It seems like people are starting to accept that this might be the best Toronto Raptors team ever. Who had that coming! Thanks to an improved offensive system and a fresh batch of talent — which this column notes and ranks, conveniently — the Raptors keep winning, including 11 of their last 12 and five straight.
We can deduce then that the Raptors went 4-0 since we last spoke. Wins over Brooklyn, Sacramento, Charlotte and Philadelphia won’t go in the Christmas card, but they showed all the marks of a good team.
After a week of bench struggles, it was nice to see a couple guys turn it around. There were more transition opportunities, the bigs got back to their energetic selves, and Delon Wright came back!
With all that in mind, let’s shake out the rankings for Week 9.
3 Young Gunz of the Week
1. OG Anunoby (last week: 1)
OG keeps growing before our eyes. After this week, the sample size is bearing out that he’s not only the Raptors’ best outside shooter, he’s an elite marksman in the larger NBA picture.
Here’s his three-point lines from the week:
vs. Brooklyn: 1-for-4
vs. Sacramento: 3-for-6
@ Charlotte: 6-for-7
@ Philadelphia: 1-for-4
Despite two quieter outings, that Charlotte outing still balances him at 52.4%. On the season, OG is shooting 41-for-90 (45.6%). That mark would put him at fourth in the NBA — behind Jayson Tatum, Klay Thompson and E’Twaun Moore — in 3P% for the same or more attempts.
This is seriously unreal for a guy who wasn’t expected to contribute much in his rookie year. The shooting would be enough too, but defensively he continues to be a stalwart. Down the stretch of the team’s comeback in Philly, a game where he was otherwise not involved, he guarded Ben Simmons like his life depended on it. His long arms, low stance, and ability to hang with guards and forwards of similar size has been valuable to the Raptors.
OG continues to shine as the team’s best young player, and any chatter around a Jonas Valanciunas and Anunoby for Andrew Wiggins swap should be ignored until we’re sure he’s reached his final form.
2. Delon Wright (last week: 7)
Oh, how we missed Delon. The Running Utes alum returned this week, compression t-shirt in tow, and had three quieter games before exploding in Philadelphia. I talked about his third quarter in last night’s recap, but it bears repeating: Wright simply took over for a four-minute stretch, and turned a dud Raptors performance into a win. Delon had 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and a steal against the Sixers.
That impact showed up in other games, though, and having Delon Wright back takes pressure off of Fred VanVleet to be a primary creator in bench lineups. It also allows Norman Powell a few less me-first possessions, as Wright continues to be excellent in creating turnovers and getting the team out in transition. The bench unit thrives when they’re running.
3. Jakob Poeltl (last week: 4)
It was a very solid Jakob Poeltl week, maybe so much you didn’t notice him.
Poeltl was a cool 16-for-23 from the field in four games, and got back to easy points and finding impact in transition rebounds. Against Charlotte, Jakob had five of the team’s ten offensive rebounds by himself, as the Raptors basically held Dwight Howard back from doing anything. This, a week after looking bullied on the west coast, was a positive sign for Poeltl.
The Other Guys
4. Norman Powell (last week: 5)
While Powell continues his inconsistencies, he had a couple strong games this week to go with a couple duds. Against Sacramento, he was 5-for-5 in 21 minutes, scoring 14 points and marking a +13. In the other home game, he was 5-for-8 for 11 against Brooklyn.
If it’s a mentality issue for Norm, then it’s easy to explain away the strong home games and sadder road games. In the Philadelphia game he was back to unplayable, missing his only shot and turning it over badly twice.
One thing for Powell to improve on: when he gets inside, he often jumps before knowing whether he’s passing or shooting a tough layup. It would be great to see him take one more dribble, slow down a bit, and make that flying decision a bit easier.
5. Fred VanVleet (last week: 3)
With Wright back, VanVleet’s impact was down this week. He’s going through a rough shooting patch from the outside, which is his best way of creating consistent value. On the season he’s now just making 33.8% from outside, and while he never seemed that off during this stretch — against Charlotte, he had eight points, six assists and four rebounds — that shot extends his value and helps the Raptors win minutes with him on the floor.
6. Pascal Siakam (last week: 2)
Siakam’s energy was a huge factor in turning the Philadelphia game, but it was an unusually quiet week for Pascal in the box scores. A 12-point outburst vs. Charlotte was his (and the bench’s) best game, but otherwise he was 5-for-22 and struggled to find quality looks.
Still, you get in other ways from Siakam, and he and Poeltl’s chemistry in giving opponents headaches inside is undefeated.
7. Lorenzo Brown (last week: 7)
Your weekly update on Lorenzo Brown shooting in garbage time: he did again, twice! And he made one! Two more points for the unselfish guard against Brooklyn.
8. Malcolm Miller (last week: 7)
Miller made his NBA debut against Charlotte as C.J. Miles sat due to dental... work. While he didn’t score, he looks like a worthwhile project — yet another slender 6’9” wing who has the ability to shoot. Masai Ujiri, you dog.
T-9. Alfonzo McKinnie, Bruno Caboclo, Lucas Nogueira
Bebe continues to sit with a calf injury, the 905 continue to struggle with Bruno. It’s hard out here for Brazil.