Fan Duel Toronto Raptors

Who’s coming to and staying at the BBQ?

Geting ready for BBQs (BBBQ?) in the dead of winter.

In his press conference after trading Pascal Siakam, Masai Ujiri mentioned that it’s the front office’s job to put Scottie Barnes in a position to step up and grow as a player.

Barnes has taken a major leap this season, and in the only TNT-nationally televised game (and second post-Siakam trade game), Barnes bought, prepped, grilled and served the meat in this new BBQ era while the other two didn’t pull their weight like some unreliable partners.

To be fair, I’m only referring to the Chicago game, and the front office has surrounded Barnes with some pieces to work with. But with the February 8th deadline looming around the corner, what happens with BBQ in the dead of winter remains to be seen. Will the front office acquire shooters to up the heat? Or will BBQ turn into a party? Will it just be a low-key hang for a couple years? If it’s just chilling with the boys, then how long will that continue?

Questions remain. Masai sent out a warning for fans to be patient – while sharing platitudes about always expecting to win – but the only sure thing is that Barnes is entrusted with the tongs. As of Friday, January 19th, he’s 42nd in the league in scoring (20.4 points per game). He’s currently in the 41st percentile for points per possession (PPP) as the pick-and-roll ballhander, and that’s a huge improvement compared to last season where he was in the 18th percentile. While Samson detailed, at length, why PPP numbers don’t tell the whole story, the prophetic piece mentioned how “Point Scottie” could benefit from small on-ball screeners.

“I think he can be very good in pick n’ rolls when a small sets the screen, as well as a big – Jakob or Precious or any of our bigger players on the team can set screens for him.”

-Darko Rajakovic via Samson Folk

Quickley has filled the small screener role (albeit in a more off-ball role), and being a movement three-point shooting threat allows Barnes to isolate down low. If the opposing defence doubles Barnes to prevent Quickley’s defender from digging down low, it’ll open up options for the other three players on the court.

Quickley’s off-ball screening is even better, and there should be more back screens and flex screens for Barnes now that Siakam is gone.

“This is very much filtering basketball down to grains of sand, but Quickley since arriving in Toronto has set the second-highest frequency among guards in the league for back screens and flex screens that create real contact. He is also in the top 20 for efficiency on such plays. This is a play to which Toronto has been turning a handful of times every game, and it’s quite likely that we’ll soon see a clutch game in which Toronto runs Flex DHO or Back DHO three or four straight times to close out their opponent.”

-Louis Zatzman

Though the BBQ lineup only contributed 33 points against Chicago — Barnes played stellar while Barrett and Quickley were underwhelming — others like Bruce Brown (tentatively BBBQ?) stepped up and transitioned into this current iteration seamlessly.

Though there’s less uncertainty than before, there’s not much more certainty. Just like last month, Toronto’s still in search of its identity and, quite frankly, none of us (including the front office, probably) know what this team is, what its identity is. Maybe an identity will be formed on the fly? Maybe its identity will be fluid until the Raptors consistently become competitive, though there’s no immediate timeline, notwithstanding the February 8th deadline.

In the face of uncertainty, it might a good time to play it safe for conservative bettors. But for those who have a high risk tolerance, it might just be a huge opportunity on FanDuel.

As per my column last week, my conservative player prop advice to bet on RJ Barrett to score 15+ points over three games against Boston, Miami, and Chicago came to fruition (24 against Boston, 26 against Miami, and 17 against Chicago). 

For the risk takers, the next three games against a Mitchell Robinson-less New York, injury-ridden Memphis, and LA Clippers-with-no-Ivica-Zubac would be the right time to bet 15+ points for Scottie Barnes, RJ Barrett, and Immanuel Quickley over the next three games. In the two-game post-Siakam era, the Raptors have averaged 115.5 points per game, and the three dropping at least 15 points each would mean the BBQ core contributes at least 39% of the team’s total points, based the data we have. 

The only three-game stretch Barnes scored 15+ points was right after the trade with the Knicks. Quickley has had three-game stretches where he’s averaged 15+ points, but his lowest scoring game landed exactly at 15.

Whether each member of the BBQ squad scores 15+ points across the next three games depends largely on its defensive performance. As the front office is forced to double down on Barnes’ development, how he creates for others, including Barrett and Quickley, and how well he initiates more pick-and-rolls (and rolls off them) will likely determine his teammates’ scoring capacity.

The Raptors play the Knicks at MSG tonight, but next week, they’ll be at home as they face the Grizzlies on Monday and Clippers on Friday. Friday will be the last home game before the February 8th trade deadline when we may just have to become acclimatized to an Austrian BBQ.