It’s week two of our Raps HQ roundtable. The HQ staff is gathering around our group Slack and fighting it out (well, occasionally politely disagreeing) about all the most interesting things in the world of the Toronto Raptors and the NBA in general.
Have a question you want us to chew on? Throw it down in the comments below and we’ll try to get at it!
So, without further ado...
1) True or False: Malachi Flynn will be back in the regular rotation soon
Note: This question was asked and answered ahead of Banton’s showing in Wednesday night’s win over the Indiana Pacers.
Conor McCreery: True, but whether he stays there or not is an open question. Nurse has put people in his doghouse for long stretches before, but usually every viable roster player gets a chance to show what they can do. Maybe Flynn doesn’t fit the style, but his ability to create offense out of the pick and roll could look good for the Raps offense right about now and Nurse knows that.
Mitch Orsati: True, because as much as we love Dalano Banton, the kid could really benefit from an extended trip to the 905 to find some control in his game. Having said that, they kind of also need Dragic out of the way, which, in my humble, hater-opinion, can’t come soon enough!
Joshua Kern: False...ish? I don’t know what soon is but there’s no way Nick Nurse trusts Flynn over Dragic right now, even if Dragic is playing like garbage. It’s not entirely clear why, but Flynn is in the doghouse and if Dragic is on the team, I don’t see Flynn getting meaningful minutes. (Side note, I’m 100% certain that as soon as Dragic moves to a contender he’s gonna look awesome, and I’m going to hate it.)
Jay Rosales: False. If he’s not getting in it now, minutes will become even more sparse when Yuta and Pascal return. Dalano has passed him on the depth chart and is rewarding Nurse by maximizing his time on the floor. If/when Flynn returns, it would likely happen with more regularity after the trade deadline.
J.D. Quirante: False. Banton’s ahead of him. The PG depth right now: FVV, Scottie, Dragic, Banton in that order. Once SpicyP returns, he’s another part time ball handler. I expect Flynn to play for the Raptors 905 in two weeks.
2. True or False: The Raps will finish with a Top-10 defense (they’re #6 right now)
J.D.: True. Even the blowout games were more self-inflicted (Can’t score). Not so much about what the opposing team is doing offensively.
J. Edward Stephens: True. When Pascal and Boucher return full time, Toronto will have a full rotation consisting simply of wide-arm wings that can cover 1-5. I’ve been most impressed by Delano Banton for his overall range of defensive skills and Precious Achiuwa’s incredible footwork on defense. When you have one of the top point defenders in the league, paired with four lanky, smart defenders and a group that practices switching in their sleep, you have a recipe for — dare I say — a top-5 defense.
Jay: True. Lack of quality opponents aside, Toronto is in the top-10 despite miscommunication on switches and over-helping on plenty of occasions. When the competition gets stiffer, I think the defense gets in the top-5 with more reps.
Conor: True. Like Jay says, they haven’t exactly faced a murder’s row, and they’ve played a ton at home, but I think the Raps will be long enough and disciplined enough to finish in the Top-10.
Mitch: True, because I really can’t see how they don’t. They’re #6 in the league right now without Pascal and Yuta in the lineup — two well above average defenders. What’s more, is that they’re not just adding Siakam and Watanabe, they’re subtracting minutes from Svi and one of Boucher, Birch or Precious, all of whom Pascal far eclipses on the defensive end.
3. Fred VanVleet is shooting a career-best 48.5% on two-point shots (before last night), is this a small sample trend? Or is there a chance FVV is leveling up?
Mitch: Both! False because this feels like it could the truest representation of small sample size. There’s a bounty of evidence that suggests FVV won’t be able to sustain his 2PFG%. True because it feels like Fred is leveling up in other ways (leadership, passing).
J. Edward: True? His average finishing at the rim during his rookie and sophomore season were abysmal with the upgrades in paint D he saw in the NBA. But if ever there’s been a crafty NBA player, Freddy is it. Combined with a willingness to take a hit like his predecessor (from which he learned so much of his current game), he’s simply gotten better finishing around the hoop.
Conor: I gotta say I was surprised when I saw that stat. It’s been fueled by two things - VanVleet finishing a career-high 67% of his at-the-rim shots — an elite rate for a point guard (according to Cleaning The Glass), and making 57% of his long twos — also elite. It’s early, but Fred could give back half of his gains over previous norms and that would still push his efficiency into fringe All-Star territory.
J.D. True. He’s picking his spots more often, and it feels like he’s forcing his drives less — and more willing to throw a kickout pass, or keep the dribble and reset this season vs last season. I guess he’s no longer our SG.
4. Give me your early season Scottie Barnes assessment in 20 words or less.
Mitch: Just so much damn fun.
Conor: Much more advanced as an offensive player than I had been led to believe.
J.D.: I’m mind blown. He’s already good and he’s just getting started.
J. Edward: The best passing vision Toronto has. By the end of the year, we’ll see sets run exclusively through him.
Josh: Evolutionary Scottie Pippen (and not just ’cause they share the same first name!).
5. The most interesting team in the NBA right now is...?
J.D: Aside from the Raptors? Low-key Miami Heat, as long as Lowry’s playing. Their offense flow much better w/ Lowry out there.
Mitch: I can’t take my eyes off the Warriors. Steph is Steph as he always has been, but it seems like they’ve found some of the pre-Durant spark with their bench unit. Poole as Barbosa, Wiggins/Porter as Harrison Barnes/Brandon Rush and Looney as Festus Ezeli. Iggy’s back, Klay on the horizon and Draymond doing Draymond things. I’m excited! (Editor’s Note: Is this the first Festus Ezeli spotting on this blog? I’m here for it!)
Josh: I honestly haven’t had enough time to watch enough non-Raptors game, but man did I enjoy watching the new-look Bulls the other night. Just a ton of weapons that can score in different ways, and they are guarding the heck out of the ball.
Conor: The Memphis Grizzlies. Ja has been amazing, and if the three-point shot is close to real he’s an All-NBA candidate. The team is so deep with interesting guys; every time you watch, someone new gets your attention (before Ja wrests it back with a jaw-dropping play). Plus, they have beaucoup de Canadiens. If one fringe team looks to have a real chance to shake up the West, the Grizz are it.
J. Edward: Since my cohorts went with exciting teams, I’ll go with the opposite — the LA Lakers are a confusing mess right now. I’m very interested to see how long it takes LeBron to publicly regret the Russell Westbrook decision (because you have to believe he’s privately regretting it already). When the Westbrook deal was made, it felt like the usual Lakers talent grab, but that’s not on LeBrand for James. He’s carefully pruned his teams like a bonsai tree each year he’s planned on making a playoff push, and this feels wildly off-kilter just a handful of games into the season.