Morning Coffee – Mon, Feb 6

Raptors end a 4-3 road trip with a win in Memphis | OG on the is Fred, or maybe they aren't...which way should the winds blow? t-24 hours before the trade deadline.

Raptors at trade deadline: 5 thoughts after their marathon road trip – The Athletic

The Kyrie repercussions

On the surface, the Mavericks trading for Kyrie Irving has nothing to do with the Raptors. Sure, the Raptors might have been able to get involved as a third party, but they were never going to be suitors for the guard, nor does Brooklyn’s status impact them in the standings.

Saying that, if the Raptors are serious about trading either O.G. Anunoby or, less likely, Pascal Siakam at the deadline, the potential haul might have taken a hit. Let’s say Kevin Durant becomes available for a trade again this offseason because of the state of things in Brooklyn. We know Phoenix was interested in trading for Durant this past summer. New Orleans also has the requisite pieces to get Durant, even if his playing in one of the NBA’s smallest markets seems far-fetched. Ditto, on both counts, for Memphis.

Well, those three teams might see another opportunity to go after Durant. Obviously, all of them will want to be in good shape going into the playoffs this year, since the field in the Western Conference is wide open. Any doubts that those teams’ front offices have about their rosters could make them more likely to be patient, though, and hold on to their picks so they can a) get more time to judge their teams; and b) stay in the theoretical hunt for Durant.

In short, maybe the Irving trade slightly decreases the chances of the Raptors moving one of their forwards by Thursday.

VanVleet’s prophecy

Back when Fred VanVleet was in the worst of his struggles, he said by the end of the season, his numbers would approximate last year’s. He was an All-Star in 2021-22. Last year, he averaged 20.3 points and 6.7 assists per game, with a 40.3/37.7/87.4 split from the field, 3-point range and the free-throw line, respectively.

After a hot trip, VanVleet is sitting at 19.7 points and 6.5 assists, with a 39.7/34.4/89.7 shooting line. He’s trending in the right direction. VanVleet was the Raptors’ best player by quite a distance over the seven games.

VanVleet’s trade market remains a mystery. So many of the teams that figure to have cap room in the offseason are earlier in their development curves, so giving four years to an undersized 29-year-old point guard doesn’t seem tremendously likely. (Orlando could be an outlier, but I don’t think Houston, Oklahoma City or San Antonio are entering the VanVleet market.) On the other hand, does any player who might move for a single desirable target, whether it is a young player or a draft pick with upside, move the needle for a contender as much as VanVleet could? Crucially, the Lakers and Clippers both have obvious needs at guard, and both teams have demanding superstars.

If I were to bet, I’d say the Raptors keep both VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. If so, they better be ready to fight to retain both guys in free agency. That leads me to…

After feel-good end to road trip, where will the Raptors’ improving vibes take them? – Sportsnet

Then Raptors head coach Nick Nurse came up big, challenging a shooting foul on Desmond Banes – initially called on VanVleet, who came over to block Banes’ lay-up attempt. The foul call was successfully over-turned, giving the Raptors the ball back. 

“There was a couple of other times I could have used it and I’m glad I didn’t,” said Nurse. 

Siakam then hit a couple of three throws to put the Raptors up three before Jackson Jr. missed a three at the buzzer. 

It was a feel-good win: Seven different Raptors finished in double figures scoring, led by Siakam with 19, while Chris Boucher and Thad Young combined for 31 points off the bench. 

The vibe, as they say, seems to be improving after a lot of frustrating losses were making it difficult to stay positive for the Raptors, who are 25-30 on the season, a half-game out of the final play-in spot (10th place) and 4.5 games out of the final guaranteed playoff spot (sixth place).

“It’s a great way to end the trip,” said VanVleet. “We competed and I thought we played some really good basketball for the majority of a long trip like this for a young team like ourselves, we got to close it out with that fourth quarter on a night where nothing really going our way. We hung in there and made a couple more plays at the end and came out with a victory.

“Rightfully so we’re going to criticize ourselves and be harder on ourselves, but we should be proud of our effort and being able to come out here with a win tonight.”

Now, no one should get too carried away. The Raptors’ defensive rating over the past seven games is 20th in the NBA at 116.4 points allowed per 100 possessions, compared to 19th and 113.6 prior to the trip. They’re still capable of giving up a lot of easy looks and are very dependent on forcing turnovers to generate offence but are otherwise too easy to score against – over the past seven games the Raptors are 28th in opponents’ effective field goal percentage and 29th on the season.

But they bookended the trip with their best defensive effort of the season with a win against the Sacramento Kings and their fourth quarter against Memphis, with some nice moments in wins against Portland and Houston in between, giving Toronto something to feel good about.

“I feel like we’re coming together better as a group, defensively,” said Barnes. “I feel we started off amazing on the defensive end versus the Kings .. getting stops, getting deflections and I feel like we started good, we finished the road trip pretty good. So I feel like that the primary thing just focusing on that defensive end and being able to find ways to be active and just getting back to what we’re used to doing.”

We’ll see how long it lasts, and where it can take them.

Recap: Memphis Grizzlies drop double-digit lead, lose to Raptors – Grizzly Bear Blues

The Memphis Grizzlies came in today to take on the Toronto Raptors, and they were down 3 starters. Ja Morant was out with wrist soreness, Dillon Brooks was suspended, and Steven Adams is still out with a knee injury. The Raptors were without everybody’s favorite trade target, OG Anunoby.

The Grizzlies started out on a quick 13-4 start, due to shooting and playmaking from Desmond Bane. Xavier Tillman also provided some great hustling with the 50-50 balls. The quarter belonged to Santi Aldama though, who unleashed the entire bag en route to a 12-point 1st quarter. The Grizzlies led 31-28 at the end of the 1st quarter.

To put out a small fire of trade speculation, Ziaire Williams entered the game at the start of the 2nd quarter — as Danny Green and John Konchar came in before him. Bane was the offensive engine for the Grizzlies with his outside shooting and his activity as a cutter and driver. Unfortunately, they couldn’t build on a lead, as there was no defense on either side. The Raptors surged in the quarter, fueled from former Memphis Tiger Precious Achiuwa. Both teams scored 31 points in the quarter, as the Grizzlies went into halftime with a 62-59 lead.

The 3rd quarter belonged to Jaren Jackson Jr. After foul trouble in the first half, he erupted after the break. He had 9 points and 3 blocks, and he looked like the biggest difference-maker on the floor on both sides of the ball. The Grizzlies ended up extending their lead to double digits, but the Raptors got a 3 at the end of the quarter to cut it to 8 before the final period. Grizzlies led 86-78.

The 4th quarter started out kind of nice, which included Danny Green hitting his 2nd three of the night. However, the Raptors went on a run, demolishing a small lineup the Grizzlies trotted out. They took advantage of the Grizzlies’ rotations for the extra pass to easy shots.

Late-game execution plagued the Grizzlies once again. Scottie Barnes scored off a drive to give the Raptors a lead. Bane got fouled on a drive which would’ve either tied the game or give the Grizzlies a lead. However, Nick Nurse challenged the call successfully. The Raptors got the ball back, resulting in free throws to go up 3.

Jaren Jackson Jr. attempted a step-back jumper against Scottie Barnes with 8 seconds left. The Raptors secured the rebound and the win.

105-102 Raptors. That’s now 8 of 9 losses for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Barnes’ late heroics push Toronto Raptors past Memphis Grizzlies, 106-103 – Raptors HQ

The Grizzlies were without three starters in Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks and Steven Adams on Sunday and looked like a team missing continuity, committing 20 turnovers. The guys left had big nights, though, as Desmond Bane dropped 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting while Jaren Jackson Jr. had 18 points, eight boards and four blocks. The loss is the eighth in the last nine games for Memphis.

The victory ends a long, strange road trip for the Raptors — one where they’ve had multiple top players in trade talks around the league — with a 4-3 record. Set against past seven-game trips in franchise history, it’s the most successful record they’ve ever had. It’s a weird thing to say considering how clenched the bottoms have been among everyone for the past two weeks — fans, media and the players themselves. The vibes have been downright awful, and yet, this winning road trip is a big deal. Dare I point it out, but the Raptors now have a five-game home stand and are 2.5 games out of eighth in the East. The season isn’t over for those who want them to make a push.

Tonight, it wasn’t a total team effort, but the flashes were fun — most of them started by the bench. The Grizz got off to a hot start against Toronto’s starters, as Bane hit a pair of threes to establish a 6-2 lead. After Pascal Siakam came over late for help twice during a 7-0 Memphis run, Nick Nurse dug into his bench earlier than usual — as Chris Boucher and Thad Young came in for some energy.

The move paid off. Young had a first quarter steal and score, followed by his first three of the calendar year to cut the Grizzlies lead to six. Thad’s energy really picked up the Raptors intensity on the defensive end too, a theme that carried through the rest of the game.

With a three-point lead heading into the second quarter, the Grizzlies upped their energy to match the Raptors. A parade to the rim was capped with another Bane three, as Memphis went on a 10-4 run to make it 41-32. A pair of threes from Boucher, who started 4-for-4 from distance and finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, kept Toronto close, however. With the Raptors starters back in, Fred VanVleet put his stamp on the game — playing his best stretch of the night to close the second quarter. A circus layup and triple combo from the Rockford point guard gave the Raptors their first lead, 55-53. Though Memphis would claw the margin back, they’d go into halftime still up just three points.

The third quarter made it look like this game might go like many others have gone for the Raptors this year: a slow fade into a loss. Once again, the Grizzlies started the frame on a run, but unforced turnovers kept the Raptors within striking distance. Still, Memphis had their chances to put the hammer down. Siakam picked up his fifth foul with 4:44 left in the third, forcing him to sit out a long stretch until midway through the fourth quarter.

The Grizzlies, up double digits at 77-66, couldn’t handle the energy of Toronto’s bench, though. Young battled hard on the interior against the likes of Brandon Clarke and Jackson Jr., finishing with 14 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals. A big rebound at the end of the quarter set up a Malachi Flynn three — ensuring the Raptors went into the fourth down single digits.

Then, in the fourth, it was the Scottie Barnes show. After a Thad Young dunk cut the Grizzlies lead to seven, Barnes barrelled through four Grizzlies defenders to make it five. Siakam’s return came with some critical buckets, as well as a clutch pass out to Barnes for the three (he’s making them now!) to make it 99-96 Memphis.

Raptors head home after comeback win with trade talk swirling | The Star

It didn’t hurt that the Raptors were playing a home team bereft of three starters: the injured Ja Morant and Steven Adams, not to mention the suspended Dillon Brooks. But Toronto, to be fair, was down a starter of its own, with O.G. Anunoby missing his fifth straight game with a bad wrist. And the Raptors were also grinding through the finale of an epic seven-game, 13-day Western Conference swing.

So Sunday’s win, if it was anything, was a reminder that the Raptors can still conjure the kind of game-turning defensive effort that’s been their trademark in more prosperous seasons under Nurse. In handing the Grizzlies their eighth loss in nine games, the Raptors forced 20 turnovers and crashed the offensive glass for 21 second-chance points, while reeling off 23 more field-goal attempts than the Grizzlies.

And while Toronto’s defence simply hasn’t been good enough most of the season — and was often lacking in Sunday’s opening three quarters — it arrived with oomph in the final frame, wherein the Raptors held the Grizzlies to 17 points on 31 per cent shooting to win a game in which they’d trailed by as many as 15 points. Also showing up when it mattered was Scottie Barnes, who shook off a 1-for-8 shooting night through three quarters to reel off 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting in the fourth.

Said Raptors veteran Fred VanVleet of Barnes: “I don’t know what he’s waiting on, but it was right on time.”

Maybe the same could be said of this team, which slogged through plenty of subpar nights before improving to 4-3 on the road trip with Sunday’s rousing win, which was buoyed by energetic performances off the bench by Chris Boucher (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Thaddeus Young (14 points).

“Our competitive spirit and togetherness is growing,” said VanVleet. “That fabric, that winning fabric. You saw tonight: This looks like a traditional Raptors team, the way we won the game tonight. And that’s something we haven’t seen as much as we need to this year. But we’re getting there.”

Exactly where they’re going, of course, is the question. Nurse said the road trip showed the Raptors have “made some progress.” While they’ve struggled to play 48 minutes of the kind of relentless defence Nurse is demanding, they’re stringing together some impressive stretches.

“There’s 34, 32, 36 minutes of really good defence,” Nurse said. “We just need to kind of keep extending that out a little bit to be a little bit more of who we want to be.”

But considering the Raptors are still in no-man’s land — on the periphery of the play-in tournament picture, and still too far from the basement for optimal draft-lottery odds — it’s hard to imagine the Western trip was enough to convince anyone in management that change shouldn’t be afoot.

Sunday was a reminder of a draft selection gone wrong. When the Raptors selected Malachi Flynn with the 29th pick in 2020, they passed over a prospect named Desmond Bane, who was taken next by the Celtics and promptly moved to Memphis. One of the knocks on the six-foot-five Bane was a below-average wingspan; short arms in a league obsessed with length. Now ensconced as a starter for a Memphis team with legitimate championship aspirations, Bane’s arms were sufficiently sized to put up 26 points.

Raptors find their legs in the fourth and pull out a win in Memphis | Toronto Sun

If ever there was an example of what a well-built team looks like, the Raptors had a front-row seat Sunday evening.

No Ja Morant, no Steven Adams and no Dillon Brooks might make a number of teams take a step back. Not the Grizzlies who turned to Santi Aldama, Tyus Jones and Xavier Tillman and were not disappointed with the results.

But in the fourth, needing more to match a feverish push by the mostly full-roster Raptors, the Grizzlies came up short.

Barnes, with just three points through the first three quarters, put up 13 in the final frame, including four of the final six points with the Grizzlies threatening to send the Raptors home with a loss.

Barnes made six of his seven shots in the fourth and was instrumental defensively, denying Jaren Jackson Jr. on a potential game-tying three-pointer at the end of regulation. Barnes forced Jackson into an off-balance three in the dying seconds that hit rim and was rebounded by Siakam, who dribbled out the clock.

It was by no means a complete effort, either by the Raptors as a whole or Barnes individually, but it was enough to get the job done.

Defensively, the Raptors turned up the pressure in the fourth limiting Memphis to just 17 points.

Seven of the eight Raptors who played finished in double digits in scoring, but only Fred VanVleet and the three reserves — Chris Boucher, Thad Young and Malachi Flynn — were on the positive side of the ledger in the plus-minus department.

Toronto’s defence turned the Grizzlies over 20 times, leading to 29 points while only coughing it up 11 times themselves.

They also got up 23 more field-goal attempts than the Grizzlies to help offset the 11 more free-throw attempts Memphis got in the game.

With the win, the Raptors finish the trip 4-3, the only winning trip of seven games or more in team history.

Pascal Siakam led the Raptors with 19 points, but it was Barnes down the stretch and that bench trio of Boucher (17 points), Young (14 points) and Flynn that kept the Grizzlies from running away in the early going.

For the Grizzlies, it was the duo of Desmond Bane and first-time all-star Jackson Jr., the two remaining healthy starters for Memphis, who carried the load.

Raptors Knock Off Grizzlies as Trades Loom Ahead of Deadline – Sports Illustrated Toronto Raptors News, Analysis and More

Well, for one, Scottie Barnes is the future. Despite struggling for the better part of three-quarters Sunday, the 21-year-old found his groove late as he has so often this season. He quit with his three-point shooting and took it to the hoop over and over again late in the quarter, scoring 13 points in the final frame including the go-ahead bucket right at Jaren Jackson Jr. in the final minute.

It also proved Toronto’s front office is very good, but there have been at least a couple of significant mistakes lately. Trading away their first-round pick last season in the Thad Young deal cost them a shot at Kessler Walker, the Utah Jazz’s rookie center who dominated the Raptors earlier in the week. On Sunday, it was Desmond Bane, the man selected one spot after Malachi Flynn in 2020, that buried Toronto early. The 24-year-old nailed four three-pointers in the first half en route to game-high 26 points on the night.

This Raptors team has shown it has individual talent individually. Fred VanVleet has been phenomenal over the past two months, he helped Toronto clinch victory against Memphis with a crucial block against Bane in the final 17 seconds. Even Chris Boucher has looked pretty solid lately. He came off the bench for 17 points against the Grizzlies and immediately made a difference for Toronto, nailing a trio of three-pointers and working with Thad Young, who had maybe his best game as a Raptor, to erase Memphis’ 15-point second-half lead.

But overall, this team just hasn’t been good enough. The defense Toronto used to pride itself on has disappeared far too often this year. Memphis whizzed the ball around with ease, getting into the paint, and scoring buckets with little-to-no resistance in the first half before the Raptors finally clamped down in the second.

As for what the future holds, there’s no way to look at this team as anything other than a failure this year. The road trip didn’t miraculously bring this group together. It didn’t save this season. Instead, it exposed Toronto’s flaws: A lack of cohesion, missing chemistry, and an unbalanced roster.

The Kyrie Irving trade Sunday afternoon was the first major shakeup of the trade deadline week. The Brooklyn Nets got two valuable rotation players, an unprotected future first-round pick, and a pair of seconds from the Dallas Mavericks for an uber-talented, albeit troubled point guard.

Now the pressure is on the rest of the league to respond. The Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers both need more ball-handling and three-point shooting. Memphis and New Orleans should both be looking to respond to Dallas’ move. Even the Nets have reportedly been in contact with Toronto, looking to make a second move on the heels of their first, per SNY’s Ian Begley.

Winning the West Coast trip was impressive, relatively speaking, but it won’t be enough. A victory over the Ja Morant, Steven Adams, and Dillon Brooks-less Grizzlies won’t change that.

Memphis Grizzlies: 6 trade targets that bolster their title chances – Grizzly Bear Blues

OG Anunoby
Why it could/should happen: It could, or should, happen because it’s one of the only “big fish” targets that actually make sense for the Grizzlies. Since Zach Kleiman took over, he’s sought the “big wing.” He traded for Justise Winslow, took a flier on Jarrett Culver, and drafted players like Ziaire Williams, Jake LaRavia, and David Roddy. It hasn’t panned out — though too early on the rookies and Williams, health struck Winslow, and Culver was a stretch and free shot — but the leap from Desmond Bane has eased the need for one.

Nonetheless, the pursuit is still on for a big wing to slot with Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and Jaren Jackson Jr. OG Anunoby fits the bill, and antennas definitely go off when the possibility of OG/Memphis is discussed on national network — though the Grizzlies’ front office more often remains quiet.

At 6’7” and 250 pounds, he’s arguably the best perimeter defender in the basketball, and one of the true cases of “can defend all 5 positions” we have in this league. He’s leading the league in steals per game (2.1) and total steals (93). He’s also in the 97th percentile in real adjusted turnover rate (0.88), per The B-Ball Index. He gives the Grizzlies another perimeter stopper in situations with multiple perimeter attackers, as well as another sizable defender in smaller situations with Jackson at the 5.

Offensively, he should theoretically help the Grizzlies shooting woes. He’s shooting 44% on corner 3’s, and has shot better than 40% on this area in 5 of his 6 seasons. He’s also shooting 39.6% on catch-and-shoot 3’s. He’s also a deft cutter, scoring 1.57 PPP off cuts (92.5 percentile, per Synergy) — which should work perfectly with Morant and Adams.

Slotting him in a lineup with those 3 players and 1 of Dillon Brooks, Steven Adams, or Brandon Clarke — and you get something incredibly formidable in the playoffs. He’s the one player on the trade market that can move the needle for the Grizzlies’ championship hopes, both now and for the next several years.

I’m sure the package will be bigger, but worth noting: the Raptors have a past of trading for players they want to sign in free agency. Do the Raptors want to bring Dillon Brooks home, while seeing him as a cheaper alternative to Anunoby?

Why it couldn’t/shouldn’t happen: Any skepticism comes at the price. The rumor out there is it could take 3 first-round picks. Inflation is crazy, am I right? The price seems high for a player that’s never been an All-Star. However, teams in the mix — New Orleans, New York, Indiana, Phoenix, and frankly Memphis — have the surplus draft capital to overpay for him.

Yes, the Grizzlies would still have draft picks in the event they move 3 picks for him. However, the Stepien Rule of trading picks in consecutive drafts hinders them from making another in-season move down the road.

But is OG Anunoby the player you want to push the chips for?

Despite his defensive brilliance and his outside shooting, if you’re wanting shot creation in the Grizzlies’ “big fish” move, Anunoby is not him. He’s in the 17th percentile in efficiency as a pick-and-roll ball-handler (0.64 PPP) and in the 9th percentile as an isolation scorer (8.8).

Granted, you’re probably not sacrificing a shot-creator in this deal, but why send the “all in, 3 picks” package for someone who’s an inefficient creator?

Where I really see the Grizzlies straying away from a deal is the price. While including Green seems inevitable in their first offer, I don’t see them throwing in Ziaire Williams along with two or three first-round picks. There’s a lot of investment and hopes in Williams and their development system. While OG is an upgrade, and would likely be better than Williams or those picks, it’s a calculated risk the Grizzlies will cautiously measure. They may not deem the trade worth it, given the price. Or they see it as the move.

If all else fails, maybe the Grizzlies use the Anunoby talks to catapult to the forefront of a possible Pascal Siakam trade sweepstakes in the next 12-18 months.

What it’d take (fit and financially): Danny Green or Dillon Brooks, Ziaire Williams, Warriors’ 2024 1st (top-4 protected), 2025 lottery-protected 1st round pick for OG Anunoby. It’s a great offer, but teams with more draft picks (NOLA or New York) can overpay even more, especially with their combination of young prospects and salaries as well.

The Memphis Grizzlies may very well not make a trade. They’re 2nd in the Western Conference at this point, and they may not like the opportunity cost of making a deal in an inflated market with no real sellers.

I’m in the “cool if they do, cool if they don’t” territory.

They may feel they’ll bust out of a shooting slump and rekindle their mojo and winning ways. It’s highly possible — after all they won 11 games in a row prior to this slump.

However, the trade deadline is a chance for this struggling team to reload in a wide-open Western Conference and bolster their title odds. Now we just wait and see if there’s a move to be made from Zach Kleiman and company.

As Irving unleashes chaos on the league, Raptors could benefit in the long run – Sportsnet

“I mean, my first reaction was it seemed like a really good move,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “[The Nets] got a lot of assets back for a guy who wasn’t going to be back, it seemed. And for Dallas, they probably wanted another big-time star to along with the one they got [Doncic], so it seemed like a pretty good deal for both teams.”

Which brings us to the timing of the whole thing, again. 

By getting the deal done on Sunday, the Nets have given themselves a little bit of flexibility to manage a couple of different scenarios: the first is they now have a little bit of draft capital (having dealt away a good chunk of their own to acquire Harden way back when) to use between now and Thursday to add one more player to what remains a pretty good lineup that also includes Durant, the most dominant player in the sport, arguably.

So for a team like the Toronto Raptors – looked upon as potential sellers this week – there is one more buyer in the marketplace to drive up prices, never a bad thing.

As far as the Raptors are concerned: it also helps that Irving went to Dallas and not either of the backcourt-starved Los Angeles teams, which means that there should still be some strong demand out there if Toronto does want to move Fred VanVleet to the Lakers or Clippers.

But the timing is also telling because if the Nets aren’t able to make another move, or if the move they make isn’t enough to convince Durant that he can win a title in Brooklyn at age 34 and beyond, well the Nets could pivot to being sellers in a hurry too, offering up the perennial MVP candidate as they pivot to rebuilding on the fly.

And if that happens? Well, the next few days could prove to be as unpredictable as any kind of chaos Irving has ever unleashed before, which is saying something.

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