Toronto Raptors

Five takeaways from Kawhi Leonard's Toronto Raptors preseason debut

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The Toronto Raptors got the 2018-19 season off to a positive start on Saturday night with a 122-104 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in their preseason opener.

Kawhi Leonard stole the show in this one, but the Raptors got contributions across the board from the likes of Pascal Siakam and Jonas Valanciunas.

With that in mind, here are five takeaways from the first of five preseason games for the Raptors...

Kawhi Leonard looks healthy

Kawhi Leonard's debut went about as well as anyone could've expected.

He was a little rusty, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone considering this was his first NBA game in nearly nine months, but Kawhi was aggressive on offense and looked like his former MVP self on a number of possessions, this crossover on Calib Swanigan being the most memorable:

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Kawhi finished the game with 12 points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal in 19 minutes of play. He attempted eight shots and got to the free throw line 11 times. The Raptors outscored the Blazers by 10 points with him on the court, giving him the fourth-highest plus-minus on the team.

This could be the start of something special in Toronto.

Pascal Siakam is a different player

Speaking of special, Pascal Siakam had himself a night.

While it might not look it based on the box score, the 24-year-old was everywhere, grabbing rebounds, pushing the pace and setting up his teammates with quality looks in transition.

The latter won't likely be a one-off, either.

Both Siakam and Raptors head coach Nick Nurse talked in training camp about him getting more opportunities to handle the ball and make plays in the open court this season, and he put his full potential in those situations on display time and time against the Blazers.

Fred VanVleet is as steady as ever

What can we say about Fred VanVleet that hasn't already been said?

In 16 minutes off the bench, VanVleet drilled three of his four shot attempts from deep en route to 11 points. He was as steady as ever in leading the second unit, which helped the Raptors separate themselves from the Blazers in the third quarter.

VanVleet had a strong case for Sixth Man of the Year last season. We should probably expect more of the same from him this season.

Jonas Valanciunas against second units isn't fair

Nick Nurse started CJ Miles at power forward and Serge Ibaka at center in Toronto's first preseason game, so Jonas Valanciunas came off the bench to fill the Jakob Poeltl role on the second unit.

Valanciunas makes up for what he lacks defensively compared to Poeltl with his offense, and he feasted on Portland's backups all night long. It led to Valanciunas scoring a team-high 17 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the field and 8-for-8 shooting from the free throw line.

Time will tell if Valanciunas will spend more time in the starting lineup or coming off the bench this season - Nick Nurse has said that he'll experiment with different lineups throughout preseason - but he'll be a huge part of Toronto's success regardless.

Nick Nurse might be turning the Raptors into the Rockets

Nick Nurse got a lot of credit for giving Toronto's offense a facelift last season.

Now that he's the head coach, he might be taking his system to an extreme by turning the Raptors into the Eastern Conference version of the Houston Rockets.

Keep in mind, as Ben Falk of Cleaning the Glass noted, that the Blazers are one of the better teams in the league at keeping opponents off the 3-point line and getting them to settle for long twos.

It's only preseason, but we're already seeing Nurse implement some changes.

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