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NBA Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl

Reward For Missing Raptors Bench: Best To Worst

Maybe it’s time for Toronto to offer a reward to anyone that can find their missing bench? Touted as the best bench in the NBA during the regular season, they’ve become the worst bench in the playoffs. The eye test backs up the numbers, it’s the Raptors starting unit that has been carrying the load against Washington.

This season the Raptors reserves led the league’s benches (per NBA.com) with  a net rating of +8.3 points and in the more straightforward plus/minus at +3.6. They weren’t just good, this bench turned more than a few games around for Toronto with their hustle and efficient play, but in the postseason, it’s been a different story.

With backup point guard Fred VanVleet on the shelf to start the playoffs, the Raptors second unit has had an embarrassingly bad -20.4 points net rating and a plus/minus of -7.3 points, both good for dead last among the playoff teams.

However, it hasn’t been VanVleet’s missing offense that’s the problem. The bench is scoring just 3.1 fewer points in 2.9 fewer minutes and they’ve been shooting the lights out from three-point range at 43.6 percent. The offensive production is fine, it’s the defense, rebounding, and a surprising drop off in sharing the ball that’s causing the problems.

In the playoffs the bench is garnering 6.8 fewer rebounds, 4.3 fewer assists and 1.2 fewer steals. Their defensive rating has shot up from a respectable 101.6 in the regular season to a terrible 120.1 in their three postseason games. The bench is only garnering 42.8 percent of the available rebounds which translates into lots of extra possessions for the Wizards.

With the numbers in full view, it’s easy to understand why the bench has looked so bad during the recent games.

It’s probably not fair to lay the blame at the feet of two second year players with a total of 36 minutes of playoffs experience between them prior to this season, but they kind of stand out and, even if they didn’t score, the hope would be Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl would hang onto their regular season chemistry and provide energy, defense and rebounding.

“We are letting them come to us and we are trying to react afterwards,” Poeltl said after the Game Three loss. “Me as a center, when I am guarding a guy like Scott or Morris, I have to find a good balance between being out for the shooters at the three and still being there to help at the rim for a guy like John Wall that’s coming down the lane. That’s really the difficult part for us to figure out.”

The Raptors big men off the bench simply aren’t finding that balance between guarding the three-point line and getting back to defend the rim and in today’s NBA where everybody shoots threes, that’s a big problem.

Between Poeltl and Siakam, their rebounds are down 2.3 per game, assists off 1.4 and steals have dropped to zero from 1.3. They are getting taken advantage off by a far more veteran group of Wizards big men that they haven’t been able to out-hustle or run into the ground. Those looks of “what did I do” as Poeltl picks up another foul or Siakam’s surprising lack of decisiveness (or confidence?) are not what Toronto has been used to seeing from these two all season.

Both Poeltl and Siakam exceeded expectations this year and they are going to get better, but the playoffs demand more than the regular season and these two are having to learn that on the job. Without the Raptors reserve big men playing up to expectations, Toronto’s bench will remaining “missing,” so they had better adapt fast.

 

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.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

Pascal Siakam From Bricklayer To Raptors Best 3-Point Shooter?

No one saw this coming so perhaps that’s why opposing defenses continue to forget about the Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam when he’s standing at the three-point line, but the season’s first-half bricklayer has become his team’s best outside shooter – at least he’s been good when no one is guarding him.

Over the past four games Siakam has shot 6-9 from three-point range and he’s hit a team best 60 percent of his three-balls over the past 10 games. Sometimes it still looks like he’s shooting against his will, but they are going in anyway.

“I just continue to try to be confident, I work at it every day,” Siakam told Pro Bball Report. “I am improving, (but) a lot of the shots that I missed at the beginning of the season they just didn’t go in.”

It’s perhaps the biggest understatement about a shooting slump ever. Siakam went on a 1-27 streak from three in December and was hitting just 16.3 percent of his 1.9 three-point attempts per game until things surprisingly turned around early in February. He went 1-2 from three on February 8th after a 1-7 start to the month and has continued to find the range since, and, maybe, got just a bit more selective by reducing his attempts to just 1.2 per game.

Over his last 21 games Siakam has hit on 44 percent of his threes. He knew in today’s NBA he had find at least some semblance of a three-point threat eventually, it just didn’t seem likely he get there this quickly.

“No, well I think I did, I was going to evolve to that, I didn’t know how quickly,” Siakam stumbled over explaining his developing three-point range. “The game is evolving and you got to evolve with the game.”

For most of this season anyone watching Siakam setting up in the corner cringed when the ball was swung around to him because he was the guy opponent’s knew they could help off of without consequence, but no longer. Siakam was told to keep shooting no matter what, it was an important part of the Raptors new offense and now they are going in.

“I think that’s the confidence the team gives me,” Siakam told Pro Bball Report in January. “They see my work and know I’m working on (my three-point shot), so they trust that I put the work in and to shoot it when I’m open.

“I make it in practice. So I got to keep working on it and I got to keep doing it.”

The MVP of last year’s NBA D-League Finals didn’t come into the season with a jump shot, but it looks like he’s heading towards the postseason with a pretty good one.

 

 

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 Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl

Casey Says Raptors Will Bet On Their Bench In The Playoffs

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey plans to bet on his bench in the playoffs this year. When asked if he could play his 10-11 man deep rotations the same way in the postseason, Casey stumbled over a why wouldn’t I?

“We are going to find out,” Casey said after his bench beat up on the Wizards in Washington on Friday night. “The goal is to find out. Why not? What’s our record right now?

“Why change because of some rule book somewhere, if you find it, please send it to me cause I’ve been on some teams where you keep the same rotation.”

The Toronto bench hasn’t just been good this season. They’ve been outstanding and the eye test says they’ve been getting better as the season has moved along. But don’t just trust your eyes, the numbers confirm the five-man bench Casey rotates in is the best five-man unit in the entire NBA that have played at least 100 minutes together this season. In 207 minutes over 22 games, C.J. Miles, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright have a top three offensive rating of 121, a top six defensive rating of 94.7 and a league best net rating of +26.3.

Now no one is going to confuse the Raptors bench unit with the offensive powerhouses in Golden State or Houston that lead the NBA in offensive ratings, but on most nights they are destroying their opponent’s second unit and are often giving the opposing starters brought in to stop the bleeding a rough time.

As Casey rotates in his bench mob, the pace of play picks up, the ball moves faster and opponents often struggle to adjust. As a result, the Raptors dominate the second and fourth quarters.

Toronto is the league’s best second quarter team with a net rating of +14. The next best second quarter team in the East is Charlotte at +4.5.

Toronto also has the best fourth quarter net at rating +8.7. The Celtics are second best at +7.3.

In February, these second unit guys were closing games out for the Raptors.

 

 

“We take a lot of pride in coming in off the bench and changing games,” C.J. Miles said.

The Raptors starting unit that has featured rookie OG Anunoby 44 times hasn’t exactly been terrible as they’ve posted a very respectable +12.1 net rating, but the bench can take at least some of the credit for the starters success as they’ve often been the guys to put their opponent on its heels.

Anyone who has followed the Raptors under Casey and president Masai Ujiri shouldn’t be surprised by a commitment to the young guys coming off the bench or a rookie in the starting unit. Player development has been front and center in each of the Raptors playoff runs under their management. The difference this time is, this bench looks like they’re ready to make an impact.

 

 

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 Pascal Siakam

Raptors Pascal Siakam Will Keep Shooting 3s No Matter What

It’s hard not to notice, but opposing teams are leaving Pascal Siakam wide open on the three-point line and daring him to shoot and the Raptors young power forward has kept on firing away whether they are going down or not.

“I think that’s the confidence the team gives me,” Siakam told Pro Bball Report. “They see my work and know I’m working on (my three-point shot), so they trust that I put the work in and to shoot it when I’m open.”

They must be going down in practice for his coaches and teammates to have confidence in his three-point shot because Siakam is shooting just 12-81 (14.8%) on the season, went on a 0-25 streak from three a month ago and in his last 10 games is just 3-18 from the land beyond.

However, Siakam shooting threes isn’t out of context from what the Raptors are trying to do this season and despite the clunks and air balls, he still has a green light from head coach Dwane Casey.

“If you’re open shoot the ball,” Siakam explained. “I think the offense is free and everyone is playing off each other. When you are open, you shoot.

“I think that is most important in this offense. There is a lot of drive and kicks and that’s the way this offense is and you have to be able to shoot that (three).”

Confidence comes from necessity and working on his three-point shooting everyday and if Siakam can find an even modestly reliable long range jump shot by the end of the season, he’ll make the Raptors second unit nearly impossible to guard.

“I work on it everyday,” Siakam said. “I make it in practice. So I got to keep working on it and I got to keep doing it.”

Siakam has earned his minutes this season with his defense plus his ability to run the floor and score in the paint. His jump shot may be cringe-worthy at the moment, but he’s just doing what he’s told and trying to fit into a style of play that demands players shoot from distance.

Don’t expect Siakam to change. He’ll keep working on those three-balls in practice and in games whether they are going in or not.

 

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.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam

Is Raptors Pascal Siakam Better Than A NY Unicorn?

The Raptors second year forward Pascal Siakam was pressed into the starting lineup against the New York Knicks on Friday night in Toronto when Serge Ibaka was forced to rest a swollen knee, but the NY unicorn Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t exactly catching a break because the Raptors veteran missed the game. Siakam owned his more highly touted opponent all night on both ends of the court and just maybe it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise.

Playing head-to-head for 31 minutes Siakam got up into Porzingis’ space to hold him to 2-11 shooting and a minus 9 points with three turnovers. It was no contest. Siakam leaving his opponent in the dust on fast breaks and drives to the hoop to shoot 6-11 himself in addition to dishing 4 dimes.

On this night at least Siakam was a lot more impressive than NY’s unicorn and that’s something going up against a player who’s averaging almost 28 points per game.

After the game Porzingis admitted Siakam was giving him trouble per ESPN

“He’s long and he was able to stab at the ball pretty good when I was playing in the post,” Porzingis said.

“As the game went on, we still were struggling finding our rhythm and finding the best positions to attack from. It was just a rough night for us.”

“I thought he did as good a job as you can do against Porzingis, who is a very dynamic offensive player,” Casey said.

At the start of the season Siakam was the odd man out in head coach Dwane Casey’s rotation as the Raptors had too many forwards and not enough minutes to go around. However, injuries got him three quick starts in a row and the second year forward performed so well that Casey has created minutes for him ever since.

In his four starts coming against the Warriors, Lakers, Trail Blazers and Knicks, Siakam has averaged 14.3 points on 66.7 percent shooting from the field, 4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, a block and 1.3 steals and the Raptors have been a +7 points with him on the court. He hasn’t been making decisions about playing time easy on Casey as his regulars return to the lineup.

The Raptors selected Siakam 27th overall in 2016. It’s starting to look like president Masai Ujiri has found the Raptors another overlooked and underrated gem in the draft.

 

 

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 G-League Vipers Kyle Wiltjer and

Kyle Wiltjer Is Available If Raptors Want A Stretch-Four

At this point it’s not a mystery, Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri is looking to fill out his roster with young high potential shooters on non-guaranteed deals. There may be no better recently available young free agent prospect than the sharp shooting stretch four Kyle Wiltjer.

“You are wearing shorts, I’d like to sign you,” Ujiri joked when asked about his plans to fill out the rest of his roster. “We are going to add a couple of different players, maybe they are non-guaranteed, I don’t know. We’ll see how the market fares now.”

With a genuine desire to see how well the young players on his roster perform next season, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if the players added after the signing of C.J. Miles are training camp competition for guys like Pascal Siakam, Lucas Nogueira and Bruno Caboclo.

Wiltjer, an undrafted rookie with the Rockets last season, couldn’t crack the rotation in Houston, but he put up big numbers with their D-League affiliate Vipers helping lead the team to the NBA D-League Finals against the Raptors 905.

Over the three games in the Finals, the 905 got a good look at Wiltjer and it wasn’t until Game Three when head coach Jerry Stackhouse told eventual Finals MVP Pascal Siakam to smother him like a blanket that they were able to stop him from scoring.

“Wiltjer was big time tonight,” Stackhouse said after Game Two. “A guy that is not the quickest swiftest of feet, but he gets to his spot and whenever he does, he’s a big time shooter.

“I’d say Brady (Heslip) is the best shooter in the world, (Wiltjer) got to be in the top five. I think he is going to have an opportunity to really showcase who he is.”

Wiltjer didn’t suddenly become a knockdown three-point shooter in the D-League. Thru four years of college he averaged 42.5 percent on 4 three-point attempts per game. As a senior with Gonzaga, he averaged 20.4 points and 6.3 rebounds on 49.1 percent from the field and 43.7 percent on 5.7 three-point attempts per game.

In 22 regular season D-League games with the Vipers he was a three-point shooting machine, averaging 20.5 points and shooting 37.9 percent on 9.7 three-point attempts a game. He stepped that up in the postseason to 21.2 points and 40.8 percent on 10.9 three-point attempts.

If Ujiri is looking for a stretch-four to develop who is willing to fire away, it’s hard to argue against Wiltjer.

Those three D-League Final head-to-head matchups with Siakam provided a lot of insight as well.

When it was his primary responsibility in Game Three, Siakam was able to keep Wiltjer from going off, but that’s exactly what a stretch-four is supposed to do. Wiltjer occupied his opponent’s best defender. The Vipers just didn’t have enough other scorers to take advantage.

Wiltjer was a dominant player in the D-League because of his three-point shooting and he could be the NBA’s next Channing Frye or Ryan Anderson. With the way the NBA is headed, he’s at least worth a training camp invite and a reasonable guarantee amount to get him there.

 

 

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 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 Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl

Raptors Poeltl, Siakam And VanVleet Cruise Thru Summer League

Rookies no more, the Toronto Raptors Summer League “Big Three” Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet have cruised thru the first three games in Las Vegas. They’ve been here before and it shows.

If one can overlook those five turnovers in his last outing where the game against Nuggets turned into a version of “Keystone Cops” at the end, VanVleet has shown off his full range of skills over the three contests.

Driving to the basket and finishing thru traffic, VanVleet has hit on 57.9 percent of his two-point attempts. He’s also hit from outside on 5-11 three-point attempts (45.5 percent) and 7-7 from the charity stripe. Over the three games, VanVleet has averaged 14.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.3 steals.

There have been those “Summer League Moments” where everyone isn’t on the same page and concentration has slipped, but it’s looked all too easy this time around for VanVleet.

Those Summer League announcers could back off a little on their regular Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse quote that Siakam is “the best defensive player on the Raptors.” That’s stretching things really far.

Siakam is having a relatively easy time in Las Vegas though and is showing off a jump shot that not many would be expecting this soon in his NBA career.

Siakam is averaging 18.3 points, 5 boards, 2 assists, a steal and 1.7 blocks on 56.4 percent shooting from the field, but the real story is that he has made a three-pointer in each game and has shot 4-9 from deep. The Raptors want more three-point shooting and just maybe Siakam can add stretch-four to his list of attributes?

Poeltl is doing what Poeltl does. He is surprising people with his ability to put the ball on the floor and drive and he is effectively using his size to overpower just about everyone around the basket at both ends of the court. Averaging 14.7 points and pulling in 10 rebounds in each game, Poeltl is finishing at a 69 percent clip and looking very mobile for a big stocky center.

The Raptors newest signing, Alfonzo McKinnie, showed off why he was inked to multi-year/training camp invite contract in Game Three against the Nuggets. This kid can sky for putbacks and rebounds with ease.

Fun to watch and looking like the typical overenthusiastic rookie, McKinnie had 11 points and 11 rebounds against the Nuggets and if he can find some polish to his offense (5-15 shooting), this kid could become a real find.

Stackhouse loves this kid’s energy and it’s easy to see why.

By going 3-0 in the preliminary round, the Raptors earned themselves a practice day before the next round of the tournament starts.

 

 

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 Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet and Raptor 905 at Las Vegas Summer League

Raptors Las Vegas Summer League Play Starts Friday

The Toronto Raptors will open the preliminary round of NBA Las Vegas Summer League on Friday, July 7 against the New Orleans Pelicans at Cox Pavilion. The Raptors will then face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, July 8 at Thomas & Mack Center and the Denver Nuggets on Monday, July 10 at Cox Pavilion. All games will be played on the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus.

After the three preliminary round games, teams are seeded in a tournament format that starts July 12 (schedule t.b.d.) and culminates with the championship game on July 17. Each team will play at least five games.

ESPN will present all 67 games from Las Vegas across its various platforms. NBA TV will air 28 games, starting with the league’s opener July 7, when the Raptors face the Pelicans at 6 p.m. ET.

Current Raptors Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet will headline this year’s squad. First round draft pick OG Anunoby will not participate in the tournament while he recovers from a right knee injury. Raptors assistant coaches Jama Mahlalela and Patrick Mutombo will serve as the team’s coaches.

It’s noteworthy that Bruno Caboclo will not be playing in Summer League this year.

This year marks Toronto’s 10th appearance at NBA Summer League in Las Vegas (2006, 2008-10, 2012-17). The Raptors finished Summer League in 2016 with a 4-1 record after reaching the quarterfinals of the tournament.

NBA D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 Pascal Siakam

A Raptors 905 Championship Was Never In The Plans Until Now

By Frank McLean

Thursday night the Raptors 905 have a chance to win the NBDL championship in just their second year of operation when they host the Rio Grande Vipers in the third and deciding game of this best of three series.

Winning championships are rare. Not just in professional sports but you can throw in college, high school and even when you’re a kid playing house league.

I always think of the great Chicago Cubs hall of fame infielder Ernie Banks when it comes to winning championships. He played for the Cubs between the years of 1953 to 1971 and he never won a championship. In fact he never ever played one post season game.

Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse played 18-years in the NBA with eight different teams. He was able to get into a number of playoff games, but never won a ring.

In the NBDL it’s almost like you stumble across it by accident.

The NBDL stands for National Basketball Developmental League and all 23-teams emphasize the “DEVELOPMENT” first before ever thinking about a championship.

When I first talked to Stackhouse way back in November during the 905’s training camp Stackhouse said the goal is to “get these guys into the NBA. it’s not about winning championship’s, if I can get nine, 10, 11 of these guys into the NBA I have done my job”.

Now don’t think Stackhouse doesn’t want to win the title Thursday night, you bet he does.

When I brought up the Ernie Banks story he let me know that Jerry Stackhouse has never won a title either. “I played 18 years and never got all the way to the table”, he said. “Weren’t able to get the job done.”

Stackhouse really wants his guys to win more than he does for himself. I have watched him work all year with this team and he and his entire coaching staff for that matter have put their hearts and souls into making every player on this roster better players today then they were back in November.

Thus Stackhouse has let his group know how special an opportunity this is for them.

“It’s a great opportunity I tell these men take advantage of this opportunity. This group we have assembled this year will never be together again. I tell them take care of your brothers and leave it all out there, there is nothing guaranteed so let’s walk away whatever happens and leave it out on the floor.”

When Stackhouse said this group will never be together again he is not lying. Since all the players on the roster, except for players the NBA Raptors send down for work, are all under contract to the 905 chances are most of this group will either be in the NBA next year, or Europe or worst not being able to find a roster spot in some league will be working in the real world of a nine to five job.

Stackhouse did his job for sure this year. Two of his players were plucked off his roster early in these playoffs, Axel Toupane with the New Orleans Pelicans and Edy Tavares with the Cleveland Cavaliers . Tavares was named the NBDL Defensive Player Of The Year and instead of getting a shot at a NBDL title he gets a chance to go for the big one in the NBA.

Stackhouse has done a great job with players the Raptors sent down.

Fred VanVleet has worn a path going between Toronto and Mississauga this year. Monday night he was dressed for the big club in their game five win over Milwaukee and the dying moments of the game hit a three pointer and mad a big rebound. Tuesday night he was in Mississauga where he was a big factor in the 905 game two win scoring 16-points, grabbed seven boards and had nine assists.

Stackhouse’s face lit up when talked about VanVleet’s Monday night effort.

The plan was player development when the season started, but now they have a shot at a championship and Jerry Stackhouse and his group are going to take a shot it.

Winning a championship in the NBDL is probably the most difficult thing to pull off compared to let’s say baseball and hockey who’s minor league operations are set up by their sports to be true player development operations.

In hockey and baseball the entire rosters belong to their parent teams where all the players are under contract to that club. Stackhouse never knows for sure who will be on his roster from day-to-day, moment-to-moment.

 

 

   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.

 

 

 

 

NBA D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 Pascal Siakam

Pascal Siakam Leads Raptors 905 To Game Two Victory In Finals

Toronto Raptors rookie forward Pascal Siakam recorded an impressive 32 point, 10 rebound double-double at the Hershey Centre on Tuesday night in a 95-85 Mississauga Raptors 905 win that tied the NBA D-League Finals at one game apiece with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

“(Siakam), he played big time,” 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “At the end of the game Pascal especially, he just showed that he can pretty much put us on his back and willed the game for us.”

The game quickly became a battle between Siakam and the Houston Rockets rookie from Gonzaga 6’10 forward Kyle Wiltjer who led the Vipers in defeat posting his own double-double of 25 points and 12 boards.

A closely contested first quarter set the tone for the evening, Raptors 905 holding a slight 23-22 advantage after the opening 12 minutes.

Siakam established himself early, scoring 9 points while adding 2 rebounds and 3 steals in the first. Chris Johnson and Darius Morris both posted 7 points for the Vipers.

Assignee Rockets rookie point guard Isaiah Taylor was injured just 3:13 into the first quarter and did not return.

Raptors 905 created some separation in the second frame, outscoring the Vipers 31-22 in the quarter. Siakam once again paced the 905 with 11 points for a 20 point, 6 rebound first half, while Brady Heslip contributed eight points in the period. Wiltjer increased his first half totals to 13 points and 6 boards by scoring 8 points in the quarter.

Raptors 905 led 54-44 at the half.

Wiltjer almost single-handedly kept the Vipers in the game, scoring 10 points for Rio Grande in the third quarter and narrowing the 905 lead to six heading into the fourth.

The Vipers continued to battle back and tied the game 81-81 at the 4:28 mark of the fourth quarter, but the Raptors 905 responded with a 7-0 run to regain control of the contest and close the game strong.

Toronto Raptors assignee Bruno Caboclo, who was almost invisible on offense for most of the contest, grabbed a man’s rebound under the hoop and then spun around for the impressive slam on the other side of the basket to push the lead to 86-81 with 3:30 left and he helped maintain the advantage with less than two minutes to go with an unexpected drive to the hoop and smooth floater.

Caboclo finished with 6 points, 5 rebounds, a steal and 4 blocked shots. Just the way coach Stackhouse drew it up.

“(Caboclo) has to make his mark for us on the defensive end,” Stackhouse said pregame. “That’s where I think he has a chance to be special.”

Raptors assignee Fred VanVleet had a big impact throughout this game defensively and running the offense, scoring 16 points on 7-18 shooting, grabbing 7 rebounds and dishing 9 dimes.

“All of our guys played well,” Stackhouse said. “Bruno (Caboclo) gave us some big buckets down at the end, big rebounds, big dunks.

“Everybody made timely plays. Fred (VanVleet) made some timely plays. Brady (Heslip – 11 points) made some timely shots for us. EJ (Singler – 15 points) made a big shot for us.”

Vipers guard Darius Morris had a big night with 19 points, 4 rebounds and 7 assists. A 2011 second round pick of the Lakers, Morris has played in the NBA for the 76ers, Clippers, Grizzlies and Nets. Forward Chris Walker shot 6-6 from the field for 13 points in 12.5 minutes of action. Rockets rookie center Chinanu Onuako had 3 points, 10 rebounds, a steal and 2 blocks.

Coach Stackhouse may face one of classic challenges of coaching NBA D-League games in his next contest. The Toronto Raptors will be playing Game Six of their opening round playoff series with the Milwaukee Bucks at the same time as his 905 will be facing off against the Vipers.

If Raptors head coach Dwane Casey wants to dress the 13 players permitted in the NBA, Stackhouse will be missing one of his assignees (Caboclo, Siakam or VanVleet) from the big club in his big game.

“I believe in our group,” 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse said prior to the game. “I know they are competitors and they are going to respond. When we went on the road (in Game One), (the Vipers) took care of business, they did what they are supposed to do to give themselves a chance. Now what we worked hard all season, we have home court advantage. We have two games at home (in a best of three series) to ultimately get to the glory these guys deserve.”

The D-League Championship will be decided Thursday evening back at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga at 7pm.

 

 

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 Pascal Siakam

Raptors Pascal Siakam Named D-League Performer Of The Week

Press Release: PASCAL SIAKAM NAMED NBA D-LEAGUE PERFORMER OF THE WEEK

The NBA Development League announced Monday that Toronto Raptors rookie forward Pascal Siakam has been selected Performer of the Week for games played March 13-19. He is the first Raptors 905 player to receive the honour this season.

Siakam, on assignment from the Raptors, helped guide the 905 to a 3-0 record for the week in which the team clinched the Central Division and Eastern Conference title for the 2017 NBA D-League Playoffs. He averaged 18.0 points (shooting 56.4 percent), 8.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.3 steal and 1.3 blocked shots.

Siakam began the week scoring a season-high 20 points in a 116-87 victory over the Austin Spurs at Air Canada Centre. He included nine rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks in the effort. Siakam scored 18 points while recording seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks Saturday afternoon versus the Long Island Nets. He closed the week with a 16-point, eight-rebound effort the following night against the Nets.

The Cameroon native has played in four games this season with Raptors 905, averaging 17.3 points (on 50.9 percent shooting), 9.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.0 block. In 52 games (38 starts) with Toronto, Siakam is averaging 4.3 points and 3.3 rebounds.

Raptors 905 guard Brady Heslip was also considered for the honour this week.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors rookie Pascal Siakam

Raptors Pascal Siakam Climbs The Rookie Ladder To 4th

Toronto rookie forward Pascal Siakam has probably maxed out his potential climb up the NBA Rookie Ladder at fourth from the top, but for a player that wasn’t even supposed to be in the Raptors rotation, that’s pretty impressive.

4. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors

Last week: No. 5

The No. 6 rookie on Dec. 14 hasn’t surged up two places so much as remain upright while others wilted amid the intense Ladder spotlight. Siakam did put himself in position to climb, though, while second in field goal percentage, second in blocks, sixth in rebounding and 12th in Defensive Rating. This is probably his ceiling, barring either a big jump in production or a big fall or serious injury from Embiid, Brogdon and Saric in the top three.

Siakam has started every game at power forward for the Raptors so far this season pending the return of Jared Sullinger from injury and he’s averaged 4.9 points on 51 percent shooting, 3.6 rebounds, half a steal and 0.9 blocks in 18.5 minutes. While his play is full of rookie mistakes, he puts pressure on defenses in transition with his speed and plays with high energy on defense.

However, it was only by chance that Siakam could still catch the eye of Scott Howard-Cooper for the current rookie rankings. Six games ago Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was pulling Siakam early and starting Patrick Patterson in the second half and for three games in a row Siakam was averaging 0 points and 1 rebound in 5.3 minutes. Then Patterson sprained his knee and Siakam got 27.8 minutes in his last three games and bumped those averages to 3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1.7 blocks.

While Siakam isn’t the player the Raptors were hoping would be starting every game in the first half of the season and the team is rumored to be looking for a more veteran power forward to start in his place, the rookie is belying his selection at the back end of the first round in the draft and outperforming nearly everyone chosen ahead of him.

 

 

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 Pascal Siakam

Raptors Boast NBA’s Top 5-Man Unit But It’s Not Who You Think

At 22-9, the Toronto Raptors really don’t have much to complain about, not that a really good record has ever slowed down any team’s complaint department. They boast the NBA’s top rated offense (114.1), top rated five-man unit (+30.8) and are second only to the Golden State Warriors with a Net Rating of +9.5 points per 100 possessions.

However, they aren’t in second place overall in the NBA and have lost three times to the Cavaliers and twice to the Warriors. The result has been a fanbase looking for change, an upgrade among the players they don’t believe are pulling their weight.

Those currently being picked on in social media include starter Jonas Valanciunas and sixth man Cory Joseph who just don’t seem to be having the expected impact after the team’s franchise record setting season and rising expectations from last year. Even DeMarre Carroll has seen (if he follows social media?) his name tossed around as the guy the Raptors should move for an upgrade.

However, just maybe, the Raptors problems (such as they are) stem from somewhere else.

The NBA reports there are 45 five-man units playing at least 100 minutes so far this season and Toronto has the top two offensive rated units and the first and third best net rated units in the entire league.

Top five-man unit: Cory Joseph, Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, Patrick Patterson, and Lucas Nogueira – 143 minutes

#2 OFF RTG 127.9
#5 DEF RTG 97.1
#1 NET RTG +30.8

Third Best five-man unit: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, Patrick Patterson, Jonas Valanciunas – 122 minutes

#1 OFF RTG 129.7
#20 DEF RTG 102.9
#3 NET RTG +26.8

These Raptors five-man units pass the eye-test. When these five-man units are on the court, the Raptors are a dominant team and who the opponent is doesn’t seem to matter all that much. The frequent slagging of Joseph’s impact this year notwithstanding. Maybe some people are watching a different team play by mistake?

Toronto also has the top five-man unit in the NBA playing less than 100 minutes together of Lowry, DeRozan, Norman Powell, Patterson and Nogueira. In 33 minutes over 8 games, this unit has an offensive rating of 145.7 and a defensive rating of 80.1 for net rating of +65.6 points per 100 possessions. Thus answering any queries as to why head coach Dwane Casey keeps making up excuses to get Powell into the rotation despite a strong season from Ross.

The problem, it seems, is once again Toronto has found itself on the player development bandwagon, although this time it wasn’t totally by choice. Rather president Masai Ujiri chose to hold onto his young talent rather than adding veteran depth, so when Jared Sullinger was injured, the next man up was rookie Pascal Siakam.

Siakam doesn’t deserve to be thrown under the bus. He didn’t expect to be starting and playing in the Raptors highest use five-man unit this season. He was supposed to be learning in Mississauga with the Raptors 905 and in that context, he’s having a great season averaging 5.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 0.8 blocks in 17.7 minutes.

Overall Siakam is a neutral +0.2 points per 100 possessions and as should be expected from a rookie, he’s a +2.6 while shooting 59.3 percent at home and a -2.4 shooting 43.4 percent on the road. In wins he’s a +2.4, but in losses that drops to -5.1 and with the majority of those losses coming against the Dubs and Cavs, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Veteran teams look upon rookies as fresh meat to be tested and then abused.

Unfortunately for the Raptors, Siakam’s development comes at a cost to the starting unit. The unit of Lowry, DeRozan, Carroll, Siakam and Valanciunas has played a team high 296 minutes and it’s losing ground at -2.9 points per 100 possessions or 36th ranked in the NBA.

The -12.4 point swing per 100 possessions from the team average comes almost entirely on defense where the Raptors starting unit ranks 40th among five-man groups that have played at least 100 minutes together

Replacing Siakam with Patterson bumps them to an NBA net rating that’s third best.

In this context, it isn’t hard to see why the Warriors can get off to much better starts. Their five-man unit of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia has the seventh best offensive rating (122.2), ninth best defensive rating (98.3) and an NBA fourth best net rating of +19.1 points per 100 possessions. This unit has played 321 minutes together.

The Raptors starting unit got hammered in Golden State in the first quarter on December 28 and the numbers back up what happened. The push back from Toronto after Patterson entered the game shouldn’t have surprised anyone either.

When the Dubs go “small” substituting Pachulia with Andre Iguodala which they have for 143 minutes this year, they have the NBA’s second best defensive rating (93.8) and second best net rating of +28.5 points per 100 possessions. It must be nice when your first substitution can move your team from great to outstanding.

However, maybe the numbers justify some of the angst surrounding the Raptors?

It’s obvious when Toronto’s best units are on the court, this team isn’t playing up to the full potential of its roster. The Raptors can and do completely dominate their opponents for stretches, often seemingly on demand and then they don’t, although even the Cavs and Warriors aren’t winning every game by 20 points either. The NBA just doesn’t work that way.

The Raptors will be a better team when (if?) Sullinger gets back to assume a spot in the starting line-up and the “investment” in starting the rookie Siakam should pay off down the road with accelerated development (even if he isn’t expected to start playing like a veteran this year.)

This team is winning because of continuity and players filling a role they know and are comfortable with. Joseph might not be blowing your doors off every night, but he helps anchor the best five-man unit in the NBA by letting Lowry play off the ball and become a scorer no team has really figured out how to stop this year. Valanciunas and Carroll are only two of the guys on the NBA’s top offensive unit, so they must be doing something right as well.

And don’t trample on Siakam. If the Raptors were a middle of the road team or headed to the Lottery, the kid would be getting accolades as a massive steal at the end of the first round in the draft and if Casey had veteran power forward available, the rookie would be tearing up the NBA D-League.

 

 

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 Pascal Siakam 2016 rookie

Raptors Rookie Pascal Siakam Is Something Special

Raptors rookie forward Pascal Siakam has started every game for Toronto so far this season and while he got his chance because of the preseason injury to Jared Sullinger, he’s earned the right to be there. The 27th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft is outperforming expectations and will be something special if he isn’t already.

“He’s earned it,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s not like we’re giving it to him. He’s earned it. He’s performing defensively, running the floor, his energy, his speed is huge. It’s not like we’re giving it to him, he’s earning it.”

Siakam was projected to be a mid-second round pick in mock drafts by DraftExpress and NBA.com. The NBA’s Scott Howard-Cooper labeling him as a player bound for the D-League.

The soccer player growing up in his native Cameroon has made a strong impression in a relatively short time playing basketball, going from barely being recruited to a likely spot in the second round after two seasons in college. With that size, nonstop motor and speed, he is an investment worth making with a second-round pick bound for the D-League.

Apparently Siakam was grossly underestimated and he’s shown that just maybe he should have been a lottery pick. Thru his first 17 games, the Raptors new starting power forward has been top 5 among rookies in rebounds and blocks, top 10 in minutes played, steals and field goal percentage and top 15 in scoring. Coming completely off the radar, he broke onto the NBA Rookie Ladder at number 7 on November 23rd.

Coach Casey has tried to keep things simple for his rookie by giving him a defined role and limiting his responsibilities. Just run and play hard. The veterans he is playing with in the starting lineup have noticed and appreciate the effort.

“(Siakam), he never gives up,” Valanciunas told Pro Bball Report. “He plays with a lot of energy. If he does a mistake, he’s trying to get back defensively and he does some good things on the opposite end. He doesn’t give up, that’s the best thing about him.”

“When I first came into the league he (Siakam) kind of reminds me of myself,” DeMarre Carroll said. “The energy, getting loose balls, playing hard on the defensive end. I told him now all you got to do is get the jumper, then they’ll call you a 3D player.”

It’s been a baptism by fire for the rookie forward. Already he’s started two games against the Cavaliers Kevin Love, the Kings DeMarcus Cousins and the Nuggets Kenneth Faried. He’s also faced the Warriors Draymond Green, Knicks Kristaps Porzingas, Clippers Blake Griffin and the Rockets Ryan Anderson. At this point, quite rightly, he’s starting to feel like he’s seen it all and survived.

“I feel good,” Siakam told Pro Bball Report. “(I know) I’m not the best, but that’s being a rookie. I am just trying to figure it out and I’m learning and trying as much as I can to fit in. It’s going pretty good, pretty well.

“I just try to bring my energy.”

But more than just an energy guy or a paint-bound defender, Siakam is getting comfortable playing against those difficult versatile stretch-fours as well.

“Ryan Anderson plays like that, Kevin Love plays like that. I don’t have the most experience in that area, but I’ve played against guys like that (now). I know what I have to do. I just try to take away (their) strength and at the same time just play my game.”

“(Siakam) just feels more comfortable,” Valanciunas said. “Decision-making, more comfortable offensively, defensively, he’s getting some experience.”

“Once he learns how to come in and tag and then get out to shooters he’s going to be really special,” Casey said. “Right now he’s probably staying a little too long in the help position, some unnecessary help which I’d rather have that than no help, but once he learns that he’s going to be really effective.”

The Raptors at 11 wins and 6 losses are running at precisely the same pace that took this team to a franchise record 56 wins last season, playing a rookie in the starting lineup doesn’t appear to have held them back. If Casey is right and Siakam can learn the nuances of playing NBA defense during his rookie season, the Raptors should be even better heading into the playoffs.

It’s only a month into his NBA career and Siakam does still have a lot to learn, but he’s already proven that he is better than advertised. This kid could be something special.

 

 

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 Pascal Siakam 2016 rookie

Raptors Rookie Pascal Siakam Is Quickly Earning Respect

It was with some trepidation that Pascal Siakam was slotted into the starting lineup in the preseason and there were serious doubts he’d be a starter in the regular season opener, but the Raptors rookie forward has been quickly earning respect and he has started in every game for Toronto so far.

“That’s one thing I learned about the League is it’s all about respect,” Siakam told Pro Bball Report. “When you first come nobody is going to give you respect, you got to earn it, you got to go and take it.”

Siakam wasn’t expected to start for the Raptors this season. He was supposed to be the third string power forward who would hone his craft in Mississauga with the NBA D-League Raptors 905. However, things can change in a heartbeat in the NBA and head coach Dwane Casey was pretty much forced into giving the rook a shot at the starting job after Jared Sullinger was injured in preseason and not without some measure of surprise, Siakam has been quickly earning respect from his teammates and opponents alike.

“When you come in the first day, nobody is going to respect you,” Siakam said. “You see those guys who have been playing for years, they don’t know you so you got to go out there and show you can ball and by the end of the summer they were, ‘man, he can do some things’ and that’s how you earn respect. Go onto the court and play with them, fight with them in a game. Kyle (Lowry) and them say, ‘he can do this, he can do that.’

“With opponents it’s the same thing. Hitting a couple of jump shots, then hey man, he has a good jump shot, he can shoot, he can make that shot, so we guard him better. It’s going to take time and I know that.”

Siakam has hit his shots at a high percentage since day one of the season. He manages to catch defenses napping with his speed to be the first down the court for an easy layup at least once a game and he’s hitting enough short range jump shots to make his defender pay attention to him. The further the Raptors get into the season, the wider his array of shot attempts has been.

His confidence is growing, his teammates are encouraging him to shoot and Siakam’s opportunities to contribute have continued to expand. Over the last four games he’s been averaging 8.8 points on 65.4 percent shooting, 4.5 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.8 blocks in 22.2 minutes of action.

“It helps when your vets tell you to shoot it when you are open,” Siakam said. “Whenever I get an open jump shot I just keep shooting them and try to make them.

“I have always been confident. Coming into the league I knew it was a man’s league and everyone is big, strong, but I just have confidence to go out there and play. It helps when you have vets that encourage you and tell you to just go out and play. That helps a lot. It gets the nerves out of the way and just go out and compete like you would do when you were in college.

“The more minutes I get to make sure I know my role, what the team wants me to do, the better. I am just ready to be out there and (play) whatever minutes I get, just go out there and do what I am supposed to do and try my best.

“The one thing they don’t to have to wonder is if I am going to bring the energy. I am always going to bring it.”

To say Siakam has been a pleasant surprise so far would be an understatement. He has filled a huge hole in coach Casey’s rotation with Sullinger out and while he isn’t expected to have the impact of the Raptors injured big free agent addition, the opportunity to see what the rookie can do against NBA starters is undoubtedly worth more than an extra win or two early in the season.

And that’s the most the 8-4 Raptors could reasonably attribute to being forced into playing the rookie ahead of schedule, maybe another win or two. Siakam is earning respect and the Raptors have learned they have a rookie that can play.

 

 

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 Norman Powell

Stuff Happens To The Raptors Powell, Siakam And Poeltl

By Frank McLean

The Toronto Raptors they were hoping the Celtics free agent big man Jared Sullinger could fill the one hole they had in their starting line-up, but sometimes in sports, just like in life, circumstances play a big part into how your lot with a team is going to go. Like the T-shirt says, “Stuff Happens”.

In the case of four different players on the current Raptors roster the “stuff” that has happened since the start of the off season has affected them good and bad.

First you have to feel sorry for power forward Jared Sullinger who signed a one year six-million dollar contract in the summer in the hopes of parlaying that into a long term mega-deal as an unrestricted free agent next summer just like Bismack Biyombo did.

Sullinger and bad luck hit smack on in the Raptors first preseason game when he landed on the foot of one of his teammates and will be out of the line-up till around the All-Star break. However, bad luck for Sullinger has turned into an unexpected opportunity for rookie forward Pascal Siakam.

Drafted 27th overall in the first round out of New Mexico State the rookie is getting a chance to start games and bring an element of his game, speed.

“Speed is a great advantage to have,” Siakam said. “As a big man being able to run the floor I think a lot of big men don’t do that. The fact that I can do that on a consistent basis is great. I’m just trying to use all my advantages and be able to help my team win.”

As a result of Siakam’s success a major contributor from last season’s playoff run, Norman Powell, has become a forgotten man. Powell says he just has to keep working hard and earn head coach Dwane Casey’s trust.

“I trust Norm,” Casey said. “It’s not about trust. It’s about it being hard to play 11 or 12 guys. It’s not trust at all. Hell I trusted him in the first round of the playoffs last year as a rookie, so it’s not about trust.

“It’s just he has a guy like DeMar DeRozan in front of him on a hot streak and DeMarre Carroll who is our defensive guy who is healthy now so it’s a tough situation for him to be in. Then there’s Terrence (Ross) shooting the ball the way he is shooting, so he’s got a triple-headed monster he’s fighting against.”

Meanwhile at center the Raptors other first round pick Jakob Poeltl is getting a chance to play some quality minutes because the Raptors did not re-sign Bismack Biyombo this past summer.

This past Sunday he got a chance to start against Sacramento with Jonas Valanciunas out with a knee bruise. He got a quick lesson in how to deal with big centers in the NBA. In this case DeMarcus Cousins.

“It’s like every other game,” Poeltl said about the Sacramento game. “Learn from it, watch what we did, what we did wrong, and try and improve that. Obviously, it was far from a perfect game from us today and from me personally, too. So look at it and try to learn from it.”

As you can see circumstances have changed the complexion of the Toronto Raptors line-up and with the playoffs not until the middle of April you can be sure that more “stuff” will happen to change the line-up a few more times.

 

 

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.

 

 

 


 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Bismack Biyombo and DeMar DeRozan

Biyombo Who? Raptors Rookies Wipe Out Any Rebounding Concerns

The Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri magic touch has been showing itself off early on again this season as rookies Pascal Siakam and Jacob Poeltl are quickly making everyone forget all about the departure of their best rebounder last season Bismack Biyombo.

With injuries to Jared Sullinger and Lucas Nogueira, the rookies were thrust into the rotation ahead of schedule and at this point, it would be hard to conclude anything but they deserve to be there.

Casey was forced to start Siakam in order to keep the veteran Patrick Patterson in his comfort zone coming off the bench and the energetic forward has filled in nicely averaging 4 points on 66.7 percent shooting, 6 rebounds and a steal in 18.5 minutes over his first two games. It’s starting to look like Ujiri isn’t going to be forced into any rush to bring back Sullinger or something else more desperate. When Nogueira went down,  Poeltl was the next man up at backup center and he’s averaged 4.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 12 minutes and is starting to look like he just belongs out there. Nogueira has been the odd man out in each of his two previous seasons and if he doesn’t get back soon, he’ll be the odd man out again this year.

“We (Siakam and Poeltl) got our roles and we know our roles and what we are supposed to do,” Siakam told Pro Bball Report. “I think the team knows what I can give them and that’s what I am going to try to give every night.

“I think that I am a pretty good rebounder. Whenever I get an opportunity I will try to go for the ball and with me playing, I will have more opportunity to rebound the basketball, that is always one of my assets.”

Biyombo was a big time contributor off the bench last season averaging 5.5 points, 8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 22 minutes as he pulled in an impressive 20.8 percent of the available boards while he was on the court. However, the rookie Poeltl is absorbing 19.8 percent of the available rebounds so far and his first two games were against solid playoff teams and Siakam has been dramatically upping the rebounding impact from the power forward spot at 17.1 percent. It’s a small sample size, but Toronto doesn’t look like a team that is going to lose the battle of the boards very often because they are relying on a couple of rookies.

“(Siakam) is a good rebounder and he played well,” a frustrated Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy said after the season opener.

So far this season Toronto has outrebounded their opposition by  an NBA 4th best 11 boards each game and that included the home opening win over Detroit and last season’s top rebounder Andre Drummond. It’s worth pointing out the Raptors two rookies are averaging 10.5 boards between them. Last year Toronto finished the season a solid 7th best +2.6 boards.

The next big test for the Raptors rebounding prowess is going to come on Halloween night when they face off against the glass cleaning Nuggets at the Air Canada Center. Denver has been crushing opponents on the boards by a +20.5 rebound margin to start the season.  Big men Nikola Jokic (12 rebounds), Kenneth Faried (11.5 rebounds) and Jusif Nurkic (9 rebounds) doing most of the heavy lifting.  Toronto’s rookies are in for another real challenge.

Now if only someone could block a shot for the Raptors? Although, the blocked shot differential is currently zero.

 

 

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.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 


 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam

Raptors Pascal Siakam Goes From Third String To Starter

This wasn’t how things were supposed to go, but once again in Toronto it’s ‘next man up’ as big man Jared Sullinger breaks his foot in his first preseason game with the Raptors and the rookie Pascal Siakam finds himself in the starting line-up for the last four preseason games and likely on opening night.

The Raptors signed the Celtics starter Sullinger as a free agent this summer when Boston quite literally ran out of options after signing free agent Al Horford and being stuck with too many draft picks and too many young players already on the roster. Their loss was Toronto’s gain as the Raptors needed an upgrade at starting power forward and someone that could effectively soak up some of those backup center minutes Bismack Biyombo covered off last season.

Into the void created by Sullinger’s absence stepped Siakam and through 7 preseason games he averaged 7.4 points on 52.3 percent shooting, 4.1 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1 block in 20.7 minutes. Head coach Dwane Casey putting the rookie into the starting unit for the last 4 games where he upped his scoring to 9 points on 63 percent shooting in 21.9 minutes.

It wasn’t all good for Siakam in preseason and given a choice, Casey wants Sullinger back in the starting unit asap. There were some rough moments at the start of games with Siakam as the Raptors were a -3.8 points with the rookie on the court in the first quarter, but the opportunity for Siakam to get better fast probably makes it worthwhile.

“It’s a great opportunity for other players, for Pascal Siakam if we decide to start him,” Casey told Dean Bundell on SN590 The Fan. “Pascal’s athleticism at the four position will be important for us because it allows us to do some switching defensively and he can guard different positions. He gives us some flexibility and versatility.

“The roles that we really put those (young) guys in are support roles where they don’t have to think a lot, do a lot, but just make sure they stay in their lane and do their role.”

Casey is going to need his young players to figure out how to stay in their lane fast as Sullinger’s role was going to be pretty big and he isn’t going to be available for quite a while.

A sore foot that wouldn’t get better eventually led to addition tests that uncovered a cracked bone in Sullinger’s left foot that the doctors decided needed a screw to support it. Some say the big man will be out for eight weeks, the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society suggests this type of injury takes three to four months.

Forward Patrick Patterson was expected to take on a bigger role this season as was center Jonas Valanciunas, but Sullinger was to be the third leg in this big man rotation, so there are minutes at backup center that will now need to be covered off. Of course third year center Lucas Nogueira turned an ankle less than a week before opening night, so Casey will likely be turning to yet another rookie to start the season.

“Jacob Poeltl will be able to have a role because Jared was going to play some backup five,” Casey said. ” Lucas Nogueira and Jacob will get opportunities to play backup minutes behind (starter Jonas Valanciunas).

“It’s an opportunity for other players to step in and do the job.”

Casey has the option to insert Patterson into the starting lineup on opening night and last year that was everything the young veteran forward wanted, but this year, not so much. He backed way off those comments on media day.

Casey has made several attempts to use the big forward as a starter over the last couple of seasons. It looks like a sure thing, but once he’s in there, it doesn’t take long to realize it’s a lot better to bring Patterson off the bench for 30+ minutes than to try and change what has worked so well for him in Toronto. A starter level talent who just plays better as a reserve. Siakam should thank his lucky stars (maybe), what an opportunity!

 

 

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 Pascal Siakam

Sullinger And Siakam Impress In Raptors Win Over Warriors

In front of a sellout crowd at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena the Toronto Raptors came away with a closely fought, poorly shot, and somewhat sloppily played preseason opening win over the visiting Golden State Warriors on Saturday night 97-93. The Raptors free agent addition Jared Sullinger with 7 points, a game high 10 boards, a steal and a block in a game high 23.3 minutes of action and rookie Pascal Siakam with 9 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal in 20.8 minutes particularly impressed in their Raptors debuts.

This somewhat meaningless contest will be mostly remembered as Kevin Durant’s first appearance in a Warriors game and the superstar scored 9 points on 2-9 shooting from the field, but from a Raptors perspective, Durant will be remembered as the first NBA player Siakam blocked at the rim on a layup attempt. Siakam is a high energy power forward/center that Raptors head coach Dwane Casey keeps finding reasons to mention and the rookie hid his first game jitters with effort.

“I was nervous, I’m not going to lie,” Siakam said after the game. “I didn’t expect that at all in my first possession I was going to have to guard (Kevin Durant). This is the guy you watch on TV, you look up to and you get to play your first game, your first minutes against him. I was nervous, but at the same time, you’re here. I was happy.”

Sullinger looked really good as the starting power forward and when moving over to backup center after Casey rolled out his first set of substitutions. If his rebounding prowess continues thru the rest of preseason, it’ll be Biyombo-who real fast this year. However, Siakam is going to be the hot topic because he’s a rookie. Everyone knew, or should have known, Sullinger can rebound the ball at a high level.

“Pascal is going to be the type of guy that can guard multiple positions,” Sullinger said. “His energy level, his intensity and his ability to change shots at the rim, Pascal is going to be a difference maker.”

Throw out the score, the bad shooting, the sloppy play. The takeaway from this game was the Raptors out rebounded the Warriors 58-42. Toronto is going to be a good rebounding team again this season.

It was obvious from the start this was a preseason game as the two teams combined for a dozen first quarter turnovers on their way to 44 for the game. Both teams opened with their anticipated starting lineups for the upcoming regular season and not a single starter on either team had a positive plus/minus. There’s a lot of rust to be knocked off before the season starts at the end of the month.

The Raptors organization breathed a collective sigh of relief to see DeMarre Carroll look like the Carroll of two seasons ago as their starting small forward shot 6-9 for a team high 14 points to go with 4 rebounds and 4 steals. This was how it was supposed to go. Carroll completed his rehab from last season’s surgery in August and was reporting no ill effects from workouts or practice, but watching him move this smoothly and effectively in a game situation had to make his coaches feel good.

The Warriors took a look at 18 players in this contest and the Raptors played 15 guys. While the vets shake off the rust in limited minutes, the coaches are looking at who might crack the rotation or win one of the last spots on the roster and there’s a long ways to go on both fronts. At least the fans in Vancouver seemed to enjoy themselves.

“That’s what exhibition is for,” Casey said. “It’s to see guys like Drew Crawford and Norm Powell and those guys, Pascal and see what they can do. Fred VanVleet he came in and did a good job. All the young guys were impressive.”

The Raptors next preseason game is at the ScotiaBank Saddledome in Calgary on Monday against the Denver Nuggets.

 

 

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.