The two words the Raptors do not want to hear right now are “dominate” and “disrespect.” Nevertheless, they’ve been forced to use both as of late. Dwane Casey discussed applying the former to the team’s Game 1 and 2 losses to the Cavaliers — he was reluctant. Meanwhile, Norman Powell called LeBron James disrespectful for his, let’s say, antics in those same games — he’s not entirely wrong, but still.
Sadly, on both counts, the Raptors have not done much to dissuade the use of those two words. They are being dominated and disrespected. The Cavs have allowed to do what they want, where they want, and how they want. Yes, they’re shooting ridiculously well right now, but when you’re confidence is high in basketball, you begin to feel like you can do anything. It has to stop.
So, with that in mind, we present our ranking of the Raptors most likely to start some shit. We’re not talking fighting here, we’re talking controlled fury and a refusal to back down. It’s the only thing left for the Raptors as this point. Who will respond?
16. Bruno Caboclo
God love him, but Bruno is still very soft.
15. Lucas Nogueira
Bebe is my guy, but he is also very much in his own feelings. Hard to see a situation where Nogueira decides to get involved in some fisticuffs.
14. Jakob Poeltl
The undoubted highlight of Game 1 was watching Poeltl’s perplexed reaction to Dahntay Jones’ manic taunting after a late dunk. Marv Albert summed it all up quite accurately, saying, “Poeltl is wondering ‘why are you talking to me?’”
13. Delon Wright
Despite being a baby brother, which gives a person an automatic rage edge, Delon does not strike too much fear into the hearts of men. He is a smooth operator though, and that counts for something. (Also, he spent his rookie year in braces; hard to be intimidating when that image still exists in the mind’s eye.)
12. Cory Joseph
The lone case where being Canadian may actually work against a person.
11. Pascal Siakam
Being one of four brothers means Siakam is not going to take lightly to being tossed aside in a dismissive fashion. Sure, he may not get to play in any of these games, but he’s got energy to burn and it has to go somewhere.
10. Fred VanVleet
Look, VanVleet is an undrafted rookie, listed at 6’0’’ (which, hmmm, I don’t know). His spot in the NBA is contingent on him not backing down from anyone. He’s already admitted that no matter the situation, he’s going to play hard. And in this Cavs series, the context of his minutes has always been bad. VanVleet could start some shit.
9. Patrick Patterson
Patterson has a certain disdain for his lessers — e.g. most of the NBA — and you can see it play across his face when he has to deal with some of the dim-bulbs of his chosen profession. Watch what happens if Kevin Love decides to start whining tonight.
8. Jonas Valanciunas
When Greg Monroe of the Bucks came trucking down the court, pushed teammate Khris Middleton out of the way, and got into Jonas’ face, the Raptors’ big man did not even bat an eye. Afterwards JV seemed mystified by it all, saying, “they were pushing each other, I don’t know.” Even in a fight, JV stays modestly clueless — which actually helps.
7. DeMarre Carroll
He was once shot in the leg.
6. Dwane Casey
This man is wearing a suit, and he is 60 years old, but do not sleep on him. Dwane used to work as a coal miner. He grew up in the American south in the 60s and 70s. He saw some shit. You think he’s afraid of mixing it up? Casey is as old school as you can get in this game. Just put a clipboard in his hand and watch out.
5. DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan is often at his best when not getting into it with anyone on the court. He’s chill and in control of his style of play. He takes things as they come. But DeRozan has also shown that if you start taking liberties with him, he will get in your face. (Vince Staples agrees.)
4. Kyle Lowry
If Lowry was the exact same person, but instead had a passion for something else in life — let’s say he was a baker, or a lawyer, or a TV reporter, whatever — he would still be unafraid of starting some shit. Watching Lowry means watching to see who or what he is yelling about, all the time. Mess with him at your own peril, the dude is unhappy constantly.
3. Serge Ibaka
One of 18 kids. Survived a civil war in Africa. This doesn’t have anything to do with basketball, but it seems important to the context of this discussion. Serge is not afraid of anything.
2. Norman Powell
On paper, Serge should probably rank higher. But I don’t know. Right now, Norm seems particularly angry. And that’s saying something.
1. P.J. Tucker
Do not think for one second that Tucker will not start some shit on his birthday.