Morning Coffee – Tue, Apr 18

O.G. got some DPOY votes but likely not all-defensive team | Banton has one more year to earn it | Lots of decisions to be made

Fred VanVleet’s jumper was the Raptors season – Raptors Republic

Among the Raptors starting lineup, O.G. Anunoby was the only player who finished above league-average from the three point line. And even he was below it (35% prior to March) before he went on a heater to end the season. Hell, even Gary Trent Jr. finished below 37-percent. Nearly everyone on the roster regressed.

VanVleet having the best playmaking season of his career, the best pick and roll season of his career, and the best mid-range shooting season of his career doesn’t matter as much to the Raptors as a whole as it does to his game, basically. Siakam and Barnes are significantly better at providing the rim pressure, isolation scoring, and playmaking on the floor than they are at providing the spacing. A team needs to be able to do many different things to generate a defensive response, and diverse skillsets are welcome.

There’s a reason that prior to the season, VanVleet’s off-ball role was an emphasized talking point. His shooting and spacing would never be invasive, only ever positive. But, he struggled in that department and found a significant amount more success in aspects of the game that were more duplicative of his star and star-ascendant pals on the wing. Even the Raptors 2-man actions between guard and wing, that had been extremely successful in past years, had become more of the “your turn, my turn” variety.

The Raptors lost all of their floor balance when VanVleet’s shooting tripped over itself out of the gate. That same floor balance was exacerbated by injuries to shooters and regression from, again, nearly everyone. VanVleet was injured, though. On the offensive end, VanVleet was a career best in everything except catch and shoot jumpers – and everyone wants VanVleet shooting the catch and shoot looks when he has them, right? It was failure. Of course it was. But, his process was no more imperfect or flawed than it was when the Raptors were a playoff team and he was an All-Star. It was just… missed shots.

This creates a scenario where the Raptors can exceed expectations next season if their players’ percentages return to normal and some hierarchy is imposed in the name of that elusive floor balance. I suspect the front office was expecting that outcome for the back half of the season, creating the reasoning for the Jakob Poeltl trade. It didn’t happen consistently. Perhaps it will in the future.

But, the real question: Whether VanVleet is a part of the roster or not, why would you want to build a team that is so susceptible to these types of failures?

Raptors Face Complicated Decision With OG Anunoby Extension – Sports Illustrated

Anunoby is eligible for a contract extension this summer capped at four years, $116.9 million. While the NBA did increase the veteran extension rules in the new collective bargaining agreement from a maximum of 120% of a player’s current salary to 140%, allowing Anunoby to earn $26.1 million in the first year of his new contract, it’s unclear if that’s going to be enough to get a deal done.

Toronto has yet to discuss an extension with Anunoby, he said, which makes sense because the new CBA rules are yet to come into effect.

“I’ll definitely talk to them,” Anunoby said of extension discussions. “I love Toronto. I love my teammates, love the staff. So yeah, definitely comfortable.”

But the numbers might not add up. Tyler Herro, for example, the offensive and defensive inverse of Anunoby, signed an extension for four years, $120 million this past summer. Jordan Poole, similarly, signed a four-year, $128 million extension. While those players are certainly very different from Anunoby in terms of play style, their value may be similar and the rising cap in the next few seasons should have Anunoby looking at an even bigger deal.

Therein lies the problem for Toronto. The Raptors’ inability to go over the $116.9 million number means Anunoby may be forced into unrestricted free agency next summer. Considering his age, talent, and fit with virtually every team in the league, there’s going to be no shortage of teams looking to add Anunoby. Yes, Toronto can offer him more years than anyone else and go above the cap to re-sign him, but unless he’s getting a max offer, that likely won’t impact Anunoby’s negotiations.

So, what is the truth?

If Anunoby truly was dissatisfied with his role last summer, it’s unlikely that changed this year, and getting him to ink an extension in Toronto may prove difficult. If he doesn’t, the Raptors may find themselves in a bind, facing the real risk of losing one of the team’s most valuable assets at this time next year.

Canadians in the NBA Roundup: Dalano Banton is ready for his biggest challenge yet – Sportsnet

But Banton is a skilled passer with elite vision, and the biggest thing stopping him from showcasing that vision in the NBA has been his inability to unlock some of his scoring chops in order to have defences adjust and see those passing lanes open up.

In fact, for Banton to crack the Raptors rotation next season, he will have to improve as a scorer, and that means knocking down jump shots in addition to the cutting and driving he is already adept at. Despite still not seeing positive results from three-point land, Banton feels confident in the progress he has made with his jump shot and the numbers bear that out, as Banton shot better percentages at the rim (78 per cent), from two-point range (53 per cent), and from three (26 per cent) this year than he did last season. He also saw his assist percentage go up (21) and his turnover percentage go down (13). And he is confident that despite the up-and-down season he had, he is making strides forward.

“Just definitely being an all around player,” Banton said about his improvements. “Trying to get guys a little more involved. Kinda just trying to figure out my own game, just trying to play with pace, learning how to slow it down, knowing how to pick it up, knowing when to use speed and when not to. So it’s kinda trying to figure out more reads and stuff like that.”

Banton is a restricted free agent this summer with a qualifying offer worth just over $2 million for next season. Given that restricted free agents have very little leverage in the NBA, the odds are that if the Raptors still believe in Banton and want to bring him back, they will. What is less clear is what Banton will make of that opportunity, which could be his last with his hometown team.

“Definitely just [going to] continue to stay sharp, working on my game all around,” Banton said about his plans this summer, which might include participating in Team Canada’s training camp for the 2023 FIBA World Cup in Toronto in August. “Definitely going to continue to grind in the weight room, put on weight throughout the summer, that’s one of my main [concerns] is definitely getting stronger… it’s a big, physical league, so [added strength should help] all around.”

But Banton knows that it will take more than skill work and weight lifting to succeed — he knows that it’s a mindset that separates NBA players from the rest. In fact, one of the most important aspects of the Raptors drafting and player development philosophy over the years has been bringing in workers: high-character individuals who are willing to sacrifice some of the off-court luxuries that come with being an NBA player in order to always be in the gym getting better. And Banton, who came into the NBA with the added pressure of playing for his hometown team on his shoulders, says he is learning how to focus on what he can control in order to develop better habits and become a better pro.

“It’s day-by-day to see a better day. You come in here every day just trying to be a professional, coming in knowing that you control what you can control,” Banton said. “If you’re not in the game, it’s something out of your control. You know you can come in here and put in the work everyday just so people can see that you’re trying to get better, you’re trying to get out there.”

“So kinda just being a professional, that was kinda the main thing I’ve seen from these guys,” Banton added. “Freddy, Pascal being the first ones here every day, kinda just learning from guys who have had their foot in the game for a while, guys that have been here a while, and trying to use that to help keep me going and have some longevity in the league.”

Raptors predictions revisited: Where does Toronto go from here? – The Athletic

Nailed it

Fred VanVleet will still average more than 36 minutes per game.

“The Sopranos” was right: People cannot meaningfully change over time.

This was a bet that Nick Nurse was going to continue to rely on his starters more than any other coach, and that the front office would not find someone who can earn Nurse’s trust in quick order. VanVleet was one of 10 regulars to play more than 36 minutes per game, and fifth among them, trailing only Pascal Siakam, Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum and James Harden.

He should just sign with the team with the most proven backup point guard.

Scottie Barnes’ true shooting percentage will be lower than last year.

Indeed, Barnes’ true shooting percentage, which factors in 3-pointers and free throws, fell from 55.2 percent in his rookie year to 52.4 this season. His free-throw accuracy jumped nearly four percentage points, so this was entirely a product of his work from the field.

The biggest difference for Barnes came from 10 to 16 feet from the rim. In 2021-22, he shot 40 percent on 110 attempts from that range. This season, he shot 29.7 on 101 of those looks.

Pascal Siakam and VanVleet will not sign contract extensions during the season.

This was a lock. The only news on this front was VanVleet saying he never turned down a four-year, $114-million extension from the Raptors, the maximum offer the Raptors can give to VanVleet. Multiple reports said the Raptors offered him that deal, but it’s mostly semantics. Even after a down season, it would be a surprise if VanVleet didn’t exceed the contract in free agency.

Siakam could only accept an extension for a window in October, and he was never going to do that given that an All-NBA spot would entitle him to a much larger contract. It would be a shock if he earned that honour, putting the team and player through a similar scenario this coming offseason.

Jeff Dowtin Jr. will have “a moment” for the Raptors.

Between his defensive stop on Jaden Ivey in November and his end-of-season push that made his contract status the top of conversation for a week or so, I’m giving myself this one, even if he only appeared in 25 NBA games.

O.G. Anunoby’s usage will be below 20.5 percent, his career-high set last season.

From 20.5 percent to 19.5. We spoke a lot about Jakob Poeltl’s impact on Siakam, but Poeltl’s arrival had as large of an effect on Anunoby.

Before the All-Star break, Anunoby had a 20.4 usage percentage. After it, he was at just 17.6. As his usage went down, though, his true percentage skyrocketed — from 56.2 to 64.4 percent.

Some wrist soreness before the break clouds how much of that was causation versus correlation, but it has to make the Raptors at least think about the nature of Anunoby’s ideal role.

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