What Can Brown Do For You?

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Article Written by Rodrigo Albizurez (@Unclerodzy)


Every Raptors fan has probably taken a look at the team's depth chart a few times and thought to themselves - “man, I thought this team was deep last season, but this season it’s as deep as Lowry’s love for DeRozan!” As a Raptors fan, it feels like you’re a contestant on The Bachelorette and have no choice but to fall in love with this gem of a roster. Just like the Bachelorette, people might be questioning the depth of the contestants (point-guard position) and you wouldn't be wrong for questioning it. Depth is something that could really impact one of the 4 points guards' minutes in a serious way. Kyle Lowry, Fred Van Fleet, Delon Wright and Lorenzo Brown are your PG’s and the initial thought is Brown will barely play and have less of an impact. I would question that notion right away and say to you, this is what Brown can do for you!

Lorenzo comes into the 2018-2019 season as the 4th string PG and basketball experts are wondering if he’s ever going to get on the court and make a meaningful contribution to the Raptors' endeavors. There’s a reason the Raptors signed the 6’5 point-guard from Roswell, New Mexico; they have a plan for him that requires him to be ready when called upon. Speculation is key in this situation but I strongly believe there is a lot in store for the dynamic guard for this upcoming season because he can absolutely hoop with the best of them. Brown will play a significant role, but with minimal minutes. Looking at the depth chart, there isn’t a lot of minutes to be given out for a role player like Brown, but he can still find a way to make an impact when given the opportunity.

Last year versus the Orlando Magic, the Raptors had nothing going for them until Lorenzo “the Menace “Brown came in and brought the defensive intensity which resembled a young Tony Green. He had some strong defensive stretches and was able to score a couple key buckets while finding open looks for other players. Every player was struggling that night, but he found a way to get players much needed confidence building buckets. He single-handedly brought the Raptors back and led them to that victory. Yes, at that point of the season, a win wasn’t that dire, but it shows that when you give a young and success-hungry player an opportunity, he’s going to take it and run with it. That night’s performance may not earn him a key spot in the rotation, but his G-League numbers speak volumes to how he can impact a team’s chance to win the game when he’s inserted. 

Brown's performance in the G-league during the 2017-2018 season alone, earned him a spot on an NBA roster. Like Shakira’s hips, his stats didn't lie. Brown ended the season with an 18.8  ppg, 5.2rb, 8.ast stat line and those numbers earned him the honor of becoming the G-League MVP. If you’re thinking “who cares about a G-League MVP honor? It’s the G-league and that doesn’t mean a thing!”, then give your head a shake. Studs like Danny Green, Clint Capela , and Rudy Gobert emerged from the G-League and have made a name for themselves in the NBA. Overall, most players in the G-League must battle for an opportunity just to crack an NBA roster and face an even bigger challenge to stay there. For Lorenzo to nab the MVP honor is outstanding and it’s an accolade that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The G-Leagues MVP shot a whopping 50.5% from within the 3-point arc and 33% from beyond the arc, which totaled to a stellar 46.8% overall shooting percentage. His 3- point shooting isn’t something to marvel over and he’s no Jesus Shuttlesworth, but who really is? The Raptors coaching staff see a player that isn’t afraid to launch the deep ball when given an open look and he’s not afraid to chuck it at an efficient rate.

Brown roughly attempts 4 three-pointers a game and makes approximately 1. Like I said, it’s nothing to drool over. But when he’s on the floor with the Raptors, he’s going to have a lot more open looks from beyond the arc. The Raptors were launching 3's like they were beads at Mardi Gras, but they weren't shooting them at a real efficient rate - only making 35.8% of their shots from beyond the arc.  Brown is around that mark, and if he continues to work on his craft he should be able to get that percentage up which will only help the Raptors in their run towards a title. The Raptors motto is shoot first, ask questions later. They, as a team, need to improve their long-range shooting. With the additions of Leonard and Green (prolific 3-point shooters) should free up some open looks for players like Brown. Brown has a high basketball IQ and he will use his assist trait to find an even better shot for the Raptors while on the floor. If you don't believe me, go watch some highlight tapes of his game and you'll see that he's smart and makes the right decisions. Such decisions got him this far and he’s about to turn more heads as the years go by.

All in all, Brown will have to fight for minutes day in and day out, but that should not discourage him. Instead, it should motivate the hell out of him. He’s on a legitimate Eastern Conference squad and he gets to learn the game from one of the best point guards in the East - Kyle Lowry - and play alongside arguably one of the top 3 best players in the league - Kawhi Leonard. There’s minimal downside ahead for the 6’5 PG's situation, and if he accepts his role and buys into what the Raptors have planned for him, you’re going to see him flourish with the opportunity. Brown is going to turn some heads this season; not only Raptors fans' heads, but the league is about to be put on notice. Brown is here to stay and ready to show you what he can do for you!


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Highlighting Keys Games for The Toronto Raptors' 2018-19 Season

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


Upon the NBA releasing the full 82 game season schedule today, the most anticipated match-up that all of Toronto was waiting for was when the San Antonio Spurs would come to town with All-Star DeMar DeRozan, thereby making his return to Toronto. After playing his final game with the Raptors in Game 4 of the 2018 playoffs vs the Cleveland Cavaliers, DeRozan picked up a questionable Flagrant 2 foul late in the fourth quarter, leading to an ejection in a blowout elimination game with just two minutes remaining. Nobody knew that that game was going to be DeRozan’s final game in a Raptors uniform.

Today, Raptors fans have found out that DeMar DeRozan’s first game in Toronto in a San Antonio Spurs uniform will take place on February 22, 2019. After DeRozan’s nine-year career in the NBA and playing against every other team, this will be his first game against Toronto. DeRozan isn’t the only All-Star set to make a home-coming appearance against their former team(s) this upcoming season. It was also announced that newly acquired All-Star Kawhi Leonard will make his return to San Antonio on January 3, 2019 with the Raptors.

Outside of the DeRozan/Leonard fiasco, it was also announced that the Raptors will open up their season - not against the Boston Celtics - but the Cleveland Cavaliers at home on October 17, 2018. The Raptors will play their first 6 out of 8 games at home to start the season and will head out on an early 4 game Western road trip right after that from November 2nd-7th. Although Toronto opens up their season with a match-up vs the Cavaliers, there’s something missing. Ah, LeBron James. Toronto won’t have to wait long to get a first look at The King in his new threads, facing off vs the Lakers on Nov 4th. The Raptors will once again see King James and the Lakers, this time at home on March 14th 2019.

Another big circle on the calendar this season comes on Nov 14th. On this day, the return of former head coach and Coach of The Year Award winner, Dwane Casey, to Toronto as new and current head coach of the Detroit Pistons. November seems to be a big month for Toronto as another big match-up and must-see game comes near the end of the month, when the defending NBA champions in the Golden State Warriors come to town on Nov 29th.

The Raptors longest home stand comes in the new year of 2019 in February from the 11th to March 1st.  It may seem long, but it’s only a 6 game home-stand due to the All-Star break. Toronto will also have two-4 game Western road trips throughout the season - one in November and another in December from the 11th to the 16th. The Raptors will also have a game on New Year’s Day 2019 at home against the Utah Jazz.

The Raptors final home game of the 2018-19 season will be against the Miami Heat on April 7th at 12 p.m. and will finish off the season on the road - surprisingly - against the Minnesota Timberwolves at 8 p.m. on April 9th.

The NBA has also released all the games that will be televised nationally. For the second time in franchise history, the Raptors will have 15 games nationally televised throughout the season; the first time was back in the 2000-01 season. The most Toronto has ever had in a season was in 2001-02, with 17 nationally televised games.

Toronto will have eight games on ESPN and seven games on TNT. This is also without including the games on NBA TV. Many fans felt a lack of respect from the NBA for not giving Toronto a Christmas Day game, which was announced just over 48 hours ago. But this will have to do. Given that Toronto only getting five nationally televised games last season on both ESPN and TNT, tripling that this season is a great sign.

It won’t be too long before the Raptors are out on the court again. Upon the NBA releasing this schedule, it means there’s only two more months until fans get to enjoy basketball again. Raptors fans will get their first look at Toronto Raptors basketball on September 29th, in pre-season action as the team takes on the Trail Blazers in Vancouver. Although it’s only pre-season, we could see our first look at All-Star Kawhi Leonard sometime throughout, which includes six-games. It’s also our first look at new coach Nick Nurse and his experimentation with the possibility of lineups he could use throughout the season.

Stay tuned, Toronto. Raptors' basketball is just around the corner.


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Toronto Raptors Snubbed Christmas Day Game Once Again

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)

Earlier today, the NBA released the opening week games for the 2018-19 season, as well as five Christmas Day games and three MLK (Martin Luther King) Day games. Raptors fans were quick to point out that their beloved team was nowhere to be found on the list of teams set to play on December 25th this year. The list goes as follows:

  • Milwaukee Bucks vs New York Knicks
  • Oklahoma City Thunder vs Houston Rockets
  • Philadelphia 76ers vs Boston Celtics
  • Los Angeles Lakers vs Golden State Warriors
  • Portland Trail Blazers vs Utah Jazz

Although all five of these games won’t disappoint, many Raptors fans disagree with Milwaukee getting the spotlight to play on Christmas over the Raptors. After the latest acquisition of All-Star Kawhi Leonard in a blockbuster trade involving DeMar DeRozan, a lot of fans thought December 25th set up perfectly for Toronto vs San Antonio. Although the San Antonio Spurs are not the team they once were, it still would’ve been a great treat to Raptors and NBA fans to get a first look at the two All-Stars play against their former teams for the first time. Many also point out that the Knicks shouldn’t have a Christmas Day game with their not-so-great looking roster as it once looked in past years. However, it’s hard to compete with a great franchise from a business standpoint and also the aspect of playing at a historic arena in Madison Square Garden. So, the Knicks have that.

Although the Raptors didn’t get a Christmas Day game, they also did not get a game on January 21st 2019 (MLK day). The Raptors playing on Martin Luther King Day isn't unusual, as they have had multiple games on that day throughout the years. The recent Martin Luther King Day game was last season on January 15, 2018 - suffering a defeat from the 76ers.

Although Toronto missed out on Christmas and Martin Luther King Day games, they get an early jump into the season. It was announced that the Raptors will open their season against the Boston Celtics on October 19th at 8 p.m. on ESPN at home in the newly named Scotiabank Arena. As some of you may remember, last season on opening night the Boston Celtics lost their newly signed All-Star, Gordan Hayward, for the whole season due to a horrific leg injury. This year, however, the Celtics plan to have Hayward back and in the lineup, so people can see what this Celtics squad with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving can really do. After that game against the Celtics, the Raptors will quickly hop on a flight to Washington where they will play the Wizards in D.C. at 7 p.m. for a back-to-back the next evening. That game will be televised on NBA TV.

A few other games that stand out on opening week is the Thunder vs Warrior;. or as many may call it, Westbrook vs Durant. Other huge games include the new look Lakers with the debut of LeBron James in his new threads. His first regular season game in a Lakers uniform comes against the Trail Blazers on October 18th at 10:30 p.m. ET. Two days after that, LeBron will make his home coming debut in Los Angeles as the Lakers host the Rockets at 10:30 p.m. on ESPN, where I’m sure millions will tune in to watch the King on his new team.

Although the Raptors and their fans didn’t get that special Christmas game they’ve been asking for for years, they get two early tough and televised games just days into the season. With the full NBA schedule rumored to be released in the coming days, Raptors fans will quickly look for the match-up vs the Spurs and DeMar DeRozan. But for Christmas and Martin Luther King Day, there’s always next year.

Right, Toronto?


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SOT6 Podcast - Episode 72

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 72

"Spurs In The 6"

TORONTO Raptors talk

Toronto Raptors Talk

  • With the dust finally settled regarding the biggest trade in Raptors' history, it's important to view it with an open mind. More specifically, it's vital to gain a better understanding of who the Raptors have on their team in Kawhi Leonard, and what he brings to the table both on and off the court. In order to do so, it's best to discuss the matter with those that are die-hard Spurs fans and have experienced him on the team on almost a daily basis... and we've done just that.
  • Joining host Adam Corsair is a very special guest - Gareth Gibbins of Spurs in the 6. Like Adam, Gareth follows his favorite team from a completely different territory with pride and honor, as he's been a die-hard Spurs fan since the era of David Robinson. They unpack the Kawhi/DeMar trade in a different light, as Gareth lays out what Raptors fans have in store with Kawhi on the team, what Danny Green offers, and how the Spurs/Kawhi relationship fell apart.

It's a Raptors episode that you will NOT want to miss!

Follow Gareth on Twitter: @SpursInThe6
Visit Gareth's work HERE

Music:

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


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


The Curious Case of Danny Green

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Article Written by Rodrigo Albizurez (@Unclerodzy)


Who is Danny green you may ask? No, it’s not Danny Devito from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – it’s actually the sharp shooting ranger who once resided in the Eest, but now has graciously taken his talent to the East coast to join the bad boys in the north: The Toronto Raptors. When I say graciously, I mean he was thrown into the real life ESPN trade machine springing him north of the border alongside Kawhi Leonard and Toronto’s 6ix god, Drake. Ever since that trade, nothing has been the same. DeMar DeRozan is gone and two pieces that never thought they would be traded to Canada's team are now two minutes away from a Tim Horton's at all times. All jokes aside, two great pieces were added to the Toronto Raptors' roster and Kawhi is the cake of the trade. But never forget about the icing, Danny Green, cause without icing, the cake isn’t the same.

To top it all off, Green isn’t only bringing his sharp shooting skillset to the city of Toronto, but also his great low-key personality that loves to give back to the community. Green was known for being great off the court in San Antonio and all across Texas. His unselfish traits always landed him in the local shelters giving back to the kids or teaching young hoopers to play basketball all across Texas. As an example of how great of a citizen he was, he would show up to the Elf Louise Christmas Project dressed as Santa clause and hand out presents to the youth of San Antonio. If you didn’t already love Danny Green, I bet you do now! Why is this important to the Toronto Raptors, you ask? You’re not only bringing in someone who is highly skilled, but also a player who has an unselfish nature off the court, translating in his effort and demeanour on the court. These traits can only help the Raptors, strictly because that’s the way they want to play - unselfish pendulum-like basketball which results in an open shot for shooters like Steddy Freddy, OG, and CJ “Sniper” Miles.

Green may already have his inner Canadian embedded in his DNA off the court, but when it comes to playing in between the lines, he makes it his personal mission to bring his opponent to lock-down island. The only way you’re getting off that island is by taking contested jumpers or pray that by some miracle Green didn’t bring his A-Game. As an offensive weapon, destined into Lock-down Island, you might as well put yourself in shackles and call it night, because the ranger is bringing the Calvary and some. You might escape every once in a while from Green’s defensive efforts, but like Michael Scofield, you’ll always end up where you belong - prison. Green is an NBA ALL DEFENSIVE FIRST TEAMER for a reason, ladies and gentleman. His ability to guard the perimeter will be crucial for the Raptors this season if they really want to take a step forward into being one of the elite teams in the NBA. Let’s get real for a second and realize that DeRozan was a liability on the defensive end which hurt the Raptors greatly in the playoffs. His inability to guard his man forced other players to helpm which left Cleveland’s shooters wide open in their sweet spots. With the DeRozan/Green swap in the starting lineup (I believe this will happen) you’re losing an offensive threat who was a prolific bucket getter and a 4xNBA All-Star, but the Raptors are also getting Kawhi “The Claw” Leonard back as well and he’s no offensive slouch either. So by replacing that certain threat with a defensive minded player who can shoot the 3 at a consistent clip becomes an ever bigger nuisance for opposing teams. Now they have to shift their focus on Leonard which opens up shots for guys like Green. With that being said, you know he can bring his defensive prowess Day N Night like Kid Cudi once said. But people keep sleeping on the Northern Rangers dynamic in your face modern shooting like they lived in the states.

When it comes to dynamic 3-point shooters, you think of Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, Kyle Korver, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and of course Jonas Valanciunas. All these guys (besides Jonas) are proven snipers from beyond 24 feet on the hardwood and their NBA resume speaks for themselves. Now when it comes to Green, your initial thought is that he’s coming over from a great organization and he was coached by Pop, so he has to be great player. You wouldn’t be wrong! Now, if you’re big into hoops, your second thought would be, he’s a silky shooter that proved himself during the 2013 NBA Finals by knocking down 27 3-pointers during that series! Not only is that an NBA record, but he broke the record in game 5 of the NBA Finals. If that’s not sick, wicked, and nasty, I’m not sure what is to be honest. Throughout his illustrious 9 year career, he’s always been able to knock down shots when it matters. With that said, he’s also been able to keep his career 3 point shooting percentage at an efficient 39.5% rate. He’s also a walking bucket getter, and that’s exactly what the Raptors need. I wouldn’t tell you that you needed guy who can strut out of a walk-in freezer and still be able to knock down bucket. I would ask you, do you need that Raptors fans? Obviously every Raptors fan is going to say yes, and Danny Green can be that guy for the Raptors faithful. Not only is he a knockdown shooter, but his basketball IQ is through the roof. By watching in-game highlights, you’re able to see how he gets all those open looks. Yes he was a part of a great system that would free shooters up, but you also need someone who understands the game and can adjust to certain situations. Some players don’t have that high basketball IQ, but if you watch Green move without the ball, you’ll understand how intelligent he really is. Green is able to find open spots from beyond the arc by reading what his teammate is doing with the ball and how the defense is adjusting. He also comes from a system that was not only shot friendly, but also made them shoot conscience as well. Players like Steph Curry and James Harden can get away with 30 foot jumpers, but players like Green understand when and where to knock down shots while also being fearless of the big moment when it arrives.

Great times are ahead for the Raptors this upcoming year and Green will play a big part throughout this journey. The journey may be short lived if the Raptors can’t figure out a way to reach the NBA Finals and re-sign Kawhi Leonard to an extension, but that’s all in the future. The Raptors need to focus right now and figure out the best way to utilize the gruesome twosome that they have acquired in the trade. Danny Green is the sharp shooter and the defensive monster that the Raptors didn’t want, but in fact needed, to beef up their chances at taking a real shot at the NBA Finals.


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Getting to Know The New Toronto Raptors Coaching Staff

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


Wednesday afternoon, the Toronto Raptors announced the four final spots of coaches added to their staff. The likes of Adrian Griffin, Sergio Scariolo (Scar-Eee-Oh-Low), Nate Bjorkgren (Bee-ork-gren) and Phil Handy will join the assistant coaching roles behind Patrick Mutombo, Jim Sann and Eric Khoury to round up Nick Nurse’s staff for the 2018-19 NBA season.

38-year old Patirck Mutombo is a former Congolese basketball player from the Democratic Republic of Congo who also played in the Italian league (Lega Basket Serie A). Mutombo also played at the University of Metro State in Denver back in 1999 until 2003 in the NCAA at the Division Two level, winning two titles in 2000 and 2002. In his final championship run in 2002, Mutombo scored 29 points in the final game and was named Most Valuable Player. Scoring 1,360 points in his career, Mutombo was inducted into the Metro State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011. That same year, Mutombo began his coaching career in the NBA joining the Denver Nuggets as a player development coordinator. In 2012 he was then promoted to an assistant coach.

Jim Sann has been in the NBA as part of numerous staffs for just over a decade now. He has found his way back to Toronto after being with the Raptors in 2003 as an assistant coach. He then left the year after in 2004, joining the Houston Rockets as an advance scout. After the 2005 season, Sann joined the New Jersey Nets (now known as the Brooklyn Nets) as an assistant coach and coaching associate until 2010. From 2010-12, Sann joined the Chicago Bulls as an assistant coach and video coordinator. Sann ultimately made his way back to Nets shortly after his two-year stint with the Bulls for a few more seasons, and has now landed his role back on the Raptors’ bench. Also joining Mutombo and Sann will be Eric Khoury. Khoury joins the Toronto Raptors as the final assistant coach and will also serve part in the analytics aspect of the job.

Adrian Griffin is a name who may sound familiar to some. The 44-year old retired small forward played nine seasons in the NBA, mostly with the Chicago Bulls. Shortly after his playing career had ended. Griffin joined the Milwaukee Bucks in 2008 as an assistant for the next two seasons. In 2010, Griffin became an assistant coach for Tom Thibodeau for the next five years in Chicago, ultimately ending in 2015. He then joinde the Orlando Magic for a season in 2016. Griffin helped USA Basketball win a gold medal in the 2014 FIBA World Cup as an assistant. After his short job with the Magic, Griffin was hired by Oklahoma City under head coach Billy Donavon for two seasons.

The 57-year old Sergio Scariolo is next to join the Raptors’ staff. Scariolo has a pretty decent résumé, winning Coach of the Year Awards and many championships overseas. Scariolo first won an Italian League championship in 1990 and winning Italian Coach of the Year in 1994. In the year 2000, Scariolo won the AEEB Spanish Coach of the Year (Spanish Basketball League). Scariolo is also a two-time Spanish Cup winner in 1999 and 2005, and also a two-time Spanish League Champion in 2000 and 2006. Scariolo also has a great Olympic record as a head coach of the Spanish national team, winning the gold at the EuroBasket 2009, 2011 and 2015 and a bronze medal in 2017. He also won the silver in the 2012 summer Olympic games and a bronze medal at the 2016 summer Olympic games.

Nate Bjorkgren is a 43-year old Norwegian-based basketball coach and former player out of The University of South Dakota and Buena Vista University. He started his basketball days back in 1994 to 1998, yet never made it far as a player. Ever since 1998, he has been coaching. Whether it be as a high school coach in Phoenix, Arizona, or coaching in the G-League, Bjorkgren has some really great experience as a coach. He is mainly known for his assistant coaching role with the Phoenix Suns in 2015 to 2017.

And lastly, there's Phil Handy. Handy is the final staff member to round out the coaching roles for Toronto. Handy was introduced to the Raptors' organization in a surprising fashion. The latest addition for Toronto - Danny Green - debuted his new podcast where he confirmed that Handy would be joining the Raptors’ coaching staff. Pretty neat right? Although it wasn't confirmed in an official statement at the time, Green knew it was certain that Handy was going to join the Raptors. Handy’s NBA resume began in 2011 where he was with the Lakers as a player development coach. He stayed with the Lakers for two seasons, where he then moved on to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013 and worked up to become the director of player development, as well as a full-on assistant coach in until the 2018 season.

Seven open spots are now seven secured spots. Toronto took their time securing up these coaching positions, acquiring a ton of coaching experience. The résumés are stacked and ready to go. The NBA season is still months away, but we’re not that far away from finding out the 2018-19 NBA schedule. There's a lot of buzz surrounding the Raptors on how they’ll do this season with the new All-Star addition, Kawhi Leonard, and the sharpshooting Danny Green. Along with this new and improved coaching staff, I’m sure they’re going to do just fine.


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Predicting the Raptors' Lineups

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Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)


With the Raptors acquiring Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green last week, they now have an increased amount of flexibility with their lineups. Both Leonard and Green are versatile players, which will allow Nick Nurse to play around with his lineups a bit more than he could have with last year’s roster. There’s a number of ways in which the lineups could turn out to be, but in this article, I’ll give my take on what I think the floor should look like in certain situations.

The Starting 5

PG: Kyle Lowry

SG: Danny Green

SF: Kawhi Leonard

PF: OG Anunoby

C: Jonas Valanciunas

The way I see the starting 5 is that there are three locks to start, and that’s Lowry, Kawhi and Valanciunas. The spots that are up in the air are at shooting guard and power forward. At shooting guard, the Raptors have a number of options. They could go with Green, C.J. Miles, Delon Wright, or even Fred VanVleet. The reason I see Green staring there is that he’s a solid 3-point shooter (41.8% in his career), and he’s probably the best defender that the team has at the position. I also like the idea of keeping Wright, VanVleet and Miles together on the bench, where they gained a lot of chemistry together last year. As for power forward, the Raptors have 3 options there. They can go with OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, and Pascal Siakam. There’s a case to be made for each of these guys to start, but in my opinion, it makes the most sense to start OG at power forward. First of all, after such a good rookie season, putting OG in a lesser role as a bench player might stunt his growth as a player. He played well as starter last year, and we think he’ll be even better this year alongside Kawhi. Serge Ibaka started at power forward last season, but was very disappointing in that role. He was a defensive liability at times, and he also wasn’t able to contribute offensively enough as he should’ve. Putting Ibaka on the bench might not only motivate him to play better, but it could make him more of a threat, as he'd be playing against bench players instead of the starters. Lastly, I think it’s the right move to keep Siakam on the bench in order to keep him with the same unit that he thrived with last year.

The Bench

PG: Fred VanVleet

SG: Delon Wright

SF: C.J. Miles

PF: Pascal Siakam

C: Serge Ibaka

The Raptors’ bench unit was so successful last year, and you’d ideally like to keep it the exact same so that they can grow even more together. Unfortunately, they had to trade Jakob Poeltl, but other than that, they’ve got the same guys coming back. By trading Poeltl, the team doesn’t really have a backup centre anymore, although I’m sure they’ll find one. But for now, they’ll have to go with either Siakam or Ibaka at the 5. As for the rest of the bench lineup, I think they should keep it the same, with VanVleet, Wright and Miles. Like I said earlier, they could swap one of those guys into the starting 5 in place of Danny Green, and I’m sure they’ll do that at some point. But for now, I think it’s smart to leave them together so that they can continue to build chemistry.

Shooting Lineup

PG: Kyle Lowry

SG: Danny Green

SF: C.J. Miles

PF: Kawhi Leonard

C: Serge Ibaka

This lineup would be used when the Raptors are trailing by a lot, and need some 3-pointer to get back in the game. Lowry stays in at point guard, and then instead of choosing between Green and Miles, you put them both out there at the same time in order to get extra shooting. Kawhi obviously has to stay out there because he’s the team’s best player, but also he’s improved his 3-point shot a lot since coming into the league. And finally at centre, I went with Ibaka for the sole reason that he’s a better 3-point shooter than Valanciunas and Siakam; but in this lineup, the majority of the shots won’t be going to him so it doesn’t really matter.

The next two lineups I’ve come up with are ones to match up with the Raptors' two main competitors in the East - Boston and Philadelphia. These are the “crunch time lineups” that are used to close out games in the 4th quarter.

Crunch Time V.S. Philadelphia

PG: Kyle Lowry

SG: Danny Green

SF: Kawhi Leonard

PF: Serge Ibaka

C: Jonas Valanciunas

First of all, for this to make sense, I need to show what Philly’s lineup would probably look like. They’d have Ben Simmons at point guard, J.J. Redick at the 2, Robert Covington at the 3, and then Dario Saric and Joel Embiid at the 4 and the 5. Ben Simmons against Kyle Lowry is a mismatch, since Simmons is much bigger, so you might see Kawhi switch onto him in a situation like this, and Lowry covers either Redick or Covington. Danny Green is out there to match up with one of the 76ers’ 3-and-D guys. (Redick or Covington) Kawhi would be out there and probably be guarding Simmons, since you want your best defender on their best scorer. At power forward, I chose to go with Serge Ibaka over OG Anunoby. This is because Dario Saric is 6”10 and a bit bigger than OG Anunoby, while Ibaka matches up better with Saric in terms of their height. I wouldn’t normally want Ibaka out there to close games, but I feel like it’s better if the Raptors play him in this situation, because of the mismatch that it avoids. At centre, I went with Jonas Valanciunas. Now, this will be interesting, because Dwane Casey was notorious for not playing Valanciunas the end of games. But with Nick Nurse now coaching, I wonder whether that will change. I think you have to play him here though, because he’s the only guy the Raptors have that can match up with Joel Embiid. Any other guy that the Raptors put on Embiid will likely get exploited because of their size, so I think it’s a no-brainer to put Valanciunas out there.

Crunch Time V.S. Boston

PG: Kyle Lowry

SG: Danny Green

SF: Kawhi Leonard

PF: OG Anunoby

C: Pascal Siakam

Once again, for this this to make sense, you need to look at the Celtics’ lineup that they’ll likely use. Assuming everyone is healthy, they’ll have Kyrie Irving at point guard, Jaylen Brown at shooting guard, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum at the 3 and the 4, and then Al Horford at centre. Putting Lowry at point guard is obvious, and then at shooting guard, I went with Danny Green. Miles could go there, but I feel like you’d rather have the defense of Green there in order to lock down Jaylen Brown. At small forward at power forward, I think Kawhi and OG Anunoby match up extremely well with Hayward and Tatum, considering they’re all around the 6”8 mark, and can defend well. In this situation, I see the Raptors putting Kawhi on whoever is scoring more that game. For example, if Tatum is having a great game, you switch Kawhi onto him, and vise-versa if Hayward is doing well. Finally, at centre, with Pascal Siakam there. Now, this is a bit of an odd situation, considering Siakam isn’t a true centre, but neither is Al Horford. Siakam may only be 6”9, but Horford is 6”10, and I think Siakam would match up well with Horford. I also feel like Siakam would be ok in terms of rebounding, because Horford doesn’t rebound as well as most centres.


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Highlights From Masai's Presser

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Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)


Raptors fans had two days to process the trade that will bring one of the best players in the world to Toronto - Kawhi Leonard - but subsequently send out one of the most loyal players to ever play for the city - DeMar DeRozan. The reaction has been polarizing, to say the least, and each of us were anxious to hear from the man that is largely responsible for getting the deal done. 

The opportunity came today, as Masai Ujiri returned from his trip to Africa and - quite literally - went straight to the Scotiabank Arena to conduct his press conference. I'll cover the important parts that ought to be addressed in the (unlikely) event that you missed it.

With Apologies to DeMar

Masai wasted no time from the jump of the conference as he immediately thanked DeMar DeRozan for everything that he had done for not only the Raptors, but for the city of Toronto. The apology seemed very sincere and heartfelt and looked as though he felt genuinely sorry for any miscommunication on his behalf.

First of all, I want to not only apologize to DeMar DeRozan for maybe a gap of miscommunication, but also to acknowledge him and what he's done here with the Raptors, for this city, for this country. There's no measure to what this kid has done and we appreciate him and I promise you we are going to celebrate him in the best possible way that we can as long as I'm here. It's one of the tough things in this business because we want to win. And I have to do everything in this organization to get us to a championship level. But, there's also the human side of this business and that's the part I really struggle with the most. And that's what's most difficult.

It's no secret that DeRozan felt betrayed by the move as reports went as far as stating that he was "extremely upset." He made his feelings known publicly as he produced various cryptic social media posts on his personal Instragram page - 

From DeRozan's perspective, he claims that he was told by members of Toronto's front office in Las Vegas during the NBA Summer League that he would not be traded and was part of their long term plans. Thus, one can understand his discontent, as this was completely contrary to what happened this past Wednesday.

However, as I've said recently on the latest SOT6 Podcast episode, as well as floated out on Twitter, the thought of Masai literally offering such a straight-forward assurance, thereby killing any potential deal that would improve the team seems unbelievably counter-intuitive to me. This isn't to say that I think DeMar is lying about what occurred, but rather it may very well have been a huge misunderstanding. It seems more likely to me that what was said was somewhere along the lines of "We have no current plans of trading you," or "We are not including you in current trade discussions," to which DeMar translated to a definitive "You will not be traded." 

There's a subtle difference between what I speculate to be what was said and what DeMar took it to mean, but the subtly is extremely important. Masai is a master with his words and, from what I have seen, has also been extremely careful with what he vocalizes. I don't see him saying something so definitive, so irreconcilable, and so robust that it would handcuff him from doing any future trades. To me, that's just not smart for a person that runs an organization to do.  

However, what I also take from the beginning of Masai's presser is how he doesn't ignore the human side of the equation. Yes, this is a business, and yes, it is his job to improve the Raptors without completely gutting the team. But there's also an element of emotion, camaraderie, and friendship that shouldn't be underscored. These are human beings that experience human emotions just like you and I, and Masai clearly recognizes that. So for me, it's an extremely class act for him to start off the conversation by thanking and apologizing to DeMar for anything that he may have done to make him feel betrayed. 

The Next Chapter

Masai hyped up the notion of bringing both Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green into the fold. He went so far as to say that "on paper" he feels that he has the team that will be able to compete in the East and, hopefully, for an NBA Championship; the ultimate goal. He described Kawhi as a "Top-5 Player" and is extremely excited to be able to have him as a key addition to the team.

He claimed that the opportunities to acquire a player like Kawhi are rare and he had to jump on it while he could. Sure, it means making sacrifices and making changes that a lot of the fanbase will feel uncomfortable with, but it's what needs to be done if the Raptors are looking to take the next step.

For me, it's simple. After two consecutive sweeps by the hands of Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, it's a tough sell for Masai to trot out the same exact team and have fans and ownership expect different results. Sure, Lebron has gone out West to Los Angeles, but there still stands a stacked Boston Celtics squad, an improving Philadelphia 76ers squad, an Indiana Pacers team that showed resilience to the very same Cleveland team that swept the Raptors, as well as an ever improving Milwaukee Bucks team that includes Giannis Antetokounmpo. It's unreasonable to think that the Raptors, as they were constructed, would be able to be better than they were last year and overcome some of these challenges. Thus, a change had to be made. In a vacuum, it's not even close - Kawhi is better than DeMar. To be able to have a player of his caliber on a team that is already close to being a true contender propels them to new heights. A change was necessary. Masai stressed this beautifully - 

The reality is, if we didn't do anything, it's hard to satisfy everybody in our positions. If we didn't do anything, I think everybody would be pounding on "you didn't do anything! It's the same team, so what's the difference? You're gonna play the regular season and you're gonna get beat again in the playoffs!" That would be the narrative going into the season.

Bingo.

I've been saying this since the Therapy episode of the podcast right after the playoffs ended. There was no way that it makes business sense for the front office to bring back the exact same team and try to convince fans that there would be different results. It just doesn't make sense. A change was absolutely necessary and although it came as a result of the greatest player to ever wear a Raptors uniform being traded, it was a necessary move in order to (greatly) improve the team. I get that the narrative is that Kawhi is a rental and we traded away the most loyal player who had a year more on his contract. Sure, but think of it this way. If the Raptors brought back the same team and got eliminated in the second round againchances are that they were going to blow it up anyway and DeMar would've been traded next year!

How people cannot understand this, I don't know.

Yeah, But Is He Playing? Is He Staying?

There was a collective exhale when Masai outright stated that he's had conversations with Kawhi and his representation. Although a physical has yet to be performed (it will in the next couple of days), Masai is nothing but comfortable with the aspect of being able to attain Kawhi long-term by attracting him to the city and its beauty. 

It's my job. I think there's a lot to sell here. Our team, our culture, our city, our ownership - we have everything here except a championship, in my humble opinion. I don't think we lack anything in this city. We have great fans, we have a great organization, we have a great following, and I think we have a great country. And there is something about this place that reaches out to the whole world and we're proud of that and we're going to continue to sell that. And hopefully it's an appeal, not only to him but to more NBA players.

Nailed it. 

Honestly, the whole idea that it's set in stone that Kawhi is heading to LA is generally overstated by talking heads. If I recall correctly, it was also set in stone this time last year that Paul George would be heading to LA to play for the Lakers, and there was no use trying to convince him otherwise. Fast forward a year later and Paul George has signed an extension to stay with the Thunder.

I don't want to be the person to say that Kawhi will definitely stay, but I will be the person to say that he's not definitely leaving (note: do not confuse that with "he's definitely not leaving." Two different things). In other words, I don't think that there's a 0% chance that he will want to stay in Toronto. There's this unfair growing narrative that Toronto is some wasteland of a destination and that a player's career is considered to be on the tail-end when it comes to getting traded there... until they actually play there. Once they familiarize themselves with the beauty, diversity, and passion that Toronto possess, it's hard to not fall in love with it. I have no doubt that Kawhi will recognize this, but that's not to say that he'll definitely stay. It's just to say that he won't definitely leave. 

Oh, and those definite, set-in-stones, no doubt about it claims that Kawhi has no desire to play in Canada for the Raptors?

Yeah, he didn't express a lack of interest to play in Canada to me. A lot of this is that everybody has their own opinion about everything. And I know first hand, I've dealt with this kind of a situation with my first job as a rookie, so I know first hand how these things work and how they don't work.
...I haven't gotten that sense from Kawhi Leonard or his people and I'm going to give him that chance when we meet him face-to-face.

I'll just leave it at that.

OK, Cool... But The Injury, Tho!

Simply put - we don't know yet. As mentioned above, Kawhi still hasn't undergone his physical, so there's a chance that something may come up to stall this (remember Isaiah Thomas to Cleveland?). However, Masai emphasized today that he understands the risks that he is taking by acquiring Kawhi despite the injury concerns.

All I'll say is that without all this medical drama that there is, we have no chance of talking to a player like that - zero. He would be in San Antonio and we wouldn't have a chance to get him. This is why we have a chance and this is the risk that we're taking. We've looked at some of the medicals when the deal was done and the rest will depend on the physical which will be done shortly.

So... yeah, it doesn't quite ease my concerns completely, but it's at least reassuring that they did take a look at his medicals when the trade was done. There really isn't any indication or reports of there being any red flags after viewing the medicals, so I think that it's best to take it at face-value and assume that he's pretty much good to go. I know that there's a lot of unease in that last sentence, but until I see that Kawhi has passed his physical, the aspect of him not being 100% will be lingering among the fanbase. 

Thus, is he healthy? Is he good-to-go? Probably.

Any More Moves?!?

Masai was noncommittal, as to be expected. Initially, he did sort of pass this one off to General Manager, Bobby Webster, and said that the latter was handling "all the trades," as Masai was in Africa for the past few days. However, he stressed that the organization is confident in this team and the combination of players that they have. But with the chatter earlier in the off-season in regards to nobody being untouchable and everyone being on the table, it certainly makes you want to pay special attention to the following.

If any other moves or deals come our way that make sense for our team to get better to win a championship, I think we have to look at that. There is a certain window and we have to acknowledge that.

Squint hard enough and you'll see that the whole "everyone is on the table" is reiterated here. Normally, when you acquire a player of the caliber of Kawhi Leonard, you do so thinking that the team you already have compliments him well enough to compete. To me, I think Masai thinks he is almost there, and I don't disagree. I believe him when he says that he’s “comfortable” with the current team, on paper. But how much does that comfort translate to confidence? With how teams are built these days (i.e. "super teams"), it's a real tall order to expect this Raptors squad - as constructed - to be able to beat the Warriors, should they make it that far. We can take it a notch below and still not be super confident that they'll be able to beat the Celtics in a theoretical Eastern Conference Finals 7 Game series. The talent matches up well, and Toronto surely has the defensive edge, but the Celtics should still be really good.

Thus, if Masai can work his magic and somehow be able to trade for one more superstar player (hey Jimmy Butler, I hear you hate it in Minnesota. Come join the real north squad!), then it's almost a lock. Again, if the Kawhi/DeMar trade has taught us anything it's that no player is off the table in trade discussions if it means that Toronto can compete for a championship. It's clear that Masai is tired of the status quo of making it jjjjuuuuussssttttt far enough to be considered "good." He wants the Raptors to be great. If it takes another big trade to enable that to be so, then by all means. 

But do I expect that? No. I expect minor tweaks and a Vince Carter deal for the league minimum for his swan song. 

But I've been wrong before...

PS - Take this to the bank.


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The "Against" Perspective: The DeMar/Kawhi Trade

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Article Written by Adam Garfield (@AdamThe6God)


The Toronto Raptors have traded DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected 2019 first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

My initial thoughts on this is that the Raptors definitely lost this trade. 

Not only do they lose arguably their best player in franchise history, but they also lose a great young talent in Jakob Poeltl. DeMar has led the Raptors in scoring for the past five seasons, and he scored the most points in franchise history with 13,926.

Here are the records DeRozan holds with the Raptors:

  • Most games played
  • Most minutes played
  • Most field goals made
  • Most free throws made
  • Total points scored

Jakob Poeltl was coming into his own with Toronto, and was the only Raptor to play in all 82 games this season. Poeltl had carved out an important role with the bench, and he was a key component of "The Bench Mob." The Bench Mob led the league in net rating (points scored minus points allowed, per 100 possessions) with almost 28 points. Only two other five-man lineups are above 20+ points (Timberwolves and Rockets). Jakob averaged 18.6 minutes per game, and put up 6.9ppg and 4.8rpg. 

The Raptors are receiving Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green as part of this trade. Green put up 8.6ppg this year, but he is known more for his 3-and-D abilities. Danny's defense rating was 102.3 and his opponents FG% when guarded by him was 46.0. Green is not the same player he was back when the Spurs were in the finals. He has no longer been shooting the ball as well from deep, but he is still a serviceable player.

Kawhi Leonard is the biggest uncertainty from this trade and this off-season. Kawhi only played 9 games this year because of a "mystery injury." It was made clear that towards the end of the season that Leonard could return to the Spurs, but he chose to sit out. Now it has been made apparent that Kawhi is determined to go to the Lakers next free agency, and he was willing to sit out unless he was traded to Los Angels. There have already been reports that Kawhi has no desire to play in Toronto.

This is similar to the Paul George trade that went down last year. PG reportedly had no desire to play in Oklahoma City, and he ended up resigning with a long term deal. The Raptors are hoping that Kawhi does the same, but only time will tell.

Basically, it seems like the Raptors traded their best player in franchise history for a one year rental player who has no desire to be in Toronto. 

Last but not least, the Raptors have lost the respect of DeMar DeRozan. According to sources, DeMar met with Raptors officials during the Las Vegas Summer League and he was promised he would not be traded. DeRozan is reportedly extremely upset (via David Aldridge).

The front office of the Raptors ended their ties with DeMar DeRozan on a bad note, but there is no doubt that DeMar DeRozan has been the savior of the Toronto Raptors. Vince Carter put the team on the map, but DeMar took it to the next level and brought them success in the playoffs. If the organization has any respect for what he has done for the city of Toronto, #10 will be hanging in the rafters and there will be a DeMar DeRozan statue outside if the Air Canada Centre when it's all said and done.


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SOT6 Podcast - Episode 69

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 69

"KAWHI"

TORONTO RAPTORs talk

Toronto Raptors Show!

Sooooo this happened... Kawhi Leonard is now a Toronto Raptor and DeMar DeRozan is not. In what is being described as the biggest trade in Raptors' team history, Masai Ujiri undoubtably ditched his mostly conservative approach and is now really going for it, as he successfully traded away the most popular star in the team's history for now the biggest. It's a gamble, as Kawhi is a pure rental piece with only one year of service time remaining on his contract. But it's a risk worth taking.

Yes, this actually happened.

Host Adam Corsair is joined by three guests to break down this move in its entirety - Demar Grant of Tip of the Tower, Jordan Kligman of Hash Tag Basketball and the host of the Hash Tag Raptors Podcast, and Connor Chambers of Toronto Sports Views. Simply put, we covered it all. All of the concerns, excitements, apprehensions, and embraces. 

It's a Raptors centered show that you will now want to miss!

Follow Jordan on Twitter: @416Basketball

Subscribe to the Hashtag Raptors 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:

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


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


Toronto Raptors' Summer League Officially Comes to An End Against the Cleveland Cavaliers

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


No, your eyes are not deceiving you. And no, LeBron James had nothing to do with this. Whatever the case may be, Toronto cannot break the sacred curse of being defeated by the Cavaliers in a playoff format.

After starting out the preliminary stage with 0 wins and 3 losses, this would’ve sent the Toronto Raptors packing early from this year’s Summer League and not have even seen their way into the Summer League playoffs. But this year is different, as all 30 NBA teams being able to compete for a shot at the Summer League title.

With a semi-finals spot on the line on Sunday, the Raptors were underdogs going into a tough match-up vs the Cleveland Cavaliers where the winner would face off against the number one seeded team in the tournament; the Los Angeles Lakers (Maybe then LeBron might have a thing or two to do with that. But that’s another issue). The Toronto Raptors came into yesterday’s game riding a two-game winning streak. During those outings, they claimed a victory over the Nuggets and a thrilling overtime win over Michigan State star Miles Bridges and the Charlotte Hornets.

Fans were shocked to see that Raptors’ rising star OG Anunoby did not play in the second-round matchup vs the Hornets and quarter-finals matchup vs the Cavaliers. Fans started to speculate a possible injury to the young star. That speculation was quickly shot down as it was listed that Anunoby would not be playing the remainder of games in the tournament for resting purposes and to not risk an injury.

In a thrilling second-round matchup that saw 13 lead changes and only the second overtime game of the tournament, it didn’t disappoint. Rawle Alkins carried the Raptors late in the stages of the fourth quarter with a clutch three which ultimately tied the game and forced overtime. Toronto ended up riding that momentum in OT, giving themselves the edge over the Hornets behind Alkins 25 points and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes of work.

“We didn’t have a great start to the tournament - starting out 0 and 3; but we’re here now and we don’t want to go home.” said Alkins. Although some may say it’s just Summer League, as a player it’s different. The more you win, the more you can show off to your coaches for a potential spot on the main roster. And that’s exactly what Alkins meant.

Just 24 hours later, the Raptors were on the court again to take on the Cavaliers. The first half was typical Summer League basketball action - nothing shy of what we have seen throughout the tournament. An average score at halftime with Toronto leading by two, 39-37. This is where the game turned around and the wheels feel off for Toronto. The Raptors ended up scoring only four points in the third quarter.

Four.

They were outscored by the Cavs 21-4 in the quarter, pretty much putting the game out of reach. Cleveland never looked back, winning the game 82-68 and will now play for a spot in the NBA Summer League finals vs the Lakers.

Toronto shot an abysmal 1-15 in the quarter. Some can call fatigue a factor, as Toronto played six games in ten nights in Vegas. But that’s no excuse, especially after a clutch performance from Alkins in the previous game. This meant it was time for someone else to step up, as Alkins did not perform up to par vs the Cavs. But no one did. The Raptors shot a woeful 31% from the field and just 20% from three shooting a combined 40 three-pointers on the night. Typically, this is a lot, but under new head coach Nick Nurse, that is the new normal and what Nurse described as “a part of the process."

Although it was a horrid performance by Toronto, there were a lot of guys who held their heads high after the total six games played, some of which deserved attention. The aforementioned Rawle Alkins for his stellar game against the Hornets, as well as Chris Boucher - the 25-year old Canadian who finished with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks. Boucher came from the Golden State Warriors organization, where he was with the team on a two-year, two-way deal, but didn’t play at the NBA level. Instead, he played in the NBA G-League for a few years, to only be here in the Summer League with Toronto for a potential chance to play in his home country for the only basketball team in Canada.

If there are any few names that you should know and take away come this season for Toronto, pay close attention to the following, who played outstanding in this tournament:

  • Giddy Potts.
  • Rawle Alkins.
  • Chris Boucher.
  • Alfonzo McKinnie.
  • Malachi Richardson.

Even though you might be a bit familiar with the last two, for the remainder - anything can happen this season. Toronto could end up calling up a few of these names to the NBA this season as a result of injury or other circumstances. It’s all about earning your spot, and for these men, the opportunity came at the 2018 Summer League in Las Vegas. But for now, there will not be any more Raptors’ basketball until September. As luck would have it, it once again comes from the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers.


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SOT6 Podcast - Episode 68

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 68

"RISK VS. REWARD"

TORONTO RAPTORs talk

Toronto Raptors Talk

  • The Raptors off-season is underway, and despite there not being a lot of moves made, there's certainly a lot of chatter. With possible trades popping up, the new style of coaching, how players can improve, and whether or not the time is now for the team to capitalize on the Lebron-less Eastern Conference, the Raptors do not have a shortage of things to evaluate. Is this the year that Masai Ujiri goes all in and pushes his chips?
  • To tackle all of these and other topics, host Adam Corsair is joined by Jordan Kligman of Hashtag Basketball and co-host of the Hashtag Raptors Podcast, as well as "The Entertaining & Sexy" Peter Kaye of Life In Repeat. The trio discuss a plethora of Raptors related topics such as the Kawhi Leonard rumors and whether or not he'd be a fit in Toronto; Kevin Love and if the chatter of him being a fit has any merit; the re-signing of Fred VanVleet and the significance of Kyle Lowry's status with the team; how Lebron leaving the East has made the task of making the NBA Finals not-so-insurmountable; and finally Nick Nurse prioritizing defense, specifically from DeRozan.

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

Follow Jordan on Twitter: @416Basketball

Subscribe to the Hashtag Raptors Podcast on iTunes HERE

Visit Jordan's work HERE

Follow Peter Kaye on Twitter: @lifeinrepeat
Visit Peter's work HERE

Music:

Drake Stafford - "Casets"
Jim Johnston - "Sexy Boy"
Auxl Studio - "Blue Bloods"


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter & InstaGram: @SouthOfThe6ix


How Did the Toronto Raptors’ Summer League Go? Not So Well.

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


This past Friday, the Toronto Raptors began their annual Summer League trip down in Vegas, and well... it didn’t go so great. The team kicked off their Summer League campaign against the New Orleans Pelicans. Included on the roster were the likes of regular Raptor OG Anunoby being on the squad, alongside Alfonso McKinnie, Malcom Miller and Malachi Richardson.

The first quarter started out close, with the Raptors staying within just five points. New Orleans ran away with the game in the second quarter and carried a lead into halftime to ultimately win the game. Although the Raptors dropped its first game, it wasn’t all bad news.

During the game in Vegas, back home in Toronto the Raptors announced and held a press conference for the newly signed contract for Fred VanVleet. The Sixth Man of the Year candidate signed a 2-year $18 million contract, valuing the contract at approximately just over $8 million for the 2018-19 season for the young and talented point guard of the Raptors’  “Bench Mob” (slightly over $9 million for the 2019-20 season). During the presser, VanVleet said the following - 

“Without getting in trouble, we both stated throughout the off-season how much I wanted to come back (to Toronto), how much they wanted me back so, from my hand, it was a super easy decision.” 

While that was happening in Toronto, over in Las Vegas the current Toronto Raptors were getting in on the action sitting court-side getting a look at the young guns representing the team. The likes of All-Star DeMar DeRozan was one of the players there, along with CJ Miles, Delon Wright, and Pascal Siakam.

The veteran Raptors got a good look at OG Anunoby who is entering his second season in the NBA. He didn’t have the best performance, only putting up 9 points and 7 rebounds in 27 minutes of play against the Pelicans. Rawle Atkins out of Arizona got a few heads turned, scoring 12 points and getting praise from the coaching staff and new head coach - Nick Nurse - after the game.

Game Two was a better performance from Toronto as they took on the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was a close game throughout, until the fourth quarter. With the Raptors carrying a one-point lead heading into the final frame, their offence and defence got a little sloppy, allowing the T-Wolves to go on and outscore Toronto 32-19 in the final quarter to come away with a 103-92 win.

With all eyes on OG Anunoby to have a bounce back game, he did... sort of. Shooting a total 5-for-15, putting up 13 points in 26 minutes, while having the most points in the game out of the Raptors’ starters. The bench put up a huge performance behind the likes of Malachi Richardson, who the Raptors picked up this past season in a trade for formerly loved Raptor Bruno Caboclo. Richardson put up 15 points in just 20 minutes. Jordan Loyd, out of Indianapolis, also helped, putting up 17 points in 23 minutes, leading all Raptors.

Fred VanVleet was in attendance for this game, 24 hours after signing his new contract with the team. He received a lot of buzz from reporters being the new hot topic of the team for the day.

Onto Monday, where Toronto played their final game of the Summer League preliminary stage against the Thunder with a 0-2 record. After two great performances from Malachi Richardson in the first two games in Vegas, he was inserted into the starting lineup playing small forward, while OG was slid down to power forward. The game didn’t start how Toronto wanted, only taking a lead twice in the first quarter. Those were the only two leads of the game for Toronto.

Toronto got outscored 31-21 after the first 12 minutes and the Thunder never looked back; ultimately defeating Toronto 92-82. But there were positives to take from the game. It seemed like the combination of OG Anunoby and Malachi Richardson paid off with OG putting up 19 points and 6 rebound in 27 minutes, while Malachi put up 17 points in 28 minutes. Giddy Potts - a 6’2 guard and 21-year-old from Middle Tennessee - put up 15 points in 15 minutes of work.

With the Summer League just being a bit of a tune up for players and coaches, the teams and fans tend to not dig too deep on the performances, and regard it as a way for rosters to get back into the groove of things. But despite Toronto going 0-3 in the Summer League, Nick Nurse sees nothing but positives from the three games played in Vegas from OG Anunoby. To boo - 

“We’re experimenting a bit, probably giving him a lot more rope. Giving him a little more rope to play and dance with it a little bit. You’re either going to catch it, dive it or shoot it. But that’s what we’re here for, to let him have a little bit of rope to do some things, he’s earned it.”

Nurse ended the media day with the following statement for these young stars to try and earn their spot on the roster, or a potential spot on the talented G-League Raptors team - the 905.

“This is opportunity basketball for these guys, the windows are short sometimes but when they’re out there they got to take advantage and they did today.”

Although it seems like the 2018-19 NBA season is soon approaching., it doesn’t mean the news ends here for the Raptors. Nick Nurse is in the process of filling in assistant coach roles and with recent rumors of the Raptors possibly being in on All-Star Kawhi Leonard. But only time will tell.

That’s a wrap on the Toronto Raptors 2018 Summer League preliminary games with a champion planned to be crowned on July 17.


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On Free Agency

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Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)


The past few days in the NBA have been nothing short of crazy. We’ve seen some predictable moves like LeBron taking his talents to L.A, but we’ve also seen some very surprising moves like DeMarcus Cousins to the Warriors and Paul George staying with the Thunder. Now, as a Toronto sports fan, the majority of my attention has been on John Tavares signing with the Maple Leafs, but I’ve also been extremely intrigued with some of these NBA moves. There’s definitely plenty to discuss, and that’s what I’ll do in this article.

The first big piece of news surrounding NBA free agency dropped on Saturday night, when it was announced that Paul George was re-signing in Oklahoma City 4 years and $137 million. This news came to the surprise of many people, as it seemed like George to the Lakers was inevitable. The rumours of him signing there have been floating around for a few years, and with the Lakers seeming like the favourites to land LeBron at the time, it looked like a good fit for him in L.A. (George signed in OKC before LeBron actually signed in L.A.). It seems like the Thunder are hoping to contend for a while, and they’ve made that clear by locking up this core group of Westbrook and George. But when you consider that they couldn’t even beat the Jazz this year, I don’t think a deep playoff run should be expected from this team.

The biggest news of the off-season came on July 1st (Canada Day) when LeBron James announced that he is signing a 4-year deal with the Lakers worth $154 million. In case you were wondering, LeBron will make $38.5 million per season, $469,512 per game, $117,378 per quarter, $9,781 per minute, and $163 per second in his new contract, not to mention any endorsements that I’m sure he’ll get.

LeBron signing in L.A. was rumoured to be happening for a while, and it didn’t exactly shock me when it happened. What was surprising to me was what the Lakers have done in the following days to try and surround LeBron with a championship roster. Los Angeles has made 4 signings since they landed LeBron, and they go as follows: Lance Stephenson for $4.5 million, Javale McGee for the minimum, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope re-signing for $12 million, and Rajon Rondo for $9 million (All on 1-year deals). Not only that, but the Lakers renounced Julius Randle’s rights, in order to get more cap space to sign those guys. It’s not that any of the guys they signed are bad players; in fact I think all of them will fit in well. The issue I see is that the Lakers used their cap space to sign these players, instead of going after a star player to play alongside LeBron. If their goal is to beat Golden State, and that’s what they’ve said it is, then they’re going to need much more star power on their team. That could come in a Kawhi Leonard deal, but even then, I think they’re still a big piece away from being a real threat to the Warriors.

Speaking of the Warriors, they made a huge move Monday signing DeMarcus Cousins for 1 year at $5.3 million. As if the Warriors needed any more stars on their roster, they now have a starting lineup featuring 5, yes, 5 All-Stars. The only thing that the Warriors have lacked recently is an impact big man, and even then, they’ve been alright. Their lineup over the past few years has been focussed on going small late in games, with Draymond Green normally playing at the 5. But now, with DeMarcus Cousins, they can completely forget that and put out a lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Cousins.

Now, Cousins is recovering from a torn achilles injury, so he may be out until January/February. But that isn’t even an issue for Golden State because they’re not going to be playing in meaningful games until May and June. My first reaction to this signing was just pure laughter, because it’s already pretty unfair that a team can have 4 all-stars and 2 former MVPs on a team. But now that they’ve added Boogie Cousins, it’s even more ridiculous. Now, I’ve seen a lot of people criticize the Warriors themselves for this move, and that doesn’t make any sense to me. I completely agree with the slander of Cousins himself, and the NBA, but if you’re the Warriors and an all-star calls you to say he wants to join your team, you’re not going to turn that down, are you? I seriously doubt the Warriors front office cares at all about making the league unfair. They’re going to do whatever they can to make themselves the best team they can be, and if comes at the expense at parody in the league, then so be it. That’s not something any team should be concerned with when it comes to making personnel decisions.

Since I’m a Raptors fan, I’ve got to touch on their off-season to this point. They’ve been pretty quiet, and the only move that they’ve made to this point is re-signing Fred VanVleet to a 2-year $18 million contract (VanVleet was an RFA). There isn’t much to dissect from that, but you can’t help but feel happy for VanVleet, who went from being a D-League player, to a good rotation piece, to a 6th man of the year candidate, and now getting a decent amount of money from the team. It’s also very interesting to me that VanVleet’s deal is for 2 more years, because that’s how long the Raptors have DeRozan, Lowry and Ibaka under contract as well. This signals to me that Toronto will try to contend for 2 more years, and then maybe start rebuilding after that. They’ll have a ton of cap space freed up from getting DeRozan, Lowry and Ibaka off of the books, as well as VanVleet now.

There are some moves that I didn’t get to here, like Chris Paul’s extension with the Rockets, and other minor deals like J.J. Redick returning to Philly and Nerlens Noel to OKC. But I covered the big moves already. After what has happened over the past few days, I think it’s safe to say that the Warriors will be champions again next year. There are obviously some teams that got better from free agency, but there is still no one that I can see beating Golden State, especially with their newest addition. I’ll still watch the NBA next year - unlike some other people who are boycotting the league - but I think next year I’ll definitely be more hesitant to label teams as “contenders,” since I pretty much know for a fact who's going to come out on top when it’s all said and done.


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In Retrospect: The 2017 Off-Season

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Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)


With the 2018 NBA off-season beginning, I thought I’d look back at last year’s off-season and give my thoughts on the moves that the Raptors made, now that we’ve had time to see how they panned out. The Raptors weren’t exactly the most notable team last off-season, but they did make some moves that were important to how the team turned out this year. I think that based on recent reports from around the league, we can all expect the team to be a bit more active this year, but at the end of the day, you’ve really just got to wait and see.

1st move: Re-Signed PG Kyle Lowry for 3 years/$100 million.

This deal came off of Lowry’s best statistical season as a Raptor, and for his entire career for that matter (22.4 PPG, 7.0 AST).  He played at a career level in 2016-17, and that’s what got him this contract from the team. Now, looking back, the team obviously wanted to keep the core group of players together, and that’s why they signed Lowry to this massive deal. But at this point, it looks like a bad deal for the Raptors. First of all, It looks like they overpaid him, since they’re giving him a similar contract to some of the elite level players in the league. But after seeing how well Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet played this season, it looks like the Raptors might have overvalued his importance to the team. Obviously, Lowry was still valuable to the Raptors’ success this past year, but was it really worth $33 million to have a guy only play 32 minutes a night and average 16.2 PPG, while others contributed a lot in lesser roles?

2nd move: Re-Signed PF Serge Ibaka for 3 years, and $65 million.

Ibaka came to the Raptors at the 2016-17 trade deadline and only played with the team in 23 regular season games that year. He wasn’t necessarily bad in that time frame, but I wouldn’t say he put the whole league on notice either. He was a nice piece to the puzzle for sure, but I don’t think it was smart to put this much money into a guy who was already in the declining stages of his career and likely wouldn’t give you any more upside than you’d already seen from him. This year’s stats tell the story for Ibaka; he averaged 12.6 points per game, with 6.3 rebounds per game, both of which were below his totals from the previous two seasons. Ibaka also had a hard time defending this year, most notably in the playoffs against Cleveland. This didn’t look like an awful deal at the time, but looking back, it would’ve been much better for the Raptors if they put Ibaka’s money into 2-3 cheaper players that can defend well (i.e P.J. Tucker, who they almost signed anyway).

3rd Move: Raptors trade SF DeMarre Carroll, a 2018 1st round pick, and a 2018 2nd round pick to the Nets in exchange for C Justin Hamilton

This trade came after another disappointing season for Carroll in Toronto. He was not only hurt for a while, but he wasn’t very effective even when he played. This trade was clearly made to dump off Carroll’s $14.8 million salary for the 2017-18 season, and $15.4 million for the 2018-19 season. He just wasn’t worth that contract, so the Raptors had to get rid of him, and they needed to package 2 draft picks to do so. The Raptors got no return in this deal, since they immediately waived Justin Hamilton. But they got out of the deal what they wanted to, and that was cap space. Now, since we’re currenly around the NBA Draft, it’s easy to wish that the Raptors had their picks - who knows - they might trade into the draft. But when you look back at this trade, it was probably the right move for the team, since they were able to get rid of Carroll’s contract.

4th Move: Raptors trade PG Cory Joseph to the Pacers in exchange for SG/SF CJ Miles (Miles signs a 3 year, $25 million deal with the Raptors)

This deal ended up working out very well for the Raptors for a few reasons. First, they were able to address a key need on their team, which was 3-point shooting. Miles was on and off throughout the year, but he ended up being a great addition to the team, especially in the playoffs where he shot 42% from 3-point range. Another way that this trade helped the Raptors is how it allowed Fred VanVleet to move into a more prominent role. VanVleet was at the end of the bench and didn’t play much in 2016-17, but with Joseph leaving, it allowed VanVleet to play more, and he thrived in that playing time, becoming a 6th man of the year candidate for the 2017-18 season.

5th Move: Raptors select OG Anunoby with the 23rd pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.

This pick was a huge success for the Raptors, and when you look back at the entire thing, OG was definitely one of the steals of this draft. Due to injury, Anunoby’s draft stock fell a lot, and that caused him to fall to #23, where the Raptors happily selected him. He played the majority of the season in the starting small forward role, and he put up a great rookie season. Anunoby had 5.9 points per game, with 2.5 rebounds a game (keep in mind he was the 5th option in the starting unit), and he was also stellar on the defensive end. Most picks that come late in rounds are hit or miss, and I think it’s safe to say that the Raptors hit on this pick.


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Raptors Promote Nick Nurse - Who did Toronto Miss Out On & What Does This Mean Moving Forward?

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


Yesterday afternoon, the Toronto Raptors promoted former assistant coach, Nick Nurse, to the head coaching role, taking the spot of former head coach Dwane Casey who was fired just over a month ago. Nurse’s promotion comes just a few days after Jerry Stackhouse took a position outside of the Raptors' organization. Stackhouse was one of the top candidates for the head coaching position and now former head coach of the Raptors 905 G-League team was brought on to the Memphis Grizzlies organization as an assistant.

After that news broke, many started to believe a head coach was going to named sooner than later, and that it was going to be Nick Nurse's job. But the Raptors did well trying to find another head coach, outside of giving it to an assistant who’s been with the team for five long but great years. There were also rumbles that the Raptors interviewed Ettore Messina, a professional Italian coach who is currently an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs and has also won 4 EuroLeague championships as a head coach. He was listed as one of the best European coaches of all time, being named one of the top 50 greatest EuroLeague contributors in 2008. Further, Messina was named the best Italian head coach in 1998, 2001, and 2005 and was also named Euro Coach of the Year in 2006 and 2008. Not many people knew who he was, but that’s not a bad resume if you ask me.

The Raptors also reportedly interviewed Lithuanian head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius. Although his resume isn’t great as a head coach, the 42-year old has a stacked resume as a former great player in the LKL, (Lithuanian Basketball League), winning various medals and was awarded MVP honors in 2005.

Some may not like the promotion of Nick Nurse (including myself), but it goes much deeper than bringing a new style to the team. Nurse has a great relationship with Raptors' General Manager Bobby Webster and President Masai Ujiri, as well as the players on the team. He also has head coaching experience coaching in the British Basketball League, winning the Coach of the Year award twice - once in 2000, and 2004. After a long 12 years of coaching in the BBL, Nurse then took on a head coaching position in the D-League in 2007. After joining the Energy for three years, winning their respective division in 2009 and 2010, Nurse then went on to join the coaching staff of the Iowa State Cyclones as an assistant. After his ending years in the D-League, Nurse received a Coach of the Year award in the 2011-12 season. He then spent one last season in the D-League before finally making his arrival in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors.

Nurse has been on the come-up for years, and now he can finally showcase what he’s got for this Raptors team. He knows what the roster is capable of, with arguably the best lineup in franchise history coming off the best regular season performance as well. It’ll be interesting if Nurse brings a new style to this Raptors team. Yet, the conversation of roster construction will linger during the off-season. Given Nurse's promotion, the front office has an idea as to whether they want to keep the team they have now, or trade a few pieces come the 2018-19 season. In such a tight market today in the NBA, I don’t see a huge trade happening for the Raptors this off-season or anytime soon. The Bench Mob’s potential is too high, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are more than likely “untouchables,” and OG Anunoby still has great potential as well. I left out Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell as it's likely that no one will take on their massive contracts.

Nonetheless, I and many other Raptors' faithfuls are very curious as to what Nick Nurse will provide this dedicated fan base with. After being so used to Toronto slowing down the pace of the game via ISO ball under Dwane Casey, will Nurse continue this trend? Is this enough to get us over LeBron James and the Cavs (That is, if James stays in Cleveland or the Eastern Conference for that matter)?

Many are also forgetting that this promotion from assistant to head coach means there is a vacant assistant coaching position up for grabs. No news has broken as to who may come in for Nurse and no speculation is needed at this time. The Raptors have plenty of time to make that decision before the season gets back and underway in October.


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SOT6 Podcast - Episode 66 - PART 1

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EPISODE 66 - PART 1

"FROM WITHIN"

TORONTO RAPTORs talk

Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


This one is all Toronto Raptors.

  • As the last team in search of their new head coach, the Toronto Raptors finally filled the void by signing internal candidate and former assistant coach, Nick Nurse. Of course, this generated a lot of chatter within the fanbase with fans wondering what differences they will see with someone that has been part of the organization since 2013. How will Nurse's vision differ than Dwane Casey's in order for the team to get over the Playoff hump?
  • To tackle these and other topics, host Adam Corsair is joined by guest Connor Chambers of Toronto Sports Views. Connor and Adam spend the episode discussing the hiring of Nick Nurse, what this means for the team moving forward, what moves we should expect the team to make, and what sort of difference we should expect for next season.

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

Follow Connor on Twitter: @TO_SportsViews & @connorchambers

Visit Connor's work HERE

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


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Nick Nurse Named New Raptors Head Coach

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Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)


Leave it to Woj to break open the monotony of my day! To boot - 

I just want to say from the get-go, I fully expect people to not be thrilled over the notion that it's not exactly a "new" coach that will man the ship for the Raptors. Nurse was an internal candidate and his lack of recognition among the casual NBA audience makes it seem like an unsexy pick. However, if you dig a little deeper into his experience and how well regarded he is in the league as not just an assistant coach, but his potential to be a great head coach, your lack of excitement may be altered. 

I'll admit, I was hoping that Jerry Stackhouse would end up being the new head coach for the team. From my limited vantage point (and I use the term "limited" generously, here), I was under the impression that a guy like Stackhouse had not only the experience as an NBA player, but already had a rapport with the team as a former assistant coach, as well as a relationship with a lot of the members of the Bench Mob as the head coach for Raptors 905. Yet, as soon as Stackhouse accepted an assistant coach role with the Memphis Grizzlies, I was pretty certain that it was basically Nick Nurse's job. To boot -

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However, when I look to see what qualifications Nick Nurse brings, it's not too far off from what I assumed Stackhouse would; at least on paper. Nurse's coaching history is robust, as he's had numerous stints as a head coach in the British Basketball League, winning two championships and Coach of the Year awards. Moreover, he's won two G-League (then D-League) titles, as well as being named Coach of the Year. Further, since joining the Raptors as an assistant coach in 2013, the team has never been outside of the Top 10 in offense, while peaking at #3 in the league twice. 

Nurse has been largely credited as being the one responsible for changing up the offense that we saw the team display throughout the season. As mentioned earlier, he's very well-respected among the circle of NBA coaches, as indicated in a recent (anonymous) Yahoo! Sports article in which Nurse had the most votes out of any potential coaching candidate to be a valuable asset for any NBA team. In other words, both Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster did their homework when it came to what they already had. Had they gone with a different candidate, the likelihood that Nurse would have pursued other options outside of the organization is quite high. Simply put, the Raptors didn't want to risk losing him and decided to give him the reigns left by Dwane Casey.

The remaining question is - what does this mean for the team in terms of roster construction moving forward? I'm personally unsure and would like to believe that Ujiri, Webster, and Nurse are all on the same page in terms of which players they'd like to keep and which they'd like to move, if possible. It seems obvious to me that a lot of these things, if not all of them, were discussed during the interview process, which leads me to believe that the trio feels the same way as to what would be the best course of action for the team moving forward. Further, it's fair to wonder if the team will make a move for a defensive minded assistant coach to help Nurse bridge the gap in terms of scheming. 

How they move forward will be something to monitor, but as the last team to sign a head coach, the Raptors can certainly start making these decisions and get the ball rolling. Again, I get that it's not the sexiest of signings, but there's a lot to like when it comes to the move. I'm very happy with the decision and, if there's one thing I've learned when it comes to the Raptors, it's simple:

In Masai I trust.

(Note: I discussed this on Part 1 of Episode 66 of the South of the 6ix Podcast with Connor Chambers of Toronto Sports Views recorded Tuesday evening, 6/12. You can listen to the show below for a more in-depth take.)


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NBA Awards Predictions

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Article Written by Travis Aylward (@travaylward)


In my most recent article, I did an NBA Mock Draft. Only 4 days after the draft comes the NBA Awards. Today, I will be predicting the winner of the 6 main awards – Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player, and Coach of the Year.

Most Valuable Player

Nominees:

·        James Harden – Houston Rockets

·        Lebron James – Cleveland Cavaliers

·        Anthony Davis – New Orleans Pelicans

My Predicted Winner: James Harden

Whether he wins the NBA finals or not, what Lebron James has done this postseason is incredible. He’s carried a team, virtually single handily, to the NBA finals. Nevertheless, James Harden is still most likely going to win Most Valuable Player. Earlier this season, Kobe Bryant weighed in on the MVP debate.

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“I think James (Harden) has done so much, all season long. And for the last two years, he’s been playing phenomenally well. Had it not been for Westbrook’s historical run last year, he certainly would have won MVP last year…. I think what James (Harden) has done from Game 1 all the way through Game 82 deserves to be rewarded. I mean, this guy’s worked his butt off for the entire season and has gotten his team to the place they are now. I just don’t know what there is left for him to do to be MVP.” (Via USAtoday.com)

This past season, James Harden lead the Houston Rockets to 1st place in the Western Conference for the first time in franchise history, while winning 65 games. Harden averaged 30.4 points, 8.8 assists, and 5.4 rebounds over 2017-2018.

Rookie of the Year

Nominees:

·       Ben Simmons - Philadelphia 76ers

·       Donovan Mitchell - Utah Jazz

·       Jayson Tatum – Boston Celtics

My Predicted Winner: Donovan Mitchell

Any basketball fan has probably heard the sentence, “Ben Simmons isn’t a rookie”, before.  I, personally, disagree with that statement. According to the rules, Simmons is a rookie. He didn’t play in 2016-2017, therefore, he is a rookie this season. Even still, I give the edge to Donovan Mitchell for ROTY. Coming into the season, Utah wasn’t projected to make it to the second round. In fact, they were projected by ESPN to narrowly sneak into the playoffs as the 8th seed (then again, the Wizards and Hornets were both projected to have more wins then the Raptors). Even though the 76ers also made it to the second round, Philadelphia played Miami in the 1st round compared to Utah playing OKC. Ben Simmons also had Joel Embiid.

Defensive Player of the Year

Nominees:

·        Rudy Gobert – Utah Jazz

·        Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers

·        Anthony Davis – New Orleans Pelicans

My Predicted Winner: Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers were one of the many surprising teams this season. Projected to win just 33 games and be the 9 seed coming into the season, Joel Embiid and the Sixers blew past expectations winning 52 games and climbing to the 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Embiid averaged 22 points, 11 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and 0.6 steals per game this past regular season.

Sixth Man of the Year

Nominees:

·        Lou Williams – Los Angeles Clippers

·        Fred VanVleet – Toronto Raptors

·        Eric Gordon – Houston Rockets

My Predicted Winner: Lou Williams

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Lou Williams is likely going to win the award, but both of the other two nominees will give Lou a run for his money. Up north, Fred VanVleet had a break out season. Undrafted from Wichita State, VanVleet came out of no where. Delon Wright and VanVleet were both solid backups behind all star Point Guard Kyle Lowry, but VanVleet stood out more. Efficient scoring off the bench, and lethal 3-point shooting. VanVleet averaged 8 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and just below 1 turnover per game, with a 41% 3pt percentage, while playing about 20 minutes per game. As for Eric Gordon, he was good as usual. Averaging 18 points, 2.2 assists, and 2.5 rebounds, he was a key bench piece along with Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker, Luc Mbah A Moute, and Gerald Green that lead to Houston’s long playoff run this postseason.

Most Improved Player

Nominees:

·        Victor Oladipo – Indiana Pacers

·        Clint Capela – Houston Rockets

·        Spencer Dinwiddie – Brooklyn Nets

My Predicted Winner: Victor Oladipo

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This was definitely the easiest award to pick out of the 6. That’s nothing against the other two candidates, just that Oladipo was incredible this season. He carried an Indiana Pacers team, that no one, and I mean no one, thought had a chance of being a contender. Indiana and Dipo put up a good fight against The King and Cleveland. Taking Lebron to 7 games, Indiana may have been the best feel good story of the season. Victor Oladipo averaged 23 points and 4 assists after averaging just 15 points and 3 assists the season prior.

Coach of the Year

Nominees:

·        Dwane Casey – Toronto Raptors

·        Brad Stevens – Boston Celtics

·        Quin Snyder – Utah Jazz

My Predicted Winner: Dwane Casey

Despite being fired by the Toronto Raptors, I still believe Casey is going to win Coach of the Year. After leading his team to 59 wins in the regular season, a second consecutive year getting swept by Lebron James was anyone’s fault except Dwane Casey. It’s not his fault his stars don’t show up in the postseason. In Lowry’s defence, he actually did show up this postseason. As for Demar DeRozan, he once again did not. Casey had a 320-238 regular season career record with the Raptors, and a disappointing 21-31 career postseason record with the Raptors


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2018 NBA Mock Draft

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Article Written by Travis Aylward (@travaylward)


With the NBA Finals underway, that means it’s almost time for the draft. This year’s draft seems to be between Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic.  Who will go #1? Here’s my mock draft #1-10.

#1- Phoenix Suns - Luka Doncic, SG/SF, Real Madrid

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It was a really tough decision deciding between Luka Doncic and DeAndre Ayton, but I ended up choosing the former. I just don’t know if Ayton is a generational talent like I think Doncic is. Especially in the era of basketball now, where Centers just aren’t appreciated as much as they used to be. In 2018, Luka Doncic played for Real Madrid in the Euro League. He was a Euro League rising star, made the Euro League first team, was the MVP of the league as well as the final four MVP, and a Euro League champion as him and Real Madrid won the Euro League title. Luka Doncic is 218 pounds and stands at 6’5. He averaged 16 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds, and shot 33% from 3 in 2018 in the Euro League.

#2- Sacramento Kings - DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona

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DeAndre Ayton is a beast. He’s 7’8, 250 pounds, and has 7’5 wingspan. He’s a center but can shoot threes as well. This past season, he played for the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-12 conference, winning the Pac-12 POY. He averaged 20 pts, 2 assists, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks. As I said, Ayton can shoot threes. He had a 34% 3pt percentage, and if he can raise that to a 37-39% in the NBA, it would make him even better. A concern about Ayton is his defence. He’s not a good defender, and he’s slow. The good thing about Phoenix having the #1 pick is that they have never really made defence their top priority in recent year drafts, which could be a good thing for Ayton. Maybe Ayton does go #1 overall. Take your pick between Ayton and Doncic, they’re both going to be incredible players.

#3- Atlanta Hawks – Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

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There are rumours swirling around that the Boston Celtics would like to package a deal revolved around Jaylen Brown to move up in the draft and draft Mohamed Bamba, but at this point the Atlanta Hawks have the #3 pick and I believe they will use it to draft Bamba. With Dennis Schroeder wanting out, the Hawks have virtually no one on their roster. Once Schroeder leaves town, the Hawks best player will be John Collins. Collins and Bamba could pair well in the front court, and depending on who the Hawks receive if Schroeder gets traded, they may get a valuable asset from that deal.

#4- Memphis Grizzlies – Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri

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Coming into the draft, the Memphis Grizzlies had the 2nd best odds of the 1st overall pick. After falling all the way down to 4, they likely now lose out on the chance of drafting Ayton or Doncic. Michael Porter Jr. was injured for most of this past season with Missouri. He played just two games. Even though he only played two games, I personally am a big Porter Jr. fan. I love the way he plays. He’s a good free throw shooter, can shoot threes, and can score when he wants.

#5- Dallas Mavericks – Marvin Bagley, C, Duke

If it weren’t for Bagley’s bust potential, I’d have swapped Bamba and Bagley and had the latter at #3. Marvin Bagley is 6’11, but he’s quick. The Dallas Mavericks, unlike the Hawks, have a decent roster. Bagley can play alongside Harrison Barnes, Dennis Smith Jr., and Wesley Matthews.

 

 

#6- Orlando Magic – Jaren Jackson Jr., F/C, Michigan State

The Orlando Magic are most likely looking to build around Aaron Gordon. With Jackson Jr. being able to play power forward or center, you can have Jackson Jr playing power forward with Gordon and Biyombo, or have Jackson Jr. at center with Gordon. Jackson Jr. is a terrific two-way player. He had a 39% 3pt percentage last season, and averaged 3 blks.

#7- Chicago Bulls – Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke

Yup, another Center. 2018 may be the year of the centers. Wendell Carter Jr. didn’t get all the attention at Duke. He didn’t even get all the attention at his position. Due to Duke having Marvin Bagley as well, Bagley got most of the attention at Duke. Carter Jr. was okay with that though. He even said Bagley was more athletic. Wendell Carter Jr. is a terrific player though. This past season, Carter Jr. averaged 20 points, 3 blocks, and 13 rebounds.

#8- Cavaliers (via Nets) – Trae Young, G, Oklahoma

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It’s unlikely Lebron James stays in Cleveland this offseason, but nonetheless, Trae Young could still work nicely in Cleveland. I hate to compare Young to Steph Curry because everyone does it, but I have to. There’s just so much Steph in his game. He’s a lights out 3 point shooter, but can also pass. He was the first person to ever lead college in points and assists in one season.

#9- New York Knicks – Mikal Bridges, G/F, Villanova

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Fresh off of winning a National Championship, Mikal Bridges will bring a winning mentality to whichever team drafts him. Bridges had an absurd 43% 3pt percentage, while averaging 18 points this past season with Villanova,

 

 

 

 

#10- 76ers (via Lakers) – Collin Sexton, G, Alabama

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No doubt about it, the 76ers surpassed expectations this year. Along with the Celtics, they probably have the 2nd best future in the league. Assuming Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons continue along their developmental path, the Sixers could be a real contender in the very near future. Sexton had a good 33% 3pt percentage last season with Alabama, and surrounding him with shooters like 76ers have may help him raise that percentage.


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