Morning Coffee – Wed, Apr 19

Raptors have a lot to do this summer | Siakam voted 3rd most overrated player in the NBA (by other players) | O.G. invest in British Basketball

What went wrong for the Raptors, and can they fix it? – Raptors Republic

Perhaps most significantly, the weaknesses not only remained unsolved, but in fact were exacerbated throughout the year. The shooting, already dangerously slim, fell off — particularly from VanVleet. Outside of garbage time, Toronto attempted the 26th-highest frequency of triples and was the 28th-most accurate. It doesn’t matter how many extra shots you attempt compared to opponents if you can’t score anyway. The rim pressure was slightly better, especially with Poeltl available as a roller, but no one beyond Siakam was really able to create for himself from a standstill and reach the rim.

And it all came to roost at the same time: Toronto was defeated in the play-in by poor (free throw) shooting, poor defense at the point of attack, and an inability from VanVleet to create anything on offense when switched against Nikola Vucevic. He is not a fleet-of-foot defender, yet Toronto couldn’t even touch the paint against Chicago’s 1-5 switching.

All in all, Toronto couldn’t fix its weaknesses, and neither could it make them irrelevant through improving its strengths. Which points to the obvious solution: fix the fucking weaknesses.

That actually shouldn’t be as difficult as it sounds. Most NBA players outside of Toronto are passable shooters! The Raptors need to acquire some. Many, many teams have more players than you can count on one hand who can — without any help from teammates or offensive structure — reach the rim and finish there. (The Raptors of course have one.) I pined for Lonnie Walker IV during the offseason — who may not have been perfect but at least was the correct player type. Malik Monk would have been even better, as smart insiders like Joe Wolfond and Samson Folk recognized before the season as well.

Some upcoming free agents could help Toronto. Jevon Carter is an excellent shooter and even better point-of-attack defender. He offers little creation, but if Toronto wants to funnel more touches to Siakam and Barnes, he would fit well. (He would actually hurt Toronto’s rim pressure, but it’s hard to find low-cost players who would help address every problem.) Theo Pinson and Shake Milton are underrated and likely low-cost off-the-bench guards with creation and shooting chops. Jaylen Nowell would be a home run. What’s the story with Nickeil Alexander-Walker — he’s a restricted free agent, but would an offer sheet of the full midlevel exception pry him to Toronto? (I doubt it, but he would fill a lot of needs for the Raptors.)

If Toronto hit around the edges, that would certainly help. The team desperately needs to start hitting around the edges again! But because of Toronto’s commitment to its current process and extended timeline for analyzing and judging, the financial bill for this team is already come due. Poeltl is an unrestricted free agent, and Trent and VanVleet have player options they are likely to decline for more money. Next offseason Siakam will be an unrestricted free agent, Achiuwa will be restricted, and Anunoby will have a player option he is likely to decline for more money. All, if they remain Raptors, will require raises. At the same time MLSE has indicated that it will not go into the luxury tax for a middling team, because this team was proven middling, the Raptors will not pay to keep all of their talent. Ujiri said as much in his media availability after the trade deadline, admitting that he and his staff had a lot of work to do this offseason. He said that the middle of the season was not the right time to made big decisions about the future of a franchise.

Which means Toronto has some even more difficult choices to make now. Some players can be traded for plenty of assets (Anunoby, Barnes, or Siakam), while others can be let go for none or sign-and-traded for few assets (VanVleet, Trent, Poeltl). Losing any of those players will hurt Toronto in the short term. But it’s a necessity, at this point, given MLSE’s financial priorities and Toronto’s inability to build a contending team with this roster construction.

So as for big moves, the Raptors have basically infinite options. Or, given the necessity of other teams saying yes to a deal, an unknowable number of options. But the structure of a deal that would address Toronto’s weaknesses is still clear. Losing Siakam would devastate Toronto’s ability to create in the half-court. Losing VanVleet would devastate Toronto’s shooting. Losing Anunoby would devastate both — he is the Raptors’ best non-Poeltl finisher and best shooter, statistically. There is no way for the Raptors to trade one of those players (or a sign-and-trade in the case of VanVleet) and improve in the short term, barring one of the players coming back being unexpectedly good.

Why the Raptors and Nick Nurse should part ways | Toronto Sun

The moment a head coach puts his own interests before that of his team, it’s time for him to go and that’s whether your name is Nick Nurse or Gregg Popovich or Steve Kerr.

There were still 13 days left in the season and the head coach with a year left on his deal was openly talking about moving on. No, none of it was definitive, but to bring it up – and no, we’re not buying the ‘I was only answering the question I was asked’ — but to make such a statement with his team’s fortunes still to be decided is not just wrong, it’s selfish.

In the aftermath, he has tried to suggest that he brought it up to answer questions about his future once and for all in hopes that it wouldn’t be a distraction to the team.

Never mind that the question hadn’t even been asked at that point, but beyond that when he did bring it up, he ensured it would be the very distraction he claims he was trying to avoid.

If Ujiri went looking for reasons beyond that to part ways with the only coach who has ever led the Raptors to a championship, he could probably find them, but would he even need any?

None would be as damning as a coach who put himself before his team. Again, that’s so offside we’re actually surprised the move to part ways with Nurse hasn’t been announced already.

If there is an on-court argument for moving on from Nurse, the case is much harder to make.

Nurse is a very good coach. He is well prepared, delegates efficiently to his assistants and obviously knows the game better than any of us in the media could ever pretend to know.

And that’s before you even get to his record which has been well above average in all but the Tampa COVID season and this past year. He’s made basketball his life’s work and he’s good at it.

But there is a shelf life to most voices of authority, particularly in professional sports and particularly in this era of the NBA where the players out-earn coaches by such huge margins and hold the majority of the power.

The other side of this, and we referenced it earlier, is how much does Nurse even want to return.

He sounded very much like a guy with one foot out the door that night in Philadelphia, but since then has softened this stance while still not coming out stating his desire to return.

During his final availability with the media, Nurse had numerous opportunities to put to rest any question of that desire to head elsewhere for next season but stopped short of saying so.

Asked if he had thought more about his future, Nurse chose to speak very broadly on the topic.

“When you ask me what my job is here, my job is to make the best decisions for this organization,” he said. “I’ve always believed that from day one. I still believe that 10 years later. When you sit back and look at it, all decisions have to be made for what’s best for the organization. I think we got a front office, a president in Masai who passionately wants to win. We’ve got a head coach who passionately wants to win. That’s why we’ve always been on the same page and have a great level of communication. Our goal is to win here. And that takes some evaluation on all fronts. That’s all.”

Anonymous NBA Player Poll 2023: The players explain their picks for MVP, most overrated and more – The Athletic

Siakam was 3rd most overrated player with 7.4% of the votes.

British NBA Star Invests in Rising London Team – Front Office Sports

Toronto Raptors small forward Ogugua “O.G.” Anunoby Jr. is buying a minority stake in the London Lions, a private-equity-owned team in the emerging British Basketball League that became the first British team to qualify for the EuroCup playoffs earlier this month.

U.K. basketball is still in its fledgling stages, with private-equity firm 777 Partners working to fuel the league’s rise.

“It blows our mind that basketball isn’t bigger in London, and we know the reasons why,” Juan Arciniegas, 777 managing director, told Front Office Sports, citing a lack of government investment.

Anunoby became the first British player to win an NBA championship with the Raptors in 2019.

“I just want to do my part as a role model to all the young hoopers in London and across the entire U.K.,” he said.

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