Toronto Raptors

What we learned about the Toronto Raptors in 2021 NBA preseason

Preseason has come to a close for the Toronto Raptors.

The Raptors finished preseason with a 3-2 record, with wins coming against the Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards.

OG Anunoby led the way in scoring with 19.3 points per game, followed by Fred VanVleet (12.5), Precious Achiuwa (12.4) and Gary Trent Jr. (11.8). Rookie Scottie Barnes also impressed, showing his all-around game with averages of 9.8 points, 5.6 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.

From Anunoby's breakout play to first impressions of Barnes, here's what we learned in preseason.

OG Anunoby is ready for his close-up

Anunoby has proven himself to be an incredibly valuable role player to this point of his career - a reliable 3-point shooter who is one of the most versatile and disruptive defenders in the league. As I detailed a few weeks ago, the next step for him is to expand his game off the dribble, particularly as a shooter.

That's why what we saw from Anunoby in preseason is so encouraging.

In four games, Anunoby averaged 19.3 points in 25.1 minutes on - wait for it - .520/.542/.923 shooting splits. Those shooting numbers are obviously unsustainable for an entire season, but it's incredibly impressive that he shot as well as he did when you consider that many of his makes were self-created.

Put it this way: Anunoby made a total of seven jump shots off the dribble in preseason. Want to guess how many he made all of last season? 23.

We've seen Anunoby dip his toes in the shot-creating waters before, but not with this sort of complexity:

Or with this sort of confidence:

Or with sort of smoothness:

The regular season will be the true test for Anunoby, but it's hard not to get excited about the growth he displayed in preseason. Even if only some of what we saw carries over, he'll be primed for another breakout season.

- Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles)

Scottie Barnes is going to be so fun

A little less than three months ago, there was an audible gasp at the Barclays Center when Toronto elected to take Barnes with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. In the time since, all Barnes has done is show exactly why he was the right choice.

His averages are already listed above so I won't dive too deep into those, but I will key in on the fact that the rookie dished out five or more assists in all but one preseason game, including his team-high eight assists in Boston.

Barnes' already-high basketball IQ is going to exponentially increase playing alongside the likes of Anunoby, Dragic, VanVleet and once he returns to the lineup, Pascal Siakam.

With just five preseason games under his belt, we've already been impressed by Barnes' passing…

His athleticism…

And, of course, his infectious energy…

Barnes is going to be fun to watch for a very long time and with plenty of room to grow, the prospect of how good he can get is pretty scary. The Raptors got a special one.

- Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21)

The Precious Achiuwa trade

The Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat was always going to be more about the all-time great Raptor's departure and less about who Toronto got in return. While veteran point guard Goran Dragic was the bigger name in the deal, it's become clear in the preseason that 22-year-old Achiuwa will be the piece that helps the Raptors build toward success down the road.

It was already expected that Achiuwa would take on a bigger role early in the season due to a finger injury to reserve center and sixth man Chris Boucher, but when starting center Khem Birch came down with COVID-19 and was forced to miss games, Achiuwa was immediately slotted into the starting lineup.

Starting in all five games for the Raptors, Achiuwa made the most of his opportunity, averaging 12.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 0.8 blocks per game while shooting 50.0 percent from the field. He corralled double-digit rebounds in two of the five contests and scored double figures in all but one outing.

He served as a solid defensive anchor and rim protector, but more importantly, proved to be a versatile and mobile player which will surely earn him more minutes under head coach Nick Nurse. With a blend of powerful dunks inside and a slight flash of improved ball handling skills, Achiuwa appears to be the perfect project for Toronto's renowned player development program.

Watching his growth over the course of the season will be a joy for all Raptors fans.

- Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_)

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