascal Siakam showed out. We’ll see what happens when he plays against better defenses, and not young and inexperienced players: he might have to deal with more physicality and double teaming. And yet there is only one thing to say after this game: this statline that he put up? That is a “The Man” statline.