The Warriors look very much the same: A core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, plus centre Kevon Looney, and head coach Steve Kerr.
The Raptors are almost completely different: Only Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher remain (and Boucher didn’t play that season).
And yet both teams now find themselves at a crossroads. Despite still having their homegrown stars, the Warriors are 10th in the Western Conference; Thompson is a shell, Green is a bully who can’t stay on the court (and is a danger to those around him when is on it), and Kerr is being called out by his young players.
And the Raptors? They’re outside the play-in picture, can’t string three good games together and are apparently trying to force Siakam out of town.
Very strange times for both franchises, both of whom could really use a win tonight when they face off in San Francisco.
How to Watch:
TSN at 8:30 p.m. ET
Toronto: Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, Immanuel Quickley, RJ Barrett
Golden State: Jonathan Kuminga, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevon Looney, Cory Joseph
Toronto: Christian Koloko (respiratory — out), Otto Porter Jr. (knee — out), Gary Trent Jr. (quad — questionable)
Golden State: Dryamond Green (conditioning — out), Chris Paul (hand — out), Gary Payton II (hamstring — out), Jonathan Kuminga (tow — questionable)
The Siakam disrespect is so bizarre
It’s not a new thing — it’s been going on since the end of last season — but the way the Raptors and Masai Ujiri specifically continue to disrespect Pascal Siakam is incredibly strange. It started with Ujiri’s “selfish” allegations following last season, continued to Ujiri basically saying “we’re not going to extend Siakam until he plays the right way” in the pre-season, and it’s intensifying now, as we approach the trade deadline. The latest is the team releasing a clip of Ujiri essentially telling Immanuel Quickley that he and Scottie Barnes are the future of the franchise (despite Siakam still being their best player).
Yesterday, TSN’s Josh Lewenberg reported that, after those “selfish” remarks at the end of last season, Ujiri and the team “cut off almost all communication with Siakam, leading the seven-year vet to wonder whether he was being punished.“ He also confirmed that the Raptors haven’t even opened contract negotiations with Siakam, despite him being extension eligible ahead of his unrestricted free agency this summer.
League sources are expecting the next month to bring clarity in regards to Pascal Siakam's murky future with the Raptors, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's destined to be traded. Don't rule out the possibility of an extension, awkward as it may be: https://t.co/3snHlHuVbB pic.twitter.com/wNq2zrpEiz— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) January 6, 2024
It’s so weird! Siakam has neither said nor done anything to warrant such treatment! At least, not publicly — it’s always possible there’s something else happening behind the scenes that we’re not yet privy to — but Siakam has shown nothing but love to the franchise.
He deserves better.
Three point shooting
A lack of distance shooting has plagued the Raptors for the last three seasons, but it looks like things might finally be coming around from deep — and Immanuel Quickley is a big part of that.
The Toronto Raptors are collectively shooting 35% from three this season.— chelsea leite (@chelsealeite) January 6, 2024
In the three games Immanuel Quickley has played, the team shot with 37.3% accuracy from three.
Small improvement and small sample size, but that's IQ's immediate impact for sure.
With their new point a true three-level threat — Quickley can get to the rim, hit the floater, and shoot from three — it opens up so much more space for his teammates. Even subpar three-point shooters become good ones when they have time and space to shoot (Siakam is 6-for-10 from downtown the last three games).
Quickley definitely put his stamp all over Friday’s game in the fourth quarter, as the Raptors mounted a (unfortunately unsuccessful) comebak.
Immanuel Quickley scored or assisted on 22 of the Raptors' 33 points in the 4th quarter.— Keerthika Uthayakumar (@keerthikau) January 6, 2024
And yeah, Quickley had two pretty bad late misses from downtown, but the last two minute report made clear he was fouled on the first one, and the refs missed it.
Porter in the lineup
Another pleasant surprise from the last couple games, alongside the new faces and the team’s three-point shooting, has been the play of Jontay Porter.
I missed the Grizzlies game, so I didn’t see Porter’s first action in a Raptors uniform, but he was a +9 in his 7 minutes of play, and pulled down three boards.
I did see him play on Friday night, and although he didn’t make great first impression — he turned the ball over the first time he touched it — he sure made a good one after that, hitting two threes and finishing with a career high 10 points.
A 6’11” forward who can stretch the floor? If Porter an credibly defend the paint and guard centres, he could be a perfect backup for Jakob Poeltl. It’s certainly way too early to determine that but I look forward to seeing more from Porter.
No matter what happens next for Porter though, seeing him even get back to his level after a couple of brutal knee injuries nearly derailed his career is awesome. Blake Murphy’s recent piece detailing Porter’s journey is well worth a read!