Luis Scola’s FIBA play is a good sign for the Toronto Raptors


Earlier this week, newly signed Raptor Luis Scola was named tournament MVP of the FIBA Americas Championship in Mexico. In the process, Scola become the tournament’s all-time leading scorer, which is a remarkable accomplishment for the 35-year-old Argentinian.

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Scola led his powerhouse team to the finals, where they were knocked off by spirited underdogs from Venezuela. For the tournament, he averaged 21.1 points and 10.1 rebounds. He was looked to as Argentina’s top scoring option, but he also provided impressive defence. More than anything, Scola showed that he can still ball, even late in his career.

The Toronto Raptors may have significantly underpaid for Scola’s services this year. We already knew the team was getting veteran leadership, solid shooting touch and crafty post moves for just $2.9 million per year, but we didn’t previously know that he is still capable of flashes of his 2010 self.

Last season, Scola averaged 9.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, playing backup for David West. He was solid, but certainly not heroic. He had better players playing in front of him, who were logically entrusted to score with the ball in their hands. But, for Argentina, Scola was the man. He did everything for his team, including blocking shots, distributing the ball, boxing out hard for rebounds and scoring from anywhere within the arc. He lit up with a bigger role and simply dazzled against weaker opponents.

This season, Scola is likely to start the year at power forward behind Patrick Patterson, but Patterson’s status as the team’s starter is not set in stone. If Scola plays with the same inspiration and drive he exemplified during the FIBA Americas Championship, he could easily find his name being called in the starting lineup by December. Plus, the Raptors could certainly use a big season out of their veteran.

The power forward spot is the only position for which the team has some uncertainty. Everywhere else, the Raptors are solid. As of right now, it seems the Raps will live or die by the production they can get out of Scola and Patterson. If the Raptors want to finally make it past the first-round of the playoffs, it will take a complete team effort, including solid contributions from the power forward spot.

Obviously, FIBA success will not completely transfer to the NBA. Still, the confidence Scola undoubtedly picked up during the tournament cannot be taken for granted. He has been reminded of what he is capable of doing. Hopefully, that motivates him throughout the 2015/16 season.

Next: Should the Raptors consider Bennett?

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