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The Rap-Up: Are the Raptors that far off their championship pace?

The Raptors face a trio of elite defenses this week. It’s a good thing this roster is strong enough to battle any team in the league. Don’t believe us? Check the numbers.

COVID-19: What’s next for the 2019-20 NBA season and the Toronto Raptors Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

The more things change, the more they stay the same with the Raptors.

Cliche or not, we’re about to enter December and can start revisiting Toronto’s roster changes and how they’ve turned out. I’ll let the numbers do the talking.

2018-19 Kawhi Leonard: 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists; 49.6 FG%, 37.1 3-pt FG%, 85.4 FT%; 30.3 USG%

2019-20 Pascal Siakam: 25.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists; 46.5 FG%, 45.6 3-pt FG%, 82.1 FT%; 29.7 USG%

2018-19 Pascal Siakam: 16.9 points; 62.8 TS%; 18.7 PER; 20.8 USG%

2019-20 Kyle Lowry: 21.8 points; 66.2 TS%; 20.1 PER; 23.4 USG%

2018-19 Kyle Lowry: 14.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 1.4 steals; 2.4 threes on 34.7 3-pt FG%

2019-20 Fred VanVleet: 17.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.9 steals; 2.5 threes on 38.5 3-pt FG%

2018-19 Fred VanVleet: 19.1 points (per 100 possessions), 8.4 assists (per 100); 23.9 AST%; 17.9 USG%

2019-20 Terence Davis: 20.0 points (per 100 possessions), 6.7 assists (per 100); 20.3 AST%; 15.4 USG%

2018-19 Danny Green: 10.3 points, 0.9 steals, 0.7 blocks; 2.5 threes on 45.5 3-pt FG% (#2 in the NBA)

2019-20 OG Anunoby: 12.2 points, 1.5 steals, 1.0 blocks; 2.0 threes on 52.0 3-pt FG% (#3 in the NBA)

2018-19 OG Anunoby: 20.2 minutes; 16.6 points (per 100), 7.0 rebounds (per 100), 1.6 steals (per 100)

2019-20 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: 20.9 minutes; 21.0 points (per 100), 12.9 rebounds (per 100), 2.3 steals (per 100)

That’s a lot of numbers to digest, so allow me to quickly touch on the other 3 rotational players and how they compare (to themselves) to last season. Norm Powell is scoring more (career-high 11.4 ppg) but less efficiently (shooting %s all down from last season). Serge Ibaka has been playing his fewest minutes since his rookie season (22.9 minutes), yet scoring very efficiently (59.5 TS% would rank 5th in the NBA, if qualified). Marc Gasol is a beast on defense (#6 in Defensive Win Shares among all Centers), despite struggles on offense (career-worst 47.6 TS%).

This whole exercise was a long-winded way of saying the Raptors — despite losing Leonard and Green — have managed to replicate last season’s statistical profile through internal growth, savvy free agent moves, sound defensive principles, and an offensive scheme that out-Moreyball’s the Houston Rockets.

November 25 vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Can someone help me remember the last time Philly came to town?

I’ll save you the Game 7 references that you’re definitely going to read throughout this website and many others (besides, you’ve already watched the video above 8 times since starting this article). This season’s version of the Raptors and Sixers have a lot of rock-meet-hard-place vibes.

Where Toronto excels offensively — #1 3-pt FG%, #4 Defensive Rebounds, #2 FT% - Philadelphia performs well defensively — #1 opponent’s 3-pt FGA, #4 in opponent’s defensive rebounds allowed, #1 in opponent’s FT% (which I guess is just luck!?!?).

Where the Sixers shine offensively — #6 FG%, #6 2-pt FGM — the Raptors are sublime defensively — #1 in opponent’s FG%, #2 in opponent’s 2-pt FGM.

This Sixers squad is structured to give the Raptors problems. The addition of Al Horford means another mobile big who can disrupt Siakam’s drives. VanVleet struggled with Philly’s size during the playoffs. As of this writing, Lowry hasn’t been cleared to play against his hometown team.

On the bright side, the Sixers get a large portion of their points inside the arc (#5 in % of points as 2-pointers), which is where the Raptors defense shines (#2 in opponent’s 2-pt FG%). This promises to be a defensive battle between Eastern Conference giants.

Fun Fact That May Only Interest Me

The last time the Raptors lost to the Sixers in a regular season home game, Toronto’s starting Small Forward was Alan Anderson.


I’ll save you the googling from the previous section. On November 10, 2012, Philly came into the (then) Air Canada Centre and handed Toronto a 93-83 loss. Since then, the Raptors have reeled off 13 consecutive regular season victories over the Sixers. Overall, Toronto has won 21 of the last 24 regular season meetings. But history only adds to the narrative. The fact is that Philadelphia has struggled on the road, losing five of their last six, with only a victory over the hapless Cavaliers to show. With Ibaka possibly returning, the Raptors will have just enough firepower to overcome the Sixers D, winning 98-95.

November 27 vs. New York Knicks

Happy RJ Barrett tribute video Day!!

The (prodigal?) son of Canadian Basketball legend, Rowan Barrett, brings his Knicks squad into Scotiabank Arena in hopes of upsetting his hometown team. The thought of a Knicks upset likely made you chuckle, but this squad could at least prove to be pesky.

New York is the NBA’s best offensive rebounding team, while Toronto gives up offensive boards at a league-high rate. Those stats are slightly muddled though. The Knicks are the second-worst shooting team in the league (29th in FG%), while the Raptors are the most efficient defenders (1st in opponent’s FG%). In other words, with New York’s inept offense and Toronto’s stellar defense, there will be a lot of rebounds to be had on that side of the floor.

New York is really susceptible to giving up the big run. Last week, the Sixers erased a 17-point third quarter deficit with a 23-5 run. Against Chicago and San Antonio, they gave up runs of 22 and 18 points, respectively......while not scoring!

The Knicks are the lowest scoring team in the league, averaging 102.0 points per game. By contrast, the Raptors have scored 102 points or more in all but one game this season.

Fun Fact That May Only Interest Me

I really try to use different stats to preview each game, but this is too weird to avoid. Toronto has won the last 7 regular season meetings when the Knicks had come to town. The last time the Raptors lost to the Knicks was......November 10, 2015.

What is up with that day?!?!?


Going back to those 7 straight home victories vs. New York, each of those wins were by double-digits - topping out with a 36-point blowout in the Knicks last visit. There’s a reason why the Raptors are 9-0 in games where they’re favoured. It’s the same reason Toronto has won 14 of the last 15 meeting with New York....the Raptors take care of business against inferior teams. They’ll do the same here, defeating the Knicks 118-98.

November 29 @ Orlando Magic

In what’s starting to feel like a weekly occurrence, the Raptors are facing the Magic. Your eyes do not deceive you, this is the third matchup between the two....and it’s not even December! The location may be different this time, since the first two meetings this season was at Scotiabank Arena, but the players are the same. Nikola Vucevic will still be out after spraining his ankle in their last meeting. Although, one could argue that he hasn’t really played at all against the Raptors.

Similar to the previous meetings, the matchup to watch will be Jonathan Isaac and Spicy P. In the first matchup this season, Siakam found success using the pick-n-roll with Lowry — scoring on four consecutive possessions running the same action. With no Lowry in last week’s game, Siakam chose to attach Isaac in isolation. That was a mistake and Isaac was able to disrupt Siakam into poor (by his standards) shooting night (7-of-18, 18 points). Expect more PnR from Nurse this time around.

Fun Fact That May Only Interest Me

Keep an eye on the middle quarters of the game. Nick Nurse seems to be using the first quarter to feel out the opponent (19th in scoring in the first quarter) before making his adjustments. Toronto ranks 5th in 2nd quarter scoring and 4th in 3rd quarter scoring, while Orlando ranks 30th and 27th, respectively.


With Vucevic out, Orlando’s going to need Mo(re) Bamba. The 2018 sixth overall pick will be called upon to show why the Magic chose him instead filling their glaring need at point guard with Collin Sexton or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Now’s not the time to dwell on the 2018 draft class, although it’s interesting to note that the undrafted Canadian, Chris Boucher, dominated his matchup with Bamba. Just as the Raptors continue to dominate this series, I’m going with Toronto pulling a victory out of its hat, 104-99 over Orlando.

December 1 vs. Utah Jazz

For the first time in their careers, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will step on the court as opponents.

They are synonymous with Memphis Grizzlies basketball and hold most franchise records to boot. Conley is the franchise leader in games, points, assists, steals, 3-pointers, and offensive win shares. Gasol holds franchise records in field goals, rebounds, blocks, win shares, BPM, and VORP.

This figures to be an emotional weekend for Conley. After returning to Memphis on Friday, he must now face his running mate of 11+ seasons in Gasol, just two nights later. In fact, looking at Utah’s schedule reveals what a tough stretch this is for Quin Snyder’s team. The 5-game road trip includes trips to 4 East playoff teams (Bucks, Sixers, Raptors, Pacers), plus the Conley-Memphis reunion game.

Fun Fact That May Only Interest Me

Mike Conley has had a very successful career. He may be one of the best players to ever play the game and never make an All-Star game. Just as shocking, at least to me, is that Conley isn’t even in the Top-10 in career assists for left-handers. With 4,579 career assists, Conley ranks 11th, behind names with Raptor ties like Lenny Wilkens (former Head Coach), Damon Stoudamire (former Rookie of the Year), and Kenny Anderson (former All-Star-who-didn’t-want-to-play-in-Toronto-and-forced-a-trade).


Toronto has played well against Utah over the last six years. That Raptors have won 10 of 12 matchups, with the two losses occurring in a narrow fashion (one-possession games in the dying seconds). Without knowing what Lowry and Ibaka will bring to the table (if either play at all...remember, I’m writing this on Monday morning), there is cause for a concern as to what a less-than-100%-healthy Raptors squad can do against the NBA’s #1 defense. Since the teams ranked #2 (Boston) and #3 (Milwaukee) on defense already defeated Toronto this season, it would appear that trend could continue. Raptors fall to the Jazz, 105-101.


Season Record for Predictions: 11-4