Surprise, it’s time for the Toronto Temperature again! It always feels better to write about the Toronto Raptors when they’re kicking ass and taking names and this week was the epitome of that. Before we get too deep into it, a quick exercise:
Raise your hand if you had the Raptors going 4-0 to beat the Indiana Pacers twice, the Orlando Magic and the — at the time — Eastern Conference best, New York Knicks. Thank you to everyone for being honest and not raising your hands. Bunch of class acts, you lot.
Interested in another hand-raising exercise? Let’s take the temperature!
The Raptors, whole squad strong
Perhaps you’re not interested in another hand-raisings exercise. Well, I have the first bit of bad news for you, there is no live chat function to say you don’t want to do this and I’ve already written the question. So sorry!
Now, raise your hand if you had Gary Trent Jr. leading the league in steals and tied for the league lead in deflections with Fred VanVleet. No more hands raised? Again!
What a revelation this team has been, and really, should Raptors fans be surprised? There haven’t been many iterations of the Nick Nurse Raptors that don’t, in the words of Jack Armstrong, work their tail off on the defensive end. The true revelation for this year’s Raptors squad though is nestled in the tweet below:
The beauty of small sample sizes, take away the Wizards home opener dud and the Raptors shoot up to 8th in offensive efficiency (17th otherwise), per Cleaning the Glass. pic.twitter.com/d73NHpQVcz— Vivek Jacob (@vivekmjacob) November 2, 2021
That Washington Wizards game was an absolute tire fire rife with excuses for why Toronto played as poorly as they did, so I, for one, am inclined to do just what Vivek said and erase that game from memory moving forward. With that, if you couple that sparkling, yet wholly surprising — we’re still being honest, right? — offensive rating with Toronto’s 8th overall defensive rating, the Raptors begin to take the shape of a, dare we say, potentially dangerous playoff team?
If you needed a reminder, this is also happening without All-NBA forward and owner of our hearts, Pascal Siakam, who seems to be ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation. How sweet it is!
OG Anunoby, star boy
Continuing the theme of Raptors revelations is OG Anunoby’s blistering week. While many have tossed OG’s name into the ring for Most Improved Player — and rightfully so — seeing the results of what it would take for him to win that award is still slightly jarring. Perhaps some memory jogging is in order?
How about this absolute tour de force against the Knicks?
There was always a belief that with the right opportunity and some injury luck for once in his career, OG could propel his offensive game to higher highs. Is there another gear yet to go for the young OG? What will Anunoby look like upon Pascal’s return? Possibly even better?! I for one am extremely excited to find out.
Khem Birch, Mr. Reliable
Khem Birch: "I feel like the perception is because last year I averaged a lot of points (after signing with the Raptors) people think I'm having a down year. But I feel stress free, and I've always been a guy who wants to make winning plays and I don't care about the box score."— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) November 2, 2021
What isn’t mentioned in the above quote is the context of why Birch is saying what he said above: Khem got his contract, which means no more having to focus on putting up empty stats, especially now that he’s not on a bad team to secure his future in the league. There’s a level of humility and honesty that comes along with saying those things out loud, and Birch is once again showcasing why the Raptors value him as highly as they do.
Now if only Nick Nurse would start the man!
Chris Boucher, lost in the sauce
Stating that the whole squad is strong at the opening of this article might have been a little exaggerated, because Chris Boucher is definitely not playing strong basketball. On top of looking absolutely lost on the defensive end at times — see above, embarrassing tweet — his offensive numbers and opportunities to correct those numbers have cratered. Look at this mess:
14 minutes a game, 33/21/63 shooting splits for 5.6 points, four rebounds and one block per game.
Boucher’s game has seemed to stall out and it’s a wonder that the Raptors professional development team hasn’t been able to positively impact it any further. Has Toronto already seen the ceiling of Boucher’s game?
Precious Achiuwa, Still Finding his Footing
Raptors with Khem Birch on the floor over the last 3 games: +41 in 83 minutes. Raptors with Precious Achiuwa: -20 in 55 minutes.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) November 2, 2021
If Precious Achiuwa keeps this level of play up, perhaps some of those opportunities for Chris Boucher to right his ship may come along after all!
Precious is pressing in almost every facet of his game right now. Offensively, Coach Nurse wants Achiuwa to develop his ball handling skills, so he often puts Precious in situations where he has to make quick reads off the bounce and the results have not been pretty. Traveling violations, passes right into the hands of defenders and just an overall “bumbling” quality to the final result have been prevalent.
I mean, the effort is there, but Precious Achiuwa needs to be infinitely more controlled in what he's doing offensively.— Chris Walder (@WalderSports) November 2, 2021
It's like he runs and attacks and figures out what he's going to do AFTER the ball leaves his hands.
Will Nurse continue to force a square peg into a round hole until that round hole is square from the sheer pressure of the repeated action? Very possible!
Goran Dragic, what a shame
Remember when Goran Dragic did this in the Raptors huddle two weeks ago?
Well, he has since logged a total of 14-minutes over four games and three DNP-CD’s straight. This might be something or it might be nothing, but the Raptors have won every single game since Dragic hit the bench for good.
While it would certainly be ideal for Goran to have a modicum of trade value for the Raps, the sight of him stapled to the bench does, personally, deliver me an extreme amount of joy. Sorry, never sorry.