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HQ Mailbag: On dynamic duos and the sustainability of the Raptors’ play

The fourth week of this Raptors mailbag comes after a 4-0 West Coast swing. Lots of fours! Coincidence? Maybe!

NBA: Playoffs-Washington Wizards at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

My bedtime is out of whack. It happens a few times every season, usually coinciding with when I have to stay up to watch the Raptors on the west coast. This time around, there weren’t the dreaded 10:30 start times, though. It was a pair of 10pm starts, a 9:30 and 9pm. Oh yeah, and it was also four Raptors wins. So, that was nice.

Anyways, let’s get to this week’s HQ Mailbag questions.

I think the shot profile here is worthy of mention, Wilson. Several players, such as the ones you wanted to call attention to in Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam, have boosted their effective field goal percentages (which, if it begs the reminder, is the field goal percentage that accounts for how threes are worth one more point than twos) based on their play at the rim.

Ibaka is taking more shots at the rim than he did last year: Working as a centre has meant getting the ball in the low post and working into short push or hook shots. He’s been revitalized doing that, and although I think 15-of-17 and 8-of-8 nights won’t be the norm, his eFG% will stand to benefit.

Siakam is in the 95th percentile of 2-point field-goal percentage, per Cleaning the Glass; a high number of those 2-point baskets are assisted, too. However, as we’ve come to know with Pascal Siakam: for all those lovely spin moves and displays of jaw-dropping speed, the jumpshot is still a work in progress.

Siakam is shooting 17 percent on threes thus far, for instance, but we’ve been told time and time again that he’s getting more comfortable there. What’s interesting is that he’ll keep taking those shots; his shot profile is diverse as it is. Opponents sag off in hopes of stopping him at the rim, but it’s possible Siakam’s quickness is a good counteract to that. Presumably, they’ll try something like what Boston did against the Sixers’ Ben Simmons, but we’ve got months to maybe see some real development with Pascal’s shot. I’d hope he can handle it by then. If not, and teams try playing him like Simmons, I think the defensive ability—and Siakam’s speed—help to make up for it: If you can force turnovers and get him running, he’s not going to be as big of a liability as if everything stalled to a standstill in the halfcourt per se.

Okay, back to question number one.

It was too easy to interrupt with that Siakam question, it fit so well. Now, back to bench lineups. I think the JV-Ibaka experiment is working well in that they match the opposing starter and play to that advantage. Thus far, the best 5-man lineup the Raptors put out with a minimum of 10 minutes played is the Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, OG Anunoby, Pascal, Serge starting five. Right behind them is an interesting bench dynamic that played 14 minutes over two games: C.J. Miles, Serge, Norman Powell, Fred VanVleet, and OG. With Norm out 4-6 weeks with that shoulder injury, we won’t be seeing much more of this one in the time being, but I do think that plugging Delon Wright in should/could work. The bench will find a rhythm: as you mentioned, health has been a factor.

I just mentioned how well the Kawhi-less starting five had been. But if you drop the minutes restriction down to five, Lorenzo Brown has been in a lineup that performs better than any Kawhi Leonard-featured lineup. Small sample sizes for the win!

So, let’s say they were to trade Kawhi Leonard. What kind of value could you hope to get? Has he turned into more positive value or are teams as certain as ever he’ll walk at the end of the year? I think it’s a thought experiment to have—though it may or may not be worth having. I think you could probably wrangle something similar to what the Raptors gave up, considering that Leonard has shown he can still play but also some time this season has passed. I’m using a lot of italics.

I don’t know, I’m kind of maybe blanking on potential deals (I think that’s 100% a good thing)—this is a weird thing to say but pitch a reasonable Kawhi deal in the comments.

For the record: Let’s not trade him and say we didn’t. He’s staying. Oh, he’s staying. Did I say he’s staying? Because he’s staying. Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor.

This one’s way tougher than I’d expected it to be. Forderón has an Urban Dictionary page! Michael Grange is referenced on this Urban Dictionary page! I don’t know how meaningful this is—if it ever was or if it still is?—but it’s definitely a weird thing to google Forderon for a trip down memory lane and have the search be solidified with some actual Internet evidence.

Ibakuciunas/Jobaka/etc/so on/so forth does not yet have this same factor playing into its hands. I’ve submitted an Urban Dictionary page for the dynamic duo (are they a duo if they don’t play together much?) of Raptors centres.

I tried my best to distil this into a short sentence or two; we don’t have the Michael Grange Globe and Mail article that the Forderon entry had.

As for who’s better, Forderon was fun. Jose Calderon is an all-time great Raptor; T.J. Ford is an all-time fan favourite everywhere he went, I think.

But Jonas and Serge are earning their spot there. Insert joke about Forderon passing them the ball.

I exaggerated in my Urban Dictionary submission about their “records for efficiency” but they’ve been so good and so fun. Jonas is averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds in under 20 minutes. Serge Ibaka, as mentioned, just went 15-for-17 and 8-for-8 on a back-to-back. This has been fun. This team has been fun. Here’s to more of that.


Reminder: You can send questions in on Twitter, using the hashtag #HQMailbag or by tagging @61gabester and/or @RaptorsHQ. I also accept telegram. All questions—and I mean all questions—welcome.