Josh Leeuenberg: Banton proves his role in the Raptors rotation at the start of the season

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TORONTO – Dalano Banton has entered training camp as one of seven Raptors on a partly guaranteed contract, fighting for his place on the team, but he could exit as one of eight to 10 players early in Nick Norse’s season. circle of trust.

From the first day of camp, when the nurse gave him credit as the best player on the planet, he’s been a sophomore guard and Riksdale, Ont. , a senior citizen of Toronto pre-season.

“I think the important thing is that he looks very relaxed,” a nurse said of Banton, who had another big night in Sunday’s 115-98 loss to Chicago, posting 11 points, five rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes of high energy. off the bench.

Preparing for the season was a mixed bag for the Raptors, who dropped to 2-2 on the show. Their offensive struggles continued into the weekend, shooting just 35 percent against the Bulls, including 8 for 37 from long range. Admittedly, Fred van Vliet, who has hit only three out of 12 three-point attempts, is making his way back into shape for the game, and the same can be said for a few of the team’s other players on regular rotation.

“Nothing,” said Van Vliet, somewhat cheekily, when asked what he liked so far. “It’s pre-season.”

But if you’re looking for bright spots, look no further than Pantone. In four games, the 22-year-old averaged 10.5 points for 62 percent. And by all accounts, he was impressive behind closed doors – both during training and in team brawls.

When he’s at his best, Pantone enters the game and uses his distinct combination of length and speed to drive the rhythm and make an instant impact on both ends of the floor. With his physical tools and skill set, he checks a lot of chests in search of versatile and less well positioned Raptors. It’s one of the reasons he was able to beat Flynn’s younger tutor on a backup post out of camp mission a year ago.

Now, thanks to his strong play and injuries to a couple of veterans on the roster, it’s pushing him to earn regular rotation minutes once the season ends on October 19.

“He plays with the rhythm he wants to play with and I think he does a little bit of everything, just not at the attack end,” said a nurse. “I think he’s playing in a transitional period, he’s managing the team well [well], which performs groups. But he was really good on the defensive end. He’s really noticeable, as he puts his hands on the basketball and kicks it away or reaches out from the weak side or strips it away. He did a good job using that length.”

“It seems to be more comfortable with the readings, with the pace of the game,” VanVleet said. “Obviously it would be difficult for a 6-foot-9 goalkeeper not to succeed in the NBA only with the size and lanes available to him, and the ability to finish around the edge. He has become much more comfortable with the jump shot, so it looks like a guy who took that step. And he feels like a guy who’s ready to break the spin.”

With a bit of a roster change — the Raptors have more than 13 league players back from last season — Nurse has entered camp and has a pretty good idea of ​​what his rotation could look like. When last year’s rookie players – VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. And Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam – healthy – are likely to open the games, with Precious Achiuwa, Chris Boucher, Thaddeus Young and Otto Porter Jr. second unit.

Banton and Flynn are the only other keepers on the list again, but the nurse showed he’s more comfortable using Siakam or Barnes as base ball handler when VanVleet is resting. Apparently the plan was to use a nine-man rotation without a traditional reserve guard. But plans are changing.

Porter, the team’s biggest addition over the summer, missed pre-season due to a hamstring problem he suffered in one of the team’s first practices. After suffering a severe fall late in Friday’s loss to Houston, Boucher missed Sunday’s competition, due to a hamstring strain. None of the injuries are thought to be “extremely serious”, according to a nurse, but they are expected to remain outside for a “short period”. With the opening just 10 days away, there’s a reasonable chance the Raptors will start the season without one or both. Flynn, who is out after undergoing surgery on a broken cheekbone last week, should be ready to move on by then, but will have to play catch-up once he’s allowed back, donning a face shield.

It’s a long season, and even in the best-case scenario, this won’t be the last batch of injuries they face. After spending most of last season searching for reliable production off the bench, Nurse knows he’ll need more than nine guys he can trust.

Enter Pantone who took advantage of the opportunity in front of him.

“My confidence is there,” he said after Sunday’s match. “I feel like these guys are looking for me in my place, helping me play to my strengths, trusting me and being there for me as a young man, that has been great for me and my development.”

That confidence has moved on from a very strong and busy summer. Banton was in Las Vegas for the Summer League in July before joining his fellow Raptors at the UCLA Rico Heinz race in Los Angeles. He also made his debut for his country, leading Canada to fourth place in the South American Basketball Cup in Brazil.

With a program prioritizing the World Cup playoffs, taking place in Victoria around the same time, Banton was the only NBA player to have represented Canada in Brazil. Given the expanded workload he would have there, and that he would play Nathaniel Mitchell – an assistant coach with the Raptors – the nurse thought it would be a good opportunity for the young goalkeeper to get some much-needed reps running an offense. Banton didn’t need much persuasion.

“When we first talked about it, I was with it all,” said Banton, who averaged 15.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists in six games during the tournament. “I’ve always wanted to play for Team Canada, it wasn’t just a question. So he was very grateful to have the opportunity.

“I feel like it helped me a lot. It will help me in the long run and it helps me now. Just playing against different opponents out there the guys are more aggressive in defense – they keep away from a lot of mistakes and stuff – it definitely opens up to you when you play [in the NBA]. “

After spending his rookie season back and forth between the J-League and the NBA club, Banton has played a lot of basketball since Toronto picked him with the 46th pick in the 2021 draft. Sometime last November, he played four games in four days. But all those games, all those minutes and actors, are paying off now.

He said, “I’m a young man and I love him, man.” “Whenever I get the chance to play in a live game, I support them all. I just keep trying and building to have a long career in the NBA.”

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