Welcome to first ever edition of HQ Mailbag! (Or #HQMailbag)
As Raptors mailbag columns typically go, this is another one. Every Friday, I’ll answer your questions about the Raps, the NBA, assorted miscellany, so on, so forth. If you want to talk about it, the odds are I want to talk about it too. So, let’s get started with week 1.
The First Three Stars
It’s early, but are you concerned about the Raps’ ability to get to the line without DeRozan?— Wilson Hanze Zhang (@WilsonHZhang) October 19, 2018
To put it quite frankly, I’m not. I don’t think this will be a problem. I think Kyle Lowry has shown the skill of putting the ball on the floor and drawing fouls when needed and I think aggressive basketball on both ends creates chances. In Wednesday’s game against Cleveland, the Raptors did manage to shoot 20 free throws (though they only made 12). Last season, as a team, Toronto averaged 21.8 FT attempts per game, good for 13th best in the league. Which is to say: so far, so good on that front.
More concerning to me right away was the number of free throws conceded, but that just looked like first game jitters, adrenaline, and Serge Ibaka getting called for a lot of loose ball fouls.
Do you know what’s going on with open gym this season? Also, what do you think will be the raptors most difficult challenge against Boston? (Usually we play well against them-was that because of coach Casey?)— Sophia (@Sophkon) October 18, 2018
Right after I got this tweet, the Raptors’ official Twitter account tweeted about Open Gym dropping “tomorrow”, a.k.a. today. I am, uh, excited.
As for Boston, I think the Raptors’ most difficult challenge is the Boston defense. The Celtics are a capital-g Good basketball team, they’ve got smart defenders who switch well, and a coach (Brad Stevens) who knows how to use them all. The Raps have played them well because they’re also really good!
While tonight’s game will be super-fun to watch, I still want to highlight how early in the season this is. You all saw some of those jitters in the Cavs game. So when at the end of the season someone says “The Raptors won the season series ___”, just remember when one of those games was.
What’s your hot take after one game? What’s missing from the team that could put them over the hump and into the NBA Finals? Rebounding wasn’t great...— Matt Collins (@wmatthewcollins) October 18, 2018
You’re right, rebounding wasn't great. My general stance on things is very Sean Woodley-esque. I’m a believer in the “It’s fine” mentality. But if I had to choose a hot take, I’ll take JV Hive today. Jonas Valanciunas played well enough to earn more minutes. I thought Serge Ibaka had his moments on Wednesday, sure, on the defensive end. But offensively, he struggled a little bit: the ball stuck with him on the floor, I’m not super confident in his dribble, and some of his shots came up short. That he also finished 2-of-10 from the field with one wide open blown dunk is par for the course, it feels like.
On the other hand, Serge is fine. It’s the first game. I can’t do it. I just can’t do hot takes all that well. I’m sorry.
As for the second part of your question, I think if rebounding remains a problem, which it may or it may not, then the Raptors need to add that. Easier said than done, perhaps, but there’s also Greg Monroe lurking on the bench, and who knows what else president Masai Ujiri could cook up. Still, they’re a Finals contender already as Kawhi gets comfortable with the Raps.
Family and Friends Section
The following three questions come from people who have my phone number and could’ve texted me these questions. Instead, I will allow them to get the word count up for this mailbag.
Any chance we get a lineup of Lowry-Green-OG-Kawhi-Siakam? Would be so much fun on both ends of the court— Spencer (@BigFourInsider) October 18, 2018
How was nick nurse’s head coaching debut?— Sophie N (@snisker) October 19, 2018
- Yes, it’s quite possible we see that lineup. This is where I’ll use my words to pour praise on Pascal Siakam. He looked really good on Wednesday despite playing less than 20 minutes as the starting power forward. He was cutting, slashing, and frustrating Kevin Love on the other end. Siakam is also now 1-of-1 from deep to start the season! Like so many other Raptors fans, I’m looking forward to a potential breakout season from him. I think Siakam will push his way into Most Improved Player territory.
- Nick Nurse’s coaching debut was fine. He’s going to keep throwing everything and the kitchen sink in terms of trying out new things. There’s a section of Twitter that didn’t love the closing lineup (with Serge coming back in for JV after the Cavs went small) but I think he’ll get it sorted out.
- In a word: Yeah.
The Closing Question
If every team were dissolved and the league started from scratch, who would the top ten picks be in the expansion draft, coaches included? #HQmailbag— Jacob Morris (@jmsmorris) October 17, 2018
This was the first question I got and the most difficult to answer. I spent quite a while debating the rules of this expansion draft: Would contracts be dissolved, too? Does everyone go to rookie contracts then or would I have to negotiate with each draftee? Because then that could get tricky: What about the salary cap?
I factored in age, injury history, play style, versatility, coaching style and I think I’ve got something. This might be another column. Or you can debate me on Twitter.
That does it for this week. We’ll be back next Friday with more questions, and more answers. When you see the call go out, remember to use #HQmailbag in your tweet, or email us at RaptorsHQsbn@gmail.com.