Morning Coffee – Tue, Mar 9

17-19th 8th | All woman broadcast team for March 24 game | Second half should be better | Grading first half | Embry talks about unionzing

Toronto Raptors mid-term report cards: From Aron Baynes to Fred VanVleet – The Athletic

Fred VanVleet, guard — A-

Stats: 34 games, 36.7 MPG, 20.1 PPG, 6.6 APG, 1.7 steals per game, 38.3 3P%

A lot of VanVleet’s per-minute statistics look awfully similar to last year, but I cannot keep VanVleet from the A range this year, not that I’d want to. VanVleet is one of the best defensive guards in the league, full stop. He is not the team’s “stopper” — that is Anunoby — but VanVleet does everything on that end well, and some things, like providing help in the post, in elite fashion. Defensive real plus-minus has him fourth among all guards. Fivethirtyeight’s RAPTOR wins above replacement rank him as the fourth most impactful player in the whole league, behind Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and LeBron James. He’s not that good, but he has been Toronto’s best and most consistent player. Adding a reliable mid-range shot to his game could be a boon in the playoffs. VanVleet ended the first half of the season out of the lineup due to the league’s health and safety protocols.

The Pascal puzzle and four other questions for the Raptors’ second half | The Star

If they can deal for one proven veteran wing to come off the bench and be consistent, it would be a huge boost. They have resisted the urge so far to seriously consider roster moves but they do have a variety of cards they might play. Among them: dealing expiring contracts for ones that run out past this season. although they would cut into cap space they might be saving for this summer; and dealing some of the draft picks they have in the next five seasons to sweeten any deal.

It’s not easy because there are so many teams still in contention and finding a willing trade partner with something you want and something they need from you is a lot easier said that done. But it’s going to be something to watch between now and March 25.

Anunoby, still plagued by injuries that kept him out of 10 games and caught up in the COVID-19 web that forced him out of at least two more, has been the versatile defensive presence the Raptors need but his improvement as a scorer (13.8 points per game), especially near the basket, has been a pleasant surprise.

The two have tended in the past to be a bit up and down, but the Raptors can’t afford that this season. They need the same type of production in the remaining 36 games.

But the second half is no picnic. The Raptors will have to play 36 games in just over two months and how they handle that load will go a long way to determining where they finish. Nurse has already started talking about finding games in which to rest his heavily used players (Kyle Lowry turns 35 this month, Fred VanVleet is among the leaders in minutes played).

They’ll need some breaks, like no long-term injury issues and no further rash of coronavirus absences, and they’ll need the same good fortune in the second half that they had in the first. And that’s a big ask.

The Rap-Up: Toronto Raptors Games for March 8-14 – Raptors HQ

According to, the Raptors are favoured to win 29 of their remaining 36 games (the postponed Bulls game hasn’t been rescheduled yet, but safe to assume Toronto will be favoured). I’m not predicting the team to win 80% of their 2nd half games (my season record located at the bottom would suggest that’s a bad idea anyway), but it does paint a different picture than the “NBA screwed us with the Nuggets-Jazz-Lakers-Clippers road trip” folks would suggest.

Dig a little deeper and some of the harder matchups aren’t as daunting. Utah and Denver roll into Tampa each on the back-end of a back-to-back (while the Raptors have an extra day of rest). Phoenix and Portland both visit Amalie Arena on the third game of 4-game road trips.

The aforementioned dreaded road trip through Denver, Utah, and Los Angeles even has its glimmer of hope. Each of those teams is justifiably favoured to defeat the Raptors, but the trip takes place within the final 6-10 games of the season. That is well within the load management range for the West’s elite teams, each with grander plans for long playoff runs.

In the East, the Raptors have already wrapped up their season series with Philadelphia, Boston, Milwaukee, and Miami. The only games remaining with East teams above .500 are a pair each against Brooklyn (both in Tampa) and New York (who the Raptors have shellacked once already).

The Raptors’ second-half slate ranks 8th in Strength of Schedule and 4th among East teams. They are tied with three other teams for the least number of away games remaining. If you’re concerned about the eight back-to-back games, there are 13 other teams with the same number (and only three teams with less). Finally, and most importantly, the Raptors have a rest advantage — at least one extra day of rest than their opponent — in 10 games, which is tied for the most in the NBA.

The Raptors currently stand as an unhinged team — physically and mentally. Our prayers are definitely up for the players and coaches affected by COVID-19 and hope they all fully recover. The slow start to the season has given the team quite the uphill battle post-All-Star break. But the schedule looks favourable and the 7-day layoff will only help everyone get prepared for the stretch run! Are you just as optimistic as I am for the second half? Let me know in the comments. For now, let’s get to this week’s picks.

Power Rankings: The NBA at the Halfway Point – The Ringer

This Week: 13

Teams are eyeing Lowry … and another Raptor.
Everyone around the league is focusing on whether Toronto will trade Kyle Lowry to a playmaking-needy contender ahead of the March 25 deadline, which happens to be Lowry’s 35th birthday. Lowry has been with the Raptors since he was 26, and he’s been through it all with the franchise. Trading him would hurt. But he’s older, will be an unrestricted free agent, and has higher odds of winning a title elsewhere. The Raptors need to have an eye toward the future with their younger core, headlined by Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby.

With a potentially dry trade and buyout market, teams are also keeping a close eye on the G League bubble for players to target. One name that’s been mentioned to me in several conversations is Alize Johnson, who starts for the Raptors 905, which is 12-3 and riding an eight-game winning streak heading into the bubble playoffs.

Johnson is a 6-foot-7 wing who was drafted 50th in 2018 by the Pacers and has played in only 31 NBA games. He’s a full-throttle rebounder and defender with the versatility to defend both quicker and stronger players, meaning he could play on the wing alongside a true big or in the frontcourt in switch-heavy lineups. On offense, the 24-year-old is averaging 16.6 points and 4.2 assists while posting career highs in scoring efficiency and assist-turnover ratio.

A league source says in addition to the Raptors, the Magic, Rockets, Spurs, and Suns have also expressed interest in signing Johnson.

NBA Power Rankings – Storylines, must-see games and predictions for every team – ESPN

This Week: 16
Last Week: 13

Second-half storyline: What will happen with Kyle Lowry?

The greatest player in the history of the franchise, Lowry will be a free agent at the end of the season. That leaves Toronto with a question: Is Lowry going to be part of its future? And if the answer is not a definitive yes, how should that impact the Raptors’ thought process heading into the trade deadline? Especially in a thin trade market, Lowry will all but certainly be the best player available if Toronto chose to move him somewhere. That would give the Raptors — who have seen four key free agents (Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol) leave without compensation over the past two years — some pieces to continue to build around their core of Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby.

But is making that move worth throwing away a chance at yet another deep playoff run? Does it make a difference that the two most likely teams with the wherewithal to trade for Lowry are the Sixers and Heat — fellow Eastern Conference contenders? None of these questions has a clear answer.

Nets, Suns and Jazz top Power Rankings at midway point, plus first-half grades for all 30 teams – The Athletic

This Week: 15
Last Week: 13

17-19, +1.4 net rating
Weekly slate: Loss to Pistons, Loss at Celtics

Previous first-quarter grade/ranking: D+ | Ranked 18th

Updated first-half grade: B

Things improved dramatically for the Toronto Raptors after a rough start. Oddly enough, the Raptors are winning with offense and not so much with defense. Their defense has fallen below league average because they’re a terrible rebounding team and they send their opponents to the free throw line more than anybody in the NBA. The Raptors shoot a ton of 3-pointers, and they make them. They also make their free throws (third). I’m not quite sure where the Raptors go from here the rest of the season. Some people believe Kyle Lowry could be moved before the deadline, but I just don’t see the benefit for Toronto. Unless it wants to punt on trying to avoid the play-in tournament.

Positive spin? OG Anunoby and Norman Powell have been phenomenal on the wings. Both guys are knocking down 3-pointers, and they do a great job of attacking the basket. They’ve helped Pascal Siakam immensely on the wings.

NBA Power Rankings: Jazz, Nets, Suns ahead of Lakers, Clippers, 76ers after first half of unique season –

This Week: 16
Last Week: 14

After a rough start to the season, the Raptors looked to be turning things around before coaches and players were struck by COVID-19, leading to four losses in five games heading into the break. The defense was looking a lot better before that, and Fred VanVleet has earned his contract thus far with 20 points and 6.6 assists per game on 38 percent 3-point shooting. Masai Ujiri has a decision to make on Kyle Lowry, who’s having a tremendous season and could be a hot commodity at the trade deadline.

Power Rankings, Week 12: Nets climb to No. 1; Lakers, Bucks exit Top 5 |

This Week: 18
Last Week: 14

Record: 17-19
Pace: 99.7 (15) OffRtg: 113.4 (10) DefRtg: 112.0 (18) NetRtg: +1.4 (9)

The Raps were on a run, winning nine of 12, a stretch that included victories over each of the top three teams in the East. But, dealing with both injuries and COVID-related absences, they lost four of their last five games. And with the Celtics completing a season sweep on Thursday (one of Raptors’ worst defensive performances of the season), Toronto became the first team to match its loss total from last season.

Now, we wait to see just who’s available as the Raps begin the second half of the season with three really important games in the standings.

Three numbers to know:

  1. The Raptors are one of three teams (Atlanta and Indiana are the others) with a losing record and a positive point differential. They’re 17-19 with the point differential of a team that’s 20-16, having gone 7-13 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes.
  2. Pascal Siakam has scored just 0.85 points per possession in transition, down from 1.17 last season and the worst mark among 74 players with at least 75 total transition possessions.
  3. The Raptors have the league’s worst record (1-6) in the second games of back-to-backs. They’re 16-13 with rest.

Raptors to use all-female broadcast crew for TSN game March 24 – Video – TSN

The Raptors have announced that Meghan McPeak will assume the play-by-play duties and national women’s team star Kia Nurse will handle the analysis for a March 24th game against the Nuggets on TSN. TSN host and reporter Kayla Grey will handle sideline duties, while Kate Beirness and Amy Audibert will host and provide analysis.

Toronto Raptors to feature all-female broadcast crew for March 24 game against Nuggets – The Globe and Mail

The NBA team made the announcement on International Women’s Day.

Meghan McPeak will do the play-by-play and national women’s team star Kia Nurse will handle the analysis for a March 24 game against the Denver Nuggets on TSN.

TSN host and reporter Kayla Grey will be on sideline duties, while Kate Beirness and Amy Audibert will be the hosts and provide analysis.

The broadcasters also will participate in virtual events to share their experiences, as well as a virtual panel with students from Ryerson University’s sport business programs.

Sportsnet employed an all-female broadcast crew last March for an NHL game between the Calgary Flames and Vegas Golden Knights.

Mailbag: Kyle Lowry, trade rumors, and big rotation decisions | Pickaxe and Roll – Denver Stiffss

Then, Ryan answers mailbag questions covering a wide range of topics, from Paul Millsap’s role, to building the perfect second unit, to trade rumors about Terrence Ross and Kyle Lowry.

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