We continue our evaluation of the Raptors at the midway point with a look at five more players. As a reminder, each player will be compared to a movie in some way, shape or form. Some of the analogies will be perfect, some will be stretches and some will only make sense to me.
DeMar DeRozan: Twister (1996)
Even if you're not a die-hard NBA fan, it's easy to see that DeMar DeRozan is a good basketball player. He jumps high, has a Rolodex of beautiful moves and is one of the league's better dunkers. Alas, he's probably better appreciated by the average fan than by the basketball intelligentsia, who deride his inefficient offensive game and lack of a three-point shot. He's generally well-received and popular, but his (possible) impending All-Star selection probably overstates his value.
In short, he's Twister.
Like DeRozan, the 1996 disaster movie starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton appealed to a wide audience, bringing in an astounding $494 million in worldwide box office sales. By that measure it's one of the 120 most successful movies of all-time and, well, that's why we rely on more than money to judge movies. Still, Twister wasn't a complete critical failure; it holds a respectable 6.2/10 score on IMDB and, much like the Raptors' swingman, it's eminently watchable. For example: here's a scene featuring flying cows and tornadoes. How can you resist?
There's a very good chance DeRozan will be named an All-Star on Thursday for the first time in his career. Kyle Lowry probably deserves the spot ahead of him, but it's hard to get upset when a player who has done nothing but improve gets rewarded for that steady progress. He's far from a perfect player and Twister is far from a perfect movie, but who's going to argue with an All-Star berth and $494 million at the box office?
Jonas Valanciunas: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Bear with me on this one.
I know next to nothing about Jonas Valanciunas' lifestyle, though I doubt it has anything in common with that of Jordan Belfort, the Quaalude-popping, stock-swindling, money-grubbing antihero at the center of Martin Scorsese's garish look at Wall Street excess. Brilliantly played by Leonardo DiCaprio, Belfort is misogynistic, crass, arrogant and very, very rich. Other than the last part, Jonas Valanciunas appears to be none of those things.
Instead, the 21-year-old Lithuanian big man has more in common with the movie itself. The arrival of both was greeted with plenty of hype and anticipation, but it remains to be seen if all that excitement will result in sustained greatness. Both have made early splashes; The Wolf of Wall Street will be well-represented at the upcoming Academy Awards, while Valanciunas has shown flashes of star power in his second season. Will we remember The Wolf of Wall Street 20 years from now? Will Jonas Valanciunas be the next Pau Gasol or just another starting center? It's too soon to say, but games like last night in Brooklyn (20 points, 13 rebounds) should encourage Raptors fans to party like Jordan Belfort (well, maybe not quite so hard, but you get the idea).
Greivis Vasquez: Teen Wolf (1985)
Teen Wolf is amazing.
There are dozens of incredible things about this movie, not the least of which is that Michael J. Fox is cast in a role that requires him to play a lot of basketball, even though it's obvious he can't dribble without looking at the ball. The plot is relatively simple: Scott Howard (Fox) is a below-average basketball player with a rare power; he is a werewolf and, when he turns into the Wolf, he becomes a hairy combination of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. It's really something else.
In addition to sharing similar facial hair to the Wolf, Greivis Vasquez shares another trait with Scott Howard/the Wolf: he's either very good or very bad. Sometimes Vasquez is Scott Howard, sometimes he's the Wolf. A quick peek at his game logs for this season bear this out. Vasquez will either put up a 15-7-8 or be completely invisible on offense and borderline useless on defense. It's a bit of a problem, but only if Vasquez channels his inner Scott Howard. If he can get in touch with his wolf side (maybe grow out that beard a little more?), things will be just fine. To fully appreciate the absurdity of Teen Wolf, you really need to see it. Here's a clip of the first time Scott Howard turns into the Wolf during a game:
My absolute favorite part about this clip? One of the players has transformed into a werewolf and NO ONE CARES! Sure, there are a few sideways glances and some general confusion but, after the Wolf does his best Darryl Dawkins impression and throws down a dunk, the game continues! It's as if nothing has happened. Everyone just accepts the fact that they witnessed a teenage boy turn into a monster on the basketball court. In fact, they soon realize the benefits of having a werewolf on their team. It's not long before the whole team has bought into the Wolf's me-first style of play. He's a hairier Pete Maravich, and they all love it.
Chuck Hayes: Space Cowboys (2000)
Like a retiree blasting off into space, the thought of Chuck Hayes hanging around the NBA for nine seasons and counting is startling. Tommy Lee Jones, Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland and James Garner were sent into space to repair a Russian satellite with technology so old only they could decipher it; Chuck Hayes is sent into NBA games for a rough-and-tumble style of post defense more reminiscent of 1994 than 2014.
Hayes is a perfect example of how you can carve out a successful (and long) NBA career simply by knowing your role and being a professional. His free throw has a bigger hitch than Anthony Mason's and he's averaged less than four points per game for his career, yet he keeps ticking along. Here's the crazy thing about Hayes: he's only 30. Wouldn't you have guessed 35 or 36? Maybe when he's 65 some crazy NBA owner will sign him to a 10-day contract for the sole purpose of guarding the NBA's last back-to-the-basket player. Of course, he'd need to pass his physical first. (Warning: there's a little old-man nudity in this clip)
Julyan Stone: Iron Man: Rise of Technovore (2013)
The title of this movie might pique your interest; it has that famous Iron Man name attached to it, after all. Alas, don't expect to see Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow here. Rise of Technovore might have the name recognition of a Hollywood blockbuster, but in reality it's a direct-to-video animated take on the popular film franchise. According to the movie's IMDB page, the plot revolves around Iron Man trying to clear his name after he's framed by "technological terrorists". Any questions as to why it never played in theaters?
Much like Rise of Technovore, Julyan Stone offers some initial appeal. At 6'6" he's got great size for a point guard. Masai Ujiri has signed him in both Denver and Toronto, so there was initially some hope that Stone could play a role as the backup point guard. Those days are done. Stone is the Raptors' 14th or 15th man and, like the Rise of Technovore, good luck spotting him anytime soon.