Morning Coffee – Wed, Apr 5

Barton shows up but still sucks | Raptors handle trash Hornet | .500 baby!

Will Pascal Siakam make All-NBA? Blame 3-point shooting and Raptors’ record if he doesn’t – The Athletic

As much as anything, the stagnation of Siakam’s 3-pointer has held him back and contributed to the Raptors’ languid offence. He shot 35.9 percent on 6.1 attempts per game in 2019-20. This season he is at 32.7 percent on 4.1 attempts per game, more in line with his numbers from each of the past two seasons. His 3-point shot has been under a microscope since the Raptors acquired Jakob Poeltl, with the centre’s paint presence creating more perimeter looks for his teammates.

“I’ve just got to continue to do it. I work on those things every day, so I just got to continue to do it,” Siakam told The Athletic on Monday after practice. “I work on those things every day, so I’ve got to get to the point where it’s automatic (taking) six, seven, eight a game.”

The difference between 2019-20 and the years that follow are Siakam’s pull-up 3s. In 2019-20, he shot 34 percent on 2.5 pull-up triples per game. Since then: 23.7 percent on 1.1 pull-up attempts in 2020-21, 25.7 percent on half an attempt per game in 2021-22 and 27.4 percent on 1.1 pull-up attempts this season. The drop is mysterious, and having that off-the-bounce weapon would provide a boon to the Raptors’ limited attack.

“I don’t know,” Siakam said when asked why his pull-up attempts have dried up. “It’s just the game. Literally, I couldn’t tell you. I still work on those things.”

Siakam is still having a good season. Lots of players would struggle within the Raptors offence, so Siakam faces a degree of difficulty many of his peers don’t. Also, he has been forced to adjust his role as the season has gone on. With Poeltl coming in, the Raptors play more pick-and-roll featuring VanVleet as the lead ballhandler, which has contributed to Siakam’s usage percentage dropping from 27.8 to 25.4 since the trade. His efficiency is virtually unchanged.

“Still figuring it out. Still figuring it out,” Siakam said. “I’m just trying to do whatever’s best for the team and figuring out my spots and just being me.”

Then there is the part that nobody wants to say out loud because the Raptors admire the hell out of Siakam and his journey, as they should. If Siakam makes All-NBA and qualifies for the supermax, should the Raptors offer it?

Doing so would mean a five-year, $290.3 million deal with a starting salary of about $50.05 million in 2024-25 that would pay him through his age-34 season, per Spotrac. Only the Raptors can offer him that contract. (They could offer him a similar one in the 2023-24 offseason, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, if he misses All-NBA this season but makes it next year). If he doesn’t qualify, the Raptors can offer him a four-year extension worth $192.2 million, starting at $42.9 million and paying him through his age-33 season. Thanks mostly to how things have gone for the team, it appears Siakam will have to choose between signing that four-year deal, assuming the Raptors offer it to him, or betting on himself to make All-NBA next year.

That is, if he is still with the Raptors next season. But that is a question for another day.

Raptors Takeaways: Toronto back above .500 after sweeping lowly Charlotte – Sportsnet

Raptors bench shines, but who will be on it?

There haven’t been a lot of games where the Raptors bench can be given the credit for a win, but there were the clear heroes against the Hornets’ B-team.

Through three quarters, the Raptors bench outscored Charlotte 34-12.

Will Barton had his best game as a Raptor as he made his return to the lineup after missing three games with a sprained ankle. He was shooting just 20 per cent from three in his first 12 games with Toronto but caught fire in the second quarter against Charlotte with four triples in five attempts to help turn the game.

He followed up with two more threes in the third quarter and finished with 20 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

Needless to say, that’s exactly what the Raptors were hoping for when theu signed the veteran after he was bought out by Washington. Still unclear is what is lying ahead for Jeff Dowtin Jr., the point guard on a two-way contract who has generally been a positive presence in his minutes, especially recently.

Toronto would need to convert him to a standard contract by Thursday in order for him to eligible for the post-season, but that requires the Raptors to waive someone to create a roster spot. There are some candidates for that — Thad Young and Joe Wieskamp come to mind — but the Raptors are loath to do it, and you have to respect the principle of the whole thing.

We’ll find out this week but right now it’s appearing that the status quo will the most likely outcome.

The Toronto Raptors complete the season sweep against Charlotte Hornets – Raptors HQ

As they were on Sunday, the Charlotte Hornets entered this game with a stacked injury list. Missing their entire regular starting lineup and then some, the players kicking things off for Charlotte are mostly young guys, and this team seems to be in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes.

Yet, the Raptors still had a slow start to this game tonight. They were down nearly 10 halfway through the first quarter before kicking things off and bridging the gap in score a little as the quarter wound down. This came from an excellent quarter for shooting from the young Hornets team — they shot 61.1% compared to the Raptors 37.5% from the field.

The Raptors were only down four at the end of the first quarter despite this, 29-25.

The tides turned for the Raptors in the second quarter thanks to some sharp shooting from bench players like Boucher and Barton. They made five three-pointers in the first ten minutes of the quarter to take the lead. They were also able to improve their field goal percentage to 41.2% by halftime. The Hornets on the other hand, decreased to 46.2% from the field in the span on the quarter.

The Raptors led at the half, 61-49. Chris Boucher had a great half, scoring two three pointers and shooting 4-5 from the field and 4-5 from the free throw line. He ended the half leading all scorers with 14 points. Will Barton had 12, making FOUR three pointers while Pascal Siakam had 13. Fred VanVleet may have not scored any points in the first half, but he had six assists.

He changed that stat in the third, scoring SIXTEEN (16!!) points in on quarter. Three from beyond the arc, 4-9 from the field and 5-6 from the free throw line. Talk about taking over from Fred there. They went on a 14-0 run to end the third quarter up 94-75.

It was a great scenario to empty the bench in the fourth, given that the team plays tomorrow night in Boston. It helps that Boston is ALSO going to be on the second night of a back to back, playing tonight in Philadelphia. This allowed Will Barton to continue having himself a night, shooting 6-9 from three.

Raptors buy into play-in after road sweep of Hornets | The Star

The win pushed the Raptors to 40-39 in ninth place in the East and allowed them to keep pace with the Atlanta Hawks, who won in Chicago. The Hawks’ victory helped the Raptors gain a two-game advantage on the 10th-place Bulls, and almost guarantees Toronto will finish ahead of Chicago. The Raptors also hold the tiebreaker.

This will be the first time the Raptors have faced the pressure of potential sudden-death games simply to qualify for the playoffs. They are solely responsible for where they are, but see an opportunity rather than a disaster.

“You’ve gotta have an open mind, you’ve gotta be positive about it,” VanVleet said before a 16-point, six-assist night on the Hornets. “It’s not going to change. We’re locked into a play-in spot now, so just be optimistic about it, be excited about it. I think it’s a great opportunity for us.”

Tuesday’s win was, predictably, more difficult than an easy Sunday victory over the same Charlotte team. Human nature suggests teams that win the first of a two-game series may take things for granted in the second game.

It looked a bit that way in the opening quarter against a Charlotte team missing the majority of its top rotation players.

But the Raptors got a huge second-quarter boost from Will Barton, who was playing after missing three games with a sprained ankle, to take control. The veteran guard, who had made five three-pointers over 146 minutes spanning 12 games as a Raptor, made four in less than 10 minutes of the second quarter as Toronto overcame a dreadful start to finish the first half on a 29-9 run.

He finished with 20 points in just over 20 minutes that included six three-pointers, and may very well have re-established himself as a deep rotation piece in the final three games of the regular season, and for however long the post-season lasts.

“We’re still probably trying to figure out where that role is, but it helps him tonight,” coach Nick Nurse said after the game. “Listen, he’s capable. The guy averaged 15 points a game in the league last year. That’s his game. He’s a scorer and he can shoot.

Raptors win might be last call for Jeff Dowtin Jr. | The Star

Dowtin was active for his 50th NBA game this season in Toronto’s 120-100 win over the Charlotte Hornets, the maximum allowed for a player on a two-way deal.

Because the Raptors haven’t waived anyone to create a roster spot for Dowtin to fill if Toronto wants to convert his two-way deal to a full NBA contract, he will not be eligible to play in Boston on Wednesday night.

And unless the Raptors waive someone by Thursday, Dowtin will be ineligible for next week’s play-in games or the NBA playoffs, if the Raptors make them.

There’s been no indication from management on whether they’ll cut someone in the last few days of the season so Dowtin can have his deal converted. They could let the deal remain a two-way contract, keep his rights through the summer and roll into next week’s play-in games with some combination of Scottie Barnes, Malachi Flynn or Will Barton playing the six or eight minutes a night that Fred VanVleet won’t in the most significant games of the season.

Dowtin has played in 25 of his 50 games as one of Toronto’s two two-way players. He averaged just over 10 minutes a game and earned the trust of coach Nick Nurse because of his defensive effort and the way he gets the offence organized when he’s running it.

If the Raptors do want to have him for games starting on the weekend, the player they’d most likely move is Joe Wieskamp, who has had no impact since signing a contract in February.

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