What were the Raptors to do this summer, aside from celebrating as the NBA champs?
The 2019-20 NBA season is right around the corner, and all indications suggest that the Toronto Raptors will try their best to defend their title. But how should they have prepared over the summer? It’s a loaded question, but one worth answering as we ourselves look to the upcoming run and title defense.
In all, we hope it was a positive offseason for the remaining and newly-minted Raptors. We also hope that Kawhi Leonard is getting as much rest this offseason as he’s got a hectic season ahead of him. For now, let’s go over on how we hoped your defending champs spent their offseason.
(Note: As of this writing, we don’t know the fate of Oshae Brissett, Devin Robinson, Malcolm Miller, Chris Boucher, Isaiah Taylor and Cameron Payne. Out of this bunch, we have some first-hand impressions of what Miller and Boucher can do. We’re also adding Payne here as well since we’ve seen him play for other teams before. So for now, we’re including those three on this piece.)
Kyle Lowry: Rest. Recuperate. Take care of all the nicks and bruises. Recover from surgery. If Lowry gained back some of his thiccness back in the process, that’s ok, because he’s been great even before he slimmed down. For now, Lowry needs to be healthy for the Raptors, as it will dictate how his career tails off in the next few years.
Terence Davis: Davis wowed us during the summer league, and has shown a glimpse of what he can do in the preseason. He projects as a run-and-gun guard, with an NBA-ready body, and his usage during Summer League and preseason games suggest that he’s being developed as a combo-guard. Toronto’s bench will be offensively-challenged, so his path to success is to get better at playmaking and scoring. I think Davis’ explosion to the basket will always be there, but he needs to work on his perimeter shot for his number to be called often and early, especially if the Raptors run into spacing issues.
Stanley Johnson: Play basketball. A lot. It may sound simple, but Johnson has to increase his basketball IQ by being in a lot of different basketball situations, especially on the offensive end. From there, he needs to be be able to apply the things he’s working on even if it’s a light scrimmage setting. Johnson needs to increase the number of things that he can do decently on the offensive end.
Marc Gasol: We already saw Gasol win another chip in the FIBA World Cup, which in turn, blessed us with another appearance of ”Parade Gasol.” There are some concerns that Gasol might burn out due to the short turnaround time between the Finals, World Cup, training camp, and the start of the season. A busy offseason could be a good thing for Gasol; that much activity should get him in better shape to start the season — and get him right up to speed with all his new teammates.
Malcolm Miller: He can shoot and defend multiple positions. So for someone with this skill-set combination, what did Miller need to do this summer? He could work on getting stronger, so he can defend big small and power forwards on switches. Or he needs to develop a good counter when his perimeter shot is taken away. It might be a cop-out answer, but I hope Miller worked on how to provide instant offense. That means he needs to be capable of coming in cold and getting hot right away. It’s an aggressive approach, but it means Miller has to proactively present himself as a viable kickout/swing option.
OG Anunoby: We’re all confident that OG can defend, but the big question mark is what can he can do on the other side of the court. Last year, his development stalled due to the combination of Kawhi’s addition and the games he missed. We all saw him working out in the summer, which is a good thing. However, here’s hoping Anunoby focussed on his offensive game so that he can have a handful of good moves to generate buckets at a high clip. Unlike last year, Anunoby’s role could be bigger this year — he just has to shown he’s refined his offensive skills.
Cameron Payne: With the departure of Danny Green and Jeremy Lin, Kyle Lowry’s entrance entourage is severely depleted. Enter Payne, who should add more flavour to Lowry’s awesome intro, and increase the team’s overall handshake and celebration game. Payne hasn’t shown anything that got NBA Draft gurus excited, and if you read his scouting report from such sites, it’s easy to think “Payne is actually the opposite of this analysis.” But as someone who’s battling for the third point guard spot, I hope he spent the offseason fine-tuning his decision making as a floor general. Payne needs to show that he can command and execute the Raptors’ offense for him to stick around.
Serge Ibaka: Like Lowry, I hope that MaFuzzy Chef is having a really nice time relaxing and resting this summer. Based on his social media accounts, Ibaka seems to be in perpetual shape all throughout the year, so we don’t have to worry there. As long as Ibaka can be ready for game one of 82, he’s free to do what he wants.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: Since we were not glued to the screen every time the Nets played for the past few seasons, it’s hard to give an accurate take on Rondae. We know that he’s been working on his “Summer 3,” but beyond that, it’s hard to pinpoint one thing that he should improve upon. Even after three preseason games, his role and position is still a big question mark. If anything, we hope that Rondae spent a lot of time this summer refining his moves, especially his balance, as he looks out-of-control and about to fall down every time he drives to the basket.
Norman Powell: This coming season, there will be more shots and more minutes going Norm’s way. The starting spot is his to lose as well. So what should we hope that Norm worked on this summer? Perimeter shooting? Finishing around the basket? Handles? Passing? I hope that Norm worked on his mindset and channeling his unpredictable game. Being able to adjust on the fly (i.e. changing speeds, directions, counter moves, shot selections, etc.) should help him take his game to the next level. Norm’s quickness and explosiveness should benefit from the split-second hesitation he gives defenders trying to anticipate his next move.
Matt Thomas: We know the Raptors brought into be a shooter, so that part is covered. The hope for Thomas is that he worked on getting used to NBA speed and physicality. A tall order when all he has under his belt now is three preseason games, but it’s what he’s got to do to stick in Toronto.
Dewan Hernandez: Much like Matt Thomas, we hope that Dewan spent his summer not just working on his tools, but most notably getting used to NBA speed since he’s barely played competitive basketball over the past year.
Patrick McCaw: McCaw’s minutes in the preseason indicate he’ll be competing for point guard minutes — which could work, given how reticent he is to shoot. McCaw is a bit different from some of the offensively-challenged players on this list; he both can’t and won’t shoot. If McCaw intends to compete for rotation minutes, I hope he worked on just getting into the habit of shooting the ball. That’s it. McCaw hopefully spent the entire offseason on drills where the end result is him shooting the ball.
Chris Boucher: Aside from having mass-gainer on IV and lifting iron, we’d like to see Boucher focus on his individual defense. As a full-time starting centre with the 905, Boucher was able to develop his help defense and his ability to contest shots around the rim. The Raptors are shaping up to be a defense-first team based on the team’s summer acquisitions. Boucher needs to show that he’s not a liability. He’s got to defend his assignment, and be ready to switch from 1-5 on that end. If Boucher can do that, he could find himself as part of the Raptors’ rotation.
Fred VanVleet: The real Finals MVP should be given a pass if he comes back essentially the same as last season — that is, if he’s the Fred VanVleet Sr. version of himself. However, his struggles in the earlier round, and inconsistencies during the regular season make us think that VanVleet still has room to improve. Between becoming a better marksman from deep, or a better playmaker, I hope VanVleet worked on the latter so that he can make his case as the starting point guard of the future.
Pascal Siakam: Sure, we would like to see Siakam develop another go-to move, or consistent three-point shooting, or an in-between game. But what I’m hoping Siakam worked on this summer is mental: he now has to have a superstar mindset, the “I got this” aura that superstars carry with them. As coach Nick Nurse said, he’s the man right now.
How about you? What do you think your favourite Raptor should have worked on this offseason?