Cory Joseph, Patrick Patterson, DeMarre Carroll, Jared Sullinger, Terrence Ross and PJ Tucker. Where are they, how are they performing and did the Raptors make the right decision to let them walk?
Oh, how a single year can make such a difference.
The Toronto Raptors have seen their revamped bench lineup exceed expectations thus far in the season. Key rotation pieces like OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, Fred Van Vleet and the recently-injured Delon Wright have blown all season predictions out of the water completely. Anunoby has become a legitimate 3&D weapon who possesses a relentless motor. Siakam has been incredibly consistent as a spark plug for Toronto, making game-changing plays on the regular. Keep in mind, Siakam didn’t start playing basketball competitively until 2012 — when he was 18 years old. On that note, let’s have a moment of (joyous) silence for Masai Ujiri’s impeccable scouting and drafting ability.
Furthermore, Siakam’s noted BFF Jakob Poeltl has been a godsend, especially as the Raptors dealt with a Valanciunas injury early in the season. Jakob, like OG and Pascal, brings contagious energy and frankly does some things JV struggles to do. His defensive mobility, insane hustle and ability to seamlessly mesh with the starting unit late in games is exceptional to watch. Lastly, Fred Van Vleet is the epitome of Toronto Blue Jays’ pitcher, Marcus Stroman’s famous motto: ‘HDMH’ — ‘Height Doesn’t Measure Heart’. FVV simply does not allow his relatively miniature stature dictate how he plays on the court. A solid all-around PG that has fought, arguably more than any other Raptor, to earn his position in the rotation. Despite Delon Wright also having an impressive start to the season as Lowry’s designated backup PG, FVV still made it clear that he was here to stay in the NBA, earning nightly minutes. Now, since Wright suffered a dislocation of his right shoulder (the same surgically-repaired shoulder from last season) versus the Pelicans, FVV has stepped up, and played incredibly well.
For a team renown for having one of the NBA’s best bench rotations in the last several years, losing multiple significant players over a single offseason had Raptors fans worried. Long story short, the early results have been good. Toronto has seemingly replaced every departing player with a younger, cheaper option and hasn’t sacrificed much, if anything while doing it.
Now, let’s look at former key (and not so ‘key’) pieces of the Raptors rotation last season.
It’s a known fact Jared Sullinger has struggled with weight and injury issues throughout his NBA career. That continued with his tenure in Toronto as he was essentially a non-factor until he was packaged to Phoenix for PJ Tucker in a deadline deal.
To keep it short and sweet, Sully is playing his absolute ass off in China. After early offseason interest from the Brooklyn Nets waned, Sullinger signed a two-month deal reportedly worth $300,000 with the CBA’s Shenzhen Leopards. Since he signed in September, he’s been a man amongst boys in the CBA, currently averaging a wild 34 points and a CBA-best 15.6 rebounds per game. With his impressive success in the eastern hemisphere, Sullinger has signed a year-long extension with the Leopards according to international basketball reporter David Pick, ensuring he plays a full season in China. I don’t blame him for making that decision. The CBA Finals coincidentally end just a day after the NBA Playoffs begin. Who knows, maybe Sullinger will work something out with an NBA playoff team and schedule a potential early CBA exit. Regardless, get those coins, Sully.
Source: Jared Sullinger, Chinese club Shenzhen Leopards agreed on full-season extension with bonuses that could boost his deal to $1.4M. He's been a star import, averaging 34 points & league best 15.6 boards per game.
— David Pick (@IAmDPick) November 20, 2017
Joseph was traded to the Indiana Pacers during the offseason in a sign-and-trade deal which saw the Raptors acquire sharpshooter, CJ Miles. Cory, unlike other former Raptors shared something with the organization others could not relate to. CoJo was born in Toronto and raised in Pickering, Ontario — a smaller city located just a short drive from Toronto. Joseph played admirably as a Raptor and led an extraordinary bench unit for two full seasons. In Indiana, Cory is in a very similar role as one of the first players off the bench for Nate McMillan. His minute, point, rebound and assist numbers are all strikingly similar as well, posting a line of 8.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, and 3.2 apg on 24.4 mpg. His shooting line is at a superb .435/.500/.857. He’s a key rotation piece for the current 9th-place Indiana Pacers, who have exceeded expectations this season. Delon Wright, who waited patiently for the backup PG role, has filled in wonderfully for CoJo. FVV, like mentioned above, has also performed graciously as well.
‘2Pat’ joined the Oklahoma City Thunder as an unrestricted free agent, signing a three-year pact worth roughly $16.4 million. A cheap figure for what the proposed going-rate was for 3&D power forwards. Most fans and pundits alike believed Patterson would command a $10M APY, however NBA teams were worried about Patterson’s impending arthroscopic knee surgery and paid him accordingly. Patterson was easily one of the more polarizing figures during his time in Toronto. He was often berated and criticized by fans, sometimes fairly and not so fairly, for his performance. Since his knee scope in August, Patterson has returned to full health in Oklahoma City. Problem is he’s played terribly since returning, posting career-lows in just about every possible category. Now part of this can be attributed to coming off surgery, but fans in OKC have grown impatient as PatPat simply hasn’t lived up to the billing thus far. With the emergence of Pascal Siakam, Patterson hasn’t been missed as much as many initially thought. He’s averaging 3.1 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.6 assists on 34.8 FG% shooting in roughly 15 minutes per game.
Man, if you thought Patterson was polarizing, let me introduce you to DeMarre Carroll. Carroll was signed to a $60M mega-contract in the summer of 2015. The Raptors believed they were getting one of the best 3&D players the league had to offer. Instead, they got a 1993 Toyota Echo missing its engine, steering wheel and windshield wipers. Carroll’s tenure in Toronto was marred by injuries and underwhelming play, often getting bullied by the same stars he was signed to shut-down. Some instantly (and maybe jokingly) dubbed Carroll the ‘LeBron stopper’ which, now in 2017, gives Raptors fans a spine-shivering nauseousness. Carroll was shipped to the Brooklyn Nets with future first and second round picks in a cash-saving deal Ujiri simply had to get done. He’s owed a staggering two years and $30M on the remaining two years of his contract.
DeMarre has totally flipped things around in Brooklyn, performing to a standard the Raptors wanted and ultimately didn’t get. He’s played splendidly in the Big Apple, recording 13.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.5 apg on 42.1 FG% and 38.2 3PT%. He looks like a totally different player and is proving his two mediocre seasons with Toronto were just a blip on the radar. Now, the Raptors have a player in OG Anunoby who’s essentially a younger Carroll with a much higher ceiling. One thing’s for sure, I know I’m not the only one rooting for DeMarre’s continued success.
Surprise, surprise, Amber’s boo is inconsistent.
Ross has had nice moments for the Magic, but can they rely on him night in and night out on either end of the floor? No. He’s a bench player who can sometimes put it all together, but mostly doesn’t, and it must drive Magic coach Balding Jerry Seinfeld mental.
Ex-Raptors GM Jeff Weltman signed Jonathon Simmons to be a better version of Ross off the bench. That’s was a good move. Now they don’t have to rely on Ross as much and can just appreciate what he might randomly bring.
He’s basically Asad with more IG honeys. Microwave shooter who can occasionally hit 51 (damn shame, a damn shame what happened to ODC) but no showed in the playoffs.
But we already knew this. He is who he is, no matter what Hoodley might tell you.
PJ, PJ, PJ. You were so good to us for such a short amount of time. Tucker brought a swagger, intensity and fire into the Raptors organization that nobody (and I mean, nobody) was used to. Generally, the Raptors were perceived, especially in the American media, as a team that lacked toughness. PJ was traded to Toronto from Phoenix and changed the culture almost immediately. From his standoff with Lance Stephenson, to his unlimited quotables in NBATV’s ‘Open Gym’ series, to his legendary Bulls performance in what ultimately became the game of the season — Tucker was everything the Raptors needed and more. Tucker signed to the Houston Rockets, an NBA contender, on a four-year, $32M contract. During free agency, he acknowledged the Raptors offered more money for his services, however his burning desire for an NBA championship led him to his final decision. I don’t blame him. The Raptors are a very good team, but as long as LeBron is breathing, they don’t stand a chance in the NBA Finals. If I were Tucker, I would’ve took my chances with CP3, Harden and the Rockets as well. Tucker has also assumed a similar role in Houston, constantly matching up versus high-level wingmen in the Western Conference. He also brings great wing depth and a unique ‘no holds barred’ mentality to Houston. PJ’s a guy who doesn’t need the box score to measure his game impact. He literally and figuratively does ALL the little things. He’s at 6.3 ppg/6.2 rpg/1.1 apg on 27.8. mpg. His shooting numbers are at a .389/.350/.789 split.
You can’t help but think players like PJ Tucker and Tony Allen deserve all the accolades the NBA has to offer. Tucker was a clear fan-favourite in Toronto and brought fans some of the best memories of the last few years.
We miss ya, PJ.