Yuta Watanabe’s breakout shows he can be Raptors’ sixth man

CLEVELAND, OHIO - DECEMBER 26: Yuta Watanabe #18 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - DECEMBER 26: Yuta Watanabe #18 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Saying that Yuta Watanabe and the Toronto Raptors were shorthanded in their embarrassing loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers would be the understatement of the year. Watanabe, Dalano Banton, and 10-day contract signing DJ Wilson were all forced into the starting lineup.

Knowing that winning these games with eight rotation players and two key reserves inactive is almost impossible, Toronto chose to let some of their 10-day replacement players and active bench players make the case for extended playing time in the next few days.

Watanabe went from a solid rotational piece to the main offensive option last night against the Cavaliers, as he was one of the few players on that team who could create his own shot and stroke it from deep. The results were extremely promising to say the least.

Watanabe recorded a double-double by scoring 26 points and hauling in 13 rebounds. While he won’t be expected to put up numbers like this every night, the fact that he was able to put up those numbers shows he can be a trusty sixth man down the stretch for this team.

Yuta Watanabe showed the Toronto Raptors how he has developed.

Watanabe was able to earn himself an NBA deal after showing his effort and hustle on defense in Tampa. While he was a very limited offensive player last season, his growth on that end has been impressive to watch. He’s more aggressive, efficient, and creative on that side.

Watanabe was the top offensive option or the Japanese national team in the Olympics, and it looks like that need to take over on the international stage has translated over to his NBA play. While he is improving as a shooter, the biggest change in Watanbe’s game has been how effortlessly he has taken the ball to the hole and finished.

Watanabe is one of the few bench players that is actually contributing on offense consistently. Svi Mykhailiuk is a shooter that isn’t shooting well, Precious Achiuwa has been inconsistent when healthy, and Chris Boucher has been in a funk all season long. The bench would completely collapse without Yuta.

The Raptors are not going to win a ton of games with so many impact players on the sideline. This will give them a golden opportunity to see how some of their key rotation players have been coming along. Watanabe appears to be making strides as a playmaker and scorer, which has been the one silver lining amid so many inconsistent showings.

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