Happy Draft Week! On the surface, it would appear to be a slow news week for a Raptors squad that is without a pick. However, if we’ve learned anything from the Masai Ujiri era, it’s that he’s the best in the league at preventing leaks. It shouldn’t be too surprising if a couple of moves are made.
Before moving on to the off-season and speculating on what the future holds for the defending Eastern Conference regular season champs, let’s take one final look at the 2017-18 squad with a familiar game: Would You Rather?
First up, the following lines:
Player A (per 36 minutes): 13.9 PTS, 5.0 REB, 5.0 AST, 1.8 STL, 0.8 BLK, 57.4 TS%, 2.1 DWS, 0.152 WS/48, 1.6 DBPM
Player B (per 36 minutes): 18.9 PTS, 4.5 REB, 6.0 AST, 1.5 STL, 0.8 BLK, 57.0 TS%, 2.9 DWS, 0.116 WS/48, 0.3 DBPM
Player A is Delon Wright. He was an integral part of the Bench Mob, had career-highs across the board (which can probably be said of every Raptor last season), and consistently made an impact on both ends of the floor. So, why cherry-pick a couple of defensive stats? Because Player B had an All-Star calibre season for a Western Conference playoff party-crasher that culminated with a spot on the First-Team All-Defensive team. That’s right, Player B is none other than Jrue Holiday!
So, would you rather have the one making $2.5MM or $26.1MM next season?
Is that an unfair question? Fine, let’s move on to the next comp.
Player A (per 36): 18.8 PTS, 4.1 REB, 1.5 AST, 1.0 STL, 0.6 BLK, 4.4 3PM, 54.5 TS%, 0.103 WS/48
Player B (per 36): 12.4 PTS, 4.7 REB, 1.7 AST, 1.6 STL, 0.2 BLK, 2.7 3PM, 56.7 TS%, 0.113 WS/48
Player A is C.J. Miles. Yet another important component of Toronto’s beloved Bench Mob. While he started the season slowly, he soon found his sweet spot — both in the lineup and with his 3-point shot. Player B had a larger role — with almost twice as much playing time — with a Western Conference powerhouse. But you don’t really care about Trevor Ariza, do you? Apparently, someone in the media did, as he garnered an All-NBA vote.
On to the third comp!
Player A (Playoff Stats per 36): 11.9 PTS, 3.2 REB, 1.1 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.6 BLK, 2.0 3PM, 69.5 TS%, 1.1 OBPM, 0.7 DBPM
Player B (Playoff Stats per 36): 11.5 PTS, 7.9 REB, 0.8, AST, 1.6 STL, 0.6 BLK, 1.7 3PM, 62.3 TS%, 1.5 OBPM, 2.2 DBPM
Player A is the always out-spoken OG Anunoby. His first playoffs had its ups and downs, providing arguably the best highlight of Raptors’ post-season (see below) while also being part of one of its lowest moments just seconds later (don’t click this). Player B had a better (yet comparable) individual rookie playoff season, and a fairly similar team result (losing to the eventual Finals loser). He was also the starting small forward for the East’s 1-seed, making his name as a defensive stalwart with a developing offensive game.
Very early in the season, you could already see signs of why OG was being referred to as... Kawhi Leonard 2.0. (OK well, at least that’s what I was calling him.) The Claw showed glimpses of his eventual stardom during the 2012 playoffs. It’s a shame those days appear to be numbered (in San Antonio).
Now that we’ve entered the portion where we’re looking past the 2017-18 season, let’s see how our franchise cornerstones stack up against the legends.
Player A (per 36): 18.2 PTS, 6.2 REB, 7.7 AST, 1.2 STL, 0.3 BLK, 0.194 WS/48, 5.9 BPM, 5.0 VORP
Player B (per 36): 20.0 PTS, 4.2 REB, 13.1 AST, 2.2 STL, 0.3 BLK, 0.173 WS/48, 5.2 BPM, 5.6 VORP
Player A is obviously Kyle Lowry. In his 12th season, the Villanova alum sacrificed some individual stats in favour of the culture reset. While his raw numbers dipped, his overall value and impact was undeniable. The decrease in playing time — from 37.4 minutes per game in 2016-17 (2nd in the league for a 2nd consecutive season) to 32.2 minutes per game — kept Lowry fresh for the playoffs, where he easily had his best individual playoff season, and officially shed the bad version of “Playoff Lowry”.
Player B is a Hall-of-Fame Point Guard who has his own ties to the Raptors franchise. His best individual season occurred during the 1984-85 campaign (only his 4th season in the league) where he finished with the 5th-highest assist total in league history. Similar to Lowry, Isiah Thomas led his team to an Eastern Conference semi-final date with a perennial East power (Celtics), only to bow out.
Let’s wrap this up with one final comp.
Player A (per 36): 24.4 PTS, 4.2 REB, 5.5 AST, 1.1 STL, 0.3 BLK, 55.5 TS%, 0.170 WS/48, 2.6 VORP
Player B (per 36): 26.2 PTS, 5.8 REB, 5.0 AST, 1.7 STL, 0.5 BLK, 57.6 TS%, .208 WS/48, 6.0 VORP
If I have to tell you Player A is DeMar DeRozan, then you just haven’t been paying attention. Compton’s Finest finally expanded his game beyond the arc and rewarded Raptor fans (and teammates) for their patience. With his continued excellence with mid-range shots, plus an uncanny ability to draw fouls (3rd consecutive top-5 finish in free throws), DeRozan became the lethal scorer he’s always aspired to be. Has the foreshadowing kicked in yet? Have you figured out Player B?
Yes, of course, it’s Kobe Bryant. But those stats aren’t just any season: those are from his 2007-08 campaign, when Kobe received his one and only MVP.
So, there you have it. Would you rather have Wright, Miles, Anunoby, Lowry, and DeRozan? Or Holiday, Ariza, ‘12 Leonard, ‘85 Thomas, and ‘08 Bryant? This whole exercise is probably a moot point by the time Adam Silver steps up to the podium on Thursday, but hopefully this sheds a different light on the current Raptors squad and all that they’ve accomplished last season.