How does Dwane Casey and his staff make it work? It’s a huge question heading into this campaign. The familiar faces will carry these Raptors, but if there is any ground to be gained, a couple of the prospects will have to step forward and seize the opportunity. It’s a concept that appears to be on the mind of most Raptors employees.
“I think one of the biggest challenges for us as a coaching staff is we have two teams and the challenge for us is how do we mesh that once the games start,” assistant coach Jama Mahlalela told Postmedia on Monday.
“They’ve spent countless hours working on the skillset that we need them to play with to be good and playing in NBA games. Their shooting, their passing, their ability to defend, but now it’s merging the two and finding the lineups where we have maybe one or two young players with the vets, or one or two vets with the young players and finding that combination I think is really going to be the challenge of at least these first 10-15 games for us.”
At this point, Norman Powell (24) is the presumptive breakout player. Delon Wright (25) and Fred VanVleet (23) the intriguing backup point guards. Pascal Siakam (23) and Jakob Poeltl (21) the big hopes up front. Bruno Caboclo is still only 22 and the Raptors still don’t know what they have there. Rookie OG Anunoby, just 20, is a long, athletic work in progress who has the franchise thinking of what could be down the line once he gets a better feel for what to do and where to go while on the floor.
“Those are things we are going to coach him and teach him as the days and weeks go on,” Mahlalela says. “What I’m most excited about is his work, his push. He played a pickup game with us, he just sort of got in, he just started and he hit two corner threes, had two dunks, blew up two (dribble hand-offs) defensively and we’re like, ‘whoa,’ there’s something there. We’re really excited with what it is and I think we’ve got to polish it off to see what it’s going to be in NBA games, but we’ve definitely got something special there.”
Mahlalela, a Canadian who has risen through the ranks in Toronto through his player development work, also spoke highly of Powell.
“He is sort of that burgeoning player who is working his way into that vet, sort of stardom role, and his challenge is going to be how does he take all that individual work that we’ve done this summer and all that 3-on-3 and now turn it into 5-on-5 against other NBA teams.”