Since the playoffs haven’t started yet, we’re still toasting to the end of the 2017-18 season. The Raptors, in case you didn’t know, had a record-setting season, and a surprising bunch of performances from a number of different players. It was great to watch.
But now we must level our gaze to the grading of said performances. Yes, as we did earlier this season, it’s time for the Raptors Report Card. It’s a look back at who accomplished what this past season, and an assessment as to how they did (compared to how we’d hope they’d do).
Let’s get to it.
Lucas Nogueira – B
We may have seen the last of Bebe in the regular season for the Raptors, and while he never quite got to show us his skills for a long period of time, he delivered more often than not. In this last month in particular, it felt like Nogueira could be counted on to come into a game and mix-up (in a good way!) the energy for the Raptors. That has a value, even if it continue to be hard to quantify.
Jakob Poeltl – A-
Poeltl remains what he’s always been: reliable, steady, and prepared. If his ceiling is lower than other centres in the league, we can take solace in the fact that Jak’s floor is still very high. He knows exactly where to be on defense, has tremendous hands and touch around the basket, and surprised many (just watch the tape) with a powerful shot-blocking ability. He’s the perfect fit on this Raptors team.
Pascal Siakam – A
Siakam is a reliable jump shot or 3-pointer away from being a dynamite player in the NBA. At the start of the year, we were not talking about him this way. He’d shown flashes, but nothing like we got this year: fast break-running abilities, passing skills, defensive chops that cover the floor. The relentless motor didn’t let up, and now the rest of Pascal’s talents are catching up. Look out.
Serge Ibaka – B+
Sometimes, particularly when the bench is playing well, it’s easy to forget Ibaka is on the Raptors. But then he unloads a chasedown block, or drills yet another smooth 20-footer, and it’s like, oh yeah, this warrior plays in Toronto. Serge is still an up and down kind of talent, prone to weird less-than-spry outings. But when he gets fired up, there are few who can match his intensity. And hey, Ibaka’s been showing off the hints of a passing and dribble game too — it’s a work in progress, but it’s something.
Jonas Valanciunas – A-
There are still those nights when JV looks a step slow for the modern NBA. The good news is they are offset by the big Lithuanian’s newfound ability with the ball. He’s passing, flying at the rim, hitting jumpers — and making threes! Valanciunas’ defensive skills will always wax and wane, but the body of work he’s put together has generally trended in the right direction. For one of the longer-tenured Raptors, it’s been something of a minor breakout year.
OG Anunoby – B+
OG went from “he’s not supposed to play” to “Toronto needs him to play.” There’s a ton of room for growth here — increased IQ, better play-making, and, of course, improved shooting — but that opening sentence says it all. OG was supposed to be gravy this season, and he’s already laying out the full course.
C.J. Miles – B-
NBA snipers are going to be feast-or-famine propositions most of the time. There will be cold stretches, and that just comes with the territory. Miles has been mired in a serious slump down the stretch for Toronto, but his work (and overall reputation) remain strong. The role he’s carved out for himself on the Raps’ bench is important — and even when he’s not hitting shots, his presence on the floor is necessary. (But yes, it would be better if C.J. hit shots.)
Norman Powell – D
A real vision quest of a season. Maybe Norm’s got another season-saving playoff run in reserve, but grading him on this regular season: oof. Let’s not rehash it again. Here’s hoping for 2018-19.
Delon Wright – A
As the Wright Stuff Collection can attest, I have an affinity for Delon’s whole little brother vibe on the Raptors. On top of that, it turns out Wright is a do-it-all point guard who can run the offense, slither to the rim with beautiful Euro-step drives, make absurd defensive plays on the regular, and generally just play as a guy worth rooting for.
Fred VanVleet – A+
FVV is the man. Full stop. Take him off the Raptors, with this bench unit, and this closing lineup, and suddenly they don’t feel quite like the same team. Read that again. We’re talking about an undersized, undrafted point guard. This is insane. FVV is the man.
DeMar DeRozan – A+
The other man is DeMar DeRozan. I said this yesterday in my awards piece, but I’ll repeat: we take DeRozan for granted sometimes. He was the team’s best player this year, and continue to be the key to unlocking much of its power. That we speak about DeRozan in such terms now is remarkable — it feels like only yesterday he was just this quiet, skinny chucker. What a run.
Kyle Lowry – A-
Trust, that’s the word swirling around Lowry (as summed up brilliantly here). Lowry had to come back to the Raptors and believe that they could change him for the better. In the process, Lowry has had to put more trust in his teammates, coaches, and management. For a guy who was most often described as stubborn and ornery, it is astounding to consider what he has given the Raptors. And, naturally, it’s been supremely rewarding to watch that trust pay off in the best ways possible.
Malcolm Miller – B-
Miller put in seven points against the league-leading Rockets, and mostly did what was asked of him — which, admittedly, wasn’t much. We’ll give him a B for effort.
Lorenzo Brown – C
A few performances of note in the second half of the season and the G League MVP? Sure, that deserves a passing grade this time.
Alfonzo McKinnie – Inc.
Let’s see what happens with the other Zo next season.
Malachi Richardson – Inc.
Owing to some interesting salary cap moves by Masai Ujiri, the Raps now have this former lottery pick. Richardson didn’t do much in the NBA or the G League though — so we’ll do him a favour and give him the incomplete here.
Dwane Casey – A
Just a solid job all around. We’ve beaten this drum since the Raptors started really getting going in November. What Casey has done in terms of getting the young Raps up to speed, managing minutes, implementing strategy, and keeping all of his veterans on the same page and engaged is incredible.
Many believed the Raptors would be in for a slide this year. Lowry was getting older, DeRozan was still a retrograde talent, Ibaka remained enigmatic, Valanciunas limited, the entire bench an unknown. And yet, with Casey’s guidance, the Raptors finished the year atop the Eastern Conference with a record number of wins to boot. Not bad for a coach who’s been on and off the proverbial hot seat over seven years.
Now, onto the playoffs.