The dog days of the NBA season grow shorter and shorter. The league is constantly working toward becoming a 365 day a year sport, but we’re not there quite yet. Here we are, sitting in between training camps and the madness that was free agency. Naturally, a roundtable comprised of goofy questions and (hopefully) goofier answers will provide another day of intrigue before we can sink our teeth into the upcoming season. Enjoy.
A beloved chapter of the New York Knicks history is Chris Smith’s joining of the team; an attempt to appease the recently appointed 6th man of the year, JR Smith, who just so happened to be his brother. Thanasis Antetokounmpo joined his brother Giannis on the Bucks this off-season, so the question has to be asked, if you had the pull to get a family member a roster spot, who would it be, and who would their player comparison be?
This could be the most difficult basketball question I’ve ever answered. Nobody in my family would want to be in the NBA. In fact, they’d all hate it. So I’ll go with my oldest sister because she bullied me the most when I was a child.
This one easily goes to my golden retriever, Sandy. She’s well past her prime at 13, but her nose-eye coordination is still (kinda) there and she’s the ultimate team player, so an Air Bud player comparison is somewhat plausible.
If I had the clout to get a family member a roster spot, it would definitely be for my brother, Neil, who is a big hoop head and use to play ball. He’s a good teammate, hits his free throws and will happily do the dirty work, so he’s basically a lite version of Brian Scalabrine.
Probably my brother, Liam. He doesn’t know a lick about basketball, but he is 6 ft. tall and has spent his life perfecting the art of annoying people (mainly me) to the point of a mental breakdown. Picture Patrick Beverly and Draymond Green becoming one person, and that’s him. What he lacks in skill, he will make up for in getting his opponent so frustrated that they will be ejected for beating the shit out of him.
Step One: Find out Zion’s entire high school/college crew and anyone else on his recent chats on WhatsApp. Step Two: Create new D-League team. Step Three: Raptors 905 vs Raptors 647.
My brother, Max. If it weren’t for his love of basketball I likely never would have been involved in the sport as much as I was in my teens. Considering I’m trying to make this my line of work, that looms pretty large in my life. If I never go to Gonzaga to hoop, I probably don’t end up writing about basketball for a living. Not only that, but Max is taller than me, and was the only guy on our high school team who could throw down. He also has a Kenneth Faried type of tenacity, except it’s on the defensive end. Like a 6’3″ Ed Davis.
You get to add 3 Canadian players to the National team squad and they’re guaranteed to be healthy, who do you add?
Well, I’d add my oldest sister, obviously. And then probably Jamal Murray. And Steve Nash. I still think about what if.
Similar to how Team USA is approaching the World Cup, I would have loved if Team Canada could have built around the young guys. In particular, I’m highest on Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Jamal Murray, and R.J. Barrett’s potential going forward in the league, so it would have been great to watch them develop some chemistry together.
I would really love to see Jamal Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Andrew Wiggins suit up for Canada. Our country is producing a lot of top-end talent so it would be really nice to see them represent our country one day.
Duane Notice, Mikyle McIntosh, and Murphy Burnatowski. I got to watch them all play during the CEBL season, and there is no reason they shouldn’t have been on Team Canada.
Can’t answer this.
Jamal Murray, Andrew Wiggins, and Kelly Olynyk. Those are the three guys I would add to this current FIBA roster because I think they are the best Canadians at their respective position’s who aren’t on the team. However, if we are thinking about long-term commitments, I would rather see SGA and RJ Barrett commit over Wiggins and Olynyk.
I’ve finally jumped off of Wiggins Island, so he’s not going to be included for me. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Brandon Clarke, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are all hopping on my squad. It’s a youth movement filled with length, vigor, and gumption!
What is the most overrated and underrated aspect of Pascal Siakam’s game?
The most overrated aspect of Siakam’s game is probably his ability to finish while static against length. I wouldn’t have dreamed that this aspect was overrated, as he was one of the best finishers at the rim during the regular season. But Jonathan Isaac, Joel Embiid, and Brook Lopez / Giannis Antetokounmpo forced Siakam into some difficult games. He can be knocked off balance, and he can force the issue. Still, that’s better than settling for jumpers, and Siakam is clearly an elite finisher. It’s far, far from a weakness, but it might be a little bit overrated, at this point. I’d say the most underrated part of Siakam’s game is his defense. People really focused on his offensive improvements this season, but he took leaps and bounds as a defender. He’s one of the only defenders who switches as a weapon; the Raptors always want him near the ball. Siakam has the whole package: insane athleticism, anticipation, and multiple efforts. He even improved dramatically as a rebounder and rim protector last season. He’s probably within the range of the 10-15 best defenders in the league at this point.
For overrated, I think it’s Siakam’s outside shot. As modern basketball coaches will tell you, there’s a big difference between ‘a guy that shoots 37 percent from three’ and ‘a 37 percent three-point shooter’. And, as we saw in the playoffs when he dipped down below 28 percent, Siakam is the former. Until we get an expanded sample size of him shooting above league average from three, I just can’t fully trust that awkward release.
I absolutely love Siakam’s game and his progression as a basketball player so it’s tough to pinpoint one aspect of his game that is overrated. However, if I had to nitpick, I would say his playmaking. Last year, he had a tendency to tunnel vision his drives so it’s a bit of a concern heading into this season with him being the alpha dog. I’m confident he’ll figure it out as the game slows down for him.
An aspect that is underrated is definitely his work ethic. He literally started playing basketball 10 years ago so it’s absolutely astonishing to see his growth as a player. With the growth that he’s experienced his first few years, it’s not unimaginable to see become a top 15 player, regular all-star and All-NBA talent. The sky is the limit for Spicy P!
Overrrated: Nothing. He is perfect in every single way. If I had to pick something, I guess it would be having him branded as a “young up and coming star” when he is already 25.
Underrated: His speed. We know he’s fast, everyone knows he’s fast. But we don’t really realize just how fast he is, and how he NEVER GETS TIRED. Also his PS heart logo. Please start selling things so I can buy every single one of them.
Not sure overrated, but his stop-fake-spin move where he got a lot of points last year was being neutralized very easily later on in the post-season. If you account for that trend to continue into next season he’s going to have to find something different to get points off easily. That move put him in positions where he was also able to use his unorthodox release positions so it’ll be interesting to see what his next move is as defenses counter.
As far as underrated, he can be a terrific passer and will surprise many by how he can find people while under duress/facing a double. If he’s shown one thing it’s the ability to learn and grow so knowing that it’s a shortfall in his current game, I think he’ll step up big time.
Underrated: His basketball IQ and unpredictability. Siakam has a rare ability to score in clutch situations despite not having a great jump shot, and he does this in large part due to his unpredictability and array of unique moves. That is how he was able to score on guys like Joel Embiid and Draymond Green when they had game-planned for him.
Overrated: Outside shooting. Siakam had a great regular season shooting from the corners, but he was otherwise poor shooting threes above the arc and poor in general throughout the playoffs. Plus, Siakam 14 and 22 percent from three in his first two seasons in the NBA, so there is a chance last year was an outlier as he shot 37 percent. Although I do think Siakam’s jump shot will continue to improve and his three-point shot will eventually be around league-average, his biggest jump next season could come on the defensive side of the floor.
Overrated: There are flashy aspects of Siakam’s game that have been talked about to death. And those are generally – by proxy of being talked about so often – what are considered overrated. His spin move, while very deft and a useful part of his offensive arsenal, was sat on by most opposing defenses towards the end of the year. That, and his ability to score in transition. Both are very useful, but aren’t options you can simply turn to when the offense bogs down, which limits his ceiling as a “go to guy”. It all depends on what type of player you see him becoming.
Underrated: His defense is (I think) incredibly underrated. I thought he deserved to be on an All-NBA defense team for his efforts last year, and the Raptors utilized him to attack ball-handlers repeatedly last year. He’s a swiss-army knife on defense, but his versatility doesn’t come at the expense of any type of specialty. He guards his position extremely well, he guards wings very well, and for short spurts can lock up opposing floor generals, there isn’t really a drop off anywhere.
What was your fondest, and most esoteric memory of the Raptors championship run to think back on during the summer?
My best memory of the Raptors championship run was the closeout game six against the Milwaukee Bucks. The energy in the second half of the game was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It was hard to put into words. It didn’t have the climax of Kawhi’s game-winner (Kawhi dunking on Giannis in transition was pretty darn close), but it had a frenzied energy that seemed to last an eternity.
Undoubtedly, it’s watching a hobbled Kawhi Leonard step on the Warriors necks in Game 5 of the Finals with my roommates. Although those few minutes of absolute dominance have been somewhat lost to the annals of history due to Nick Nurse’s ill-timed timeout, it remains breathtaking to watch. Each time Leonard got the ball, it felt over for the Warriors. It was like watching Tom Brady lead a fourth-quarter drive when he has it going: the defence had no chance. Although it’s hard to complain considering they won the series, it’s hard not to wish that moment had been the finishing touches on the Raptors’ run.
I’m a big ‘FVV’ fan so I always think back to the three he had late in game 6 where he absolutely lost Quinn Cook. GSW called a timeout right after and I remember Fred letting out a scream as he walked back to the huddle. At that moment, I knew we were going to win the finals. I’ll never forget that moment.
The random moments that it hits you. Sitting in the car, in the shower, at the store. Sometimes it just pops into your brain and you can’t help but stop, smile, and take it all in all over again.
For whatever reason, it was Siakam’s spin move late in Game 6. I felt that was the moment that we got over the hump.
In terms of the basketball, definitely Kawhi’s buzzer-beater against the 76ers. That was simultaneously one of the greatest wins and most crushing losses I have ever seen, and I think Phili will be better next year because of it.
In terms of my personal memory, celebrating the NBA Championship in a bar and popping champaign and running around the city high-fiving people was unforgettable.
Oddly enough, it’s something that comes at my own expense; I bet my friend Derrick a case of beer that the Raptors wouldn’t lose Game 1 vs. Orlando. The fact that the year I lost that bet, the Raptors won the championship still dumbfounds me. Chalk it up to horrible luck or the game 1 curse, I don’t care, but that’s the memory.
What did you do to try and fill the basketball sized hole in your heart this summer?
Honestly, I kind of enjoyed the break from basketball. It was a long season. But I watched – and wrote about – a ton of professional ultimate frisbee. (It’s awesome. You should check it out.) I watched all of the Wire. Exciting stuff. But I’m ready for ball to begin immediately.
As I do most summers, I made an overly ambitious list of books I wanted to read and knocked out around half of them. Of note, reading 1984 by George Orwell for the first time was a perspective changing experience, to say the least.
It really felt like basketball never left in the summer. The NBA free agency absolutely dominated the sports world in July and the FIBA World Cup started in August so we haven’t had that much downtime from ball. And once that wraps up, NBA training camp starts and we’ll be back to the regular routine. The NBA has basically turned into a 24/7/365 media frenzy.
THE WNBA. People don’t realize just how talented these women are, and how fun the games are to watch. Brittney Griner got ejected and suspended for swinging at an opposing player. Elena Delle Donne is a 94% free throw shooter. NINETY FOUR PERCENT. Also, there is no rule saying women can’t play in the NBA, so Masai, if you’re reading this, please sign Brittney Griner or DeWanna Bonner or Leilani Mitchell or Courtney Williams or…
Documentaries. Watched a lot of documentaries. The Vietnam War on Netlflix (made by PBS) was my favorite.
Tennis. Tennis is a dope sport and I’m learning to appreciate it more with NBA basketball on hiatus.
I was fortunate enough to spend lots of time with my family, which was great.