Folks, it’s getting ugly out there.
Midway through the second quarter of last night’s game against the Chicago Bulls, the Toronto Raptors found out that Yuta Watanabe was going to have sit out the remainder of the game with an ankle injury.
That left the Raptors with seven players, including two rookie guards and three centres.
Which meant it was time for Stanley Johnson to take over, obviously.
Yep, pretty ugly.
1. Hello #7
I ain’t talking about Kyle Lowry! With the loss, the Raptors are locked in to finishing with the 7th-worst record in the NBA, meaning they will likely be picking 7th overall in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Odds-wise, the Raptors could drop as low as 10th (1.3% chance), or jump all the way to first (7.5% chance). But they have a 29.8% chance to draft 7th.
Which, I guess, is pretty exciting? It’s been a while since the Raptors drafted this high, and this is a pretty deep draft by all accounts.
We don’t have the playoffs to look forward to, but it’s good to switch things up now and again, right? So let’s enjoy a few weeks of draft prep before we get back to postseason play next season!
2. Backcourt of the future
Pretty great start for the Raptors’ rookie backcourt last night, eh?
Malachi Flynn and Jalen Harris started for the first time together, and they combined for 15 first quarter points. And they did it from the inside and the outside, showcasing a nice range of scoring ability.
As I think I’ve made clear, I still want my Kyle Lowry/Fred VanVleet backcourt next year. But it definitely seems like there’s a lot of potential in this young duo.
3. Defense Not Top of Mind
Overall the Young Raptors didn’t play a particularly tight game on the defensive end last night, giving up a lot at the rim (hello backcuts) and far too many open looks from downtown.
That can’t make Nick Nurse happy.
These are “showcase” games for the Young Raps, but if you think about the roles they’re playing on the offensive end, they aren’t really indicative of the roles they’ll play in the future — not with OG Anunoby, Pascal SIakam, Fred VanVleet and hopefully Kyle Lowry on the floor.
But on the defensive end? Where effort, reading the other team and being in the right place matters? That’s where these guys need to show Nick Nurse what they can do; that’s what’s going to earn them minutes next season. They’ve only got a couple of games left to do it.
4. We Got An Aron Baynes Sighting!
Aron Baynes played last night! It’s been a while, man. I’m glad he got a chance to get a few more minutes and score a couple buckets; I’ve been as tough as anyone on Baynes this year, but it’s not because I dislike him or want him to fail. He just didn’t deliver what the Raptors needed from him in the role they needed him to play!
But I want everyone to succeed. It’s a shame it didn’t work out for Baynes, and at his age, combined with his poor play, he might not get another NBA shot. So I’m glad he got to get on the court before the season ended.
5. Go Off, Stan
Speaking of guys I’ve given a hard time, it’s Stanley Johnson! Much like he did in the final games in the Bubble last year, Stan got the chance to be the main guy on offense for the Raptors, and he… well, he scored a lot! Career-high 35 for Johnson, with 10 board and five dimes, and hey, maybe a chance at another NBA contract?
While I’d certainly prefer to see the young guys who have a chance to be here next year get more opportunities than Baynes and Johnson, when you’re down to seven or eight players, someone has to fill the minutes. So good for Stan for making the most of them.
We don’t have long to wait to get the second-last game of the season out of the way! Speaking of, yours truly is on the preview, so I better go write that one up. See ya in Dallas, so to speak.