We still have a few slots left for our 3-on-3 Tournament. The event will be on Sunday November 28 at Mattamy Athletic Centre (Yonge/College) at 1 PM. Registration is now open with limited spots available.
What: Survivor Series – The 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament
When: November 28, 2021, at 1:00 PM
Cost: The cost per team is $150
How to Sign Your Team Up
3. Send money using $RAPS coin here
I’m looking to sponsor a team for the tournament, drop me a line ([email protected]) and we can sort you out. First come first serve (4 people).
Birch and Achiuwa are the fives but they could potentially play together, too. Boucher will be used primarily as a power forward this year but Nurse won’t rule out shifting him back to centre here and there. Barnes and Siakam, when he returns, will play everywhere and handle the ball some. Anunoby could conceivably play anywhere from the two all the way up to a small-ball five. On Tuesday, Nurse teased the idea of throwing out a lineup with Siakam, Anunoby, Barnes, Achiuwa and Birch.
The possibilities are endless, especially on defence. Their fall from the NBA’s second-ranked defensive team in 2019-20 to 15th last season was surprising when you consider all their individual defensive talent. VanVleet and Anunoby are both elite defenders, and Siakam can be too when he’s locked in. Lowry led the league in drawing charges. Still, the absence of a rim-protecting, mistake-erasing centre was often too much to overcome.
They don’t necessarily need a big, immobile seven-footer in the middle to solve that problem. It’s not like was a traditional centre. The hope is that Birch and Achiuwa can provide some of those things while also giving them the speed and quickness to switch and closeout on the perimeter.
“We believe in ball pressure,” Nurse said. “We believe in trying to get into the basketball and we think that letting people handle the ball with freedom and ease is not something we want to do. We want to try to be disruptive. I think all the same sized guys a lot of the time gives you a lot more switching to do… And I also think that all the length should enable us to play a lot more zone.”
Last season, the Raptors led the league in forcing turnovers as well as scoring off them, and that should be their strength again. The question is whether they’ll be good enough on the offensive end, where they could continue to have trouble scoring in the half court.
“Is there enough scoring there? I don’t know,” Nurse said. “But I kind of believe in scoring by the system. I think we’re trying to develop some guys. I think there’s guys that’ll score. Pascal, Freddy, Chris can score, OG’s coming, as we know, as a scorer.”
“We’re not trying to be some run and gun type of team, but we do like to put pressure on the defence and I also say that if we’re gonna play all this defence we better get some offence out of it.”
Like a mad scientist in his lab, Nurse has had a week to tinker, to mix and max, to see what works, and more importantly, see what doesn’t work. We’ll get our first glimpse of what this might look like when the new-look, positionless Raptors tip off their pre-season schedule at home to the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.
“I think I’m in the stage, I’ve seen he can do a lot of things. What’s the package going to look like early on and how’s that going to grow in the future?”
Achiuwa is going to get every opportunity to grow; the Raptors plan to throw him right into the fire. Nurse said he hasn’t given any thought to a starting group or a definitive rotation after just three days of official practices but Achiuwa has shown enough to get everyone intrigued.
“I’ll just probably sit back and watch and just let him play and see,” Nurse said. “I would have told you I didn’t know he could snap a rebound and go coast to coast until I saw him do it in the first Summer League game and I was like, ‘woah.’
“Then he threw one over to the wing and just blew right to the basket by his guy and pounded it on somebody. Okay, this guy can drive the ball a little bit, which is good, we like that.
“(It’s) how do we clean up his game? How do we give him a few decisions to make and get to all of that stuff later, what’s going to fit and help him be most successful right now (and) build his confidence while he continues to expand.”
One thing Achiuwa has shown according to team personnel who’ve been able to watch workouts and scrimmages so far is a willingness to learn and put in the necessary work. There’s no sense of entitlement, nor is there a sense that he’s somehow arrived as an NBA regular.
He understands he needs to be better in every facet of the game and isn’t at all satisfied with where he is.
“I’d like to say I’m confident,” he said. “I’m a confident person. I don’t put a ceiling on what I could accomplishment. I believe if I put my mind on something, I could learn it if I put in the time, if I work hard to achieving that goal.
“For me, everything comes down to hard work and how bad I want it and how much I’m willing to put into it. I don’t want to put myself into a box or say this is my ceiling or I can’t go past this. It’s all about time and work.”
Nurse does a better job of describing Achiuwa.
“He’s a really personable guy, easy to talk to and very coachable. But he plays with a little bit of snarl on his face on the floor, which also we like. No, he’s been good. He’s very, very talented.”
Achiuwa was drafted 20th overall by the Heat a year ago. The Raptors got Malachi Flynn nine picks later.
Playing behind Bam Adebayo, Achiuwa didn’t see a lot of action in his rookie year. Flynn playing behind both Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet got almost seven minutes a game more than his fellow draft classman.
But it’s clear that whatever action Achiuwa lost out on a year ago, he was paying plenty of attention because in just his second year in the league, he’s already sounding mature beyond his years.
“I don’t put a ceiling on what I could accomplish,” Achiuwa said in response to a question about what he learned in his rookie year. “I believe if I put my mind on something, I could learn it if I put in the time, if I work hard to achieving that goal. For me, everything comes down to hard work and how bad I want it and how much I’m willing to put into it. I don’t want to put myself into a box or say this is my ceiling or I can’t go past this. It’s all about time and work.”
Nurse wasn’t in the room when Achiuwa made that statement but had he been, we all probably would have seen the coach’s face light up.
In a year in which the Raptors have basically filled the roster with as many 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9 guys with length, versatility and strength, Achiuwa might very well be the poster player for that part of the roster.
Rather than worry about filling the roles of point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and centre, the Raptors are focussed on building a team with equal parts talent, size and switchability and forcing teams to adapt to them.
Finally got around to asking Nick Nurse about the competition for jobs on the end of the Raptors roster yesterday.
It’s impossible to say now who’s ahead since all they’ve done is scrimmage each other and practice but, philosophically, I wondered what he – and by extension Bobby and Masai – were looking for.
A lot, it seems.
Mostly, it’s this: Given the number of games that players tend to miss these days – COVID, rest, injury – being able to simply fill in adequately is the biggest thing.
“We don’t know who are 1-through-5 is exactly but let’s just say we know our nine or 10 guys we expect to play; just for clarity sake,” Nick told us.
“Who is going to be really good at bumping in and going from a 13th man to an eighth man? Or ,as we have done it sometimes in the past too, is that 13th guy (bumps) right into the starting lineup so we keep that second group together.
“Who maybe would fit in for those kind of roles. Again that is a thought that I have to continue to think about a little bit.”
Next up? Intelligence. And they are watching that very, very closely.
“Which one of those guys are doing some of our core principals at the highest level? We chart them and hold them accountable to that stuff every day. We want to know who is getting deflections, who is blocking out consistently, who is on the offensive glass consistently. It isn’t necessarily of the five guys, this guy scored the most points. That probably doesn’t factor in as much. So who can understand the stuff the quickest, who can be versatile and play a few positions if they need to.”
I don’t know who will emerge for those spots – and it looks like they will keep three at least through the first half of the season before they have to get really creative to stay out of the luxury tax but at least it’s interesting to know the criteria they’re using.