The Toronto Raptors have a plus-.500 record for the first time in ages, and it feel pretty good! Of course it’s early and yeah, the competition hasn’t been the highest calibre, but it’s been far too long since our team had any kind of a win streak. Let’s enjoy it!
1. Feasting on the weak
One of the hallmarks of the Kyle Lowry-era Toronto Raptors was the way they took care of business against bad teams. That evaporated last year as the Tampa Raptors became one of the bad teams themselves, so it was refreshing to see the Raptors defeat the Indiana Pacers (twice) and the Orlando Magic (combined record: 2-12) over the past few days.
The competition is a little stiffer tonight, against the Eastern Conference-leading New York Knicks, on the road in Madison Square Garden — and then on Wednesday they’ll visit the Washington Wizards who also sport a 5-1 record. This one will be a good test for the young Raptors!
2. Speed it up
Speaking of Kyle Lowry, and 5-1 teams, The Ringer’s Dan Devine has a good breakdown of Lowry’s early results in Miami. Dan talks specifically about how quickly Lowry gets the ball up the floor, something I have been harping about (in the opposite way, how slowly Fred VanVleet gets the ball up the floor) right here in this very column.
Last season, 15.1 percent of Miami’s shot attempts came in the first six seconds of the shot clock. That’s up to 18.1 percent through four games, and much of the increase stems from Lowry, a squat 35-year-old who might profile as a plodder, but whose ever-revving engine and constant pursuit of scoring chances has helped the Heat hit hyperdrive
I miss Kyle Lowry for many reasons, but this is quickly becoming the number one reason.
3. Zach Lowe on Gary Trent
In his weekly 10 things I like/don't like column last week, ESPN’s Zach Lowe called on Gary Trent Jr. to pass more:
Trent doesn’t make enough productive passes. He has five assists in five games. For his career, Trent has dished 1.6 dimes per 36 minutes... On a team with enough playmaking, this doesn’t matter. Perhaps the Raptors can be that kind of team when Pascal Siakam returns — and as OG Anunoby, Barnes, and Banton develop. (Fred VanVleet is about maxed out steering things.) But for now, the Raps — 19th in offense and 26th in assist rate — could use more easy, assisted buckets.
I don’t disagree, but the Raptors don’t really have any shot-makers either. I can see Raptors coaches telling Gary “you’re our scorer, get some buckets” and Trent taking that to heart. I think — I hope! — with some maturity will come the understanding that improving his playmaking will actually lead to defenses respecting that part of his game and opening up even more scoring opportunities.
4. Blake Murphy on Scottie Barnes
Still getting used to Blake Murphy being a Sportsnet guy, but pretty great to see him on video breaking things down — starting with Scottie Barnes.
In the first segment Blake shows how Barnes makes multiple reads on a single play before calling his own number and taking a long jumper. It’s instructive because it’s very easy to forget how fast things are happening on the court, and how hyperaware these guys (well, most of these guys) are of what’s happening; great NBA playmakers process a ton of information in split-seconds.
Sure looks to me like Scottie has all the makings of a great NBA playmaker.
5. Spa-deena Spa-Dinah
Speaking of Sportsnet videos, didn’t get a chance to post this one last week, but it’s fun to watch anyone from out-of-town try to pronounce our more... esoteric street names. Although I felt bad for Goran Dragic. English isn’t his first language!