Four days. Four days until the wait for Toronto Raptors basketball, to see Kawhi Leonard (assuming he plays) in a Raptors jersey, is officially over. Four days.
A year ago, this would have been promoted as a battle of two of the NBA's top backcourts. Now, having lost DeMar DeRozan in a highly-controversial trade this offseason, this matchup is mostly exciting due to the presence of Kawhi Leonard.
So, what can we expect from this first look at the Raptors' new squad in this upcoming matchup with the Trail Blazers?
First, look to see the "Bench Mob" of Toronto feature heavily in this game, squaring off not only against the opposing bench, but also with the starters. That's the kind of talent these guys have. Delon Wright, Fred Vanvleet, Pascal Siakam, Norman Powell, and CJ Miles will likely absorb a good chunk of the minutes in this game. Expect them to shine.
Next, expect a strong showing from the Blazers. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combine to make one of the best backcourts in the league, with Lillard pulling more than his own weight, but CJ contributing where he can. Now, that's not to say that McCollum isn't a good player, just that he isn't Lillard. Dame, at the best of times, is one of the league's most explosive players, capable of dropping 50 points on a nightly basis. At the worst of times though, as we saw in last season's first-round playoff sweep at the hands of the 6-ranked New Orleans Pelicans, he is an easily shut-down and scared-to-touch-the-ball point guard. I see Lillard bouncing back from that disappointment and performing well, combining with CJ for 55 points at the least.
Despite this, I have the Raptors winning this game due to the strong play of the bench, and whatever little pockets of play the starters can contribute.
Regardless of the outcome, I think I speak for all Raptors fans when I say how unbelievably excited I am for this game, for this season.