In This Episode:
3:20 — Predicting the East
Two teams were met with very different predicted outcomes: Milwaukee and Cleveland. With most of the Bucks’ core over the age of 30, will we start to see some kinks in the armour of the champs from two seasons ago? How will Donovan Mitchell’s addition to last year’s surprise team do in Cleveland?
16:30 — Predicting the West
We each predicted a different team to finish the season atop the West — none of which included the defending champs in Golden State! Our prognostications may have been all over the place, but one thing was consistent: the Lakers will suck!
28:40 — Who will raise the Larry OB?
If the Warriors can overcome all the parity and claim their 5th title in 9 seasons, they’ll join the Bulls, Lakers, and Celtics as the only franchises to claim as many in under a decade. If Golden State is unsuccessful, good luck predicting the team that will take their throne. This may be the most wide open season we’ve ever seen!
38:50 — Individual awards
Is this the year where Luka Doncic claims his first MVP? If you believe the oddsmakers who have him as a favourite, then aren’t you also believing that Dallas will finish at or near the top of the West? With Chet Holmgren out for the season, is the Rookie of the Year award Paolo Banchero’s to lose? Will any Raptors show up on award ballots at the end of the season?
If Siakam gets off to a good start and carries it through the season, much financial security could await. The 28-year-old is facing a Monday night deadline to opt out of the 2023-24 season on his contract and sign an extension for up to five years with the Raptors.
It makes little economic sense for him to do that, though, because if he has another great year and earns either a post-season individual award or another all-NBA team spot, he’ll be eligible for a “super max” deal that could land him in the neighbourhood north of $40 million a season on his next deal.
Raptors forward Pascal Siakam missed the first 10 games last season and it probably needed at least 10 more to get up to speed.
The Raptors would love for him to sign a long-term deal Monday but it’s more likely they’ll be forking out big bucks on the next deal. Though if Siakam continues to perform as he has, it might end up being money well spent. Regardless, he’s ready to go.
“I saw some really great stretches of defence from him the pre-season, like really great, really hard work, really great shot contests,” Nurse said. “To me that always translates to the other end for him for whatever reason.
“I think that’s just engagement, energy, sound mind, sound play. And that’s good. I think he kind of realizes that, so that’s going to help our team as well.”
And it will allow Siakam to start the season with a far clearer mind and healthier body.
“I’m just happy I’m healthy.”
By signing and waiving the players, Toronto keeps the G League rights to the four players along with Gabe Brown who was waived by the team on Sunday.
Johnson played in nine games with the Raptors 905 last season, averaging 13.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game. He was selected 47th overall in the 2021 NBA Draft but was unable to make an impact for the Raptors last season.
Perry, a 6-foot-8 forward, played in 11 games with the 905 last year, averaging 19.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He also saw brief NBA action, playing in 10 games with the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers during COVID outbreaks last season.
Vital, a 6-foot-2 guard, comes over from the Rio Grande Vipers where he averaged 12.9 points and 2.9 assists across 14 games in the G League last year.
Hawkins, a 6-foot-7 forward, played in three games with the Raptors at Summer League this year, averaging 7.7 points and 3.3 rebounds in his appearances.
There’s no question Toronto has talent and more developing each day, but stat for stat they don’t measure up with the Milwaukee’s or Philadelphia’s, the Boston’s or even the Miami’s of the East.
And if you listen to Vegas they trail Cleveland, Atlanta, and Chicago too.
So, until that gap closes, and all indications are that is already happening, how does a team combat that star deficiency.
The answer is hard, physical play and that’s something this roster knows a little something about.
Over the course of 82 games, talent alone isn’t going to rule the day, every day. Stealing a game with hard play and more effort than an opponent is willing to expend can be not just an equalizer over the course of a long season but a different maker when it comes to watching a play-in game or participating in one.
That hard play, hard work approach is what Raptors’ head coach Nick Nurse is preaching with the season opener just a couple of sleeps away.
“The ideal or the premise is that’s who we are and that’s the way we’ve got to play. And it probably is,” Nurse said of being the harder-working team. “We need to go out there and you need to feel us at the defensive end and understand it’s going to be a fight. Even if we can’t throw ’em in (score at will) — like the other night we couldn’t throw ’em in, but we’re going to keep trying. We’re going to be on the glass so hard that we’re not leaving until we get a bucket, that type of thing.”
On that front, Nurse believes the current Raptors have a leg up on last year’s group.
“We didn’t know who we were at this time of year (last year), I think we know who we are, and we’ve got to bring it,” he said.