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Monday, 14 December 2020

Toronto Raptors 2020 - 2021 Training Camp: Next Man Up! #RPTZFLZ

    So, first preseason game down, and some Raptors fans liked what they saw and some didn't.  Either way, it's just one game in the preseason and it's way too early to make an assessment either way about how the season will turn out, let alone, who's gonna start, come off the bench, or even make the team for that matter at this point of the process.  What can perhaps, be discussed is who are the players most likely to be next up in the Raptors' future regular rotation plans and I think there are a couple of players who are very likely to be and one who less likely but has the basic components required to be considered.

    Matt Thomas, as clearly put on display in the first game, realized he needed to work on his foot speed and defense in the offseason.  And in the short time he had to do it, he's more than succeeded.  No longer is he a liability and a focus of exploitation of opposing teams but he's actually a contributor, thus far, to the Raptors defense.  He still lacks the height and athleticism to be a complete stopper but he's better able to stay in front of his assignment and push him out of his comfort zone, and that's all you need to ask for on the majority of nights.  
    Another area he's addressed is finding his own shot.  Last season, he was a couple of steps slower so when he would run to his spot so it would allow for the defender to catch up with him.  And the Raptors, historically, haven't been the type of team to facilitate an offense for their snipers.  It's the reason why players like Jason Kapono and Demarre Carroll and similar players were never able to stick with the Raptors.  If you're a sniper on the Raptors, you must be able to create your own shot.  He's been able to add the foot speed required to beat his defender to his shot and his release is a bit quicker as well but it's not rushed because he has the time to take it.

      Paul Watson is a very slept-on offensive player but the aspect of his game that should see him get off the bench often and early is his defense.  It would appear to be the part of his game that he's worked on since the end of last season.  The Raptors are a defense-first team and as good as he is at scoring it probably became clear to him that he can contribute just as much on the defensive end.  In addition to a big block, he was also able to disrupt the offense on the ground and grab some much-needed rebounds.  
    Going forward, I can imagine that his scoring will be key to the Raptors' future success but if he sticks to his extra utilitarian abilities on the defensive end, he'll able to get those extra minutes at the three and the two this season.

    Henry Ellenson didn't have the greatest showing in the first game but I think the Raptors do have a plan for him or he wouldn't be around.  The tools are there, the height, and the ability to shoot, most especially, but like Paul Watson learned, he's really gotta find his defensive groove.  He's one of the more versatile bigs on the bench with the departure of Gasol and Ibaka and with Hernandez, a developing big also gone, the ability to develop his game in the rotation is up for grabs.


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