Seeing in Others what the Raptors Aspire to be

What does Toronto see in its mirror?

At the start of this season, Orlando and Toronto’s over/under win total was very similar. Toronto was listed at 36.5; Orlando, 37.5. Orlando has surpassed all expectations, sitting fifth in the East with a 41-28 record.

Thankfully, only 14 games remain. Spring is almost fully here, playoff basketball and The Draft are near, and Toronto sees in others flashes of Paris 2024 or what it aspires to be after this season.

Tonight, Toronto gets a small preview of what Jordi Fernandez might implement in France.

With the FanDuel spread being 11 points in favour of Sacramento, how Jontay Porter/Kelly Olynyk, Toronto’s on-ball defender and help D contain Domantas Sabonis and Co. will be interesting to watch. Kevin Huerter is thankfully out, but Toronto will still need to contain De’Aaron Fox, Keegan Murray, and Harrison Barnes as the hand-off receiver, or as the off-ball cutter out of the DHO action. 

Sacramento leads the league, by a wide margin, on their hand-off possessions – 11.7 – and Toronto fans will witness a dribble hand-off clinic. While expectations should be tempered for Olynyk and Porter on defence, how the bigs play without IQ in the line-up will be one of the keys to the game.

Does Olynyk try to take page out of the DHO God? Will Olynyk fool Sabonis with a DHO keep and catch him off guard? And how many times does that happen?

Assuming Barrett will be returning to Team Canada, how Sacramento executes their DHO against Toronto could be a preview of how Barrett will be used as an off-ball cutter or receiver, off Olynyk or Dwight Powell DHOs. Last season, the Jalen Brunson-Barrett DHO combo was third-highest in the league. 

Though Olynyk had 24 points against the Nuggets (with Barrett in the line-up but IQ out), I’d caution against the gambler’s fallacy. Assuming he’s going to score over 14.5 points tonight could be risky considering he’s averaging 11.8 points per game as a Raptor.

For games like this, side bets on the probability of seeing another jersey exchange – an ascetic ‘Monk Dick’ – may be more entertaining, but, at the very least, expect Toronto to try really hard as they’ve been doing lately.

Containing “Raining Money, Oklahoma City Thunder”

SGA’s presence in Scotiabank on Friday night might attract the most successful rapper 37 and under to see Lu Dort “raining money, Oklahoma City Thunder” (Drake was referring to KD when “Weston Road Flows” came out, but the timeless track applies to Dort now).

But before getting into Dort’s three-point shooting, let’s focus on his defensive stalwartness. Jonathan Chen not only identified his point of attack defence, but his uncanny ability to draw illegal screens – a sign of great defensive feel and ability to anticipate the offense before it unfolds.

While studying Dort’s defence as a potential preview for Paris may not excite everyone, how he’s gone about solving his inefficient scoring around the rim is – by raining 3s. Compared to last season, he’s simply elected to attempt less shots inside per game, and it’s been a simple yet effective solution.

(makes per game/attempts per game)
(makes per game/attempts per game)
Drives1.4/3.4 (40.2%)0.6/1.3 (43%)
Restricted area2.1/4.3 (48.6%)1.2/2.0 (57.1%)
In the paint0.5/1.6 (30.8%)0.3/0.8 (40%)
Mid-range0.2/0.4 (48.5%)0.2/0.5 (34%)
Free throw rate29.7%21%

Getting a preview of a 3-and-D Canadian with a LeBron-esque body and decent handle should excite us, but his 49.3% three-point shooting since the All-Star Break is unsustainable. Through March, he’s making 2.9 out of 5.5 attempts per game (52.3%), so betting on him to make no more than 3+ threes against Toronto would be one way to hope his success continues, but that he won’t unleash it against his home country’s lone NBA team.  

Toronto Can Never See Washington in its Mirror

To cap off the week, Toronto will play a team it aspires to not be: the Washington Wizards. If Toronto is a basement-dweller, Washington is a sewer rat living under it. Their over/under win total was 23.5 and they’re sitting with only 11 wins thus far.

Given the recent losses to Detroit and Portland – especially allowing Dalano Banton to drop 25 points after not tendering him a Qualifying Offer – making the MoneyLine Bet on Toronto to beat Washington (even if it’s an emotional one) is a minor vote of confidence. If IQ is back by then, it’ll be a test to see how he continues to play while attracting more attention at the level of the screen. And will he show he can extend his range out even further to stretch Washington’s defence?

Allowing SGA or Lu Dort to walk all over Toronto would be embarrassing, but containing another Rexdale player, Eugene Omoruyi, or Toronto’s former developmental prospect Justin Champagnie will be a point of focus. Champagnie is coming off two recent career-highs in minutes (36 against Boston) and points (16 against Houston).

For those still following and reading, there’s more to Raptors basketball than lottery balls, Draft prospects, and Pacers losses. Let’s see what opposing teams can teach Toronto about how it wants to see itself.