RAPTORS TAKEAWAYS: Scottie Barnes flashes all-star potential

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The pre-season rolled on for the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday with a 106-102 road win over the Chicago Bulls.

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Here are the takeaways from an encouraging night for Darko Rajakovic’s squad:

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The biggest positive had to be the play of third-year forward Scottie Barnes. Barnes had arguably the best all-around game of anyone on the court. He scored 22 points, hit 2-of-3 from three-point range and all four free throw attempts, blocked four shots (he’s blocked four or more just three times in regular season games), grabbed six rebounds, had three assists and two steals.

Barnes did what he wanted on offence, which we’ve seen before, but also was a disruptor at the other end, which has been a rarer sight. Barnes has said he worked on his conditioning and it looked like he was moving a bit quicker and getting off the floor on second jump chances the way he did as a rookie.

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Gary Trent Jr. looked like he was on the way to having a fantastic game. He led Toronto with 11 points and four assists in the first half (eight of the points coming in a quick flurry), but didn’t add to those numbers at all from there. Still, he’s working well as the offensive fulcrum of the second unit and has been a far more willing passer than we’ve seen in the past.

He’s always been a get the ball, shoot the ball type of player, but this pre-season, Trent has been moving the ball well. Four assists was his season high last season. His career best average was two assists a game when he started 69 of 70 games two years ago. We’ll bet he averages closer to 2.5 or more this year.

Trent is still only 24, he has more to his game and he’s showing it.

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There’s a reason why the Raptors dealt a future first-round pick to San Antonio to repatriate Jakob Poeltl. He’s a quality starting centre and the team is a lot better — most notably defensively — when the big man is in the lineup. He was under the weather again and was missed, as was Precious Achiuwa, who was listed as questionable but couldn’t go. Christian Koloko continues to be out.

Toronto surprisingly came out even in the rebounding battle, thanks to outliers like seven from Malachi Flynn and five from Jalen McDaniels.


We’ll see if it continues once the frontcourt gets healthy, but Thaddeus Young has a new lease on life so far under Rajakovic. Nick Nurse shut Young down for the year in March, sitting him for the final 14 games of the season. Young had been in and out of the rotation for most of the year before then, but had been a solid addition the previous year from San Antonio.

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Young is the second-oldest Raptor, but unlike elder statesmen Garrett Temple, appears to be part of Rajakovic’s plans. Rajakovic has made Young his first call off the bench in consecutive games now. Again though, even though the coach intends to play as many as 10 a night, Young still could find himself out of the mix when Poeltl, Achiuwa, Koloko and shooter Otto Porter are good to go.

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Where do the Bulls go from here? The team has a big payroll, but isn’t even a favourite to finish Top 4 in the East, let alone challenge for the conference final or beyond. DeMar DeRozan is heading to unrestricted free agency, but will turn 35 before next season. Barring extensions, DeRozan and his former teammate Pascal Siakam will be two of the most sought-after free agents. Plus Lonzo Ball is still owed big money through next season but it’s unclear if he will ever be able to play again. Defensive guard Jevon Carter was a nice pickup, but depth is an issue.

— In a fun twist, other prominent unrestricted free agents next summer besides Siakam and DeRozan include Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and O.G. Anunoby. Somebody could rebuild the We the North Raptors.

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Originally posted 2023-10-18 11:37:29.