3. DeMar DeRozan
Drafted: 9th, 2009 | Games: 820 | Career win shares: 67.5 (4th from 2009 draft class)
Barring a monster final 40 per cent of his career, DeRozan’s resume will fall short of Bosh’s. Neither was quite good enough to be a 1-A star in the league. Bosh is likely headed to the Hall of Fame, while DeRozan is not. However, DeRozan was picked later, wound up being the best player available by win shares, and brings with him no what-if scenario as compelling as “What if the Raptors took Dwyane Wade?” The DeRozan selection gets a slight nod for those reasons. (The 2009 Draft was also top-heavy. The top four players in win shares were picked third, seventh, first and ninth. For all the Jrue Holiday conversation currently taking place, he ranks just eighth in win shares in this draft.)
Hollis-Jefferson was issued a challenge at the very beginning of the season by Nurse and responded about as well as anyone could have hoped. Nurse initially not only called him out but other new faces as well, saying that they had yet to come to terms with just how hard the Raptors play.
Sliding into more playing time after injuries to Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka on an early West Coast trip, Hollis-Jefferson showed his worth defending the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Damian Lillard with success. He showed the extent of his defensive versatility later in the season when he made a spot start at centre matched up against Karl Anthony-Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves, finishing with 21 points and six rebounds in a win.
The 25-year-old is a great culture fit as well, proving to be a great teammate over the course of the season and speaking out on the racial injustice suffered by the Black community. He has walked the walk as well, working to provide business opportunities to those lacking the means in his hometown.
Prediction: Hollis-Jefferson can probably get a bit more security in terms of contract length elsewhere and does so.
Boucher’s market will be a very interesting gauge of how the league viewed his performances over the course of the 2019-20 season. He assumed a bigger role courtesy of injuries to both Ibaka and Gasol at different points of the season and made several highlight plays in 818 regular season minutes, a massive increase from the 163 minutes of floor time he saw in 2018-19.
Expect the Raptors to extend a qualifying offer—at about $2 million—to keep Boucher a restricted free agent and give themselves the right to match any offer another team makes. Teams will have seen enough of Boucher to be enticed into giving him more playing time, while Toronto should secure one of Gasol or Ibaka’s services while maintaining the mid-level to secure a backup centre option. Where does that leave Boucher?
Prediction: Boucher moves on to a team offering more money and playing time.
Serge Ibaka is arguably playing the best basketball of his career. He is not leading the league in blocks per game like he used to with the OKC Thunder, but his game is so much more than that now.
The Raptors finally changed Ibaka to playing most of his time at center in the year they won their championship and his game is flourishing. In the last two seasons, Ibaka averaged a combined 15.2 points per game while shooting 52.2 percent from the floor.
Ibaka has averaged double figures while shooting over 50.0 percent before. However, he has not done that since he started shooting more than 2.3 attempts from deep a game. This is an incredible number for a player who had to add the 3-point shot to his game throughout his career.
Last season Ibaka averaged 15.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists 0.8 blocks, and 0.5 steals in 27.0 minutes per game. All of these numbers, except for the blocks per game, were higher than his career numbers.
Ibaka shared the starting duties with Gasol last year. Now that Gasol is leaving, it is crucial that the Raptors lock Ibaka up on a solid deal. Such is the importance of the 30-year-old. This will likely be his last big deal and if the Raptors cannot secure his signature, this will leave a huge hole in the middle.
Sportsnet Michael Grange joins Sportsnet Central to discuss where the Toronto Raptors might play as the NBA season now begins on Dec. 22, giving them a short period of time to figure out where to play and where they can start training camp.
The Toronto Raptors of Newark, New Jersey
The abbreviated off-season also likely means the Toronto Raptors will need to find a U.S. home. There are still travel restrictions between Canada and the U.S., including a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, that simply makes NBA games at Scotiabank Arena unfeasible. A few cities have sprung up as possible temporary homes, such as Louisville, Kansas City, and, Newark. Where would you like to see the Raptors play their home games?
They haven’t played in Toronto since March. The U.S.-Canada border remains closed, and the Blue Jays were denied the ability to cross the border during a truncated Major League Baseball season and had to relocate to Buffalo. With COVID-19 cases rising dangerously in the United States and in Ontario, it would truly take a unique solution — or a vaccine — for the Raptors to be able to play out of Scotiabank Arena late next month.
There have been plenty of options discussed. Louisville, Ky., seemed a possibility, but issues relating to police violence seem to have closed that door. Newark, N..J., Kansas City and Rochester, N.Y., are other possibilities that have been mentioned.
With no fans likely to be allowed to NBA games when the season resumes, the Raptors really just need a quality arena, something reasonably close to other Eastern Conference rivals. There’s less than a month now to get this ironed out.
Nashville is among the cities being considered as a temporary home for the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, according to a source with knowledge of the team’s plans.
Raptors officials visited Nashville earlier this week, the source said. Bridgestone Arena, home to the NHL’s Predators, regularly hosts the SEC men’s basketball tournament.
Last month, The Athletic’s John Hollinger wrote that the Raptors “will likely have to be U.S.-based for most or all of 2020-21” because of COVID-19. Canada has closed the border to nonessential travel. The Toronto Blue Jays played their home games this past season in Buffalo, N.Y.
The National Basketball Players Association voted Thursday night to tentatively approve the NBA’s proposal to start the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22.
The source said Kansas City, Mo., and Tampa, Fla., are also in the running. The Athletic’s Eric Koreen recently weighed the pros and cons of several possible temporary homes for the Raptors.
In the event of a geographically weighted schedule, the Raptors, according to Koreen, would likely prefer to be located closer to their Atlantic Division rivals — Boston, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and New York.
Flights from Nashville, which is located in the Central time zone, to those cities are no longer than two hours.
No matter what happens for the Lakers in the days after the upcoming NBA draft, when the league will begin its free-agency period, they will likely try to lure multiple veterans seeking to play for a contender to L.A., offering a chance at a championship but unable to offer a sizable payout as the team sits over the salary cap already.
One target is Raptors big man Serge Ibaka, according to executives around the league.
“From a personnel standpoint, he is exactly the kind of combo big guy that team (the Lakers) needs,” one NBA general manager told Heavy.com. “They have had interest in him before and they will again. When he is healthy he is an excellent spot starter at the 5 (center) and the 4 (power forward). He is as good a bench big guy as there is in the league. He was a really credible 3-point threat last year. If he is willing to accept what the Lakers can afford to give him, I know they would want him.”
“Thompson does have interested suitors on the market – mainly the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Toronto Raptors, according to league sources,” Dammarell wrote. “But, those same sources also shared that Thompson would like to try and finish his career with the Cavaliers and continue helping the team’s young core develop.”
Being an NBA fan in Canada in the early 90s was downright difficult. Games and daily content were just not readily available. You had to really seek it out.
At the time, the Canadian sports media landscape was barely the size of a rose bush. But what did exist, consisted of hockey, hockey, hockey, and more hockey. On TV. On the radio. In newspapers. Everywhere.
I was the rare Canadian who didn’t grow up playing or watching hockey. I was a diehard basketball fan living in the biggest hockey market in the world. Where basketball was so far from the mainstream that the stream looked like a tiny puddle.
The only NBA games we were privy to aired on NBC on the weekends. Given that there was no League Pass, the only way I could see the Spurs play was if, by chance, NBC decided to air their games. I was at their mercy.
The hockey-centricness of the Canadian media was still going strong in 1995 when the Raptors tipped off for the very first time on that historic November day. Good luck if you wanted to see any Raptors or NBA highlights or coverage. There was just no competing with hockey.
Unlike today’s multi-channel universe, only a single dedicated sports network existed in Canada — TSN. And it was essentially a 24-hour hockey channel. The evening programming consisted of the following: a hockey show followed by a news show with hockey highlights and a hockey panel discussing hockey, followed by a hockey game or another hockey show.
Headline Sports (which became theScore) and Sportsnet wouldn’t launch until 1997 and 1998, respectively. But even then, Sportsnet at the time might as well have been called Hockeynet. Only theScore gave any attention to the NBA.
To add to this overall media problem, you couldn’t just load up YouTube channels, like ESPN or House of Highlights, on your phone or computer — because, of course, there was no YouTube. (And no smartphones.) There was also no social media or apps to watch plays or catch game recaps. In fact, as some of you may recall, the Internet was barely a thing in 1995.
Reading about the Raptors and the NBA at large proved to be just as difficult. And by “difficult” I mean “downright impossible.” There were no dedicated writers working the basketball beat except for the Toronto Star’s Doug Smith. Sites like Raptors HQ and Raptors Republic didn’t exist. Nor did websites for TSN, Sportsnet, or theScore. And there was definitely no access to U.S. sports media like there is now.
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