2020, 2021, Basketball, Sports

Your 2020-21 Toronto Raptors

To tell you the truth, I’m still basking in the glow of NBA Champion Toronto Raptors. I don’t care if it’s been nearly two years. I didn’t think they would ever win the championship. The day before the Kawhi trade, I would have bet you money they never would have in my lifetime. Its’ still incredible to me they won.

So, unlike basically every other Raptors fan on the planet, I haven’t been losing my shit over this very strange, totally unique season. I don’t care that they missed the playoffs. In fact, I cared so little about it that I forgot to write this until now.

This is no time to make big decisions. It was a completely unique season in the history of professional sports. We can’t possibly project from what happened this year to the future.

Still, traditions must be honoured and so I’m going to try not to make any grand statements about the future of the team as I look at its very recent past.

Stat ranks are minimum 15 games for regular season in order to include Trent and Bhirch.

Pascal Siakam, 26, F:

Under contract until 2023-24, salary rises to $35.9 million in the final year

  • 2006 minutes (1st)
  • Per 36:
    • 21.5P (2nd)
    • 7.3R (6th)
    • 4.5A (4th)
    • 1.1S (11th)
    • 0.6B (10th)
  • 17.7 Per (t-2nd)
  • .547 TS% (11th)
  • 4.2 Win Shares (3rd), .101 WS/48 (9th)
  • 0.4 BPM (8th)
  • 1.2 VORP (4th)

Pascal got off to a pretty bad start this year and the team’s early struggles were blamed on him. (His advanced stats are not good for the “star” either.)

Then they were good for a while and nobody cared any more. (Well, except for the “trade Pascal!” crowd, who probably won’t be happy until he’s gone).

And then they sucked and people wanted to trade him again even though he had his best full month of the season in April. (May was better but only 5 games.)

I do not believe that Pascal will be the best player on a championship team. However, I already know he can be the second or third best player on a championship team, I’ve seen it happen. The contract makes it harder, at the moment, for Pascal to be the third best player on a championship team, though hardly impossible.

Especially given all the shit this team had to go through this season, I am perfectly fine with Siakam returning as the team’s “franchise player” next season. I want to see what this team looks like playing in Toronto again and somewhat healthy.

And no, I am not worried about the Nurse-Siakam relationship. Certainly not right now.

Fred Van Vleet, 26, G:

Player option for 2023-24, paid between $19.6 and $22.8 million over the next four seasons

  • 1899 minutes (2nd)
  • Per 36:
    • 19.3P (4th)
    • 6.2A (2nd)
    • 1.6S (4th)
    • 4.2R (15th)
    • 0.7B (7th)
  • 16.8 PER (t-4th)
  • .534 TS% (14th)
  • 4.3 Win Shares (2nd), .108 WS/48 (6th)
  • 2.2 BPM (2nd)
  • 2 VORP (1st)

Fred is clearly the point guard of the future and has shown that he can indeed play a lead guard role. Prior to getting covid, he was getting better each month and was actually getting the franchise and fans to imagine trading Kyle.

I think I’m willing to give Siakam and Van Vleet a full, normal season to see what happens with them as the two best players (or two of the three).

Kyle Lowry, 34, G:

Free agent

  • 1601 minutes (3rd)
  • Per 36:
    • 17.8P (6th)
    • 7.6A (1st)
    • 1S (13th)
    • 5.6R (8th)
    • 0.3B (t-14th)
  • 16.5 PER (6th)
  • .593 TS% (8th)
  • 4.1 Win Shares (4th), .124 WS/48 (3rd)
  • 1.2 BPM (3rd)
  • 1.3 VORP (3rd)

The Greatest Raptor of All Time (if length of career is taken into consideration) will obviously not be around forever.

I have no idea what’s going to happen with his free agency. Though he’s obviously lost a step I’m fine with him coming back for a 1 year or 2 year with a team option in the second.

But if he doesn’t, it’s been a great run. If you had told me on July 11, 2012 that we had just traded for the point guard who would lead us to a championship, I would have said “I have a bridge to sell you” or, worse, bet you my life savings that wouldn’t happen.

(Would you give up Gary Forbes and Steven Adams for a championship?)

Chris Boucher, 28, F/C:

Under contract through next season at $7 million

  • 1453 minutes (4th)
  • Per 36:
    • 20.3P (3rd)
    • 10R (t-1st)
    • 2.8B (1st)
    • 1.6A (15th)
    • 0.9S (14th)
  • 21.9 PER (1st)
  • .634 TS% (3rd)
  • 6.1 (1st), .201 WS/48 (1st)
  • 2.9 BPM (1st)
  • 1.8 VORP (2nd)

So I must admit I’ve been really critical of the Chris Boucher truthers and I was wrong: he’s good. He had a breakout season this year, got some mild 6th man consideration and somehow managed to maintain his efficiency in way more minutes.

But the advanced stats suggesting he’s the teams best player are wrong. They are skewed by a few key things:

  • Boucher was the 2nd healthiest Raptor this year and, of the two Raptors to play in 60 games, by far the better player
  • Boucher played what is called in hockey “protected minutes” – he regularly got to play against bench players instead of starters and often struggled starting against bigger centres.

And for everyone who wants to put Boucher in the “core” let me just remind you of his age. He’s older than you think.

That being said, do I hope they re-sign him? Yes, if it’s at a reasonable price; he’s an extremely valuable bench player and maybe even a valuable starter at the 4.

OG Anunoby, 23, F

Under contract to 2025, at $16-$19 million

  • 1433 minutes (5th)
  • Per 36:
    • 17.1P (7th)
    • 6R (7th)
    • 2.4A (8th)
    • 1.7S (3rd)
    • 08.B (5th)
  • 15.4 PER (7th)
  • .605 TS% (4th)
  • 3.1 WS (6th), .104 WS/48 (7th)
  • 1 BPM (5th)
  • 1.1 VORP (5th)

OG showed a ton of growth offensively this year and got even better defensively, getting some consideration for one of the All NBA Defensive Team spots. (Seriously.)

OG’s still at the place that Siakam was a few years ago – he’s still young enough for people to see potential. Given his growth this season, I am very happy with the team’s commitment: either he gets better or he remains a tantalizing “project” other teams think they can turn into a star. Either way, he is not likely going to get worse defensively until he gets old or has a really bad injury, so he’s a valuable player and asset.

I don’t have any idea what a Siakam-Van Vleet-Anunoby core can accomplish, I suspect it’s a lot less than what some people would like. But it’s the kind of core that a star could be inserted into and instantly turn it into a contender.

Norman Powell, 27, G/F:

I don’t normally discuss players who are no longer on the team. But I just wanted to briefly mention Norm for all he did for this franchise, including some playoff-run-saving performances over the years. Just so you don’t get too confused on the stat rankings, here’s where he was this season:

  • 1277 minutes (6th)
  • Per 36:
    • 23.2P (1st)
    • 2.2A (9th)
    • 1.3S (2nd)
    • 3.6R (last)
    • 0.2B (17th)
  • 17.7 PER (t-2nd)
  • .645 TS% (2nd)
  • 3.2 Win Shares (5th), .120 WS/48 (4th)
  • 1.2 BPM (t-3rd)
  • 1 VORP (6th)

Stanley Johnson, 24, F:

Free agent

  • 1006 Minutes (7th)
  • Per 36:
    • 9.6P (last)
    • 5.5R (10th)
    • 0.6B (10th)
    • 3.2A (6th)
    • 1.9S (2nd)
  • 8.8 PER (16th)
  • .519 TS% (14th)
  • 1 Win Share (t-10th), 0.041 WS/48 (13th)
  • -2.6 BPM (11th)
  • -0.1 VORP (t-11th)

Sure, Johnson had a few good performances this year. But, as the healthiest Raptor, he was never reliable enough and many people have pointed to his status as the healthiest Raptor as exhibit A as to why we should just forget about this season and move on.

The only reason to bring him back is that he is still young and can be effective in the right situations. However, if they can find anyone better to take his minutes, they should.

Aron Baynes, 34, C:

Team option!

  • 980 Minutes (8th)
  • Per 36:
    • 11.9P (13th)
    • 10R (t-1st)
    • 0.8B (5th)
    • 1.7A (13th)
    • 0.6S (17th)
  • 10.5 Per (16th)
  • .503 TS% (15th)
  • 1 Win Share (t-10th), 0.049 WS/48 (12th)
  • -4.7 BPM (16th)
  • -0.7 VORP (last, by 0.5)

Well that was a disaster.

As others have noted, what happened at Centre this season for the Raptors reflects worse on the front office than on Baynes, but he shot so poorly this season it feels like almost any other solution might have been better.

Fortunately, it’s a team option.

DeAndre’ Bembry, 26, F/G:

Under contract through next season at $1.9 million

  • 972 Minutes (9th)
  • Per 36:
    • 10.9P (t-15th)
    • 5.4R (11th)
    • 4A (5th)
    • 2S (1st)
    • 0.7B (7th)
  • 11.2 PER (11th)
  • 1.2 Win Shares (9th), 0.059 WS/48 (11th)
  • -2.1 BPM (10th)
  • 0 VORP (t-10th)

I was happy with Bembry this season. He played too much but that was hardly his fault. And I’m hoping to see him in a little bit more suitable role next season.

I don’t think he’s any kind of long term solution as a backup swingman but I think he’s fine for the moment, especially if the Raptors can find a great 6th man to carry the second unit (whether that is Trent or not).

Malachi Flynn, 22, PG:

Rookie deal through 2024

  • 928 Minutes (10th)
  • Per 36:
    • 13.7P (10th)
    • 5.3A (3rd)
    • 1.5S (5th)
    • 4.5R (14th)
    • 0.3B (t-14th)
  • 10.9 PER (13th)
  • .484 TS% (last)
  • 0.8 Win Shares (13th), 0.041 WS/48 (14th)
  • -2.8 BPM (12th)
  • -0.2 VORP (t-15th)

This wasn’t the plan, I’m pretty sure.

Flynn was supposed to get used to playing with adults in the G League rather than playing over 900 minutes in the NBA.

Hopefully the woeful shooting is a product of being a rookie, in a very weird situation.

Yuta Watanabe, 26, F:

Under contract through next season at $1.7 million

  • 723 Minutes (11th)
  • Per 36:
    • 10.9P (t-15th)
    • 7.9R (5th)
    • 2A (12th)
    • 1.3S (7th)
    • 0.9B (4th)
  • 12.2 PER (10th)
  • .565 TS% (8th)
  • 1.5 Win Shares (8th), 0.102 WS/48 (8th)
  • -0.7 BPM (8th)
  • 0.2 VORP (8th)

I was very happy with Watanabe’s play and thought he should play more. He’ll get his chance next year.

Khem Birch, 28, C:

Free agent

  • 577 minutes (12th)
  • Per 36:
    • 14.2P (9th)
    • 9R (3rd)
    • 1.4B (3rd)
    • 2.2A (9th)
    • 1S (t-12th)
  • 16.8 PER (t-4th)
  • .596 TS% (5th)
  • 1.7 Win Shares (7th), .138 WS/48 (2nd)
  • 0.1 BPM (7th)
  • 0.3 VORP (7th)

We found a centre!

I have no idea if Birch is a reasonable long-term solution at centre for this team, given his age. But I’m certainly okay with the team giving him a try next year if a better option isn’t available.

Gary Trent Jr, 22, G/F:

Restricted free agent

  • 540 Minutes (13th)
  • Per 36:
    • 18.3P (5th)
    • 1.5A (16th)
    • 1.3S (t-6th)
    • 4.1R (16th)
    • 0.3B (t-14th)
  • 11.3 PER (10th)
  • .501 TS% (16th)
  • 0.2 Win Shares (16th), 0.19 WS/48 (Last)
  • -3.4 BPM (16th)
  • -0.2 VORP (16th)

So the shooting is a problem.

But Trent is really young, like less-than-a-year-older-than-Flynn young. And he’s certainly show he can score in bunches.

So I think it’s worthwhile giving him another contract and see how he grows.

That’s everyone who is still on the team and who played more than 400 minutes.

I don’t think we make any serious judgements about where the Raptors are after this season, it was just too weird.

I think the “core” of Siakam, Van Vleet and Anunoby should be given a shot to see what they can do in Toronto without pandemic “protocols.’ Obviously who is surrounding them will make a big impact

Regardless, I am looking forward to a real season, to see what we have. And then, next year, we can figure out where the team needs to go from there.

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