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Whose Team Is It Anyway: Everyone except Gasol and OG was a problem

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The usual candidates had rather abysmal weeks for the Raptors, allowing Marc Gasol and OG Anunoby to contend for glory by simply being their usual dependable selves.

Swingin’ Wings Toronto Raptors wing rotation: OG Anunoby shines on D Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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 Anyway 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 (20.3 PPG)

Assists per game leader: Kyle Lowry (7.8 APG)

Rebounds per game leader: Pascal Siakam (8.7 RPG)

Net rating/plus-minus & their derivatives:

On-court net rating leader: Marc Gasol (+11.0 points per 100 possessions)

On/off differential leader: Marc Gasol (+11.0 on, +19.4 off, +30.4 differential)

Player Impact Plus-Minus leader : Pascal Siakam (+3.02 PIPM)

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Box Plus-Minus leader: OG Anunoby (+3.8 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:

Marc Gasol is basically the only player on the Raptors who is utterly disqualified from winning points in the Official Whose Team Is It Anyway Standings. The Raptors cannot be Gasol’s team because the Grizzlies are Gasol’s team. He’s an aging vet, and thus doesn’t inspire hope for the future of the Raptors, and he’s been with the team for so short a time that we can’t reminisce nostalgically about his prime years either. As a result, by default, he cannot score points in this column. I’m saying this because Gasol was quite evidently the best Raptor this past week (not saying much, sadly) but he still will not be declared this week’s winner of Whose Team Is It Anyway.

The Raptors defense has been lockdown with Gasol on and utterly porous with him off since the last edition of this column. Gasol did his usual number on Joel Embiid when the Raptors visited Philadelphia on Sunday, limiting the Sixers’ All-Star to just 10 points. His controlled closeouts and stout post defense also contributing to the 7 turnovers Embiid committed, though Gasol picked up just one steal of his own. Gasol led the Raptors in plus/minus by a substantial margin that game, finishing at +9, despite the fact that he failed to record a single point.

Gasol also had standout defensive performances against Houston and Chicago this past week, posting a combined 6 steals and 6 blocks between those two games. He’s frequently showcased his excellent hands on swipes in the lane as of late, and his ability to stay vertical through contact has allowed him to remain a superlative rim protector despite his utter lack of explosiveness.

Offensively, he’s helped grease the Raptors’ wheels with the spacing he offers, and the sets where he looks to pass from the elbows have produced some of the Raptors’ most consistent offense. He even might be starting to shake off some of the early rust that’s limited his scoring inside the arc, he was a perfect 3 of 3 inside the arc against the Heat last Tuesday, and managed to make a trio of 2-point field goals once again on Monday night against the Bulls.

So Gasol’s been the best Raptor, but I can’t give it to him. Who then? Can I give it to one of the usual suspects, Pascal Siakam or Kyle Lowry? No, I cannot. They’ve been bad.

Siakam’s scoring efficiency has plummeted, he’s missing sitters around the rim and his three-point shooting has slipped, due partially to shot selection and partially to simply missing shots he usually makes. He seems to be wearing down a little bit, which is, I think, evidenced the most by his shaky performance around the rim and some relative defensive struggles. It’s sometimes seemed like Siakam’s energy expenditure on offense has left him unable to play the high-level defense the Raptors’ have come to expect from their budding star, with his failure to contain Tobias Harris against the Sixers sticking out in my mind.

Meanwhile, Lowry is working his way back from an injury, and seems to be forcing things in an effort to re-establish a rhythm. He’s had wildly varied results: Lowry’s week was bookended by awful shooting nights against Miami and Chicago in which he shot a combined 5 of 33 from the field. In between were two much more palatable shooting performances against Houston and Philly, where he scored at a rate comparable to the torrid start he had before succumbing to his thumb injury. There have been some KLOE things mixed in, he had 11 assists to just 1 turnover against Miami, and he drew a few charges against the Bulls. The counterpoint to that is that he’s had his share of overly ambitious passes and occasionally has looked like he’s hijacking the halfcourt offense with some shameless foul baiting. He’s probably been a little better than his rather awful shooting performance might indicate, but not to the extent that Lowry, the presiding king of “good-bad performances” usually is.

It can’t be Norman Powell either, even though he’s scored very efficiently, because his time on-court has often coincided with the Raptors worst play throughout the week, and because he continues to, not-unrelatedly, often end up involved in plays that make me want to rip my hair out. This play, in which Powell’s defensive stance essentially involved him rolling out the red carpet for a left-handed drive by Jimmy Butler (which would lead to a pair of free throws that ended up sending the Raptors’ contest against the Heat to overtime) is one I haven’t been able to get out of my head.

It also can’t be Fred VanVleet because awarding the win to a player who’s currently injured just feels sad, though VanVleet probably would have taken the point if he had stayed healthy.

So who wins?

OG Anunoby. He didn’t have a particularly great week, in fact, he shot just 16% from 3-point range this week (though he shot 50% overall from the field). But he never once pissed me off, and in what’s been a pretty bleh week in Raptorsland, that’s good enough.

Official Whose Team Is It Anyway Standings

1. Pascal Siakam (2.5 points)

2. Kyle Lowry (1.5 points)

3. OG Anunoby (1 point)

T2. Everyone else (0 points)


Stats courtesy of stats.NBA.com, Basketball Reference (BPM) and Jacob Goldstein (PIPM)