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Analyzing the Raptors’ go-to H-O-R-S-E shots and tournament

With the NBA thinking about a league-wide H-O-R-S-E tourney, it felt like time to figure out which shot each Raptor would have in his bag — and who would be the best on the team.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to the dutiful reporting of ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, we have a firm grasp on how exactly the NBA is going about trying to return to business as usual. Of course, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 situation — and America’s gross mismanagement of the crisis — “usual” does not appear to be coming any time soon.

Nevertheless, the NBA is trying. This past weekend, as announced by Woj, the league is looking into developing some sort of H-O-R-S-E shooting contest featuring NBA players.

This news comes to us while the league’s NBA 2K tournament moves into its second round. Now, we haven’t done any reporting on that tourney’s outcome, but for good reason. First, there are no Raptors involved. And second, it’s impossible to determine which players will actually be good enough at videogames to win. (Theoretically, the two main qualifiers are youth and an excess of time — but that doesn’t necessarily make picking a winner any easier.)

Those concerns are not the case with a H-O-R-S-E tournament, however, since we can definitely look across the league, or, say, at the Raptors, and decide who would thrive in such a format. With even minimal consideration, we know which players are the best shooters, which are the most athletic, and which are the most creative (or devious) to win.

In that spirit, let’s review some go-to shots for the Raptors (the ones most likely to participate) and settle on a mini-bracket and internal tourney for Toronto. Sound fun? Of course it does.

First, let’s review the shots.

The Go-To Shots

Kyle Lowry - Any shot, over anyone;

Pascal Siakam - Three spins in the post into a flip shot;

Marc Gasol - This shot (described as a “driving floater jumpshot” in the play-by-play);

Fred VanVleet - A 35-footer while holding a baby;

Serge Ibaka - An elbow jumper, taken in formal clothes of latest style (scarf optional);

OG Anunoby - An elbow jumper, taken in uniform (scarf required);

Norman Powell - A rim-rattling dunk — but you have to almost lose the ball on the way up;

Patrick McCaw - Fake an attempt a three, then drive in for a wild lay-up;

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson - A normal lay-up (must be preceded by three volleys at the rim);

Chris Boucher - An above-the-break 3 followed by a casual shrug;

Terence Davis - Announce one shot, but then take a completely different one; and

Matt Thomas - Two threes made in a row, with the first still in the air as the second goes.

That’s 12 Raptors go-to shots. And now, since we’ve settled on our mini-bracket contestants — with 12 Raptors going head-to-head and so on — let’s work our way through...

The Toronto Tournament

We’re going with a three-branched bracket here (because no way am I coming up with shots for 16 players, e.g. Stanley Johnson and the like), which means one side of the tourney gets a bye to the final round.

As befits his status in Toronto, we’ll give Kyle Lowry a one-seed and put him in that particular bracket. The rest goes as follows, with each bracket named after the one-seed:

The Lowry Region:

Lowry (1) vs. Boucher (4)

Gasol (2) vs. Thomas (3)

The VanVleet Region:

VanVleet (1) vs. McCaw (4)

Powell (2) vs. Ibaka (3)

The Siakam Region:

Siakam (1) vs. Hollis-Jefferson (4)

Anunoby (2) vs. Davis (3)

First Round

In the first round, we have some normal outcomes. Obviously Lowry totally washes Boucher, the poor guy. While Chris does not lack in confidence, there’s just no way he keep up with Lowry’s shot-making or imagination. He’s out quick. Likewise with VanVleet over McCaw in a walk.

Now, Siakam and Rondae’s showdown, on the other hand, is close. Siakam is by now a far better shooter than Hollis-Jefferson, but both favour the wild plays at the rim. It takes a few go-throughs, with Rondae really pressuring Pascal’s on-the-spot shooting, before Siakam emerges victorious.

In the middle seeds we have some outcomes both inevitable and surprising. First, Norm beats up on the lower-seeded Ibaka, who just does not have enough command of his craft (beyond comfort shots) to win. Then, surprises abound. First, Gasol can’t keep up with Thomas’ mastery, particularly once the sharpshooter starts mixing some non-threes into his game. And Davis, meanwhile, undoes Anunoby with pure reckless confidence. The youngest Raptors go shot for shot for awhile before OG eventually succumbs (or gets bored; hard to tell which).

On to the next round!

Second Round

Lowry (1) vs. Thomas (3)

VanVleet (1) vs. Powell (2)

Siakam (1) vs. Davis (3)

While it hurts to have Lowry destroy his Nutcracker wingman, there is no doubt that he’s the only other player (save VanVleet) who could really keep up with Thomas’ shooting — and push him on all other types of weird attempts. It’s a close battle, but Lowry comes out on top of this one.

Similarly, VanVleet and Powell have a battle for the ages — until Norm remembers he can dunk FVV into oblivion. Not the way you’d like to see Fred go down, but down he goes. (Unless I’m way off here and VanVleet puts out some dunk moves we’ve never seen before.)

And who could really matchup with Davis’ insane confidence any better than Siakam? For this contest, it’s Terence who eventually gets shaken as Siakam continues to put it wonky shot after wonky shot. There’s just no answer from TD.

So then, with Lowry getting the bye, we have our third round matchup before the Final...

Third Round

Lowry (1) — Bye

Siakam (1) vs. Powell (2)

With Lowry chilling, we get to really dive into this Siakam vs. Powell matchup. Both are confident, both can shoot from anywhere, both have a different set of moves from all over the floor. (And both can dunk, so no more chicanery from Norm.)

Ultimately, it comes down to Norm being just a bit more of a competitive maniac. Yes, Siakam is also juiced up to win, but his nice guy persona undoes him him. After some back-and-forth, Powell goes for the jugular and pulls out the win. That’s the way it goes sometimes.


Lowry (1) vs. Powell (2)

Of course, even with Powell’s dunking power, Lowry has just enough in his legs to stay with him. And there is absolutely no way Norm can match Lowry’s out-and-out aggression or sneaky ways. Powell’s attempt is valiant but as we all know: it’s Kyle Lowry over everything.

Lowry is the winner. And that settles the Raptors’ internal H-O-R-S-E battle for all time.