The 2019-20 Toronto Raptors are not only defending their championship, they’re also replacing two starters at key positions on the wing. Each week on Swingin’ Wings, we’ll be tracking the progress of those possible replacements.
October 30-November 5
It has been a loooooong week, and the fact there were only two Raptors games made it feel even longer. Does anyone even remember Saturday night’s loss to the Bucks, let alone last Wednesday’s victory over the Pistons? Ancient history!
But as always, we’ve been keeping a keen eye on the wing rotation as we wait see who — if anyone! — will emerge as a consistent contributor on the back end of Toronto’s overall rotation.
After last week’s two games, we’re confident in saying... were still waiting to see.
Who Did What?
OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet started both games, and in both games, Norman Powell was the first wing off the bench.
Patrick McCaw came in in the first quarter against the Pistons as well — and had a pretty solid game! — but his knee issue flared up, and now he’s having knee surgery.
Rookies Terence Davis and Matt Thomas played in both games, and averaged about five minutes each, and shot well in their opportunities.
Offseason acquisitions Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson did not play. Not a single minute. In either game.
Wing Stat of the Week: 19
Norman Powell shot 7-for-10 from the floor against Detroit on Wednesday, and scored 19 points, his first double-digit scoring game of the season. Hooray for Norm, right?
There are two problems here: One, Powell didn’t exactly fill out the rest of the stat sheet against the Pistons, grabbing only one rebound and not managing a single assist in 28.5 minutes; he also ended up a -4, in a game in which the Raptors never trailed while he was on the floor.
Two, Powell was unable to follow up that scoring performance with a similar output against Milwaukee. He was 1-for-5 in twenty minutes — although he at least managed five boards and two assists.
I was hoping inconsistent Norm was a thing of the past, but we’re clearly not there yet.
Wing Highlight of the Week
So far in this space we’ve highlighted an OG Anunoby dunk and an OG Anunoby block. So let’s look at an OG Anunoby assist!
Anyone else getting Chris Bosh-to-Ray Allen flashbacks there? Sure, the stakes were just a little bit lower in the sixth game of the regular season vs. the sixth game of the NBA Finals, but you gotta love OG’s awareness, to come from out of bounds, snag the board and find Fred VanVleet in one motion.
What are the Wings Saying?
OG Anunoby, on what he learned watching the Raptors guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals:
Just how they got back in transition, picking up ball, and then forcing him into the help defense, that’s the big thing. The force he plays with, especially in transition, and drawing and kicking — he gets into the paint, if he doesn’t finish he’s kicking it out to a shooter. Sprinting back in transition, showing length, because he’s gonna do his [mimics Eurostep from seated position] stuff, where he gets his arms up, draws fouls, so you gotta get in the way of that.
It’s clear Anunoby knows the playbook on Giannis. Of course, actually executing it is another thing altogether — as Antetokounmpo’s 36 points (on 20 shots), 15 rebounds and eight assists would attest.
What’s Coach Saying?
On who’s filling in the absence left by Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard (and indirectly, why this column exists):
Danny and Kawhi leaving has opened up some opportunity here... certainly opened up opportunity for Pascal to move into a role, and then it really opened up a big opportunity for OG to fill a role. And I’m just happy that he’s in there and doing it, and looking good and tough, and valuable for our team.
Also, prior to the Bucks game, when asked who’s going to get the assignment of guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo along with Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby:
We’re gonna need those two, and probably another two guys. I would suspect we’d try a bunch of guys on ‘im, we’ll see Serge on him some... I don’t know who else we could use, but there’ll be some other guys maybe, maybe Rondae or Stanley will get out there tomorrow and get a shot at it.
Hardly a ringing endorsement for Rondae and Stanley, there, and as we know... they did not, actually, get out there and get a shot at it. With the McCaw knee surgery news, there may be more opportunities next week, but Nurse’s confidence level does not seem high.
What Are the Rest of us Saying?
As the Raptors’ big comeback against the Bucks stalled out in the fourth, OG Anunoby spent a lot time on the bench. Raptors Twitter noticed!
Why is OG on the bench right now? What possible reason?— Anthony Doyle (@Anthonysmdoyle) November 3, 2019
Good timeout Lowry. Go yell at your coach to sub OG for Serge.— Daniel Hackett (@dhackett1565) November 3, 2019
It probably wasn’t an unreasonable ask for OG to play more minutes, given the four-day break between games. But I also don’t know that it would have mattered: a 26-point hole is a deep one to climb out of.
Wing of the Week: OG Anunoby
I really thought, after the Detroit game, that either Patrick McCaw or Norman Powell might have a chance to take this crown from OG Anunoby. A solid performance against the Bucks from either would have sealed it — after all, voter fatigue has set in for OG; the people want a different winner!
Alas. McCaw didn’t play again, and Powell was, well, Powell. And so: OG Anunoby, after averaging 11.5 points on 60% shooting, 5.5 boards, two assists and two steals, is once again your Wingman of the Week!