In case you haven’t heard, the Raptors are fraying apart at this very moment. That sound you hear? Existential torment. Yes, the team lost two games in a row and now is destined for the scrapheap in the near future. What’s the point of even continuing? Why even bother with the next 49 games? We know how this all goes. Bummer.
But wait, a small voice in the wilderness pipes up, isn’t it fun to just watch the Raptors play basketball, particularly as their youngest members figure out what they can do on the court and surprise us with their discoveries? Shouldn’t that count for something? An optimistic murmur grows from the crowd.
Here’s me, on the precipice, taking a step back and reconsidering. By jove, I think you’re right. There’s still a reason to go on with this Raptors team — even if their young roster has been inconsistent this week, despite even the tough losses, putting aside even the potentially grim future.
They persevere. And so should we.
3 Young Gunz of the Week
1. Delon Wright (last week: 2)
I’m not sure I’ve said this enough this past week, but I sure am glad to have Wright back with the squad. The Raptors’ backup point guard did a little bit of everything in the team’s three games — hello, Delon averaged 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals in that span — and while his numbers in general were down compared with the previous week, the team could count on him more often than not.
2. Pascal Siakam (last week: 6)
Poor Pascal still can’t hit a three — it’s now been over a month since his last one — but as far as game-changers go, Siakam is still one of the best the Raptors have on offer. There remains an unseen ceiling to Siakam’s game that is still very tantalizing.
As has been pointed out, Siakam’s activity in, for example, last Saturday’s game against the Sixers, helped blow the game wide open. He may not have scored any points until later in the fourth (with the game firmly in Toronto’s control), but to say his role in the team’s performance didn’t matter is folly.
3. Jakob Poeltl (last week: 3)
Maybe Jak should be number two this week, owing to his 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds, plus 1.7 blocks, per game. But to be honest, we’ve established now that that is the unflashy floor to Poeltl’s game.
Not to damn him with faint praise, but staying in the same position feels fitting at this time. And the Raptors need Jak to continue to prove his steadiness because, well, they’ll need him down the line to provide the exact same thing he’s giving them now. That counts for something.
The Other Guys
4. Fred VanVleet (last week: 5)
VanVleet is still grinding away and doing the best he can with each and every tool God gave him. As of late, that’s meant helping on double teams, timing his dig-down steals, and in general providing something of a steadying presence, as before.
Unfortunately, with Wright’s return, the talent gap between the two guards has lately been highlighted. And with FVV not hitting many outside shots in the past week (he shot just 28.6 percent on 3s), it’s fair to ask what he’s doing out there.
5. OG Anunoby (last week: 1)
Gasp! OG all the way down here? Yes, we’re grading him on something of a harder curve now, given his place in the starting lineup and his offensive explosion over the previous week.
Sorry to say, Anunoby came way, way back down to Earth over the last three games. He largely disappeared from the floor, and managed only a pair of threes in Toronto’s hopeless effort in OKC. Let’s just shake it off and move on.
6. Norman Powell (last week: 4)
Speaking of shaking things off, we’re officially recommending Norm for a vacation. I’m not going to play armchair psychologist here (OK, yes I am), but it’s clear something is off with Powell as of late. His development has stalled, his game has abandoned him, and his impact on the court has been... not great. I know off the top I said we should try not to worry too much, but it’s getting hard not to with Powell.
Norm can still make plays like this though, so that’s something.
7. Lucas Nogueira (last week: 9)
Bebe back! Bebe already got two steals! Bebe attempted a 3! Bebe forever!
8. Malcolm Miller (last week: 8)
Exactly two minutes and 46 seconds of playing time with no other stats of which to make note. Yes, that means Big Mac has achieved the rarely seen two trillion. Not bad, my guy.
T-9. Lorenzo Brown (last week: 7), Alfonzo McKinnie, Bruno Caboclo
No NBA minutes this week for all three of these guys, but have you seen the 905 lately? They’re on a four-game win streak!