Morning Coffee – Wed, Dec 21

Frustrations are mounting | Blow it up or BLOW IT UP??? | Errrbody wants O.G....ERRBODY!

5 things: Raptors let yet another Pascal Siakam masterclass go to waste – Sportsnet

There are two types of Raptors games of late and they both end in losses. There are the ones where they don’t defend, give up nearly 40 points in the first quarter, spend the whole game catching up and maybe putting together a desperate comeback but still lose. This game was the other type, where the Raptors were scrappy throughout, kept it close by playing to their potential on defence, adjusted their rotation as needed to stay in the fight, had the lead late, only to still lose out in the end. Give the Raptors props for at least making it entertaining before arriving at the same result as they had been for the past month. The issue today was their offence, whereas the issue on Sunday was defence. They will need to actually play both ends of the floor if their six-game losing streak is to be snapped. Still, if you’re looking for signs of encouragement, this game did have it. If the Raptors approached every game with that type of intensity, the wins will come.

Do the Raptors Need to Reset Before the Trade Deadline? – The Ringer

Alongside a handful of rebuilding and/or tanking teams, the Raptors have one of the league’s worst half-court offenses. (Also note the Clippers’ placement here; their offense remains putrid!) They try to skirt the issue by avoiding standard half-court sets as much as possible, thanks to the league’s most potent transition attack.

But they’re ruined by a dreadful combination of not enough playmaking and not enough shooting. When not allowed to run in open space, Toronto’s offense frequently bogs down, without enough creativity to generate optimal looks.

The Raptors rank second in the NBA in isolation frequency, behind only the Mavericks’ Luka Doncic–centric attack, according to Second Spectrum. But the Raptors rank 26th in isolation effectiveness, averaging just 0.88 points when an iso produces a shot, foul, or turnover. The other teams—except those darn Clippers again—that use the most isos are, naturally, the best at turning those plays into points.

With a rotation mostly populated by non-shooters and with guards Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. slumping far below their career norms, the Raptors are also suffering from subpar shooting everywhere on the court. According to Cleaning the Glass, they rank 17th in finishing at the rim, 24th from midrange, 27th on corner 3s, and 27th on above-the-break 3s. Malachi Flynn is the only rotation player making even a league-average percentage from distance.

Yet to some extent, this level of offensive challenge is normal at this point. Since Kawhi Leonard left after the 2018-19 championship season, the Raptors have ranked 15th, 16th, 16th, and now 14th in offensive efficiency, according to Cleaning the Glass.

The problem this season is that the middling offense is paired with an uninspiring defense. The Raptors’ swarming collection of 6-foot-9 thieves force the league’s highest turnover rate, which has the double benefit of denying opponents points and generating fast-break opportunities. But that approach pays off only about 20 percent of the time. The other 80 percent has become disastrous.

When the Raptors don’t force turnovers, they foul a lot, and they allow sky-high shooting percentages. Toronto ranks 29th in opponents’ effective field goal percentage—and also ranks 29th in expected opponent eFG% based on factors like shot and defender location, according to Second Spectrum. That’s because the Raptors give up a lot of high-value shots at the rim and behind the 3-point line; only the Blazers and Magic have induced fewer midrange shots, per CtG. And the no-center Raptors don’t have the personnel to disrupt those juicy looks: Opposing teams shoot 70 percent at the rim against Toronto, the league’s third-highest mark.

(Precious Achiuwa’s absence hurts here, as he’s played just 12 games because of an ankle injury. Christian Koloko has promise but isn’t ready; the 7-foot rookie leads all players with at least 400 minutes in foul rate, averaging six whistles per 75 possessions.)

The Raptors play a high-risk, high-reward style, and the risk is winning. After a rough weekend, the Raptors dropped to 19th in defensive rating, according to CtG, equivalent to their mark from the forgettable 2020-21 campaign.

Do the Raptors need to make a trade or just get healthy? | Instant Analysis

Kevin Michie & Eric Smith dissect the Raptors 6-game losing streak, how much their injury problems have plagued them, and if it’s time to press the panic button yet.

Slumping Raptors don’t want to tank, but they might need to | The Star

Still, as Nurse was acknowledging Monday, Toronto is playing against teams such as the Sixers knowing they’re at a disadvantage from the opening tip.

“Even nights like tonight, you’re not going to sit there and say we match up with (the Sixers) talent-wise, you’re not,” said Nurse. “So, what are we going to do? You’ve gotta go out and try to outplay them, you’ve got to work harder. We’ve gotta cut that gap down and execute very well and play together. That’s what the game is.”

The game of maximizing Toronto’s talent with all-out effort is taking its usual toll, of course.

Last season, Fred VanVleet’s body broke down at the climax of a first-round playoff series with the Sixers. A little more than a third of the way through this season, VanVleet already looks to be playing at less than 100 per cent, at least judging by his career-worst three-point shooting numbers, which were made worse by a 2-for-11 brickfest from beyond the arc in Philadelphia.

There’s a lot of runway remaining, of course. Last year at this point, the Raptors were 14-17 before a second-half rally secured the No. 5 seed in the East. This year, they’re 13-18. And even if they’re showing no obvious signs of an impending rally, at least they’ve got time.

Still, the Raptors went into Tuesday’s slate of games in an NBA version of no-man’s land. They were 4 1/2 games back of sixth place, the last playoff berth not involved in the organizationally maligned play-in tournament. As Raptors president Masai Ujiri famously said in the wake of 2021’s Tampa Tank: “Everybody’s like, ‘Why don’t you get in the play-in?’ Play-in for what? We want to win a championship here.”

Speaking of 2021, mind you, the Raptors awoke Tuesday residing in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, a mere 5 1/2 games clear of last place, currently occupied by Dwane Casey’s Detroit Pistons.

In other words: Another key injury or two, another tough few weeks, and there’ll be those in management weighing the merits of transplanting the Tampa Tank to Toronto in the lead-up to the 2023 draft.

RAPTORS BLOG: Trade, stand pat and wait for reinforcements? Decisions to be made | Toronto Sun

Pascal Siakam’s been consistently great nearly every time out (including against the Sixers, one of his best games of the season). O.G. Anunoby provided a big boost defensively for a club that has been leaking at that end quite a bit.

But the Raptors still lack a viable bench. Still miss Precious Achiuwa, and, to a lesser extent, Gary Trent, quite a bit. Otto Porter would help too.

But this is who they have available. The schedule isn’t easing up and they’ll need a strong second half to get back into the playoff picture (the play-in is not where they want to be).

The Knicks and Cavaliers, the next two opponents are both playing well. The Clippers are a powerhouse when healthy and even if Kawhi Leonard or Paul George don’t play at Toronto in a week they still have players the Raptors don’t match up well against. Then it’s the title contending Grizzlies and Suns, followed by the scrappy Pacers, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks and the Knicks again.

It says here only two teams in the East will definitely finish with a worse record than Toronto: Charlotte and Detroit. I’d bet heavily on Washington also being worse, but who knows. With Orlando finally playing well, that leaves five teams in the mix just to make the play-in. Maybe one playoff spot is legitimately up for grabs (sixth). It’s hard to imagine Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Brooklyn (if all stay healthy and there’s no more Kyrie Irving drama) don’t all make the playoffs.

So do the Raptors stay the course and wait for the reinforcements to arrive, while knowing that even when they do that just powers them up in the front court, solving little for a team that does’t have enough viable guard options?

Do they deal Trent instead of either paying him in the off-season or losing him for nothing?

Do they get drastic and peddle VanVleet, despite all he also brings to the club off the court? VanVleet’s value doesn’t simply lie in his on-court production. He’s replaced Kyle Lowry as the heartbeat of the franchise. They’ll have to calculate if they want to potentially vastly overpay VanVleet (which will be the case if they max him out but he keeps putting up the numbers he has ever since the second half of last season) because of everything else he brings to the table. If they think he’ll stabilize, trading him doesn’t make sense.

But if they want to pivot more to the future, maybe they think about it?

This corner would hate to see VanVleet go. Hopefully he simply gets healthier and starts playing up to his capabilities more consistently again.

We still maintain having more help beside him would go a long way. Both Lowry and VanVleet thrived when both were on the court together.

Dealing Siakam doesn’t make any sense, even though he’s quite a bit older than Barnes, Achiuwa and Anunoby, the key building blocks. Good luck finding another Siakam. He’s an organizational success story, a shining beacon of player and team coming together.

They could move Anunoby, knowing he’s 1.5 years away from a massive payday and will have the choice of leaving the only franchise he’s known at that time. Toronto would get back a mega-haul for Anunoby.

Lots of options. None are no-brainers.

NBA Power Rankings, Week 9 – Nets quickly gaining ground in East, but Milwaukee is again the team to beat – ESPN

22. Toronto Raptors
2022-23 record: 13-18
Previous ranking: 19

The hits just keep on coming for Toronto, which simply can’t buy a basket. The Raptors are 29th in the NBA in 3-point percentage over their past 11 games — which coincides with a 2-9 record (that also ranks 29th over the span, ahead of the Wizards). It’s safe to say this is not what the Raptors were expecting from their season, as they now sit five games below .500 despite having scored exactly the same number of points as they’ve given up this season.

NBA Power Rankings: Knicks make leap; Warriors plunge; holiday gift ideas for every team – The Athletic

Tier 5: Looking to make the Play-In

19. Toronto Raptors (previously 16th) | 13-17 | +0.2 net rating

Weekly slate: Loss to Kings, Loss to Nets, Loss to Warriors

Big-ticket gift idea: Lasik Eye Surgery Groupon. The Toronto Raptors do not have the talent of a team that should struggle making shots as much as they do. Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, Gary Trent Jr. and Chris Boucher should all be shooting the 3-ball way better than they do. It’s almost incomprehensible that this team struggles so much at hitting shots. Let’s get some corrective surgery for those eyeballs and get the Raptors back on track with letting it fly.

What Jackson is getting them at the office: DVD box set to the “Jurassic Park” franchise. This Raptors team needs to jump start the offense. The efficiency is getting better, so that’s good. But where is the punch for such a versatile and exciting team? I need the Raptors to play a lot faster because then they can maximize their versatility and athleticism more. They need to watch how the Raptors in the “Jurassic” franchise attack. Quick, swiftly and tenaciously.

Why this ranking? I’m still keeping my faith in this team, but they need to start winning some games soon. They shouldn’t have dropped the games against Sacramento or the Warriors this week.

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