Ramp it up

Rap­tors cut three, en­ter next phase of camp

Sunday Sports - - SPORTS - MIKE GAN­TER mgan­ter@post­media.com @Mike_Gan­ter

Now that ev­ery­one in Rap­tor­land is ac­quainted, or re-ac­quainted, with one an­other and have a taste for the new of­fence, the real work be­gins.

With train­ing camp and Honolulu in the rearview mir­ror, the Rap­tors’ prepa­ra­tion for the 2017-18 sea­son gets se­ri­ous be­gin­ning with a prac­tice yes­ter­day in ad­vance of a hand­ful more prac­tices and two more ex­hi­bi­tions be­fore the real sea­son be­gins.

Through three games, two that were played with­out key com­po­nents to the Rap­tors’ for­tunes as head coach Dwane Casey got a jump on the rest reg­u­lars like Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, C.J. Miles and even Norm Pow­ell will need, it’s glar­ingly ap­par­ent to ev­ery­one that the of­fen­sive ap­proach of years past is no longer sat­is­fac­tory.

The ques­tion that has to be asked is whether a team that at­tempted 123 three-point­ers to just 116 two-point­ers over those three games will ap­proach those same num­bers when things of­fi­cially kick off.

It’s only re­al­is­tic to ex­pect a team try­ing some­thing out for the first time to go a lit­tle over­board in the early go­ing, par­tic­u­larly when the re­sults are mean­ing­less.

Would it be wise to ex­pect that same one-sid­ed­ness to con­tinue? Prob­a­bly not.

That’s not to sug­gest that the associated ball move­ment would have to fall off. That, as much as the fo­cus on threes over twos is prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant change in the of­fence.

The league av­er­age for threes at­tempted by a team in a game last year was 27. The league high was, of course, Hous­ton who at­tempted 40.3 threes a night. The next clos­est was Cleve­land at 33.9 three balls.

The Rap­tors have launched on av­er­age 41 a night. Don’t ex­pect them to con­tinue at that clip.

But what is clear is the three­ball is go­ing to be a much more preva­lent part of the Toronto of­fence than it was a year ago.

In 2017-18 the Rap­tors av­er­aged 24.3 three-point at­tempts a game. That was 22nd over­all. The jump from that should and likely will be sig­nif­i­cant but not as sig­nif­i­cant as it has been in these early tilts.

We should have a de­cent gauge of what that num­ber should be fol­low­ing Fri­day’s fi­nal pre-sea­son con­test in Chicago.

As far as we can tell ev­ery­one not named Jakob Poeltl has the green light from be­hind the arc this pre-sea­son but that too likely changes once the reg­u­lar sea­son be­gins.

SOME OTHER OB­SER­VA­TIONS

If there has been on rev­e­la­tion out­side of the Rap­tors show­ing their in­ten­tions with re­gards to the three pointer through the first three games it has been the play of D-League stand­out Al­fonzo McKin­nie.

McKin­nie began the pre­sea­son with a mod­est 6:52 in the first game in Honolulu but by the third game in Port­land logged 24:14 and re­sponded to the ad­di­tional work­load with an im­pres­sive out­ing that in­cluded 13 points, eight re­bounds, four steals and per­haps key to se­cur­ing one of those end of the bench spots a 3-for-5 night from be­hind the arc.

McKin­nie is the per­fect bench com­ple­ment. At 6-foot-8 and 215 pounds he’s n ath­letic, ver­sa­tile and more than able to hold his own in the spe­cial­ized de­part­ments like three point shoot­ing.

The Rap­tors cur­rently have 17 bod­ies on the ros­ter af­ter waiv­ing Kyle Wilt­jer, Andy Rautins and Kennedy Meeks yes­ter­day and can carry a max­i­mum of 15 play­ers with two ad­di­tional two-way con­tracts al­low­ing the team to de­velop and re­tain the rights of those two play­ers on their NBA G-League team, the 905s.

McKin­nie, at this stage, looks like a very good bet to po­ten­tially be part of that 15. The fact that the Rap­tors do not own his G-League rights makes that even more likely.

Kyle Lowry re­turned to the n team in tip-top shape af­ter a less than stel­lar end to the 2016-17 sea­son thanks to in­juries. Lowry ap­pears to be as mo­ti­vated as ever. As Lowry goes, so go the Rap­tors so this is not a small thing.

Jonas Valan­ci­u­nas, per­haps n more than any other Rap­tor, is go­ing to see his role changed by the new of­fen­sive ap­proach. Through three games he’s spend­ing much more time at the top of the arc as the Rap­tors’ half-court of­fence sets up than he does in the paint. His pass­ing skills are go­ing to be more im­por­tant than ever.

Piv­otal over the next 11 n days will be hash­ing out the best sec­ond unit be­hind the starters. As­sum­ing Nor­man Pow­ell re­mains in the sec­ond unit with C.J. Miles start­ing at small for­ward, the only locks for that sec­ond unit would be Delon Wright and Pas­cal Si­akam. Does Fred VanVleet join that group. Does Poeltl man the five or does that job go to Lu­cas Nogueira? Still plenty of ques­tions but still time to fig­ure it out as well.

The Rap­tors host Detroit on Tues­day be­fore Fri­day in Chicago. Fol­low­ing that they have five full days be­fore the sea­son opener.

LOWRY Look­ing good

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