Raptors lose Yuta Watanabe, Svi Mykhailiuk to COVID-19 protocols

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 31: Yuta Watanabe #18 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 31: Yuta Watanabe #18 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors were buoyed by Yuta Watanabe and Svi Mykhailiuk in the closing stages of 2021, as big names like Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet were placed in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocol. The two may be the best perimeter shooters on the Toronto bench.

While Mykhailiuk has been up and down, he has played in every game for Toronto because this team believes in his shooting ability. After starting last year on a two-way contract, Watanabe has earned promotions to both a proper NBA contract and a role in the rotation.

The two returned to their reserve roles in wins against the Clippers and Knicks, as most of the big names started to return. Unfortunately, just when Toronto thought they were out of the woods and ready to move past their COVID-19 troubles, the protocols claimed the Japanese and Ukrainian bench players.

Watanabe and Mykhailiuk entered the health and safety protocols before their matchup against the San Antonio Spurs. Chris Boucher is now the only Raptors rotation regular who has not entered the league’s health and safety protocols so far this season, showing how the virus has impacted Toronto.

The Toronto Raptors will play without Yuta Watanabe and Svi Mykhailiuk.

Mykhailiuk is averaging 6.6 points per game while shooting 32% from 3-point range. While that isn’t earth-shattering production, the lack of guard depth may force Nick Nurse to get unusually creative with his rotations for the next few games in order to replace his ability to stroke it from deep.

Watanabe is averaging 7.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game this season, punctuated with a 26-point, 13-rebound affair against the Cavaliers with so many absences. He’ll be the bigger loss of the two from a rotational point of view given his versatility and effort on defense.

The league’s COVID-19 protocol has been altered since the first few league-wide outbreaks, meaning that asymptomatic players can return to action in six days rather than the old guideline of 10 days. If they miss six games and pass the league’s testing thresholds, they should come back before a Jan. 11 game against the Suns.

The Raptors will have their collection of starters available in the next few games, so Toronto might not be as offensively bereft of talent as they were in past seasons. However, this bench has been terrible this season, and losing two contributors right before a very tough stretch of games against contenders is not ideal.

dark. Next. 2022 NBA Mock Draft 2.0