Toronto Raptors

Today's game: Raptors make preseason home debut

Fans in Toronto can get their first glimpse of their revampled team in person on Friday as the Raptors make their preseason home debut at Scotiabank Arena. You can also catch the action on TSN2 and NBA Canada at 7 ET.

Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry and C.J. Miles will be resting

Despite Kawhi sitting out, we look at how the newest Toronto star looked so far. And what can Raptors fans expect on Friday against Melbourne United?

Kawhi ready for a career year?

Although you certainly can't draw too many conclusions from preseason basketball, there has been one key takeaway that points towards a possible record-setting year for Leonard.

He's getting to the free throw line at will. Leonard's taken 19 free throws in just 38 minutes, tied for the most free throws by any player this postseason despite playing far fewer minutes than his co-leaders Brandon Ingram (80) and Kemba Walker (74). Though he's just 10-19, Leonard's volume of attempts is far more important than his actual conversion rate given he's a career 85 percent free throw shooter.

If he's able to get to the line more, Leonard could be in for a career year scoring. He's currently averaging over 18 free throw attempts per 36 minutes. That of course is not sustainable but even if there's a reduction, it's reasonable to expect an improvement upon the 6.4 he averaged during his last two healthy seasons.

Even if he attempts just three more per game, Leonard could be in line to threaten Vince Carter's franchise single-season scoring record of 27.6 points per game.

Most PPG in Single Season - Raptors History
2000-01 Vince Carter 27.6
2016-17 DeMar DeRozan 27.3
1999-00 Vince Carter 25.7
2001-02 Vince Carter 24.7
2009-10 Chris Bosh 24.0

Early Raptors insights

Given the limited minutes played by stars, overall preseason records - like Toronto's 1-1 mark - don't mean a whole lot.

Through two games, neither Leonard nor Kyle Lowry have played in the second half. The good news? The Raptors have looked great in the first half of both games with the two All-Stars in the rotation.

They led by 7 at the half against Portland and by 9 at the half against Utah. Overall, the Raptors have outscored their opponents by 17.1 points per 100 possessions in the first half, spurred on by a strong defense that's held opponents to 40 percent shooting and forced a turnover on over 21 percent of possessions, a number that would have led the NBA last season.

MORE: "He's looking like an MVP."

Nick Nurse's fingerprints are all over the offense as well as early signs point towards a team making good on the promise to play faster. While overall pace numbers are always inflated in the preseason, the Raptors are hovering towards the top 5 in the preseason after finishing towards the middle of the pack in 2017-18.

Who is Melbourne United?

Toronto's opponent on Friday is not a familiar one as Melbourne United comes from Australia's National Basketball League.

This is Melbourne's second game against NBA competition this preseason. They lost 104-84 against the Philadelphia 76ers back on September 28.

Don't be fooled by that 20-point loss though, this is a good team. The defending NBL champions, Melbourne nearly beat Oklahoma City in the preseason last year, losing by 1 in a closely contested game the Thunder starters all logged major minutes (38 for Paul George, 35 for Steven Adams, 28 for Russell Westbrook).

Melbourne is led by Casper Ware, Josh Boone and Chris Goulding. Ware and Boone were both named 1st-team All-NBL last season while Goulding was named Finals MVP. Melbourne was the only team with multiple 1st-team all-league selections.

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