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NBA Toronto Raptors Powell Wright VanVleet Siakam Poeltl 2017

Are The Raptors Opting For Youthful Excitement?

The further Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri gets into July, the fewer his options are to actually move the needle on expectations heading into the upcoming season. So, apparently, the Raptors are opting to develop the young guys and at least it has the potential to produce some youthful excitement.

Ujiri has done a good job of getting below the luxury tax threshold as, once again, that was a lot more important than he let on before the draft. The Raptors may be hard-capped at $125 million in total salaries, but the tax bill will be minimal or zero with a little room left over to go add some cheap veteran help.

Like last year, the Raptors currently have what should be a pretty solid eight man rotation with a few positive changes.

  1. All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are back to lead the show.
  2. New three-point threat C.J. Miles is a major upgrade on the wing over DeMarre Carroll in terms of actually being about to hit threes.
  3. Serge Ibaka will be around for training camp and the start of the season this year. At power forward or center, he’s a huge upgrade. And, yes,
  4. Even Jonas Valanciunas is a veteran that can rebound and give smaller centers fits in the paint and on the glass (until he’s traded?)
  5. Third year players Delon Wright and Norman Powell are expected to be solid young additions to the rotation playing significant minutes at guard and on the wing.
  6. Last year’s lottery pick Jakob Poeltl looked pretty good backing up center after the All-Star break and is an obvious successor to Valanciunas if and when JV gets traded.

The impact of youth on the Raptors season will be evident from the start. They’ll need Powell, Wright and Poeltl to bring all the energy and excitement they can.

However, like last year, the rest of the roster has its question marks. (Thus the need to find another cheap reliable veteran.).

Lucas Nogueira could be an impact player at power forward and center if he could get out of his own way. It’s on him to get serious and focus on basketball. Hopefully, head coach Dwane Casey isn’t forced into using “Bebe” because he doesn’t have a better option and the 25-year-old from Brazil earns a spot in the rotation at training camp. The Raptors leading shot blocker and turnover machine from last season is a guy that could move the needle on the season, if he’s ready, if he really wants to, t.b.d. (not holding my breath.)

The other project from Brazil, 21-year-old Bruno Caboclo, finally played well in the NBA D-League championship run by the Raptors 905, but that was after a pretty mediocre regular D-League season. No one is counting on anything from Bruno. His brief appearances in the NBA over three seasons don’t fill one with confidence. He’s a straight up ‘show me you deserve to be here’ player.

The NBA D-League Championship MVP Pascal Siakam started 38 games as a rookie for the Raptors at the start of last year solely because the viable rotation was that thin, so at least he has some NBA experience and he is improving. But is he really ready to backup power forward this year as a 9th or 10th man? Casey might not have another option but to go with the potential of this young developing athlete again. It could be exciting, but not necessarily in a good way (yet). He can fly around a court though.

As soon as he is 100 percent healthy, ready or not, rookie forward OG Anunoby is going to get a look. He missed NBA Summer League rehabbing his knee. It’s hoped he’ll be back in time for training camp, but no guarantees. He’s an uber-athlete, but hasn’t played since January, so no one will really have any idea what to expect this year, but in terms of excitement, his coaches and his fans can’t wait to find out.

Reminding everyone of a young Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet keeps showing enough to believe he’s going to stick in the NBA for a long time. The problem is, even if he unexpectedly beats out Wright for minutes at backup point guard, that isn’t going to move the needle on the Raptors season. It’s more likely his big impact will come if one of the four guards ahead of him gets hurt and he steps up to fill in the gap.

With the Raptors just over the luxury tax line, eventually the recently acquired Justin Hamilton will be traded or waived and stretched. The excitement Hamilton is expected to be providing comes when he makes room for someone else.

Did you see the Pogo Stick Alfonzo McKinnie has been riding at NBA Summer League for the Raptors? The 6’8 24-year-old forward should be reminding everyone of Jamario Moon back in 2007-08. He has a $100,000 guarantee on a two-year minimum contract, so he still has to make the team at training camp, but at the very least, this kid will be fun to watch in preseason. If you want excitement, you should be hoping he makes it.

Getting below the luxury tax threshold is good for the Raptors corporate owners. Watching the young guys play during the regular season isn’t even a bad deal for the fans as they will be exciting. However, for anyone hoping against hope this team would be trying to surpass the Cavaliers this season, how much luxury tax the Raptors were prepared to pay was a benchmark.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside

Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors rookie OG Anunoby 2017

Raptors Betting On OG Anunoby For Next Season?

With the standard line after drafting just about any player, Raptors president Masai Ujiri was upbeat and surprised a player like OG Anunoby was available when he was drafted with the 23rd pick. We’ve heard this before, but does it mean he’ll be betting on Anunoby for next season?

“If he doesn’t have that injury, I don’t think we have a shot (at Anunoby),” Ujiri said immediately after the draft. “We liked him. We really liked him. We just feel lucky.

“He’s a player we feel has to develop, but I think will develop quickly. He’s already a top defender type player.

“I don’t know what the timeline (is), especially with injury. It’s tough to say when he can break thru (to the rotation.)”

As reported by CBS Sports Matt Norlander, Anunoby was a projected top 15 pick at the start of his sophomore college season and when he injured his ACL in January, he was averaging 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks, so the 6’8 combo forward with the 7’2 wingspan was on his way to the draft lottery and did receive a Green Room invite.

Since his breakout performance in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Anunoby has been projected as a future first-round NBA pick.

In October, he was seen as a top-15 pick in a loaded draft.

8 Points 9 Seconds Luke Parrish, also saw a future star in Anunoby,

Before an ACL injury in January, OG Anunoby looked like the next NBA star in the making. He has incredible size and length, along with superior athleticism.

Not only is Anunoby freakishly long, but he’s also freakishly athletic.

I’m not saying he is going to be as good as the Spurs’ star (Kawhi Leonard), but he has a similar game. Both guys are long and defensive-minded. When Kawhi came in to the league, he did not have a very good jump shot, much like Anunoby.

Draft Express Jonathan Givony lays out exactly what the Raptors hope they’ve found,

Anunoby has an elite physical profile for a NBA combo forward, standing 6’8 in shoes, with a chiseled frame and a reported 7’6 wingspan that will easily allow him to play power forward or even spend time at the center position in smaller lineups. He moves like a wing, being light on his feet and capable of playing above the rim impressively in space, as he demonstrated with a number of powerful highlight-reel caliber finishes over the past two years.

However, the big question is, when will Anunoby be ready for full contact practice and games?

“My rehab? I’m two months ahead of schedule right now,” Anunoby said after the draft. ” I’m starting to do a lot more on the court. I started running. I should be back full go October, November.”

Prior to the draft, Ujiri only got to see Anunoby workout twice and the workout was restricted to shooting. The Raptors had to rely on what they saw during the college season and the workout tapes they could get a hold of, but make no mistake, they liked what they saw.

“He’s a big time talent,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “If it wasn’t for his injury he would have went higher.

“He is one of the top defenders available in the draft.”

Earlier indications are Anunoby has been working out at the Las Vegas Summer League even though there is no chance he’ll play. It’s possible he’s ready for training camp, but it’s equally possible he’s not ready to go until after Christmas.

However, make no mistake, Ujiri sees a big role for Anunoby this season. The Raptors view him as a talent they have to let play thru his mistakes because he’ll develop fast and they aren’t going to hold him back unless his knee isn’t 100 percent.

There is a chance the Raptors have drafted a future starting small forward and maybe, if he still has all of his pre-injury bounce and develops his three-point shot like Leonard did in San Antonio, there’s a chance he becomes a star.

Since it’s obvious Ujiri is planning on giving some of his young guys a chance to shine – Norman Powell, Delon Wright, and possibly Jakob Poeltl – it makes sense to see what he’s got in Anunoby as soon as the rookie’s ready.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors OG Anunoby

OG Anunoby Falls To The Raptors Because Of Injury

By Frank McLean

Speculation all day Thursday had the Toronto Raptors looking to trade their 23rd pick in the first round of the NBA draft along with center Jonas Valanciunas for a player that could help this team now, but with no takers the Raptors used their pick and selected a Hoosier from the University of Indiana, 6’8 sophomore forward OG Anunoby who had fallen in the draft because of an injury in January.

Anunoby is named after his father Ogugua Anunoby. He was born in London England, but his family hails from Nigeria. He went to Jefferson City High School in Jefferson City Missouri.

Anunoby is an interesting pick. He is a small forward who only played 16-games in his sophomore, starting 10-of them, but he missed the rest of the season after suffering a season-ending knee injury on January 16th in a game against BIGTEN rival Penn State.

In those 16-games he averaged 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals.

It’s believed that if he didn’t suffer that injury he would have been listed as a much higher pick in the draft as evidenced by his Green Room invitation, so the Raptors may have got themselves a steal, but that’s something we won’t know for maybe a few seasons.

“He’s a big time talent,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey who addressed the media just minutes after the pick was announced. “If it wasn’t for his injury he would have went higher.

“He’s a guy our scouts targeted and there were teams behind us who were salivating to get him because he is one of the top defenders available in the draft.”

When it comes to his shooting Casey said it’s not broken, but like a lot of young players he needs to get in the gym and work on it while he is rehabbing, but he seems to be that Casey type of player because he loves his toughness and physicality that he brings.

The scouting report on him says that he has the physical profile to be a combo forward. He has a large wingspan measured at 7’2.25. He can guard multiple positions and is a disruptive defender, so you can see how the Raptors feel they may have found a steal with the 23rd pick.

On his knee injury Casey said he will begin work right away with the Raptors outstanding Director of Sports Science Alex Mckechnie. He added that the doctors said Anunoby’s rehabilitation is ahead of schedule and he will go to Los Angeles right away with McKechnie who has associates there who will help and speed up his recovery.

No one is certain how fast the knee will heal, but the Raptors don’t have to use him right away. If he needs more time to rehab and recover, he can get it and if needs to develop there is the Raptors 905 of the NBA G-League (formerly D-League).

With each NBA team now allowed to sign two players to a two way contract his salary wouldn’t count against the cap in that situation, but being a first round pick his agent may balk at the suggestion.

In Brooklyn where the draft was being held Anunoby confirmed to the media there that he is two months ahead of schedule which follows what Casey said to the media in Toronto.

“I’m starting to do a lot more on the court, I started running,” Anunoby said. “I should be back full go October, November”.

When the Raptors season ended, out of the 15 players they had under contract, there were seven players who you could say were still developing and not necessarily ready to be starters.

Anunoby is a safe pick but he isn’t expected to make a difference to the Raptors next season. Trades and re-signing Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker will chart the future of this team.

Still, not a bad second choice for not being able to make a draft day deal.

 

 
 

   

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.