The Toronto Raptors opened their NBA preseason campaign last night with a 97-89 win against the Boston Celtics. There were plenty of positives throughout the night, one of which was the impact of Tyler Hansbrough off the bench.
The Raptors signed Hansbrough from the Indiana Pacers via free agency in the offseason. The former North Carolina Tar Heels player has built a reputation as a feisty player in his four years in the league. With a thin bench entering this season, head coach Dwayne Casey will need as much production as he can out of his new player.
He got exactly that Monday night, as Hansbrough scored 17 points in just 21 minutes. He was ferocious on both ends of the floor as he pulled down nine rebounds, including six on the offensive end. The Raptors were noticeably thin in the power forward and center positions last season, after Ed Davis was shipped to the Memphis Grizzlies and rookies Jonas Valanciunas and Quincy Acy took time to find their feet.
Perhaps the most pleasing statistic of the night was Hansbrough’s lack of fear and ability to get to the free throw line eight times. This was another area of weakness for the Raptors a year ago and will come to Casey’s great pleasure.
After the game, Hansbrough told reporters that Raptors fans can expect much of the same throughout the season. “I definitely have improved my outside jump shot a little bit, but yeah, that was a pretty good look at my game right there.”
It was a fine debut for Hansbrough. He will be pushing for a starting spot this season, although his real strength is his fantastic impact off the bench. He comes as advertised. He may let fans down with his temper every so often, but his ability to disrupt inside will be his biggest impact to the club.