Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 123-107 pre-season win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
One – The vision is clear. The Raptors have been reinvented in terms of length. The best part of the game was in the second quarter, when all five players were between two meters six and two meters nine. The Sixers were completely enveloped and clueless. Pick-and-rolls weren’t going anywhere because the Raptors just swapped everything without giving up anything, the rides in the paint just went off the rails when the Raptors formed a fence of limbs at the basket, and even simple passes became hard to do. navigate with how aggressively the Raptors’ defenders dug into the ball. Philadelphia kept missing and Toronto quickly amassed a lead that lasted the rest of the game by running out in the transition.
Two – Of course it’s easier said than done. This being pre-season, the Sixers kept their top two scorers in Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris. And because this is a Philadelphia sports franchise, they also missed Ben Simmons, who stays put hoping to force a trade. So there weren’t many options to clear their offense, except when Andre Drummond was involved.
The Raptors were taller in every position except in the middle, when suddenly the six-foot-tall Precious Achiuwa looked very small next to a seven-legged man weighing nearly 300 pounds. Still, the Raptors remedied that in the second half by sending more help by mail to avoid having to guard Drummond in isolation, allowing the Raptors to extend their lead to 30 points.
Three – Scottie Barnes is a human energy drink in the body of a male child. He can hardly help it. During the gridiron announcements, Barnes was so hyped that he physically shook veteran guard Goran Dragic to make him smile, despite being a 35-year-old who mostly wanted to play the game.
Barnes carried that same intensity into the game, where he charged the ball in defense, thrust his long arms into every passing lane and generally overpowered the Sixers on both sides. His first attacking contribution was his passing, where he set up Fred VanVleet for a layup in the transition, then knocked out Dragic on a cut, before finishing with six assists. Barnes then began to push himself as a scorer, possessing his size advantage and finishing over defense. He plays unorthodox, yet effective, and he always finds ways to contribute.
Four – Barnes starts right away.
It was announced that Chris Boucher will miss three to four weeks due to a finger injury. Boucher was next in line to fill in behind Pascal Siakam, who is out until the end of November, but there would have been at least open competition for Barnes to potentially win the spot. Without Boucher, it’s Barnes’ chance to get off the ground.
It’s the same opportunity Siakam got as a rookie, when injuries forced him into a place that was arguably too big for him. Barnes is ahead of where Siakam was at the time, both in terms of skill and physicality, but the experience could be similar. Like Siakam, Barnes is not a good marksman at the moment and can play a bit too fast and out of hand at times. But operating in the base five can at least lighten the duty of making the game for Barnes.
Five – Dalano Banton is ahead of schedule. (Unlike the 45 Kipling coach, which he honors on his jersey.) Banton may have come from an unannounced college program and he made some basic mistakes in Summer League, but he can play and he can influence the game at a high level .
Defensively, although he is slightly built, Banton makes the right reads and can always fight because of his height. Some of the Sixers’ guards tried to get him off the dribble, and Banton was up to the challenge, both in speed and timing of blocking shots without making mistakes. He can also come downhill despite being a very erratic jumper simply because he handles the ball well and can get from the three-point line to the edge in three lunge steps. The passing has yet to be fine-tuned as he is prone to error, but Banton is already making subsequent level readings that overwhelm the defence. He could even be in the mix trying to land a spin spot if he continues to play like this.
Six – There is clearly potential with Precious Achiuwa. How many bigs can lead the break, use their handle to get to the edge, shoot off the dribble, while also being an aerial threat to end lobs? The key for Achiuwa is to pick his spot offensively, while getting stronger defensively.
On the first point, Achiuwa won’t always have the green light to make more highly skilled plays, but he can always control the little things, like how effectively he screens, or making the next pass on time. As for his defense, asking him to guard Drummond while he’s 100 pounds lighter is a stretch, but he was also out of position in the pick and roll a few times that allowed the Sixers to break down the defense. The long-term outlook for Achiuwa will be promising if he can reduce his mistakes.
Seven – It’s a night off for Malachi Flynn. And to be fair, it was an odd game in which he didn’t play at all in the first half, before being the featured player for much of the fourth quarter. It can be a little awkward to just walk in and own that spot, and Flynn seemed a little too eager to press his own shot.
But there’s progress on this front, which was evident from watching his pre-game routine. Flynn has noticeably improved his three-point shot, which is the most important tool for a six-foot two-point guard. Flynn needs to be a shotmaker for the second unit, and he will find a lot more separation around the arch than he will drive to the rim. Hopefully he gets a longer run in the upcoming pre-season games to show himself.
Eight – Two players stood out in the second unit. The first is Yuta Watanabe, a tenacious defender and an increasingly high-scoring goalscorer. Watanabe is another player who focused on his shooting and was a perfect 2-for-2 of three. He also has a modest play-making touch, which is a nice bonus.
The other standout was Justin Champagnie, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Champagnie has a nose for the ball on the attacking glass and often wins rebounds against bigger players. He can also hit the outside shot, although he is more effective below. Watanabe’s place on the team should be guaranteed even if his contract isn’t technically so, while Champagnie could also earn his place with a few more solid showings like this one.
Nine-Svi Mykhailiuk was another pleasant surprise. He cooled off in the second half, but he was their leading scorer at halftime. Mykhailiuk was very aggressive in attacking the defence, making quick and decisive moves from the catch that allowed him to go downhill to the basket.
Obviously his main function is shooting threes — of which he made a few — but his cutting and movement also created openings for his teammates and brought an element of surprise to the three-point shot. It remains to be seen if Mykhailiuk will crack the rotation, but he could fill in nicely as a shooter off the bench.
Ten – OG Anunoby really wants to show off his mid-range game. He insisted that he demanded the ball into the post and at the elbows where he would look up before going into his dribbling moves. The goal has always been to get separation for his jumper, which has clearly been a focus of his this off season.
It’s a neat move if Anunoby could master it, but to be successful as an isolation scorer, Anunoby needs to better control his environment. Little things like sealing his defender well so he can catch the ball safely, understanding when to go slow and when to attack fast, and when to take the extra dribble to wait for the defense – these are all parts Anunoby doesn’t. is still liquid. He will be getting those reps this season, especially while Siakam is recovering.