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Toronto Temperature: The dog days of the season are here

The Raptors went 2-1 on their road trip, and are probably just happy to get back to Toronto in one piece. Let’s take a temperature.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors sure are a confusing bunch. They had impressive wins against the Pelicans and Heat but got stomped by the Cavaliers, which now in hindsight isn’t actually that bad because... you know... the East runs through Cleveland.

Despite the 2-1 week, the Raptors have a few more questions to answer than they did a week ago. Is Jeremy Lin a sure thing for the bench? Is it possible for someone to be concerned about Kawhi Leonard when he scored 56 points in two games? Is Malcolm Miller or Patrick McCaw the world’s greatest player? Let’s get into it.

Who’s Hot

Patrick McCaw

The Raptors might have found another effective rotation player in Pat McCaw. He was impressive in Miami hitting all three of his attempts from deep (each one drawing a louder response from the bench). It was great to see because these shooting performances aren’t typical for McCaw. In 56 games with the Warriors last season McCaw shot 22.5 percent from deep on 80 attempts. This season though, he is shooting 31.6 percent on 19 attempts from deep with the Raptors. The mechanics look pretty smooth, save for a little hitch on the way up, so it will be interesting to track his shooting.

Nick Nurse told reporters they have McCaw on a summertime shooting program, getting him more comfortable spacing to the corners. If he can shoot 40 percent from the corners that’s a really intriguing player.

OG Anunoby’s Defense

The Raptors best perimeter defender since the All-Star break may just be OG Anunoby. He spends most of his minutes with an up-and-down bench lineup so it’s hard to parse out the exact impact. Still, he provided more resistance against Blake Griffin than anyone else on the team, and has looked more engaged sliding across the perimeter. For what it’s worth Anunoby is also creating more deflections too. Since the break OG has 2.1 deflections per game, up from 1.5 deflections before the all-star break.

Raptors Leaking Out

At the beginning of the season, Pascal Siakam leaking out in transition for a dunk felt fresh. Siakam had been looking for those opportunities since his rookie season but it still felt like a cheat. When a game gets tight certainly those kick-aheads won’t be there. Well, not exactly.

Part of the Raptors offense now is simply getting a rebound and looking for Siakam on the fast break. Even if Siakam can’t score on the play he is perfectly happy to dribble it out and find teammates streaking down the floor. I’m not sure whether the Raptors will be able to sneak it past opponents in the playoffs but who knows at this point. They keep on doing it. Even Marc Gasol and Kawhi Leonard, along with the visionary of the operation, Kyle Lowry, are in on the action throwing bullets up the court.

Who’s Not

Kawhi Leonard’s Conditioning

By most standards Kawhi Leonard had a really good week. He averaged 28 points on 64 percent shooting in two games. That’s pretty good. Although, the way he is getting shots is different than earlier in the season. Before the All-Star break 30 percent of his field goal attempts came from one dribble or less. Now, post all-star break, 41.3 percent of his field goal attempts have come from one dribble or less. Not a huge shift, and not even necessarily a bad one.

Leonard getting more catch-and-shoot opportunities as the offense diversifies is a natural progression. But if his reluctance to dominate the offense is from poor conditioning, moving towards a less burdensome workload looks a different way. Against the Cavaliers on Monday he was huffing and puffing coming out of the game in the third quarter, and his jump shot has often looked more flat deeper into ball games — particularly this week. Not a big deal, just something to monitor.

Malcolm Miller’s Playing Time

Malcolm Miller has done nothing but impress during his time with the Raptors. He plays under control and hits open shots. Standing at 6’7”, he’s shown himself to be a pretty competent wing player. The problem for Miller though is that he hasn’t played much outside of garbage time. Nick Nurse has instead gone to Jeremy Lin and Norman Powell on the bench unit. I don’t see that changing right now but in two weeks, if both players are still struggling, Miller getting run with the bench is at least intriguing. He has the size (if not the strength) to play the four and is a nice positional fit next to OG Anunoby.

Serge Ibaka Content

About two weeks ago on Instagram, Serge Ibaka shared behind-the-scenes footage of upcoming “How Hungry are You” episodes. The guests? The Gasol brothers on one episode, and Jeremy Lin on the other. Despite Ibaka teasing the episodes they still haven’t hit the internet.

Is Serge letting the excitement build up? Maybe an editing issue? There must be some sort of rational, right? Serge is pretty creative guy so I wouldn’t put an new, experimental release past him. I guess we’ll see. And to be clear, the Mafuzzy man can do whatever he wants. This is just a check in. Your content is missed (along with three games).