Kawhi Leonard is gone, and in his wake the Raptors are searching. The roster was an egalitarian one behind Leonard last year, with Kyle Lowry orchestrating, Pascal Siakam scoring with efficiency, and a deep cast of role players in support. This season, however, Toronto is at a crossroads. Lowry is the all-time Raptor, but he’s 33 going on 34. Siakam is a rising star, but the question of whether he can be the franchise’s centerpiece is still an open one. The cast of role players mostly remains, but whether any of them can take the next step and shed the role player label remains to be seen.
Whose Team is it Anyways will be a column that tracks the best Raptor, tallying up the the results week by week, so that by the end of the year we can know whether this season was part of the Lowry era, the Siakam era, or the start of another era in Raptors’ history altogether.
What the Numbers Say:
Box score stats:
Points per game leader: Pascal Siakam (30 PPG)
Assists per game leader: Fred VanVleet (9 APG)
Rebounds per game leader: Pascal Siakam (9.3 RPG)
Net rating/plus-minus & their derivatives:
On-court net rating leader: Terence Davis (+19.0 points per 100 possessions)
On/off differential leader: Terence Davis (+19.0 on, -4.1 off, +23.1 differential)
Player Impact Plus-Minus leader : Pascal Siakam (2.2 PIPM)
Box Plus-Minus leader: OG Anunoby (+5.6 BPM)
Note: Catch-all statistics (BPM & PIPM) are cumulative, taking the full season into account, all other stats only reference games played this past week.
What Ya Boy Says:
Pascal Siakam averaged an efficient 30 points per game, led the Raptors to a 3-1 record and won Eastern Conference Player of the Week, making my job very easy. This week it was Pascal Siakam’s team, without question. Just look at the way he looks off Rondae Hollis-Jefferson mostly open under the basket to take a one-legged Dirk-esque fadeaway. He wouldn’t do that if he wasn’t confident it was his team.
Siakam’s foremost competition for the status of franchise player, Kyle Lowry, was injured early in the week, further clarifying things. Throughout the Raptors’ road win over the Los Angeles Lakers announcers on the Lakers’ broadcast kept re-iterating that Nick Nurse had given Siakam the “ultimate green light” with Lowry out. Siakam exercised that green light to put up 25 shots in the Lakers’ contest, including one that followed a highlight reel, ankle-breaking crossover on Anthony Davis.
Siakam was superlative, stepping up when called on to fill the vacuum created by the injuries not only to Lowry, but also to Serge Ibaka, OG Anunoby and Patrick McCaw. However(!!!!), with that many injuries Siakam couldn’t have made up the gap by himself, even playing as well as he did, especially when you consider that the Raptors ran a gauntlet of prospective Western Conference playoff teams this week, while on the road the whole time.
No, he needed aid, and the prevailing sentiment at the beginning of the week among much of the fanbase was that he wasn’t likely to get much. The Raptors had been running an 8 man rotation until that point in the season for a reason after all, the Raptors’ deep bench hadn’t done much to warrant our having faith in them. Terence Davis had been erratic and foul prone. Chris Boucher had been deemed a “AAAA” player, dominant against lesser talent and overmatched in the bigs. Matt Thomas, for all his sublime shooting couldn’t defend a pylon. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson were called out by Nick Nurse in the preseason, Hollis-Jefferson essentially hadn’t played since then, while Johnson had been a garbage fire every time he stepped on the floor.
Every single one of those guys (except Johnson) stepped up last week, turning what should have been a glaring weakness into an area of strength. No one was more emblematic of the turn around than Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Hollis-Jefferson had snuck into just one game in garbage time to this point in the year. His career has been teetering on the brink for a while now, he previously played a key role in the Nets’ rotation, but as Brooklyn made their push for playoff relevancy they shelved Hollis-Jefferson. It’s not hard to see why, Hollis-Jefferson isn’t really good at, well, basketball stuff in general. He can’t shoot outside of 10 feet. He dribbles like he’s constantly about to blow a tire (and he often does spontaneously eat shit and lose the ball). He doesn’t have point guard vision, and he’s undersized for a forward. He should not be good.
Who cares about any of that when he works this hard?
i would die for rondae and at this point the most important reason we need to repeat is so that he can get the ring he deserves https://t.co/ct9iPLmX4L— Kyle Lowry's Thumb Doctor (@Jacob_M_Mack) November 14, 2019
Hollis-Jefferson is perfectly in line the Bismack Biyombo archetype of Raptors’ fan favourite. Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet won the Raptors their game over the Blazers, just like Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan made it a series against the Cavs. In both instances, the guy I’ll remember is the role player who’s skillset gave them absolutely no right to be there, and who’s motor let them make an impact anyways.
Hollis-Jefferson has the championship DNA that LeBron James referenced on Sunday. If there’s any justice in the world Siakam will ensure he has an actual championship to go along with that DNA by the time the season is over.
Official Whose Team Is It Anyways Standings
T1. Kyle Lowry (1.5 points)
T1. Pascal Siakam (1.5 points)
T2. Everyone else (0 points)
(Note: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is first in my heart)
Stats courtesy of stats.NBA.com, Basketball Reference (BPM) and Jacob Goldstein (PIPM)