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Potpourri: Norm, Silence of the Kawhi, Backup G, Camp Qs

Toronto Raptors training camp is around the corner and we got four topics to discuss.

Training camp is around the corner which will be followed by a short pre-season, so we got to start greasing up the Raptors talk. For this post, we’ll look at a few low-key items.

What’s Norm up to?

A couple days ago I wondered to myself if Norman Powell is still on the team. I had to look up the official roster page to confirm that he did in fact still play for the Raps. Like a scene from Memento, I tried desperately to recall what Peak Norm looks like, and as if in a lucid dream, my mind took me back to that one year a couple years ago where the term “Russell Westbrook Lite” was being thrown around. Those were good times.  Then I woke up and found some clips on YouTube from last year where he’s blowing past his man only to unleash awkward too-hard finishes that spawn opposing fastbreaks. I don’t know what Norm’s working on this summer, or what his role next year would be, but I do know that he’ll be undrafted in most fantasy leagues, which is the ultimate sign of player value.

If he’s not producing this year, he’ll officially start edging into the Joey Graham category of player where you’re legitimately wondering if he has the self-awareness to analyze what he’s doing wrong, and take the necessary steps to rectify his game. Tunnel-vision after the bounce is pretty bad here and that’s apparently quite difficult to fix they tell me.

Kawhi’s silence

Has Kawhi said a word since coming to Toronto? I tried to research this aspect for this article and came up on his Brainy Quote page and by God, that has to be one of the most uninspiring pages on the site. My favorite has to be:

“I’m just a low-key guy.”

Beautiful.

Now, some of you may still be stinging from the DeRozan trade and rightfully so, it hurts to lose the guy who led you to three straight losses to the same team, two of them sweeps.  Oops, sorry, I meant to say it hurts to lose the guy who has stayed loyal to the organization for so long, and genuinely loved Toronto more than any other player we’ve had. However, if I had asked the question of whether the Lowry/DeRozan combo had reached its ceiling in the East, 95% of you would have said yes. And LeBron leaving the East shouldn’t change that. So, that was my main reason for justifying the trade. Also, we got a legit Top 5 player.  Now, what would make fans feel a lot better is if Kawhi had an Instagram where he posted some pics in a Raps jersey (or even a hat or something), and liked a few pics from Drake. But that would require him actually being active on social media, and his Twitter hasn’t been updated since 2015.

I’m not too worried about whether he re-signs or not – a year of him in Toronto is an experiment worth undertaking. Best case scenario we make it to the Finals, worst-case we start a rebuild sooner. I’m fine with either one.  The latter might even make it affordable to go to Raptors games again.

Greg Monroe – The Backup G

This one surprised me to no end because we’ve been apparently trying to trade JV for something not-JV and then we go ahead and sign a worse version of JV. I’m having real trouble buying the “toughness” argument as the guy is one of the worst rim-protectors out there for his size, and even if he were tough in some other way, he’s virtually unplayable in the modern NBA.  Assuming we do squeeze some minutes from him in the backup center role, the one advantage of him over JV is that he’s a better passer, but our offense has never been about post-passing, unless Nick Nurse was all about that and Dwane Casey thwarted that. Nurse’s comments over the summer do suggest that he’s viewing JV as a more central piece in the offense.

Another argument I’ve heard is that he can keep JV’s minutes down and keep him “fresh”. This one I definitely don’t buy because JV played 22.4 minutes last year and for his career he’s at 25.5 ppg. This man is fresh. He could be biking for UberEats between quarters and still have enough to finish the fourth.

Training Camp Questions

Can we guess who this year’s “gained 15 pounds of muscle” guy will be? My nominees for this prestigious pre-season award are Delon Wright, Pascal Siakam and OG.  Other than that burning question, my top three questions for training camp:

  1. Will Nick Nurse’s offense be as guard-oriented as Dwane Casey’s or will he be make more use of his post-players?
  2. How much of an overall team defensive upgrade the team will receive by replacing a high-usage/poor defender in DeRozan with Leonard?
  3. How much of a leash will Nick Nurse give Serge Ibaka at the four, before trying other options? Or will the default position be him coming off the bench?

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