Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee – Sun, Jan 27

Raptors’ Anunoby prepares to relaunch | The Star

“I’m still hoping that he has an emergence this season,” coach Nick Nurse said this past week. “I’ve been talking about it for a long time, both him and Pascal, and we obviously got Pascal through there and going. (It’s a) great story of the year, and I still think OG’s got time to also be a young, emerging guy for us this year.”

Nurse is Anunoby’s biggest booster.

The coach is always touting the athletic skills possessed by the six-foot-eight Anunoby: how he’s the prototypical big, multi-faceted defender all good teams need, and how Anunoby’s offence will eventually come around. Even as the Raptors settled on a starting lineup that includes Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Siakam, Nurse has opined that Anunoby might eventually be a starter, giving the Raptors a small but quick, long, switch-everything group of defenders and enough athleticism to punish opponents in transition.

It hasn’t worked out that way — not yet at least. It’s not that Anunoby has been a disappointment. It’s that he’s been a question mark due to circumstances away from the game.

He missed the entire pre-season while dealing with unspecified personal issues, and has been away from the team three times because of them in the regular season.

Woz Blog: Raptors looking for better starts plus Green sees the humour in trying to contain Harden | Toronto Sun

Nurse said Houston’s switching was really effective against Toronto’s offence.

“That was a huge factor. They were doing a great job switching, we weren’t handling the switching very well,” Nurse said.

“They were really aggressive as well, they weren’t just switching and sliding they were switching into our path and taking some looks away and they made it hard on some of our out-of-bounds plays and stuff like that.”

Twitter was in an uproar over no Delon Wright, but we see the logic. Wright isn’t bulky enough to fend off James Harden and reintegrating OG Anunoby was clearly a priority, as was getting more size in the lineup. Plus with Houston bombing so many threes, Nurse wanted the recently hot from outside C.J. Miles. If everyone is healthy, a player or two or three will have to sit every night.

The main takeaway was the team simply not showing up for the opening tip and digging a huge early hole. That also happened at Indiana the other night.

“I think we just didn’t play up to our potential,” Kyle Lowry said afterward.

“We didn’t play hard enough, at all. Both ends. We didn’t play hard enough.”

Added Pascal Siakam: “I think we’ve just got to come in with focus. We got to make it a priority. It’s been like a lot of games where we just came out flat a little bit in the beginning and somehow we find the energy to get back into the game a little bit,” he said.

Dallas Mavericks: In stacked Western Conference, is Luka Doncic really worthy of being an All-Star? | SportsDay

Is Dennis Smith Jr. a Dallas Maverick in 2019-20?

Mosley: Man, that’s a tough one. I think Rick Carlisle will work hard to repair whatever happened to this relationship. Maybe he’ll show a little more patience with his young point guard. He’s already walking a tight rope in referring to Luka as a point guard, too. I think they will try to stagger the minutes between those two players and see if DSJ can really get it going. If a team falls in love with DSJ’s speed and athleticism, the Mavs would obviously move him. But they aren’t going to do it just to make DSJ happy. There has to be some real value involved. I don’t see it happening without getting a first-round pick in return.  It’s been a mess, but now there’s time to see if everyone can recover from it. It’s disingenuous for Mark Cuban to say this happens all the time, by the way. That’s just not true in this league.

NBA trade rumors: Five trade packages that could land Mike Conley, Marc Gasol at deadline

Potential Package: Kyle Lowry ($31.2M), Jonas Valanciunas ($16.5M) and a first-round pick for Conley and Gasol.

Reason for trade: Perhaps the craziest trade scenario in this list, this Raptors-Grizzlies blockbuster deal would surely be a landscape-changing, especially for the Raptors. Lowry is putting up solid numbers again (14.1 ppg and 9.4 apg), but his nonchalant approach on the offensive end (11.4 FG attempts per game) has cost the Raptors several wins this year. Valanciunas, on the other hand, was having an efficient year (12.8 ppg and 7.2 rpg in 18 minutes) despite sharing the center position with Serge Ibaka.

Analysts got a sense that the Raptors might still be a level or two below the Golden State Warriors, Bucks or the Celtics. There’s a necessity to add another game-changer in order to close that gap. Washington’s Bradley Beal would be a nice pickup yet his burdensome contract would be detrimental to the Raptors long-term payroll flexibility. As for Conley and Gasol, their deals expire in the next two years, giving Toronto a lot of cap room by the summer of 2021.

The Mavericks’ problem isn’t the Dennis and Luka duo — it’s Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes – Mavs Moneyball

Barnes and Matthews aren’t bad players and they’ve both played in highly regarded offenses — Matthews with Terry Stotts in Portland and Barnes with the 73-win Warriors team. So it’s not like these two can’t be part of a high-performing offense, it’s just that when they’re mixed together, toxic results happen.

Both Barnes and Matthews are best suited as catch and shoot third or fourth options. Guys who can spread the floor, hit open shots and make very basic reads when necessary. They’re limited with their offensive games, meaning you don’t want these guys running an offense. The problem comes when they’re together and it limits the offensive ceiling of whatever lineup they’re in for the Mavericks. Dallas doesn’t need Barnes and Matthews to be big assist guys, but they need them to just move the ball and that’s not happening when they’re together.

Consider this — Barnes averages 5.5 drives per game, according to NBA.com/stats. On those 5.5 drives, he’s passing it just 17.9 percent of the time. That is the worst mark on the team for anyone averaging 20 minutes per game. It’s also one of the worst marks in the league. And Barnes doesn’t even justify those black-hole drives with shot making — he’s shooting just above 40 percent on those drives. Of all the players in the NBA averaging at least five drives per game, Barnes has the third-lowest pass percentage on drives.

Matthews is a bit better, passing on 30.6 percent of his drives. But that’s still not a terrific number, and combined with Barnes, the Mavericks’ offense slows to an absolute crawl with both of them on the court. Barnes and Matthews have played 926 minutes together entering Friday night’s game against the Pistons, the sixth-most on the team for a two man duo, and they have a minus-3.6 net rating. At 1.1 assists per game for Barnes and 2.4 for Matthews, the Mavs just get zero ball movement when those two are on the floor. It’s part of the reason the Mavs starting lineup is one of the worst in the NBA.

Sunday NBA preview: Toronto Raptors at Dallas Mavericks | The Star

Dallas is only 22-26 on the season, but 18-6 at home and coming off a win over Detroit on Friday night … It’s presumably the last game the Raptors will play against 40-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, who is widely expected to retire after this season. Nowitzki comes off the bench in a limited role with Dallas … There’s rampant speculation around the league that the Mavs will move point guard Dennis Smith before the Feb. 7 NBA trade deadline.

Raptors full of appreciation ahead of likely final meeting with Dallas great Dirk Nowitzki | Toronto Sun

Finals MVP Nowitzki averaged 26 points and 9.7 rebounds, helping the Mavericks wipe away years of playoff disappointments with a long-awaited championship.

“He was an animal. It was insane the way he played,” Miles said.

“And the way he has always played. He was just hard to guard. He shot the ball from behind his head at seven feet (making him nearly impossible to guard). It didn’t hit the rim.”

Nowitzki, now 40 and in his 21st season, has not definitively said he will retire at the end of the year, but he’s only averaging 10 minutes a game and has struggled. That means Sunday’s game could be the last time Miles and the other Raptors face the living legend.

Nowitzki has averaged 21.6 points and shot 43% from beyond the arc in 32 career meetings with Toronto. He has been playing nearly as long as the Raptors franchise has been in existence, joining the Mavericks just minutes after Vince Carter became a Raptor. Nowitzki owns just about every mark in the Mavericks’ record book and sits seventh in NBA history in points, closing in on Wilt Chamberlain, who he should pass before he’s done. Nowitzki also leads all big men and sits 11th in league history in made three-pointers.

Raptors’ Anunoby prepares to relaunch | TheSpec.com

That certainly hasn’t happened for a variety of reasons, but there are still great expectations on the 21-year-old forward.

“I’m still hoping that he has an emergence this season,” coach Nick Nurse said this past week. “I’ve been talking about it for a long time, both him and Pascal, and we obviously got Pascal through there and going. (It’s a) great story of the year, and I still think OG’s got time to also be a young, emerging guy for us this year.”

Nurse is Anunoby’s biggest booster.

The coach is always touting the athletic skills possessed by the six-foot-eight Anunoby: how he’s the prototypical big, multi-faceted defender all good teams need, and how Anunoby’s offence will eventually come around. Even as the Raptors settled on a starting lineup that includes Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Siakam, Nurse has opined that Anunoby might eventually be a starter, giving the Raptors a small but quick, long, switch-everything group of defenders and enough athleticism to punish opponents in transition.

It hasn’t worked out that way — not yet at least. It’s not that Anunoby has been a disappointment. It’s that he’s been a question mark due to circumstances away from the game.

He missed the entire pre-season while dealing with unspecified personal issues, and has been away from the team three times because of them in the regular season.

He’s missed 11 of Toronto’s 51 games this year, and he’s been unable to get into any kind of rhythm because those absences came in three different chunks.

Nurse may fine-tune Raptors' rotation as homestretch nears – Sportsnet.ca

After a long video and practice session Saturday afternoon, it was clear Nurse has seen about enough of that.

“It would be really nice to figure out exactly who is going to be in there. How we’re going to do it. Who is going to play where, minutes, all that kind of stuff,” he said. “The rotations. I’m sure we’re going to have some more guys in and out. But, yeah, we got to now know: who is going to play as tough as we need them to play? Who is going to execute like we need them to execute? We need to execute like we’re capable of. Close games or not. At both ends of the floor.”

They ended up having a chance to win against Houston on the final possession, but there were more things to be concerned about than celebrate.

With Kawhi Leonard back after missing four games due to ‘load management’ the Raptors were as close to full health as they’ve been in months, with only Jonas Valanciunas (thumb) still out.

But Toronto turned the ball over 21 times, was almost run out of the building in the first half and when they did execute a near miracle comeback after being down 19 with 5:35 to play, botched the final possession by generating only a difficult, fall away three by Leonard.

With the rotation finally crowded Delon Wright was squeezed out, not seeing a minute.

According to Nurse, the message going forward is simple — those that want to play will prove it.

“You can’t play everybody,” he said. “And like I said, it’s the guys, for me, that are going to bring it — and Delon’s still included in that group [that will play]. There’s still some opportunity for guys to prove they are going to bring it, defend the way we want. Execute the game plan the way that we want. Play on the balls of their feet on offence and not on their heels. Step into shots, take ‘em and make ‘em.

Warriors rumor: Golden State interested in Cavs guard Rodney Hood – Golden State Of Mind

The Golden State Warriors are reportedly interested in Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard Rodney Hood. The report comes from Sam Amico of Amico Hoops, who writes “The Los Angeles Clippers are at least one team keeping an eye on Hood. I’ve recently heard of interest from the Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors and, yes, Golden State Warriors, too.”

It seems far more likely that the Warriors will fill out their roster through the buyout market than through trades, but this is certainly something to keep an eye on. The Cavs have numerous veterans on the trading block, and are openly willing to take on less desirable contracts if it can help the team down the line.

Golden State doesn’t exactly have any contracts they’re trying to dump, nor do they have the requisite cap space to trade for Hood’s one-year $3.5 million contract without matching contracts. Even if the Warriors tried to dump Shaun Livingston’s deal in a trade, it would require targeting a few more pieces from Cleveland just to match salaries, and that makes the trade nearly impossible.

The Warriors could, in theory, help facilitate a three-team trade, with the understanding that they would then sign Hood after the receiving team buys him out. Or they could trade two of their younger pieces for Hood but . . . why?

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