Make the Raptors Competitive Again

As a rainstorm fell on Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek in the projects, the former reflected, "Even when we suffer losses, I count the victories." That's the current Raptors' ethos.

There’s a 905 player who most of you likely never heard of: Myles Burns. 

He was drafted 11th overall by the 905 in the 2023 G League Draft. He’s far from being the most talented, but goes balls to the wall every time Coach Khoury subs him on. It doesn’t matter when or what the scoreboard is – he never fails to play his ass off.

Burns is a metaphor for that un-athletic guy going ham at the gym – so hard that he’ll make you feel guilty for slacking off on your own set. He’s that coworker who works so damn hard that you can’t justify complaining … ever. It’s often not talent, but having that no-quit in you that garners respect. 

The Toronto Raptors showed they can be a bunch of Myles Burns(es). Or to borrow from the late Akira Toriyama, they’re a bunch of Krillins — they maybe weak but never fail to try.

On Monday, the Raptors looked more like a 905 squad heading into Mile High City to face the defending champs. But R.J. Barrett stepped into a depleted roster, and became the engine that could. Kelly Olynyk was fantastic.

Post-game, Coach Malone admitted his squad may have put their guard down after hearing about all the injured Raptors, saying, “Part of coaching is fighting human nature.”

Darko deserves credit for helping these Raptors fight against human nature to mail it in — to just say hell with it, we’ll win in Detroit.

From a player prop perspective, how Gary Trent Jr. will continue to play, once he returns from his groin injury, remains an interesting question mark. Bobby Webster said he was very “TBD” with unrestricted free agency looming around the corner. GTJ is averaging 34.2 minutes per game in March, higher than any month this season, and is close to the 35 minutes he averaged in 2021-22. 

After Toronto’s humiliating defeat against the Detroit Pistons at the end of 2023, another loss would be deemed a failure, but one immediate, yet difficult, test will be their back-to-back match-up against the Orlando Magic.

Toronto’s worst home loss in franchise history is now in the rearview mirror, and they punched the Nuggets who slept-walked through the first half. The Raptors even became a team worthy enough for Jamal Murray to become Playoff Murray (for a more detailed explanation of what Samson means by the “Jamal Murray corollary,” go to 6:40).   

For fans out there still paying attention, looking to FanDuel to add more fun and excitement to the end of season, wagering on the Magic games would be interesting.

Courtesy of Ken Blaze / USA TODAY Sports / Reuters via CNN Newsource

According to Mikai, Olynyk had A-game against Denver, and was immoveable against the Suns big Jusuf Nurkić. Olynyk forced two turnovers down low when Nurkić tried to post him up. 

How Olynyk does against Magic’s frontcourt will be worth paying attention to. Perimeter shooting might be a weakness for them, but will containing Wendell Carter Jr., Paolo Banchero, the Wagner brothers be possible? How will the league’s anti-wokest player play in the woke capital of the world? Will he drop his season-high against the Raptors (that would be 19 points), or will the Raptors prevent Goga Bitadze from thriving (I hope so)?

Quick side note: Jonathan Isaac or Bitadze having a big game against the Raptors would be equally embarrassing as Memphis big Santi Aldama “too smalling” Chris Boucher. After Aladama made a (nice) backdoor cut, he threw down this wide-open two-handed dunk. It’s embarrassing mostly because it’s Aldama doing that to you.

Louis warned us previously, it’s the hope that kills us, but one competitive game made watching Raptors basketball fun again. Even if fans can anticipate how the plot unfolds, the NBA’s Krillins will compete with the league’s supersaiyans as if they can win.

Barrett will be out against the Pistons due to personal reasons, and even though he’s had games where his scoring has dipped, betting him to score 20+ points in your Same Game Parlay is much safer now.

In March, Quickley hasn’t shot less than seven 3s in a game, averaging 8.4 attempts per game. Fans can count on him to continue making three 3s per game once he returns from his hip injury (3-for-8 from downtown is 37.5%). He’s questionable for today.

Even if the Raptors don’t always get Ws, expect them to channel their inner Burns, their inner Krillin to keep putting up an E … a big E for Effort.