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If we’ve learned anything from Toronto’s recent meetings with the Southeast Division, it’s this team doesn’t like when opponents give them a taste of their own medicine, namely various zone defences. Even a smart, low-turnover group like the Raptors has been mostly confused and off when faced with heavy zone looks. That was also the case last year, but it’s stood out against both Charlotte and Miami, two teams that throw more zones at opposing offences than most. The result for the Raptors, too often, has been confusion, breakdowns and/or bad shot attempts. That’s going to need to improve. Fred VanVleet said afterward they probably need to attack the basket a bit more (and that could be said when they’re facing zones or more traditional defences, they’re near the bottom in paint scoring).
It’s also pretty clear that the balanced groups of the past are gone. This team is going to need all-star level performances from two of Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry and VanVleet every night to win. OG Anunoby is definitely progressing and Chris Boucher has been a great story (before plummeting back to earth in the loss against Miami) but the Big 3 just doesn’t have close to enough help. Aron Baynes had his best game of the season, but is still not providing starting centre caliber play.
The only consistency where the bench is concerned is Nick Nurse’s inability to yet find a consistent rotation.
Lowry had a rare poor shooting night against Miami and Siakam was only about average, so a stellar VanVleet performance wasn’t enough.
Miami was missing top player Jimmy Butler and solid young scorer Tyler Herro and it didn’t matter at all. Toronto came in second defensively in paint defence, then proceeded to get completely carved up by the Heat, especially an out of mothballs Kendrick Nunn. Even the once high-flying Andre Iguodala, who had one dunk all year, threw down two jams.
The weirdest stat of the game: Toronto going just 2-for-11 on second-chance opportunities.
Here’s a question: If you were starting a team, would you take Siakam, or Adebayo? I’m still a Siakam believer, I think he has many more all-star appearances in his future and he’s one of the NBA’s most versatile defenders, but I think Bam is a pretty easy choice. He might not bring the shooting versatility Siakam does and he probably doesn’t cover quite as much ground (though many would debate that), but he’s more than three years younger and already at just about the same level as Siakam. Plus he’s a bit bigger, and is arguably more skilled. I don’t see either as “The Guy” on a contending team, but Adebayo has enough runway to be a No. 2 and Siakam was a 2B on a title team, albeit a tremendously balanced squad.
Both players were lucky to land where they did. Some teams wouldn’t have maximized their potential, but Miami and Toronto are both ultra-elite at player development.
Adebayo’s taken another leap in Year 4, shooting 62% from the field and 86% from the free throw line. He’s only attempted one three-pointer all season, but has developed a mid-range jumper that is pretty much cash money. He’s taking those shots 25% of the time when he shoots and hitting 53% of them, per Basketball-reference.com.
A random thing: A little surprised Miami doesn’t have more titles. The Heat is still the gold standard for NBA expansion franchises, but given their elite drafting and player development abilities, golden location and lack of taxes, this should be the NBA destination and the East Coast alternative to the Lakers.
Sixteen drafts later, we once again ask why, oh why did the Raptors pass on Andre Iguodala. Iguodala can still crank it up, even with all of that mileage (nearly 45,000 career minutes played, when the playoffs are included), as he did on Wednesday against the Raptors.
One more: I’ve asked this before, but, honestly FIBA, what the hell are you thinking ?
1 — Kendrick Nunn
2 — Fred VanVleet
3 — Bam Adebayo
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