California, and the gyms at UCLA, have become well-known as offseason havens for NBA players looking to get some summer runs in. This morning video emerged on YouTube showing a recent run with such NBA stars as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden... and a few familiar Toronto Raptors faces!
At about the 2:00 mark of the video a couple of Raptors squads are shown in action against the likes of Harden, Russ, PG and KD. The Raps include Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Delon Wright, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby Greg Monroe, Lorenzo Brown and Malachi Richardson; it’s a bit tricky at times following the action and which game is which, but upon watching one thing clear: this group of young Raptors is far superior to any of those MVPs.
Let’s break down the highs and lows:
2:20: Kevin Durant backs down Malachi Richardson. KD is 7’, 240 lbs.; Richardson is 6’6” (at best) and 205 lbs. And yet KD settles for a fadeaway rather than taking it right up and over the much smaller Richardson. Clearly Richardson’s superb defense forced Durant to settle.
2:32: Fred VanVleet dribbles across the top, in complete control of his team’s offense. Two quick swing passes result in an open OG Anunoby corner three, which he nails. VanVleet appears all but unguardable, and Anonoby’s stroke looks sweeter than ever.
2:37: This must be a Game 5, because Norm Powell showed up to play. Here he bodies up Russell Westbrook, forcing him to give up the ball to Paul George, who rims out a three.
3:10: Look at this two-man game! VanVleet pitches a go-ahead pass to Pascal Siakam, who draws in the defense with three dribbles, leaving a trailing VanVleet wide open from downtown. Siakam finds him, and it’s money.
3:18: Get excited for the Fred VanVleet era, people. First, a loose ball comes to Freddy and he touch-passes it to Norm, who nails a three pointer, which I believe is the first one he’s hit since sometime in the 2016-2017 season. Then Fred catches a skip pass, draws the D and dumps it in the corner to—who else?—OG Anunoby. Anunoby should hit about 74% of his corner threes this year.
4:02. James Harden is scared to drive on Fred VanVleet. SMH.
4:12: Delon Wright DEEP 3-pointer. The Raptors may break all NBA 3-point shooting records this season.
4:21: Once again Harden can’t find any room to penetrate the Raptors’ unbreachable perimeter defense. He’s forced to settle for a deep 3-pointer.
4:39: Harden finally gets past the three-point line, only to be REJECTED by Siakam. Look for the Raptors’ point differential to be somewhere around the +25 mark this season.
4:45. Kevin Durant hits back-to-back jumpers and dunks over Wright. I guess he’s not totally washed, yet.
5:11: I NEED JACK ARMSTRONG TELLING RUSSELL WESTBROOK TO GET THAT GARBAGE OUTTA HERE. Norman Powell is the Russ Stopper.
5:26: VanVleet dribble-drive and floater off the glass. It’s like the defense isn’t even there. Are they afraid of him? Is he so small they can’t see him?
5:58: Norm dunk!
6:08: Norm layup!
6:13: Norm dribble-drive and dish to Delon for three! This isn’t just Norman Powell’s comeback season, folks, he’s gonna be All-NBA. You heard it here first.
6:37: OG locks down Paul George. Between OG, Pascal and Kawhi Leonard (you didn’t forget he was on the Raptors, did you?) there’s a good chance the opposing team’s best player will go scoreless in every Raptors game.
7:30: The next 30 seconds are a Fred VanVleet human highlight reel. Watch and drool.
I could go on here, but you get the idea: Fred VanVleet is the best player in the NBA and he’s taking this Bench Mob to the Finals for the next 8 years.
In all seriousness, it’s incredibly fun to watch these guys play ball. We had 82 games to see it last season, and this video is a wonderful refresher. Fred really does look great. Norman Powell looks confident! Siakam and Anunoby are both gonna be two-way forces.
Give the video a watch and get excited for this season! And don’t forget: Kawhi Leonard is on the Raptors.