Welcome to another edition of the HQ Roundtable! I am Sully Akbari — your host for this weekly series that dives into the news in and around the Toronto Raptors and the NBA. As always, I am joined by two other HQ staff members to discuss questions we come up with. This week, we have Mitch Orsatti and Jay Rosales on deck!
Without further ado, let’s get right into the discussion!
On the Raptors:
1) What are your thoughts on the Raptors signing Patrick McCaw and how do you think he fits?
Sully Akbari: I think McCaw is a slight upgrade on Lorenzo Brown, who the Raptors waived to free up a spot to sign him. This move does add depth and insurance in the guard department, which could come in handy for the playoffs.
From what we’ve seen from guys deep on the Raptors bench (and if he does get runs with the team), I would insert McCaw to fill in the five to seven minutes C.J. Miles had, to see what he could produce. That would mean we would only get to see McCaw in very short stints or sometimes not all. I am hoping that he gets back to what he was for the Warriors in his rookie season so that he could bring something to the team when he does play. A player with useful playoff and Finals experience is not a bad thing to have at the end of the bench.
Mitch Orsatti: If I’m ignoring the conspiracy theory buzz around this signing, which, I almost certainly am not in the cockles of my dark, #NBATwitter heart, then this signing seems like, not a whole lot to fuss over. Yes, the NBA absolved the Cavs of any wrongdoings or misdeeds but a guy can dream of the Cavs losing their 1st round pick over spite and pettiness, right?
McCaw was a serviceable piece in Golden State’s rotation during their 2017 playoff annihilation of the league. He was deployed in what is a near prototypical NBA player role of a rangy, springy 3-and-D player. While he was and is on the skinnier side, McCaw is a decent defender when playing the passing lanes and sliding his feed but hasn’t shown enough consistency to be considered a real threat on the perimeter. After suffering a horrendous looking injury that caused him to miss a great deal of time as well as struggle through sleeping during his recovery, Raptors fans are certainly wondering what McCaw has left to contribute to this team and if he will even have much opportunity to show it. With the Raptors finally rounding into a healthy set, that opportunity might not come anytime soon.
Jay Rosales: McCaw is a low-risk, medium-reward signing for the Raptors. For Masai Ujiri to sign him at the league minimum when he could have fetched triple on the open market is another feather in his cap. He grades out as a B-minus Perimeter Defender, with B-plus off-ball movement, according to B-Ball Index’s player grades. While he’s currently buried behind Anunoby, Powell, Richardson, and even Miles, McCaw has some upside that could benefit the team beyond this season.
Toronto is known throughout the league as one of the best development programs. Success stories from the G-League are visible up and down the roster — Siakam, VanVleet, Wright are all 905 graduates that are part of our 8-man rotation. The 23-year-old guard is coming off a disappointing season with Golden State where he hit the sophomore wall. In addition to his perimeter defense, he was a 37 percent three-point shooter in college. While he hasn’t hit those percentages at the NBA level, there’s potential to develop with the 905.
2) Before the NBA announces the participants for NBA All-Star Saturday Night, if one Raptor makes it to only one of the three events, who and which event would it be?
Sully: With no ‘elite’ dunker on this team, it comes down to two players in two different events: Danny Green in the three-point contest and Pascal Siakam in the Skills Challenge. If I were to choose one, I would choose Siakam competing in the Skills Challenge over Green in the Three-Point Contest. For a player of his size, Siakam has shown us that he can do what many of the guards in this league can do, which is impressive. From handling the ball and creating plays on the fast-break to on-the-fly spin move finishes, Siakam fits the bill to be participating as one of the four bigs in the competition. Here’s who I see Siakam going up against in the competition:
Guards: Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeMar DeRozan, De’Aaron Fox
Bigs: Pascal Siakam, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis
Winner: De’Aaron Fox.
De'Aaron Fox tells Vucevic "Don't jump" after dunking on him!— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) January 8, 2019
Fox finished with 20 PTS & 5 STL in just 23 MINSpic.twitter.com/yImPtV2Iou
Mitch: Personally, I am tired of watching Kyle Lowry lose in the Three-Point Contest, so I am going a different way here. I am torn on choosing just one Raptor to participate in one event so I am going to choose Siakam to compete in the Skills Challenge and Danny for the Three-Point Contest. I think Spicy P is going to dominate. He’s fast. He’s can pass and he is a much-improved shooter. He’s also my champion. As for the rest of the glorious evening, here’s what I’ve got:
Bigs: Pascal Siakam, John Collins, Lauri Markkanen, Karl-Anthony Towns
Guards: Donovan Mitchell, Kemba Walker, Bradley Beal, Paul George
Winner: Pascal Siakam
Three-Point Contest: Danny Green, James Harden, Stephen and Seth Curry, Joe Harris, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Buddy Hield
Winner: Klay Thompson and I think it will act as the catalyst to fixing his three-point stroke.
Jay: I’ll steal what I wrote in this week’s Rap-Up. Danny Green needs to be in the three-point competition. He’s one of nine players who make at least two triples per game while shooting over 40 percent, but easily has the lowest scoring average. Can you say three-point specialist??? The NBA should reward the veteran with a spot. Being the league leader in net rating for most of the season only strengthens his case. Having said all that, I’m going off the board with my winner. Most would, justifiably, choose Steph Curry to win the title in his hometown, Charlotte. I’ll go with the guy who Vivek Ranadive claimed was the next Curry, Buddy Hield.
Three-Point Contest: Danny Green, Joe Harris, Stephen Curry, Buddy Hield, Bojan Bogdonovic, Tobias Harris, Davis Bertans, Kemba Walker
Winner: Buddy Hield
3) Which bench player are you most excited to watch in second half of season?
Sully: I’m excited to see how OG Anunoby responds to the sophomore wall he’s hit in the midst of this season. I am hoping OG either gets back to where he was last season —particularly on the offensive end — or makes strides closer to it. Although Anunoby’s scoring went up from 5.9 to 7.5 points per game, his shooting splits are .443 FG%/.338 3PT%/.405 FT% and have taken a drastic hit from the year before.
Outside of his production, we’ve seen in games where OG doesn’t seem comfortable on offense, and maybe that’s because of the role change. Since Kawhi Leonard took OG’s starting spot at small forward, OG has shifted to the bench and has played 78 percent of the time as the power forward whereas he only played 24 percent there last season. It’s a considerably change in role and usage, and while Anunoby has shown himself to be a player who can adapt — it does take time. Here’s hoping for something special after the All-Star break.
Mitch: I absolutely loved the bench mob from last year for so many reasons. The biggest reason: ever since their existence, the Raptors bench has been terrible. I’m sure that that stat is a true, factual statement and it cannot be refuted. Positive.
But hey, it’s a new season and the bench has been... not as effective as last season, but not as atrocious as every other season. With that, I think there is one linchpin guy to watch and that’s OG. While I don’t think he’s going to turn it all the way around this season, he’s going to be a very interesting piece to watch. His counting stats have all improved since his rookie year, but as Sully mentioned, his shooting percentages have dropped and that is most evident at the stripe where he is shooting a truly awful and would-be last place in the entire NBA if he qualified: 41 percent. He wasn’t a knock-down shooter from the line in his rookie year but a drop-off from 63 percent to 41 percent is catastrophic and is an area that he can certainly fix before the season is out. A longer term area to watch with OG is his creation off the bounce, which is sometimes painful to watch. Baby steps and patience, OG, we’ll never give up on you.
Leonard locks up Young and then Lowry sends it up to OG Anunoby for the flush to ice the game pic.twitter.com/Nca0P3x8Co— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) January 9, 2019
Jay: Since Jonas Valanciunas was karate-chopped by Draymond Green, Toronto just hasn’t looked the same. Granted, Lowry’s absence is probably a larger factor but at least he’s been able to play a few games in that stretch. The Raptors’ offensive rating has dropped from 113.2 (#2) to 109.0 (#17), defensive rating has climbed from 105.3 (#7) to 110.2 (#19), and net rating has plummeted from 7.9 (#2) to -1.2 (#19) since the Warriors game on December 12. Valanciunas has the second-highest win shares/48 (.228), behind Leonard (.238), and the highest defensive rating (104).
The numbers tell one story, but the eye test confirms his absence is missed. Serge Ibaka was started to look sluggish of late. The increase in minutes and usage, at least on the surface, appear to be affecting his play. JV’s return would a) lighten the load for Serge, allowing him to return to his pick-and-pop mastery; b) reduce Moose’s minutes to garbage-time-only; c) bring stability and scoring to a bench unit that sorely needs it. Fire up the JV Hive!
Around the NBA:
1) Ahead of the Raptors-Celtics game tonight, what do you make of the recent Celtics meltdown regarding Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown going at each other and Kyrie Irving getting frustrated with his teammates?
Sully: This is what happens when a team faces a lot of pressure when failing to meet their high expectations in the middle of the season. The Celtics are feeling the heat and have under-performed, but to see them argue during a timeout, call out teammates, and hold player/team meetings can cause for things to get blown out of proportion. Look, these things happen to most, if not all teams in the league, and while it may not look good on the Celtics, there is still a chance for them to get back on track.
There is no doubt they are still trying to gel with the guys they have. They’re 25-18, though on paper they should be better, and they’ve had a few bad losses. But I think they can climb right back up to the third seed and all this will be forgotten about come April. That said, the Celtics just need to stay focused and take it game-by-game so that they can make a run to being one of the top-three teams in the Eastern Conference.
Mitch: What do I make of the Celtics melting down, you ask? Let’s take a live-look at me watching the hot-mess Celtics unravel.
I derive a lot of my off the court enjoyment of the NBA from Twitter and as you may or may not have read from me in the past, Celtics Twitter is the worst. What I love most about this whole scenario is that Celtics fans are essentially the living breathing version of this:
All of that is to say, while I’m enjoying the gong show, Twitter user “N-Jay” isn’t entirely wrong. The Celtics are incredibly deep, supremely talented and the league should not be taking them as lightly as their current play suggests.
celtics gonna finish the season 49-33 or 50-32 and be the most dangerous 4th/5th seed ever lmao— N-jay (@_Njay3) January 15, 2019
Jay: I’m not going to make a mountain out of a molehill, but this isn’t the first red flag we’ve seen from the Celtics this season. From Terry Rozier’s early-season concerns about playing time to closed-door meetings to starters losing their jobs to Jayson Tatum, albeit jokingly, admitting he’d welcome a trade... sort of… Boston hasn’t exactly looked like the pre-season Finals favourite.
2) Dallas Mavericks rookie sensation Luka Doncic has played great in his first half of the season. He destined to be a star in this league, so what do you think his ceiling is?
Sully: This kid is special. Luka is one of the few rookies in league history who has caught the eyes of all NBA fans with his incredible shot-making and play-creation skills. Anytime I’m scrolling through Twitter or Instagram, I come across a Luka Doncic highlight, which happens more than any other player in the league. He is taking the league by storm and I am sure that will continue throughout his NBA career.
Jay and I both see his final product shaping up to be what James Harden is, but I think he could be a better overall player than him because he may be better on the defensive end in the coming years. Scoring 20.2 points per game, Doncic is still a few years away from being as explosive as Harden on the offensive end and he isn’t a good on or off-ball defender. However, I certainly think he will improve in those areas whilst being a top-five player and MVP of the league, say in five to seven years from now.
Mitch: I, like most fans of the sport of basketball, am in love with Luka Doncic.
well that’s one way to split the defenders pic.twitter.com/fJIwXdNX8V— Pettywise (@WorldWideWob) January 14, 2019
Exhibit C: HE’S 19 YEARS OLD!!!
It’s well documented that Luka has been destroying full grown men as a teenager since his Euroleague days and while the NBA is leaps and bounds better, the Euroleague is no slouch. The tantalizing thing about Luka is that it has carried over to the NBA. Step-back three’s, crafty passing, incredible court vision and most surprisingly, incredible leadership that this barely legal adult is showing in his rookie season. No, he isn’t the most athletic and no, his defense isn’t anything to write home about, but again, he’s a friggin’ teenager!
In my opinion, he’s already an All-Star in this league, despite what Old Man Truther has to say about it and his ceiling is about as high as NBA ceilings go: Future MVP of the NBA.
Jay: There’s going to be a stretch where his stepbacks don’t fall. There’s going to be a game where he’s guarded by Kawhi or PG and won’t be able to produce anything. There’s going to be the inevitable rookie wall and sophomore slump. Have I dampened the mood enough? Doncic is already in the top 10-16 in three-point percentage, three-point attempts, free throws, free throw attempts, and turnovers. You should know where I’m going with this by simply thinking about who ranks first in all of those categories. Yes, I’m going to stroke Sully’s Rockets-loving ego, and claim that Doncic has a Harden-esque ceiling!
That concludes this week’s HQ Roundtable! Tune in next Wednesday for another edition. If you have any questions in mind for us to discuss, let us know in the comments below and we will be sure to include it next week.