There is a lot of disappointment in Toronto right now and I’m not sure it’s warranted.
The Toronto Raptors won the title last year. They then lost two starters: one of the 3-5 best players in the entire league – and best Raptor ever in terms of pure two-way talent – and a candidate for The Greatest Transition Defender of All Time. They replaced them with not much.
At the start of the season, some pundits were claiming they would miss the playoffs. (Those pundits clearly don’t watch Raptors games, but still…) And even favourable predictions hovered around lower seed with no home court.
This Raptors team had a better regular season winning percentage than any other team in franchise history.
Due to the pandemic, they finished with fewer wins than last season but still won the fourth most regular season games in franchise history, behind the three previous teams, all of which played full NBA seasons.
At the beginning of the playoffs, I was hoping for 2 rounds, 3 if we were lucky. We weren’t lucky enough. But still:
Only four Raptors teams have ever won three wins in the second round of the playoffs:
- The 2001 Raptors who came within one shot of beating the Sixers
- The 2016 Raptors which were the first team to make the Eastern Conference Finals (and lose in 6 to the Cavs, as the beginning of the ‘Raps get humiliated by the Cavs every playoffs’ era)
- Last year’s team, obviously
- And this year’s team.
So, by somewhat more objective standards than your feelings, this Raptors team was one of the best ever regular season teams – perhaps the best – and either the 3rd or 4th best ever based on their playoff finish. And they were this good despite losing two starters.
That should be something to celebrate.
Stat ranks are minimum 25 games for regular season, 6 games for playoffs
Pascal Siakam, F, 25:
Under contract until 2023-24, salary rises from $2.3 million this season to $35.9 million in the final year
- 2,110 Minutes (1st)
- Per 36: 23.4P (1st), 7.5R (6th), 0.9B (5th), 3.5A (5th), 1S (11th)
- .554 TS% (8th)
- 5.4 WS (4th), .123 WS/48 (10th)
- 1.8 BPM (5th)
- 2.0 VORP (3rd)
- 418 Minutes (2nd)
- Per 36: 16.1P (6th), 7.1R (4th), 0.3B (9th), 3.6A (4th), 1S (3rd)
- .462 TS% (9th, 2nd last)
- 0.4 WS (6th), 0.40 WS/48 (9th, 2nd last)
- -2 BPM (9th, 2nd last)
- 0 VORP (t-7th, t-2nd last)
So the big question is what to do about Pascal Siakam, Kawhi’s heir apparent, the Raps new franchise player, who had an absolutely abysmal playoffs. There are a lot of people calling for his head right now. These people think that, had he played better, the Raptors would have beaten the Celtics. (They’d be right about that.)
But there are a few things we should remember about Siakam:
- This is his 4th season in the league and, remember, and he was drafted 27th as a project
- He’s been playing basketball for about a decade, which is an extremely short time for an NBA All Star
- His usage rate went from 20.8% in 2018-19 (88th in the league) to 28.1% this season (25th in the league).
So, he’s still raw for his age, and he was used as a #1 player for the first time.
What happens when you’re the #1 player on a team?
Defenses plan for you. And that’s what happened this season. Initially, his defense suffered as he struggled with this new load but, eventually, his offense suffered, particularly in The Bubble.
My point is that you can’t answer the question about whether or not it was a mistake to give Siakam this massive contract based upon this season. There was a pandemic and he had a role he’s never had before. We need more data.
If he’s inefficient again next season and there’s another poor playoff performance, then you can start thinking about it.
But right now is not the time. (Also, folks, who else is the star of this team?)
Kyle Lowry, PG, 33:
Under contract through next season at $30 million
- 2,098 Minutes (2nd)
- Per 36: 19.3P (4th), 7.4A (1st), 1.4S (6th), 5R (10th), 0.4B (10th)
- .590 TS% (5th)
- 7.5 WS (1st), .171 WS/48 (2nd)
- 3.2 BPM (1st)
- 2.8 VORP (1st)
- 413 Minutes (3rd)
- Per 36: 17P (5th), 5.6A (2nd), 1.7S (1st), 6.3R (6th), 0.7B (5th)
- .559 TS% (6th)
- 1.3 WS (t-1st), .147 WS/48 (3rd)
- 3.6 BPM (3rd)
- 0.6 VORP (t-2nd)
Lowry was the real best player on the team this season, as anyone who watched them knows. And, though he had some offensive struggles in the playoffs – as did the whole team – he had some massive games which helped cement his status as The Greatest Raptor of All Time.
(Note: I don’t entirely agree with this. For me, it’s still Vince, but a couple of games against the Celtics might have moved me. Also, we’re talking about career Raptor because obviously Kawhi is the best player to ever play for the team, and T-Mac is another candidate for best player to ever play for the Raptors, though is peak was elsewhere.)
The biggest problem with Lowry is his age. His skills age well, but he is getting up there for a starting PG on playoff team in the NBA. Next season will be a tough decision for the franchise, especially if Lowry continues to play at this level.
For me, I want him to stay. We got our championship and if he wants to hang around that’s fine with me. But it’s clear management is willing to make tough decisions if they think we’ll be more competitive. So, we’ll see.
OG Anunoby, 22, F:
Under contract through next season at $3.8 million
- 2,066 Minutes (3rd)
- Per 36: 12.8P (11th), 6.3R (9th), 0.8B (6th), 1.9A (12th), 1.7S (2nd)
- .600 TS% (3rd)
- 5.7 WS (3rd), .134 WS/48 (6th)
- 1.2 BPM (7th)
- 1.7 VORP (4th)
- 393 Minutes (4th)
- Per 36: 10.5P (8th), 7R (5th), 1.2A (9th), 1S (4th), 1.2B (3rd)
- .573 TS% (5th)
- 0.9 WS (4th), .115 WS/48 (6th)
- 0.8 BPM (6th)
- 0.3 VORP (4th)
After missing last year’s playoffs entirely and having a rough second season, OG had a huge bounce back year. He’s still pretty raw offensively but OG is now one of the very best defenders on this team of very good defenders. His on-ball defense is often a major difference maker in games and was at times in the playoffs. (When the Raps went small in the last two games, I thought his help defense was a real problem, as he left his man too many times, but I’m apparently the only one who noticed. And maybe that was the scheme’s fault…)
The main issue going forward is how good can he be offensively. He’ll probably be elite defensively for a good decade or so, but he’ll be a really good player – an All Star – only if he figures it out offensively. He shows signs here and there but he’s still not able to do enough to be, say, one of the top couple guys to build a contender on.
Fred Van Vleet, 25, PG:
- 1,928 Minutes (4th)
- Per 36: 17.8P (6th), 6.7A (2nd), 1.9S (1st), 3.8R (12th), 0.3B (12th)
- .553 TS% (9th)
- 5.8 WS (2nd), .145 WS/48 (5th)
- 2.7 BPM (2nd)
- 2.3 VORP
- 430 Minutes (1st)
- Per 36: 18.1P (4th), 6.4A (2nd), 1.5S (2nd), 4R (9th), 0.6B (6th)
- .537 TS% (7th)
- 1.2 WS (3rd), .135 WS/48 (6th)
- 4.7 BPM (2nd)
- 0.7 VORP (1st)
Fred had a career year this season, after his coming out party in last year’s final when Hubie Brown infamously voted for him for Finals MVP. He is getting paid this summer. The question for the Raptors is, do they pay him?
I honestly don’t know the answer. Van Vleet is an excellent defensive player, and a good 3 point shooter, and a guy who is able to drive despite his size.
So here’s the pickle: the Raptors don’t really have a PG in the depth chart below Fred – Terence Davis is fun but he’s not a starting PG in the NBA. (Nor is Patrick McCaw, yuk yuk yuk.) And Lowry is old. So, does it make sense to re-sign Fred in the likelihood that Lowry can no longer be a starting PG on a contender during his next contract, or should we pursue someone in free agency next off-season once attempts to sign Giannis have failed?
I have no idea.
Serge Ibaka, 30*, Big:
- 1,485 Minutes (5th)
- Per 36: 20.5P (2nd), 11R (2nd), 1.1B (3rd), 1.9A (11th), 0.7S (14th)
- .583 TS% (7th)
- 3.9 WS (6th), .126 WS/48 (8th)
- 0.1 BPM (11th)
- 0.8 VORP (9th)
- 251 Minutes (6th)
- Per 36: 23.4P (1st), 12.2R (1st), 2B (1st), 1.9A (6th), 0.3S (8th)
- .702 TS% (2nd)
- 1.3 WS (t-1st), .25 WS/48 (1st)
- 7.7 BPM (1st)
- 0.6 VORP (2nd)
Though his regular season Box Plus Minus and VORP don’t make him look good, Ibaka had a great regular season. And then he had his best playoffs since he was on OKC. Though you could claim Boston played him off the floor in the last two games, Serge was basically the best Raptor overall throughout the playoffs.
The problem with Ibaka is that he was awful for his contract only a couple of years ago. And his recent success has com as a bench player and occasional starter. And, the other problem with Ibaka is that nobody really knows how old he actually is.
So as much as I’m happy for him and I’ve enjoyed watching him play, I don’t think the Raptors should re-sign him, unless it’s for a one year deal.
Norman Powell, 26, Wing:
Under contract util 2021-22, at $11.6 million
- 1,479 Minutes (6th)
- Per 36: 20.2P (3rd), 2.2A (10th), 1.5S (t-3rd), 4.6R (11th), 0.5B (8th)
- .624 TS% (2nd)
- 4.6 WS (5th), .150 WS/48 (3rd)
- 2 BPM (t-3rd)
- 1.5 VORP (5th)
- 273 Minutes (5th)
- Per 36: 19.4P (2nd), 1.5A (8th), 0.8S (6th), 3.4R (9th), 0.4B (t-7th)
- .629 TS% (4th)
- 0.8 WS (5th), .136 WS/48 (5th)
- 1.5 BPM (5th)
- 0.2 VORP (5th)
Remember when people thought Powell was overpaid?
Powell had far and away the best season of his career this year and got some serious 6th Man discussion. Advance stats put him as a starter level player this year.
Now, I’m not sure I trust him in that role, but that could be just me remembering the younger, less consistent Powell.
I like him in this role, personally, but I can see him starting next year if Van Vleet isn’t re-signed.
Terence Davis, 22,Wing:
Under contract until next summer at $1.5 million
- 1,209 Minutes (7th)
- Per 36: 16.2P (8th), 3.4A (6th), 1.2S (8th), 7.1R (7th), 0.4B (t-9th)
- .588 TS% (5th)
- 3.1 WS (9th), .122 WS/48 (11th)
- 0.8 BPM (9th)
- 0.8 VORP (t-7th)
- 84 Minutes (8th)
- Per 36: 18.4P (3rd), 3A (5th), 0.4S (t-7th), 5.6R (8th), 0B
- .670 TS% (3rd)
- 0.2 WS (8th), .140 WS/48 (4th)
- -1.2 BPM (7th)
- 0 VORP (t-7th, 2nd last)
Terence Davis surprised the hell out of everyone and was a dark horse candidate for Rookie of the Year prior to the pandemic.
I’m not 100% sure why he stopped playing in the playoffs but it might have been the turnovers.
Anyway, he’s great energy and scoring off the bench. I haven’t seen enough to believe in anything else yet.
Marc Gasol, 35, Big:
- 1,161 Minutes (8th)
- Per 36: 10.3P (12th), 8.5R (5th), 1.2B (2nd), 4.6A (4th), 1.1S (t-9th)
- .551 TS% (10th)
- 3 WS (10th), .124 WS/48 (9th)
- 1.6 BPM (6th)
- 1.1 VORP (6th)
- 228 Minutes (7th)
- Per 36: 10.4P (10th), 7.6R (3rd), 1.1B (4th), 4.6A (3rd), 0.8 (t-5th)
- .467 TS% (8th)
- 0.2 WS (t-8th), .043 WS/48 (8th)
- -1.9 BPM (8th)
- 0 VORP (t-7th)
I think it’s safe to say that, barring some drastic increase in 3 point percentage, Gasol is probably done, as least as a starter in the NBA. He had injury trouble and his regular season was the worst of his career, but he was still effective when playing (at least on one end of the floor).
The problem came in the second round when he was played off the floor, or reffed off the floor depending upon the game. Now, that happens in certain series with centres in today’s NBA, but this is a guy who was surviving small ball so far.
At this point, given his age, his injuries, and his unwillingness to shoot enough, I think they cannot resign him, unless it as some preposterous discount for a short term.
It’s too bad, because Marc Gasol is one of my favourite players.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, 25, F:
- 1,122 Minutes (9th)
- Per 36: 13.4P (10th), 9.1R (3rd), 3.4A (6th), 1.5S (3rd), 0.7B (7th)
- .533 TS% (12th)
- 3.4 WS (8th), .146 WS/48 (4th)
- 0.3 BPM (10th)
- 0.6 VORP (10th)
- Playoffs: Didn’t make it into 6 games, which is my cutoff
I absolutely loved Rondae this year, the kind of energy player which has always appealed to the hockey fan in me.
I was kind of annoyed he didn’t play more in the second round, as the Raptors badly needed his rebounding. But he is not the defensive player that any of the starters are, and there is at least one better bench player defensively.
It will be interesting to see what happens this summer. I can see the Raptors re-signing him but I can also see a bit of a market for his regular season. But the fact that he didn’t play much in the second round could hurt his value.
I’d be happy to have him back.
Patrick McCaw, 24, Wing:
Under contract until next summer at $4 million
- 908 Minutes (10th)
- Per 36: 6.7P (last), 4.5R (last), 4.1A (8th), 2S (t-3rd), 0.2B (13th, 2nd last)
- .500 TS% (13th, 2nd last)
- 1.4 WS (11th), .075 WS/48 (13th, 2nd last)
- -1.8 BPM (12th)
- 0 VORP (t-12h, -last)
- Playoffs: Patrick McCaw didn’t play. Maybe he didn’t go to the bubble?
Ah, the most divisive Raptors of 2019-20 (until the Celtics series…), 3 time champion Patrick McCaw. Trusted by Nurse but basically nobody else, it’s hard to see him handling a role more befitting his salary unless the Raptors don’t have enough ball-handlers.
Chris Boucher, 27, Big:
- 819 Minutes (11th)
- Per 36: 18.1P (5th), 12.2R (1st), 2.7B (1st), 1.1A (last), 1S (t-11th)
- .587 TS% (6th)
- 3.8 WS (7th), .224 WS/48 (1st)
- 1 BPM (t-10th)
- 0.8 VORP (t-7th)
- 43 Minutes (10th)
- Per 36: 6.7P (last), 10R (2nd), 1.7B (2nd), 0.8A (last), 0S
- .350 TS% (last)
- 0 WS, 0.012 WS/48 (last)
- -7.2 BPM (last)
- -0.1 VORP (last)
Boucher is a chaos agent that comes in for limited minutes against the right competition and causes things to happen. (Usually those things are good…)
But, unlike with Davis and Rondae (and McCaw, I guess), there’s no mystery why he stopped playing in the playoffs: he shot horribly on a team where seemingly everyone was in a slump. And, given that he is not exactly consistent at much beyond rebounding, it makes sense that he didn’t get any minutes.
Matt Thomas, 25, Wing:
Under contract until 2022 at $1.7 million
- 440 minutes (12th)
- Per 36: 16.5P (7th), 1.8A (13th, 2nd last), 0.8S (13th, 2nd last), 5R (t-9th), 0.1B (last)
- .605 TS% (1st)
- 1.2 WS (12th), .133 WS/48 (7th)
- 1.1 BPM (8th)
- 0.3 VORP (11th)
- 8th Minutes (8th)
- Per 36: 13.3P (7th), 3A (6th), 0.4S (t-7th), 6R (7th), 0.4B (t-7th)
- .738 TS% (1st)
- 0.3 WS (7th), .195 WS/48 (2nd)
- 2.9 BPM (4th)
- 0.1 VORP (6th)
I wasn’t going to talk about anyone who didn’t play 500 minutes but Thomas ended up playing in all but 1 playoff game, tying Terrence Davis in playoff minutes. Moreover, Thomas mostly did what he was supposed to do: hit shots.
What remains to be seen is whether or not he can do other things well enough to be a dependable as a 7th man.
So, here’s the depth chart lineup if the free agents aren’t signed:’
- Powell, Davis, Thomas
- Anunoby, McCaw
- Siakam, Stanley Johnson
- Dewan Hernandez
So that is probably not a playoff team, right?
Clearly, the Raptors need to sign a starting centre and some depth. I haven’t looked at the free agent class yet because, well, the playoffs are still on. But I think it’s safe to say our expectations need to tempered for the coming season. It was fun while it lasted.