It’s sad, but when injuries happen in the NBA, they tend to pile up quickly. The Toronto Raptors have been blessed so far this season — their best season ever — with good health. Toward the back end of this week, though, Toronto’s esteemed depth finally thinned a little. OG Anunoby still hasn’t returned with an ankle injury, and now Delon Wright has a painful big toe (not the most fun sounding ailment to have, it sounds like).
Credit the team for pulling through anyway, though, as a 4-0 week has us applauding yet again. The team got wins against Washington, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Detroit — the latter being a surprise entry for Entertaining Game of the Year, a 121-119 win in overtime.
Even if the bench has thinned, they still found a way this week by working in some new pieces. Let’s investigate in this week’s rankings.
3 Young Gunz of the Week
1. Pascal Siakam (last week: 1)
It wasn’t a particularly prolific week for anyone on the Raptors’ bench. Following up his Eastern Conference Player of the Week award (again), DeMar DeRozan made a case for back-to-back honours with a big scoring week. C.J. Miles, too, helped pick up the slack.
Siakam, though, comes out on top again for sheer consistency. While other players were up and down, and others simply dropped off, Siakam posted mostly-positive lines of +13, -6, +10, and +1. More importantly, he shot over 50% in all but the Wizards game.
Beyond stats, though, Siakam showed up in a week where Serge Ibaka really seemed to struggle. Beyond getting ejected in the Pistons game, Ibaka struggled to shoot, and Siakam was able to pick up the intensity in his minutes on the floor.
What else is new, right?
2. Fred VanVleet (last week: 4)
Even when he’s unsteady, he’s steady. VanVleet was 2-2 this week for good games, struggling against Atlanta and Detroit, while putting up good numbers against Washington and Charlotte. In the Wizards game, he had 12 points, four rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block, posting a +20. Against Charlotte, he had 12 points, three rebounds, and three assists.
VanVleet is officially Dwane Casey’s favourite option off the bench, and is clocking in around 25 minutes in every game. Against the Pistons, he was the preferred option at small forward in crunch time. While he made mistakes, he did get his glory moment — canning a baseline two to win the game in overtime.
GAME. SET. MATCH. #BetOnYourSelf pic.twitter.com/KOROQcQGHX— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 8, 2018
3. Norman Powell (last week: 6)
Norm was more down than up this week, but gets this honour for the Pistons game alone. Here’s a summary of the top four NORM games of the season, with Wednesday’s game last:
October 19 vs. Chicago: 15 points (5/11 FG, 3/6 3FG), 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, +1
November 5 @ Washington: 19 points (7/13 FG, 1/4 3FG), 2 assists, 2 assists, 2 steals, -12
November 25 @ Atlanta: 17 points (7/13 FG, 3/6 3FG), 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, +17
March 7 @ Detroit: 17 points (7/12 FG, 3/5 3FG), 4 rebounds, 1 block
For my money, that last game is his best , considering the Chicago and Atlanta outings were blowouts and the Washington game was an 11-point loss. For the first time in 2017-18, Powell was important — which is the role he carved in the 2016 and 2017 playoff runs. Powell has been a big moment player, and to see him finally take advantage of the Anunoby injury and have a good game, in a close game, is awesome.
The Other Guys
4. Delon Wright (last week: 3)
Wright’s nagging toe injury forced him out of the Hawks and Pistons games, but he still managed a 5-for-10 outing for ten points in the former. Against Washington and Charlotte, though, he only played nine and 13 minutes — an interesting offset of VanVleet’s rise.
This is just how the shuffle works right now, and it’s no knock on Wright. We know what he can provide.
5. Jakob Poeltl (last week: 2)
Jakob was good without scoring much this week. In the Atlanta game, he had a +21 — only bested by C.J. Miles’ +22 — even though he only had six points shooting 3-for-8. This was again a needed boost in Ibaka’s relative absence, as the starting power forward only shot 2-for-10.
6. Malcolm Miller (last week: 8)
With Powell struggling and Anunoby injured, Dwane Casey experimented with the young G-League star as a starting small forward. It was really a Luis Scola-esque stopgap to get to the bench, and played out as such. Miller shot 1-for-5 in 27 minutes as a starter over two games, and was unmemorable. Going back to Powell was probably the right move.
7. Lucas Nogueira (last week: 7)
What’s there to say about Bebe? He played in all four games this week, because the Raptors are super good and get big leads. So that’s cool.
8. OG Anunoby (last week: 5)
Still injured, and still no timetable for his return. Maybe this will get Norm back on his game after all.
9. Alfonzo McKinnie, Nigel Hayes (last week: NR)
Just a handful of minutes for McKinnie in garbage time, and the newest Raptor Nigel Hayes didn’t get into action against Detroit. I am intrigued to see what it looks like when he gets in.