The Toronto Raptors 2019-20 season thus far has yielded a series of highlights and challenges. From the depth dilemma to a number of injuries, the Raptors faced their fair share of adversity. Despite this, Toronto currently sits third in the Eastern Conference after 44 games (30-14).
But who is contributing to the Raptors success? Who is raising to the occasion and exceeding expectations? Who is falling short? Let’s take a look!
Top of the Class
Kyle Lowry: A
In his eighth season with the Raptors, Lowry has been instrumental in Toronto’s success this year. He has truly become a franchise player, and despite missing 11 games with a broken thumb, he is a true leader and mentor for the rookies that Toronto acquired in the off-season. Remember when K-low pretty much carried the Raptors to a 30-point comeback against Dallas? Lowry continually makes a key difference on both the offensive and defensive end. At the beginning of the season, Lowry was averaging close to 38 minutes per game. This wasn’t sustainable in the slightest, so it is nice seeing those minutes come down gradually. Without a doubt, Lowry is the heart of the Raptors team.
Pascal Siakam: A
Spicy P had a fabulous start to this season as well. He was getting into some foul trouble in the first couple games, but was able to clean that up fairly quickly. Pascal is currently averaging 23.7 PPG, and is shooting 45.8 per cent from the field and 37.8 per cent from three-point range. When Lowry and Ibaka got injured, Siakam was key in the Raptors success through stretches where they were short a couple guys. Despite missing 11 games himself to a groin injury, he has stepped into a huge role in Toronto’s offence and hasn’t disappointed.
Terence Davis II: A
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. I’m not saying that Terence Davis is more valuable to the team than Freddy. I’m saying that Davis is way better than expected, and deserves credit for his performance thus far.
Terence Davis has performed way beyond his projections this year. As an undrafted rookie out of Syracuse, Masai Ujiri and the management team deserve some major credit for scouting out Davis. The young point guard is averaging 7.4 PPG, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game, but has been an effective player off of the bench. Davis also reach a career high 23 points in two separate games this season. There seems to be a vibe on the Raptors developed by players like Powell, VanVleet and Davis (among others) that work extremely hard for results, and are willing to put in 110 per cent effort to improve. In that mentality, there is something so valuable.
Fred VanVleet: A-
Steady Freddy looks strong this year and is a crucial member of the Raptors offence. After 43 games, he has averaged 18.4 PPG, while shooting 40.3 per cent from the field and 38.8 per cent from three-point range. He is undoubtedly a significant factor in Toronto’s success this year through depth concerns and injuries. Despite missing ten games (total) to injuries, Fred has performed very well this season, and should look forward to his potential future with the Raptors. VanVleet is due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season, so his performance this season is crucial in determining the future. It’s in the Raptors best interest to tie him down as a part of the future and guarantee him a spot in the starting lineup in the coming years.
Norman Powell: A-
Despite battling with some consistency issues early on and a shoulder injury in the first half of the season, Norman Powell has made several improvements to his game and has become a key member of the team. Last year, he averaged 8.4 PPG and shot 48.3 per cent from the field and 40 per cent from behind the arc. This year (so far) he is averaging 15.8 PPG while shooting 51.3 per cent from the field and 41.8 per cent from three.
Getting the Jist
Marc Gasol: B+
Gasol had a shaky start to this season. He is currently averaging 7.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Despite his offensive challenges, Gasol has consistently been effective in shutting down teams on the defensive end. The Raptors sit second in the league in terms of defensive rating. Gasol spearheads that defence, even though he missed 12 games to injury. Hopefully, Marc continues on this upward trend.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: B
Rondae is another player whose game has significantly improved over the course of the season so far. At the beginning of the season, Nick Nurse was very open about the fact that his bench unit was not performing to his expectations. However, when the Raptors were faced with several injuries, Hollis-Jefferson was able to rise to the occasion and make a significant difference on both ends of the court. Although he’s not having a career-best year (yet), RHJ has a bright future with the Raptors under the leadership of the veterans.
Chris Boucher: B
Chris Boucher stepped into the lineup when the Raps were stretched for depth. Ibaka and Gasol have both missed over ten games each with injuries, and Boucher has been a consistent player at the five that Nick Nurse can depend on. With this being said, Boucher still has a lot to learn, and has big shoes to fill. Gasol and Ibaka are both outstanding players defensively and the Raptors should expect Boucher to learn from them in his style and efficiency (hopefully he will continue giving fans some highlight-worthy dunks too).
Serge Ibaka: B-
Chef Serge has been a key part of the Raptors lineup this year. Even though he missed 10 games to injury this year, Ibaka continues to contribute on both ends of the court. So far, he averages 14.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game while shooting 49.7 per cent from the field and 36 per cent from three point range. Ibaka has has some consistency issues as well, so hopefully he will be able to wrinkle out a few creases soon.
OG Anunoby: B-
OG faced his fair share of games where he hasn’t been on the ball. Despite his struggles, he continually improves on his numbers every season. So far, OG is averaging 11 PPG, compared to seven points from last season. He is also shooting at a higher rate of efficiency this year from all positions on the court (49.6 FG%, 36.9 3P% and 66 FT%). Anunoby still has room to grow and improve; that will come with time.
Room for Improvement
Matt Thomas: C
Matt Thomas is one of the players that has some room to grow and improve. He is currently shooting 46.7 per cent, but is only averaging 4.8 PPG. So he is fairly efficient when he is taking shots, but he isn’t taking enough of them. He has battled his own injuries this season, but I don’t think that he has played enough gamed this year to develop a defined role on the team. He isn’t a guy that Nurse can turn towards and expect major points off the bench. Under the leadership of players on the team like Lowry, VanVleet and Powell, Thomas should develop more confidence on the court and be a viable options for the Raptors in the coming years.
Patrick McCaw: C-
McCaw is a big question mark for me. Nick Nurse clearly sees something in him, since he is averaging more than 25 minutes per game (the highest MPG in his career), but it’s unclear exactly what it is. McCaw is shooting 44 per cent from the field and 33.3 per cent from three, but he is only averaging 5.4 PPG. It’s not like he is an outstanding defender either. He averages between two and three rebounds and assists (each) per game. As a player who is well into his career, I think it’s fair to expect his to put up more points for the Raptors in the (significant) amount of minutes that he’s playing.
Not Enough to Grade
Malcolm Miller, Stanley Johnson, Oshae Brissett, Dewan Hernandez and Paul Watson just haven’t played enough to be able to give them a fair grade. All of them (except Watson) have played here and there, but are all averaging under five minutes per game. So let’s hold off on the grades until the end of the season.
Agree or disagree with any of these grades? Comment down below.
Statistics via basketball-reference.com
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