It’s the start of the week — sort of — which means the return of the Man in the Middle Rankings here on Raptors HQ dot com. If you are just now coming out of a turkey-induced coma, like me, let’s recap this thing together.
Over the past week, the Raptors played in two games — eight days ago on Monday night against Denver, and then last Thursday against the Clippers. In both games, minutes for the centre position behind Jonas Valanciunas were distributed. There are still four names (sort of; but we’ll get to that) on the list for backup C.
Here’s where the rankings stand now, just shy of two weeks from the start of the season. (For reference: here’s how things stood last week.)
4. Yanick Moreira (Last Week: 4)
Alas, poor Yanick, we knew him (not at all) well. The big man from Angola has yet to see the court for any pre-season action, which, you will not be surprised to learn, does not bode well for Moreira’s chances of making the Raptors. I’m confident in saying though the Raptors 905 will welcome him with open arms. Mississauga is very nice in the winter.
Or so I hear.
3. Pascal Siakam (LW: 1)
Apparently Dwane Casey did not get our memo regarding Siakam as backup centre. Turns out, you need the coach onboard with the concept before you can make it a reality. To wit, Casey expressed some feelings:
Backup C mins appear to still be up for grabs. Casey sees Siakam as a 4/3, won't commit to using JV w/ 2nd unit. Opportunity for Bebe/Poeltl— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) October 10, 2016
As I had mused, Raptors appear to have gone back to seeing Siakam as a PF who might play a bit of SF, not a guy who can give minutes at C.— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) October 10, 2016
Admittedly, I am not shocked by this. It’s fine. Siakam has bulked up considerably over the last couple of years, and he is perhaps emblematic of the league’s desire to go smaller and faster in the frontcourt. But he’s a lean 6’9”, 230 lbs, the Raptors have other centre options at the moment, and his destiny may be as an ideal high-flying stretch-4. Who’s to say, really?
Wait, Casey is to say. And he said it. Moving on.
2. Jakob Poeltl (LW: 3)
In an interesting turn of events, Poeltl is also a lean 230 lbs; he just happens to be 7-feet tall as well. This suggests that while he has the traditional height to be an NBA centre, he — like Siakam — will get pushed around in the post.
The Raptors obviously hope that coupling Poeltl’s quickness with his basketball smarts will allow him to play in and around the paint more often than not. This is not a bad idea, as Poeltl’s shown active hands and a nose for the ball (including a nice 10 point-6 rebound game against the Nuggets last week). It feels wild that we now grade centres on how well they can defend the pick-and-roll on the perimeter, but I would not bet against Poeltl’s ability there. My point here is that Big Jak has a recommendable skill set that just needs time. As such, he’s up in the rankings.
1. Lucas Nogueira (LW: 2)
It’s full speed ahead time on the Bebe-as-backup project in Raptorland. Nogueira got 17 and then 16 minutes in the last two pre-season games, which feels right around the appropriate length of time he should get per game in the regular season. In the former, against a young Nuggets team, his line was four points, three rebounds, two steals (?), and a block (with a disconcerting four fouls). In the latter (seeing more of the Clippers starters and veterans), he was a tad more silent with a mere three assists and two rebounds (but +11 so go figure). Still, baby — ahem, bebe — steps.
Ideally, the Raptors want Bebe out there enough to make a difference, but not too much so as to lose his focus and potentially hurt the team. And if that sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, I can assure you it is not.
Let Bebe be Bebe!