The Toronto Raptors, still looking for their first home win since February of 2019, host the Indiana Pacers tonight. It looks like Yuta Watanabe and Pascal Siakam are both close to returning, which is great news — the Raptors desperately need Siakam especially, to take some pressure off of Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby.
Let’s start there!
1. Let’s chill on FVV
Fred VanVleet seems to be getting a lot of flack for the Raptors’ 1-3 start and that seems pretty insane to me. Yeah, Fred needs to play better. He’s now the guy on the floor for the Raps, and that’s a big adjustment. There’s no Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, or Norman Powell to take any heat off of him — defenses can fully hone in VanVleet and OG Anunoby, because the rest of the roster isn’t enough of a threat (yet).
VanVleet will adjust. Barnes will get better. But getting Siakam back will be the biggest help of all.
2. Malachi vs. Goran
Goran Dragic has been very not good so far in his Raptors career, especially on the offensive end. He’s averaging 6 points per game on (gulp) 32% shooting. Some of it’s familiarity with his team-mates and the system (though calling what the Raptors run on offense a “system” seems generous). Some of it is, similar to VanVleet, as often the one proven commodity on the floor, he commands more defensive attention.
But he needs to be better.
Then there’s Flynn, who has only played three garbage time minutes. I have not been sold on Flynn, going all the way back to last season; I just don’t see why people are clamouring for him or think he can come in and be a difference maker. That just… doesn’t happen for 29th overall picks, point guards no less. If Flynn was that guy he would have come out of college as a freshman or sophomore and gone much higher in the draft.
There’s a reason Nick Nurse doesn’t trust him, not yet. I hope Flynn gets there, especially if the Raptors do trade Dragic. But I have to trust Nurse and his coaching staff and the Raptors development team, who as we know have been great at turning fringe youngsters into NBA players, that they’re working their magic with Flynn and helping him get better in practice every day.
3. Pat Bev, just stop
Missed this the other night, but Patrick Beverley fucking with Jonas Valanciunas is just… no. Just don’t.
Pat Bev vs JV pic.twitter.com/3YHTLXnTAI— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) October 26, 2021
Would’ve liked to have seen JV squash him like a bug. JV finished with 22 points and 23 boards as the Pelicans got their first W.
4. Grant Hill, back in Detroit
Back in the pre-Raptors days, I was a Pistons fan, from when the Bad Boys were on the cusp of winning their first title. Then when Isiah Thomas — my then-favourite player — blew out his achilles and retired, it seemed like dark days ahead. Then Grant Hill arrived and boom, I had a new favourite player. Hill was incredible in those Detroit days, a modern point forward who did everything on the floor.
But he hurt his ankle, then left Detroit for Orlando (where those ankle problems derailed his career) and it left a bad taste in Pistons’ fans mouths.
So it was nice to read that Hill still has a good relationship with the city of Detroit, and is still supporting the community there.
They do, indeed, need to retire his jersey though.
5. Bet on Podcasts
Fred VanVleet, no stranger to self-branding and marketing opportunities, is launching a podcast. Sounds like more than just a vanity project, though — it actually sounds pretty cool, and valuable. It’s called “Bet on Yourself” (of course) and in it, VanVleet and his business partner Derek Folk sit down with a budding Canadian BIPOC entrepreneur to discuss their business, offer advice, brainstorm etc.
Definitely a big fan of someone like VanVleet paying it forward and helping young BIPOC Canadians on their journey. The show premieres November 3 on all your usual podcast spots.