Toronto Raptors: Grades following 111-101 preseason win over Hornets

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 12: LaMelo Ball #2 of the Charlotte Hornets dribbles against Matt Thomas #21 of the Toronto Raptors during the first half of their game at Spectrum Center on December 12, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 12: LaMelo Ball #2 of the Charlotte Hornets dribbles against Matt Thomas #21 of the Toronto Raptors during the first half of their game at Spectrum Center on December 12, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors win 111-100 over the Charlotte Hornets in a thrilling preseason opener

Finally, the league is back! The Toronto Raptors started off their preseason with a doubleheader against the Charlotte Hornets, who just drafted touted prospect LaMelo Ball and look to have an intriguing young core of Ball, PJ Washinton, and Devonte Graham.

Tonight was a nice preview of what’s to come with newcomers to the team Aron Baynes and Malachi Flynn, as well as seeing Matt Thomas and Chris Boucher in increased roles with the team.

The first quarter saw the Raptors’ starting lineup (minus Kyle Lowry, and slotting Norman Powell in his place) get off to a slow start. Perhaps there were some nerves and stress involved, but the Hornets took a quick 25-6 lead with four minutes remaining in the first quarter.

The team came alive afterward and bridged the gap in the second quarter, regaining a lead which Charlotte would never take back. The infamous bench mob led the comeback, with Matt Thomas, Terence Davis, and Malachi Flynn leading the bench mob offense in scoring with 16, 13, and 9 points respectively.

Toronto Raptors. MALACHI FLYNN. A-. Malachi Flynn played extremely well for a rookie playing his first preseason game, even outplaying third overall NBA draft selection LaMelo Ball. Shooting 3-6 from three-point range, Flynn showed off his flashy offensive skill, while also being a solid defender by netting himself a steal and ending the game with a +35 +/- rating tonight. Drafting Flynn at the 29th overall pick looks to have been highway robbery for Masai Ujiri and the Raptors front office. The only issue with his gameplay was his free throw shooting, as he missed both of his free throw attempts, but this can most likely be chalked up to nerves.. PG

Matt Thomas was a major bright spot for this Toronto Raptors squad tonight. Thomas showed off some excellent 3 point shooting, and he displayed major improvement on his defensive ability from last season. Thomas had a very impressive +22 +/- on the night, and he recorded 2 steals in his 20 minutes. Thomas will be relied on as a very important depth piece this NBA season and will be poised for major improvements on both ends of the court this season.. SG. Toronto Raptors. MATT THOMAS. A+

C+. Pascal Siakam had a strong defensive night. Offensively, it almost seems like his shooting woes from the NBA bubble have continued into this season. While he was 3/6 from the 3 point line, he shot just 30 percent from the field. In order to be the team’s first option of the future, Siakam will need to improve his efficiency on offense. Defensively, he played pretty well but his offense needs to pick up this season. His three-point shot tonight was very nice, but he needs to start playing a little more efficiently when he’s closer to the net.. PF. Toronto Raptors. PASCAL SIAKAM

Fred VanVleet displayed an excellent defensive acumen tonight. He contributed to the Raptors’ second-quarter comeback by producing 5 steals in his only 17 minutes of play. However, on the offensive side of the ball, he did not produce like he normally does. He shot just 33% from the field and 1/4 from three-point range. These scoring woes will most likely not continue through the season, but if VanVleet can defend the ball at this high of a level night in and night out the Raptors will be one of the best defensive teams in the league.. PG. Toronto Raptors. FRED VANVLEET. B+

PG. Charlotte Hornets. LAMELO BALL. B-. What kind of game recap would this be without mentioning third overall pick LaMelo Ball. Ball displayed the ball-handling and passing that were the reason why he was drafted so high in tonight’s game, and put on a show with his highlight-reel passes.<p>There are still some major concerns with his shooting, as he didn’t even manage to get a single point. Defensively, Ball managed to grab 10 rebounds, which is very impressive for a point guard. Ball managed to put himself into the positions he needed to in order to facilitate his teammate’s scoring, which if he can feed the ball to the scoring options on the Hornets he should be able to make an impact. Ball had a very flashy game, but in tonight’s game, he was outshone by Malachi Flynn’s consistency on offense and defense.</p>

The Raptors woke up in the end and turned this game around from the slow start. Defensively, Toronto held Charlotte to only 68 points in the second, third, and fourth quarters. On offense, shooting woes improved by unleashing the Bench Mob, who ended up scoring 74 points in the match.

The Raptors’ starting 5 (as well as Norman Powell, who seems to be poised to play big minutes this season) need to play consistently throughout the season. Baynes was alright offensively but looked a little bit lost on defense, which is most likely due to the raptors not having the same defensive schemes as the Suns did in the previous season. Malachi Flynn showed he has the capability to one day lead an offense, and hopefully, tonight’s preseason game was any indication of what’s to come.

Next. Toronto Raptors: Expectations for each bench player going into 2021. dark

The Raptors look like they will be a very deep team this season. Even in the fourth quarter, when the Raptors fielded a lineup of mostly players on Exhibit 10 contracts, they were able to hold their own at some points. This preseason game was very encouraging, and the team showed glimpses which indicate that this will be a very interesting season.