Toronto Raptors: Previewing the 5 biggest games of the New Year

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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(Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Jan. 3- Toronto Raptors at San Antonio Spurs

Key Matchup: Kawhi Leonard vs. DeMar DeRozan

In just their second game of their 2019 slate, the Raptors will be opposed by a familiar face for the first time since his departure.

Once a franchise cornerstone, DeMar DeRozan was dealt to the San Antonio Spurs this offseason in the Leonard deal. Following his departure, there was clear hostility that remained towards front office leader Masai Ujiri:

"“I mean, when you use the word ‘family,’ ‘brother’ or whatever, things other people use lightly … for me, once you use that term, I stick by that term,” DeRozan said in an interview with ESPN’s Chris Haynes. “I stand by that term. So whether it’s something I like or don’t like, I’m going to accept it if you come to me and let me know beforehand. But don’t make one thing seem like another thing and catch me off-guard and do something else.”"

After spending his nine seasons with the franchise, DeRozan has maintained his production after starting anew with the Spurs.

In 38 games with his new team thus far, DeRozan has averaged 22.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. In his stint with the Spurs, DeRozan has been tasked with facilitating the offense often with the loss of Dejounte Murray after the latter tore his ACL in the preseason.

The adjustment has provided DeRozan with the platform to provide a career-high in assists.

In the two teams’ matchup, Leonard will once again be tasked to stop an opposing star.

With his low foul totals on the year and ability to defend the perimeter at an elite level, Leonard will directly oppose DeRozan’s strengths of driving and drawing contact. However, since coming to San Antonio, DeRozan is averaging the lowest free throw rate of his career.

If Leonard can avoid fouling, DeRozan’s chances of a revenge outburst are lessened drastically.