Morning Coffee – Tue, Oct 18

VanVleet is important to this team despite his height | Raptors ranked 13-15 in power rankings | Betting the over on Raptors wins/losses has been easy money for almost a decade now

The NBA’s most interesting teams: Why the Raptors are the kind of squad no one really wants to face – Yahoo

On one hand, the presence and primacy of Fred VanVleet seems to complicate the picture; what to make of a 6-foot, play-the-right-way organizer who sticks out like a sore thumb on a team replete with hyper-athletic 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-9 wings? On the other, VanVleet is hardly a traditional purist’s vision of what a point guard should be: He ranked third in the NBA last season in 3-pointers and fifth in 3-point attempts, with a nearly equal split between pull-up and catch-and-shoot tries. VanVleet spent large swaths of his floor time operating off the ball in a somewhat Stephian role, using the threat of his jumper to open up more space for other Raptors to create off the dribble. “From each according to his ability,” and all that.

If nothing else, though, the Raptors do seem to satisfy FD’s “bunch of do-it-all weirdos whose contributions shift from possession to possession” requirement. That doesn’t always make Toronto the prettiest watch in the world. It can, though, make the Raps a pretty delightful antidote for the stylistic sameness of a league full of teams trying to shoot only layups and threes while forcing only midrangers … and, when everything’s clicking, it can also make them pretty dangerous.

Pascal Siakam, his vibes and shoulder now fully recuperated from the dark night of the soul he experienced in South Florida, isn’t quite a LeBron or Giannis-level primary destroyer. He’s closer than you might think, though: 22-8-5 on .560 true shooting doesn’t exactly grow on trees, and it’s even rarer when you combine it with the ability to guard 1-through-5. VanVleet combines high-volume long-range marksmanship — only five players in NBA history have ever launched as often and as accurately as he did last season — with All-Defensive-Team-caliber work as a point-of-attack impediment, a lock-and-trail ace, and a steals-and-deflections magnet.

VanVleet made his first All-Star team last season; Siakam earned his second All-NBA nod. And yet neither is the Raptor that everyone’s most excited about.

Fred VanVleet fits with Raptors, even if he’s not 6-foot-8 – The Athletic

The Raptors were free to offer VanVleet a four-year contract extension worth up to $114 million on Monday, and unlike Siakam, whose own extension offer could only be accepted before midnight Monday, it can stay on the table. (Since Siakam has two more years left on his contract, there was a deadline to sign his extension. VanVleet technically has two more years, too, but since 2023-24 is a player option, VanVleet can decline it and sign the extension at any time. Veterans in the last year of their contracts are free to negotiate extensions throughout their season heading into free agency, assuming it has been more than two years since they signed their deals.)

The number seems high for a diminutive point guard in a league bending toward skilled players with more size, and a good start from VanVleet would certainly go a long way toward making the Raptors feel more comfortable locking in the contract. Notably, VanVleet shot just 33.1 percent on his pull-up 3s last year, which is fine, but you might hope was a little higher since he took more than five per game. Moreover, he shot just 30.5 percent on shots between three and 10 feet away from the rim last year — floater range, colloquially — and that has never been his strength. In order to maximize his skills as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, he has to increase his efficiency from that area. We have seen a few more floaters and push shots from him in the preseason, but that’s the preseason.

Still, if VanVleet accepts that offer at any point, the Raptors should be delighted. Tyler Herro and Jordan Poole came off the potential restricted free agent list for next year by signing expensive rookie extensions this month. Both outpace what the Raptors can offer VanVleet, and even if you factor in that those teams might be paying for a previously unreached upside compared to a more established player in VanVleet, they indicate VanVleet can probably get more than that if he repeats what he did last year. He’s a proven playoff performer, a plus defender for his position, an elite shooter and the beneficiary of being one of the better players available in a market in which nine teams could currently cobble together $30 million worth of cap room.

In other words, VanVleet might be able to earn more as a free agent either re-signing with the Raptors via Bird rights or into cap room with another team that he can make right now with an extension.

“My success, my individual success, is pretty much based on how the team does,” VanVleet said, later adding he will not address his contract publicly other than to say he loves everything about his situation in Toronto. “The way I play is relative to how the team does. I’ve always won, I’ve been a winner, and I’ll continue to strive to be that. So, if we do well that means I’m probably playing well. … Everything else will probably work itself out. That doesn’t factor into my day-to-day thinking or add pressure in any way.”

With so many younger players on the roster who are probably heading for their own big paydays, it’s yet another way that VanVleet will be able to lead by example. If they fail to take the hint, at least we know VanVleet has a backup plan.

VanVleet chats health, personal goals and expectations for the Raptors this year – Video – TSN

Fred VanVleet sits down with Kate Beirness to talk about his health heading into the new season after he didn’t play in the decisive loss that ended the Raptors’ playoff run. He also touches on his personal goals moving forward and what he expects from the Raptors this year.

NBA record predictions for all 30 teams: Our experts react – The Athletic

Toronto Raptors

Hollinger’s prediction: 48-34, fifth in East

Does 48 wins make sense? Sure. Is finishing fifth a possibility? Yeah. If you tell me almost anything about the Eastern Conference shy of, “The Bucks will be in the Play-In Tournament,” I’ll be inclined to be agreeable. I share John’s concerns about having a high ceiling, but I’m more worried about the Raptors’ half-court offense than the lack of a true big man. Anyway, I’ll pick the Raptors to finish sixth, but John is being reasonable.

NBA season preview 2022-23 – Contenders, stars and big questions – ESPN

15. Toronto Raptors

When we last saw them … the injury-ravaged Raptors fell against the 76ers in the first round, where they won Games 4 and 5 after falling down 3-0 in the series before losing a lopsided Game 6. Still, it was an impressive season for Toronto, which saw Pascal Siakam return to All-NBA status and Scottie Barnes win Rookie of the Year.

Win-loss projections

ESPN Forecast: 47-35
FiveThirtyEight: 50-32
Caesars: 47.5 wins | Title odds: +4000

Raptors in NBArank

Pascal Siakam (30)
Fred VanVleet (38)
Scottie Barnes (39)
OG Anunoby (75)

Most impactful offseason move: Adding Otto Porter Jr.

By default, the only move to change the makeup of the roster this offseason was the signing of Porter from the defending champion Warriors, adding another 6-foot-8 wing to a team virtually only made up of them at this point. While they were thrown into the mix in discussions about every big-name player available — most notably Kevin Durant — Toronto remained quiet this summer. The Raptors do have a decision on Fred VanVleet, who is a year away from free agency, though both he and the Raptors have said they want their partnership to continue.

2022-23 is a make-or-break season for …

OG Anunoby. It’s been an odd couple of seasons for Anunoby, who has only played a combined 91 games the past two years due to various injuries. His offensive production has increased every season of his career and he remains an elite wing defender, but injuries have raised questions about his future in Toronto. Anunoby turned 25 in July and should just be entering his prime, making his situation one of the NBA’s most intriguing.

Quote that will define their season:

“I think in this organization we’ve always wanted to preach patience. We want to win. We’re expecting to win. Honestly, we can’t react to what’s going on in the league. Yeah, we see other teams. We study all of that. But in terms of our plan, it’s to grow our young players and continue to develop and see [where] that takes us.” — Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri

The Raptors are stuck in the in-between, which is why ESPN’s “all-in” tiers determined Toronto was all-in on, well, “nothing.”

Toronto does have the luxury of going in any direction, including just letting young players like Barnes grow. The question for this season is whether the Raptors will prove they have enough to compete now in a rapidly improving East, or if they will have to start looking at shifting their timeline.

NBA Power Rankings: Warriors at No. 1; questions and what to like for all 30 teams – The Athletic

13. Toronto Raptors

What do we like? I’m shocked how many people don’t believe in this Toronto Raptors team just in general. Excellent front office. Excellent coach. Really dynamic and versatile set of players. I’m intrigued by how they approach this season on both ends of the floor. Defensively, they’re about as creative as it gets. No, they don’t have much size, but no team orbits around entry passes and loads up with as many different help looks as they do. Offensively, the Scottie Barnes factor from last season opens up worlds of possibilities. This is a great team for basketball nerds to geek out on.

What do we question? I think people question this team because they’re just middle of the road offensively, and I’m not sure how many people believe in Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet as a one-two combo for offensive options. Siakam had a really good, efficient season, but he feels like more of a second option than a first. VanVleet was a deserving All-Star, but he struggles to make shots inside the arc. They also both need to remain healthy to keep leading enough to get this team to the next level.

One random prediction: The Raptors end up as a top-five team on defense. I think their offense will ultimately stay around league average, but this team’s defensive personnel can only be stopped by injuries.

Toronto Raptors 2022-23 Player Preview: Gary Trent Jr. – Raptors HQ

One thing a lot of the critics against him seem to forget is that he is only just now 23 years old. We’re seeing these numbers, this drive, and these shots from someone who has not even reached their full potential. Now that the Tampa season is over, the rocky 2021/22 season is over, and things seem to have returned to whatever “normal” looks like now, this could be Gary Trent Jr.’s time to rise even higher.

You can’t deny that he fits the vision of this team. Sure, he’s not six foot nine, but he is turning into a defensive-minded player. He shoots the most impossible looking shots. He understands what it means to be an underdog. He fits the culture, and he seems to love Toronto and the chance he’s been given here — and you have to admit it’s a little sweeter when a player openly loves the city.

So, what’s possible this season? With Trent Jr., the more appropriate question is what isn’t possible. He is in a position right now that he could take a HUGE leap this season, on every level. The team needs him to be a shooter, they need him to keep up the defensive energy he displayed last year.

In an ideal situation, Gary Trent Jr. is racking up as many points per night as players like Fred VanVleet, O.G. Anunoby, and maybe even Pascal Siakam. He’s getting those points when the aforementioned players are on the bench, but also working with them in the starting lineup. He’s taking control of the floor and the responsibility of shooting while playing with the bench lineup. He’s a top contributor.

He’s proven that he’s capable of these things, and maybe this is the year that inconsistencies become less frequent and he rises in rank as a player.

Stats say that Trent Jr. could see an increase in points per game but stay even on assists per game. That makes sense, as he’s a shooter first; shooters shoot. There is no pressure on him to be a point guard or be the strongest playmaker on the floor — that’s what Fred VanVleet is for.

The stat projection that doesn’t seem very accurate is a decrease in steals per game. The motivation of a great defensive year last season could very possibly cause even more growth in that department for Trent Jr. If any of those stat projections are underselling him, it seems that may be it.

In the Raptors preseason game against the Chicago Bulls, Trent Jr. scored 17 points shooting 75% from the field. While it’s hard to judge the preseason, it’s easy to say that he’s ready to make an impact for this team.

Breaking down the 2022-23 Toronto Raptors roster | The Star

Gary Trent Jr.
Vital stats: Six-foot-five, 209 pounds, 23 years old.
Dollar sign: $17.05 million, player option at end of season.
Last season: 18.3 ppg, 38.3 3-pt shooting percentage, 1.7 steals per game, 7.8 3-pt field goal attempts per game.
Needs to do: Could become a more effective catch-and shoot threat from three-point range; defensive play levelled off after quick start, needs to be more disruptive, more consistently.

O.G. Anunoby
Vital stats: Six-foot-seven 232 pounds, 25 years old.
Dollar sign: $17.35 million, player option in 2024-25.
Last season: 48 games played, 17.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.6 apg, 5.5 rpg.
Needs to do: Has to appear in far more than 48 games, avoiding the myriad injuries he’s dealt with; aggressive offensive play has to be consistent and not appear only when he’s the focal point; rebounding could be better.

Scottie Barnes
Vital stats: Six-foot-nine, 227 pounds, 21 years old.
Dollar sign: $7.6 million, second year of rookie deal, two years of team options to come.
Last season: 15.3 ppg, 30.1 3-pt field goal percentage, 7.5 rpg, 3.5 apg.
Needs to do: Become a better outside shooter; continue to show effort evident in his rookie season; become more adept at running offence when he’s the primary point guard.

Raptors’ Continuity Should Pay Dividends Early This Year – Sports Illustrated Toronto Raptors News, Analysis and More

Through 20 games last season the Raptors were 9-11 and ranked 26th in the league in defensive rating. They looked anything like a Nurse-led team, unable to figure out rotations, and regularly out of sync.

But then something changed. Pascal Siakam returned to the court after offseason shoulder surgery and the Raptors began to find a groove. It wasn’t always pretty, but through the final 62 games, Toronto played to a 51-win pace thanks in part to the league’s seventh-ranked defense over the final five months of the year.

This year, the Raptors think they can hit the ground running without the early-season hiccups of last year. While the rest of the league is getting acclimated to new faces in new places, Toronto returned a league-leading 14 players from last season and expects that continuity to pay dividends immediately.

“We’re way further ahead (than last year),” Nurse said. “I’m pretty confident they get can stuff done.”

The Raptors are going to need that right away this year. Their schedule starts with seven games against Cleveland, Brooklyn, Miami, Philadelphia, and Atlanta, all of whom made changes this summer and all of whom are expecting to be in the playoff or play-in mix this year.

“I’m expecting us to be hard to play against,” Nurse said. “I’m expecting us to go out there and play with tremendous effort and really really feed off of each other and feed off of the momentum that energy creates. I think we gotta be a team that outplays another team or every team that we’re playing. And that’s what I expect to see. And I think if we do that I would imagine this team will continue to grow. I imagine if the effort, energy, and I think they are picking up schemes pretty good, there is some carry over from last year, then we oughta be pretty good.”

When Toronto has been at its best over the past few seasons it’s been because of its defensive know-how. That championship team of 2019 could change schemes in an instant. Their rotations were crisp and clean and if Nurse wanted to draw up box-and-one mid-game, they knew how to do it.

This year’s roster won’t be on that level, but the goal is to get close.

No love for Raptors as team looks to make another jump this season | Toronto Sun

Vegas sets a win total, the Raptors shrug their collective shoulders and go over that number. Last year it was set at 36.5. The Raptors acknowledged the slight and went out and won 48.

Rinse and repeat. This year, a year in which they’ve added players and after a young team matured, Vegas has bumped the pre-season number to 45.5. It’s still probably low.

They might not have a lot of name recognition and star power some of the elite teams in the league boast, outside of maybe sophomore Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam, but what the Raptors have is a team with a plan. They are a team on the rise again after that abysmal post-Bubble year they spent in Tampa in 2020-21.

Apart from that Tampa tank season, a Nick Nurse team has never failed to outplay the pre-season expectations from Vegas.

The same can be said of Siakam and Fred VanVleet since they arrived on the scene.

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