Fan Duel Toronto Raptors

Morning Coffee – Fri, Oct 5 Murphy Mailbag: How Hungry Are You? Raptors’ preseason questions, and more – The Athletic [subscription] How do you see the Raptors splitting minutes between Kyle, FVV, and Delon? Do you foresee a similar rotation to last year? OR do you see Delon eating into some of Green’s and CJ’s minutes? Do you think we’ll…

Murphy Mailbag: How Hungry Are You? Raptors’ preseason questions, and more – The Athletic [subscription]

How do you see the Raptors splitting minutes between Kyle, FVV, and Delon? Do you foresee a similar rotation to last year? OR do you see Delon eating into some of Green’s and CJ’s minutes? Do you think we’ll try any 3 PG lineups? – Christopher M.

I think the point guard minutes will be really similar to last year. Lowry can have his minutes in the low 30s and stay fresh for the long-run, while VanVleet and Wright can assume about as many minutes as necessary. I could see them ticking upward a little bit because of Wright’s positional versatility and VanVleet’s potential closing role, but there’s obviously a cap on how many minutes that trio can play with all the wing depth the Raptors have. That cap is probably around 80 minutes.

As for a three-PG look, I’m here for it. Casey used to play with it a bit, and Wright can capably guard some threes. If there’s a shift back to some Lowry-and-bench minutes, that trio — with a wing and Valanciunas — could be a monster on offence.

Raptors building team chemistry as Kawhi gets set for home debut –

Shooting only 38.2 per cent as the team’s gone 1-1 thus far in the pre-season, the Raptors’ offence has messed around with a bunch of different looks but has failed to really click so far. One of the bright spots, however, was Leonard’s performance in Utah when he put up 17 points and five rebounds on 50 per cent shooting in 18 minutes of action.

Nurse believes that was just a sign of things to come for Leonard as he begins ramping up.

“I think the biggest thing is we all saw he kinda had a little rust on him opening night and he removed a big chunk of it in one game,” the Raptors coach said. “So I think that’s really encouraging. It was really noticeable, the difference, and I think he’s going to continue to do that.”

If the cobwebs in Leonard’s game really have been shaken out then hometown fans looking to get their first glimpse at the new superstar in town are likely in for a treat from him and, for what it’s worth, he seems reasonably excited about seeing what the Toronto crowd is all about.

“We’ve still got some time until the first [regular-season] game, but it’s going to be a great experience,” said Leonard. “It’s going to be my first time being on the home team here, but, I don’t know, everybody says it’s a great energy and vibe.

“I’m just ready to live in the moment and see it for myself.”

So are the Raptors faithful.

Pressure and expectations are old hat for Kawhi Leonard | Toronto Sun

Head coach Nick Nurse is appreciative of the situation he has landed in, noting that most first-year bench bosses helm awful-mediocre clubs.

“We’re firmly entrenched, and rightly so, in Eastern Conference seeding talks, or championship talks or whatever, so it’s great,” Nurse said.

Also good, according to Nurse? Leonard’s recovery from the injuries that held him to only nine games in 2018-19.

The forward has scored 29 points in 37 pre-season minutes so far, and has made 19 trips to the free throw line. Though he’s clearly not yet himself, especially defensively, Leonard has looked dominant already at times.

“I think the biggest thing is we all saw he kinda had a little rust on him opening night and he removed a big chunk of it in one game,” Nurse said.

“So I think that’s really encouraging. It was really noticeable, the difference and I think he’s going to continue to do that. Again, he’s super healthy and he’s working like heck and he feels good and so I think we’ll see him just continue to make strides and get more comfortable (as he adjusts to the speed of the NBA again after so much time off).”

The team as a whole is a work in progress, but Leonard is encouraged.

“We’re still trying to gel. We’ve been practising in 5-on-5. I’m seeing a lot from everyone,” he said.

“I’ve got a lot to learn still and see what everyone’s about, but right now I think we’re doing a great job.”

Kawhi Leonard gets his home-away-from-homecoming with the Raptors | The Star

“I don’t feel pressure from the fans,” he said. “It’s myself. It’s always up to the person and what they want do, what’s in their mind and what they want the season to be. I set my own expectations and try to reach my own goals.”

Leonard’s early pre-season performances have shown positive signs on at least one front — his health. Raptors coach Nick Nurse said the 27-year-old is “super healthy” and feels good while “working like heck” to get back into game shape. Nurse said Leonard “removed a big chunk” of rust — he played just nine regular-season games last year — between Toronto’s first and second pre-season games. The coach believes that trend will continue Friday night.

“I think we’ll see him just continue to make strides and get more comfortable,” Nurse said. “Just get more comfortable with the speed. That’s one thing about basketball, when you get away from it for a little bit, you get back there, things are happening fast out there and it takes a little time to catch up with that.”

In an effort to help Leonard get used to that pace, and to continue developing chemistry on defence, Thursday’s practice included more five-on-five work than drills.

“It certainly was good to get home here and practise,” Nurse said. “(We were) on-court about as long as we’ve gone in any one session, to be honest, and we needed it. There was a lot of teaching today and a lot of drill work and then we got to play, get up and down … (we) keep putting the emphasis on doing things five on five.”

Leonard looking forward to Friday’s home debut – Video – TSN

After 10 days on the road, the Raptors finally returned home on Thursday. Now they get set for Friday’s exhibition game against Melbourne, Kawhi Leonard’s home debut. Josh Lewenberg has more.

Miles’ improvements key as Raptors continue to evolve –

Miles is optimistic that in Year 2 of the revolution the Raptors can pick up right where they left off:

“I don’t think we emphasize it more, we just know we have more weapons to do it,” he said recently. “… More because guys know what their games are, what they’re capable of, what threes and shots they should take. Obviously OG [Anunoby] become a better shooter, Pascal [Siakam has] become a better shooter, Freddie [VanVleet] could always shoot it, we’re still trying to get Delon [Wright] to [not] pass up open shots, little things like that.”

That list doesn’t include Kyle Lowry, who has vaulted himself in the very top tier of the NBA’s shooters over the past two seasons. He is one of three players to make at least 400 triples while shooting at least 40 per cent from three over that period, the others being Golden State’s Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, the best shooting backcourt in NBA history.

Toss that in with the addition of two more proven three-point threats in Leonard and Danny Green. Green has cashed in better than 40 per cent of his attempted triples during four different seasons while Leonard shot better than 40 per cent combined for the last two seasons he was fully healthy.

It seems obvious that even if they don’t end up shooting a lot more threes than they have, the Raptors should be shooting them better.

2018-19 Raptors Player Preview: Serge Ibaka, a role reimagined – Raptors HQ

Still, the numbers show that Ibaka has been inconsistent since joining the Raptors, especially during meaningful games later in the season. After averaging 16.8 points on 53.3% shooting in the month of December last year, Ibaka’s numbers showed a steady decline with a bump in February. In 16 games in March, he averaged just 10.8 points on 41.3% shooting, including 33.3% from three on four attempts per game.

Rest also affects Ibaka’s performance, as the eye test and stats back up. On zero days rest last season, Ibaka averaged 45.9% shooting and 27.7% from three. With a day of rest, that spiked to 50.8% and 39.3% from deep.

Another weakness in Ibaka’s game, shown especially during last year’s playoff run, was his defensive rebounding.

In small lineups against Cleveland, Serge had a rough time closing possessions for the Raptors, requiring Jonas Valanciunas to play more minutes and be more adaptable on defence. This is certainly one of the reasons Masai Ujiri brought in Greg Monroe during the off-season, a rebound-first big who can line up against active bigs like Tristan Thompson.

So considering these inconsistencies, where should Ibaka fit within the new-look Raptors roster? Head coach Nick Nurse has been public about his desire to try anything and everything when it comes to lineups — which means there’ll be less of the Dwane Casey tendency to start big and revert to small lineups late in games.

There are obvious advantages to Ibaka’s game. When he plays at the five, he creates enormous space with his ability to shoot the three. We saw this in Tuesday’s preseason game against Utah — when the Raptors went small with Ibaka at the five, the floor was wide open for Kawhi Leonard to isolate and create magic.

How to measure success for every NBA Eastern Conference team in 2018-19: Bar raised for Celtics, Raptors –

They should have the exact same standards as the Celtics: a Finals berth is realistic, and missing the conference finals would feel like a disaster. This is the most talent the Raptors have ever had, and they finally employ a player who could realistically win Most Valuable Player. They could have the best defense in the league, and they will probably be the deepest team in the league (again). Whew, that’s a lot of superlatives, which means there will be a ton of pressure on this team. The plan should be to play so well that Kawhi Leonard would look crazy if he leaves.

Raptors continue to court chemistry despite many new elements in the mix – The Athletic [subscription]

What worries me is not that the team hasn’t struck an instantaneous, perfect balance with all the new pieces in play, it’s that the narrative needs to be one of immediate reassurance so soon out of the gate.

This was a huge summer for Toronto and the repercussions of DeRozan’s trade are going to be felt far beyond the start of the official season. For one, every player on the Raptors has ostensibly gotten better. Pascal Siakam was playing basketball all summer, literally, in some form of pickup league and his speed and control of the ball reflects it. Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet and C.J. Miles all look physically, well, extremely jacked. While physical and game improvement in the offseason is the relative norm across the league, it’s not hard to link this summer’s roster shifting and notable departures with the Raptors coming into this season at the top of their respective games. Rotation spots are up for grabs and the new coaching staff has yet to make any permanent decisions to that end.

For the first time, the holdover veterans of this team— Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas —make up less than half of the starting lineup. Lowry has become the team’s new leader, a mantle he can obviously shoulder but one he’ll still need time to settle into while making room for and supporting Leonard, should Leonard want to step into a team leadership role fitting of his skill. Valanciunas is showing some promising signs of another offseason of steady development, in his early fast breaks and control of gameplay, but for so many seasons his versatility was driven as a trifecta, with him sitting between DeRozan and Lowry. He’ll need to strike a new balance in what he can best offer to reinforce the defensive capabilities of Leonard and the offensive doggedness of Lowry.

There isn’t a player who won’t feel the absence of DeRozan, even those who’ve joined the team after he’s gone. Athletes are creatures of habit, and the early part of this season is going to be focused on how the team forms new ones that aren’t centred on holdover styles of gameplay and communication that echoes from the DeRozan and Casey era. It can’t be something that comes overnight. Think of how long it takes to develop a shorthand of communication between some of your closest friends or colleagues

Podcast: Locked on Raptors #391 – How Hungry Are You: In Review, Part 2 w/ Katie Heindl – Raptors HQ

In Episode 391 of Locked on Raptors, Sean Woodley and Katie Heindl review another episode of Serge Ibaka’s “How Hungry Are You?” This time around, Serge serves up gloopy, herby lamb brains to Delon Wright, OG Anunoby, Norm Powell, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. Once again, Sean and Katie have beef with the cooking elements of Serge’s cooking show.

Imagining NBA Teams As Rom-Coms – The Ringer

San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors: The Holiday

Time Period: 2018-19
After getting dumped, a very brokenhearted Iris (DeMar DeRozan) begins a journey to America. She trades places with Amanda (Kawhi Leonard), who had just ended her own relationship—like Kawhi, it was her decision, though no quad injury was involved—and wants to go abroad. Iris builds a strong friendship with a wise elder (Gregg Popovich) who brings out the best in her. Both end up happy after the swap. Take the over on the Raptors and the Spurs.

Thoughts on Valanciunas, the Butler saga and more –

I’ve liked what I’ve seen from JV in the two preseason games and throughout training camp. He’s very familiar with coach Nick Nurse’s offensive philosophy and seems more aware and alert defensively. This is all part of the maturation process of a guy whose hitting the prime years of his career. It takes longer with big guys and patience is necessary and the Raptors have been patient and invested lots in him. I think the chance for a greater and more consistent return when actually counted on has finally arrived.

WHAT Podcast: Preseason Hoops and Dreams; Eastern Conference Preview – Blazer’s Edge

Kawhi Leonard–does he owe anyone an explanation?

2018-19 Toronto Raptors Player Preview: Delon Wright – Raptors HQ

There’s Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Norman Powell, Delon Wright, and to a certain extent Lorenzo Brown, all capable of playing considerable minutes for two positions. When the season starts, its all but set in stone that the starters are Kyle and Danny.

But here is the tricky part. Fred, Delon, and Norm will be competing for two spots. For the deepest Raptors team in franchise history, a bad week can drop you from the rotation. We’ve seen what happens when someone gets injured (See Norm last season), misses time, comes back but can’t get back into the lineup because of how well the team is doing. Expectation is that Norm bounces back this year so now we have a rotation problem. Delon’s injury history can hurt him, as he has yet to play over 70 games in a season. But also here is where his positional versatility can help him. Unlike Fred who can only play point guard, and Norm who skews towards the two and three-spot, Delon can play both guard positions.

NBA Previews: Toronto Raptors Season Preview 2018-19 – Raptors HQ

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Still, no team is perfect. The three biggest question marks surrounding the Raptors right now are as follows, brace yourselves:

Number One: Valanciunas and Monroe are the same player. Neither is that great at protecting the rim, neither can really switch onto smaller players and guard them on the perimeter, and while JV has been getting 3s up, neither is really who you’d want to go to when looking to shoot from range. (That said, I would not be surprised if Jonas really gets wild with the 3 this year.)

On top of that, they are the Raptors’ best rebounders. JV in particular showed a particular utility last year with his ability to eat up a lot of the paint, get his elbows in there, and get defensive boards. The Raptors need that from him, and they can only really count on him to do it. So yeah, that’s a weakness — outside of JV, bench minutes from Monroe, and whatever rebounding may be left in the legs of Ibaka, controlling the paint could be a problem for Toronto.

Number Two: This one is harder to define, but with the trade of DeRozan for an all-time Quiet Guy All-Star like Kawhi, the Raptors suddenly have something of a leadership vacuum at the top. Lowry is still very much the top dog in terms of veteran presence, and by dint of being the starting point guard, but he’s more a leader by doing — and he’s also a cranky fellow. Meanwhile, someone like Fred VanVleet commands respect, particularly when playing with his bench compatriots. Except this year VanVleet’s role could change, and his minutes still put him firmly in the reserve category. He’s earned that respect, but I’m not sure he can tell the entire locker room what to do, and when. (Toronto also has their pair of chatty sharpshooters, Green and Miles, who will no doubt gift the team with veteran presents.)

I admit this is an ineffable piece of business. Do basketball teams need vocal leaders? Can Kawhi, with his stone-faced immutability, lead the way by shear talent and will? Can the Raptors find themselves without DeRozan and rally around this cyborg?

Did I miss something? Send me any Raptors-related article/video to