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GUEST OPINION: Protecting land for Islanders
The glass half full perspective for the Raptors organization following Friday’s easy win in the Big Easy would be that forwards Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are exceeding even the wildest expectations, which is tremendous news for the future of the franchise since they look like two long-term cornerstones. The glass half empty view would be that they can’t afford to lose Kyle Lowry to an injury (he’s arguably still been the best player so far, despite Siakam’s jaw-dropping play) or Serge Ibaka to one of his own (Ibaka without any argument has been by far the team’s best reserve and best centre so far this season). But lose them they must, so we’ll see where it goes.
-A safe bet? The Pelicans are very happy they’ve seen the last of Pascal Siakam in 2019-20. His two-game averages against them: 39 points, 14 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 52/47/94% shooting splits.
– Department of too soon: This is one way to stop people from griping about Lowry’s league-leading (before the injury limited him to 16 minutes) workload. Though nobody would have actually wanted him to get hurt to get him a rest, of course. In all seriousness this isn’t great for VanVleet either. He was already also playing big minutes and will be required to play about 40 a night until Lowry is back. For a guy who is constantly banged up because of the way he aggressive way he plays, we’ll say again that this is far from ideal.
– Would be interested to see if the Raptors look to a VanVleet/Powell/Stanley Johnson/Anunoby/Siakam lineup for a test run while they tread water. It’s not a huge group, but it’s long and athletic at most spots and there’s probably enough offence from the other four players to make up for Johnson’s issues on that end.
– Gasol will still start, but maybe he gets pulled a bit early for this look and they ask him to try to bring back a bit of his Memphis game (with far more involvement on offence) in order to power up what will be a severely depleted bench that will likely struggle to score quite a bit when Siakam is off of the floor.
– If Hollis-Jefferson can heal up in time to play in one of the Los Angeles games or later in the trip, maybe we see him in a front-court with Anunoby and Siakam (with Anunoby guarding a smaller player and Hollis-Jefferson and Siakam taking the bigs? He’s always intrigued me.
– Of course if the Raptors believe they desperately need another point guard there’s always a chance they eat the $2.5 million they paid Hollis-Jefferson and cut him and sign an insurance policy. Or, Johnson could be cut, though that would mean they’d have to pay him next year too since he has a player option. They’d likely prefer not to pay him not to be here, but it’s not like that money will lead to any cap concerns so if there’s someone out there they really like maybe it happens. Free agent signees can’t be traded until Dec. 15, but they can of course be cut before then. The team also has some trade exceptions in case another team wants to cut some salary and it’s a player they like (the Raptors would still have to cut someone to make it work).
– Dewan Hernandez was recalled from Raptors 905, but it would be asking a lot of the rookie, who missed all of last season due to NCAA mumbo jumbo, to expect him to contribute at this very early stage. Chris Boucher should get a big shot here, assuming Ibaka misses some time. He’s an energizer for sure, but needs to shore up his team defence. On offence he may get a chance to bomb away given the aforementioned offensive challenges the second groups should have. Two-way player Shamorie Ponds, another rookie, could get a look since he’s a point guard.
-Two Pelicans questions: What happened to JJ Redick (there’s no chance he’s ever been less effective against the Raptors during his long career where he has tortured them often). And why on earth is Jahlil Okafor starting and Derrick Favors coming off of the bench (is it because Favors has been banged up? Is it because Okafor is a placeholder in the starting five for Zion Williamson)? If they don’t want to give up a million points every night they might want to start Favors.
1 Pascal Siakam
2 OG Anunoby
3 Brandon Ingram
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