Remember last season, when the Toronto Raptors were just kinda so-so against great teams, but completely kicked the crap out of bad teams? Good times!
Now following their 113-103 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, it’s become very clear that this season, the Raptors are the bad team that other teams kick the crap out of.
If you remove the Wizards, Toronto has now lost to the bottom five seeds in each conference.— Sahal Abdi (@sAbdi28) April 1, 2021
That includes a Jerami Grant-less Detroit Pistons, a league-worst Minnesota Timberwolves, a 20-game losing streak Houston Rockets team and an SGA/Dort-less OKC Thunder.
Not good times! Bad times.
1. Good Vibes Only
With this season all but a wrap, I’ve made the executive decision that the Five Thoughts will no longer focus on the (many) shortcomings of the 2020-21 Toronto Raptors. We’ll acknowledge, one last time, the following…
- The team is terrible at rebounding
- There is a giant hole at centre
- The team is unable to effectively guard the three point-line
- Aron Baynes is the team’s worst free agent signing since Hakeem Olajuwon
- The team has limited offensive creativity
- The bench is an abject disaster
… and we’ll move on, to focus on other things. Like the following!
2. Gary Trent! Malachi Flynn!
We’re seeing a lot of these two, and we’re seeing a lot of good things! Malachi Flynn defended really well last night; he’s always moving his head, surveying the floor. Even a couple times when he was out of position, he noticed it and moved quickly to recover. And that’s what you want, right? Rookies are going to make mistakes. It’s the ones that recognize their mistakes and quickly fix them that are gonna have successful careers. Of course, Flynn’s still struggling to shoot the ball, but did have once nice drive and finish in the fourth.
As for Gary Trent Jr., what a scoring night! Trent dropped 20 in the first half, and finished the third quarter with a free throw, steal, and three-pointer in the final five seconds to put the Raptors up heading into the fourth.
.@gtrentjr WANTS IT pic.twitter.com/uEwTZuk4SU— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 1, 2021
Trent finished with a career-high 31. His defense is also impressive; he obviously still needs to learn the Raptors’ schemes, but as a man-to-man defender, he keeps his feet moving and has solid quickness, allowing him to stay in front of his man. As I said the other day, I think he’s going to fit in really well with Fred, OG and Pascal going forward.
3. Cool Dunk, Bro
So, OG Anunoby did this last night:
that's cool, @OAnunoby pic.twitter.com/IwNkFc6fSy— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 1, 2021
Which I use only as a segue into how freaking great it’s been watching him lately. I don’t think we even need to talk about his defense, which we all know is sensational (he pretty much single-handedly forced two Thudner shot clock violations in the final three minutes last night) but the guy is doing just about everything out there.
In the four games since the trade deadline Anunoby is averaging 18.3 points (on 44/38/79 shooting splits), 8.3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.5 steals and a block. His usage, as expected, has gone up — after hitting a 20% usage rate just three times in his first 24 games, he’s been above 20% in five of the last six games.
There isn’t much left to cheer for, but I’ll definitely enjoy watching Anunoby these next 24 games.
4. My Ears, Good Lord
My goodness, why are the mics so loud in OKC? Every time a ball touched the rim, I thought that Rumble the Bison was sitting in the rafters, dropping anvils on to centre court. It was legitimately jarring!
Also, I really hate those uniforms. Although, I do appreciate Moses Brown’s commitment to the short shorts.
5. This Isn’t What you Want
While it’s true that the Thunder have taken tanking to a whole new level — seriously, if this continues, the NBA needs to do a GM-hostile-takoever, like they did with Sam Hinkie — is this really what the “Raptors need to tank!” crowd wants? Because this is what it looks like! Your best players benched, if not traded away. A bunch of players whose names you can barely remember, because they weren’t in the league two weeks ago and won’t be next season. Players on “team-friendly” deals, which makes you feel dirty because that’s just code for “the rich owners ripped off another player.” Annoyance when you win games, which is supposed to be the entire point of sports.
None of this stuff is good, and it rarely ever works. A “circumstantial” tank is one thing, and this bullshit Raptors season qualifies as that more than anything else.
The Raptors season has been boring except for not being able to play in Canada, moving to Tampa, coaches in COVID hell, players in COVID hell, saying goodbye to the GROAT, keeping the GROAT and then losing the GROAT to a foot infection while freefalling way out of the race.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) March 31, 2021
But don’t root for this. You don’t want to cheer for bad teams.
April Fool’s Day is generally the worst, but at least this year we wake up saying goodbye to the sorry month of March.
The Raptors will finish March with a record of 1-13. It's the 3rd-worst month in franchise history.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) April 1, 2021
1-15 Nov. 2005-06
1-14 Nov. 1997-98
1-13 Mar. 2020-21
Good riddance, March!