Fan Duel Toronto Raptors

Morning Coffee – Wed, Aug 5

Nurse deserved COY respect from other coaches | Not worried about Siakam's play so far | VanVleet gon' get paid yo! | Raptors are a menace to the bubble

The Raptors are the NBA’s biggest pain in the ass –

Toronto’s defense is creative, versatile, and effective
Kawhi Leonard might be the best defensive wing of his generation. So how exactly did the Raptors defense get better without him?

Last year’s Raps ended with the league’s fifth-best defensive rating at 106.8. This season, Toronto is No. 2 in the NBA with a 104.7 defensive rating, trailing only the Bucks.

Having a healthy OG Anunoby and a full season of Marc Gasol has certainly helped. Even still, much of the credit rightfully goes to the coaching staff. Head coach Nick Nurse and his assistants have devised a dynamic defense that that can throw endless looks at the opposition: hybrid zones, half-court traps, full court pressing, and that infamous box-and-one are all part of the mix and deployed by players with length, intelligence, and discipline.

Mike Prada wrote the definitive piece on the Raptors’ defense back in February. Essentially, Toronto is willing to concede three-point shots but only after furious closeouts that plant a seed of doubt in any would-be shooter’s mind. To quote Prada, that constant pressure makes opponents see ghosts.

A few notable stats:

  • The Raptors have the NBA’s stingiest transition defense, allowing only 1.04 points per possession.
  • They’re second-best in the league in points off turnovers.
  • While Toronto gave up the second most three-point attempts in the league, opponents hit the lowest percentage in the NBA on those attempts.

In an unprecedented and bizarre setting within the bubble, Toronto knows it can always fall back on its defense. It’s going to keep opposing coaches up all night as the seeding games give way to the playoffs.

Jordan Loyd’s long, pandemic-induced wait for his Raptors championship ring – The Athletic

One of the toughest parts about being stuck overseas was seeing the anti-racism movements taking place at home and around the world. Loyd marched with Senegalese teammate Maurice Ndour at a protest in Valencia, stayed up with developments in the United States via social media and read to further his understanding of the history of anti-Black and systemic racism around the world, but it was difficult not to be on the ground at home.

“When you’re looking at it — like, every day I was waking up to something just crazy,” Loyd said. “It’s always been present, you know; there’s been stuff going on for a long, long time, but everything was highlighted now, and here I am sitting in Spain. I really felt like I wanted to be as involved with that as I could. I did my research and I posted things — stuff for people to be able to help out and contribute. I decided to try to learn as much as I can. One thing I think is powerful that others can do is just educate yourself.”

Despite those challenges, Loyd is headed back overseas shortly. On Friday, less than six weeks after he got back, he’ll head to Serbia to begin training with his new team, KK Crvena Zvezda. (“Just say Red Star,” he said.) Instead of his being alone for the better part of another year, his girlfriend will eventually join him. It’s a necessary sacrifice, with the NBA and international offseasons not lining up this year because of the NBA’s delayed relaunch, which could have left Loyd without a guarantee instead of with a secure spot on a EuroLeague team with which he should have a significant role. If he can’t be in the NBA, that situation is the next best thing.

“I’ve been fortunate that every decision I’ve made has been a positive one,” he said. “It doesn’t always work out that way, but I’m never one to second-guess or say maybe I shouldn’t have. I’m always confident in my decision. I have no regrets. To sign with a EuroLeague team, where you can showcase a lot — a lot more than I did this year — and take that approach and see what happens next, I thought it was a great place to go and play. You know, still get the EuroLeague level, but then really just be a priority of the team and showcase what I can do. So I’m really excited.”

The drawback is that, with the time difference, Loyd won’t be able to as easily watch the Raptors try to repeat. In their quest to do so, a new batch of players will be in Loyd’s position, with only a slightly better chance of playing and the need to balance helping the team prepare with putting in time toward their own development. That was invaluable for Loyd, and he has advice for the Paul Watsons and Oshae Brissetts in his shoes this time around.

The Raptors must re-sign Fred VanVleet. The cost of losing him is too high | The Star

VanVleet’s future is sure to be a hot-button topic, for the Raptors and the rest of the league, when this fractured season ends and the NBA turns its sights toward the usual free-agent shenanigans. He will be entirely free once October hits and the market opens, and he’s going to be in demand.

His contract, originally a two-year deal worth $9 million (U.S.) when he signed it two years and a month ago, is a bargain in the NBA world and he’s due for a significant raise.

And even with major questions surrounding the salary cap when this season is over — thanks to hundreds of millions of dollars evaporating from the market thanks to COVID-19 and a four-month hiatus — VanVleet will cash in.

He will not cheat himself financially — he understand the harsh business realities of pro sports better than most — and the Raptors are going to have to back up the money truck to his front door to keep him.

But keep him they must.

Star point guard Kyle Lowry is eight years older and will be going into the last year of his deal next season, making VanVleet a significant part of any continuity plans Raptors general manager Bobby Webster has.

Raptors’ Fred VanVleet Ensuring Himself A Huge Deal In NBA Free Agency – Forbes

Depending on the salary cap this fall, VanVleet could double his $9 million annual salary with Toronto or an outside suitor in need of a point guard. Detroit, coached by former Raps head man Dwane Casey and New York have been rumored destinations for the 26-year-old if he decides to depart The North. New Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau would probably like a player like the Illinois native who’s been a tough-nosed winner since his days at Wichita State.

But whether it was a perceived lack of athleticism, shooting or something else, VanVleet went undrafted out of college and wasn’t ready to settle for some ordinary G-League spot.

Toronto’s player development system turned out to be the perfect place for VanVleet to grow as a player and play the game in his uniquely intensely confident way. His playing minutes and role have grown in each of his four seasons, leading him to a two-year, $18 million deal to stay in Canada after the 2017-2018 season despite averaging 8.6 points per game in just 20 minutes of playing time per contest.

What may have been viewed as an overpay at the time is a bargain now. Will VanVleet still be a bargain with this huge payday he’ll likely command in the offseason, barring inury? With Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol’s contracts coming off the books, Toronto will be able to afford him. Based off the first two bubble games, the Raptors may not be able to afford being without him in the future.

Fred VanVleet is Going to Make Some Serious Money This Summer – The Big Lead

VanVleet is the best available unrestricted free agent in a very dry 2020 free agent market. There’s a chance players like Gordon Hayward or DeMar DeRozan exercise their player options and hit free agency, but that feels very unlikely with the uncertainty of the times. After that, the best available free agent will be… Paul Millsap? Tim Hardaway Jr.? There will be players of similar skill to VanVleet out there, but none of them can be a building block for the future like the 26-year-old point guard.

It’s hard to discern what the impact of the pandemic will be on team’s cap sheets and their willingness to spend, but there will be plenty of suitors for what VanVleet brings to the table. He won’t be getting anything like a max contract, but Terry Rozier got a three-year, $56 million deal just last offseason, and VanVleet is far better. If he really wanted to, he could probably stay with Toronto. But Pascal Siakam is due a hefty extension, Kyle Lowry is on the books for $34 million next year, and both Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol are free agents, too.

If VanVleet wants to maximize his earnings, which seems likely after he entered the league as an undrafted free agent, testing the waters of the open market will be the direction he’ll go. And there are a lot of bad teams who sure could use a steady hand at point guard with money to spend this fall.

Pascal Siakam’s early bubble play doesn’t concern Raptors –

Siakam does appear to not be all the way there in terms of shots inside the arc. In the two seeding games the Raptors have played, Siakam is only 6-of-19 on looks 19 feet away from the basket or less, including just 4-of-12 on attempts fewer than five feet from the bucket.

That last stat in particular is problematic because before the season hiatus, Siakam would convert on those five-feet-or-less looks at a 61.4 per cent clip.

It’s hard to point to what exactly the issue is with Siakam finishing inside, but seeing him get blocked as easily as this certainly isn’t very encouraging.

With that said, it has only been two games and with Nurse and the Raptors coaching staff comfortable with where Siakam’s at offensively, in addition to the success the team’s enjoyed thus far in the bubble, this slow start is probably just a blip on the radar.

The Raptors next play the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, who will be without Jonathan Isaac due to his season-ending ACL injury. Isaac is a monster defender and has usually taken the matchup against Siakam, limiting the Raptors star to just 17.5 points per game on 35.7 per cent shooting in three contests played this season.

Without Isaac in the picture, however, Siakam will have an excellent opportunity to break out of this mini-funk he seems to be in at the momen

Anunoby fulfilling promise and Raptors are thrilled | Toronto Sun

Anunoby flashed a fancy spin move against Anthony Davis in one game and has shown more bounce off the dribble than ever before.

“I mean it helps my confidence knowing I can do it against anyone. It’s just about getting the reps and staying with it and just being confident in my moves and being patient,” Anunoby explained in his improved look.

“I know to help the team by getting to the rim, kickout, finish, just being aggressive and putting pressure on the rim and just make the next play, make the right play.”

Anunoby has certainly been doing a lot of that and, if it continues, an already elite team suddenly becomes an immense problem for any opponent trying to already slow down Siakam, six-time all-star Kyle Lowry, former all-NBAer Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet, amongst others.

But it’s at the other end where Anunoby stands out most.

“There’s a lot of stuff there,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “He’s got a great athletic body, a pretty good mindset to play it, plays hard, takes challenges. There’s a lot to like at this stage at that end of the floor, for sure.”

And Anunoby only turned 23 last month, meaning he should only be scratching the surface of his potential at this point.

“He’s young. He’s got a lot of years to play to get to that point,” Nurse said.

“I wouldn’t doubt him against anybody except for me,” VanVleet joked of who Anunoby could defend.

When he was taking a more serious tone, VanVleet marvelled at the forward’s ability to guard any position on the floor, including centres like Miami star Bam Adebayo, who Anunoby did a nice job against on Monday.

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“I mean, OG’s really a five (centre) so it wasn’t that much of a mismatch,” VanVleet said.

How to become a virtual fan in the stands at a Toronto Raptors game – blogTO

The NBA has released a step-by-step guide for joining the waiting room to be selected for a game. You’ll need to download Microsoft Teams, have a working webcam and microphone, and you need to be able to stay for the full game.

If you do get in, be warned: A moderator can easily eject you for misbehaving, just like a security guard could kick you out at the Scotiabank Arena. You can also get the boot for an extended period of inactivity.

There’s no guarantee you’ll be chosen to help fill the virtual NBA stands, but there’s no harm in trying.

The Raptors face off against the Orlando Magic tomorrow night at 8 p.m., but Toronto’s next home game (aka your chance to score a seat in the virtual stands) is this Friday at 9 p.m.

NBA Power Rankings: Raptors’ starters and James Harden’s defense – The Step Back

This Week: 2

The Raptors have been, arguably, the best team in the NBA bubble after statement wins over the Lakers and Heat. Depth has been one of the biggest keys for the Raptors this season but through these first two games, it’s been their starters who are carrying them.

The five-man unit of Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol has played 33 minutes together, allowing just 61.3 points per 100 possessions and outscoring opponents by 48.7 points per 100. Obviously, we’re looking at a very small sample size but this group was +15.8 per 100 during the regular season as well. It’s an elite group, playing at an elite level and it’s time to start taking them seriously as contenders, not just plucky overachievers making good on the first year of their post-Kawhi existence.

Toronto Raptors: 3 reasons Nick Nurse should be NBA Coach of the Year – Tip of the Tower

2) Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
It is firmly believed that Nurse will win the media’s Coach of the Year award, which will be handed out after the 2019-20 season has been completed. However, this is about the irony of not enough of his fellow coaches voting for him to win the Coaches Association’s equivalent.

We can appreciate that Nurse only just fell one vote short of first place, so you can’t claim he wasn’t taken seriously. Regardless, you still have to wonder why not enough of the other coaches around the NBA felt he was worthy of their vote?

As we’ve already noted, Nurse achieved continued success despite no longer having the supremely talented Leonard in his lineup. However, it was this absence that actually allowed the 53-year-old to prove how much of a talented head coach he really is.

Nurse was constantly tinkering with his game plan and coming up with new ways to get the best out of his players. This was also a necessity given all the aforementioned injury challenges and yet, he continued to succeed and exceed expectations.

As noted by William Lou of Yahoo Sports Canada, Nurse revived the popularity of various zone schemes. This resulted in a suffocating defence, capable of containing the league’s top players.

This was most recently highlighted by the 107-92 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, where the Raptors limited LeBron James to 20 points. Even more impressive, Anthony Davis was held to seven shots and 14 points, in a dominating defensive display.

As per Lou, Nurse’s schemes inspired copycat game plans around the NBA. However, as is unfortunately the case in similar scenarios in many workplaces, while people may benefit from copying someone else’s ideas, they often don’t want to give the credit where it’s deserved.

Raptors needed just 65 games to beat their Vegas over for this season – The Step Back

Analysts who predicted that the sky would fall down in Toronto without Kawhi overlooked the fact that the Raptors went 17-5 when Leonard. That is largely due to Nurse’s leadership, as he has created a system that takes advantage of Toronto’s solid shooting and depth at several key positions that could survive getting rid of a player of Kawhi’s caliber.

Pascal Siakam needed to make the leap from stud to superstar, and he has, upping his points per game average from 16.9 in 2018-19 to 23.5 in 2019-20. Kyle Lowry is still serving as a steady hand at point guard, while complimentary stars like Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby, the latter of whom put on a dominant showing against the Los Angeles Lakers, have emerged as tertiary stars on a team with title potential.

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