The Toronto Raptors have some issues just below the surface, and it’s starting to frustrate Dwane Casey. A 2-1 week finished with a rant from the team’s head coach, lambasting the slow third quarters that have allowed teams like New York, Indiana and Charlotte to pounce and either take leads or get back into games.
While this is primarily an issue for the starters, it’s bled into the bench a little bit. There’s always a sense with this team, though, that someone is going to show up and dig the team out of a hole. This week, that was left to Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell, who were far and away the Raptors’ best bench assets with CJ Miles doing dad stuff.
They lead the pack, but let’s see how the rest of the rankings shake out.
3 Young Gunz of the Week
1. Fred VanVleet (last week: 2)
Steady Freddie was more than that this week. With offensive ratings of 152, 121, and 165, VanVleet was coming off the bench and spitting fire. He’s adapted quickly to Delon Wright’s role as a secondary creator next to Kyle Lowry, and has developed great chemistry with roller Jakob Poeltl and shooter Norm Powell in bench-driven lineups.
Bench Mob— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 26, 2017
Steals: 5 pic.twitter.com/r6deeFzb31
Against Charlotte, he collected a career-high nine assists to go with eight points. In the Atlanta blowout, he was a +21 in 16 minutes. Against Indiana, he had 16 points, five rebounds, four assists, and four steals. Yeah, Fred VanVleet had that line! (He even got a special shoutout in Zach Lowe’s weekly column.)
It’s sensational stuff from a point guard with lack of size. As he plays, he learns though — and his meshing with the bench unit has helped both his game and the Raptors.
2. Norman Powell (last week: 4)
Powell looks very comfortable in his new role off the bench, and this week may have secured that move’s permanence. Powell scored double digits in all three games this week, peaking with a 17-point, three steal night in Atlanta. In a more meaningful Pacers game, he was 7-for-14 with 16 points and a +16.
The improved play is all comfort with Powell. He’s no longer being redressed as a shooter living off Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. He’s getting the ball in a position to create, and is doing a great job finding lanes to the bucket. Powell is finishing too — even when it looks awkward.
Honestly, this column was created with the fear that Powell would be number one every week. He should be, on paper. Six weeks in, we’re finally starting to see the Norm we expected from day one.
3. Pascal Siakam (last week: 1)
While not on the level of the two men above him, Siakam continued to be a source of energy for the Raptors. His best game stats-wise was in Atlanta (13 points, four rebounds), but he was more necessary against Indiana, with Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young going H.A.M. on Toronto’s immobile starting frontcourt.
It was an extreme example of the new normal for the Raptors: Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka struggle to defend, Siakam comes in and looks awesome, and the cycle rotates again.
The Other Guys
4. OG Anunoby (last week: 3)
Against Charlotte, OG ably defended three frontcourt positions at different points, and showed how he adds value to the starting unit. Still, the Raptors need some points from him — eight points total against Charlotte and Indiana feels like a letdown.
5. Jakob Poeltl (last week: 5)
Poeltl got punked by Dwight Howard a couple times on Wednesday night, but he continues to supplant Lucas Nogueira in the lineup and carve out minutes as the team’s tenth man.
He shot 14-of-17 this week, mostly by rolling expertly to the basket. He has a veteran’s ability to find open pockets near the basket, and has exceptional hands catching the ball on the pick and roll. That, along with the aforementioned chemistry with VanVleet, has made him a nice weapon in relatively limited minutes.
6. Lucas Nogueira (last week: 6)
Unfortunately, Bebe ended this week getting hurt again. A calf injury will hold him back, right after his first promising minutes in a couple weeks against Charlotte. His length was a real weapon in that game, but again, inconsistency has struck down whatever hope you can glean.
7. Lorenzo Brown (last week: 7)
He scored! Brown ended the longest Raptors debut without a basket with not one, but two points against Atlanta. Even he couldn’t help but bury the sad Hawks.
8. Alfonzo McKinnie (last week: T-8)
More garbage time minutes for McKinnie, who is ready to step up if (knock on wood) injuries hit Toronto.
T-9. Delon Wright, Bruno Caboclo
Still no timeline for Delon Wright, and Bruno Caboclo continues to anchor the efforts in Mississauga.