Title: Raptors look ready for the opener, and other takeaways from a dominant preseason finale
Date: October 18, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I provided takeaways from the Raptors’ final preseason game, in which their key players looked ready to roll and in which we got little indication of where they’re leaning with end-of-roster decisions.
It’s always difficult to know exactly what to make of preseason. The samples are small and often noisy — players are slowly ramping up, teams are running deeper than they normally would, and individual roles and team-level schemes are being expanded and experimented with. It doesn’t mean nothing, but it normally doesn’t mean a lot.
Friday served as a reminder of why continuity can be such a leg up in an environment like that. With the preseason shortened the past few years and an even greater emphasis put on workload management for veterans, the Toronto Raptors all but punted on a chance to get proper game reps this exhibition schedule. Kyle Lowry missed the first three outings. Marc Gasol missed two. The rest of the top of the rotation missed one together. No matter.
Continuity can be massive, even with massive holes to fill. The Raptors played all of their pieces together for the first time against Brooklyn and looked ready to begin their title defence in earnest. It wasn’t perfect. It was, however, a quick window into how the stability and institutional knowledge players like Lowry and Gasol provide can raise the level of everyone. Play the top seven in a tighter rotation and the Raptors suddenly look like a high-end Eastern Conference team again. Six of those players made up three-quarters of the eight-man playoff rotation, and the seventh started an entire season the year prior.