The Toronto Raptors took home a win in dominant fashion against the rival Philadelphia 76ers in their preseason opener. While Scottie Barnes was the main attraction, the performances of players like Dalano Banton, Yuta Watanabe, and Justin Champagnie helped the Raptors start the preseason off with a 1-0 record.
The Raptors have preached what has been dubbed a positionless style of basketball during the course of building this roster, and while there are some rough edges to iron out, this team looked pestilent on the defensive end, athletic on offense, and motivated to get this win.
While OG Anunoby led the team with 21 points, and Barnes himself put on a show by scoring 13 points and making plays on both ends, most of the Raptors can say that they turned a solid performance.
While a good chunk of Toronto Raptors players had some quality stats on Monday night, including two that really caught out eye, one Raptor needs to work on his game if he wants to make the roster.
Yuta Watanabe was exceptional for the Toronto Raptors.
Watanabe is currently fighting with some other players on non-guaranteed deals, but he may have secured himself one of the open roster spots with his play on Monday night. Watanabe had 10 points and seven rebounds in just 17 minutes of work, showing the improvements he has made in his game.
Watanabe began last year as an intriguing defensive piece that needed some work on offense. Nailing both of his 3-pointers and attacking the basket with a more aggressive mindset than we saw last year is exactly what we wanted to see from him.
While Barnes, the Rexdale native in Banton, and Precious Achiuwa should be lauded for their play in their Toronto debuts, the performance of Champagnie was nothing short of wonderful.
Champagnie, a double-double machine at Pitt looking to stick in the NBA by way of a two-way contract, made a compelling case for more playing time while Chris Boucher is on the mend, recording 17 points and 10 rebounds. It remains to be seen if he’ll get rotation time, but his energy, toughness, and versatility will all appeal to Nick Nurse.
Toronto Raptors center Freddie Gillespie needs to pick up the pace.
If there was one player who disappointed last night, it might be Freddie Gillespie. Despite getting into the game early, we saw more of the Gillespie from Summer League play that looked overmatched, not the high-energy big from last season.
Gillespie was one of only two Raptors with a negative plus-minus, as he played just seven minutes and recorded four personal fouls with just one rebound. While the lack of frontcourt depth could help him make the roster, it’s been quite a while since we’ve seen him really assert himself in the paint.
This Raptors roster will have a couple more opportunities to either sustain their positive start or work out the kinks. Watanabe and Champagnie need to keep producing on offense, while Gillespie needs to get back on the right track.