Each week the Raptors HQ team get together to offer their takes on the biggest questions in Raptors-dom and the NBA at large. Sometimes we’re even civil. This is what was rolling around in our head this week.
1) With Fred VanVleet’s injury the Raptors have been forced to go deeper into the bench. Were the results good enough for Nick Nurse to expand his rotation?
Jay Rosales: In a perfect world where all Toronto Raptors are healthy (I know, far-fetched), the need for a deeper bench shouldn’t even be a hot topic. The Starters plus the Centers (Achiuwa, Boucher, Birch) is already your 8-man playoff rotation. Alas, we don’t live in a perfect world, and the extra minutes being afforded to the deeper bench did not show enough promise, outside of Dalano. Svi is correctly in the DNP-CD part of the rotation and Malachi is one healthy body away from joining him. It does appear the expanded rotation is a temporary solution, born from necessity.
Josh Kern: I think Dalano and Yuta played well enough to be the 9th and 10th men when the team is fully healthy, yes — and absolutely they should get more minutes on a shorthanded team. (Am I the only one that thinks Fred wouldn’t be hurt right now if he wasn’t playing 10,000 minutes a week for the last month?) I’m really glad Dalano played well, that energy/change of pace he brings is much-needed (and it never made sense why he was in the doghouse in the first place.) (edited)
Conor McCreery: I hope so. The Charlotte Hornets game was, for me, a reminder of the value of having a variety of player-styles. Not only do guys get tired playing big minutes (or, like Josh says, injured), but the opposition can get into a groove - you’re seeing the same thing over and over. I thought Flynn and Banton both played well enough to give Nurse reason to expand the circle of trust (I feel Yuta was still in it).
2) Is there any chance Pascal Siakam could make it two Raptors at the All-Star game...
Josh: There’s a chance, and by his numbers he absolutely deserves to be there... but we know the team’s record will factor in, and we know coaches will be leery of giving a middling team two All-Stars. I do think he’s a got a solid chance of being an injury replacement (and that’s a small way Adam Silver can make up for some of the BS the NBA has put the Raptors through the last couple years).
Jay: I spent way too many words in my weekly Rap-Up answering this question on Monday. (Spoiler: YES.)
Conor: Like Jay I’ve spilled a bunch of virtual ink on Pascal’s improved game. COULD he deserve an All-Star nod? Sure. I just find it hard that East coaches will choose to take more than one player from a team in the bottom half of the conference (unless their names are Brown and Tatum).
3. ... or has FVV’s recent shooting slump done enough to knock him out of the game?
Conor: I think it could hurt in the sense that hit hot streak got the NBA more focused on him... just in time for him to look mortal. Darius Garland seems to be getting the late media kick - so we’ll have to see how that plays out with the coaches.
Jay: When filling out All-Star rosters, I find voters (fans, coaches, and media alike) remember the hot stretches more than the cold. Besides, Fred’s advanced stats are so good, even this slump can’t knock him out of this tier as one of the best guards in the East.
Josh: If Fred doesn’t make it I don’t think it’ll be because of this “slump” — it’s because there are a lot of worthy guards in the East. It’s really hard to argue against Garland when the Cleveland Cavaliers keep winning games!
4. We just saw DeMar DeRozan control a game against Toronto. Should Deebo be considered a legit MVP candidate? Get down-ballot votes?
Jay: DeRozan’s not in my top-3 right now (Jokic, Giannis, Embiid, in some order), but hovering somewhere in my top-10 - which, I guess, qualifies him as a down-ballot vote-getter. If he can lead the Chicago Bulls to the top of the East while also missing Ball and Caruso, I’ll have to re-evaluate.
Josh: Not really. I’m sure he’ll get some local votes (remember when the Swirsk voted for Andrea Bargnani for ROY) but he’s not on the level of the other, “legit” MVP candidates. But that should not take away from the incredible season he’s having, and he 100% deserves his All-Star selection and maybe even All-NBA when the season’s done.
Conor: Down-ballot. He’s one of the very best, if not THE best, mid-range isolation scorers in the game. Which is an incredible thing to say in a world where Kevin Durant exists. His play-making has spiked. He’s even shooting threes! Still, his defense is only OK, and as incredible as his mid-range game is, he lacks the true “three-level” scoring ability an offense first player needs to be MVP-esque in today’s game.
5. Who is your #1: “won’t be an All-Star, but should be” candidate?
Josh: Am I too much of a homer if I say Pascal Siakam?
Jay: Josh, you’re not a homer for saying it, because I genuinely believe he has a chance. At the very least, the certainty of “won’t be an All-Star” doesn’t quite fit Siakam’s strong case. Let’s go with Dejounte Murray. He’s one of three players averaging at least 19 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds. Unfortunately, Murray’s a guard in the West a.k.a. the most stacked category of All-Star candidates. The league-leading Phoenix Suns don’t have an All-Star yet (Chris Paul and Devin Booker), neither do the Utah Jazz (Donovan Mitchell), and Luka Doncic (who isn’t one of the three players with Murray’s averages) will surely get selected.
Conor: Oooh, Jay, That’s a good one! I’m going to say Kevin Love — who has quietly become as devastating as peak-Minnesota Love - he’s just hamstrung by playing fewer minutes. I know it seems crazy to say a BENCH guy should be an All-Star, but Love has been dominant when on the floor. He’s rebounding like Embiid, has a higher true-shooting percentage than Giannis, and still gets a couple of dimes a game.
Jay: My original answer was Kevin Love! Imagine he gets the injury replacement spot, but Silver doesn’t announce it. He shows up as the last guy introduced. The fans in Cleveland would absolutely LOSE IT!
Conor: Royal Rumble style!
Jay: “THAT’S......THAT’S KEVIN LOVE’S MUSIC!!!!”