The Toronto Raptors' New Year's Day duel with the Cleveland Cavaliers had more significance than most January regular season games for a 12-20 team, as fans would get to see Mississauga native RJ Barrett and dynamic guard Immanuel Quickley make their debuts after being traded from the New York Knicks.
Given Quickley's tremendous shooting ability and Barrett's pedigree as a scorer, sending OG Anunoby to New York would, if nothing else, give Toronto a bit more firepower on the offensive end. Even after one game, the early returns are quite encouraging for Darko Rajakovic and the fans.
The Raptors let a big lead vanish, but they ultimately clawed out a 124-121 victory. Barrett finished with 19 points and nine rebounds on 50% shooting, making some tough shots along the way. Quickley amassed 13 points and six rebounds, igniting the Raptors' offense early.
The Raptors' 2024 run might not bring them a ton of success in the standings, but they will get a chance to see if the two former Knicks will fit in well alongside the rest of their established talent. The early returns, just a day after two young players uprooted their lives and moved to Canada, seem very positive.
RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley change Raptors offense in win vs. Cavaliers.
The newest fan favorite, Quickley looked in command as soon as he stepped on the floor, leaning on the tremendously deep bag of moves he picked up in his Knicks career to be an effective scorer and offensive conductor. It's a shame foul trouble potentially kept him from performing even better in his debut.
While Barrett didn't light up the sky as an offensive juggernaut, the fact that he was getting to the rim as easily as he was without dominating the ball should be encouraging. Perhaps letting him play more like an oversized 2-guard than a traditional small forward might be key to unlocking his potential.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this new-look attack was the fact both players managed to stuff the stat sheet without impeding Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam. Barnes finished with 20 points and six rebounds, while Siakam had one of his best games all year long by scoring 36 points on 13-20 shooting and 5-8 from 3-point range.
Anunoby is an excellent all-around player and Achiuwa could defend, but both of them lack the ball-handling and half-court creativity needed to take this offense to the next level. It may have been just one game, but both Barrett and Quickley look like players who can help Toronto get the results they've desired.