Even though a loss would end the Raptors’ time in Vegas, there’s little sense pushing things if Powell’s leg is sore tomorrow. This is Summer League, after all, and as much as Powell has talked about wanting to win the championship, the team has every reason to be cautious. For his part, Powell talked after the game about being the type to play through injuries. In this case, the decision may not be his. Whether or not get goes will likely be decided by how his leg responds to treatment Friday and whether there’s any swelling the morning of the game.
Should Powell play, the Raptors are in a good position to beat the Wolves for a second time in the tournament. Powell’s been one of the top players in Vegas for a second consecutive season, locking down on the defensive end while averaging 20.5 points, five rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 steals in 25.8 minutes. He’s 11-of-21 from long-range, is averaging nearly eight trips to the line per-game, and owns some ludicrous offensive efficiency metrics. If he sits, a larger load will fall on Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl, and Bruno Caboclo. Drew Crawford, coming off of a great outing against the Warriors, would likely draw the start in Powell’s stead.
The Raptors will be in tough next season, for sure, but they did cross off the biggest task on their offseason agenda early. They extended former USC standout DeMar DeRozan’s contract on July 1st. He inked a five-year deal worth $139 million before incentives. He is now one of the highest paid players in the league and the Raptors have officially opened their bank to keep the core together (cap rules prevented them from going all-in, mind you).
The infrastructure is here to stay and Toronto is keen on keeping their position in the league as one of the top dogs – despite their current sportsbook standing.
The Lithuanian big man enjoyed his best season last year, averaging 17.8 points and 12.6 rebounds per-36 minutes and producing a 22.6 PER. He then bettered those numbers in the playoffs, averaging 18.5 points and 14.5 boards per-36 and a 26.8 PER.
Injuries limited Valanciunas to just 60 games in the regular season and a severely sprained ankle forced him to miss the final four games of the conference finals. But it’s inarguable that he’s an emerging talent and a no-brainer that he’s a safer bet as a foundation piece than Biyombo because his offensive arsenal is far more advanced.
And make no mistake, the Raptors desperately need Valanciunas’ scoring inside, because as the playoffs showed they lack in outside shooting. They also added Boston’s Jared Sullinger, who should help fill some minutes as a stretch-four.
He’s been an inconsistent shooter throughout his career, but he’s only 24 and at this point a minor upgrade over Scola, who’s washed.
The real reason for optimism for the Raptors though is general manager Masai Ujuri has put together quite the collection of young, talent. Kyle Lowry is 30, DeMarre Carroll is 29, and they’re the “graybeards” of the lot. DeRozan is 26. Patrick Patterson is 27, Terence Ross 25 and Cory Joseph 24, as is Valanciunas. Just about everyone will get better.
Once again, the franchise had the momentum. Once again, the franchise had one of their top stars entering free agency with the ability to leave for perceived greener pastures. All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan had interest throughout the league for his services. Twenty-point scorers are a premium and even though DeRozan doesn’t knock down a boatload of three-pointers, the havoc he causes getting to the rim continues to put respective defenses on their heels.
But DeRozan opted to stay put. The veteran guard didn’t engage in a whirlwind tour of being wined and dined by league executives and celebrities in different locales. DeRozan instead rather quickly agreed to a whopping five-year, $139 million deal to remain with the Raptors and for once keep the momentum moving forward.
“I am Toronto,” DeRozan reportedly said shortly after inking his new deal. “Outside of where I’m from, I represent this city harder than anybody. I’ve got so many goals I want to accomplish still; I just can’t wait to put that jersey back on and keep going.”
The Jeff Blair Show places a call to Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey to discuss DeMar DeRozan staying within the organisation’s fold for another five years, the acquisition of Jared Sullinger, his initial impressions of draft picks Jakob Poeltl & Pascal Siakam, and the development of Norman Powell, Delon Wright & Bruno Caboclo.
Sullinger seems the favorite to open the season as the Raptors’ starting forward, The Toronto Sun reports. “We’ll figure it out. I know how effective [Patrick Patterson] is coming off of the bench. I know Jared has started [a lot of games in Boston],” coach Dwane Casey said this week. “I still like Pat coming off of the bench, again, I don’t want to guarantee anybody anything, but I like the combination of [Jonas Valanciunas] and Jared, unless they come up and just stink up the place, which I don’t see that happening.”
“I talked to Amir while I was in Vegas,” Sullinger said, as transcribed by Raptors.com’s Holly MacKenzie. “Amir said it’s a beautiful city. He didn’t want to leave. He said the fans are unbelievable. He said Toronto made him who he is today. When you hear stuff like that, especially from Amir, being able to know Amir, everything he’s done, everything he’s been through, it means everything coming from Amir.”
Based on how the Eastern Conference looks right now, the Celtics and Raptors could reasonably finish second and third — which would set them up to meet in the second round of the playoffs. If that happens and Sullinger rips off a string of double-doubles, give Johnson partial blame. But also remember the Celtics had already renounced Sullinger’s rights by the time Johnson gave that advice; he was just trying to help a friend, and Sullinger would have been drawn to the situation in Toronto anyway. It’s a good place for him to rewrite his reputation if he’s willing to put in the work.
A four year senior from Wichita State, VanVleet was brought onto the Raptors as an undrafted free agent. Prior to the NBA Draft, most scouting services projected him to be an undrafted free agent, or at best a late second-round pick.
Despite his projection, VanVleet has been a pleasant surprise this summer. What the 5-foot-11 guard lacks in athleticism, he more than makes up for with his elite basketball IQ. He’s also shown an improved three-point shot this summer, which should help his chances of becoming the Raptors 15th man this season.
VanVleet won’t overwhelm anyone, but his skill set does fit the profile of a solid NBA backup. If he can continue to improve his three-point shot and defence, he could eventually develop into a poor man’s Cory Joseph, which is more than serviceable in today’s guard oriented NBA.
“Defensive rebounding and building a wall,” Ujiri responded to Pro Bball Report. “I know Biyombo was a shot blocker, but we will probably have a different type of defense now with a big wall there and sometimes now you might not get that shot blocked, but (Sullinger) will stand in front of you and you’ll know he’s there.”
Sullinger isn’t a direct replacement for what Biyombo brought to the Raptors last season. Both players are among the elite in rebounding, but where Biyombo was a deterrent at the rim on defense, Sullinger has the ability to put up a lot of points and just maybe that will give head coach Dwane Casey a little more flexibility as he can play Jonas Valanciunas or Patrick Patterson with Sullinger and not lose his floor spacing, paint presence or defensive rebounding. Raptors fans will remember Sullinger’s 25 point 20 rebound game against Toronto.
“The basketball I.Q. is the biggest thing for me,” Ujiri said. “I love to talk about the picks he sets which will be great for our guys. He stretches the floor and he can play the four and the five.
“To be limited (by the salary cap) and to get a guy like this without having to move anybody, it fell in our lap. We got extremely lucky and we are extremely excited.”
“(Sullinger) is going to be our starting four guy,” Casey said on Sportsnet 590 The Jeff Blair Show. “Our goal is to get him and JV (Jonas Valanciunas) to mesh offensively and defensively.
The front office could offer a package of Patrick Patterson, DeMarre Carroll & Lucas Nogueira as well as a future 1st round pick, with the ESPN Trade Machine claiming the Raps would benefit from this trade more than their trade partners, in an attempt to entice the Clippers into trading Griffin. Los Angeles have had a major gap to fill in the small forward position for some time and Carroll would offer assurances there. His impact as an elite perimeter defender wouldn’t go amiss in a conference that contains Durant and Kawhi Leonard amongst others while Nogueria would add youth to a team that is spoilt with veteran leadership. Though Patterson is a much better performer off the bench, the Clippers might run the chance that he settles in as a starter, especially with Paul creating shots for him.