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HQ Roundtable: Making Raptors’ resolutions, All-Star predictions, and more

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As the new year inches closer, the panel discuss resolutions for the Raptors, what to do with C.J. Miles, LeBron James recruiting tactics, and other fun topics.

Five thoughts recap: Toronto Raptors 126, Cleveland Cavaliers 110, Norman Powell Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the latest edition of the HQ Roundtable discussion! I’m your host, Sully Akbari. With Christmas in the rear view, we hope you all had a great time celebrating, and are now ready to get back to talking, reading, and thinking about the Raptors. To that end, joining me this week are Josh Kern and Thomas Mooney.

In this week’s edition, we will be discussing C.J. Miles’ situation in Toronto, the Raptors’ Christmas conundrum and New Year’s resolutions, LeBron James’ comments on Anthony Davis, and we’ll make NBA All-Star predictions.

Let’s jump in!

On the Raptors:

1) What do you think the Raptors should do with C.J. Miles — keep playing him, bench him, or trade him?

Sully Akbari: We have seen just about the worst from C.J. this season. He’s missed open shots, he’s been benched in the second half of games, and he’s had piles of defensive miscues. Given the situation and his contract, a Miles trade seems unlikely right now. So, while I may be the only one who thinks this, the Raptors should play Lorenzo Brown or Malachi Richardson in favour of Miles to see what Toronto can get out of those two players playing 10-20 minutes a night. Zo has shown some flashes as of late but it’s Malachi who we need to see more. I think giving Richardson some run will show us if he (and Brown) is ready to take on C.J.’s minutes.

When healthy, here is how I would see the bench rotation: JV/Serge-Fred/Delon/OG-Norm-Zo-Malachi, and depth would be C.J. and Monroe.

Josh Kern: I suppose if anyone can get value of trading a player as unproductive as C.J. Miles, it’d be Masai Ujiri... but I don’t see it happening. Ideally the Raptors would move Miles down to the 11th or 12th rotation spot, but all of their injuries have made that difficult.

However, if we assume (knock on wood) that Green, Lowry, Leonard, VanVleet and Wright are healthy, and it comes down to Miles and Norman Powell for that last rotation spot on the perimeter... well, if Powell continues to play at the level he’s played at his first three games back from injury, then it’s an easy choice.

Thomas Mooney: Man, I’m torn on this subject. On one hand, C.J. Miles is a career gunner. Shooters that live and die by the three-ball always have streaks one way or another. But this one is something I don’t think Miles has ever gone through before. I’d like to keep the mindset that shooters shoot and that’s the only way for him to get out of it, but with Norm back healthy and starting to play well, I think it’s time to stick him to the bench. Miles simply doesn’t offer enough anywhere else to warrant him getting minutes. Plus, his value is so low right now it’ll be almost impossible to get a worthy return in any potential trade.

2) Now that Christmas is over and coach Nick Nurse said he’s disappointed that his team isn’t playing on Christmas, do you think it matters that the Raptors didn’t get to play?

Sully: Yes and no. The Raptors continue to be one of the top teams leading up to Christmas over the past four years. It stands to reason they they should get a game in favour of the poor teams playing regardless of their market size (which, hey, is still considerable even if it’s not New York-level).

My reason for ‘no’ is because it just adds more time away from players being with their families on one of the most celebrated holidays. I get that these players make millions of dollars but they’re human and they should be able to be with their families just like anyone else that celebrates Christmas.

Josh: It is, from a team standpoint. Me personally, I’m happy to have the day off from watching and writing about them! And I’m sure the players will enjoy spending the day with their families. But it’s the league’s showcase day and it’s very disappointing that the team with the best record — that also had the second best-record last year and made the marquee trade of the summer — isn’t playing. And it’s especially egregious that the New York Knicks — with the third-worst record in the NBA — get one of the slots.

The selection of New York indicates that the NBA places more value on market size and franchise name than it does merit, and gives credence to those who say the NBA will always stack the deck against the only Canadian team. If the Raptors can’t even get a Christmas Day slot, those people will say, how can Raptors fans ever believe that the NBA will allow them to compete in the NBA Finals?

I don’t necessarily believe that’s true but the NBA isn’t helping itself but shutting out the Raptors on Christmas.

Thomas: A Christmas game would be a great luxury to have, but I really don’t think it matters all that much. For the fans, it’s great validation that you’re rooting for a team that “matters”, and that the rest of the country is interested in. At the same time though, I think about players like LeBron James. LeBron hasn’t had a Christmas Day off since 2007. Sometimes we forget that the athletes are people too, and getting a little break from the grind and time with their families is a good thing.

3) What should the Raptors’ New Year’s Resolution be?

Sully: Their New Year’s Resolution should be to not let up for all 48 minutes of a regular season game. As good as they are, the Raptors have blown way too many leads that have cost them wins or added an unnecessarily big minutes load to their starters. The most important stretch, the second half of the season, is coming, and the Raptors sure don’t want to lose any more games because of blown leads.

Josh: To practice their three-point shooting! When the team replaced DeMar DeRozan with Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, I for one certainly thought that would improve their three-point shooting — and by a significant margin. Instead, they’re only shooting 34 percent (24th in the league), and making 11.4 per game (10th); those numbers are both worse than last season (35.8 percent and 11.8 per game).

The Raptors are getting good shots — 18.4 of their 33.6 attempts per game are wide open (closest defender six feet away). They’re just not hitting them. Time for Coach Nurse to spin up some new shooting drills!

Thomas: The Raptors need to find a way, any way, to just get and stay healthy. I’m all for what Nurse has done with Lowry and Leonard this year, keeping their legs under them and knowing that it’s all about April, May, and possibly June. But the absence of the other key rotation pieces has let us realize their true value to the team. As solid as Greg Monroe has been in relief these last few weeks, the team just operates better on both ends of the floor with Jonas Valanciunas. Even though Monroe has a similar build to JV, he’s nowhere near the athlete JV is, just go back and see what Joel Embiid was able to do to him. Norman Powell back healthy helps maintain the team’s ability to switch on defense, and maybe more importantly, keeps guys like Lorenzo Brown and Malachi Richardson off the floor.

Around the NBA:

1) After this “controversy” surrounding LeBron James’ comments on Anthony Davis, do you think the NBA should treat this as tampering?

Sully: I don’t think the NBA should consider that situation or any future comments similar to that as tampering. I’m sure any player in the league wants to play with Davis and would make the same comments if they were in James’ situation.

I think the issue fans and some media have with James’ comments is that he has such a big influence in and around his life, so for him to make those comments, it may steer Davis (or any player for that matter) to join forces with LeBron.

Josh: Generally speaking, I have no problem if an NBA player says he wants to play with another player, or has dinner with another player, or vacations with another player or whatever; I don’t consider it tampering and neither should the NBA. And, generally speaking, I don’t like to speak ill of LeBron James, because he’s such a great spokesperson and ambassador for the NBA (even if he does own the Raptors).

But I do take a little bit of issue with James’ comments, because James isn’t just another player — his best friend since childhood just happens to be one of the NBA’s most powerful agents and James clearly has a vested interest (if not a monetary interest) in Klutch Sports. That Davis is also a Klutch client as of last summer is... well, you can connect the dots.

When a player says he would like to play with Anthony Davis, fine. When a player who is closely connected to the powerful agency that represents Anthony Davis says it, then I think it’s tampering.

Thomas: Nope, not even a little bit. We all know that everyone in the league would love the chance to play with a talent like Anthony Davis, so what’s the problem with LeBron answering yes to a question he was asked? Executives just need to stop acting like they aren’t tampering either. The only difference is that they can’t be public with it like the players can be.

2) Now that the NBA All-Star voting has begun, predict your current Eastern and Western Conference All-Stars along with the two captains!

Predictions for the Eastern Conference All-Stars:

Sully:

East Team Captain: Giannis Antetokounmpo

East Starters: G: Kyrie Irving | G: Ben Simmons | F: Kawhi Leonard | F: Giannis Antetokounmpo | C: Joel Embiid

East Reserves: Kyle Lowry, Kemba Walker, John Wall, Jimmy Butler, Blake Griffin, Dwyane Wade, Nikola Vucevic.

Josh: (Note that I’m basing my starters on who I think will get voted in, not necessarily who I think deserves to start.)

East Team Captain: Giannis Antetokounmpo

East Starters: G: Ben Simmons | G: Kyrie Irving | F Giannis Antetokounmpo | F: Kawhi Leonard | F: Joel Embiid

East Reserves: Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Victor Oladipo, Kemba Walker, Khris Middleton, Nikola Vucevic, Blake Griffin.

Thomas:

East Team Captain: Giannis Antetokounmpo

East Starters: G: Kemba Walker | G: Kyle Lowry | F: Kawhi Leonard | F: Giannis Antetokounmpo | C: Joel Embiid

East Reserves: Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Blake Griffin, Pascal Siakam.

Predictions for the Western Conference All-Stars:

Sully:

West Team Captain: LeBron James

West Starters: G: Stephen Curry | G: James Harden | F: LeBron James | F: Kevin Durant | C: Anthony Davis

West Reserves: Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Damian Lillard, DeAndre Jordan, Nikola Jokic, DeMar DeRozan, Tobias Harris.

Josh:

West Team Captain: LeBron James

West Starters: G: James Harden | G: Stephen Curry | F: LeBron James | F: Kevin Durant | C: Anthony Davis

West Reserves: Paul George, Tobias Harris, Nikola Jokic, Damian Lillard, DeMar DeRozan, Russell Westbrook, Luka Doncic.

Thomas:

West Team Captain: LeBron James

West Starters: G: Stephen Curry | G: Russell Westbrook | F: LeBron James | F: Kevin Durant C: Anthony Davis

West Reserves: Damian Lillard, Paul George, James Harden, Tobias Harris, Nikola Jokic, Mike Conley, Karl-Anthony Towns.

******

That’ll do it for this week! Let us know if you have any topics in mind for us to discuss in the comments below. Be sure to tune into the next edition as Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors will be in San Antonio to take on DeMar DeRozan and the Spurs next Thursday. You better believe we’ll have a discussion on that!