And then there were three. A trio of games for the young Raptors, along with veterans DeAndre’ Bembry and Stanley Johnson, to make cases to return.
Both Johnson and Bembry can defend and create offence for others a bit, but aren’t shooting threats. Do the Raptors need both back in 2020-21 as bench depth pieces? Or is one fine, with the other spot going to someone being developed?
Either way, it’s not the most pressing business and should depend on what happens in the draft and in free agency. With a high first-round pick on the way, along with a pair of mid-second-round picks and Malachi Flynn and Jalen Harris too, there might not be a lot of room for depth veterans.
We know Khem Birch should be back, barring some crazy offer from elsewhere. He’s a nice fit and Toronto is where he wants to be.
Freddie Gillespie should return as well. Chris Boucher has another year on his deal too and it was nice to see him back in action on Tuesday against the Clippers (and nice for Boucher too, since he was concerned after getting hurt because it was the same leg where he had torn his ACL).
With starters Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby turning in good post-all-star break play, the frontcourt appears to be in solid shape. Much better, for example, than it was heading into the year, though nobody expected Aron Baynes and Alex Len to be total washouts (or that Boucher would excel either, to be fair).
It’s interesting that Nick Nurse said they’ll work these last few games (and perhaps in the off-season) on prepping Boucher for some small forward minutes, in addition to his work as Siakam’s backup at power forward. Nurse has long said he sees the slim Boucher as a power forward, but if he can guard small forwards that would extend his utility quite a bit.
Boucher said he’s been a centre for a long time, but is ready to work and surprise people again. “Yeah, I’m definitely going to take another step, I did what I can do this year and saw the steps that I can take for next year but still got a lot of work to do,” Boucher said.
“I’m playing a couple of different positions, different situations so it’s definitely helping me out to make the reads. I’m going to go back there and watch the clips because I need to learn from it,” he said.
Speaking of the off-season, the development of Harris will be interesting too. Hopefully there will be a Summer League in Las Vegas, and it sounds like they’ll work on ball-handling with Harris the way they tried to with Terence Davis.
It even sounded like what Nurse used to say about Davis when he talked about Harris post-game.
“Well, he had five turnovers tonight, so I don’t think his ball-handling was very good, that’s a really big number in 25 minutes, so he got himself into some jams where he made some mistakes passing the ball,” Nurse said.
“He’s had some really good moments, I think that he’s got some pop with the first step, he’s got some finish to his game, he can vault up and shoot a little bit, but again, when you’re playing a really physical long talented defensive team, those gaps close in a hurry. So, we talk about get off it early, you can’t try to jam in against these long lengthy athletes, you gotta make a move and get off it early, and make a safe decision, and that’s again experience and time on the court.”
Still, Harris has shown some interesting and encouraging things, especially because he was off for awhile due to injury.
THREE STARS VS. CLIPPERS:
1 — Kawhi Leonard (Looks ready for long playoff run).
2 — Terrence Mann (Youngster can get buckets and didn’t miss a shot).
3 — Freddie Gillespie (Continues to show impressive glimpses).