Toronto Raptors

NBA Preseason 2019: Four things to watch when the Toronto Raptors take on the Chicago Bulls

On Sunday, the Raptors return to Toronto to play their lone preseason game at the Scotiabank Arena when they host the Chicago Bulls.

The game tips off at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time and will air on TSN.

It's the third of four preseason games for the Raptors, the final one coming against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, Oct. 18. The Raptors are 1-1 so far in preseason, splitting their series with the Houston Rockets in Tokyo, Japan.

Kyle Lowry has yet to play in preseason as he continues to recover from offseason surgery on his thumb. Marc Gasol made his preseason debut in Toronto's second game against the Rockets, going for six points, six rebounds and three steals in 18 minutes of play.

With that in mind, here are four things to watch for in Sunday's game...

Fred VanVleet's playmaking

It's going to be a big season for VanVleet, and he's getting an opportunity to prove himself early as Lowry continues to miss time by starting at point guard.

While it's only preseason, VanVleet has shown that he has a lot to offer in that role. In Toronto's opener, he was the team's third-leading scorer with 16 points. He struggled to knock down shots in the second game - 10 points on 2-for-7 shooting from the field - but he still made his presence felt by getting to the line six times and dishing out 10 assists in 22 minutes of play.

VanVleet did his best impression of Lowry in that contest by pushing the ball in transition and finding his teammates early in the shot clock for high percentage opportunities, Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell being the biggest beneficiaries.

VanVleet will be expected to score more this season to help make up the loss of Kawhi Leonard, but his playmaking will be equally as important, especially if Lowry misses any time.

Sunday's matchup with the Bulls gives VanVleet another opportunity to showcase his ability to run the offence before the real fun begins.

MORE: Best case, worst case for VanVleet this season

Norman Powell's 3-point shooting

Powell has been a bright spot for the Raptors through two preseason games.

After scoring 14 points in Toronto's first preseason game, Powell led the Raptors in scoring with 22 points in the second. He was on fire from deep, going an impressive 5-for-7 from 3-point range in only 22 minutes of action.

Powell is best suited to start in place of Danny Green at shooting guard this season, but it hinges on him being a more consistent scorer than he has in the past. His 3-point shooting in particular will be something to monitor. Powell shot a career-best 40.0 percent from the perimeter last season, but he made only 28.5 percent of his 3-point attempts in 2017-18.

He wasn't much better the season prior, going 32.4 percent from deep in 2016-17.

For that reason, it's encouraging that Powell is shooting as well as he is in preseason (7-for-10 from deep). It's hard to imagine him not being in the starting lineup on opening night at this rate.

MORE: Best case, worst case for Powell this season

Matt Thomas' 3-point shooting - for different reasons

On the other end of the spectrum, Thomas has struggled in preseason.

Thomas went 2-for-5 from deep in his preseason debut, but he followed it up by missing both of his 3-point attempts in Toronto's loss. He's now 2-for-7 from three and 4-for-12 from the field overall in preseason.

It's obviously a tiny sample size and it could take Thomas, who spent the last two seasons playing overseas in Spain's Liga ACB, some time to adjust to the NBA game, but there is a tremendous need for his skill set on this team from Day 1.

Furthermore, Thomas has been shaky on defence, as both Eric Koreen of The Athletic and William Lou of Yahoo Sports noted. If he doesn't show more on that end of the floor, it's going to put even more pressure on him to be lights-out from 3 if he is going to be in the rotation in the regular season.

MORE: What Thomas brings to the Raptors

Coby White's scoring

White put his potential on full display in Chicago's loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday.

The No. 7 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft scored a game-high 24 points on 10-for-22 shooting from the field and 4-for-9 from the perimeter. He also grabbed eight rebounds and came up with one steal in his 30 minutes on the court.

Noticeably absent from his stat line: White failed to register a single assist, bringing his total up to four through three preseason games, which isn't exactly ideal for a guard, even one who is known more for his scoring ability than his passing ability.

That, however, is a work in progress. For now, the Bulls are focused on letting White do what he does best.

"Just ball, be a baller,'' Bulls head coach Jim Boylen said of White following the team's loss. "We're not going to define you in this way or that way, or you have to do this. Trust your instincts, compete at both ends of the floor, try and become a two-way player, and just grow. He's done a good job of that.''

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