SOT6 Podcast - Episode 113

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 113

"POST SEASON ROUND TABLE"

TORONTO RAPTORS TALK

Weekly Toronto Raptors Talk!

  • So here we go! The Toronto Raptors have concluded their 82 Practice Games and are headed to Round 1 of the Playoffs to take on the Orlando Magic. It came down to the wire as it was a toss-up as to how the Raptors would be hosting, with the Brooklyn Nets and Detroit Pistons also in the fold. In the end, the Basketball gods gave the Raptors a gift . Or so we thought… maybe.

  • After the Raptors lost Game 1 at home to the Magic, it’s predictable for the fanbase to feel uneasy, as well as distraught. History has shown that the Raptors have a difficult time capitalizing in Game 1 of the playoffs, and this is no different. Couple that with a goose-egg from our All-Star point guard, it’s understandable for there to be some bad vibes among the fanbase. But we’re here to ease your worries.

  • To break down the 1st Round of the Playoffs for the Raptors, we are pleased to give you another ROUND TABLE discussion. Join host Adam Corsair with the usual suspects in Jordan Kligman of the 416 Basketball Podcast, Demar Grant, and Connor Chambers of Toronto Sports Views and the TSV Podcast as they break it all down.

It’s a Raptors podcast that you won’t want to miss!

Follow Jordan on Twitter: @416Basketball

Subscribe to the 416 Basketball Podcast on iTunes: HERE

Visit Jordan's work: HERE

Follow Connor on Twitter: @TO_SportsViews & @connorchambers

Visit Connor's work: HERE

Follow Demar on Twitter: @DemarJGrant 

Visit Demar's work: HERE

Music:
Arthas - “Game of Thrones Instrumental”


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


Versus Vol. 1: Life In Repeat versus South of the 6ix

Image by Pozzobon Illustrations

Image by Pozzobon Illustrations

I had the honor and privilege of participating in the first “Versus Series” with my good friend, Peter “HB” Kaye of Life In Repeat. Peter and I have had numerous conversations on the the Podcast here at SOT6, each of which have been enjoyable and enlightening. Please do yourself a favor and follow Peter on Twitter - @lifeinrepeat - as well as visiting the LIR Website on the reg for all of your Toronto Raptors content.

This email exchange between Peter and myself really got my hyped for the playoffs and, perhaps, our fortunes will be different this year as Raptors fans. I hope you all enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed participating in it. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that Peter was the brains behind this and really pushed me to be as thorough as I possibly could.


MONDAY APRIL 8th, 2019

Peter Kaye, Life In Repeat

Adam — thank you for agreeing to be part of this dialogue leading up to what we both hope will be a lengthy playoff run (the memories of our Therapy Session last spring are still fresh in my mind). I have no doubt that you and I are going to put on a Wrestlemania worthy performance here with our e-mail exchange. I’m talking a Bret Hart vs. HBK WrestleMania 12-like performance (even though I know you are partial to the WM13 clash between Bret Hart and Steve Austin).

Let’s start with what we have been waiting for all season. At this point in time, how confident are you, on a scale of 1 to 10, that the Raptors will be playing in the Eastern Conference Finals? How confident are you that the Raptors will be playing in the Finals? Also, just for shits and giggles, if the Raptors are fortunate enough to make the East Finals and NBA Finals, who do you think will be waiting for them?

Adam Corsair, South of the 6ix

Well, Peter, first off, thank you for inviting me on to do this with you. I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off and unpack the playoffs than this email exchange with the Heartbreak Kid himself. It should be one for the ages. Hopefully there will be no Therapy Session (which, by the way, is my favorite episode of the podcast — no bullshit) and instead, a celebration episode in the coming months.
 
On to the topic at hand. Regarding how confident I am that the Raptors will make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, I’d place my meter at a 9. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t drooling over the current Playoff Picture (as of April 8th) with the Raptors slated to take on the Magic for Round 1, and then one of the Sixers or Nets for Round 2. Obviously, things can change, but for now I really like those match-ups for the Raptors. Orlando by no means frightens me and I think that’s an easy sweep for Toronto. Seriously, who are we worried about on the Magic? It’s a nice story that the NBA can push, but in the grand scheme of things, they aren’t a threat, whatsoever. In this Round 2 scenario, the Sixers are physical — no doubt about it — but it’ll inevitably be a 5-on-4 fest with Kawhi making Simmons a complete non-factor. If it were to be the Nets, the Raptors have proven that they have a more robust roster from top to bottom and better overall talent than Brooklyn. With either teams, I can’t see the Raptors going any more than 5 games against. I’ll be generous and say 6, but definitely not 7.

You may be asking yourself why I’m not at a 10 in terms of my confidence given my comments regarding the Raptors advantage over all three of those teams. I suppose it’s because, as a Raptors fan, I’ve been conditioned to be cautious in my approach with the team heading into the playoffs; reminding myself not to let the hubris show. Yes, this is a completely different Raptors squad than that of previous years. Yes, we have a bonafide superstar in Kawhi Leonard to guide us through this playoff journey. And yes, we have the Most Improved Player this season in Pascal Siakam to help propel this team to new heights. However, this sort of confidence is reminiscent of previous years of seeing the Raptors in the playoffs, only to be completely let down with a reality-check. The one thing that I have to remind myself is that there’s no King James to rain on our parade and that this PTSD that we have attained as a result of him flexing on our Raptors is not doomed to resurface.

Ultimately though and contrary to popular belief, I think the team that will be waiting for the Raptors for an Eastern Conference Finals showdown will not be the Milwaukee Bucks, but the Boston Celtics. The Bucks, as well as Mike Budenholzer, don’t have the most reliable track record of playoff performances, despite their outstanding showings this regular season. You can argue that, similar to Toronto, the Bucks have a redefined roster, but I’d counter that point by acknowledging that their key players remain the same. Toronto’s identity is completely different than that of previous years. Moreover, their injury concerns heading into the playoffs put them at a slight disadvantage and I think will cost them a few games in an environment where the margin for error is paper thin. That being said, assuming the Bucks make it out of Round 1 (which, they should) and Boston defeats the Pacers (again, which they should), I think it would be wise to not discount the Celtics and their playoff experience to ultimately take down Giannis and company. This is a team that was one game away from defeating LeBron in last year’s ECF with an incredibly depleted squad. Are we sure that the Celtics are just going to allow the Bucks to steamroll them out of another Eastern Conference Finals appearance? I’m not, and I think the Celtics have the advantage, leading to an entertaining and physical ECF between Boston and Toronto.

This is a series that I think has the potential to go the distance, with Toronto taking the series in 7 because of Kawhi’s superstar talent, as well as home court advantage. It’ll be a frustrating series, no doubt. But ultimately, I think the Raptors have the talent and experience to be able to capitalize on the youth’s inexperience that mostly comprises the current Celtics’ roster.

It’s in writing, Peter; we’re going to the NBA Finals.

As to who will be waiting for the Raptors in the battle for the Larry O’Brien trophy — don’t sleep on OKC. Yes, they have a tough road ahead, currently slated to take on the Rockets. But with Paul George having an outstanding season, coupled with the talents of Adams and Westbrook, they seem more determined and hungry to make the Western side of the playoffs their own. It would not surprise me one bit if they upset some teams along the way and were waiting for Toronto in a fight for immortality.

Peter Kaye, LIR

Damn Adam! You are coming in hot! But you know what? I agree with all of what you said. Mostly all of it. Essentially, we are in agreement that our road to the Eastern Conference Finals comes down to whether or not we can beat the 76ers.

Yes, that’s right — I am skipping immediately ahead to the second round because, honestly, none of our potential first round opponents scare me. Could these lower seeded squads win a game or two against the Raptors? Sure, but it doesn’t mean they can win four of the seven games. Not happening.

The Magic don’t scare me. The Nets don’t scare me. The Pistons don’t scare me even though they swept the regular season series against us (yes, I mean us — we’re part of the team dammit!). Detroit already had their moment this season when Dwane Casey won in Toronto on a buzzer beater. That was their championship. Enjoy!

But let’s talk about the Sixers because, barring an upset on their side of the bracket, that’s who we will be playing in the second round. To me, the 76ers are genuinely the third best team in the conference and there is a world in which they can knock off our beloved Raptors. However, we do have a couple significant factors working in our favour. 

Factor 1: You touched upon it. For some reason, Kawhi Leonard has Ben Simmon’s number. It’s safe to say that Simmons has never been guarded by anyone as menacing as Leonard — who has been the primary defender on Simmons when they have squared off. 

Here are some numbers for you: Simmons averages 8.0 turnovers per game when facing Toronto while Leonard averages 4.0 steals when facing the Sixers. Also, is it just me or does Leonard look like he especially enjoys shutting Simmons down? He has this look in his eyes that says he loves nothing more than erasing Simmons.

Factor 2: We also know that Joel Embiid struggles going up against elite mobile bigs who can pass, shoot, space the floor, play tough post defense, and who can drag him out of the paint (see: Al Horford). Well, Toronto has their version of what Horford brings: Marc Gasol. A fun stat that was making the rounds recently on Twitter, is the defensive impact Gasol has had when squaring off against Embiid. In the five games in which they squared off against one another, Embiid failed to top the 20-point plateau in any of those games. He also had some really horrific shooting performances: 40%, 38.5%, 40%, 26.7%, and 30.8% respectively. 

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But despite all that, the 76ers do give me pause. This is where I think home court advantage will come into play. I, like you, ultimately see the Raptors toppling the Sixers; however, I see them going the 7-game distance.

All of which brings us to the Eastern Conference Finals. I am surprised and also not surprised that you have the Celtics going over the Milwaukee Bucks. Perhaps you have a case of Stockholm Syndrome living in New England? Or perhaps, part of you, wants the thrill of stomping on the Celtics on the way to the Finals? Which I would fully support! 

To answer my own questions: I am 80% confident the Raptors will make the ECF. In terms of the Finals, it’s a coin flip between the Raptors and Bucks. So, I will go with 50% confidence the Raptors will make the Finals. Although 50% isn’t that sexy of a number, it’s still incredible that the Finals is a realistic destination.

I admire your OKC pick as the West winner. I would be delighted if that series would actually happen. There is a part of me that says the Warriors making the Finals is fait accompli; but there is this nagging part of me that says the Warriors, somehow, will not be in the Finals. I can’t explain it. I just have this gut feeling that this will be a Warriors-less June. My head says it will be Houston while my heart says it will be Utah. Either way, how great is it to be even entertaining the notion of a Finals appearance, and dare I say, a championship?


TUESDAY APRIL 9th, 2019

Adam Corsair, SOT6

I agree that the first round of the playoffs may be viewed as more “practice games” for the Raptors. That’s not to say that I think they won’t be taking the round seriously; they will. This is the dance and they know what’s at stake. But, as you touched upon, when you look at the potential opponents that the Raptors would face, it should be an easy avenue to Round 2. As of this writing, it’s still Orlando which — yes, sign me up!

It’s interesting to me that you’re giving the 76ers more credit than I am. I don’t disagree that they’re a talented bunch; they arguably have the best starting 5 in the East (key word: arguably). But given that the Raptors would have home court advantage (as you mentioned) and given that Kawhi basically eliminates Simmons entirely, I’m not sure that they have enough to make it interesting when it counts. The only member of that squad that gives me concern is Harris. Sure, you can throw Butler in the mix as he’s been a notorious Raptor Killer, but I’m not sure that I trust his talents on the big stage. Maybe I’m downplaying them, and this may be the hubris poking through as I mentioned in the previous email. But I think that this is a 6-game series at best. If it goes the distance, I’m not concerned that the Raptors will drop the series, but I am concerned for their hopes in the ECF. A 7 game series can be taxing (just look at our Raptors in the 2016 playoffs),

I’d be lying if I told you that the prospect of me attending a Raptors/Celtics ECF game in Boston didn’t influence my choice. I’d be the guy that essentially takes out a second mortgage to purchase a single ticket to the game (have you seen the prices?!?). But I just trust the Celtics’ veterans in the playoffs and I’m hard pressed to count them out. No pun intended here, but in the playoffs, the Celtics tend to have a four-leaf clover up their ass and they tend to find a way to thrive. I expect this to be no different. Call it the unwanted New England influence forced on me, but I think they have a shot.

I hear you on the Warriors, and I share that sentiment. It seems like there’s this sense of inevitability when it comes to them in the Finals, as they’re almost synonymous with each other. But there’s also this sense that their time is up. I could totally see Houston finding their way in, and Utah would be a pretty nice sleeper team as well. I’m more surprised that no one is trusting that Denver could somehow pull through, but it may be a lack of experience in that regard. I still hold firm on my Thunder pick, though.

Do you get the sense though that we, as Raptors fans, ought to pump the brakes a bit? I don’t know, maybe it’s what I mentioned previously about this sense of PTSD that is now inherent in our fanhood, but there’s this part of me that’s almost anticipating it to fall apart. Do you get that sense? Or are you more confident than ever that this is the year for our Raptors?

Peter Kaye, LIR

Do I think we as Raptors fans should pump the brakes? Absolutely! If being a Raptors fan has taught me anything, it is to expect the unexpected at the worst possible time. As a recent example, we have the Jeremy Lamb buzzer beater:

This PTSD was not given to us though; we have earned this PTSD through many years of painstaking postseason embarrassment. Sure, the Raptors will now have made the playoffs for six consecutive seasons — but it’s how we bow out each postseason that truly boggles the mind.

In 2015, we got swept by the Wizards despite having home court advantage. In 2016, 2017 & 2018, we experienced LeBronTo and the pain of losing to him in a variety of tormenting ways. It’s not just that we lost these series but rather the manner in which we lost. None of them were heartbreaking down-to-the-wire defeats; they were over-before-they-started defeats that lacked a competitive spirit. 

On top of this, we also have our 2–13 record in Game 1s. We also have our 1–9 record in first round Game 1s (one game winning streak baby!). Then before this recent stretch of success, we only made the playoffs twice in an 11-year span (losing both in the first round). That’s a lot of history, Adam!

I have a modest request: If we are going to lose in the playoffs, can we at least make sure whoever eliminates us has earned it? Our past four playoff exits have been deflating to say the least — they had me starting at my television in disbelief wondering what I have done to deserve this. Can we not lose in a competitive could-have-gone-either-way series? One in which the series went down to the wire and the other team knows they were in a war? Is this too much to ask? Am I being selfish?

Yet despite all the above, it feels like this year is different, no? Or is this fan-insanity? Where we keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

Adam Corsair, SOT6

I suppose you’re correct in that these battle wounds that we’ve endured have been earned and made us tougher, yet guarded. In that regard, we wear them with pride but in a way they serve as a reminder to not get too ahead of ourselves.

I’m glad that you brought up the curse of Game 1. Before last year’s Round 1 match-up against Washington, this was a big concern of mine. Moreover, I recall during the 2016 playoffs against Indiana and Miami that Lowry stated that the thing that he learned the most coming out of those two series was to “win Game 1”. It absolutely sets the stage and where the pendulum will swing to kick things off. Yet, having said that, and this may contradict my previous statement regarding Game 1, but I’m truly not going to let this be a concern. Yes, that probably will change if they do in fact drop Game 1 at home (recency bias and all), but I think the Raptors have exorcised that demon well enough for this not to be at the forefront of the first couple of rounds. This does not diminish the importance of winning Game 1 by any means. But it won’t be another mini-war that the Raptors, as a franchise, have to win.

Regarding your request, will we ever really feel that the opposing team that theoretically beats us has truly earned it? I don’t know that I can be convinced that any of the teams that we feel has a legitimate shot at beating the Raptors (the Bucks and/or the Celtics) will truly earn those victories. I say this because the Raptors are walking into Milwaukee or inviting Boston to Toronto as perceived “underdogs” by the Talking Heads out there. There won’t be a moment where the Raptors will get their due, and it’s getting old. Save for a Finals loss against the Warriors, I don’t think I’ll be in a situation where I won’t need another Therapy Session — and that’s only because of our previous statements of them being recently synonymous with the term “NBA Champions”. I’m not sure if this is me being blinded by my fanhood as I sport the Toronto laundry, but I don’t think I’ll ever feel that the opposition earned a win over Toronto in the playoffs. We’ve come too far.

Yes, this year is different because the team — as a whole — as well as the aggressive nature to improve the squad by Bobby Webster (who doesn’t get enough credit) and Masai Ujiri has been a much needed breath of fresh air. We didn’t and won’t achieve 59 wins like last season (side note: barring anything unforeseen, your prediction of 58 wins looks to be spot on!), but I’m not the least bit discouraged or underwhelmed. On the contrary, I’m more confident with 57 (or 58) wins compared to how I was with the Raptors winning 59. I expect Kawhi to show us what it’s like to have a bonafide superstar on this team; something we’ve never seen before. I expect Pascal Siakam to take in these playoffs and truly claim it as his own by showing the entire NBA audience that he has arrived and isn’t going anywhere. I anticipate Kyle Lowry to view this as his best (and perhaps only) shot at winning a championship and doing everything in his power to make that happen. I expect Marc Gasol to view this as perhaps his last opportunity to finally grab what he has been chasing his entire career and give it all that he has left.These factors feel different, and that’s because they are. We haven’t had these types of ingredients in our soup before when it comes to the playoffs, and that’s perhaps the reason why we’re exhibiting this type of confidence.

I just hope that this isn’t part of what also feels like a curse of being a Raptors fan; an inevitability of adding more and more battle wounds to serve as yet another reminder. I hope that this isn’t yet another false sense of confidence that we’re carrying. One that may doom us by once again getting smacked in the face with good ol’ reality, reminding ourselves that we are perpetually in this cycle. The following pun is absolutely intended here, but with respect and admiration my good friend:

I hope we’re not living our collective playoff life in repeat this year.


WEDNESDAY APRIL 10th, 2019

Peter Kaye, LIR

I was at the game when Jeremy Lamb hit that improbable buzzer beater that will be on every Play of the Year countdown. After the shock of the moment was over, my first reaction was “At least that wasn’t Game 7 of the Finals”. You are right, Adam— losing in the playoffs will never be easy. But let’s make sure it’s not as dramatic as the Lamb buzzer beater. I just jinxed it, didn’t I? 

Also, thank you for bringing up my prediction from the beginning of the season. Please permit me a moment to bask in the glory of my 58-win prediction…..alright, I’m good to continue now.

You have articulated perfectly all the reasons why this postseason just feels different. Leonard’s impending free agency has forced the organization into all-in mode; and kudos to Bobby Webster and Masai Ujiri for pushing their chips to the middle of the table.

This team is deep, Adam. Like really deep. Besides all the players you mentioned, we still have VanVleet, Lin, McCaw, Meeks, Powell, OG, Ibaka, and Green. We also both know that Danny Green is going to swing a few playoff games. He’s the ultimate glue guy: you won’t win a title because of him but you can’t win a title without him (Green is going to find himself on an NBA All-Defense team come award season).

Our roster is so talented and so deep that we can play any style. You also know how eagerly I am awaiting Kawhi at Center minutes come postseason time. Nurse has given us that teaser trailer sprinkled throughout the season and I fully expect him to use Leonard at the 5 when the appropriate time comes (and it will be glorious).

I’m glad you brought up Siakam because a lot of attention will be paid to how he performs in the postseason. Will he carry over his strong play into the playoffs? I absolutely think so. Gone is the kryptonite that he is a poor three-point shooter. I dare other teams to let Siakam beat them because you know why? He will beat them! Also, I am thoroughly enjoying the awards buzz Siakam is getting from respected members of the media who vote. He is getting MIP buzz, All-NBA buzz, and All-Defense buzz. I love it! Well earned, Spicy P! The Most Improved Player hardware is a lock; the All-NBA might be wishful thinking this soon; but, I’m starting to think he may garner an All-Defense nod. 

Speaking of Siakam, the dude is due for an extension this summer. Whether he gets an extension this summer, or the following summer in restricted free agency, gone will be the days when he is making less than the veteran’s minimum. Have you thought about Siakam’s next contract? Is it better to extend him this summer or wait until the following summer? Essentially, what I’m really getting at is: what do you think his next contract will look like? I’m very curious to see your response (as a trusted smart mark Raptors contributor) because I have spent far too much time thinking about this.

Adam Corsair, SOT6

That’s an interesting question regarding an extension for Siakam that, I must admit, I haven’t considered yet. There’s no time like the present, I suppose!

I think the priority this off-season is to re-sign Kawhi and offer him that mega contract. I don’t think that, by doing so, they’re disregarding the notion that Siakam deserves a more lucrative deal, but rather they’re prioritizing keeping this train running. That being said, there’s also more of a priority to try to get Danny Green to stick around, as well. I think that, once the 2020 off-season rolls around, they’ll be in a better position — both mentally and financially — to extending Siakam to a — dare I say — max deal? I don’t think that’s out of the realm of possibility and, in fact, I think he will deserve it at that point, if he doesn’t already. By then, Kyle, Gasol (assuming he picks up his player option next season — which, c’mon, he will) and Serge will be off the books and the Raptors will be in a much more financially stable position to put that money out there. This just seems to make the most sense, for me.

I’m glad you mentioned the depth of this lineup because it showed up last night against Minnesota. Yes, it was the last game of the regular season and, yes, it was against a depleted and embarrassing Timberwolves squad, but it was nice to see the bench and 905 members flexing a bit. Boucher had a more than decent showing — a +16 with 15 points, 2 blocks, 13 boards, in about 24.5 minutes! Not to mention OG showing some signs of life as well. Again, I don’t want to do too much examination based on one game against a pretty bad team, but these are confidence-building moments that will carry over into the playoffs in the (unlikely) event that the Raptors need to deploy these players. It’s just a nice sense of security that we have with these players on the bench. More than likely, players like Boucher, Meeks, Miller, Moreland, and even Lin won’t be getting any significant minutes, if any at all. But it’s good to know that we’re dealing with a very deep and serviceable set of players if something were to happen (or if there’s garbage minutes).

That being said, I’m interested in what you think our playoff rotation will look like. I’m thinking the usual Starting 5 of Lowry, Green, Kawhi, Siakam, and Gasol with Serge, FVV, OG and mmmaaaayyyybbbbeee Norm coming off the bench. I have to admit that I’m still a little uneasy when it comes to using Norman Powell in the playoffs, despite the success he’s had when it mattered in the past. However, as I mentioned in a previous email, the margin for error is super slim, and we just don’t know which Norm we’re going to get. If anything, maybe keep him on a tight leash with a quick trigger if he’s exhibiting his spastic nature that he sometimes does. But even then, I may find myself white-knuckling my couch.

A lot of people don’t trust OG for some reason, but I think that’s largely — if not entirely — due to his many absences this season. This is a guy that, as a rookie, guarded LeBron James in the playoffs last year and did it well. That type of defensive ability and intensity is crucial for success and I think that it will be heavily valued and needed, despite his struggles on offense. That type of defensive presence has the ability to sort of mitigate the lack of offensive consistency, so I’m much more confident deploying OG than say maybe a Norm in certain situations.

Peter Kaye, LIR

You are absolutely right that the offseason priorities are re-signing Leonard and Green since they are unrestricted free agents. But I do think Masai will find a way to get business done early with Siakam as well. Nothing like a freshly signed Siakam to persuade free agents (and Leonard & Green) to make Toronto their home.

When thinking of Siakam’s next contact, is it completely ludicrous to think that some team will offer him the max in restricted free agency? Think about that for a moment. It’s not that crazy is it?

All of which leads me to thinking that Ujiri will try to extend him this summer to a deal that would be a lot of money but still below the maximum money he could command next summer. How does $100 million over four years sound? I think that’s the deal. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if Masai found a way to sign him for a slightly less annual average salary. Either way, Siakam will no longer be the overlooked first rounder playing on a bargain basement deal. Instead he will be paid like a superstar with superstar expectations.

In regards to playoff rotations, the starters are pretty much written in ink (Lowry, Green, Leonard, Siakam & Gasol). Our bench rotation should run no more than nine deep (unless, of course, we have a blowout on our hands or Nurse needs to inject life into a game that is going sideways). Ibaka, Steady Freddy, and OG are locks. I do suspect we will see some regular minutes from Norm in the postseason — and frankly he’s earned it. He went from from DeMar DeRozan-lite to completely useless then all the way back to a solid rotation player. Yes, the leash should be short on Powell but I can totally see him winning us a quarter and, conversely, losing us a quarter. Where and when Nurse deploys Powell will definitely be something to keep an eye on.

In terms of those who don’t trust OG, I say treason! Give me their names so I can report them to the Twitter Police! He is already a great defender both on the perimeter and as a small-ball 4 who can bang with the likes of a Blake Griffin and hold his own. There are going to be many All-Defensive accolades on his mantle when all is said and done. I am fully expecting him to leave his mark on the postseason. 

Back at the beginning of this exercise you wrote:

It’s in writing, Peter; we’re going to the NBA Finals.

And you know what? Just having this dialogue with someone as informed as you has made me see the light. I am raising my 5/10 confidence level all the way to 8/10 or dare I say 9/10.

Our team is deep. We have elite defenders across this roster. We just need to go out now and win the games. Also, if the regular season was just practice for Kawhi, then I am ready for some Playoff Kawhi. 

You know what else, Adam? I too am ready for the playoffs! I am ready for the nervous energy, the heightened anticipation, the highs and lows of every single possession, and just the energy and community amongst Raptors fans. Sign me up! I am ready! There is nothing I love more than High Five-ing strangers as we collectively countdown the 16 wins it will take to taste immortality. 

I also hear rumours that you will make your way up to Toronto for a championship celebration. If that isn’t a good enough reason to hope for a Raptors title, then I don’t know what is. Also, I jokingly told my wife that I would buy myself a replica championship ring if the Raptors won the title. I also realized that I’m not joking either.


THURSDAY APRIL 11th, 2019

Adam Corsair, SOT6

Well, Peter, we finally have our answer and I for one, couldn’t be happier. The bracket, as it stands, favors the Raptors as the team with the easiest path to the Eastern Conference Finals. I feel that we received a gift from the Basketball gods with our first round opponent in the Orlando Magic, as this was the team I was least worried about. Had it been the Nets, I was concerned with their determination led by DLo, as well as their offensive intensity. Had it been Detroit, I was concerned with their physicality and the mere presence of Dwane Casey perhaps intimidating Nick Nurse. In the Magic, however, what do we really have to be worried about? Yes, Vučević is very good, but not good enough to contain Gasol. Otherwise, what is threatening? Are we worried about Terrence Ross here? C’mon now.

I also like how there’s a thread of history built into this with longstanding Raptors fans. Let’s not forget that it was the Magic that knocked out the Raptors from Round 1 of the playoffs back in 2008. Sure, this was well before the “We The North” era was established, and perhaps out of the minds of the casual fans, but it’s still a talking point! Given that Game of Thrones is returning this week, let me use this as an opportunity to throw out this pun:

The North remembers. The North always remembers. 

I can’t tell you how excited I am for this to finally begin, Peter. With the “practice games” out of the way, I’m more than confident that the Raptors can steamroll this Round 1. Whereas, examining the rest of the bracket, the Sixers and Nets has the potential to be a nice yet tiresome 6 game series, giving the Raptors some relief for Round 2 in terms of being fresh. Also, remember that physicality that I mentioned that the Pistons possess? I have no doubt that they’re going to make it tough on the Bucks. By no means do I see Milwaukee taking that easily in 4. Boston and Indiana? Sure, whatever. Most boring Round 1 playoff series on the Eastern side if you ask me.

But regardless, it’s finally here! I’m anxious to see where this takes us. Hopefully it’s a journey all the way to the NBA Finals with the result being twofold:

1) The Raptors finally achieve immortality.

2) I get my ass up to Toronto and celebrate with you guys!

Let’s get it!

Peter Kaye, LIR

The playoffs are officially here and I couldn’t be happier. I am not sweating the Magic at all for all the reasons you listed above. This should be a series we take in a gentlemen’s sweep. There is no one on their roster that concerns me. Also, damn right — let’s get revenge for 2008!

To bring this conversation to a close, I want to thank you, Adam, for having this dialogue with me leading up to the postseason — and for being the first guest writer on the maiden voyage of the Life In Repeat Versus series. Let’s go Raptors! And here’s to hoping we will see you in Toronto come June! 

Now hit my music!


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


Raptors Playoff Preview

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


After another long yet successful season for the Toronto Raptors, last night it was finally made official as to whom they would square off against in the first round of the NBA Playoffs: the Orlando Magic.

Just a week ago, many people were looking at possible opponents for the Raptors in the first round which included the Brooklyn Nets and Detroit Pistons. That was until the Magic made a late run for the post-season. From sitting in 10th place and fighting for their playoff lives, to winning eight of their last ten games to grab the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic have squared off four times this season and split the season series at two-games apiece. The first match-up of the season came early on in which Toronto saw an 18-point lead evaporate, leading to a buzzer beating shot courtesy of Danny Green to win the game for Toronto. The second meeting came nearly a month later and saw Toronto without their star point guard, Kyle Lowry, coupled with a poor outing from Pascal Siakam who only putting up four points and four rebounds. This resulted in a 19-point blowout from the hands of the Magic.

Although, those games were prior to the trade deadline, these two teams clashed once in February. Once again, the Raptors were not at full strength, this time being without Kawhi Leonard which deemed to be a huge loss. Toronto got off to a poor start, only putting up 15 points in the first quarter. The big difference maker in that game was the offensive rebounding that Toronto allowed, giving Orlando second-chance points and easy scores which resulted in Toronto taking another defeat from the Magic by 15 on their home floor.

The final meeting between Toronto and Orlando came less than two weeks ago on April 1st. This final game between the two had zero injuries and saw both teams with a full 15-man roster. Pascal Siakam, who has had an impressive season and has made a ton of noise surrounding the Most Improved Player of the Year award, didn’t have the best performance once again. Although, this is a good thing; it’s something that happens to a player when you make a ton of noise around the league regarding your high level of play throughout the season. Teams start to take you more seriously and try to change up your game. That’s what Orlando did, but yet they didn’t account for all the other powerful and versatile players in the Raptors’ lineup. This included Danny Green, who shot the lights out, going 7-of-10 from beyond the arc putting up 29 points in a 12-point win for Toronto at home.

In three of the four meetings between these two teams, the winning team has won by 12 or more points. This also could have been the case in the first meeting when Toronto was up 18, but was denied a blowout win and instead had to win it at the buzzer.

Now, it may be easy to say that Toronto could easily sweep this series against Orlando - which is a valid prediction. But this is a young Magic team that hasn’t made the post-season since 2012 and is excited to show the world what they are all about. This team may be inexperienced in the post-season but inexperience also means they have nothing to lose. Having just 75 games combined between the Magic roster currently in post-season games played, the Raptors have a total of 502 games played in the post-season. Although, alongside with the young star power of Jonathan Isaac, the athleticism of Aaron Gordan, and big body of Nikola Vučević down low. Coming off the bench will be former Raptor Terrance Ross, who scored 35 points in the season finale Wednesday night against the Charlotte Hornets in 30 minutes. After that game, Ross was asked how he feels about facing his former team in the first round, to which he replied “It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be fun, I’m excited,”

As the final regular season games came to an end Wednesday night, the NBA kept fans waiting as to when the full schedule for every first round series would be released. Until around 1 a.m. eastern time, the full schedule was finally released:

Game 1: Saturday, April 13th in Toronto @ 5 p.m. on ESPN

Game 2: Tuesday, April 16th in Toronto @ 8 p.m. on TNT

Game 3: Friday, April 19th in Orlando @ 7 p.m. on ESPN

Game 4: Sunday, April 21st in Orlando @ 7 p.m. on TNT

Game 5 (if necessary): Tuesday, April 23rd in Toronto – TBD

Game 6 (if necessary): Thursday, April 25th in Orlando – TBD

Game 7 (if necessary): Saturday, April 27th in Toronto – TBD

Not looking too far ahead, but the winner of Toronto-Orlando gets the winner of Philadelphia-Brooklyn in the second round.

Practice is over. The real games start on Saturday. Are you ready, Toronto?


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 111

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Follow host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 111

"BOOK END"

TORONTO RAPTORS TALK

Weekly Toronto Raptors talk!

  • The Raptors have solidified themselves as the Number 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. With a victory over the Heat, they have made it so it is impossible for them to face Dwane Casey and the Detroit Pistons for Round 1 of the Playoffs. That being said, there’s still the question of whether or not they will finish with the second best record in the NBA and who they will eventually face for the first round of the playoffs. It’s been a long and winding road for this team, and with only one game remaining, it is clear that this is - without a shadow of a doubt - the absolute best season we as Raptors fans have ever witnessed.

  • Joining host Adam Corsair is guest Jay Rosales of Raptors HQ and co-host of the That's A Rap Podcast. Jay and Adam unpack the week that was as well as other topics related to the regular season, such as:

    - A Look Back at the Regular Season
    - Ka-Why Bracket
    - Playoff Picture
    - Raptors MVP
    - Too Sweet Moment of the Season🤘
    - Predictions

It's a Raptors focused podcast that you WON'T want to miss!

Follow Jay Rosales on Twitter: @Rosalesaurus

Visit Jay’s work HERE

Subscribe to the That's A Rap Podcast HERE

Music:

Drake Stafford - "Casets"

Auxl Audio - "Blue Bloods"


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 109

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@AdamCorsair)


EPISODE 109

"SEEDING"

TORONTO RAPTORS TALK

Weekly Toronto Raptors Talk

  • The Raptors have approached the final stretch of the regular season, with the last remaining games looking to be favorable ones. With a shocking loss against the Hornets at home, the Raptors responded by easily defeating the Bulls twice along with the Knicks in between. However, the chances of them catching up to the Bucks for the No.1 seed in the Eastern Conference is all but impossible at this point, leaving them to set their sights on who the 7th seed will be for Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs.

  • To discuss these and other topics, host Adam Corsair is joined by Hunter Surphlis of Take 6ix and the Take 6ix Podcast. Hunter and Adam break down the week that was and hit on topics such as:

- Playoff Picture
- Norm’s Resurgence
- Jeremy Lin’s Struggles
- MIP Debate
- Too Sweet Moment of the Week🤘
- Predictions

It's a Raptors podcast that you won't want to miss!

Follow Hunter Surphlis on Twitter: @H_Surphlis

Follow the Take 6ix Podcast: @take_6ix

Subscribe to the Take 6ix Podcast HERE

Music:
Drake Stafford - "Casets"
Auxl Studio - "Blue Bloods"


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


Raptors: Playing with Fire at Centre

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Article Written by Ryan Grosman (@RyanGrosman)


Have you ever heard the phrase, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”?

Well, it also applies to the NBA. 

One misstep. One sudden change in direction, one bad landing, in a split second, a team’s entire season can be altered. Just ask Victor Oladipo and the Indiana Pacers.

Or one minute your all-star point guard is back in the lineup, just in time to establish some much-needed on-court team chemistry before the playoffs. The next minute an awkward, out of control 7-footer decides to use him to break his fall and he’s back on the DL. 

Now, it could’ve been a lot worse. Like season ending worse. But that’s how quickly things can turn in the NBA or any sport, for that matter.

Before Kyle Lowry returned to action vs. the Hornets, Fred VanVleet stepped up big time in his absence, with Jeremy Lin taking up the backup role. That’s why having depth is so important. You may not need it in the playoffs when rotations tend to shrink. But it’s an important safety-net in case everything goes to hell in an NBA basket.

Which leads us to the Raptors’ centre situation. 

Long before Serge Ibaka decided to throw his annual haymakers, this time resulting in a 3-game suspension, I had some major concerns about the Raptors’ depth at the 5. Nick Nurse and the team managed to scrape by while Ibaka was serving his suspension (and apparently serving Kawhi Leonard food). But it was far from ideal. 

What if, knock on hardwood, one or both of Ibaka and Marc Gasol succumb to injury? Or if they play the 76ers and Embiid gets them into foul trouble? What then?

Ever since Greg Monroe was ousted from the break-in-case-of-fire-last-resort centre spot, the Raptors have yet to replace him. After Ibaka and Gasol, the centre options get extremely thin – quite literally. Their current third-string option is the lanky Chris Boucher. If Andrew Wiggins is (or was) Maple Jordan, Boucher is the Maple Tree Branch. He’s that skinny. And despite Boucher’s 3-point celebration game being NBA ready, he clearly needs a lot more seasoning. And bulk. 

After Boucher, the thinness continues with Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. However, employing either one at the centre spot would be strictly matchup dependent. If, for example, the Bucks play Giannis at the 5 for stretches of the game, then you can deploy Siakam or OG at centre. Otherwise, at 6’9” and 6’8” respectively, they’re too undersized and can’t rebound well enough to leave them at the 5 spot for too long. 

Finally, there’s new 10-dayer, Eric Moreland. In limited minutes, he’s shown some good signs, aggressively going after rebounds and often winning the battle. But not only is he undersized, he also has no playoff experience. Actually, he doesn’t have much experience at all. In 5 seasons, he’s appeared in just 82 games, only once averaging more than 10 mins/game. So, if suddenly thrusted into the backup centre role in the playoffs, can you really trust him?

Sorry. Eric Moreland is not the answer. 

So then who is?

Glad you asked. The answer is likely somewhere deep in the heart of Poland right now, just twiddling his thumbs ever since the Clippers bought him out. 

That’s right. The Raptors should sign the Polish Hammer himself, Marcin Gortat. 

You’re probably laughing right now. But why not? Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster could scour the G-League and the universe, looking for an experienced, big bruiser like Gortat. Or they could just sign Gortat. He’s actually perfect for what the Raptors need. Here’s why. 

He’s Been to the Dance Before

Gortat has been around a long time — 13 seasons to be exact. And in that time, he’s been a starter for several playoff teams. One of those teams happens to be the 2014-2015 Wizards, who quite easily swept the Raptors out of the playoffs. Between the Wizards and Magic, Gortat has appeared in 86 playoff games over 7 seasons, averaging almost 21 mins/game.

In other words, he’s no stranger to the playoffs. If he has to, he can absorb a lot of minutes without being phased by the bright lights.

He Fits Like a Polish Glove

If the worst-case scenario happens and they need a backup centre in the playoffs, Gortat can easily fit into the Raptors lineup, plug and play style. He’s not the type of player who needs plays called for him. Nor does he need the ball to be effective. You just need him to be big. You know, rebound. Get the occasional put-back. Set screens. Show some interior toughness. Defend the rim. That sort of thing.

Speaking of Setting Screens...

Gortat happens to be one of the best screen setters in the league. The dude is super crafty. I don’t know if he has damning evidence on every ref in the league, but he somehow gets away with a moving screen on practically every play. 

It’s annoying as fuck. But not if he’s on your team. 

He Hunts Boards

As I mentioned before, you don’t need Gortat to score. You just need him to be big.That includes getting rebounds. And Gortat happens to good at cleaning the glass. For his career, he’s averaged almost 8 rebounds/game, 5.8 of which are defensive rebounds – an area the Raptors have struggled with all season.

He’s Called The Polish Hammer For a Reason

Gortat is a big man. And if thrust into the Raptors’ playoff rotation, he can provide the interior toughness that the team sorely needs. All season, the Raptors have had trouble with bigger, more physical teams like the Pistons – a potential first round opponent.

The Pistons feature Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond in their frontcourt, which makes life really difficult for the Raptors and the slender Siakam. In their 3 regular season matchups (all losses, of course), Griffin overpowered Siakam while routinely getting him into early foul trouble.  

In theory, if Gortat was on the roster, you could start both Ibaka and Gasol vs. the Pistons and bring Gortat and Siakam off of the bench. This provides some matchup flexibility, specifically against the bigger, tougher teams.

In the end, the Raptors may never actually need a fail-safe third-string centre in the playoffs. And here’s hoping they don’t. But if something does go wrong and the sky starts to fall, wouldn’t you want a viable option like Gortat on the bench?

The answer is tak. That’s yes in Polish.


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


The Raptors Winning Formula

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Article Written by Rodrigo Albizurez (@rodzyalbizurez)


There are 8 games left in the regular season for the Toronto Raptors to figure out their true potential and to take the next step. Can they realistically take the next step and find the next gear in 8 games? This is the point where you start contemplating if they can or not and spiral into Raptor conspiracy theories on why they won’t. Raptors fans are so fragile like that but lucky for you, I’m going to keep it real like Dallas Green and play the grand optimist role. There’s enough negativity in the world, so here’s some reasons to why they will figure out.

First, the Raptors have already figured out the winning formula but implementing that formula every game is the issue. Their main problem is that the Raptors haven’t had a healthy roster all year and that’s taken a toll on their coaching staff due to the fact their rotations have been all over the place. Steddy Freddy has been out for a fair share of games all year and same with both Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard. Those 3 guys are your main dudes that keep the boat afloat. Imagine losing your head chef, sous chef and your dishwasher for 2 nights of the week and expecting to keep the restaurant afloat; it’s probably not happening. Yes, I threw in the dishwasher because that role is important for the entire restaurant. Without the dishwasher, you’re eating off paper plates or napkins!

Now, for the Raptors, they have had other guys step up like the Most Improved Player front runner, Pascal Siakam and the 3-point assassin, Danny Green. These guys have been in the lineup all year long and they’re in line to get the bag in the offseason. Without these guys, the Raptors would be a 4th or 5th seed in the East right. Now that Kyle Lowry has returned to the lineup, the Raptors will be at full strength barring any unfortunate injuries in the last couple weeks of the season. With a healthy roster comes great responsibility but endless power (Spider-Man quotes rule).

But in all seriousness, the Raptors at full strength is one of the key ingredients to their winning formula because everyone brings something different to the table offensively and defensively that can only impact their chances at winning games in the playoffs. If the Raptors can stay healthy during the final 8 games of the season, they will finally be able to fully develop what every couple in their first few dates - and more importantly an NBA team - needs to compete for a championship, chemistry. Don’t get it twisted, they already have chemistry because I’ve never seen Kawhi smile so much. But with their full roster intact, they will be able to figure out the little things that will keep the drive alive during the grueling playoff season. Another great man also said, “with more chemistry, comes less turnovers.” Alright so no one said that, but I just did. With that being said, reducing turnovers is the next ingredient in the winning formula, and for this particular situation, less is better for the Raptors.

Turnovers are an awful part of the game of basketball but a great option at McDonald’s. You can never go wrong with an apple turnover with a classic black coffee, but we can all go without a careless Raptors turnover. Turnovers are apart of the game and they always will be, but the Raptors need to minimize them if they want to contend for a title. If you have been watching the Raptors play the past couple weeks, you have seen a rise in turnovers;careless ones especially. Most of them come after a great defensive possession in which they turn the opposing team over, but only to give them the ball back within 10 seconds! The Raptors could have blown the game wide open with all these opportunities, but they keep giving teams opportunities to get back into the game with all these gruesome turnovers.

During the two games against the Thunder, the Raptors turned the ball over way too many times and almost coughed up a game in OKC when they were up 19 in the 4th quarter. They lost their second matchup to OKC because of turnovers and their lack of trust in each other. The Raptors are at their best when they are swinging the ball and finding open shooters. When they have a high turnover rate, especially in the first half, the lack of trust in each other dwindles and they refer to iso ball in the 2nd half. That’s my opinion on why the Raptors are so iso heavy in the 2nd half of most games during this 2 week stretch. If they can limit the turnovers, they can continue to trust in each other that the person will find them in their ideal spot without having to force passes and commit turnovers. Like I said in the above paragraph, a lot of these turnovers have to do with team chemistry and having inconsistent lineups. Once fully healthy, we should see the Raptors at full form and committing less turnovers because players will know who they can expect on the court at all times and in certain situations.

You are still going to see some iso ball because Kawhi is pretty dominant in those situations, but you’ll continue to see him kick it out when he gets double or triple teamed. If you look at this season, the Raptors have turned the ball over at a high rate all year, but again that’s due to inconsistent lineups. Some turnovers are just dumb, but that’s just a part of the game. Mental errors are always in play, because no one is perfect. The Raptors don’t have to be perfect in regard to turnovers, but they have to be better than the opposing team.

These last 8 games are super important for the Raptors to gain the chemistry they need to take the next step. A healthy roster and less turnovers will give the Raptors the opportunity to compete for the NBA Championship. These last 8 games and the playoffs are their canvas and whether they come out with a finger or Picasso type painting is completely up to them.


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 106

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@AdamCorsair)


EPISODE 106

"STONE COLD"

TORONTO RAPTORS TALK

Weekly Toronto Raptors Talk

  • The Raptors put on an outstanding display in Oklahoma City this week; winning a nail-biter in overtime with strong performances from both Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam. Even with a loss against the same Thunder squad on Friday, confidence in the Raptors heading into the final stretch of the regular season is starting to solidify going into the playoffs. However, with Kyle Lowry now dealing with a right ankle sprain, the Raptors have to now prioritize the health of the mainstays. Their performance in the playoffs will be extremely important, so resting within the final 9 games of the season may be key.

  • To discuss these and other topics, host Adam Corsair is joined by Jay Leung of the That’s A Rap Podcast. Jay and Adam break down the week that was and hit on topics such as:

- How Hungry Are You? Red Herring
- Kyle Lowry’s Injury Concern
- Bucks’ Injury Concern(s)
- Playoff Picture
- Too Sweet Moment of the Week🤘
- Predictions

It's a Raptors podcast that you won't want to miss!

Follow Jay Leung on Twitter: @JayLeung20

Follow the That’s A Rap Podcast: @ThatsARapPod

Subscribe to the That’s A Rap Podcast HERE

Music:
Audiobinger - “The Darkside”
Jim Johnston -I Won’t Do What You Tell Me”
Drake Stafford - "Casets"
Auxl Studio - "Blue Bloods"


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


Possible First Round Opponents for the Toronto Raptors

Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


As of today, and as you are reading this, the Toronto Raptors currently sit three games back of the Milwaukee Bucks for first place in the Eastern Conference. Whether the Raptors finish first or second in the Conference with a dozen games remaining in the regular season. Here, we take a look at who the Raptors could possibly see in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

If the Playoffs started today, the Raptors would face off against Atlantic Division rivals - the Brooklyn Nets - in the first round. Toronto currently leads the season series against Brooklyn 2-1 with one more game to be played between the two on April 3rd in Brooklyn. The only loss against Brooklyn this season thus far came back on the 18th of December where Toronto lost a thriller in overtime, 106-105. But, that was prior to the trade deadline. Two teams now have some sort of change regarding their lineups. The second meeting was all Toronto and the third meeting was another heavily contested match-up where Toronto pulled away with the victory. If these two teams were to meet in the first round, by all means, Brooklyn is no team to take lightly. But their lack of playoff experience and talent in mid-April might not be enough to get the job done. Thus, it is also safe to say Toronto has had the slight edge over the Nets.

Another possible opponent could be the Detroit Pistons who – let’s just say - the Raptors have had problems with this season. Now, keep in mind. all three meetings between these two teams,Toronto has not had a full and healthy roster. In the first game back in November, where we saw the return of Dwane Casey to Toronto, the Raptors were without Serge Ibaka and were playing Greg Monroe with heavy minutes. Detroit ended up winning that game at the buzzer with a tip-in courtesy of Reggie Bullock, who was traded to the Lakers. In game two just a few weeks ago, Toronto was without Kawhi Leonard and lost in overtime 112-107. In game three on Sunday, the Raptors were without both Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka and lost 110-107. Toronto have lost all three meetings by a combined seven points and all without their stars. Now, some may say the playoffs are a different animal, and they’re right. But these three wins and with Dwane Casey being on the other side of that coaching box, you can’t help but think this Pistons team would be a confident bunch if they got matched up with Toronto in the first round and pulled off the major upset.

A third and possible opponent could very well be the Miami Heat, which believe it or not, the Raptors are currently up 3-0 in the season series with one more game to play between them on April 7th. The first meeting of the season came early on in the year where Toronto was a league’s best 17-4. This game saw Pascal Siakam and Kawhi Leonard put up a combined 60 points. The second meeting was a lot closer and was decided by inches where the Heat missed two tip-in efforts to try and send the game into overtime. The third meeting was a 21-point blowout by Toronto away from Scotiabank Arena. With one more meeting to go this season, Toronto could sweep Miami in the season and go 4-0 against them, which could possibly play out to be the best possible match-up for Toronto come Playoff time.

Other possibilities that Toronto could see in the first round are the Orlando Magic or Charlotte Hornets; two teams that currently sit outside of a playoff spot and would need to go on a bit of a winning streak to make the playoffs. Anything it is possible.

It is easy to get caught up in what could be for Toronto in future rounds of the playoffs, but the first round isn’t easy by any means. Brooklyn, Detroit and Miami will give Toronto and possibly even Milwaukee some bumps in the road in a grueling seven-game series. The bench and three-point shooting for Toronto has had their massive amounts of struggles throughout the season, costing them close games where a few points from a player or where a few three-pointers could have been the deciding factor. But this Raptors team have also proved that they can win in cases where the bench doesn’t produce or that three-ball isn’t connecting, and that is scary.

Yes, the playoffs are a different beast awaiting to be slain by whichever team brings it the absolute most. Just as Kawhi Leonard put it, “There’s 82 games and for me they are just practice and playoffs is when it is time to lace them up.” But for underdog teams like the Nets, Pistons and Heat, those regular season stats matter and that is what they are going to feed off of come playoff time. I am sure there is nothing to worry about as Toronto has proved that they are a powerhouse team and everyone on the roster is finally starting to look healthy again. They can be really dangerous when everything clicks as a unit.

Toronto has 12 games remaining in the season as the 2019 NBA Playoffs tip-off on April 13th.

Who do you want to see Toronto face in the first-round of the Playoffs?


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 104

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@AdamCorsair)


EPISODE 104

"PRACTICE GAMES"

TORONTO RAPTORS TALK

Weekly Toronto Raptors Talk

  • After struggling against the Cleveland Cavaliers where Raptors’ center, Serge Ibaka, got into a scuffle with Marquese Chriss resulting in a 3 game suspension, the squad was able to bounce back and sweep the series against LeBron James and the Lakers. That victory may have given fans reason for optimism, but there’s not doubt that the loss of Serge - even for 3 games - will be costly for the Raptors. Will this affect the team’s chemistry? Will this impact Serge’s opportunities to start over Gasol moving forward? How will this influence resting other players?

  • To discuss these and other topics, host Adam Corsair is joined by Richard Birfer of the BallnRoll.com official Podcast, Pick-N-Pod. Richard and Adam touch on a bunch of Raptors and NBA related topics, such as:

- OVO Centre
- Serge
- Playoff Picture
- Concerns
- Too Sweet Moment of the Week🤘
- Predictions

It’s a Raptors’ show you WON’T want to miss!

Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardbirfs

Subscribe to the Pick-N-Pod Podcast HERE

Visit BallnRoll HERE

Music:

Yung Kartz- "Benjamins"
Auxl Studio - "Blue Bloods"


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 102

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@AdamCorsair)


EPISODE 102

"PALMETTO BUGS"

TORONTO RAPTORS TALK

Weekly Toronto Raptors Talk

  • After an up and down week from the Raptors - a week in which they dropped two games in a row - the confidence heading into the playoffs is certainly wavering. Even with a strong victory over the New Orleans Pelicans - a glorified G-Leage team with the majority of their star players sitting - there are still plenty of questions that the team needs to answer heading into the playoffs. Will the rotations stabilize? Will Jeremy Lin get more comfortable with the offense? What will Nurse’s decision between Gasol & Serge be in terms of who starts moving forward? 

  • To discuss these and other topics, host Adam Corsair is joined by Connor Chambers of Toronto Sports Views & host of the TSV Podcast. Connor and Adam touch on a bunch of Raptors and NBA related topics, such as:

- Playoff Bracket
- Gasol/Serge
- Lin/FVV
- Rotations
- Too Sweet Moment of the Week🤘
- Predictions

It’s a Raptors’ show you WON’T want to miss!

Follow Connor on Twitter: @connorchambers & @TO_SportsViews

Visit Connor's Work: HERE

Subscribe to the TSV Podcast HERE

Music:

Drake Stafford - "Casets"
Auxl Studio - "Blue Bloods"


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


Raptors: Still No Respect From the Refs

Article Written by Ryan Grosman (@RyanGrosman)


“Enough is enough.”

That’s how I felt after the Toronto Raptors took down the Portland Trail Blazers last week at Scotiabank Arena.

Sure, the Raptors came away with the thrilling 119-117 victory, capping off one of the more exciting games of the season. But like so many games before, they lost the battle. What battle, you ask? The battle of the whistle. The battle of respect. More specifically, the respect of the refs.

I’ve been watching the Raptors since their inception in 1995 and have witnessed a lot of horrible calls. Like a lot a lot. Many of which were so blatantly obvious and so frequent that you couldn’t help but wonder if they were doing it on purpose.

A crucial late game out of bounds call. Two players diving for a loose ball. A game-changing charge call. If there was a close call to be made, it went against the Raptors.

You could bet your life savings on it and be right every time. And while I didn’t like it, I endured it. Why? Because the team was a joke for a very long time.Sure, there were some successful seasons here and there, including the height of the Vince Carter era when the team pushed the 76ers to Game 7 of the second round. And maybe a couple Chris Bosh seasons.  But mostly these successes were short lived. As were the playoff runs. The Raptors just never truly established themselves as a top franchise that was deserving of league-wide respect.

That is, until 2013 when someone made the very wise decision to hire Masai Ujiri as GM. Ujiri immediately turned the franchise around and set it on a course for legitimacy. And thus a brand new era of Raptors basketball was born – the We The North era.

Since that 2013-2014 season until now (as of the time of writing), the Raptors have collected 309 wins – the third most in the NBA behind only the Golden State Warriors (360) and San Antonio Spurs (327).

The third most.

Just think about that for a second. No, seriously. Take a moment.

The franchise that once lost a whopping 66 games and purposely bore a dinosaur on its uniforms. The franchise that once let Kobe Bryant go off for the tune of 81 points and traded away its superstar player for some spare parts and a disgruntled Alonzo Mourning.  The franchise that once drafted Rafael Araújo with the 8th pick over Andre Iguodala and Andrea Bargnani with the 1st pick over LaMarcus Aldridge.

Yeah. That Toronto Raptors.

Their 309 wins is more than the Cleveland Cavaliers (259), Boston Celtics (259), Oklahoma City Thunder (292) and Houston Rockets (308), all of which are very successful and well-respected NBA franchises (well, maybe not the Cavs).

But despite all this; despite being one of the winningest teams in the league since 2013, they still don’t get the whistle. Sure, even during this We The North era, the Raptors have seen some embarrassing playoff exists, mostly thanks to LeBron James. But in each year since the 2015-2016 season, they’ve made it to at least the second round. How many teams can claim that?

And to top it all off, this season is like no other in Raptors franchise history.

Why? Because not only are they a top team, they’re a top team with an elite superstar player in Kawhi Leonard – the likes of which they’ve never had. They’ve also just added a well-respected, perennial all-star in Marc Gasol.

Yet the Raptors continue to be treated like a bottom feeding franchise without a superstar player.

So if the Raptors can’t get the respect of the refs this season, when can they? What more do they have to do? Make the finals? Win a championship? Take down the Bon Jovi banner?

While almost every game has its fair share of head-scratching calls, I’m going to focus on the Blazers game. That game was truly a microcosm of what the Raptors franchise and its fans have endured for the last 24 years. 

They Were on Their Home Floor

The Raptors were the home team. Really, it shouldn’t matter where the game is played. A foul should be a foul, whether it’s Scotiabank Arena or Saturn.

But it does matter. It matters a lot.

Every time the Raptors roll into Boston or L.A. or Houston, you know the refs will be favouring the home team. That’s just how it is. Unless, of course, you happen to be the Toronto Raptors.

They Were the Better Team

The Raptors are better than Blazers. And the better team gets the calls. It’s one of those unwritten rules, just like the home court thing. If the Raptors play a team like the Warriors, they’re just not going to get the whistle. Okay. I can sort of accept that. The Warriors have dominated the league for countless seasons and have won 3 of the last 4 championships.

So then, when the Raptors play the Blazers or teams like the Knicks or Bulls, who they’re clearly better than, the refs should give them the benefit of the doubt, right? Nope.

They Had the Better Player

The Raptors had the best player on the court. That usually counts for something. His name is Kawhi Leonard. Dude is a champion and a Finals MVP. The refs may have heard of him before.

Though evidence would suggest they have not.

All game, Leonard was driving to the rim with very little to show for it. In 34 minutes, he took 22 shots and only went to the line 8 times. We’re not talking about those weak-ass, avoid-contact-at-all-costs DeRozan drives. These were strong drives from a strong, elite player, with several Blazers draped all over him.

And still, very few whistles.

As we know, Leonard is a quiet guy who doesn’t show much emotion on the court. But it’s clear even he’s getting super frustrated by the lack of calls. Why? Because suddenly the fouls he’s been getting his entire career are no longer being called. I’d be upset, too.

It’s like as soon as a player puts on a Raptors jersey, his reputation and status in the league just falls by the wayside. It just doesn’t make any sense.

The Loose Ball Foul That Wasn’t

Pascal Siakam got called for a loose ball foul just for being in the mere presence of the great, almighty Jusuf Nurkić.

As Nurkić was grabbing a rebound, Siakam, who all but conceded the rebound, turned to run back on defence.

Boom. Foul.

If there was any contact, it was incidental and had zero impact on the play. Yet Siakam, who has been the third best player on the second best team, still got rung up for a loose ball foul. WTF?  

The And-One That Should’ve Been

So which botched and-one call am I referring to? I mean, there were so many to choose from.

I’m talking about when Kyle Lowry bounced off of Nurkić on a key possession near the end of the 4th. Lowry drove in the middle of the lane, clearly got bumped by Nurkić, and then drained a floater, while simultaneously falling backwards on his ass.

Lowry may have embellished it a tiny bit, but by any definition, that was a crystal-clear foul. And the fact that none of the refs saw it that way is a huge slight against Lowry and the team.

The 3-point Foul That Wasn’t

And finally, we get to the crème de la crème of awful foul calls – Lowry’s supposed foul on Damian Lillard’s 3-point attempt.

It’s near the end of the 4th. Lillard is setting up to launch a very crucial 3-pointer. Lowry leaps at Lillard, but somehow manages to avoid him. But while Lowry’s floating by, Lillard shoves the ball into Lowry and then takes the shot.

Whistle. Three shots.

And here I thought the NBA was cracking down on those fouls where the contact is initiated by the shooter.

Unless your name is James Harden, the rip-through move is no longer being called a foul. Nor is kicking your legs out at the defensive player mid-shot. Actually, a lot of the time, those are being called offensive fouls. This play was no different. All the contact was initiated by Lillard.

I have no doubt that if the situation was reversed and Lowry did what Lillard did, it would’ve been called an offensive foul on Lowry.

As the Raptors head towards the playoffs, again I’m wondering, what will it take to earn the refs’ respect and have an important call or two to go their way? Will winning a championship do it?

I believe that not even a ring will change a damn thing.


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SOT6 Podcast - Episode 101

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@AdamCorsair)


EPISODE 101

"PLAYOFF PREP"

TORONTO RAPTORS talk

Weekly Toronto Raptors Talk

  • Man, what a week! After a pretty soul crushing loss at the hands of the Magic at home, the Raptors reinforced our confidence by absolutely destroying the Boston Celtics along with a very close victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. While still 2nd in the East, let alone 2nd in the entire NBA, the Raptors are well on their way to the ultimate test of making a deep playoff push. How far is this team capable of going? 

  • To discuss these and other topics, host Adam Corsair is joined by Lior Kozai of Def Pen Hoops. Lior and Adam touch on a bunch of Raptors and NBA related topics, such as:

- Celtics & Blazers Victories
- Gasol Starting
- Playoff Seeding
- Too Sweet Moment of the Week🤘
- Predictions

It’s a Raptors’ show you WON’T want to miss!

Follow Lior on Twitter: @Lior_Kz

Visit Lior's Work: HERE


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The Toronto Raptors Expose the Celtics

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Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)


After an underwhelming performance on Sunday against the Magic where the Raptors struggled to shoot and defend against a sub-par team, Toronto flat out dominated the Celtics Tuesday night. They weren’t great in the first quarter, but they were excellent in the 2nd. They outscored the Celtics 36-13 in the 2nd, and went on an 18-0 scoring run at one point. They continued to play well in the 2nd half as they maintained their big lead and never looked back.

It was a total team effort for the Raptors in this one. Kawhi Leonard was great, as per usual, with 21 points on 9/15 shooting. But the Raptors’ most effective player last night was Pascal Siakam. Siakam scored 25 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and shot 4 of 5 from 3. He also played some great defense, including 2 steals which lead to a great night in transition for the team.

After the Celtics lost to the Bulls, I was expecting them to come out hungry against the Raptors. Not only was this a big game for both teams, but the Celtics usually play well against the Raptors, and I was expecting at least a close game. However, Boston looked out of sorts the whole night and they had some key players who frankly just didn’t show up. Kyrie Irving only had 7 points on 3/10 shooting, Gordon Hayward had 9 points on 2/8 shooting, Al Horford only had 8 points, and it was clear to me that this team just isn’t playing well together right now.

The Celtics have a lot of talent, and they are still a legitimate threat to the Bucks and Raptors, but there’s only around 20 games left and they’ve got to figure this thing out. They’re too talented of a team to be a 5 seed, and I’m still not counting them out. However, it’s time to stop pretending like everything is fine in Boston. They need to play better as a team and they need to do it soon, because the playoffs are quickly approaching and they look completely out of sorts right now.

As for the Raptors, this win sort of silenced the narrative that the team has chemistry issues, and that sitting Kawhi in some games is a serious issue. When the Raptors turn it on like they did Tuesday night, they’re extremely hard to beat. Regardless of whether or not Kawhi is completely in tune with the rest of his teammates, the talent outweighs that. Lowry was making great passes to Kawhi and Siakam all night, and the Raptors looked like a team that had played every game together this year.

Tuesday night was only Jeremy Lin’s 4th game with the team, and Marc Gasol’s 6th, and it was hard to notice that because of how well the team played together. Gasol, by the way, was excellent in this game. He only had 5 points and 5 rebounds, but he had 8 assists. Yes, the Raptors centre had 8 assists, despite coming off the bench and only playing 23 minutes.

Next, the Raptors will round out their 6-game home-stand with a game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland already beat the Raptors this year, and they definitely can’t be taken lightly in this one. After such a good win, it’s possible that the Raptors could come out flat for this one. But I think the fact that they’re at home will be important and ultimately, I expect the Raptors to win this one and end the home-stand on a good note.


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SOT6 Podcast - Episode 99

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@AdamCorsair)


EPISODE 99

"IDENTITY CRISIS"

TORONTO RAPTORS talk

Weekly Toronto Raptors Talk

  • Toronto Raptors fans were treated to an amazing game with an incredible homecoming for former Raptor, DeMar DeRozan. The fans brought their A-Game and gave DeMar an overwhelming welcome back to Toronto that left many watching and those in attendance in tears. It was a moment in Raptors' history that fans will never ever forget. 

  • However, a game needed to be won and the Raptors achieved their goal in dramatic fashion. With the team humming right now, there's no telling how higher they can climb. With the team only 1 game behind the Milwaukee Bucks for supremacy in the Eastern Conference, royalty and home court advantage are well within reach.

  • To discuss these and other topics, host Adam Corsair is joined by Demar Grant of Tip of the Tower. Demar and Adam touch on a bunch of Raptors and NBA related topics, such as:

- DeRozan's Return
- Number Retirement
- Strength of Schedule
- Too Sweet Moment of the Week🤘
- Predictions

It’s a Raptors’ show you WON’T want to miss!

Follow Demar on Twitter: @DemarJGrant

Visit Demar's Work: HERE & HERE


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Breaking Down the Rest of the Season for the Toronto Raptors

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


The Toronto Raptors currently have 23 games remaining in the 2018-19 NBA season and currently sit 2nd in the Eastern Conference. The team trails the Milwaukee Bucks for first place in the East, by just one game while the Bucks have two games in hand on Toronto.

Fresh off the NBA All-Star break, there is no better way to get back into things than with the San Antonio Spurs and former Raptor, DeMar DeRozan, coming to town to take on the Raptors at the Scotiabank Arena. This is DeRozan’s first game back in Toronto since the trade back in June 2018. There is no doubt this game will have a ton of emotions, good or bad. From a fan perspective, this game is must-see. Resale court-side seats for Friday’s game in Toronto are going anywhere from $2000 to $5000 CDN. There are currently no standard tickets available for the game as the cheapest resale tickets are going for $240 CDN via Ticketmaster.ca.

Nonetheless, eight of Toronto’s final 23 games will be played against the Western Conference, where four of those eight Western Conference foes have a positive winning percentage. Which means three of them have negative records - the New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves and also LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Raptors will play 15 games against fellow Eastern Conference opponents down the stretch. Only two of those 15 teams have a winning record as of today in the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets. Two teams who Toronto have seemed to have tight games against with a high intensity. Toronto will also play 12 of their remaining 23 games on their home court; a big advantage down the stretch. Toronto is currently rolling a six-game winning streak while having a 24-5 record at home. That home record ties the Denver Nuggets for the second-best home winning percentage this season behind the Bucks, who are in first for a winning home record based off of percentage.

While the 2018-19 NBA season is slowly coming to an end, fans can’t help but look forward towards the playoffs and what could be the best possible match-up for their team. For the Toronto Raptors, the best-case scenario would be to finish second in the Conference, and I’ll tell you why. The reason behind this is to avoid the Bucks until at least the Conference Finals. A possible first-round opponent for Toronto - as it sits right now - could either be the Charlotte Hornets or Detroit Pistons. What a series that would be against former Raptors’ Head Coach Dwane Casey!

Not only could Toronto avoid the Milwaukee Bucks until the Conference Finals, but if the they finish as the second seed, they may not have to worry about them at all. As it stands today, the Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers hold the 4th and 5th seed, which means they would see each other in the first round of the playoffs, and the winner of that series would take on either the 1st or 8th seed depending who comes out of that first round series (probably the Bucks but who knows?).

It isn’t all about finishing first in the Conference, it’s all about seeding yourself correctly as a strategy. Just like the Cleveland Cavaliers did last season when they dropped to the 4th seed intentionally in order to face Toronto in the second round because it was the “easier path” for LeBron James due to his history against Toronto, especially in playoff games. So it isn’t all about finishing first - it’s all about being in the right position, theoretically, for yourself and your team. Just like Head Coach Nick Nurse has stated earlier in the season when fans were outraged about Kawhi Leonard not playing back-to-backs, “It isn’t about November, December and January. It’s about April, May and June.” The Toronto Raptors are capable of the damage they can cause in the playoffs, it’s just a matter of who is healthy enough to do so and the path they take to get there and to the NBA Finals.

Yet, with 23 games remaining, this team still has a lot to work on and that being chemistry. It was a chaotic trade deadline for Toronto and as wel as the buyout market as well, as the Raptors brought in Marc Gasol, Jeremy Lin and recently signed veteran guard and sharpshooter, Jordie Meeks, to the mix. The Raptors still have little kinks to work out as the regular season comes to an end. Not to mention the high amounts of injures with the newest one being Fred VanVleet, who could be out at least a month, thus putting a lot of weight of Lin’s shoulders and also how Nick Nurse wants to work his lineup with such a versatile team. Lin, Gasol, and Meeks – if all works out – have been brought in to win and make a deep run at the NBA Championship in June.

When Masai Ujiri said it was time to have a culture change at the end of last season, he meant it. The culture of the NBA has changed, and in order to win a Championship, you have to adapt to that culture. Ujiri was tired of seeing that possibility pass him by.

The time is now, Toronto.


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SOT6 Podcast - Episode 98

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@AdamCorsair)


EPISODE 98

"KAWHI VS DEMAR RND. 2"

TORONTO RAPTORS talk

Weekly Toronto Raptors Talk

  • Heading into the All Star Break, the Raptors are only 1 game behind the Milwaukee Bucks in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference. With the additions of Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin, the team has shown that they are ready to do whatever it takes to push the chips in for the rights to an NBA Finals appearance. Moreover, with the increase in production of Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, the Raptors are becoming more robust as a unit. The sky's the limit!

  • Joining host Adam Corsair is Peter "HB" Kaye of Life in Repeat. Peter and Adam touch on a boatload of Raptors' centered topics, such as:

- Kawhi's rest.
- Siakam & OG's breakout performance.
- Linsanity in Toronto.
- DeMar coming home.
-Too Sweet Moment of the Week🤘
-Predictions

It’s a Raptors’ show you WON’T want to miss!

Follow Peter on Twitter: @lifeinrepeat

Visit Peter's Work: HERE

Visit Our Affiliates: Stadium Scene & Overtime Media

Music:

Drake Stafford - "Casets"

Jim Johnston - "Sexy Boy"


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


REPORT: Jeremy Lin to Sign With The Raptors After Buyout

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Article Written by Adam Corsair (@AdamCorsair)


Masai Ujiri has reportedly made good on his word to be aggressive in the buyout market for the Toronto Raptors.

I should also note that earlier this weekend, the Raptors made two signings by inking both Malcolm Miller and Chris Boucher to multi-year deals, thereby beefing up the roster even more in the wake of the trade for Gasol.

This is a solid signing for the Raptors and will provide some much needed play-making ability, as well as some decent shooting. Of the buyout candidates that have been floated out there, Lin is definitely one of the top grabs and provides stability off the bench in the event that Lowry or VanVleet suffer long-term injuries. Further, adding another veteran presence to the bench is a good thing and perhaps having Lin there for players like OG or the aforementioned two new additions to pick Lin’s brain a bit can only be beneficial.

So long as Lin doesn’t cut too deep into the minutes of say Fred or Norm, it’s hard not be like the signing.

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His numbers have taken a dip as of late, but his season average isn’t terrible. Over the course of 51 games with Atlanta, he’s shot just about 47% from the field and 33% from deep, with about 11 points per game. The numbers don’t jump off the page, but it’s probably a safe bet that the Raptors won’t expect nearly as much from him as Atlanta did. I’m guessing that the chances of the Raptors playing him approximately 20 minutes a game are extremely slim and we’re more than likely looking at 10-12 minutes, maximum, off the bench.

I understand the concern regarding his recent slump, but it’s not something I’m overly troubled with. Since being inactive on January 15th, Lin has averaged 10.3 points, shooting 43% from the field and only 29% from deep over the course of 12 games, You’d like that 3p% to creep up a bit, especially with the lack of consistent shooting from deep on the team as of late. But perhaps a change of scenery and being on a team that has a legitimate shot at a deep playoff run may bring something out of him. There really isn’t much to scoff at with the move and the Raptors are better than they were yesterday as a result.

This is definitely one of the more notable buyout transactions this season, and it was one that the Raptors needed. As I touched on above, Lowry and VanVleet have both been battling injuries this year, so Lin is a suitable piece to help supplement the load a bit and ease the tension on the two guards heading into the playoffs. Recall how much of a void there was during the first round of the playoffs last year with the absence of VanVleet. Having a guy like Lin mitigate the pressure off of both Fred and Lowry in the event that one needs a rest is extremely valuable for the Raptors right now. The last thing the team needs is to have Lowry dealing with a nagging back injury during the most crucial playoff stretch in franchise history. So having this signing is - at the very least - somewhat of a preventative measure.

Again, in a vacuum, it’s not a huge signing, but given the buyout market and what’s available, it’s certainly a move that adds some much needed stability to a depleted roster. I get that the missing piece now seems to be another big to “complete” the entire roster (Markieff Morris? Enes Kanter?), so we’ll have to wait and see if the team is done exploring the market. Don’t rule out the notion that the Raptors are done exploring.

Otherwise, good pickup for the team! (The Artist Formerly Known As) LINSANITY is coming to Toronto!


UPDATE 4:13 p.m.: Soooooo about that thing I said about acquiring Lin in the event that Lowry or VanVleet go down with an injury? Yyyyeeeahhhh….

So the signing makes even more sense now and Raptors fans can sort of breathe a sigh of relief that the team was able to scoop up Lin. Granted, the Raptors will have to wait 48 hours until Lin officially joins the team, but it’s good to have a solution in place ready to go.

It’ll be interesting to see who the backup point guard is tonight against the Nets, but at least we can rest assured that the Raptors are at least covered while Fred recovers. Also, I get that 3 weeks seems like a long time but consider that the Raptors have only 2 games before the All-Star Break and then they will be off until February 22nd (DeMar!). Point being, about a week and a half of the the 3 weeks Fred will miss, the team will be off.

Silver linings, man.  


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 97

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@AdamCorsair)


EPISODE 97

"NO EXCUSES"

TORONTO RAPTORS TALK

Weekly Toronto Raptors Talk

After the trade to acquire Marc Gasol in exchange for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles, and a 2024 2nd Round Pick, the Raptors are out to show the rest of the Eastern Conference that they are “all in” and are willing to do whatever it takes to push them closer to the ultimate goal: an NBA Championship. With the team just .1 game behind the Milwaukee Bucks for Eastern Conference supremacy, the time has never been better to push the chips to the center.

To discuss the trade and other topics, host Adam Corsair is joined by Producer, Musician, DJ, and die-hard Raptors fan - Max Graham. Max and Adam touch on a bunch of topics, including:

  • Reflecting on the trade.

  • Serge/Gasol rotations.

  • Kyle’s Trend Upward.

  • Too Sweet Moment of the Week🤘

  • Predictions

It’s a Toronto Raptors Podcast that you won’t want to miss!

Music:

Drake Stafford - "Casets"

Auxl Studio - "Blue Bloods"


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Raptors Acquire Marc Gasol

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Article Written by Adam Corsair (@AdamCorsair)


The Toronto Raptors have made their NBA Trade Deadline presence known by trading away Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles, and a 2024 2nd Round pick to Memphis in exchange for Marc Gasol.

Before we even get into what Gasol means for Toronto, I want to first thank JV for all that he’s done for the city and team. Seriously, listening to the dude in any interview, seeing how hard he worked, and how passionate he was about the city of Toronto was nothing short of joyous. A class-act, through and through, and someone that was a staple for the Toronto Raptors since 2012 as part of the “We The North” era Raptors’ fans fell in love with. From his playoff performance against Indiana, to the dunk against Milwaukee, to the Itty-Bitty-Ballers, to his crazy shitty car, he was just great for this team.

He will be missed and will be very well received whenever he comes back to Toronto.

As for Delon Wright and CJ Miles, the writing seemed to be on the wall for each of them. Delon was on a team with two other PG’s - one the defacto starter and max salaried player, the other just recently signing a new deal with the team. Approaching the off-season as a Restricted Free Agent, it was very unlikely that the Raptors were going to try to retain him and wanted to move on from him now if it meant acquiring a game-changer. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve seen Delon’s ceiling and, ultimately, he wasn’t going to be a necessary piece in the team’s pursuit of a Finals appearance.

With Miles, he showed signs of decline throughout the majority of the season, even though he showed signs of life up until this point. It was probably somewhat of a “sell-high” for the Raptors and, like Wright, was needed to match salary to get a guy like Gasol.

Both had their moments with the team, but I don’t think anyone thought they were part of the long-term plans. At least I didn’t. I wish them nothing but the best and hopefully a change of scenery offers them better opportunities. I’m sure Jerry Stackhouse will have a lot of fun with some of his old friends.

On to Gasol.

The Raptors are better as a result of this deal. Yes, Gasol is on the decline in comparison to the peak of his career. Yes, he is about 8 years older than JV. And yes, his cap hit next year will be pretty big (if he opts in to his player option which, at 34, he probably will). But what he offers is a veteran presence that has the ability to push the needle for the team a bit more than JV could. Like Kawhi and DeMar, JV and Gasol will now be compared for however long the latter remains a Raptor. That may be unfair, but I believe that will be our natural inclination.

I get that the initial sticker shock in terms of the quantity of players heading to the Grizzlies compared to what the Raptors are getting may make it seem a bit lopsided. But what the Raptors have given up on defense from Delon, they get a bit more in Gasol. What they’ve given up in 3 point shooting in Miles, they get in Gasol (especially this year) at a more reliable rate. What they’ve given up in rebounds from JV, they get better in Gasol in addition to more rim protection. In short, the Raptors are better, even if the trade isn’t the same in terms of person-to-person.

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Now, completely admitting that I have a lot more Gasol footage to watch, what I can tell you is that he’s an outstanding passer and rim protector. A former Defensive Player of the Year, he’s averaging 15.7 ppg and 8.6 boards and 1.2 bpg. He offers a bit more from the outside than JV has, with shooting about 34% from deep at a little over 4 attempts per game. With the ability to stretch the floor more for the team and provide jjjuuusssttt a bit more shooting, it’s hard to argue that the team isn’t better as a result.

On paper, that is.

The main concern I have here is chemistry. Lowry + JV’s pick & roll offense was almost flawless and I’m not sure Gasol is capable of being the same type of player. The Raptors’ offense has always been heavily reliant on the P&R, so having a guy like Gasol forcing it when it’s not a strength of his may be to the team’s detriment. He’s more of a player that sets a pick and moves to the side for a quick jump shot (pick & pop). Which is fine, if the Raptors are able to utilize that. There’s evidence to suggest that they do, as Serge is a similar type of player that thrives better with his elbow jumper than a P&R. But, if they play to Gasol’s strengths, it may mean a decent reduction in the P&R altogether.

On the other hand, maybe he’ll be utilized in the P&R just fine. With a familiar face in Lowry (they played together, briefly, in Memphis), perhaps there is a level of conversancy with each other. I may be looking into this too much as there are plenty of other dominos to fall. We can speculate as to how the Raptors will use him in terms of scheming and usage, but we won’t know until this Saturday in New York against the Knicks, the earliest.

Regardless, having a guy like Gasol on your team adds both measurable and immeasurable value. With playoff experience under his belt, the mere thought of having him as an addition for this team is encouraging. Are they better than the Bucks? At present time, no, but the buyout market will dictate a lot regarding the Raptors’ future. My hope is that Ujiri and Webster are super aggressive in acquiring shooters to solidify the bench (Miloš Teodosić and/or Wayne Ellington anyone?).

I get this pulls at the heartstrings of Raptors fans as JV was a special player. But moves like these have to be made in order to give the team a better shot at a championship. This certainly pushes the Raptors closer to that.

Let’s get it!

Oh yeah, and Monroe was traded, too….. for some money… that’s all.


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