The last week has shown us a number of things about the Raptors. First and foremost, that we have two really good centres, and also four really good wing players — and oh yeah, two awesome point guards, plus one who’s hurt. Hang on, it’s going to take me a minute to calculate the awesomeness of the current Toronto roster...
I’m not sure how the Raptors managed to gel so effectively this early into the season, but they’ve done it. And the most amazing part of this success is that the team doesn’t even seem to be firing on all cylinders just yet. Despite a few silly mistakes per game (such as those turnovers and missed defensive rebounds), Toronto has the third best net rating in the league behind [checks notes] the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans. Wait, what?
So, out of Golden State, Boston, Philadelphia and the entire gauntlet of teams that were supposed to be better than Toronto out of the gate, it’s the Raptors who look to be in mid-season form already.
Fans, it’s going to be a fun season.
The Lethal Lithuanian was an inadvertent victim of Nick Nurse’s rotating starting five, and many fans were worried about his effectiveness coming off the bench. After a dismal game against the Celtics last Friday, Valanciunas dominated as a reserve Monday night against the Hornets, as well as in his start Saturday against the Wizards.
His response to a horrible game was about as convincing as you could ask for, putting both Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith to shame in Washington DC. Over his last two, in just 19 minutes per game, JV is averaging 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds. Nothing can stop him now.
You might’ve heard about this guy. He’s actually pacing the league in total assists with 40, in addition to shooting the deep ball 58 percent on almost seven attempts per game. Simply put, Lowry has been brilliant and this is a no-brainer selection.
Can Kyle keep up this pace? That’s the biggest question and my answer would be no. He’ll probably show us the best shooting season of his career, as well as a return to scoring over 20 points per game. He’s currently averaging 22 points on only 13 shots, so expect one of those numbers to fluctuate.
In the Raptors’ three home games this week, the home crowd has been incredible. Whether it’s injecting energy directly into the game, chanting MVP for a possible MVP, or giving the refs hell, the fans have been the best in the league. Seeing as it’s just the last week of October, with a new team and a new moniker plastered on the side of the arena, it would’ve been reasonable to expect some wary fans.
Instead what we see on a nightly basis are twenty thousand people itching for the playoffs to come. I can’t remember a time that we weren’t secretly worried about the playoffs. I’m thinking, but I can’t remember.
I’ll say this right off the bat — nobody is truly cold in the Raptors locker room; this term is absolutely relative. So, yes, relative to someone like Kyle Lowry, Freddy is cold. He’s still trying to find his rhythm offensively with things like his handle (he’s been randomly losing the ball when he drives), his long-range shot, and goosing the team’s Bench Mob to the same heights as last season. Despite these (modest) short comings, VanVleet has still been able to make winning plays anyway. So yeah, relative.
Wright repeats with another appearance on the “Cold” side of things. Still dealing with a pesky thigh/groin issue, our bench is in dire need of his change-of-pace style next to VanVleet. In addition to adding that second handler, his defense would fit seamlessly into the style the Raptors are playing this year. This team was built with the Delon Wright’s of the world in mind. The sooner he gets back the sooner he can dominate defensively.