10 things: Raptors building new identity around Scottie Barnes

Scottie Barnes stuffed the stat sheet in his Toronto Raptors debut with 13 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals as the Toronto Raptors downed the Philadelphia 76ers 123-107.

Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors' 123-107 pre-season win over the Philadelphia 76ers.


One - The vision is clear. The Raptors are reinvented around length. The best stretch of the game was in the second quarter when all five players that were on stood between six-foot-six and six-foot-nine. The Sixers were completely enveloped and were clueless. Pick-and-rolls went nowhere as the Raptors simply switched everything without giving up anything, drives into the paint only veered off the rails as the Raptors formed a fence of limbs at the basket, and even simple passes became difficult to navigate with how aggressive the Raptors' defenders dug into the ball. Philadelphia kept on missing, and Toronto quickly amassed a lead that lasted the rest of the game by running out in transition.

Two - Of course, it's easier said than done. This being pre-season, the Sixers held out their two best scorers in Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris. And this being a Philadelphia sports franchise, they also missed Ben Simmons, who continues to sit in hopes of forcing a trade. So there weren't many options to steady their offence -- except for when Andre Drummond was involved.

The Raptors had more size at every position except for centre, when suddenly the six-foot-nine Precious Achiuwa seemed awfully small next to a seven-footer who weighs close to 300 pounds. Even still, the Raptors solved that in the second half by sending more help in the post to avoid guarding Drummond in isolation, which allowed the Raptors to balloon their lead to 30 points.


Three - Scottie Barnes is a human energy drink in the body of a man-child. He almost can't help himself. During the starting lineup announcements, Barnes was so hyped that he physically shook veteran guard Goran Dragic into offering a smile despite him being a 35-year-old who mostly wanted to get the game over with.

Barnes took that same intensity into the game, where he attacked the ball on defence, poked his long arms into every passing lane, and generally overwhelmed the Sixers on both ends. His first contribution on offence was his passing, where he set up Fred VanVleet for a layup in transition, then picked out Dragic on a cut, before finishing with six assists. Barnes then started imposing himself as a scorer, owning his size advantage and finishing over top the defence. He plays unorthodox, yet he is effective, and he always finds ways to contribute.

Four - Barnes will start right away.

It was announced that Chris Boucher will miss three-to-four weeks due to a finger injury. Boucher was next in line to fill in behind Pascal Siakam, who is out until the end of November, but there would have been at least an open competition for Barnes to potentially win the spot. Without Boucher, it's Barnes' chance to hit the ground running.

It's the same chance that Siakam got as a rookie, when injuries forced him into a spot that was arguably too big for him. Barnes is ahead of where Siakam was at that time, both in terms of skill and physicality, yet the experience could be similar. Like Siakam, Barnes is not a good shooter at the moment, and he can sometimes play a bit too fast and out of control. Still, by operating in the starting five, at least the playmaking duty can be eased for Barnes.

Five - Dalano Banton is ahead of schedule. (Unlike the 45 Kipling bus, which he honours on his jersey.) Banton might have come from an unheralded college program and he did make some elementary errors in Summer League, but he can play and he can impact the game at a high level.

Defensively, although he is slightly built, Banton makes the right reads and is able to always contest on account of his length. Some of the Sixers guards tried to take him off the dribble, and Banton was up to the challenge both in terms of quickness and with his timing to block shots without fouling. He's also able to get downhill despite a highly erratic jumper, simply because he handles the ball well and is able to get from the three-point line to the rim in three lunging strides. The passing still needs to be refined because he's error-prone, but Banton is already making next-level reads that catch the defence off-guard. He might even be in the mix to grab a rotation spot if he continues to play like this.

Six - There's clearly potential with Precious Achiuwa. How many bigs can lead the break, use their handle to get to the rim, shoot off the dribble, while also being an aerial threat to finish lobs? The key for Achiuwa is to pick his spots offensively, while becoming more solid defensively.

To the first point, Achiuwa won't always have the green light to make more high-skilled plays, but he can always control the little things like how effectively he screens, or making the next pass on time. As for his defence, asking him to guard Drummond while being 100 pounds lighter is a stretch, but he was also out of position a few times in the pick-and-roll which allowed the Sixers to break down the defence. The long-term outlook for Achiuwa will be very promising if he can cut down on his mistakes.

Seven - It's an off-night for Malachi Flynn. And to be fair, it was an odd game where he didn't feature at all in the first half, before being the featured player for much of the fourth quarter. It can be a bit awkward to just come in and own that spot, and Flynn did look to be pressing for his own shot a bit too eagerly.

But there is progress on this front which was evident from watching his pre-game routine. Flynn has noticeably improved his three-point shot, which is the most important tool for a six-foot-two point guard. Flynn will need to be a shot-maker for the second unit, and he will find much more separation around the arc than he will driving to the rim. Hopefully he gets a longer run in the next few pre-season games to showcase himself.

Eight - Two players stood out in the second unit. The first is Yuta Watanabe, who is a tenacious defender and an improving scorer. Watanabe is another player who focused on his shooting, and was a perfect 2-for-2 from three. He also has a modest playmaking touch which is a nice bonus.

The other standout was Justin Champagnie, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Champagnie has a nose for the ball on the offensive glass, and often wins rebounds against bigger players. He also can hit the outside shot, although he's more effective down low. Watanabe's place on the team should be guaranteed even if his contract technically isn't, while Champagnie could also clinch his place with a few more solid showings like this one.

Nine - Svi Mykhailiuk was another pleasant surprise. He cooled off in the second half but he was their leading scorer at halftime. Mykhailiuk was very aggressive in attacking the defence, where he would make quick and decisive moves off the catch which allowed him to get downhill towards the basket.

Clearly, his main function is to shoot threes -- which he did make a pair of -- but his cutting and movement also created openings for his teammates and it brought an element of surprise to go with the three-point shot. It remains to be seen if Mykhailiuk will crack the rotation, but he could slot in nicely as a shooter off the bench.

Ten - OG Anunoby really wants to show off his mid-range game. He was insistent to the point of demanding the ball in the post and at the elbows, where he would face up before going into his dribble moves. The goal was always to get separation for his jumper, which was clearly a focus of his this off-season.

It's a neat move if Anunoby could master it, but in order to be successful as an isolation scorer, Anunoby does need to do a better job of controlling his surroundings. Little things like properly sealing his defender so that he can safely catch the ball, understanding when to go slow and when to attack quickly, and when to take the extra dribble to wait out the defence -- these are all parts that Anunoby isn't yet fluid in. He will get those reps this season, particularly while Siakam is recovering.

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