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NBA Pre-Season Notes

October 15, 2006 | By RotoRob | comment on this post

I finally got a chance to sit through a full NBA pre-season game this afternoon, as the new-look Raptors downed the Nets 119-110, in a preview of the season opener on November 1.

It was an entertaining game, the kind I expect to be commonplace in Toronto this year — lots of offense, but not much defense.

Here are a few observations from the game:

  • Chris Bosh was out with a minor heel injury, so the Raptors used the opportunity to get longer looks at some of their second-unit players, and it’s obvious this team will have much more depth than it did in 2005-06.
  • Among those players, power forward Kris Humphries is making a big-time statement for PT on the Raptors’ second unit. He had 11 points, 12 boards, a block and an assist in just 15 minutes. Acquired this offseason for local whipping boy Rafael Araujo, Humphries looks like he has the chance to come out of nowhere and be a rotation player on this team while making the deal look like a steal. He has great rebounding instincts and looks poised for a third-year breakthrough.
  • On the Nets, keep your eyes on second-year swingman Antoine Wright. He didn’t have much of a chance to play last season, but this year might emerge as New Jersey’s sixth man. The team even gave him a start at PG on Friday — that’s the kind of all-around skills package he brings to the table. Wright looks vastly improved over last season, showing the ability to create opportunities for his teammates. He has a good first step, can handle the ball and is capable of slicing his way inside for scoring chances.
  • Anthony Parker continued to struggle with his shot, as he has so far this entire preseason, but finally got untracked a bit late in the game, getting a couple of jumpers to fall. He was 3-for-10 from the field in the first two exhibition games and went 4-for-10 today. Not a big improvement, but hitting a couple late buckets might help him get some confidence as he tries to adjust back to the NBA game. Parker brings a good floor game, pitching in in other areas (five assists, four boards, three steals), so he’ll be fine. Look for him to get plenty of time at SG, perhaps even as the starter.
  • Parker’s main competition at the two-guard is Fred Jones. Jones’ offensive game was stifled in the conservative Indiana system, but he’s going to be asked to step up in Toronto, so could surprise. His FT shooting slipped last year, as he got to the stripe only 2.4 times per game, draining just over 76 per cent. In the first three pre-season games, Jones has been getting a ton of trips, and he’s been sinking them. Try 25-for-27 so far. If this keeps up, you better bump up your expected PPG for the former slam dunk champ. He looks like he’ll be a nice addition to the squad. Jones took a nasty spill in the second half, hitting the deck hard when he tried to sky over a defender. But he got up and sank both free throws before taking a seat.
  • Joey Graham is playing more aggressively so far, and he needs to, because with more depth, playing time is not a guarantee any more. He needs to put that NBA body to use if he wants to remain in the rotation. Depending on how things shake out, especially with the effort Humphries is giving, Graham could find himself on the end of the bench if he doesn’t answer the bell every time he get the chance.
  • Rookie P.J. Tucker will become a fan favourite with his crash-and-bang style of play. He looks good, showing some nice moves, good strength and solid play down low. Tucker, a U. of Texas teammate of LaMarcus Aldridge, plays bigger than his 6’5″ frame, and brings a physicality to the Raptors that was definitely missing last season. He could be the best bull in a china shop Toronto has had since the Charles Oakley days.
  • Former Gator Matt Walsh looked a little stunned as he clearly lost track of time at the end of the third quarter. He made up for it later, showing nice passing skills. Expect the Nets’ bench to be better than most people think.
  • Jose Calderon is being keyed on defensively by opposing offenses. He has work to do there. On offense, Calderon has worked hard to improve his weak shooting, but teams will still give him the shot whenever possible. He drained an 18-footer late — exactly the kind of shot he’ll to stick if he wants to improve. If Calderon can consistently drain that shot, Toronto’s offense will have a whole dimension.
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