When the ball tipped off at the Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World last night, it marked the beginning of the Toronto Raptors’ quest to repeat as NBA Champions. Having been the first team to arrive in Florida – hosting their training camp in Naples, rather than in Toronto – Canada’s team was still one of the last to take the court for their first bubble scrimmage. Hopefully, they’ll be the last to leave the Disney World campus as well, and enjoy their stay in the heart of the Magic Kingdom through mid-October.
While equivalent to a meaningless preseason game, an overreaction to last night’s scrimmage seems due. It was fans’ first glimpse of Raptors basketball in 138 days, in the midst of what had been among the most exciting seasons in franchise history. The thrill was only exponentiated after the break in action, with a fully healthy roster returning, and mentally draining conditions that may actually favour this veteran Raptors squad.
A couple of things, however, have not changed at all. Aside from Kyle Lowry taking charges wherever and whenever he can, or Matt Thomas remaining cold as ice, Terence Davis Jr. continues to elate fans with his consistently impressive performances.
Having been the only player to appear in every game for the NBA’s third best team this season as an undrafted rookie, along with the value that he provides off the bench as Toronto’s 8th man, Davis has been making some buzz in the NBA’s Rookie of the Year debate for a couple of months. While the chances of him actually taking home the hardware are slim to none, Davis should be slated as a guarantee to make one of the All-Rookie teams, which would make him the first Raptor to do so since Jonas Valanciunas in 2013.
Last night, Davis continued to show why he’s deserving of such recognition. Immediately after checking into the game at the end of the first quarter, he was impactful. On his first possession, he earned a quick trip to the line and went perfect from the charity stripe, and then a couple of possessions later, knocked down a three-pointer, giving him five points in just over a minute.
Arguably, the mere effort that TD puts into every possession eclipses his scoring ability as the most impressive part of his game. The play below shows Norman Powell making a foolish pass and quickly giving up on the play, but Terence Davis has the “never say die” mentality, and rises up high for the two-handed chase down block.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) July 25, 2020
Davis has all of the physical tools necessary to be a great perimeter defender in the NBA, drawing comparisons to a young Tony Allen with his monstrous athleticism and aggressive mindset. Davis is only beginning to understand how to leverage his natural athletic abilities to his benefit on the basketball court, and he’s going to be a nightmare of a defensive matchup once he does. His tenacity, aggression, and quickness from football, paired with his agility, leaping ability, and intangibles from basketball give him intriguing potential on that end of the floor.
On the other end of the court, he only made good on one of his six attempts from behind the arc last night, but still finished the game with a relatively efficient 15 points on nine shots.
He also showed off flashes of an increased awareness as a playmaker, which should hopefully be a sign of continued improvement to come. As one of the leaders off the bench, he’s always been astute at moving without the ball, and his shot selection has never needed work, however there have been times in the regular season where he’s missed a read which could have led to an easy bucket for a teammate. We only saw him in action for 19 minutes yesterday against a lackluster defense that was hardly trying, however his vision seems to have improved, which could lead to him seeing some more minutes as the primary ball handler off the bench if he can continue to prove to Nick Nurse that he can run the point.
The Raptors’ next scrimmage – and fans’ next opportunity to see one of our two beloved undrafted rookies – will be tomorrow at 6:00 PM EST against the Portland Trail Blazers. We’ll see how TD fares against one of the most electrifying guard tandems in the league, if he can continue along his ascension to being one of the top young stars in the NBA. Maybe we’ll even get to see our first look at skinny Marc Gasol.