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Fantasy HQ: Are there hidden gems on the Raptors’ bench?

If coach Nurse wasn’t sure about his end-of-bench players, their dominant showing against the Lakers Sunday night should be all he needed to see to let them loose.

Toronto Raptors v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

I just finished watching the Raptors v Lakers game, and... Wow. I’m almost at a loss for words after that dominant team showing, with everyone from Fred VanVleet to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson coming out and dominating their minutes on the floor. Even with all that star power on the floor for LA, it was the bench that stole the show. Led in scoring by Chris Boucher (who had 15 points in 24 minutes), every single butt that came off the pine played like a man on fire. If you missed the game but are able to watch the replay — do it ASAP, because it’s simply beautiful second half basketball.

The big question heading into the second game of the team’s west coast road trip was how they would fare on both ends without two of their top three players in Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka. The Lakers had the best record in the league, sitting atop the West at 7-1 (tied with Boston overall) so fans were rightfully worried about losing the game, and the momentum Toronto’s been carrying the past three weeks.

Instead, Nick Nurse opened a Pandora’s box of combinations, possibilities and production from this bench unit that everyone was, well, giving up hope on.

Firstly, I want to address my sleeper pick from last Monday’s column. Norman Powell didn’t have the game I hoped he would’ve against Sacramento, however, after the Lakers and Pelicans games, he’s found a groove — and that’s the most frustrating aspect of his game. He only plays well when he absolutely has to.

Here are Powell’s stats in the two games since Lowry’s injury:

11/8 vs. New Orleans: 18 points, 4 rebounds, 60% FG, 50% 3PT in 29 minutes

11/10 vs. Los Angeles: 14 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 55.6% FG, 33.3% 3PT in 26 minutes

Is this definitive? Absolutely not. And before you say those look okay but not ‘great,’ check out his game log this year. While it’s not definitive, he seems to lose focus when his job is to create distractions and be opportunistic offensively. He really enjoys an offense that’s somewhat centred around him, and I can’t blame him — he plays light years better.

Powell is now in serious consideration for an end-of-bench spot, despite being owned in under 10 percent of all ESPN and Yahoo leagues. With the absence of Lowry’s 22 points per game, and roughly 14 shots, the Raptors will be searching for someone to fill that scorecard up. As a result, Powell will naturally get plenty of looks.

On to the good stuff!


Line of the Week:

Well, well — what do we have here? Nailed it!

Pascal Siakam vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Points: 44

Rebounds: 10

Assists: 4

FG%: .607

FT%: 1.000

3PM: 5

I hate bragging. In fact I shouldn’t — we should’ve all seen this one coming.

Honorable Mention:

Breaking the format rules here, the entire Raptors bench gets an honorable mention for their gutsy, incredible effort against the Lakers Sunday night. As a four-man group (Stanley Johnson played just three minutes and contributed nothing across the board), Chris Boucher, Terence Davis, Matt Thomas and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Yeah, HIM!) combined for 43 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, two steals, three blocks and five made threes in 74 critical minutes.

They were also a cumulative +31 while on the court (not necessarily meaning when they shared the floor, simply by adding their +/- numbers together). It was truly an inspired performance as this group of G leaguers, unknowns and undrafteds kept making incredible plays. Again, if you are able to watch the replay — do it ASAP.

Pick of the Week:

11/13: OG Anunoby vs. Portland Trailblazers

The Trailblazers are in the bottom-10 in defensive efficiency. Their backcourt can’t stop penetration, nor can their wings. Their bigs are either too slow, or too skinny. OG had trouble against the Lakers’ length on Sunday — his first opportunity to get more shots and responsibility, but was thwarted. Against the Clippers, he could be way too busy guarding some guy you may have heard of?

But the Blazers present a perfect storm for OG. His efficiency is out of this world right now, especially considering he takes nearly 10 shots per game. He’ll probably revert to the mean, but his FG percentage is at 57.1, and his 3P percentage sits at... uhm... 54.5. I had to change glasses, pardon the interruption. Yes, 54.5 percent from deep on 4.1 attempts per game. OG is on fire.

Again, if you haven’t picked him up, there still might be a chance. He’s under 50 percent owned in ESPN leagues (41.2 percent owned, ranked 6th at SF). I can’t see his ownership rates on Yahoo unless I have a league there and I’m not a fan of that platform.

There, I said it.

What Are the People Saying?

I’m introducing a new section to Fantasy HQ — you reach out to me via e-mail or twitter (@_JoelStephens_) and let me know who you like that seems to be flying under the radar, and if you’re the lucky guy or gal I choose, I’ll include you’re entire two to three sentence write up on here (edited only for inappropriate comments), followed by my opinion!

First up is someone I’ve known since I was 13 who’s been helping promote my new column with everyone he can (Thanks Mase!). My high school buddy Mason H., from Ann Arbor says:

Anfernee Simons is a smooth dude. I saw him Thursday against the Clippers and he just plays hard when he’s on the court — he’s all business. Plus he makes threes, scores points and with CJ McCollum struggling, Simons could see a small bump in minutes.”

I love this pick. Simons was on fire this week in three Portland games. In those games prior to Sunday, he averaged 15.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.0 3PM per game in under 27 minutes. What’d he do Sunday, you may ask?

He played 24 minutes, scored 20 points, 2 steals on 75 percent from the field with three 3PM. Yeah, he’s that guy on your watchlist that you pull the trigger on, and he’s owned in 1.1 percent of ESPN leagues. GO GRAB HIM!

(To participate, send e-mails to, tweets to @_JoelStephens_ OR comment below!)


News Around the League:

If nothing else, John Collins’ suspension boosts Jabari Parker.

I’m a little late here since the suspension happened the day after last week’s column, but Jabari Parker is the prime beneficiary to replace Collins’ minutes — and so far, he’s been pretty good. In three games which he’s started in place of Collins, Parker is averaging 31 minutes, 20.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 0.7 blocks, on .591 from the field and .889 from the line.

Volume? Yes. Efficiency? Yes (minus the threes issue). Stability? Eh, for another 22 games.

If you look past his 0.7 3’s per game, you’re probably enticed by solid scoring, and his 2.0 combined stocks (steals/blocks) per game. If you don’t believe my stamp of approval, I just dropped R.J. Barrett for him. Don’t worry, I have receipts.

Dropped Barrett for Jabari Parker, because I believe in his production.

Even when Collins was playing, Parker was finding ways to make himself useful. He might not perform like a number two overall pick, but his growth is directly related to his ability to find a niche and excel in it. Hopefully this is the year for him.


Frank Ntilikina is getting something called “minutes” or “playing time”

Since November 1st, Frankie Smokes has played at least 30 minutes in four of New York’s five games. He’s been “okay,” but one stat in which he keeps racking up is steals. In the five November contests, Ntilikina has 11 steals total, good for 2.2 per game. If you’re low in that category, give him a look. Maybe he’ll keep these “minutes” or whatever they’re called.

Sleeper Pick of the Week:

This’ll be short because I’m way over word-limit:

Chris Boucher against the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets as a team allow 113.1 opponent points per game, and their paint is manned by a trio of Cody Zeller, Willy Hernangomez and the rarely used Bismack Biyombo (we miss you buddy). Zeller is so defensively apathetic, it’s usually like watching cars drive down a freeway and then stopping for a layup. Hernangomez should get more credit, but he tends to guard stretch bigs instead of planting his feet down low. He basically took the job Marvin Williams used to be criminally underrated at.

Boucher will get minutes, he’ll run, he’ll shoot, and he’ll fly toward the basket.

Fun fact that’s definitely a fact: he should’ve shot more than two free throws that entire Lakers game.

As always, thanks for reading the weekly Fantasy HQ! If you have questions, suggestions or want to voice your picks, comment below or contact me directly! See you next week.