The Raptors won’t be perfect. There will always be ups and downs in a given season, even one in which the Raptors seem set on winning over 60 games and potentially going to the Finals (where they could very well lose, meaning all this work could hilariously be for naught). You see my point here: failure was always going to be part of the equation.
Toronto still had a good week. They went 2-1 since last Wednesday, with a pair of comfortable wins in what should have been trap games. First the Raps won out against a young and hungry Kings squad at the end of a road trip out west, and then they returned home and still got up to play the Knicks at the weird-ass hour of 3pm in the afternoon. Not bad. Yes, they followed that up by getting beat up by the Pelicans, snapping a six-game win streak, but again: the Raptors won’t be perfect. We just have to live with that reality.
So where do things stand now in Toronto? Who’s feeling it, and who’s still looking to get cooking? We investigate.
He’s the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, he’s been spinning across the lane (and into our hearts) every which way for the past seven days (and for most of the season), and he’s not done growing and improving. Pascal Siakam, everyone!
What’s left to be said? Siakam is shooting 72 percent from inside the three-point arc, and you know what else: he’s at 31 percent outside said arc! (This after a 5-for-10 from three week.) Not bad at all. Couple that with his 13.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game averages, and it’s become impossible for the Raptors not to play Pascal. What a trip it has been.
The Toronto Crowd
After that long west coast road sojourn, it’s been nice to see the Raptors back at home in Toronto. While, yes, the Raps did just lose their first home game of the season, the crowd was juiced throughout that game — particularly during some exciting open floor action that almost pushed the home team back into it.
There’s no reason not to expect the Raptors to have an ungodly home record this season. They’re 7-1 so far, which puts them on pace for an approximate 36-5 record (which would be a new record; current best: 34-7). Will the home crowds help make that possible? I’m not not suggesting it.
OG remains one of the coolest Raptors out there, precisely because he doesn’t say much and, much like his teammate Siakam, is growing and leaps and bounds on the court. Anunoby’s numbers are up across the board, he’s a walking terror on defense, and he’s set about to learn from Kawhi Leonard. Plus there are sentiments like this one, which are valid:
i just think it’d be nice to, like, go pet some dogs with him at the park or whatever— emma healey (@emmafromtoronto) November 13, 2018
Look, we’ve been over this and over this. It’s not Miles fault he took on the GoDaddy Curse. They offered him an endorsement deal and it’s hard to turn that down (I certainly wouldn’t; even if it meant my game in all aspects was going to head straight to the toilet).
Miles is trying! At Tuesday night’s Open Gym event at the Lightbox, Miles went on stage with his wife and child and had only good things to say about the team, the experience, being recorded all the time, etc. He was smiling and personable — who wouldn’t want to have Miles around? Unfortunately none of this changes the fact that his shooting percentages have dropped by about eight points, and that he’s now hurt with a strained abductor. Yikes.
The Concept of Fred VanVleet, Bench Saviour
VanVleet went from being a complete non-factor on the Raptors, a guy who looked like he was on the team by accident, to being what appeared to be the lynch-pin of the ultra successful bench unit last season. Then things swung too far the other way and many in Toronto assumed he’d be a saviour for the team. “If only the Raps had VanVleet right now,” they’d say. It got to be a bit much.
So far this season VanVleet’s scoring is up to just shy of 10 points per game (9.9), and he looks free of the toe injury that kept him out of four games for Toronto. But (of course there’s a but), FVV’s shooting percentage from deep is way, way, down — 41 percent to 31 — and he’s being asked to shoulder a lot of the bench’s offensive load, with mixed results. Through 14 games it’s clear the Raptors reserves have not found the mojo they had last year, and VanVleet’s not great start is absolutely a part of that. Still, make no mistake: FVV is a good player, he just appears to be re-calibrating once again.
Ka... Kawhi... Leonard?
Slow down! Easy does it! I’m not suggesting Kawhi Leonard is bad. The last three games have definitely been his least impressive as a Raptor, which I think is fair to say. Come with me now on a brief one-paragraph journey.
Ironically, Leonard’s 25 point, 11 rebound showing against the Kings, fresh off a two-game sitdown, was his best performance of the week. Things stumbled from there. Leonard had a meagre 12-and-7 in 23 minutes against the Knicks (in which Tim Hardaway Jr. hounded him as well as he could), and then there was a lonely 20 point-6 rebound outing against the rough-and-tumble Pelicans, with a poor shooting display (for Kawhi) all-around.
Leonard is fine, the Raptors are happy and lucky to have him, no man is a perfect basketball machine. Nevertheless: it was a bit of a chilling week for Kawhi. Just being honest!