Eight players? Come on man.
With half their roster on the shelf, the Toronto Raptors didn’t have much of a chance against the bigger, stronger Chicago Bulls last night. Despite a hot start, Toronto soon fell behind and never really threatened to catch up.
Could we truly have expected anything different? Nope. It was yet another example of the grim state of trying to play NBA basketball in a pandemic.
1. OK Chris!
What a crazy season Chris Boucher is having. At times he’s looked like a possible Most Improved or Sixth Man candidate, a true rotation piece at a bargain salary. Other times, he’s looked unplayable on defense and like a no-conscience chucker on offense.
Last night was definitely the former. Boucher was scoring from just about everywhere, one of only two Raptors, along with Pascal Siakam, who could get anything going.
Now, do you want Chris Boucher taking a team-high 24 shots in a game? WIth the next closest player, Siakam, only taking 17? No, you don’t. But when you have eight guys and Boucher’s got something going, hell yeah you do.
I have no idea what Boucher’s future is or what kind of fit he’ll be. It’s probably 7th-man change-of-pace power forward. But I’m all for giving him starter’s minutes the rest of the way and seeing if there is a starter’s role in his future.
2. Ah Yes, This Siakam
In his All-NBA, All-Star starter season a year ago, Pascal Siakam averaged 22.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists on 45/37/79 shooting splits.
In his last 10 games, Siakam is averaging 24/7.7/3.7 on 48/26/88 splits.
Small sample size, sure. The three-point shooting is terrible, sure. And sure, the Raptors are 3-7. But is it possible… that the old Siakam is back??
He’s certainly looked more comfortable attacking the basket, and seemed to revel in schooling Nikola Vucevic last night. His free throw attempts have jumped from five per game to 7.5.
If the final 20 games are about getting guys ready for the future, then Siakam using them to get back to himself should definitely be a part of the process.
3. Dino Nightmare
We all know there are plenty of players out there who love playing the Raptors; the so-called Gerald Henderson All-Stars, the guys who suddenly like like hall-of-famers when they see a Raptors jersey on the other side of the court.
Well, there’s a much smaller group of players who, when they see the same jersey, turn into pumpkins. And I think we can call them the Nikola Vucevic All-Stars.
Vooch had a pretty mediocre game last night, stats-wise; it took him 19 shots to get to 22 points, and his seven rebounds were just one off his season-low. But beyond that, wow, did he look bad on defense. His primary assignments were Boucher and Siakam, who shot 14-of-41 from the field and 18-of-27 in the paint. Siakam consistently had Vooch on his heels, and Boucher managed to worm his way around the Bulls big man for rebound after rebound.
He ended up a -5 (and Boucher was +16, Siakam +8) in a game his team won by nine.
4. Starter Flynn
Malachi Flynn got his first NBA start last night, and he was… OK. The offense certainly looked better when he was on the floor, but it still wasn’t great. He was also ice-cold from the perimeter, and wasn’t able to get into the paint like he was against the Wizards the other day.
Defensively, he was a little better. He managed to stay in front of Zach LaVine whenever they were matched up, though LaVine showed off some solid playmaking by racking up 13 assists.
It was another good step in Flynn’s learning process. He’s come a long way just in the last couple of weeks, and I definitely have more faith in him now that I did earlier in the season.
5. Not the End You Wish For
News broke after last night’s game that the Raptors are releasing Patrick McCaw, and that’s a bummer.
I, along with many others on this site and in Raptors fandom, have given McCaw a hard time the last couple seasons. He was, most of the time, an abject disaster on offense, he wasn’t much better on defense, and the metrics told us the Raptors were considerably better with him on the bench than on the court.
But that doesn’t mean you wish for a guy to be unhealthy or unable to play. McCaw has gone through it in his career, from the back injury that ended his tenure with the Warriors to the “benign mass” in his knee (and subsequent related issues) that has now ended his tenure with Toronto.
Would he have ended up a better fit if he’d been able to play more? We’ll never know. Hopefully he can land on his feet and find a spot to contribute somewhere.
The Raptors are 20-32, three full games behind the Bulls for the play-in spot. It seems like these next 20 games should be all about player development and seeing which players fit well together on the court. It’s probably not going to be an exciting or fun 20 games, but hopefully we’ll learn something about who these players are and what to expect next season.