Let me preface this by saying that the idea of getting a number of gamers who’re able to carrying the Toronto Raptors offense is in contrast to any state of affairs the crew has discovered itself in earlier than. It’s truly an important downside to have. The draw back to that’s the actuality that Toronto finds themselves in now. OG Anunoby has steadily improved yearly and appears to be prepared for one more large improve in all-around productiveness. Pascal Siakam, who is commonly considered the Raptors primary choice, was hesitant to claim himself in that place in the course of the franchises media day. Fred VanVleet, the inheritor obvious to Kyle Lowry, can have as many alternatives to attain the bucket as the 2 beforehand talked about names. There’s a fourth choice in all of this and it would come to chew Toronto if they’ll safe a playoff spot. Is that this a crew that can execute offense by committee?
It’s an fascinating query to pose just because it’s as if Siakam’s prioritization on offense is the immovable object, but OG’s enchancment is the unstoppable pressure. VanVleet additionally has a stake to assert since he’ll have the ball in his palms in some unspecified time in the future for each possession that he’s on the court docket. However, there’s gamers like Gary Trent Jr., who’s scoring means can’t be ignored, Khem Birch who now has a set position for Toronto after being mismanaged in Orlando, Malachi Flynn who wants extra reps this yr after showcasing what he can do. Goran Dragic will undoubtedly garner some appears just because he’s the groups veteran and is greater than able to filling the basket. There’s additionally rookie Scottie Barnes, somebody that was drafted based mostly on his size and flexibility on protection however that Nick Nurse additionally assuredly acknowledged will get a plethora of alternatives and play an enormous position for the Raptors.
So, let’s begin with the incumbent.
The case for Pascal Siakam because the Raptors primary choice is fairly easy. He’s the one with a max contract, he was the Robyn to Kawhi’s Batman within the championship run, and he’s the one present Toronto Raptor that’s been chosen as an All-Star (Dragic was an All-Star in 2018 however that was with Miami and is thus far off my radar proper now, to not low cost him).
Starting with the 2019-20 season, these are Siakam’s averages:
What this places into perspective is how Siakam has dealt with his promotion in changing into Toronto’s first choice. Certainly not is that this a failure on his half. In truth, you may argue that these are numbers of a participant that’s nonetheless growing. The important thing factor to know in these numbers is simply how far Siakam has are available in his basketball profession. He was drafted in 2016 because the twenty seventh decide and was labelled as a high-energy, high-motor kind of participant. He was at all times going to be thought-about a mission, particularly contemplating that he didn’t have any huge time basketball aspirations till he joined Luc Mbah a Moute’s basketball camp in 2011. On the age of simply 17, Siakam had begun to play organized basketball, which is when each he and scouts began to take discover of how shiny his future within the sport could possibly be.
Siakam spent two years at New Mexico State, and after being drafted, he cut up time with D-League (now G-League) crew, the Raptors 905, and with the Raptors all through the 2016-17 season, profitable the 905’s first G-League championship, and incomes Finals MVP honours within the course of. His improvement solely continued after rising because the second choice throughout Toronto’s 2019 season, on his method to a NBA championship and being named the league’s Most Improved Participant. This was all within the span of three years. That’s not one thing usually seen from a participant chosen within the late 20s of a draft.
What number of instances have you ever learn that final season was the “season from hell”? My guess might be too many to depend. It’s true although and Siakam was going through loads of stress. Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka moved on, and the one line of protection Siakam had at his disposal was himself and Aron Baynes. We all know the way it went and there’s no purpose to hash it out once more. I might sit right here and make one million excuses about why Siakam and the Raptors 2021 season was so unlucky. However, as Murphy’s regulation states “something that may go mistaken, will go mistaken.” Increase. That’s the best method to summarize the 2020-21 Toronto Raptors marketing campaign.
And possibly to a extra damning level, it’s pressured Siakam to stay hesitant along with his position on this years squad. You may come to that conclusion after studying what he mentioned in his Media Day presser:
On how he offers with being “the man”: “I don’t just like the phrase ‘the man’ ’trigger like I don’t actually even like utilizing that, you understand. I need to be the man who wins. I need to win. That’s all I care about and if it’s enjoying extra protection, if it’s scoring extra factors, if it’s being extra of a vocal chief or possibly extra like somebody that leads by instance, that’s all I need to do. I simply need to determine what my position is and no matter I can do to assist the crew, that’s what I’m going to do.”
On the addition of lengthy, athletic, and versatile gamers: “I don’t know the way it might change my position however I simply suppose that it’s loads of size. That’s the actual factor I see. Clearly you get enthusiastic about it and simply seeing the potential that’s there if we’re prepared to get to folks, deflections, and loads of various things prefer it’s simply loads of size and athleticism. You may by no means go unhealthy with that and I don’t know what my position can be however I do know that we need to go on the market and we need to have folks not need to play us. I feel that’s the mindset you bought to have. Like being that crew you simply don’t need to play towards, due to the size, the athleticism and the vitality and all these issues collectively.”
In the end, Siakam deserves greater than only one and a half seasons to find out precisely how efficient he will be as a primary. The spot is his for the taking.
For many of us, you miss 100% of the pictures you don’t take. For OG, he ought to simply take 100% of the pictures obtainable to him. Everybody that’s anybody is conscious of simply how nice OG can change into. He’s already often known as one of many premier wing defenders within the league, which was at all times the hope when you think about his measurement and size. Right here was my checklist of issues for OG about two years in the past. I used to be apprehensive about his ball safety, his handles, and his footwork. It stands to purpose that after watching him all through final season, he’s clearly on the fitting path to place all of it collectively. There’s solely been a handful of preseason video games, however OG has starred in each one in all them.
Earlier than you lose it on me, contemplate that OG’s improvement is one thing we’ve all witnessed as a “lovely blossoming” of types. His on-ball protection is second to nobody, however his offensive development has been a spectacular viewing. I do know it’s preseason however he’s added issues to his arsenal that weren’t there final season. Though Toronto misplaced the second of a home-and-home towards Philadelphia, his dribble strikes, his hesitations, and extra importantly, his shot creation had been on full show. I’m severe after I say we’re on the level of contemplating an offense headed by OG.
And despite the fact that his interviews are generally was memes due to the simplicity inside his solutions, he actually is about his enterprise. Keep in mind when he hit that three towards the Celtics within the bubble? He anticipated to make it. I doubt his mentality has shifted since then and when the ball inevitably finds itself in his palms extra often all year long, that mindset of not anticipating to overlook can be helpful. With a bit of over seven minutes left within the second quarter towards the 76ers on Thursday, OG reset on the prime of the three. He then proceeded to place the ball between his legs with a few dribble strikes, rising over Tobias Harris to nail a 3 from roughly 25-26 ft out from the online. It occurs on the 3:50 mark of the video.
It was sort of like a full-circle second. Considering again to the years when he’d get the ball and move it virtually immediately (actually solely occurred in his rookie yr and possibly the yr after), to come back to that second and see that he’s added a stable soar shot, to not point out on a play that was solely created by him, was what I think about watching your child hit their first house run should really feel like.
Probably the most wanted gamers within the league proper now are guys who can guard a number of positions and knock down the three from manner downtown. OG hasn’t essentially knocked down a shot from the brand, nevertheless he’s one of many groups most dependable three-point scorers. It’s truly loopy that within the NBA.com 2021-22 GM Survey, when requested about who one of the best perimeter defender within the NBA is, OG didn’t even obtain a vote.
No matter that, what’s actually allowed OG to excel through the years has been his means to maximise his skillset, in accordance along with his body. A man that’s six-seven and 232 lbs, with a seven-three wingspan is now a prototype for the NBA. That’s not saying that OG is the everyday NBA participant, however that guys along with his measurement and size are in demand. They don’t all determine learn how to make the most of their our bodies and never all of them are continually refining their on ball skills. However, OG has figured all of it out. After making an attempt solely 12.1 pictures per recreation final season, that quantity ought to go manner up. I’d want him to get off at the least 16 pictures each recreation.
The one facet that might make OG’s recreation full can be a passing recreation. He’ll inevitably be double-teamed within the paint and when that occurs, seeing him move the ball out to the open man would nicer to my eyes than my Margot Robbie screensaver.
I don’t know that Fred is a viable choice for the go-to scorer. He’s clearly knocked down some huge pictures and his means to penetrate the protection and get inside is uncanny. Nonetheless, his providers are most likely higher used elsewhere. Simply as Lowry wasn’t at all times the primary choice, VanVleet will definitely rank inside the prime three of the scoring hierarchy.
When VanVleet speaks, you pay attention. It’s easy. This dude went undrafted and scrapped and clawed his method to the place he’s now. A number of of us have decided that that is now Fred’s crew. That’s an important factor for each him and the franchise. I don’t know that there’s been a extra level-headed participant to inherit the keys to the Toronto Raptors or any franchise for that matter. He’s vocal, well-spoken, demanding, pushes his teammates to change into higher, and he desires to win, at all times.
The yr after the Raps gained their chip, Freddy instantly slid into the beginning lineup and hasn’t appeared again. His shot makes an attempt elevated from 9.4 to 14.3, alongside along with his scoring output rising from 11 to 17.6. I gained’t lie. I wasn’t anticipating that in any respect, particularly from a man that went undrafted. Nonetheless, as he at all times does, Fred proved me mistaken.
That improve in shot makes an attempt occurred alongside Lowry within the lineup. Now that he’s moved on to Miami, the amount of his pictures will undoubtedly go up much more. So, the one query is how Fred orchestrates the offense. I doubt he’ll flip right into a pass-first ground basic. Nonetheless, I can see him averaging eight assists this season. Though his three-point capturing is phenomenal, hovering at round 38 p.c over the past 4 seasons, his precise discipline objective proportion hasn’t been fairly, with the best being at 42.6 p.c within the 2018-19 season.
However based mostly on the pattern measurement of Fred we’ve seen within the preseason, it appears like he’s added a floater to his bag, together with the continuation of his mid-range jumper. An elevated output of these pictures would doubtless lead him to the next discipline objective proportion general. But it surely might additionally put him in prime positions to make shifty passes to his teammates.
Nonetheless, it’s quotes like this that actually give method to simply how invaluable VanVleet is to the Raptors. If he wants to attain, he’ll. However his emotional and psychological tolerance are higher served mentoring his teammates:
On Pascal passing off “the man” label: “It’s nuance. Individuals couldn’t perceive ‘how might you not be the person?’ You bought the max contract, you bought the ball in your palms each time, Kyle defers to you, Kyle mentioned it was your crew. However being the person generally is like ‘I’m going to shoot this ball 40 instances and no one higher blink. I higher not see a face. Coach can’t throw his palms up. The participant can’t get mad.’ It’s a clear-cut distinction and I feel that what occurred was Kyle was such an immovable object and only a pressure of who he was and his standing as a hall-of-famer that it was like a bit of tit for tat there, even when it was subconsciously. When Kyle wouldn’t play me and Pascal naturally have extra movement and extra accountability. When he performed we needed to discover a method to handle the chemistry and it’s not one thing the place it’s like ‘I don’t like this man or I don’t like this man or I’m not passing to him.’ It’s a bit of nuance that you’d by no means perceive until you performed on the highest stage. So, I feel that my interpretation of what he was saying was: ‘Hear. I received paid the max and after I received paid the max, all of the followers anticipated me to change into this, this, this, and this, and with that got here loads of accountability. However, in my manner is the best man to ever do that for this franchise’ and it wasn’t a clear-cut distinction.
“Kyle didn’t simply again out gracefully. He wouldn’t be Kyle Lowry if he did. He wouldn’t have nonetheless change into an all-star and received one other huge contract. He’s not going to simply again up and let any individual else do it. I feel that for me it was simpler as a result of we’re on the guard spot and me and Kyle simply had extra of a pure chemistry. However, I feel for P, I feel he’s coping with the expectations on him versus what’s truly within the recreation and I feel that he handled that over time and received extra comfy with it. However, that might be my interpretation of what he was saying. There’s a nuance there that’s arduous to clarify until you’re on the market. That’s why you see within the NBA, each man, when any individual will get harm or any individual goes out, there’s a man that steps up, that performs out of his thoughts. You’re like ‘why can’t he do that when such-and-such is enjoying’ however there’s like a pecking order of basketball chemistry that’s arduous to clarify.”
There aren’t any scarcity of scorers on Toronto’s roster. That’s to not say that each one of those guys might change into the primary choice, however Nick Nurse has the personnel he wants so as to provoke the offense of his goals.
Gary Trent Jr. is a pure shooter by way of and thru. When he got here to Toronto on the commerce deadline final yr, he immediately made an affect as a starter. I don’t know that he’ll be as efficient coming off the bench, however that’s the problem Nurse and his teaching employees should overcome. Coaches can even have to assist Trent change into a extra environment friendly scorer, after registering 39.5 p.c from the sphere and 35.5 p.c from the three. He hasn’t proven a lot of an enchancment when attacking the rim or driving into the paint. Nonetheless, there was one play the place Scottie Barnes had the ball out on the wing and he discovered a large open GTJ flying into the paint for the good layup. I’m unsure if that’s one thing Trent has been engaged on, but when Barnes can put guys in conditions like that, I’d pair these two collectively extra usually.
The continuous enchancment of Chris Boucher has been superb to look at. He began within the G-League with the 905 and carved out a job for himself in final years rotation. He can knock down the three, averaging 38 p.c from downtown on his method to 13.6 factors, greater than doubling his 6.6 common from the earlier season. Boucher additionally gives vitality off the bench for the Raps and his means to dam pictures has confirmed to be invaluable. A 3-and-D man with a six-nine body, he’s one in all two gamers that averaged 1.5 threes and 1.9 blocks per recreation in the course of the 2020-21 marketing campaign.
Goran Dragic is greater than only a serviceable veteran. He’s made stops in Phoenix, Houston, and Miami, taking a part of the 2018 NBA All-Star recreation as a reserve. He’s able to filling up the basket and he could make artful performs when caught in site visitors. There’s no telling if he’ll be sticking round for all the season, however the Raptors ought to get probably the most out of him whereas they’ll. Final season, his scoring dipped to its lowest for the reason that 2011-12 marketing campaign, however his 37 p.c three level proportion is basically probably the most Toronto wants from him. If his three level stroke can persistently go down, with the occasional layup right here and there, that’s most likely one of the best case situation for each events.
The truth that Khem Birch remains to be bringing issues out from his bag is baffling to me. I do know that in Orlando, huge males had been favoured a lot to the purpose that the Magic had a number of logjams between the 4 and the 5, however how does their expertise go unnoticed? I’m not saying Birch was a scoring machine, however he’s undoubtedly able to increasing his recreation. He’s not a one-dimensional participant who wants assist along with his soar shot and he can deal with the ball right here and there. There’s nonetheless extra to unlock with him and his recreation like passing and facilitating an offense. But when there’s a training and improvement employees that may deal with it, relaxation assured he’s in the fitting place.
In his sophomore season, Malachi Flynn wants extra reps. I feel I’m nonetheless the most important Flynn stan and that’s cool with me. Contemplating that he was extremely touted for his protection popping out of faculty, his means on offense had me questioning how he fell to the Raptors at 28 within the 2020 draft. He actually stepped up when Lowry and VanVleet had been unable to play. I feel he’ll most likely spend time with the 905 this yr since Canada has opened the borders once more and like I mentioned… he wants reps. Fred even went as far to say that Flynn is extra of a shotmaker proper now, than VanVleet was when he was in Flynn’s place.
The younger guys will undoubtedly find yourself with the ball of their palms in a number of conditions. Svi Mykhailiuk, who reportedly acquired curiosity from a number of groups together with contenders, has been a lights out shooter from deep. Scottie Barnes is greatest suited with making runs within the transition offense based mostly on his size, velocity and court docket consciousness. He’s nicely geared up to search out the open man on the quick break or he can muscle his method to the rack for a ferocious jam. Step one in serving to him construct confidence is giving him the inexperienced gentle to shoot. After he’s change into acquainted and cozy with a rhythm, the sky is the restrict for him.
I’ve no concrete conclusion. I feel it comes right down to how Siakam returns from shoulder surgical procedure and whether or not OG is simply too sizzling at first of the season that it turns into extremely tough to take the ball out of his palms. I feel the each of them have benefits over the opposite relying on who Toronto is enjoying. If a crew is weak on the within, I’d give the ball to OG and let him pound with the behemoths. To that time, Siakam could also be beneficial if he’s out on the wing towards a slower defender, with an inferior inside presence. However, if making the playoffs is the objective, whoever is probably the most dependable shotmaker will find yourself with the ball. Nurse has 82 video games to determine how he can put his roster in profitable positions and be taught who’s able to scoring the ball when it issues probably the most.
Tip Manny Rao
Who’s “The Man” for the Raptors? originated on Raptors Republic.