Raptors keep winning | Siakam da real MVP | Nurse is a great coach | DeRozan rumours
Most Common Embiid Defenders*, Last 2+ seasons
(Embiid points per 100 matchups)
1. Marc Gasol ….. 18.3
2. Al Horford …… 24.5
3. N. Vucevic ….. 31.9
4. Aron Baynes .. 32.4
5. Enes Kanter … 36.3
6. Brook Lopez .. 38.5
7. Jarrett Allen … 41.2
8. A. Drummond 42.7 pic.twitter.com/d1lFWP5HfE
— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) November 27, 2019
Three — Bully: Siakam has also adopted an unmistakable alpha quality. A prime example of this was in the second quarter, when Siakam barrelled to the rim and didn’t get the foul call, and then lost his way on defense which ultimately forced him to foul. Siakam barked at the officials and pleaded for a review from Nick Nurse (who wisely declined after seeing that it was a clear foul on the jumbotron). So how did Siakam respond? He collected the rebound, sized up Julius Randle a second time, and pulled up for a 25-footer right in his face.
Pascal’s numbers tell one side of the story. The other side is a tale best told by considering Siakam’s penchant for continuously finding new ways to stunt on his opponents. Here it was a straight-on driving lay-up with a Euro-step finish, followed by a pull-up 21-footer under pressure, and then his second three of the game. Then, assuming you’ve figured him out, Siakam changed it up again: it was back to a floater in the lane after a steal, then another 3 — don’t forget the off-ball action during which he found Rondae Hollis-Jefferson for an easy bucket — and then another wacky turnaround hook shot. Just one half in the books, but, thanks to Siakam, the game was already done.
In this, Siakam acts as the perfect fulcrum for a Raptors team that is both disciplined and ruled by chaos. We’ve made this joke before but Toronto has now turned their manic lineups into something of a feature instead of a bug. With Fred VanVleet orchestrating, the Raptors first let the bench unit settle into the game; then they flip the switch and run the bench-heavy lineup with Siakam, giving their opponents a different look. On the evening, VanVleet had a subdued 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, plus three rebounds and four assists, but once again his ability to set the tone worked wonders. Just look at the production of Terence Davis, Chris Boucher, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
When coupled with OG Anunoby and one of either FVV or Siakam, the Raptors have a unit that can hound players on defense, and dictate just enough offense to put teams away. Against the Knicks, that’s easier to do than against most teams, but still: it suggests a growing confidence in the Raptors’ trio of new players thrust into even newer roles. While Siakam and FVV led the way, and Anunoby supplied the secondary action (including 13 points and 12 rebounds, with three 3s), Toronto just kept pouring it on.
For the second unit, Davis led the way with another solid 15-point, 4-rebound, 5-assist night. TD was confident in the pick-and-roll, confident taking it to the rim, and confident when shooting the three (he was 3-of-8 on the night). His brother in chaos Boucher continued to do what he did best too: flying around the glass and bombing threes — good enough for a 13-12 double-double with five offensive boards. RHJ, meanwhile, filled every gap between the two and chipped in another 12 points. We’ll see where the trio ends up when Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Patrick McCaw — their three predecessors — return, but for now it’s been fun to watch the show.
The Knicks are back!
Wait, no, that’s not right.
The Knicks are bad! Yes, that feels correct.
Although, I guess the Knicks being “back” would imply that they’re “bad,” since the Knicks have been mostly bad this season but had a decent outing against the Brooklyn Nets their last time out.
Oh, yeah, anyway… the Knicks lost 126-98 to the Raptors tonight. This particular blogger and podcaster tuned out about halfway through the third quarter, but you’d be fully excused if you checked out and went drinking with your high school friends well before that.
It wasn’t bad the whole time though! The Knicks did actually finish the first quarter ahead 29-21 and led by as much as 11. Unfortunately, there were three other quarters to play, and the Knicks got absolutely shelled in those, including a 37-17 disaster of a second quarter. The Raptors made 21 of 41 3-pointers if you’re looking for an explanation.
Let’s get some positives out in the open real quick. RJ Barrett went home to Canada, and even though he shot a
On Thanksgiving Eve, the New York Knicks lost to the Toronto Raptors, 126-98. It was another blowout game as this was over mid-way through the third quarter.
This was another hard game to watch as a Knick fan. The effort level was very poor, and you can see how far this team is from being consistently competitive.
Evident by the spread, the Knicks were overmatched but everyone expected more of a fight, especially after the first quarter lead of eight points. The Knicks were clicking, hitting a bunch of threes and playing with energy. They hit 5 three-pointers, and the ball was moving in the first quarter.
For the rest of the way, however, New York only made five more three-pointers on 26 attempts, contributing to a 28-point loss on the road. The lack of players that can get to the paint has made the Knicks so reliant on making outside shots, that they are not getting consistent good looks.
But whether it was Terrence Davis and his 15 points, four rebound, five assists game, or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and his 12 points, four boards or Chris Boucher with his third double-double of the season, the bench is erasing any and all of those earlier doubts about Toronto’s depth.
Siakam, though, remains the drawing card as he surpassed the 30-point mark with 31 on the night for the seventh time this season. He also enjoyed his personal best three-point shooting night of his NBA career matching his best with five threes in just eight attempts.
You’ve heard me say this before, I still think he’s maybe 18 months away from being really deadly out there,” Nurse said of Siakam’s shooting. “Maybe I’m wrong, he seems to cut all my timelines in about half or, you know, more than that sometimes. But I keep saying this, when he went to work on it, he went to work on it. That was the phase of, let’s get the mechanics right. Let’s get the balance, get the release, get the backspin, get all those things right.”
Well, the shot doesn’t always look totally right. He’s eased his way into some big games, but when he gets on a roll like he did last night, it feels like he can’t miss.
Barrett sent his personal supporting cast of about 300 family and friends home happy enough with a 15 point, five rebound night, but it was clear he was not playing at 100% having spent the past two days in bed recovering from a respiratory illness.
With the win Toronto set an NBA mark winning its 33rd consecutive game against an Atlantic-Division opponent. The Knicks were the last division rival to beat Toronto on its home court and you have to go back more than four years ago for that one.
“M-V-P, M-V-P, M-V-P,” they screamed.
It’s too early, and too far-fetched, but if there was a legitimate discussion about the top five or 10 players in the NBA at this particular moment, the Raptors forward would certainly be in it.
The ascendant fourth-year forward exploded for 31 points in just 30 minutes Monday at the Scotiabank Arena, leading the Raptors to an easy 126-98 victory over the New York Knicks.
Now, the Knicks are basically inept and fully deserving of the 4-14 record they are dragging around today, but Siakam had his way whenever he wanted, scoring in the post at will, tying his career high with five made three-pointers and posting his seventh game with 30 or more points this season.
“He saw a lot of space and he took it at times and he’d jab-step and pull back a few times early, and I love it,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I think he’s ultra-aggressive, a lot of catch-and-shoot threes, which I love.
“Those are easy possessions, he doesn’t have to get pounded on or make three spin moves to get a shot up or anything. It’s nice that he gets to come down and take some of those.”
There were more easy possessions that many could imagine for the Raptors, who set a franchise record with their eighth straight home win to open the season.
Assuming Scenario #1 from your excellent VanVleet article (Siakam makes All-NBA Third Team appears most likely), is there a pre-emptive roster move you’d like to see (i.e. trading Powell) to further improve the roster makeup before the Summer of ’21 FA pitch?
Yeah, I think Powell is the piece that would most directly impact that analysis. While he’s a culture-builder off the court and a useful rotation player, the Raptors could operate with more freedom if they believed he would opt out of that year of his deal or if they could find a home for him. I’m sure they’ll explore opportunities that involve him over the next year — his deal is helpful for salary matching, although he’s probably a slightly negative asset with his contract — either to improve the team or open up flexibility or both.
What type of deal they’re able to make with VanVleet and whether Antetokounmpo signs his super-max this summer will also be factors that could shift their aggressiveness on the summer trade market. They have all of their first-round picks and have shown a willingness to use those as currency since their talent identification and player development has been so strong.
While net efficiency ratings sound a bit more complicated than conventional stats, the metric is fairly intuitive. Offensive efficiency is a measure of points scored per 100 possessions, while defensive efficiency tracks the number of points allowed per 100 possessions; net efficiency takes both ends of the floor into consideration.
Unsurprisingly, the Raptors are doing quite well at both ends of the floor. Head coach Nick Nurse, however, won’t get too invested in any metrics right now. “I guess, I hate to say, I don’t really care,” he said.
“I think it’s been such a funky start for us, and it’s early,” Nurse continued. “Those stats are always skewed. The schedule, I think we’ve played eight of our (first) 12 games on the road. We’ve played really tough competition. I’m not really caught up on where we’re ranked right now.”
“It sounds crazy, but Toronto actually makes a lot of sense as a landing spot for DeRozan,” another Western Conference executive said. “As far as what Toronto would have to give up, it would probably have to be a first-round pick plus Serge Ibaka or Marc Gasol.”
That theory might seem far-fetched but with DeRozan cast as the team’s third fiddle behind Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry, and surrounded by the Raptors’ other promising young pieces like Fred VanVleet, his second go-around with Toronto could go even better than the first.
Of course, we would be remiss not to mention DeRozan’s enormous contract, which has an uncertain future, as a potential stumbling block in trade talks.
That same Western Conference exec shared the following on how teams view DeRozan’s deal: “With a player option next year, the team that’s trading for him has to be comfortable with him potentially leaving a couple months later, or having to re-sign him to a new long-term deal. Maybe this turns into an opt-in-and-trade scenario, so there’s more security for the team and they know what they’re trading for contractually.”
DeRozan’s contract pays him $27.7 million both this season and in 2020-21, with the latter campaign containing a player option, meaning that whichever team does theoretically acquire him would do so without knowing whether he’ll be on their roster next season.
One NBA executive pointed out that perhaps an extend-and-trade involving DeRozan would benefit all parties involved: “He wants an extension, so maybe we see an extend-and-trade. As for how much he’d get, the extension can’t go above 105 percent of his current contract. But maybe that’s a possibility.”
The Raptors are really good without Kawhi Leonard
It feels obvious to say “Yes, of course the Raptors are still good. They won the Finals last year!” But, holy crap, this team is still somehow very good without its best player.
Losing Leonard is a huge deal. The Spurs have been a wreck since he left, but Toronto hasn’t, even without an obvious stud to replace him. Looking at the current Raptors roster two years ago, you’d think they’d be a .500 team at best. But they’ve helped develop Pascal Siakam into a superstar (which wasn’t an inevitability even six months ago.) Fred VanVleet has turned into a really productive NBA player. Toronto’s flipped role players into more impactful players.
The Raptors are 12-4. They have the fourth-best net rating in the NBA, outscoring teams by 7.3 points per 100 possessions. They’ve been without both Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka for half of the season so far (eight games.) Yet Nick Nurse has Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris Boucher, OG Anunoby and Chris Boucher filling in all the same. That’s bonkers y’all.
2) Pascal Siakam, Forward, Tronto Raptors
2019-2020 salary: $2.3 million
Win Shares: 2.0
Though he technically only ranks 14th in Win Shares right now, Siakam has been by far the biggest x-factor in the defending champs’ 12-4 start. He’s seamlessly taken over alpha dog status from Kawhi Leonard to the tune of 25.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and four assists per game, with robust percentages despite attempting more than eight more field goals per game this year than last.
The 25-year-old has been so impressive that he’s drawn some major early consideration to be named the NBA’s Most Improved Player for a second year in a row. Siakam is a major reason why Toronto is in the top 10 in both offensive (8th) and defensive (6th) efficiency. He scored 25 and had the team’s top defensive rating in the Raps’ huge win over Philadelphia on Monday where Joel Embiid was held scoreless for the first time in his career.
Though Siakam is making a relatively small amount this year, he did receive a well deserved raise before the start of the regular season. The Cameroonian inked a four-year, $130 million extension that starts in 2020-2021, so his stay on this list will be short lived. I think Toronto is okay with that.
Toronto does everything Fizdale wants his Knicks (4-14) to do. The Raptors are even led by the NBA’s most underrated coach, Nick Nurse, who didn’t get enough national acclaim for upsetting the Warriors and outdueling Steve Kerr.
Ujiri made a gutsy call in firing Dwane Casey before last season and promoting the young assistant whose claim to fame was coaching in England.
“Their speed is incredible,’’ Fizdale said of the Raptors. “They can really shoot the basketball. They’re one of the most unselfish teams I’ve ever seen.”
Fizdale also gave immense credit to Marc Gasol as a top-notch defensive center. Fizdale feuded with Gasol in Memphis, leading to his ouster as coach and subsequent signing with the Knicks. Now he’s no sure thing to finish his second season out in New York, unless Dolan pulls the plug first on team president Steve Mills.
Dolan had interest in pursuing Ujiri, the former Nuggets GM, after firing Phil Jackson in 2017, but the draft compensation was too large, according to sources. Instead he promoted Mills. There’s speculation Dolan would make another run at Ujiri if he gets a chance.
“He’s the best GM in the league, why wouldn’t Dolan be interested if there’s an opening,’’ one NBA source who has spoken to the Knicks said.
His big break happened after he got a tap on the shoulders during a pre-draft event in Orlando. He turned to see Bryan Colangelo, president and GM of the Raptors who wanted to know if Ujiri was interested in working in Toronto.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is Bryan Colangelo talking to me,’” he said. This encounter got him a job as director of global scouting in Toronto. Recounting the experience, he said, “I was like a sponge. I had to learn the salary cap. I had to learn about the business side of the game. I had to learn trading. I had to learn how to talk on the phone to other executives. I learned all that from Bryan Colangelo.”
He did such a good job that Tim Leiweke, then president of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), came calling. “He had the same kind of juice and determination that I did,” Leiweke said. “A desire to be great wherever he went.”
Ujiri was hired as the general manager of the Raptors, described as a “team the league did not respect” by Toronto Life. With this title, he became the first African-born general manager in NBA history. He later accepted the position of president of basketball operations. Within six years, his team won its first championship and succeeded in rebranding an entire city.
“First he rebranded his team, then he rebranded Toronto,” Toronto Life wrote. “He made us feel worthy of a championship and then went out and got us one. But the Raptors president did more than just secure an NBA trophy. This year, Ujiri, more than anyone else, engineered a new Toronto identity: city of winners.
This is exactly why he has been named the most influential person in Toronto.
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