Raptor Rookies off and Rolling
TORONTO – The Raptors debuted a pair of rookies on opening night Wednesday.
Pascal Siakam became the first freshman starter here since Jonas Valanciunas and looked excellent, while Jakob Poeltl had a tougher introduction to the NBA.
Siakam showed some veteran savvy right off the back in claiming to reporters pre-game that he didn’t yet know if he was starting (there is only a minuscule chance he didn’t at the time).
“We have our roles and we know where we are supposed to be,” Siakam had said.
“I think the team knows what I can give them and I will try to do that every night.”
Then he went out and did just that, crashing the boards (nine in 23 minutes), hitting both of his shots and disrupting Detroit on defence without making too many mistakes, other than a few early errors.
Siakam’s energy was contagious – something Valanciunas loves about the New Mexico State product.
“I try to use that. Just run as hard as I can up and down the court,” Siakam said.
“I think it opens up a lot of things for my teammates.”
He wasn’t wrong, the relentless activity led to a lot of good things.
Beforehand, Poeltl had said he wasn’t feeling nervous yet, but was sure it would happen at some point.
“Right now, I just can’t wait to get out there,” said the first Austrian NBA player to Postmedia.
But the big man out of Utah, like almost all first-year centres, had some issues with fouls (three came in quick succession early, forcing Valanciunas back into action after a short break and he finished with five fouls, two points and the two boards). He will take some time, but he also set a couple of good screens when he checked back in — one freeing Terrence Ross for a floater – and moved his feet well defensively, causing the Pistons some trouble.
He scored his first bucket in the fourth quarter before Valanciunas returned.
But Siakam, picked 27th after Poeltl went 9th, was the bigger revelation on this first night, falling one rebound short of Valanciunas’ rookie record. He was a +16, the fourth-best mark on the team.
After Norman Powell’s breakout last year, the Raptors’ scouting department appears to be on a nice little roll.