Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)
The Toronto Raptors Are 5-0 – and here’s why:
The two-time Defensive Player of the Year and NBA Champion has made his mark in Toronto over these past five games. Leading the team with 28 points per game throughout the opening week, some would say Kawhi still isn’t 100 percent due to his recent right quadricep injury that occurred last season; an injury that kept Leonard out for a total nine months. But Kawhi has shown that there are no signs of “shaking off the rust.” He has become more and more comfortable as the season has gone on, showing his confidence dribbling and shooting the ball beyond the arc at 47.4% thus far. Kawhi has also been known for his slashing and post scoring ability with his brute strength to back down opponents to get to the basket. Simply put - it has not been any easier for The Klaw.
Kawhi is also second on the team in rebounds and steals per game. His hustle and defensive IQ are off the charts, from grabbing rebounds and going coast to coast with ease, and even stealing passes without even looking. These efforts have caught the attention of Raptors fans each and every home game, awarding Leonard with “MVP” chants at the free throw line in all four of Toronto’s home games thus far.
Kyle Lowry & Danny Green
Although Kyle Lowry may be the sole reason for the Raptors’ team success in this early part of the season, you can’t leave out Danny Green who rounds it all out. Leonard, Lowry and Green are almost always on the court together with the trio averaging 30 minutes a game thus far. Lowry, and Green are exactly the kind of support Leonard needs. The par have been unstoppable beyond the arc to start this season. Not only is the shooting ability something that stands out, but the chemistry between these three men is outstanding on offense and defense. When Lowry, Green, and Leonard are all on the court together, they always seem to outscore their opponents, leading the team in point differential with Lowry at 13.8, Green at 14.8, and Leonard leading the way with 15.4. This is why the Toronto Raptors average beating opponents thus far this season by a 11.2-point margin or more.
Head Coach Nick Nurse is still sitting at a perfect record in his NBA coaching career and he’s been doing a great job of it. Although it may be a bit early, it seems that Nurse has already set his eyes on his go-to starting 5: Lowry, Green, Leonard, Siakam, and Ibaka. Ibaka says playing at the 5 is better for him and the team giving them more opportunities to spread the floor and score more; and rightfully so. Ibaka is off to a great start this season averaging 15.3 points per game with 7.3 rebounds on 53% shooting. This is largely thanks to Nurse knowing when to play Ibaka, matching him up against other three-point shooting big men or up against big men who cannot guard his three-point shooting ability. Nurse has also done a great job of flowing the lineup together and giving everyone minutes.
If you preform, you get minutes, and that is exactly what Nurse is giving to Norman Powell who scored ten points against the Timberwolves in just 13 minutes of action. Nurse says he isn’t finished with finding the right combinations to having the best defensive lineup on the floor at all times. There were some dominant stretches on both ends of the floor but also some errors and mistake the team needs to clean up on going forward.
Fred VanVleet did not play on Wednesday night due to a toe sprain in his right foot. But with Pascal Siakam enrolled in the starting lineup and Jakob Poeltl in San Antonio, the Bench Mob hasn’t been the same this season. But one person holding it all together and who continues to get better is Fred VanVleet, the Floor General of the second unit. Playing 24 minutes a game this season and averaging 11.5 points per game, VanVleet has earned his time away from the second unit and playing more with the likes of Lowry and Leonard. Holding his own with the top unit, he also carries the weight of the second unit when scoring isn’t on the rise. VanVleet has shown his growth with his superior ball handling and explosiveness to the rim with impressive court vision.
He simply continues to grow.
This Toronto Raptors team continues to grow, continues to get better and they’ve only played five games. But Raptors fans can’t help but think about going all the way and this could be the year. It’s still early, but things are looking great for the team and for the city of Toronto. Don’t worry about what the future holds or what next season is going to look like. Enjoy what’s happening now in what might be the best Raptors team in franchise history.
Enjoy it, Toronto!
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