Raptors Mailbag: Carroll concerns, Caboclo calendar, Carly Rae remedies

26 mins read

Last season, whenever the Toronto Raptors had back-to-back days off, I’d drop an #RRMailbag. They take a lot of time to put together, so I need the extra day turnaround time. Or something. You can find all of last year’s here, though I don’t know why you’d bother. In any case, we’re bringing it back this year, at least to start the season.

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Alright, let’s get this money.

The rotation / A lot of worrying

A little bit, for sure. The fact that DeMarre Carroll took so much time off during the offseason and was brought along slowly in training camp and yet still doesn’t seem back to 100 percent is mildly concerning. A guy having a handful of bad games I can deal with, and I thought Carroll turned in two-and-a-half solid games to start the year, but it’s the way in which he’s struggled that’s been cause for concern – he hasn’t been particularly effective defending the perimeter, he’s still lacking lift on his jump-shot, and there seems to be a serious (albeit understandable) lack of stamina.

At the same time, we’re one good game from his 3-point shooting regressing and everyone kind of forgetting until the next cold stretch. And he hit 85 of 100 in practice Tuesday, a new team record!

Plus, there are solutions in the short-term that might be able to help Carroll come along more slowly (more on that in a second).

I answered the first part of this already, kind of. In terms of lowering the bar, I think it’s important to remember that nothing Carroll does between now and April really matters much beyond informing the team’s expectations for him come the postseason. In other words, nothing matters until the postseason unless he’s so bad that his role for said postseason comes into question. So the expectations for the short-term should really only be “get better and stay healthy,” and as frustrating as these first couple games have been, there’s still ample time for that. At his best, Carroll could be a major swing factor for the Raptors, providing high-end defense, an additional element of passing, and an off-ball threat who can work outside of the usual two-headed pick-and-roll monster.

In the meantime, more Norman Powell? Well…

It’s already kind of happening. Powell’s closed each of the last three games while Carroll’s set after his initial second-half stint, and head coach Dwane Casey deserves credit for going away from his established closer when he’s not playing well. I realize a lot of people want to see even more Powell, but right now it’s going to have to come at the expense of Carroll (or in smaller lineups when the matchup allows), because Terrence Ross is playing well and the team desperately needs his shooting.

Over the last three games, Carroll’s averaged 21.3 minutes to 19.3 for Ross and 13 for Powell. I don’t think that’s a bad split to keep in mind for the next while as Carroll gets it together. There may also be four or five more minutes to spread between Ross and Powell as the workloads of Kyle Lowry (38.2) and DeMar DeRozan (37.2) get trimmed.

And speaking of! (These segues are out of control.)

I literally complained about them before the season even started. The reality of the situation, though, is that the Raptors are pretty thinned out and they’re always going to be a team that rides their two best players hard. I have faith that the Raptors’ sport science staff will keep a close eye on things (minutes, Catapult tracking data from practice, flight/rest patterns, and so on) and make the proper suggestions later in the year. Right now, though, it’s probably a little too early to get worked up – one blowout that sees them play just 30 minutes puts their averages back into a more acceptable range. If the Raptors could start putting opponents away, that would really help.

Woah. I don’t have a segue for these ones, and I’m a little surprised there’s concern on the Lowry front. His struggles so far are almost entirely the product of a cold shooting stretch, and he’s been pretty fantastic on the defensive end of the floor. I honestly think if he and Cory Joseph weren’t both shooting below their established norms, the Lowry-plus-bench unit would look a little better and Lowry’s on/off numbers (the Raptors are slightly better with Lowry off the floor but still quite good with him out there) would normalize.

I don’t think there’s much to worry about here. His shot is a little off, but mostly I think he’s sensed how hot DeRozan is and decided instead to focus on the defensive end, where again, he’s been quite good.

There are almost definitely psychological biases at play in evaluating Jakob Poeltl early on, which is totally understandable. A lot of people around here weren’t high on him initially (I was/am but didn’t think he’d be a major contributor as a rookie), and he was penciled in as the third center before Lucas Nogueira was hurt. In that sense, Poeltl seems like “found money” and he’s being compared against an immediate expectation of nothing, so of course he looks good!

But he’s also been really good, and it’s easy to see why the Raptors were so high on his defensive potential. His length, lateral quickness, and defensive awareness have really impressed, and you can definitely see how he’d match up better against certain big men types than Jonas Valanciunas.

At the same time, yeah, it’s been six games. Poeltl’s been susceptible in the post, opponents have shot a higher percentage with him on the floor than Valanciunas, and we need to see how he’ll perform when opponents have more information on him and can attack his weaknesses. Take the encouraging signs and be excited about them, but let’s see a bit more before…

Oh no, already? I joked on press row the other night that we were close to people suggesting Poeltl start over Valanciunas, and while I realize Ahmed is asking (likely a commentary on Casey) rather than suggesting, man, it’s been six games. If the Raptors were against a very rangy center and Poeltl had played really well, I guess I could see it, but I think the Raptors have grown to a point where they’re more comfortable with Valanciunas late, not only on defense (where he’s been middling so far this year), but also in taking advantage of mismatches at the other end.

I’d expect Valanciunas to continue closing out games until there’s better reason to move away from it – he’s still a part of what, on paper, should be the Raptors two or three best closing lineups.

The usual trade talk

I’m not a believer that they necessarily need another shooter, because it’s hard to see where one would get his minutes, anyway. Ross is a top-20 shooter, DeRozan isn’t going anywhere, and if the minutes came at the expense of Carroll or Patterson, your expected 3-point percentage over a large enough sample probably wouldn’t move a great deal, given the track record of those players. Pascal Siakam is really the only rotation player you could point to as a potential shooting upgrade, and he’s played pretty well outside of that.

So, I guess, a big? Personally, I’m fine holding tight and waiting to see how the young guys perform (and possibly increasing their trade value in the process). There’s no sense making a panic move while an opponent may think they have you over a barrel. Short of a very big move presenting itself, I’m not tweaking at the margins just to tweak and take an opportunity away from the kids.

I’m not sure why the Magic would do that. They just traded Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and Domantas Sabonis for Serge Ibaka, then signed Evan Fournier to a big-money deal. Not sure they’re going to turn around and unload both of them for a player not at 100 percent in year two of a four-year deal, Powell (not as established as Oladipo), a pick that won’t be anywhere near as high as the one that landed Sabonis, and Patterson, who’s set for a big raise and wouldn’t move the needle much in what I imagine is a tear-down scenario for them if they’re making this trade.



Grouping these all together here because my answer more or less covers all three: Maybe?

I think they’re in a spot where they have the assets to make a splash if a star or second-tier player hits the market and the Celtics either aren’t interested or have already jumped. They’re also on a timeline, with respect to the primes of Lowry and DeRozan, where it absolutely makes sense to maximize the current window, even when accounting for the presence of the Cavaliers and the Warriors.

The issue, as always, is that it takes two teams to trade, so making a big splash requires another team to put a meaningful player on the market, like the Raptors’ players, and be at the right point on their own timeline (building for two-to-three years down the line) where the Raptors’ assets make sense for them. So if Blake Griffin hits the market? No, the Raptors aren’t a match. If it’s DeMarcus Cousins, pray the Celtics don’t want to pair him with Al Horford. Paul Millsap is kind of the dream, but the Hawks look good.

A Danilo Gallinari type might be the best chance the Raptors have to improve their chances against Cleveland, and that tier of player doesn’t make the Raptors favorites. That makes it a tough call for Masai Ujiri, Jeff Weltman, and Bobby Webster – is it worth cashing in assets for just a better chance of upsetting the Cavs, or is it better to keep rolling those assets over in hopes of strong internal development, a major trade opportunity later, or – and this can’t be discounted until Lowry’s signature is on an extension – the nuclear option where the Raptors shift the timeline back and focus on all these young assets.

It’s a tough call…I’d probably bet against a major trade this year, just because those things are always a little less likely than we’d hope. But, yeah…they’re going to be active at least exploring these things, I’m sure.

Raptors miscellaneous


DeAndre Daniels signed in Italy for the season. He’s off to a decent start, too, averaging 12.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in his first five games, though it’s worth noting it’s the A-2 league. The Raptors still own his NBA rights, but it seems less and less likely he’ll ever be in the team’s plans – at last look, he was struggling to shake the rust off in the D-League and then falling out of the Summer League rotation. He really needs to add size and stay on the floor for a year, so here’s hoping he can get through the year healthy and start to build on his potential.

I’m not going to rank myself out of fear of sounding conceited, but I have confidence in how my beard holds up. I will say two things about Raptor beard rankings, though: Valanciunas in full psycho killer mode with a shaved head and thick beard ranks No. 1, and Dan Reynolds ranks dead last.

No way, why do you hate fun, Lenny? In seriousness, the Bruno Caboclo experiment was always going to be a four-year experiment. If you were in favor of it on draft night, you should still be willing to see it play out over the next two seasons. If you were against it at the time, you probably still should be. The truth is, Caboclo’s still far enough away that we don’t know how it will turn out, but he’s roughly where he was “supposed” to be at this point. He’s a crazy-long 21-year-old who’s an average 3-point shooter (from the NBA line) over a decent sample, and he’s starting to fill out physically. That’d be an intriguing draft prospect…that the Raptors have already paid for two years.

The expectation, stated or otherwise, should be for him to be a good, perhaps even All-Star, D-Leaguer this season. If he isn’t that, then we can re-evaluate, but we’re still only half way there.

So, this is a tough question to answer as a credentialed media member who does work for both Sportsnet and TSN. Because on the one hand, yes, League Pass is absolutely worth it, even without the Raptors, because the NBA is the best and I pretty much have League Pass open every night. On the other, I get that it’s expensive to subscribe to and then have to get cable on top of that (and the premium packages) to get all of the Raptors games. I will say this, carefully: League Pass is 100 percent worth it, and I cover basketball – and the Raptors – for a living and do not have cable. There are ways. DM me if I’m not being clear enough here.

NBA miscellaneous

They’re booty.

(For real, they were probably a little overrated for the short-term based on the potential for them to add another piece, and teams with a major addition sometimes need a bit of time to figure out the new configuration. I think they’re going to be just fine, and the potential threat of them adding a stud on the trade market still looms, but as currently constructed, I still believe the Raptors would win the playoff battle, if not the 82-game slough.)

I can only speak for my own access with the Raptors, not league-wide, but I’ve had nothing but great experiences. The ESPN affiliation has helped us out with things like All-Star Weekend and Summer League, and then the Raptors themselves have always treated me the same as anyone else they credential.

Now, I’m sure if myself and, say, Michael Grange or Bruce Arthur asked for the same person/interview/access, I might lose out. But that’s not as much to do with blog vs. traditional, I don’t think, so much as those guys write for bigger audiences and have worked to the positions they’re in, with the relationships they have. The team probably weighs audience, track record, and trust, and I’m still on the come up.

Non-basketball miscellaneous

Literally the entire E-MO-TION album and the entire E-MO-TION B-side. It’s all great, and I mean this with 100-percent earnest conviction. If you need a five-song playlist, though: Warm Blood, Runaway With Me, Boy Problems, Fever, and Supernatural. But seriously, all of them.

When I first started blogging in undergrad, I was mostly writing baseball stuff and had a blog called The On-Deck Circle. Somehow, back in 2007, @blakemurphy was already taken, so @blakemurphyodc got the nod. And now I just refuse to change it.

I think it’s happening at Survivor Series to carry the WWE through the slow/dead winter months. I actually don’t think that program extends longer than the Royal Rumble (as much as I love long-term storytelling, they’ve probably teased it too much already to get a few more months out of it), so I could see a blow-up or the impetus for a blow-up happening (extreme Mick Foley voice) RIGHT HERE, in TORONTO (thumbs up).

The work of both men during this program has been terrific. Chris Jericho might honestly have three or four of my favorite runs of any wrestler ever. He might truly be the GOAT, as his trunks suggest.


You don’t want to go hard in this paint and find out, Tom.

Weird way to end the mailbag, but here we go: I’ve had five concussions, three from hockey as a teen, one from rec basketball, and one flukey one from rec hockey as an adult. I don’t really remember the three from when I was younger, except that concussion protocol was archaic at the time (I remember my parents waking me up every hour to make sure I didn’t slip into a coma [ha] and that I played the next day after one of them). The two I had as an adult were a little different. The one I got from basketball is I guess what they’d call “mild” now (Grade 1), and I mostly just felt off for a few days, and achy in the base of my skull. The most recent one I had, though, I missed two weeks of work because I couldn’t focus on screens or read for more than a few minutes at a time without getting light-headed or even nauseous. I was basically just chilling on the couch and going for short walks and going to the doctor.

So, yeah, they’re scary, though I don’t have a great recollection of the entirety of my history because I was pretty young for some of them and my parents don’t remember much beyond “went to the doctor, told us what to watch for.” (I’m not sure if it’s at all related, so take this as a side note, but I also had a seizure when I was 18 and tests at the time couldn’t tell why.)

I think it’s because I know so little, and because we still know so little, that I get really up in arms about concussion issues. Until we know a lot more – a lot – I really think we need to play it much, much more cautious with brain injuries. The scope of the unknowns just aren’t worth the risk.

As a reminder, if you appreciate the content we produce, want to support RR, and have the means to do so, we’ve started a Patreon page at patreon.com/RaptorsRepublic. Any contribution is greatly appreciated and will help us continue to do what we do, and try to do even more.

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