Hello and welcome to the fourth installment of the Raptors HQ Roundtable discussion. I am Sully Akbari and I will be the host of this roundtable discussion series throughout the season where we dive into news regarding the Toronto Raptors as well as news around the NBA. Joining me this week is Josh Kern and Justin Robertson.
In this week’s edition, we will be talking about the stellar play of Raptors’ Pascal Siakam and the rise of OG Anunoby, the Philadelphia 76ers’ acquisition of Jimmy Butler, and how well former Raptors head coach Dwane Casey is doing in his new job as the Detroit Pistons’ head coach.
Alright, let’s get to it!
1) Should the Raptors have made a push to trade for Butler?
Sully Akbari: Before the season began, I was on the fence about the Raptors trading for Butler mainly because Toronto got Kawhi Leonard without gutting its young core. So, had a trade for Butler been there then I’m sure this time around, Toronto would have to have given up a whole lot to get the four-time All-Star.
Today, my stance remains firm in that the Raptors should have not made a push to trade for Butler for two reasons. The first being is that Pascal Siakam and/or OG Anunoby probably would have headlined the trade and those are two players I wouldn’t want to give up for a 30-year-old Butler, who is entering free agency this upcoming summer and is seeking a lucrative deal. The second reason being is that the team wouldn’t be as versatile from a defensive standpoint in the wings and forwards department if OG and Siakam were to be dealt. We’re seeing how great Siakam and OG have been as well as the defensive versatility through 13 games this year, so yeah, it was good for the Raptors to stand pat.
Josh Kern: Before Saturday’s news broke, I would have said no, or maybe “yes but the most I’m willing to give up is Norman Powell and C.J. Miles.” Why mess with what’s working today, and throw away your future, to rent a headache like Butler?
But I wasn’t expecting Butler to land in the division, on an opponent the Raptors will likely see in the playoffs. So maybe they should have pushed harder, but even then... maybe I’d give up Delon Wright, but I still wouldn’t have moved Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby for Butler.
And good luck to the Sixers, paying Butler $45 million when he’s 35 years old. Better them than the Raptors!
Justin Robertson: As The Ringer pointed out “Kawhi is just a coworker, one who might be around for only a season.” If there was a chance to get Jimmy Butler, why not? Kawhi might only be around for one season and having a starting group of Kawhi, Butler, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, on paper looks formidable. Of course, it would have meant giving up some good things that are working for the Raptors right now such as Jonas Valanciunas and or Siakam who looks like he’s having a breakout season. Seeing how things played out in Minnesota, I’m more curious about Butler’s locker room vibe and not sure he fits in with what the Raptors have going on right now. By not getting Butler I think it worked out just fine.
If Jimmy Butler gets a full 5-year deal from 76ers next summer, one structure to consider is a declining contract. Why? 1st year salary won’t matter (beyond $30.7M cap hold), 2nd may not either (possibly w/o cap room), 3rd breakeven, big savings in 4th and 5th (when needed most).— Albert Nahmad (@AlbertNahmad) November 12, 2018
2) Has Pascal Siakam reached his ceiling yet? If not, what does his full potential look like?
Sully: I believe that Siakam hasn’t reached his ceiling because there is one obvious area he can still improve upon: his shooting. If he can knock down not only the three-point shot but also hit the shots from mid-range at a high percentage and with consistency, then I think that is where we see Siakam’s peak.
Where Siakam’s ceiling and full potential would cap off, though, would be improving his game in the post, on the fly decision-making on both ends of the floor, and the ability to run transition offense with the credibility of a true point guard. He still has a couple of more years left to become a complete dominant athletic forward.
Josh: If the jump shot doesn’t develop, then I would say Pascal is pretty near his ceiling, but if we’re confident his jump shot will come around — and given how much he’s improved in his two-plus seasons so far, there’s no reason to doubt that he’ll continue to get better — then he’s nowhere near his ceiling.
As for his potential, he really reminds me of Scottie Pippen; Pippen was a lanky, raw athlete from a small school who came into the league as a relative unknown and quickly became a great defender, while his play-making and scoring developed a little more slowly. Sounds just like Siakam! That’s a high bar, but Siakam’s got that potential.
Justin: Siakam has shown us he’s capable of 23 point-games. He can shoot threes. He looks confident. And he can get to the line. Now it’s a question of ‘can he sustain this kind of form for more than one week?’ And that’s what he’ll be working on doing every game. It’s amazing how something like trusting your potential can elevate you to another level and that’s what I think about when I’ve watched Siakam this season. He’s a 23-year-old kid who’s learned to trust himself. And now we’re seeing the results of that.
Pascal Siakam is currently 4th in the #NBA in FG%, & averaging career-highs in points (13.3) and rebounds (6.7).— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) November 12, 2018
Siakam has the highest Net Rating on the @Raptors; they have an impressive116.9 Offensive Rating & 100.3 Defensive Rating when he’s on the court. #WeTheNorth
3) OG Anunoby told Nick Nurse he wants to model his game like Kawhi Leonard. Is Kawhi the right type of player for OG to aspire to be?
Sully: Absolutely! Just like Kawhi, OG came into the league as a defensive-minded wing with some offensive game to his name. However, he isn’t quite there to where Kawhi was in his second year. His defensive skills are there and will form into a defensive anchor much than his offense as it may take one or two more seasons to develop.
When his rookie-scale contract ends in 2021, the hope is for him to form skills where he can make plays off the bounce and improve his shot-making to the point where opponents will have to play him tight.
From an overall standpoint, OG may take longer to get to Kawhi’s two-way threat level, (if he gets there at all) but that is no knock on him as Kawhi is just an extremely talented player.
Josh: I mean, who better? They’re about the same size, both great athletes, and take pride in their defense; it took a couple years for Leonard’s offense to blossom, and Anunoby’s offense is following a similar path. The fact that they’re both quiet and unassuming makes it the perfect comp!
And since Leonard may only be here for a year, I hope Anunoby is absorbing as much as he possibly can.
Justin: Sure, I think having that type of goal is healthy. I think the good thing is that Kawhi is his teammate and from all reports, Kawhi gives OG advice all the time. So if there is ever a statement that might come true, it’s that OG could evolve into Kawhi. Why not? Of course, OG has work to do to get there. Coach Nurse has said they are developing his low post game, scoring, and channeling his aggression so he can be a bull against smaller opponents and use his speed against taller, sluggish guys. Like Siakam, OG is on a learning curve and we don’t know where that ends yet. But how incredible would that be if OG really did become the next Kawhi?
Is there anybody in the NBA that Anunoby would rather model his game after than Kawhi?— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) November 11, 2018
OG: "Is there anyone else? Probably Kawhi the most."
Has Kawhi taken on a mentorship role?
OG: "If I ask him a question he'll answer it and if he sees something he'll tell me."
Around the NBA News Discussion:
1) How does Philly’s acquisition of Jimmy Butler impact the Eastern Conference playoff picture?
Sully: I am not sure anything drastic happens to the playoff picture because the top-three teams — the Raptors, Bucks, and Celtics remain locks as the East’s best. Philly will be the fourth best team but I just don’t see them creeping into the top-three even with their acquisition of Jimmy Butler.
Butler does give the 76ers another guy who can create offense by himself whereas Robert Covington and Dario Saric couldn’t do so as much. They were placed in areas of the floor where Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid could create plays for them. I think that was a better fit for the team because both Covington and Saric could play inside-and-out. With both gone and Butler in, the challenge for them is to balance out the offense because of the lack of shooting on this team. Opponents will have a much easier time defending them if all their offense is coming from inside the three-point line.
Josh: I’m not certain that Philly is a better team, overall, today than they were a week ago. Butler makes them much better in certain situations — specifically, late-game and clutch situations, where they’ve struggled — but they still lack shooting, and they’re nowhere near as deep as Boston and Toronto. Assuming J.J. Redick moves into the starting lineup, that means their bench is T.J. McConnell, Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala? (God bless ‘im but Amir Johnson isn’t the answer at power forward.) And teams that hope to make deep playoff runs don’t have projects in their starting lineup, as Philly does with Markelle Fultz. We’ve also heard the rumblings that maybe Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons don’t mesh — I’m sure throwing Butler into the locker room won’t hurt at all!
Let’s revisit this question in February, though; Philly made two great waiver-wire pick-ups last year and I expect they’ll be looking to do the same, or make a trade at the deadline, this year as well.
Justin: It makes Philly a great team and a huge threat. With Embiid in DeMarcus Cousins-like form early, now the Raptors really have to consider Philly as well as the Celtics as stiff competition in the East. The Butler move allows Simmons to focus on defense and assists more and not feel the pressure that he’s not a prolific scorer. As our boy Conor McCreery pointed out on Raptors HQ, Butler has been a thorn in the Raptors side, but also we are yet to see how his arrival in Philly impacts their flow and team play. They have something good going, and now they’ve got to tweak their blueprint to make way for Jimmy Buckets.
2) What do you think of the job Dwane Casey has done in Detroit and what is the team’s ceiling with Casey at the helm?
Sully: So far, I think Casey has done a good job as his team is 6-6 on the season. He’s given the keys to Blake Griffin to drive the team’s offense and he has excelled. On top of that, the pairing of Griffin and Andre Drummond has continued to show signs of dominance as both as averaging career-high numbers in either points, rebounds, and field goal makes. I still think they need to get a few more late-game situations practiced more, as they have blown fourth-quarter leads and have a couple of losses in overtime.
With regards to the team’s ceiling, I think Casey can make Detroit a solid defensive playoff team in the years to come because they have the players capable of achieving that. However, that can only be maintained and be improved upon by upper management. They must keep the core intact but also shore up the rest of the roster, which remains a tad thin.
Josh: I think Casey’s done as good a job as possible, given the heavily flawed roster he inherited. Giving Blake Griffin the ball more as a playmaker is kind of a no-brainer, and yet we all know how stubborn and set in his ways Casey can be.
I think the Griffin-Andre Drummond pairing has some intriguing potential. I can easily see what Stan Van Gundy was trying to do — recreate his Orlando team with Drummond in the Dwight Howard role and Griffin in the Hedo Turkoglu role. But the rest of the roster needs an upgrade — Griffin and Drummond need some 3-and-D guys around them. Trouble is, how do you find those guys when you’re paying Griffin and Drummond almost 60% of your cap space?
So I think, without some sort of roster overhaul, where the Pistons are now — hovering around .500, bottom of the playoff picture — is where they’ll end up this season, and for the foreseeable future.
Justin: Casey arrived in Detroit almost in the same boat as when he arrived in Toronto. The Pistons have two household names and a bunch of parts that need to be recycled. Casey will take a season to asses his parts and will get to work over the coming seasons to rebuild the Pistons. I remember Casey’s first year at the Raptors he won 23 games, then came 34, then came 48. No-one ever thought he’d achieve 59 wins and four Atlantic Titles in five years. He’ll do the same at Detroit. So for now, they’re a lottery team but I think he’ll build them into a playoff team.
That’s all we have in store for this week’s edition! Let us know if you have any topics we should cover in the comments below. Follow up with us next Wednesday as Toronto will be returning from their second four-game road trip against the Celtics, Bulls, Magic, and Hawks.