RAPTORS BLOG: Watanabe’s return set to shake up the rotation


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On Wednesday night in Memphis, two intriguing teams, extremely talented, but not quite there, faced each other.

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The Raptors and Grizzlies have a long way to go, even before they are in contention for a home playoff berth – whatever is more ambitious than that – but hey, these two teams have stellar players.

Ja Morant is a special point guard of the ultra-elite strain. It should be easy to build, while Jaren Jackson Jr. has the “unicorn” tendencies that are all the rage among great men these days. Add in sharpshooter Desmond Bane, Canadian tough guys Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke and a few other pieces and Memphis seems to be on to something. Yet defensively they are a mess. Steven Adams was meant to be an improvement over Jonas Valanciunas, who fit them like a glove, but wasn’t really. Plus, you cap defensive positions with a rebound most of the time and Valanciunas is as good a defensive rebounder as you’ll find him. Adams, despite being a superb offensive rebounder, is not level on the defensive glass and he is not as long as Valanciunas, who is a good deterrent at the rim (his main defensive issues are mobility) .

The Grizzlies got Ziaire Williams in this trade as well, but he showed very little and even smashed a wide-open three-pointer down the side of the back panel at one point.

The good news for Memphis fans is that the core is in place and the team has a ton of draft capital on the way (all of their own first-round players, plus Utah and Golden State extras and a bunch of second round picks) to tinker with.

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As for the Raptors, the return of Yuta Watanabe seemed to revive the group. He looks a lot like Jose Calderon – the spirit of the team, a model teammate that everyone loves.

Watanabe’s level of effort is rarely matched. He leaves everything on the court and has had several impact plays.

His return (and the possible reappearance of OG Anunoby on Friday at Indy, one of OG’s favorite places to play) could eliminate Chris Boucher and Svi Mykhailiuk from the rotation altogether (not to mention Khem Birch who will also be back. at one point ). Boucher had a bad season and was sidelined for the entire second half after being Nick Nurse’s first substitute in the first half. Mykhailiuk provides shots that Watanabe doesn’t and tries hard defensively, but isn’t close to the defender or playmaker Watanabe is.

As they always say, more players, more problems.

I always love the idea of ​​getting flamethrower Gary Trent Jr. off the bench when the Raptors are full. Of course, he adapted well to the other starters, but as active as his hands were, he was part of a team that choked him defensively. Toronto has allowed 117 points per 100 possessions in its last 10 games, tied with Memphis for worst in the NBA.

Part of that doesn’t often lack a traditional center to protect the painting. Part of this is due to over-helping and misreading things. You could also argue that the defense would be even worse without Trent, but why not go Fred VanVleet, Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam and Birch as starters? Trent looks great on the bench and could feast on second units. Anunoby and Barnes can keep shooting guards off even if they dominate them. Why not give it a try?

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Speaking of Barnes, his defense had slipped recently, but he was back, doing just about everything against Memphis. He held several positions and was a force. He’s a special talent.

VanVleet might not get as much press as he deserves, but he has a legitimate case for his work on both ends of the pitch.

Your VanVleet statistic of the day:

This year, VanVleet fell by 47.3%. As a rookie he was only 34.5% on edge and although his numbers since are mostly where they are now, last season he was up 42.9% on those shots.

THREE STARS

1 precious Achiuwa

2 Ja Morant

3 Fred Van Vleet

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