With media day in the past, and training camp fully under way, the Toronto Raptors are now given seven games to prepare for the regular season. Training camp being defined as “intense” and “defensive-minded” by several players, has also been a “meticulous” way of teaching by the coaching staff. Reason for all of the aforementioned, is due to the new bodies on the roster, and the staff.
Training camp and some exhibition games will allow for the team to test out their new identity, and create some connections with the new players. We take a look at what should be expected in the upcoming pre-season, such as minutes played, style of place, and more.
Number one, don’t expect a set starting five and or a set second unit. The core four set to start is Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, largely expected DeMarre Carroll, and Jonas Valanciunas, but Dwane Casey‘s issue to figure out, is who “fits better with Valanciunas…”
Now, who is expected to start? Patrick Patterson certainly thinks that he “should go into that role…”
But, with the new faces, and what Carroll provides in terms of floor spacing and defensively, the power forward should be best suited to JV’s needs on the floor. Patterson seems like an inevitable decision based on the depth chart and Amir Johnson‘s departure, but his perimeter shooting spreads the floor more not only to JV’s benefit, but to DeRozan’s function in the low-post. Patterson is also the best low-post defender in terms of the depth chart at the four, and is a ‘status-quo’ size at that position. But Casey may also decide to test different players besides JV throughout games.
Luis Scola, a terrific offensive player, in the post, pick-&-roll/pop, and on the elbows, might be the worst fit for JV, considering his average defence, and inability to stretch the floor to the perimeter. He’s a player that functions best inside, which will clog up the paint for JV and DeRozan. James Johnson has been also a popular option among the Raptor faithful, considering his size, defence, and versatility on both ends of the floor, points to positives for the team, but again, struggles to shoot from outside. The point of small ball is to spread the floor offensively, play quicker, and have quicker reactions on defensive pressure. James can certainly provide all, expect the most important part in suiting to JV’s needs offensively. Defensively, on the other hand, might be the very best fit.
Anthony Bennett, not expected to play a lot in the regular season, could be tried at the four besides JV. Great athleticism, finishing ability, size, and can certainly spread the floor. However, inconsistent defensively, and taking a big risk on a player, who again, functions best in the paint.These players could all see significant pre-season time at the four in hopes that Casey finds a solid fit. Patterson in this case, however, seems to be the better fit out of the possibilities.
Expect to see a ton of players in minutes where they’re not expected, once October 28th comes around the corner. Bennett, Delon Wright, Norman Powell, Bruno Caboclo, Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira, will be playing in efforts to test themselves out, and fight for a small spot in the rotation. Also, to allow the main guys some significant rest, and freshness when the real thing starts.
The pre-season will also allow Dwane Casey to play his new second unit altogether. Again, like we mentioned, no set second unit, but expect to see Cory Joseph, Terrence Ross, Scola, and Bismack Biyombo all on the floor at once. These four names are believed to be the main body of the backups, and they will need their opportunity to mesh and develop a chemistry; this will be a very important factor in the Raptors’ success this upcoming season.
Also, expect something different offensively; ball movement. DeMarre Carroll came into an iso-heavy offence, something he mentioned hearing: “…all I heard was iso, iso, iso.” But, since he’s been here, approximately two and a half weeks from media day, he’s seen “…how the ball moves.” He says that it’s going to be a “good thing, [I think] it’s going to be a different type of basketball, it’s not going to be that iso, iso, pound the basketball.” DeMarre came from one of the best ball-moving teams in the league last season; if his praise indicates a major change in comparison to the Raptors’ previous play, it’ll be a new, but welcoming change to expect.
Finally, as as everyone expects as well, the defence should pick up on the first day of their pre-season, a major test, against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC. With the new bodies coming in, focused solely upon defence, and a coach who has strictly concentrated efforts to improve that end, there should not only be a system, and pressure change, but also there should be an effort change. Likely more physicality, more pressure past half-court, and visible communication. This’ll be their very first opportunity to prove to the Raptors’ faithful that the focus truly has been to improve their defence; expect to see the domino-affect that guys like Biyombo, Carroll, and Joseph will provide.
The pre-season is going to be one big experiment for the players and the coaching staff. Expect to see lots of changes, different, unorthodox line-ups, unfamiliar styles of play, but also expect to see a dumbed-down effort; it’s pre-season, these players are not going to play with an NBA championship-effort, but will certainly try to incorporate what they’ve been working on since the end of last season.