Game Review: Raptors at Kings

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Review Written by Adam Garfield (@AdamThe6God)


The Toronto Raptors took on the Sacramento Kings in an interconference duel.

Toronto got off to an amazing start, going on an 13-0 scoring run to open the 1st quarter. DeMar DeRozan logged 4 assists, while OG Anunoby scored 5 points during this run. The Kings fought back, led by Buddy Hield and his 7 points. The Raptors allowed the Kings to get back in the game due to their poor shooting from behind the arc, missing 10 three pointers. Sacramento was able to bring the game to within 5 points at the end of the quarter. Toronto led the Kings 22-17 at the end of the period.

The Raptors and the Kings went back and forth for the majority of the 2nd quarter, totaling 5 lead changes in the first 6 minutes. The highlight of the 2nd quarter was when Kyle Lowry converted a 4-point play around the 5 minute mark.  Lowry was fouled by Sacramento's' Frank Mason III after draining a three pointer, and he went on and made the free throw. Toronto slightly improved on their three-point shooting, managing to only miss four times. The 2nd quarter ended with DeMar DeRozan hitting a turnaround jumper with .1 seconds left on the clock. The Raptors ended the first half leading 54-46.

DeMar DeRozan led the charge by scoring 13 points, along with Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciuncas each grabbing 3 rebounds. The Raptors were not able to stop Zach Randolph, allowing him to score 8 points in the period. Toronto gained an energy boost after Serge Ibaka blocked De'Aaron Fox's dunk attempt early in the quarter, which was a big reason why the Raps were able to run with the lead. The quarter ended with Toronto leading Sacramento 79-67.

Toronto was able to pull away with the lead due to Sacramento's 4 turnovers. Kings' Zach Randolph tried to lead his team to a comeback by scoring 5 points and grabbing 4 rebounds, but it wasn't enough to derail the Raptors. Toronto won the game by 15 points, defeating the Sacramento Kings 102-87.

6ix Best:
DeMar DeRozan: 25pts, 3 rebounds, 9 assists
Serge Ibaka: 20pts, 4 rebounds, +/- 25
Kyle Lowry: 15pts, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, +/- 23
Jonas Valanciuncas: 9pts, 8 rebounds, +/- 17
C.J Miles: 11 points, 5 steals
Jakob Poeltl: 9pts, 4 rebounds


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthofThe6ix)


Game Review: Raptors at Grizzlies

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Review Written by Adam Garfield (@adam_garfield)


The Toronto Raptors took on the Memphis Grizzlies in a interconference matchup.

Serge Ibaka got things rolling early, scoring 7 of the team's 9 points within the first five minutes of regulation. Jonas Valanciuncas got into early foul trouble, forcing Coach Dwane Casey to bring in Jakob Poeltl. This substitution allowed the Grizzlies' Marc Gasol to rack up a total of 9 points in the quarter. Tyreke Evans also added a quick 8 points to add to the Grizzlies lead. The first quarter ended with the Raptors trailing the Grizzlies 25-34.

The 2nd quarter for the Grizzlies can be summed up in one play. Memphis Guard Ben McLemore attempted a 360° dunk during a fast break, but the ball bounced off the back of the rim resulting in a subsequent miss. That is where the momentum started to shift towards Toronto. After McLemore's missed dunk, the Raptors went on a 22-12 scoring run to end the 1st half. DeMar DeRozan put up 9 points in the 2nd quarter. Toronto trailed Memphis 57-62 at the end of the 1st half.

The Raptors surged in the 3rd quarter, led by Kyle Lowry as he scored 10 points. Trailing by as much as 12 points, Toronto was able to take the lead over the Grizzlies. The Raptors were able to force 6 turnovers, which was a key reason why they were able to make this comeback. The only thing that kept the Grizzlies in the game was Tyreke Evans and his 15 point effort in the 3rd. Toronto went into the 4th quarter with the score 93-92, trailing Memphis by only 1 point.

Toronto was able to run away with the game because of their excellent ball movement, totalling 6 assists in the final 12 minutes of regulation. The Raps kept the majority of their bench in the game, where they combined to score 14 points in the 4th. Toronto was able to pull away from Memphis in the end, defeating the Grizzlies 116-107.

6ix Best:
DeMar DeRozan: 26pts, 7 rebounds, 6 assists
Kyle Lowry: 16pts, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals
Serge Ibaka: 21 points, 4/5 3PM
Jonas Valanciuncas: 8pts, 8 rebounds
Fred VanVleet: 12pts, 3 assists
Jakob Poeltl: 8pts, 7 rebounds


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


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 31

Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook - @ACorsair21

Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook - @ACorsair21


EPISODE 31

"Finding Their Footing"

Toronto Raptors Review/Preview

Join us for another edition of the South of the 6ix Podcast for a Raptors Review and Preview. 

  • The Toronto Raptors are riding a 4 game winning streak after claiming victories over Atlanta, Indiana, Charlotte, and Phoenix. The team, as a whole, is starting to establish their footing and becoming a much more cohesive unit, playing to their potential, and starting to become that familiar force in the Eastern Conference. Moreover, Kyle Lowry is on an absolute tear and is shooting the ball better and much more reliably than he did to start the season.
  • However, there are some issues that need addressing. Specifically, issues surrounding the brunt of all Raptors angst - Jonas Valanciunas - and where he fits in with the team. His slot as the starting center may be in jeopardy as Jakob Poeltl is starting to break out and is making a legitimate case to eat into the minutes that were otherwise reserved for JV. Also, although they are starting to disappear, the 3rd quarter is still an uncomfortable topic that ought to be addressed. Lastly, there were rumors regarding the Raptors being interested in a possible trade deal for DeAndre Jordan. What would it take to acquire him and - if it means sacrificing essential pieces for the future - are we interested? 
  • To help examine these and other topics, host Adam Corsair has guest Jordan Kligman of HashTageBasketball.com and the NEW Hashtag Raptors Podcast. Both get deep into the conversation and thoroughly examine the aforementioned issues and other topics as well. Plus, we preview and offer our predictions for this week's game.

Don't miss out!

Follow Jordan on Twitter: @41Basketball
Subscribe to the Hashtag Raptors Podcast on iTunes HERE
Visit Jordan's work HERE

Follow host Adam Corsair on Twitter: @ACorsair21
Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter & InstaGram: @SouthOfThe6ix
Visit our Patreon Page

Music:

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

Game Review: Suns vs. Raptors

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Review Written by Adam Garfield (@adam__garfield)


The first quarter got off to a slow start, but DeMar DeRozan picked up the tempo after an and-one around the six minute mark. DeRozan did a nasty spin move to get past Tyler Ulis, and made the mid-range jumper after getting fouled by Marquese Chriss. The Raptors went on a 15-5 run to end the 1st quarter. Kyle Lowry led the Raptors in scoring with 13 points, while Jonas Valanciunas had 5 rebounds. The Suns were trailing 23-36 heading into the 2nd quarter.

Both teams started off the 2nd sloppy, committing a total of 4 turnovers within the first two minutes. After a strong performance hitting from behind the arc in the first, the Raptors missed six three pointers - which was one of the factors that let Phoenix cut the lead to single digits. The other factor was that Alex Len was able to score 9 points due to the lack of strong interior defense. The 1st half ended with the Raptors leading the Suns 55-46.

The Raptors had a massive 3rd quarter where they scored 42 points. DeRozan was able to find OG Anunoby open for two three pointers to get the 2nd half started. The highlight of the 3rd quarter came with about two minutes left, when Suns rookie Josh Jackson crossed over and broke Raptors' Jakob Poeltl's ankles. Toronto had difficulty defending Devin Booker, which allowed the Suns star player to score 9 points in the quarter. The Raps ended the 3rd with an 18 point lead, with the score being 79-97.

Toronto committed eight total fouls in the final quarter, which gave Phoenix a chance to make a comeback. Fortunately for the Raptors, the Suns were not able to capitalize on their mistakes due to a number of missed shots. Toronto's Fred VanVleet helped seal the game by scoring 11 of his 13 points in the 4th. With 2:40 left in the game, the Phoenix Suns entered a state of anxiety. Phoenix's Devin Booker was guarding Fred VanVleet when he suddenly came to a stop, bent over and grimacing in pain. Booker had to be carried off the court by teammates, and his injury was later deemed to be related to his groin.

The final score was TOR 126 - PHX 113, defeating the Suns by 13 points.

6ix Best:
DeRozan: 20pts, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, 7/17 FGM
Lowry: 20pts, 6 rebounds, 10 assists, 7/12 FGM
Ibaka: 19pts, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks
Anunoby: 16pts, 2 rebounds, 4/5 3PM
Poeltl: 13pts, 5 rebounds
VanVleet: 13pts, 6 assists

Overall, I am very impressed with OG Anunoby's ability to stretch the floor. Coming out of college, he was mostly regarded as a defensive player, but he proved tonight that he is a serious threat behind the arc as well. The Raptors improve to 15-7, which puts them at the 3rd seed in the East.


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


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 30

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 30

"Thumbs Down on Gasol"

Toronto Raptors Review/Preview

Join us for another edition of the South of the 6ix Podcast for a Raptors Review and Preview. 

  • The Toronto Raptors suffered through an ugly road-trip, with losses against the Knicks and the Pacers that left bitter tastes in the mouths of their fans. However, a bounce-back and dominate win over the Hawks in Atlanta seems to have boost the morale - if only for a little while - among the fanbase, as we are confident in their home-stand this week against the Hornets and a rematch against the Pacers.
  • However, there are some issues that need addressing. What is with the lack of defense from DeMar? Is Serge slowing down? Is there really a proper fit for JV on this team and, if not, is it time to (finally) move on? But there are also some bright spots that are worth addressing, as well. Lowry seems to be coming back to form; Fred VanVleet is becoming a reliable player off the bench; Siakam is exceeding expectations (at least mine); OG continues to impress; Norm is back and seems to have suffered no set-backs; and Poeltl is what we've always wanted JV to be. We'd also be hard-pressed to forget to mention the chatter surrounding the Marc Gasol/Toronto Raptors trade rumors. Is he a proper fit? If so, do the Raptors have what it takes to acquire him without sacrificing their future?
  • To help examine these and other topics, host Adam Corsair has guest Adian Pang of the Pass The Rock Podcast joining the South of the 6ix Podcast. Adian does a thorough examination and offers well-thought insight as to where the Raptors currently stand. Plus, we preview and offer our predictions for this week's game.

Don't miss out!

Follow Adian on Twitter: @ptrpodcast
Subscribe to the Pass the Rock Podcast on iTunes
Visit The Post Up
 

Music:

Drake Stafford - "Casets"

Auxl Studio - "Blue Bloods"


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


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 29

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 29

"An Embarrassment of Riches"

Toronto Raptors Review/Preview

Join us for another edition of the South of the 6ix Podcast for a Raptors Review and Preview. 

  • The Raptors are coming off a 4 game winning streak, starting with two impressive wins on the road (Houston & New Orleans) and capping it with two home wins (New York & Washington). The bench has stepped up huge with the loss of two key players in Norman Powell and Delon Wright, and the starting unit has certainly improved more than we could have anticipated. The question now is - where does the team go from here?

  • To investigate this and other topics, host Adam Corsair is joined by Peter Kaye of Life In Repeat. Peter and Adam talk about the aforementioned games, preview the upcoming road trip this week, take your questions that were submitted, and a whole lot in between!

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

    Follow guest Peter Kaye on Twitter: @LifeInRepeat
    Visit Peter's Work HERE
    Visit our Affiliate: Stadium Scene

Music:

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


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


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 28

Follow host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


Episode 28

"CANADA POST"

Weekly Raptors Review/Preview

  • The Raptors are slowly coming into form, yet this doesn't stop the confusion the team often time brings to their fans. This was especially true when it came to the game against the Celtics in Boston; a seemingly winnable game without Kyrie Irving for the opposition. Yet, despite that, there are somethings that ought to be highlighted, such as OG's new role as a starter in Powell's absence, Siakam and Poeltl making it increasingly difficult for Casey to not play them, and Kyle Lowry starting to heat up.
  • Jordan Kligman of Hash Tag Basketball joins to help host Adam Corsair examine these and other topics such as what we noticed in the aforementioned and other games, our predictions for the upcoming ones, and a surprise suitable trade partner Jordan suggests.

It's one that you won't want to miss!

Follow Jordan on Twitter: @416Basketball
View Jordan's Work HERE

Music:

Drake Stafford - "Casets"

Auxl Studio - "Blue Bloods"


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


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 27

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


Episode 27

"LEADERSHIP"

Join us for another edition of the South of the 6ix Podcast for a Raptors Review and Preview. 

  • The Raptors finished their West Coast swing playing three games against Portland, Denver, & Utah before coming home Sunday to face the Washington Wizards. With the bumps along the road trip, we were hoping that the team would be able to regroup at home and take a crucial win against a fellow Eastern Conference team. It didn't go as planned.
  • To discuss what went wrong, as well as some positives that ought to be accounted for, host Adam Corsair is joined by Peter Kaye (@LifeInRepeat) of Life In Repeat. We discuss such topics as: Kyle Lowry's mental state and playing ability, Jonas Valanciunas' fit in the starting lineup, DeMar DeRozan carrying this team, Norman Powell starting to break through, and more. We also give our previews for the upcoming home games against Chicago and New Orleans, as well as the away game in Adam's neck of the woods - Boston against the Celtics.

Join us as we review and preview the Raptors!

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

Find Peter Kaye on Twitter: @LifeInRepeat
View Peter's Coverage of the Raptors: http://www.lifeinrepeat.com
Visit our Patreon Page


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


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 26

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 26

"Transparency"

Toronto Raptors in Review

  • The Raptors began their West Coast swing with a handful of games against some competitive teams. On Monday, they played a tough game against the San Antonio Spurs. Wednesday, they played another hard-fought game against the NBA Champions - Golden State Warriors. Closing the week, they played the Lakers in LA in, what I considered to be, a frustrating game.

  • To help break down what happened in these games, as well as preview the upcoming games this week, I have Jordan Kligman (@416Basketball) of Hash Tag Basketball. We talk about the frustrations with the lack of transparency regarding the injury suffered by Jonas Valanciunas, as well as whether we feel this new style of offense is conducive with the players that are on the court. 

Join us for week 2 of the Raptors in Review on the South of the 6ix Podcast!

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


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


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 25

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 25

"55 BABY!"

Toronto Raptors in Review

  • The Raptors finished their opening home-stand with two wins against the Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers. Being faced by two teams that didn't provide much adversity left some questions still unanswered. Is the offensive production made by the Raptors a product of their new scheme or is it more of the (poor) teams that they played against? Or is it a combination of both? How will the Raptors perform when they face a team that provides a much more robust style that will threaten their abilities? Looking at this West Coast swing, we may not have to wait too long for those answers.
  • But to help investigate these and other topics, as well as review the two opening games in general, I have with my Peter Kaye (@LifeInRepeat) of Life In Repeat. Peter covers the Raptors over at his website and offers his takeaways from the games, as well as offer a (very) bold prediction regarding the amount of wins the Raptors will total come the end of the season.

For that alone, this is a discussion you will not want to miss!

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


Can The Raptors Conquer The East?

Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)


The 2017-18 season for the Toronto Raptors carries many question marks with it. The depletion of the East as a result of many of the former key players within it taking their talents over to the Western Conference offers the Raptors - as well as other teams - the opportunity to take advantage and propel themselves up the standings. Teams such as the Bulls, the Pacers, the Magic, the Knicks, the Nets, and the Hawks have lost significant contributors that their respective organizations relied on to carry them into the playoffs for a chance to earn an appearance at the NBA Finals, thereby giving the remaining teams in a Conference a significantly better chance of attaining a playoff berth.

However, for teams like the Raptors, merely getting to the playoffs is no longer good enough. For the past 4 consecutive years, the Raptors have made it to the playoffs no lower than the fourth seed, and we as fans expect them to finish no lower than that again this year. Yet, with teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers being a consistent force and favorite to reclaim the Conference crown, as well as the Boston Celtics being (at least on paper) a much more robust squad, posing as a legitimate threat to Cleveland for Eastern supremacy, the Raptors will certainly have their work cut out for them if they want to make a realistic push to assert themselves as the number one seed. It certainly gets a bit more daunting when you factor in the aspect that both the Washington Wizards and the Milwaukee Bucks will either be just as good as they were last season or perhaps even better (I've been saying - don't sleep on the Bucks, man). In short, once they arrive to the dance, it won't be easy for the Raptors and fans shouldn't expect it to be.

With all of this taken into account, there's no reason to necessarily fear the notion of the Raptors coming up short of the playoffs. They certainly should make it and fans should feel confident that the team will maintain their grips on a playoff spot falling within the top 5 seeds, I would think. Given that the Raptors core of Ibaka, Lowry, and DeRozan has remained intact to lead this team, while also factoring in the expected growth of players like Norman Powell, Delon Wright, and Jakob Poeltl, and the addition of a veteran player that boosts the offensive side of the ball in C.J. Miles, the Raptors are in pretty good shape. As mentioned, the Eastern Conference has become so void of talent that it's almost impossible for the Raptors not to attain a high seed. It's almost to the point where after teams such as the Raptors, Cavaliers, Celtics, Wizards, and Bucks, we have to almost try and look for the teams that grab the remaining three spots to fill the bracket. It's almost comical when you think about it. 

Yet, since we as fans simply expect the Raptors to make the Playoffs, what we are really focused on is how deep they will end up going once they make it. This won't be as easy to predict, as the Raptors' path to the achieving the ultimate goal - an appearance in the NBA Finals - is rather disconcerting. With the likelihood of both the Cavs and Celtics being an extremely difficult task to overcome - at least on paper - the chances of the Raptors making it to the NBA Finals are, unfortunately, rather low. If we are to take a look at the Vegas odds, the numbers also reflect this.

It doesn't get much brighter if we take a look at what the guys over at MyTopSportsBooks.com have to say about the Raptors chances. They would seem to agree with where I stand as well. In fact, they outline their odds of the Raptors winning the NBA Title a bit less favorable than Vegas. To boot - 

Most Vegas futures have the Raptors at 100/1 to win the 2018 NBA Title, a number which carries a 1% implied probability. That's not a rosy outlook for fans, but the oddsmakers My Top Sportsbooks cannot offer any comfort, putting Toronto's chances at an even longer 115/1.

However, this may jumping the gun a bit, as the Raptors need to first get to the Finals in order to have any realistic shot of winning it. As mentioned, getting to the dance isn't really the issue for the Raptors. The first round should be rather easy for the Raptors to conquer, regardless of what seed they land. At worst, I would think they'd land at the 5th, depending on if my projections of both the Wizards and Bucks are correct. This would put them in line to face the 4th seed, which would probably end up being one of the aforementioned teams, and would probably lead to a Raptors' advancement much like last season. In terms of the odds, it looks as though the folks over at My Top Sports Books agree- 

In all likelihood, the Raptors will face a first-round series similar to last year, when they were pushed to six games by the sixth-seeded Bucks. Toronto will be favored, but not heavily, probably around 3/4 (57%). 

By no means do I think it will be easy for the team to advance to the second round of the Playoffs. Much like last year, the Raptors will be challenged and unless a significant upgrade on the defensive side of the floor is acquired, or one of the young players takes a significant step up and provide some defensive stability much like PJ Tucker did, they may become exposed. Things won't get any easier if/when the team advances, as the team will likely face one of the Celtics or Cavaliers. With the significant noteworthy upgrades and replacements that both teams have made, it's hard to not be more than just a little concerned with the Raptors' ability to overcome those two teams. My Top Sports Books factors the Wizards into the group of teams that the Raptors may face in the second round, adding in -

Then they would likely face the Cavs and either the Celtics or Wizards in the next two rounds. They'll be no better than a 5/2 underdog against the Cavaliers, and would also be a small 'dog against the other two: let's somewhat generously call it 11/10 (Here is a handy article that explains the state of the Eastern Conference futures.).
If you multiply the probabilities of those three series, the Raps are looking at just a 7% chance of even reaching the NBA finals. There, they would have to deal with the Warriors or a team good enough to beat the Warriors. We give this Toronto roster, as currently constructed, less than a 15% chance of beating Golden State in a seven-game series. The Raptors just don't have the truly elite superstars nor the depth to hang with the NBA's quote-unquote super-teams.

I don't mention any of this to bring down the spirits of those that dream of the Raptors holding the Larry O'Brien Trophy above their collective heads. It's certainly possible and is something that I would absolutely adore. I mean, could you imagine how much the city of Toronto would be rocking if the Raptors were able to overcome all of those obstacles? Could you imagine a Game 7 victory over the Warriors in the NBA Finals? Think about how much credibility this would grant not just the team, but the city of Toronto in general. It would be absolutely amazing! Yet, the reason I mention all of these odds is to sort of put things into perspective and to check our expectations a bit. The Raptors are going to be a very good team, to be sure. I'm not trying to take anything away from the talent that the team has on the team. I'm hopeful that the young stars will be able to take that next step forward in order to stabilize and strengthen the Raptors' bench; a luxury that they'd love to have so their core players in Ibaka, Lowry, and DeRozan aren't averaging 38-40 minutes a game thereby heightening the probability of injury. But relying on young stars is always a huge gamble, so it's best to keep our expectations low.

Sure, the preseason has shown us some things that we should be extremely encouraged with. The team is spreading the floor and moving the ball at a noteworthy pace, which is a sharp contrast from how they operated offensively in recent seasons under head coach Dwane Casey. They have also been encouraged to shoot from deep a lot more often, and they have done just that during the preseason. However, if there's one thing that I have learned it's that we should never translate what we see during the preseason and assume it's what we will see during the regular season. This rarely happens as teams are reluctant to show all of their cards during the preseason, and rightfully so. You don't want to expose yourself that early, but at the same time you want to get used to the type of flow that is being utilized. Therefore, you'll probably see more of a mish-mash of last year's offensive mentality and this year's new one. The high pick-and-roll is something that the Raptors have been predicated on for the past four years, and it's hard to see them fully remove themselves from that. However, I do think that this space-and-pace style of play on the offensive side of the ball will be seen from the jump, and it may serve the Raptors well. It's certainly something that is long overdue and if they want to have any chance of overcoming teams like Boston and Cleveland, they'll have to prioritize passing and scoring. Ball movement will be absolutely crucial for this team to succeed, and I think they're aware of this.

Regardless, the season is just about underway and absolutely anything could happen. The odds have changed mid-season before and they're an ever-evolving tool to gauge just where teams are. By no means is this gospel, and any odds-maker would agree. If they were, we would know from the get-go who would win any title, any season. I only reference the odds as a means to illustrate where the Raptors may want to improve, as well as show that their weaknesses are certainly seen by those that gauge their post-season probabilities. Time will tell. Just know, anything can happen and we, as Raptors fans, should do what we've been basically trained to do:

Expect the worst. Hope for the best.


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


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 24

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


Episode 24

"Let The Games Begin"

Toronto Raptors Round Table

  • With the Raptors season just around the corner, there are a lot of things to look forward to. With the return of Kyle Lowry & Serge Ibaka, coupled with the constant on the team - DeMar DeRozan - the Raptors are primed to be a top seeded team in the Eastern Conference. However, teams like the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as "sleeper teams" like the Milwaukee Bucks an Washington Wizards pose a serious threat to the Raptors ultimate goal of making it to the NBA Finals. What needs to be done in order for the team to, finally, achieve such a goal?
  • To investigate this, as well as other questions regarding the team, I am joined by the host of the Pass The Rock Podcast - Adian Pang (@ptrpodcast), Editor of Raptors Rapture - Brian Boake (@NewMarketBrian), and Raptors writer for Tip Of The Tower - DeMar Grant (@DeMarJGrant) for a special Round Table edition of the SOT6 Podcast. We hope that this provides you with even more excitement to kickstart the season (I mean, is that even possible?) as we get digging on everything surrounding the team.

It's a Round Table that you'll definitely appreciate and enjoy!

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


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


Raptors & Norman Powell Agree To A Contract Extension

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Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)


This is just too awesome - 

If there were any doubts about Norman Powell being a vital part of the future for the Raptors, they should be completely expelled with this extension. Once again, Masai Ujiri gets the job done and wastes no time in solidifying one of the core players for the team for the next 4 years. The stress and anxiety of the looming free agency (albeir, restricted) that was probably hovering over fans can be eased.

I mean, HOLY CRAP! Not to be that fanboy about it, but as my favorite player on the Raptors (#NormToTheFuture - make that a thing), I'm beyond excited that he's staying a Raptor. I don't consider this to be any sort of an overpay, high risk, or bad move. Powell has proven that he's ready to take that next step and play a very important role for this squad moving forward. Starter or not, it won't matter. He's part of the foundation that the Raptors will (continue to) build around. 

Averaging just south of 17 minutes a game (16.7) over his short career as a regular for the Raptors, Powell's numbers are more than just a little encouraging. Shooting 44% from the field, 32% from deep, Powell will provide the Raptors with security on the offensive side of the ball should anything happen to their mainstays; or should one of them need a rest. Moreover, we (justifiably) expect those minutes to tick up this season, thereby seeing a boost in those numbers. 

And this is just regular season numbers we're talking about. How many of us were begging Dwane Casey to start Powell last year in their series against Milwaukee? His performance was simply awesome, as he carried himself with a boatload of confidence, shooting 91% from deep (!!!!!) during that stretch. If you forgot just how much of a contributor he was during that series, here are the highlights from Game 5 in Toronto - 

I'm rambling at this point. Chalk it up to excitement. 

However, if we're being honest, we should address a good point made by TSN's Josh Lewenberg. To boot - 

 

Given how the amount of money that is being exchanged between teams and free agents as of late, you may not be entirely incorrect if you thought that Powell could have gotten more, had he become a free agent. Even though I said we shouldn't concern ourselves with whether or not Powell will be or should be a starter (even though... ya know... he should), it's a safe bet that he's concerned with that. Having said that, it wouldn't surprise me at all if management and the coaching staff assured him a bigger role and workload moving forward. Should this happen, and should Powell continue to trend upwards in terms of his production, this contract will be a steal. $10.5MM per year and just above the mid-level exception? I'll take that. All day.

Again, it's really really hard to find anything wrong with this.

NORMAN POWELL STAYS!!


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


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 22

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Podcast Hosted by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)


Talking all Raptors on this one.

  • With the start of the NBA season fast approaching, we are left anticipating the excitement as the Toronto Raptors look to make a push towards the ultimate goal: An NBA Finals Appearance. Standing in their way are numerous things, both on and off the court - the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics stand as formidable opponents that will challenge the Raptors to achieve such a goal. Also, this newly implemented "culture reset" that has been talked about can either go very well and help improve the team, or it could be a product of a good PR pitch and the squad will remain relatively the same in terms of scheming. 
  • To explore these and other topics surrounding the team, I have Jordan Kligman (@416Basketball) of HashTagBasketball.com joining me. With sharp intellect, Jordan addresses the questions surrounding this Raptors team that every fan has been asking since they were eliminated from the Playoffs. What do we have to look forward to? How long will Dwane Casey stick around as head coach? Can we expect big steps forward from players like Norman Powell, Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl, and Pascal Siakam? We unpack it.

It's a podcast about the Raptors that is - although long overdue - one that you won't want to miss!

Follow Jordan on Twitter: @416Basketball
Visit his work HERE

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


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

A Comprehensive Examination of the Culture Reset

Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)


Aside from the expected conversations regarding acquiring free agents and making trades during the off-season, a lot of the chatter surrounding the Raptors has to do with what Masai Ujiri described as a "culture reset." Specifically, the talk of a refinement in the operations for the Raptors as a result of being swept by Cleveland in the second round of the playoffs. However, what was - and still is not - immediately clear is what exactly Ujiri meant when he proclaimed that the Raptors are in need of such a change and how it will be implemented.

When talking about culture, it seems intuitive that it doesn't begin and end with the style of play on the court or how the team develops its chemistry during game-time. Culture, it seems, is something that needs to be monitored and constructed on and off the court as it involves how people interact on not just a professional level, but also a personal one as well. Ujiri is very selective with his phraseology and wouldn't toss out a word like "culture" if it simply meant pushing towards a new style of play that meshes more with the direction the NBA is trending towards in terms of spacing the floor and utilizing the 3 more than we've traditionally seen. This is certainly part of a culture shift, but it's fair to say that there's a lot more than involved. The question are, are the Raptors in the position where they can actually undergo such a change and how will they enforce it?

This was talked about in some detail on the most recent SOT6 Podcast with myself and DeMar Grant of TipOfTheTower.com. Any talk regarding a culture reset or change must first start with some sort of introspection from each individual player and coach in the hopes of finding what direction he wishes the franchise to go towards and, if/when all parties can find the similarities, build on it. In an ideal scenario, the process would be simple and it would only take a group conversation to figure this out. Once this happens, they would just apply the similarities to their scheming and it would come naturally. However, since nothing is ever ideal, it seems that it's going to take a lot more than just a simple conversation. 

Whenever you hear of any type of reset when it comes to a sports organization, it's fair to assume that it means there will be some elimination of talent or personalities that aren't conducive with the new direction the franchise wishes to go. Very rarely do you see a call for a refresh while maintaining the vast majority of those that have been on the team that we assume led to such a call. This is what makes the situation the Raptors are in a bit of an anomaly. With the exception of Cory Joseph, Patrick Patterson, PJ Tucker, and DeMarre Carroll, the main core group of players have either remained or have been reacquired. Not only has the main core remained, but the coaching staff is also set to return, leaving the entire team to undergo a quick change and perhaps force themselves to move away from what they are used to; something that is easier said than done.

As mentioned, when approaching the task of a culture reset it involves both on and off the court changes. It's perhaps better to address the on the court changes first, as they are easier to pinpoint and discuss as there's tangible evidence that can be used to back it up.

For quite awhile now, the Raptors have been playing a sort of 90's style of basketball during a time where ball movement, the ability to be quick in transition, floor spacing, and three-point shooting is driving the league and enabling teams to win in a much more dominant fashion. The Raptors have been playing a predictable antiquated style, with the high pick-and-roll being the main focus on offense, while relying on isolation during close-game situations. Such a style will only get you so far in the NBA and certainly won't allow them to surpass teams that stand on top of the mountain, like Cleveland (for now), Golden State, Houston, and San Antonio. To put it bluntly, the Raptors put themselves in positions where it's easy for their weaknesses to become exposed and prevents them from taking that necessary next step to really cement themselves as a top-tier team. Thus, a culture change on the court is necessary if they wish to be able to find themselves in the same position as the aforementioned teams. Adaptation on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball is what will drive such a change and being able to trust their teammates will be absolutely crucial for the Raptors in their efforts of solidifying it.

This is all well and good but, unfortunately, way easier said than done. It's easy to simplify these types of situations and ignore the fact that each individual on the floor and sideline is human like you and I. It's unfair to expect these individuals to be able to change on a dime and jump into the season with a brand new approach. Like most humans, when it comes to utilizing a new skill-set that you aren't quite confident in or used to during challenging situations, it's real tempting to resort back to what is comfortable in order to ease yourself into the difficult circumstances that face you. This is my biggest fear when it comes to the Raptors and their efforts of a culture shift on the floor. Not only do I fear that the players will find that old habits do indeed die hard, but I also fear that Dwane Casey will lean towards doing the same in close-game situations. Thus, therein lies the difficulty in calling for a change yet keeping the same individuals. The Raptors have been so used to playing the style we have seen year-in and year-out that expecting them to stick to something new may be a bit overambitious. The scheming that the NBA is trending towards may be contrary to the philosophy that Casey is used to, perhaps leading to a bit of a cluster and frustration within the organization. In a way, I suppose I can sympathize to what DeMarre Carroll was saying during his interview Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun when he claimed -

“But once adversity hits and stuff starts going wrong, guys are going to go back to ISO basketball, that’s how it is. You’ve got to trust it. It’s one of those things you’ve got to build, you’ve just got to trust each other. This year, I feel like a lot of guys didn’t trust each other and a lot of guys, they didn’t feel like other guys could produce or (be) given the opportunity, so there was a lot of lack of trust on our team, so that’s what hindered us from going (as far as they wanted to go).”

Although I don't agree with the tone or even the reason for Carroll to speak out against how his former team operated the offense, what he is saying isn't necessarily wrong and at least deserves some consideration. 

However, it's important to note that I am by no means saying that it's an impossible task and the Raptors are doomed to allow history to repeat itself. What I am saying is that expecting such a change to occur quickly may be asking for a bit much. The majority of this team has been playing together for quite some time now and has been utilizing a certain style of play almost exclusively; it's what they are used to. Obviously there are certain times where adaptation is necessary and this is especially true during this "three-year window" in which the core group of players (DeRozan, Lowry, and Ibaka) will be leading the pack. Becoming a more fluid and selfless offense will be something that the Raptors will have to work on in order for them to achieve the goal of a culture reset if they want to persevere in the NBA. It starts from the top, and if Casey is able to game-plan based on this, while the main core is able to utilize it correctly on the floor, then it ought to trend to the bench and the role-players and creating a well-oiled machine. Basically, everyone has to be all-in with the shift and can't revert back to what even Ujiri has described as unsuccessful. To boot - 

"Because we’ve done what we’ve done so many times and it hasn’t worked," Ujiri said. "It’s easy to defend in my opinion when you play one-on-one. It’s predictable, we feel we have to go in another direction. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it will be the new thing in the league that wins.
"We’re trying to be progressive thinkers, and not just continue to pound, pound, pound on something that hasn’t worked."

Things get a little bit more murky when we get into the off-the-court culture changes. Going back to Carroll's comments, trust amongst teammates is crucial, and it's something that will bleed onto their off-the-court relationships. Further, when we examine Ujiri's comments from the end of the season presser and dig into the details, it certainly seems that the culture reset covers this area as well. Specifically,

"We have done things here for four years and we have had a level of success but how do you take it to another level is what I’m talking about. We have to dig deep into everything we do. And I’m talking scouting, I’m talking our medical department, I’m talking everything,"

Maybe I'm over-analyzing what he means by the term "everything," but it wouldn't shock me if the way the team interacts and/or handles challenging issues (in a word: trust) may be part of this reset, as well.

Full Disclosure: I'll be the first to admit that I don't know how the players interact off the floor because I am not around them. I'm not in the locker room for post-game interviews or statements, I don't mingle with the players or coaches when they're in town, and I don't know any of them on a personal level. I'd like to think that the players have a good relationship with each other and there's no animosity or tension. I'd be hard-pressed to point fingers and call out individuals and claim that they are in need of any sort of change in attitude. Doing so would be irresponsible and provocative. 

However, there is some evidence that there was some dissatisfaction within the locker room last season. Specifically, earlier in February when the Raptors had lost their 10th game out of a 14 game stretch, when asked how the Raptors can fix the funk that they were in, Lowry gave the calculated and vague response of "I have an idea, but [I'm going to] keep my mouth shut, keep it professional." It was widely assumed that his response was aimed towards a coaching change, but it's important to note that this was never confirmed and was a result of pure speculation. A further example can be found in aforementioned comments made by Carroll about the Raptors. Although he is no longer on the team, Carroll has not been shy when voicing his displeasure with how the Raptors have operated their offense and how he never felt comfortable in it. It's safe to assume that this isn't the first time that Carroll has vocalized his displeasure with the scheming the Raptors have been utilizing, but perhaps it is the way it was communicated. Like Lowry's comments, if Carroll's way of vocalizing it was vague, it doesn't help the team grow and learn from their mistakes. Maybe this is key to the off-the-court culture change.

Communication is crucial when dealing with the same people in a group setting on an almost everyday basis. Being opened-minded and receptive to constructive criticisms allows one to grow as both a talent and person in professional sports. Perhaps showing that you are willing to branch outside your comfort zone by being open to new ideas is how one is able to evolve on a personal level; in a word, trust. This is what I think is part of the culture reset that will be implemented for the Raptors. Maybe this discussed during the meeting that Lowry had with Casey, Powell, and DeRozan earlier in the off-season and it wasn't just an attempt to sell him on the organization. Further, perhaps Casey's efforts to bring the aforementioned players together to watch one of the games during the NBA Finals in order to have his players experience the Finals atmosphere is all part of the growth and culture shift that the team wishes to enforce. Perhaps this is evidence that Casey is aware that he too needs to evolve and be more receptive to the new ideas and changes. I mean, no one wants to be Phil Jackson, am I right? (Too soon?)

The point is, calling for a change in culture is incredible ambiguous, especially when Ujiri claims that "everything" needs to be reexamined. This won't be an easy task for the Raptors, but it's certainly not an unattainable goal. In fact, by implementing such a change, perhaps it will allow them to grow and persevere, leading them to be able to take that next step in taking down the monster known as Cleveland in the Eastern Conference. Ujiri is keen in his examination of the Raptors' flaws and I have no doubt that the effort will at least be there. There is no individual or set of individuals that need to be highlighted in order for the culture reset to be successful, as it will depend on the entirety of the staff. If the entire wheel is able to spin smoothly to start the season, the team should be able to build on it and these changes will just become natural. 

All we can do is trust the proce... task. 


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


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 16 (Part 2)

Episode 16 (Part 2) of the SOT6 Podcast is now up. I am joined by Demar Grant (@DemarJGrant) of TipOfTheTower.com and we discuss all the latest regarding the Toronto Raptors. Topics are:

  • DeMarre Carroll's salty comments.
  • Where JV fits on the team and the NBA.
  • The "Culture Change."
  • A little Game of Thrones talk.

Music:
Intro: "Cash Rules" by Ari de Niro
Outro: "Blue Bloods" by Aulx Studio

As always, I appreciate your ears and word of mouth for this podcast and website. Honestly, sharing is the best thing you can do for any independent blogger/podcaster, so I am in your debt if you do this for me. I'm trying my best to keep this podcast completely ad-free, as I know how annoying it is to constantly hear ads about Square Space, Harry's Shave Club, Blue Apron, or whatever. I'm not about that life. I do this completely out of my own pocket. I do this for fun, enjoyment, and the opportunity to connect with fellow fans, such as yourself.

You can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, SoundCloud, and/or Stitcher by scrolling to the bottom of this page and clicking the respective icon. Any suggestions, criticisms, or compliments can be issued by visiting the Contact section of the site. Or, hit me up on Twitter @ACorsair21, or @SouthOfThe6ix (or both!). I'm always looking to improve and cater to you guys, the audience. 

Thanks for listening!

 

BREAKING: Raptors & Pacers In Agreement For Joseph-Miles Swap

Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)


In the article I wrote today examining the DeMarre Carroll trade, I finished it with this - 

"I mean, this can't be it, right?

...right?"

Turns out, the answer was, indeed, "right." To boot - 

So, the specifics - as I know them to be right now - are that CJ Miles has accepted a 3-year sign-and-trade deal that is worth $25 million. with a player option in year three In exchange, the Pacers will receive Cory Jospeh.

Miles, far from a dominant defensive presence, will fill in the role that the Raptors were hoping to have in Carroll. Also, this gives Toronto an uptick in three-point production, as Miles shot approximately 41% beyond the arch last season for the Pacers, which is slightly above his career average of 36%. Having a veteran in the lineup that can help balance out the Raptors on both sides of the ball is something that was much needed after the announcement of the Carroll trade. 

Further, this opens the door for Delon Wright to step up as he will serve as Kyle Lowry's backup at point guard. Much like how we viewed Norman Powell to be the shooting guard/small forward of the future for the Raptors, Wright's was drafted to be the point guard for the next wave of Raptor players when the DeRozan/Lowry/Ibaka era ends. Also, it's hard to forget about how Fred VanVleet will take on a bigger role compared to last year, manning third-string duties behind Wright. In short, the Raptors will look for their younger stars to take a necessary step further.

Speaking of Powell, this will subsequently mean that he will be sharing minutes with Miles and his starting role may not be as set-in-stone as we thought when the Carroll news broke. However, the minutes between the two will more than likely be shared, and they will also be able to flip-flop with each other on the court seamlessly. 

The deal won't be complete until the Carroll/Brooklyn deal is finalized, and is also contingent on the Wizards matching the Nets' offer-sheet for Otto Porter (they said that they will). So it may take time for this to become official. But, in principle, it is.

I'll be sure to update this post once the details are ironed out a bit more, but this will surely help ease the worries that came about after the Carroll trade. Although the future in terms of draft picks are still up in the air, it's a testament that Ujiri wasn't - and still isn't - done improving this team.


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


Examination Of The DeMarre Carroll Trade

Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)


Late last night it was announced that the Toronto Raptors had made a salary dump by trading DeMarre Carroll and the entirety of his contract, along with both their 1st and 2nd round 2018 draft picks to the Brooklyn Nets for center Justin Hamilton. 

Before we can really break down this deal, we must first understand that a move such as this was expected and necessary in order to be below the luxury-tax territory. Carroll's contract calls for him to be paid just slightly north of $30 million over the next two years, so the salary dump makes sense; especially when realizing that Norman Powell will enter next off-season as a restricted free agent. Simply put, cap space was needed. Thus, in terms of being able to relieve the pressure of the salary demands that the Raptors were undergoing, it makes sense that they would try to find a team willing to take on the salary of a player that did not meet expectations.

Arguably one of the biggest new Raptors to be signed on as a free agent, there was the expectation that Carroll would act as a defensive presence similar to what we saw in PJ Tucker earlier this year. However, injuries plagued him and we never got to see our expectations met as Carroll was never quite right after recovering from a right knee injury. Further, with how poorly he performed in this year's post-season, - and hindsight being what it is - it seemed like the writing was on the wall that the Raptors would make an effort to move him. So in terms of creating cap space to make the signings of Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka financially easier, this makes sense. 

However, trading away the Raptors' 1st and 2nd round draft picks is something that I think a lot of fans will be discouraged with, and it's easy to see why. On face value, one could argue that this is the price of doing business. When trading away a declining asset, there had to be something that the Nets needed in addition that would make the deal more palpable. Yet, leaving the cupboards completely bare for the 2018 draft, in terms of picks, will surely lead Raptors fans to have an uneasy feeling in their stomachs. Is it worth having the salary relief if it means not having a single draft pick next year? Is it worth not having Carroll, with all of his warts, if it means sacrificing any sort of potential for the future?

It's easy to say "no" to both questions, especially given how top heavy the Raptors are as a result of this trade. As it stands, the Raptors have 4 centers in Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira, and Hamilton. Also, with the loss of Carroll - although not the defensive presence that he once was - in combination with the loss of Tucker, it leaves the Raptors extremely thin on the defensive side of the ball. Moreover, with how much of an emphasis the Raptors management has put on development and recruiting young stars to stabilize the future of the organization, this seems like a major shift in philosophy. Sure, you could argue that the Raptors have enough depth for the future in players like Powell, Delon Wright, Poeltl, Bruno Caboclo, Pascal Siakam, and Nogueira. But sacrificing the opportunity to add additional pieces in the draft that has the potential to make a major difference is hard to swallow (even though there's also the chance that the players they would have drafted may not have contributed on a significant level. I get it.). 

However, when taking a step back and looking at the longterm play, the deal makes sense. As it stands, the Raptors absorb Hamilton's $3 million contract, which as a result gives them about $27 million in relief from Carroll's contract. There's still the opportunity that the Raptors could move on from players like JV, Joseph, or even flip Hamilton in a subsequent move to both free up more cap space and/or accrue pieces to fill in the gaps. With Hamilton being behind the curve in terms of knowing the Raptors' plays, he seems to be the most dispensable asset that won't lead to an even bigger sacrifice of the future (such as dealing one or both of Nogueira and Poeltl). Hamilton's favorable contract may seem intriguing for a team in need a young solid center for depth. As it stands right now, though, the Raptors aren't one of those teams. Thus, there's little reason to doubt that Masai Ujiri is done making moves and strengthening the team, but it's going to be a bit challenging.

Moreover, this pretty much solidifies Powell taking Carroll's place in the starting lineup, thereby further proving that he is a big part of the future for the Raptors. Fans have been salivating over the thought of Powell taking on a bigger role for the Raptors and with this move, it almost guarantees him just that. Assuming that the Raptors don't attain a better, more experienced and reliable piece via trade or free agency, we may be able to finally see what we have in Powell. With a full season as a starter under his belt, it will also give the organization a solid look as to what they will be willing to offer in terms of a contact or a match-sheet when his restricted free agency hits next off-season. 

So yes, the price is crazy steep and it's difficult to grasp the notion that the Raptors, currently, do not have a singe draft pick for 2018. It's easy to have the knee-jerk reaction that Ujiri may be on the losing end of this deal, but that's only when you look at it in a vacuum. There has to be a subsequent move via trade or free agency that will either balance out the roster more, or create even more cap space, thereby allowing them to sign multiple, yet cheaper, pieces. We should be able to say with confidence that the roster, as it currently stands, more than likely won't be what the Raptors trot out for the start of the 2017-18 season, so let's exercise some patience. Most people have assumed that it would be Valanciunas that would be moved over anyone else, but as I mentioned during the latest SOT6 Podcast in talking to Adian and May of ThePostUp.net/Pass The Rock Podcast, the days of the limited yet dominating big-man may be numbered in the NBA. Perhaps other organizations feel the same way and, unfortunately, there's little to know interest in acquiring a $16 million dollar center. Thus, we have to hold on to the hope that the off-season moves and signings aren't over and the gaps will be filled.

I mean, this can't be it, right?

...right?


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


SOT6 Podcast- Episode 15

Episode 15 of the SOT6 Podcast is now up. I am joined by Adian and May (@zharitamay) of ThePostUp.net and the Pass The Rock Podcast. We discuss the latest happenings surround the Toronto Raptors. Topics are:

  • Signing Serge Ibaka.
  • Bye-Bye JV?
  • Signing Kyle Lowry.
  • Are the Celtics a threat?
  • The "3-year window".
  • What is this "Culture Reset?"

Music:
Intro: "Cash Rules" by Ari de Niro
Blue Jays: "Transmissions" by Tab & Anitek
Intermission: "Hookie" by The Mellowtones
Blue Jays: "Equestrian" by Tab & Anitek
Outro: "Blue Bloods" by Aulx Studio

As always, I appreciate your ears and word of mouth for this podcast and website. Honestly, sharing is the best thing you can do for any independent blogger/podcaster, so I am in your debt if you do this for me. I'm trying my best to keep this podcast completely ad-free, as I know how annoying it is to constantly hear ads about Square Space, Harry's Shave Club, Blue Apron, or whatever. I'm not about that life. I do this completely out of my own pocket. I do this for fun, enjoyment, and the opportunity to connect with fellow fans, such as yourself.

You can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, SoundCloud, and/or Stitcher by scrolling to the bottom of this page and clicking the respective icon. Any suggestions, criticisms, or compliments can be issued by visiting the Contact section of the site. Or, hit me up on Twitter @ACorsair21, or @SouthOfThe6ix (or both!). I'm always looking to improve and cater to you guys, the audience. 

Thanks for listening!

Let's Talk About Kyle

Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)


As the dust settles from the third part of the trilogy known as the Cavaliers/Warriors NBA Finals, the basketball community has now turned its attention to the rumor-mill (or rumour-mill for my friends up North). Fans are anxiously waiting to see if their favorite teams will push their chips in to make moves that will, in turn, transform the franchise into contenders or one that embraces the rebuild. With so much information pouring out by the minute, it’s hard to keep track of what is accurate or what is just mere speculation. One minute, Jimmy Butler is enticed by the idea of joining LeBron James in Cleveland. The next, Butler emphasizes how much he loves the city of Chicago and makes it clear he has no desire to play for the Cavaliers. With a high volume of uncertainty experienced by fans, compounded by the back and forth and often times contradictory information coming at them, it becomes increasingly harder to evaluate. Thus, it ultimately leaves us in either a state of panic, excitement, disappointment, or often times all of the above. What should we invest our emotional stock in?

Although I’d like to say that all is gravy when it comes to the Toronto Raptors, fans of the #WeTheNorth franchise are experiencing the aforementioned emotional rollercoaster as each day passes. Although the season didn’t quite end as we would have liked it to, we were hopeful that Raptors President, Masai Ujiri, could work his magic with ownership - MLSE - and convince them to give him the financial resources to hold on to their key assets, thereby maintaining their contender status. Of the three core group of players, only one is guaranteed to return to lead the Raptors, and that is DeMar DeRozan (barring any trades from out of nowhere like a Randy Orton RKO). The remaining two - Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka - have chosen to explore free agency, leaving their future in Toronto up in the air. Now, it should be noted that despite what you read by any writer (reputable or not), it would be wise to approach it with skepticism, as nothing is set and stone and things change by the day. I mean no disrespect to any writer that covers the Raptors; I respect them all. However, what it all boils down to is whether or not you’re willing to take the word of someone who heard something from somewhere or the player himself. Admittedly, of the aforementioned two players, I have fallen into the trap of comfort by assuming Ibaka is coming back, based on what little reports that have been floated out on the inter-webs .

Earlier in May, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reported that a deal between the Raptors and Ibaka was “pretty much done,” and was in the neighborhood of $20MM a year. Since then, a recent article by Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun suggests that the Raptors are confident in their ability to bring Ibaka back. With nothing out there to dispute either of these claims, Raptors fans have put their faith in the reports and assume Ibaka will return. After all, he hasn’t been attached to any other rumor regarding an interest in joining another team, so we blindly put our eggs in this basket and anticipate a reunion. Seems easy enough, right? No contrary news is good news and, once teams are legitimately able to sign players to a deal, we expect to hop on to HoopsRumors.com and see the “Ibaka Signs with Toronto” headline. Simple. But what about the third member of the trio that makes up the core of the Raptors? Well… apparently not so simple.

When it comes to Kyle Lowry - a player that has helped propel the Raptors into a consistent and legitimate playoff contender in the Eastern Conference - it’s hard to envision him signing elsewhere. It’s during this time in the NBA off-season that we find ourselves going through that emotional rollercoaster, being bombarded with rumors that contradicts our expectations. Toronto fans experienced this first hand this week. 

There were times during the regular season that we noticed a bit of pushback from Lowry; sometimes even subtly expressing displeasure with the team's coaching and direction. However, with the ability to sign him to the most years and most dollars, fans figure that although things may have been bit a rocky, Lowry would take the money and remain a Raptor. After all, money talks and… well, yeah… that other stuff walks. Once the Raptors put the contract that was around the $200MM range in front of him, Lowry would come to his senses, realize how much he loves Toronto and how good the city has been to him, the Raptors would be able to work out their issues, and continue build a contending team. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, not so fast.

Earlier this week, Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star wrote an article claiming that word had been going around to other teams that Lowry had “zero interest” in signing a contract with the Raptors, even if were to be for the maximum amount of years and dollars that only they could offer. Lowry was determined to play for a team that gave him a better chance of winning a ring. If not, he desired to play for his hometown team - the 76ers. Nothing the Raptors could do could wash away the bitter taste left in Lowry's mouth from being swept by the Cavaliers, and a change of scenery was reportedly desired. 

It should be noted that no direct quotes from Lowry supported this claim by Arthur. In fact, the quotes made by Lowry that Arthur did mention were ones that spoke highly of the city of Toronto. Specifically, he referenced a recent radio appearance by Lowry on Toronto’s TSN 1050 in which Lowry stated that “everything about Toronto has been positive or better than other NBA cities.” Further, Arthur concludes his article with a glimmer of hope, making fans of the Raptors aware that “Things can change,” as these types of things are as fluid as ever during this time in free agency. In other words, nothing is set in stone and we should be hard pressed to put all our eggs in the basket that stem from mere rumors. This includes the most recent rumor of the Houston Rockets being interested in putting together a super (duper!) team consisting of Lowry, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Paul Millsap to join James Harden in the battle against the Warriors for the West. If you ask me, what I recommend is examining the facts, as well as the statements made by the source/player himself. Which leads me to this.

I mean, that’s pretty straight-forward, is it not?

With this type of pushback from the source itself, compounded by the moves made by his hometown team of Philadelphia by trading up to acquire the number one pick in the draft, it certainly seems like Lowry is keeping his options open and has not shut the door on a return to Toronto. Perhaps Lowry was legitimately interested in playing for his hometown of Philadelphia, but as Arthur notes - things change. It's no secret that with the aforementioned move by the 76ers, Lowry's market got a little smaller, and he'd be wise to keep all his options on the table.

Moreover, with the recent comments made by Masai Ujiri who flat-out said that Kyle “wants to come back,” it may be best to not invest in every article that speculates on a destination for the All-Star point guard. Toronto fans, more than any other fans, should be weary of such rumors, as they surrounded DeRozan last year in terms of a desire to join his hometown team he idolized growing up - the Lakers. Recall that Stephen A. Smith went so far as saying, without hesitation, that DeRozan had “made it very, very clear that he wants to be in L.A….” Fans got caught up in the hype and started to envision a life without DeRozan, because… well, because Stephen A. Smith said so! It must be true, right? He said "very" twice

Yeah, about that. DeRozan only met with one team: Toronto. 

Further, we should keep in mind that Lowry is an emotional player. Often times this works to his advantage, but sometimes it backfires. I don't discount the possibility that Lowry did state that he had zero interest in returning to Toronto at the wake of being swept by the Cavaliers. He is human, after all, and the aspect of Lowry making comments about the Raptors out of anger and frustration after an embarrassing effort against Cleveland is something I think we can forgive. However, this doesn't mean that Lowry has necessarily maintained this attitude towards a return, as cooler heads tend to prevail. Recall, Dwane Casey, DeRozan, and Norman Powell met with Lowry earlier this month in order to be exposed to the atmosphere of an NBA Finals. If Lowry legitimately had zero interest in a return to Toronto, it seems rather odd that he'd meet with them at all. Yet, it also doesn't mean he's a lock to return, either.

The point is, Lowry is going to evaluate all the circumstances that surround any team that offers him a deal. This isn't to say that he’s destined to sign a new deal with Toronto, but I’d like to believe that of all the teams that are reported to have an interest in signing him, the Raptors have the most leverage. This doesn't necessitate a reunion - it merely means the Raptors have an advantage that no other team has. The aspect of a professional athlete gravitating towards the most money and longest term shouldn’t surprise anyone. Given Lowry’s tweet, coupled with the comments made by Ujiri, Raptors fans should look ahead with cautious optimism. Like the fear we had that surrounded DeRozan's free agency, until a deal is done all reports of interest or disinterest regarding Lowry and him signing with another team should be taken with a grain of salt. One must hope that Ujiri is able to work his wizardry and provide enough evidence that the game planning, culture, and scheming within the organization will not be the same episode that we've watched on repeat for the past four years. 

I don't know about you, but I'm confident that he'll be able to.


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