Toronto already went all in six months ago, when it traded for Kawhi even though he was going into the final season of his contract and managed to play only nine games in 2017-18 due to a lingering quadriceps injury. It has worked so far. Kawhi has been as good as advertised, leading the Raptors to a 38-16 record. Nothing really matters until the playoffs, though, where they will likely have to get through some combination of the Bucks, Celtics, and 76ers just to make a potential NBA Finals showdown with the Warriors. Fizzle out at any step along the way and their pitch to Kawhi this summer might not look that compelling.
Davis would change everything. He would give Kawhi the chance to relive his days with Tim Duncan in San Antonio, except this time he would be on the same timetable as his star big man. Kawhi is 27 and Davis is 25, and they are both averaging more than 25 points per game this season. If they were on the same team, they would be only the seventh pair of teammates to do so since 2000. None of those previous pairs had as much defensive upside as Kawhi and Davis. The Raptors could have a front line with two Defensive Player of the Year candidates who could also take over a game on offense without getting in the other’s way. Even the Warriors would have matchup problems with that combination.
Toronto has the pieces to make a trade work. The centerpiece would be Pascal Siakam, a 24-year-old big man averaging career highs in points (15.4), rebounds (6.9), assists (2.8), steals (0.9), blocks (0.7), and field goal percentage (55.9). This is just the beginning for Siakam. At 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, he’s an electric athlete with the ability to defend players at all five positions and a well-rounded offensive game. He can get to the rim and finish over anyone, and he can make plays on the move for his teammates. He’s even shown significant growth as a shooter, averaging 33.1 percent from 3 on 2.2 attempts per game and 79.9 percent from the free throw line on 3.4 attempts per game. Siakam was taken at no. 27 overall in the 2016 draft, but he has been better this season than either Brandon Ingram or Jaylen Brown, top 3 picks in that draft who have long been expected to headline offers for Davis.
Following the easy Raptors win Leonard told a few of us that he didn’t even know Ballmer was there.
“I know who he is,” Leonard said, seemingly perplexed at the thought that he wouldn’t know who the former Microsoft boss was.
“I didn’t see him tonight. I don’t really pay attention to who’s at the game or anything like that unless I’m sitting on the bench or there’s a dead ball or something like that and they make an announcement,” Leonard continued.
“That’s pretty much the times when I know someone’s here.” Leonard made it clear, as he has since his initial gathering with the media months ago, that his thoughts are only on this Raptors season. Whatever is to come in July will not burden his mind at the moment.
“I’m not thinking about it right now. I’m just focussed on the season. I didn’t know he was at the game until you guys told me and I’m focussed and when that time comes we’ll have to talk and sit down with everyone and have meetings,” Leonard said.
Bosh was named to the NBA all-star team 11 times in his 13-year career, averaged nearly 20 points a game and won two NBA titles. He is almost certainly destined for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and will now join Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal as Heat players whose numbers are retired.
Miami has also “retired” No. 23 as an honour to Michael Jordan and will unquestionably add Dwyane Wade to the list next season.
“(Bosh’s) name and jersey will hang forever and always,” Heat president Pat Riley said Monday.
The Raptors have yet to retire a number or come up with any way to honour the best players who have played for the team in almost a quarter of a century.
There will come a time, without doubt, that still-active players like Vince Carter and DeMar DeRozan are somehow honoured by the team but, heading into the franchise’s 25th anniversary season next year, there surely has to be a way to pay tribute to the best players in franchise history.
The Toronto Raptors are poised to add a much-needed veteran right after Thursday’s NBA trade deadline at no cost to the current roster.
Jonas Valanciunas, who has been out for more than a quarter of the regular season, is expected to play on the three-game road trip that begins Tuesday in Philadelphia and sources with intimate knowledge of the situation say Thursday’s game in Atlanta is the likely date. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about it.
Getting the 7-foot, 26-year-old back will be a tremendous boost to the Raptors for the final stretch run to the playoffs.
He is the team’s best screen-setter on offence and its best rim protector on defence and his presence just gives coach Nick Nurse a feeling of comfort.
“Obviously when we face these big guys (opposing centres in the traditional form) there are matchup issues, it’s really important,” Nurse said. “I also just think that it gives us such a different feel. All of a sudden we’re big and strong, and then we’re a little bit more fluid and spacey and there’s more space. I like that feel.”
1. NBA TRADE DEADLINE: The clock is ticking towards 3 p.m. ET this Thursday. It should be a fascinating few days ahead with lots of rumours flying around and hopefully some more deals and developments. The NBA manages to do a terrific job owning the news cycle. I’m sure it will again.
2. TORONTO RAPTORS: Speaking of trade deadline, I look at the Raptors as having two needs: consistent perimeter shooting and rebounding. An ideal solution would be to acquire a backup power forward who has shooting and rebounding talent. Even with Jonas Valanciunas coming back soon, this team needs a little more size, force and toughness. If they can add that to the mix, the Raptors will have true depth at every position.
3. ANTHONY DAVIS (Pelicans): If you’re a team that thinks you can get him, go get him. I’m a huge fan of his. I have said it many times before and I’ll say it again: If he stays healthy, Davis is a Hall-of-Fame talent. He’s just that special. Rarely does a guy like Davis become available. You pull out all the stops to get him on your team.
Despite their record, the Raptors are flawed, even though they seem to have enough to make it to the Eastern Conference finals. But their weakness from beyond the arc almost necessitates a move by the Feb. 7 trade deadline to acquire a small forward or shooting guard. The Raptors could also use another big man who can improve on Toronto’s middle-of-the-pack rebounding performance.
The trouble is the Raptors don’t have a lot of blue-chip pieces to move, and the core is developing under the strong guidance of Nick Nurse. But standing pat isn’t Ujiri’s style. He is not content with the Raptors just being good.
Do they have enough to knock off the Golden State Warriors? Probably not. Since Anthony Davis may be out of the Raptors’ reach, perhaps a more realistic acquisition target in New Orleans might be for a solid three-ball shooter like E’Twaun Moore, Julius Randle, Jrue Holiday or Nikola Mirotic.
Beyond the Pelicans, the Raptors and Brooklyn Nets could be a good fit because the Nets need help in their rebuilding process, and the Raptors could use a perimeter shooter like Joe Harris, who is having a breakout season. The Raptors could also target Courtney Lee, who is struggling to find playing time with the New York Knicks. The Washington Wizards might want to part with Jeff Green, who is a veteran who wants to win now. And for a sentimental choice, the Raptors could bring back Vince Carter, who is languishing with the Atlanta Hawks.
“It’s not fun sitting on the sidelines — it’s not fun just running with Jonny Lee,” Valanciunas was saying, summing up the last two months he’s spent recovering from left thumb surgery. “I’m not saying he’s a bad guy. He’s the strength-and-conditioning coach of the year. But it’s not fun just doing things without competition. I miss competition.”
For Valanciunas, competition will come soon. After emerging from his latest full practice unscathed, the Raptors centre is expected to make his return to the team’s lineup sometime in the next week during the team’s three-game road trip through Philadelphia, Atlanta, and New York.
“Definitely — we’re planning to play him on this trip,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “He’s looked good. He was full-go again today. He had a good pre-practice run as well with some live stuff. The sooner the better.”
No kidding. The Raptors have missed Valanciunas in a variety of areas since a heavy Draymond Green swat dislocated his thumb in mid-December. Toronto’s paint points and rebounding are down, and their opponents are posting higher numbers in those areas. The Raptors’ net rating has also plummeted, and while Valanciunas’s absence isn’t entirely to blame for that, it’s played a part.
“Obviously, when we face big guys that are matchup issues, it’s really important. I also just think that it gives us such a different feel,” Nurse said of having Valanciunas in the lineup. “All of a sudden we’re big and strong — and we’re a little bit more fluid and spacey. There’s more space. I like that feel. Before, [Joel] Embiid had a tough time when we could throw both different looks at him. We miss the different looks.”
First, let’s take a big picture look at things. One of the most fundamental ideas with three point shots is you don’t want to just throw as many as possible up — you want open shots, you want catch-and-shoot shots, you don’t want to be tossing up contested step back threes (with few exceptions from some star players).
So, what has changed since last year in that sense? It’s been well-reported that the Raptors are attempting more threes than even last year, when they saw their totals increase pretty significantly. They’ve gone from 24 attempts per game two seasons ago, to 32 last season, and now to 33 this season.
Let’s look specifically at the change over the past two seasons. Where did those extra attempts come from?
Well, in 2017-18, the Raptors attempted 24.5 catch and shoot threes per game, hitting on 37% (8.9) of them. They attempted 7.6 pull-up threes per game, hitting 34% (2.6) of them. 16 of their 32 attempts came as wide open attempts (6+ feet from the nearest defender), on which they hit at a 39% clip. Only 3.2 attempts per game came in the final 4 seconds of the shot clock, a scenario where they only hit 24% of their threes.
This season, they have attempted 24 catch and shoot threes. Note the similarity to last season’s total. They’ve hit on 36% of those threes, an almost identical mark to last season.
They have, however, increased their total threes — which means their pull-up threes have been coming more often. They are up to nearly nine attempts per game, on which they are shooting only 30% — which amounts to 2.6 makes, exactly the same number as last year in spite of taking more than 1 extra attempt per game. So, puzzle piece num
This week’s ranking: 4th
Last week’s ranking: 4th
Overall record: 38-16
Last week: 1-1 (Lost vs. Bucks, Won vs. Clippers)
This week: at 76ers, at Hawks, at Knicks
Biggest question: Will Kyle Lowry bounce back?
Kyle Lowry has been two different players this season.
The first is the one who led the Raptors to their best start in franchise history with numbers that made him look like Steve Nash in his MVP years.
The second is the one who has been inconsistent since missing his first game of the season with a back injury.
Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, hobbled by a bad back, is “doubtful but you never know,” according to Raptors coach Nick Nurse … The Sixers are back home after a 2-2 western road trip … Philadelphia has lost starting forward Wilson Chandler for at least a couple of weeks with a quad strain … The Sixers routed the Raptors in the last meeting, beating a team that was without Lowry and Kawhi Leonard by 25 points … Heading into Monday games, Philadelphia was in a tie with Boston for third in the East and half a game up on fifth-place Indiana … The Sixers are 21-5 at home this season.
The Clippers, missing key cog Danilo Gallinari, had no legs after the opening 12 minutes.
“This is a ridiculous back to back. I don’t complain a lot about scheduling, but this is ridiculous,” Rivers had said pre-game.
“We knew it would be as soon as we saw it. 5pm we started last night. I think the league forgets; it’s not 24 hours from the time the game starts, it’s 24 from when the game finishes. That puts us at like 18 hours ago that we were actually playing basketball – in another country. That makes it sound worse, I like that part. We’re playing another game now, and what makes it worse is that Toronto didn’t play. We don’t mind the back to backs, but make sure the team we’re playing is coming off a back-to-back as well so they don’t get an unfair advantage. But I could guarantee Toronto could care less.” Rivers was right on that count. Missing Kyle Lowry due to his back issues resurfacing, Toronto wasn’t at peak readiness either.
But Kawhi Leonard rampaged through everybody the opponents threw at him and other Raptors stepped up, including point guards Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright.
Serge Ibaka had a pep in his step following a mediocre outing against Milwaukee. Ibaka picked up a double-double for a sixth-straight game, a career best. Most memorably, Ibaka went way up to pull down an offensive rebound in the second quarter, the point of the game where the Raptors stepped on the gas and blew away the Clippers. The big man followed up with an emphatic dunk.
For some context, the Raptors are getting up 33.2 threes per-game, narrowly ahead of last season’s franchise best. Technically, a slightly smaller portion of their shots have come from beyond the arc, but an uptick in pace has made this their most voluminous 3-point season to date. With a 34.5-percent mark on those shots, the Raptors rank 22nd in the league in effectiveness.
“We go 2-for-17 in the first half. I went through the tape, and about 15 of those I am probably taking,” head coach Nick Nurse said after the team’s loss to Milwaukee last week. “That’s kind of what you’ve got to do: You’ve got to make some shots over the top of them to win.”
He’s not wrong. The Clippers all but abandoned the three with tired legs on Sunday and the Raptors made them pay, even on a night they didn’t shoot very well themselves. The modern NBA does not allow for the removal of the three as a weapon, even on frustrating nights.
Outside shooting is by its nature high-variance, and that means even good teams will have poor shooting nights. The Raptors are not exactly unique in the wide spread of their 3-point shooting outcomes game-to-game, though they do tend to have fewer sub-30 percent nights than average.
The Knicks are exploring the trade market for Wes Matthews before Thursday's 3 PM deadline, league sources say, but there are also several antsy suitors hoping Matthews makes it to the buyout market. Among them: Houston, Oklahoma City, Toronto, Philadelphia and, yes, Golden State
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) February 4, 2019
We need to talk about Kyle Lowry and why it’s so significant that he’s going to the NBA All-Star Game for the fifth time – even if you can make an argument he doesn’t deserve to be there.
Because while it won’t make Kawhi Leonard any more inclined to sign here, it is a reflection that Toronto and the Raptors are something more than an NBA outpost which, given the whining in this city over the league’s ‘snubbing’ of a Christmas Day network appearance, seems to be something that continues to need mentioning.
Think about it: when Lowry came to the Raptors he was more or less tabbed as being a slightly out of shape malcontent – not a coach-killer, per se, but certainly a brooding, moody sour puss. The Raptors apparently thought he was a bit of a too-round peg too, since Masai Ujiri effectively traded him to the New York Knicks only to have Knicks owner James Dolan nix the deal. Since then, he’s been an elected All-Star starter twice and been named as a reserve by Eastern Conference coaches on three other occasions.
In a social league where assistant coaches move from team to team and everybody talks to everybody, it seems the word is out on Lowry. And it’s good enough that with even the most miserable three-point percentage since he became an NBA starter, they think enough of him to pick him ahead of D’Angelo Russell (or at least dislike him less than Jimmy Butler.)