Raptors Adding PJ Tucker Would Help Solve Defensive woes

 

With Demarcus Cousins being shockingly traded by the Sacramento Kings this past weekend, the trade market has woken up and teams are either trying to buy the next big star -the Bulls Jimmy Butler has been subject of trade rumors for weeks now- or adding small rotation pieces, the Kings have been reported to be having a fire sale on basically anyone after trading their franchise centerpiece. Guys like Aaron Afflalo and Darren Collison have been reported to be on the move, and could help teams in playoff spots.

The Raptors have done some moving of their own before the deadline, sending Terrence Ross and a first round draft pick ( the lesser of two first rounders they have because it belonged to the Clippers) to Orlando for star 4 man Serge Ibaka. They needed a starting 4 that can defend and stretch the floor and they got him, for a pretty decent trade off even if Ross is having one of his better seasons.  But the Raptors still need to make a move to help their defense and maybe bench depth after losing Ross.

The Phoenix Suns are one of a few teams that are for sure sellers come Thursdays Trade Deadline. One name that has been thrown around recently, is veteran wing defender PJ Tucker. The former Raptors pick has made a home in Phoenix after being let go by Toronto in 2011, and has made himself into a reliable defensive player with an honest three point shot that while is not an immediate threat, he can hit a few down the stretch and averaged a career best 38% from 3 in 2012-13. Tucker could be a cheap rental, seeing as his contract expires after this year, and it would provide some needed wing depth with some nice defensive skill. Terrence Ross could defend but was a rollercoaster, and that led to most nights of him getting beat off the dribble or off of screens. Tucker may not shoot like Ross, but with the defensive struggles the Raps have shown recently Tucker brings in a much needed aid.

The Suns being sellers at the Deadline would probably also mean that the Raptors would have to part ways with either a young player, a pick, or possibly both. With the addition of Ibaka, the Raptors are a little heavy with bigs. JV is not going anywhere, at least with what the Raptors are targeting and also he has played decently well to really try and dangle to a team like the Suns. Paterson is too valuable to just give away to a team that may not even have him come the off-season, and Sullinger has not played enough and has been too injured that the Suns probably wouldn’t want that hanging over their heads.  They might have to part ways with Noguiera, or maybe get rid of either Siakim or Pertl. They are young with talent just getting better and better, but the Raptors are win now mode and may have to part ways with the future to better the present. The Raptors are in a dogfight for that number 2 spot behind the Cavs, and hopefully with Serge Ibaka and maybe an acquired PJ Tucker, the Raptors can reclaim the 2 spot and hopefully face off the Cavs again the in Eastern Finale.

 

 

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The NBA Is The Best League Going

 

The NBA had a bunch of games going on last night, and most of them pitted some of the more elite teams against teams that are struggling or are heavily injured. Teams like Golden State and Cleveland played low seeded teams like Miami and New Orleans, but this is what makes the NBA so great. The Warriors lost on a game winning three by Dion Waiters of all people against the Heat, the Cavs lost to a very game New Orleans Pelicans, and a very good team in Utah lost to OKC on a Westbrook jumper. The NBA is at its best when there is parity, drama and madness, and a Monday made it all happen.

This year is giving us not a great rookie class, but talented sensation Joel Embiid is shining in his debut year in the League, after a couple years being forced to sit out due to injury. He leads all rookies in scoring, second in blocks overall, and leads all rookies in total rebounding. His overall talent and enthusiasm for the game has given the Sixers a spark, and has seemed to rejuvenate Sixers basketball in Philly after years of  disarray and failure. The Sixers being promising and relevant is important for the NBA, and it shows a very bright future.

The NBA signing a new CBA mid-season also showed that they learned from their mistakes from the last lockout in 2013. They were able to get a deal done between the NBA and the NBPA, while also not delaying another season to do so. The NBA also put in the new CBA that they will help with retired players. The NBA will offer retired players health benefits, give them future jobs and also provide them with money so we don’t have another Antoine Walker situation.  From ESPN.

 

Starting on Jan. 1, the NBA and NBPA will equally fund a new health insurance plan, education/career development program and increases in pension benefits for retired players.

The NBA is finally reaching out to it’s retired players, and giving them a continued future and not just one last check before saying goodbye. The NBA showcases some of the best athletes on earth, and if they can’t have a safe and healthy retirement after their body goes down then it is a bad mark on the NBA and a bad mark on the game. The last thing the NBA wants is another player unhealthy or unable to have a livable surroundings, and having this rule in place certifies that every retired player retires happy and healthy.

There may be only two real super teams that fans expect to battle in the finals, that of course being Cleveland and Golden State. But the NBA with all of its extra story-lines and drama provides a layer of excitement and fun, and if there are more games like the ones that happened on Monday night, this might be a very memorable NBA season. This and more proving why the NBA is the best league going,  and with the best athletes around.

Could This Be The Best Raptors Team Ever

A historic offense and an overall healthy lineup, this might be the Best Raps team yet

 

The Raptors are coming off three straight games where they scored over 100 points, and three straight games where they thoroughly handled the opposition mostly for the entirety.  Kyle Lowry is hitting threes, Demar is scoring more points than he ever has, and young players like Lucas Noguera and rookie Pascal Siakam are doing superbly filling in the shoes that Bismack Byiombo left when he signed with Orlando.  Still relatively early in the year, but so far this Raptors team is showing a whole lotta promise.

Last Years Raptors were good, real good that they were able to make it to the conference finals against the Cavs.They would ultimately fall 2 games short of moving on to the finals, after being manhandled for most of the series. But it was a step, a big step, for a franchise that never could advance that far before. A season that felt accomplished, even if the players themselves say they fell short. The next year would mean the same if not better expectations, collect 50 or plus wins and once again meet the Cavs in the East finals.

While the Raps rank top 5 in both Points (112 points per game) and Field Goal Percentage ( 47.9%), their defense has taken a concerning back seat. They sit near the bottom of the league in DEFRTG, and they struggle to defend the Pick and Roll, especially with JV getting caught in no mans land, or not making it in time to cover the roll man. They kind of remind me of the old Phoenix Suns like 10 years ago, sure they can’t defend much but they can score buckets with will, even if they don’t have a generational pass first point guard or a death 3 ball shot.

Some of the reason behind the Raptors fire offence is the play of their bench, guys like Norman Powell and Terrence Ross are showing big improvements from last year. Ross is showing more consistency in his game, scoring more and not being hesitant to make big plays. Norman Powell has made the most out of limited minutes, and while it may not look eye popping on the stat sheet-only averaging around 6.8 points per game, his defense and athleticism is a good asset for the raptors, who can sometimes lose it when demar is sitting. Bebe Nogueira has also filled the big hole of Biyombo well, despite foul trouble and problems on the PNR. But I will write about him in depth later.

The Toronto Raptors are making history already, having a franchise best offense and big years from Derozan and Lowry. Of course having to beat the Cavs remains a daunting task for the Raptors, and one they will need to find a peice via trade if they have any real chance against Lebron and his team of shooters and offensive threats. Bur despite that big grey cloud hanging over the Raps, they remain heavy favorites to get to the East Finals along Cleveland, and with the current team they have and maybe with another big peice like a Paul Milsap, they could have the best Raptors team of all time. Just another showing of their growth and maturity through the years.

 

 

 

Is it Time to Worry About the Dallas Stars

only a handful of games in, but bad defense and goaltending have the stars falling

 

The Dallas Stars remind me kind of the old 2005-06 run and gun Phoenix Suns. A deadly team of all stars and proven youth, with a wicked fun and fast offense. They would pack the highlights and would get casual and hardcore fans to try and watch every game. The Stars do a great job scoring goals, top 10 in goal scoring this season, but trying to defend the net has been a real problem 2 years now.  Kari Lehtonen and Anti Nemi have been mediocre, and the Stars defense core have been decent but a near 40 Johnny Odua and Dan Hamhuis is a problem, while John Klinberg has struggled with a decreasing Corsi For% dipping below 50 percent. All this and he was a healthy scratch on Monday night against Minnesota after missing a team meeting.

The goalies have been a real issue for the Stars for a while, and that 5 year deal Kari Lehtonen signed with Dallas -which will pay him a near 6 mill a season- is putting a vine wrap around the Stars.  A no-trade clause makes it near impossible to trade him, and if the certain teams are not willing to give up anything for him, the Stars are suddenly trapped with a overpaid and underperformed goaltender. Antti Niemi is a little better, as his contract expires after next year, but if the Stars would try to move Niemi it would be hard as well as he also as a NTC. An expiring Niemi would be a good clearance of salary for Dallas, but that Lehtonen contract makes it real hard to make a big splash.

The Stars have also dealt with an unfortunate injury bug to start the year, Jiri Hudler, Mattis Janmark, and Johnny Odua have all missed time, while Ales Hemsky will miss the year due to surgery to repair a sore hip. Of course being in a loaded Western Conference and in a dog fight in the central division, having to battle the likes of Chicago,Nashville, and St.Louis to have a real shot at the playoffs. Scratches and injuries, along with inconsistent play is going to make it real hard to get in there, especially with teams like Winnipeg and Minnesota making improvements of their own.

Of course the Stars can just rely on their superstar offense to take over, they have a top 15 SH% at around 9 and their PDO is bottom league at 98.9 so they are bound to have some luck go towards them. Tyler Seguin has points in 3 of last 5 games, and possession wise is having the puck at a good rate with a 50% Corsi for. Jamie Benn is having another productive season and has points in 3 of his last 5 games, so the Stars could turn things around quickly, but it all falls on the defense and the goaltending.

The Dallas Stars seem too talented to crash and burn, but they also have flaws that make it entirely possible. Struggling play from guys like John Klinberg will not sink the ship for Dallas, but it will create enough holes that at some point the ship starts leaking.

 

 

Karl Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis Starting a Future of Do It All Big Men

From the Days of back it down big man to now the do it all big man. the nba is changing

 

I remember back when I started to enjoy basketball and become an nba fan, I would be used to seeing guys like Shaq, Yao Ming and Tim Duncan play in the paint. Only a few big guys would take their game outside and out to the perimeter, Dirk Nowitzki, Rasheed Wallace, and kinda not really but sometimes later in his Raptor years Chris Bosh, would be able or be willing to take 3s when at the time big men taking threes were few and far between. The game was played at a slower pace, focusing more on post ups and mid range game than pick and roll and jacking up threes.

But years later and a few drafts later big men who could shoot the three became more and more of a need rather than a rarity. In came guys like Ryan Anderson and Spencer Hawes to the league, and while not real notable names coming to mind, they started a change in big men being able to take their game outside.

But it was not till Anthony Davis and Karl Anthony Towns arrived that the NBA were able to see how far the Big men in basketball have come. The ability to dribble and pass well, along with shoot with confidence from further than the inside the paint was a real rarity. It transitioned right with the nba now becoming a more faster and more of a three point dependent league. Now Anthony Davis is not real consistent in his shot, but he does have one and Karl Anthony Towns is making a three shot an all day part of his arsenal. It is a start of an evolution that could see the end of traditional big men.

Karl Anthony towns arrived with the Timberwolves and immediately made an impact, winning rookie of the year and showing how versatile big men these days are. The comparisons to Anthony Davis were plenty and it might not be too far before Towns oversteps Davis. The Timberwolves are so close to finally becoming a contender again, but meanwhile the Pelicans fail to make the best of Anthony Davis and his gifts by not surrounding him with other talented players.  He is the near definition of do it all player, he can pass, rebound and score with tremendous ease. His defense is elite with the help of that giant wingspan, and if he really develops a three point shot that is consistent, he could be near unstoppable.

The NBA is a long way moved from the backdown hook shot big men it used to enjoy, KAT and Davis are the men who can pave the way for a real change in the NBA. The League is set for years to come with two franchise players who can really make an already fun league even more fun and promising. The Timberwolves are already making huge steps, it is time the Pelicans wake up and realize what kind of talent they have in front of them, and stop wasting what could be a career to remember for nothing.

 

 

 

The Connection of Watching Sports, and The Chicago Cubs

 

The day was a cold November in Toronto, the weird summer feeling of October and September days were passed. Time for some long pants, sweaters, and the crazy and unpredictable time that is playoff baseball was near its ultimate finish. Though the Jays-or my beloved red  sox- were eliminated early and often by that Cleveland team, there was still plentiful of eyes focused on the World Series matchup between the Cleveland baseball team, and a team that for all my life never had a chance at glory. Unlike teams like the Yankees, Boston, St.louis and the Giants, the beloved “lovable losers” Chicago Cubs were for so long the team that everyone loved, but were always either too bad to compete, or for some reason cursed by a goat and some fan who wanted a peice of history. But after a century and a near decade later of sadness no franchise can endure, the lovable losers finally got to raise the W flag one last time, this time though for something that might never be topped in that proud city, a world series trophy being presented to the Chicago Cubs. It meant a lot to guys like Kris Bryant, who even could not hide a smile of a child when he fielded the finale groundball for the cubs of 2016. Guys like Anthony Rizzo who quickly put the world series winning ball in his back pocket as soon as he got it out of his glove and raised his arms. They knew this meant more than a World Series win, this meant the gorillas of all gorillas was lifted off a cities back. No longer the butt-end of jokes or the “feel bad for this team” team, they were a city of champions and a city of today instead of “maybe another day”. It was a community of fans who went as far as an 83 year old fan who maybe felt the suffering better than anyone, broke down in tears of joy and disbelief.

The greatest night in Chicago’s history took place on Wednesday November 2, a time that many never saw and many thought may never see. It was maybe the greatest game ever, one that saw Rajai Davis have his defining moment as a player when he ties the game with a 3 run homerun in Cleveland with his team hangin on by a nail, trying to win and defeat a curse of their own. But it just had to be the cubs this year, momentum was with them after winning 2 straight to send it to a game seven. After all that, after all those wins in the regular season, they needed to win it all. It was an ending needed after such an amazing and draining story. A crazy playoffs with a magical game seven that will be one of those you will have a hard time forgetting.One that you can talk about forever, the what ifs of everything that happened. What if Aroldis Chapman never ran out of gas? Well the Cubs would have maybe won, but we don’t get that magical photo of Kris Bryant smiling, and we never get that glimpse of Anthony Rizzo keeping that ball forever. A game can be just a game, but a game with story and drama is what makes taking time out of your day to watch a bunch of millionaires worth it, you smile like they smile. A storybook ending for a Story worth telling forever.

Some may have been in bars, at home or lucky enough to witness the ending live. There is always that “where were you when” moment in games and this one was no different. Whether you were watching alone or able to witness magic in games with someone else, if you watch regularly or just catch those big games, there are always moments and spots that share a deep connection in your heart. You are able to recount almost everything that happened in that game, because it resonates so well with you. Sometimes your team comes up on the hand of celebration, and sometimes you are left defeated and find it hard to come up with reason or explanation, sometimes you raise your arms or are left motionless and just want to be left alone. Sports really shouldn’t affect us like this, it is all but a game played by people  who dedicated their whole lift into just having a chance at playing the sport. But maybe that is why we give so much to see these athletes play, because we know they sacrificed so much for our enjoyment. In that sense I sometimes feel selfish, enjoying my time eating hotdogs and  drinking beer while these men are playing for their lives. But they know that it works both ways, we need them to take us away from our daily struggles in life, and they need us because they want a reason to play other than the check. They enjoy it too, being able to interact with a fan is both a joy for a player, and as a fan saying you got to high five a personal hero, someone you spent so long supporting through good and bad.

A relationship and almost a cult following like that is hard to explain sometimes with sports fans and their teams and players. Sometimes you may never meet your favorite player, and he may never meet you , but that won’t matter because you are willing to cheer him on no matter what. But then there are times when you do get a chance to talk to your favorite player, the ability to converse with a hero, and being able to see the human side some people are never able to see is something magical and rare. Sure they are human just like us as they have jobs and kids, but their jobs are something we cherish on a day to day basis, from the opening day to the closing nights, we care about this persons job unlike anyone can ever. This held true  on that special night in front of that famou Wrigley field entrance as the whole city of Chicago gathered around and waited for that scoreboard to read finale, and for that scoreboard to read the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.

The Columbus Blue Jackets Have A Problem

 

The Blue Jackets had a season to forget last year, as they finished near dead last in the NHL only to be ahead of the intentionally dreadful Maple Leafs. They started with a seven game losing streak right out of the gate last year, which led to the firing of Todd Richards and the hiring of known loudmouth John Tortorella, a hiring that right away seemed to be destined for doom. They gave up the second most amount of goals last year due to the cesspool of a defense that they have, and the fact that Sergi Bobrovsky was injured; the Jackets had to rely on an inexperienced Joonas Korpisalo and a 32 year old nothing in Curtis McElhinney to try and steer a young and struggling defense group. Adding a talent like Seth Jones is good, but adding one good young player is not going to miraculously fix this team.

Offensively this team is fine, not bad enough to be terrible but never showed glances of a high scoring team. Only 219 goals won’t balance out the lackluster defense that has been put out all year. Cam Atkinson is a good player, one of the few on that roster, but relying on a 20 plus goal scorer to be a main threat every night is a lot to ask for,especially when he is playing with guys like David Clarkson and Scott Hartnell. With this much of a problem scoring, the team has to rely on its goaltending and defense to win games. But with the second to lowest goals against, and having to put Jack Johnson for periods of time makes the not scoring part a real problem for this team.

But even with the offensive and defensive flaws the Jackets have, their biggest one remains who they hired to replace Todd Stevens as their new head coach. Noted loudmouth John Tortorella was hired after the Jackets started 0-7. A questionable move from the start, as Tortorella was just coming off of a horrible stint as Vancouver Canucks head coach were he drove a talented and promising Canucks team to the ground, and oh yea did this. You want John Tortorella hockey Columbus? Well there it is front and center.

How he keeps getting jobs is really an amazing and continually baffling thing. His old ways of coaching and his styles are no longer what it takes to win games, and teams keep hiring him why? Because he won a cup that one time with a super team in the Lightning, and no matter how much of an ass he is, teams continue to hire him because they think that the way he coached that lightning team can somehow transition to today’s game, where it is more depending on skill and speed rather than grinding it out or being more physical than the other team. The NHL today relies on having the puck as much as you can, and not trying to hit your way to a win. The Columbus Blue Jackets are a team with no direction as long as they keep employing a coach that has not had a direction for quite some time.

Team North America Showing Bright Future At World Cup

The NHL is seeing it’s bright and promising future flourish at the World Cup Of Hockey

 

When the World Cup of Hockey was announced, there was both optimism and skepticism about how the tournament showcasing stars would go. Fans who were craving hockey are excited that it is back, but analysts and writers worried about the amount of injuries to certain players would affect the teams heading into the NHL Season.   But with the formation of the super rookie team in Team North America – a team made up of some of the best young stars the hockey world has to offer – This tournament is showing just how impressive the future of the NHL really is.

They made an European team made up of some decent players look foolish in the couple of exhibition games, we saw their speed and skill front and center and made proven NHL goalies like Tuukka Rask look normal. At first it seemed a little weird in an international tournament that a team made up of multi-national players would be competing in it, but after a few games in they are the most favorite to watch for some, because in a game of speed young legs are a needed factor.

Injuries are always a scare with a tournament like this so close to the regular season. Players have already felt the injury bug and the official start has not even happened yet. If any team were to suffer with a player or two go down with injuries it would be Team North America. They have the skill to cover the scoring losses, but experience is a few with this team and if one key guy goes down it could be real hard for Team North America to find that extra push come to when the tournament starts and pressure starts to mount.

With the NHL season so close, teams that are rebuilding or are dependant on a young core of players will be watching extra carefully on how these young stars fare on the tournament.  It’s a gamble in general to have this event because of injuries, and if one of the young stars has a serious injury we could see the teams and owners wanting the World Cup to be a one time thing.

Still even with the backlash and the worry of injuries, the World Cup of Hockey will be a hockey event that will feature some of the best young talent the game has to offer. The amounts of skill and promise North America is showing is amazing and it really sets the next few years up real nicely.

The NHL is always trying to grow the game internationally, to try to find that budding of young stars that represent the future of the league and to be able to get international eyes watching. The World Cup focuses on that, and with such a talented core like North America running the event, it is leading the NHL in the right direction towards outside popularity and a bigger overall brand not just focused on Canada or the States. The World Cup is kinda silly, but it shows a purpose in putting their youngest and most promising players front and center for the world to see.

 

Country Strong: Can The Nashville Predators Finally Make That Big Push

The Nashville Predators always seem like one of those teams that you think they have everything in a team that you would want, but get confused as to why they are never the teams like Chicago or the Kings that can build a masterpiece of a team and win the big one. After a tremendous 2014-15 season that saw them finish with a franchise best 104 points after only talling 88 the season before. It also saw the rise of young stud dman Roman Josi, who tallied his than personal best of 55 points only to raise it up to 60 the year later. Colin Wilson posted his best season of his career with 42 points, but failed to keep up only posting 24 points in 67 games. Pekka Rinne was supposed to be the Predators reliable backstop but had a real up and down last couple of years. In 2013 he posted only a .902 SV% but in 2014 he posted a much more respectable .923 Sv%, it dropped again though in 2015 as he posted a .9o8 SV% and really seemed to be out-of-place.

Overall it was a letdown season for the Preds as a team only posting 96 points and bouncing out of the second round to the cup finale bound San Jose Sharks. But with the addition of a superstar PK Subban to an already stacked d core makes the Preds as dangerous as ever to compete for a cup.

The Predators are too loaded with talented youth and skill to have another disappointing season. Fillip Forsberg just gets better and better every year, posting a career best 64 points and being the offensive leader for the Predators. At age 22 Fillip Forsberg is still growing and learning, and with solid vets like Mike Fisher around, Forsberg can be a lethal offensive weapon for the Preds come the season opener.

Ryan Johansen was acquired by the Preds last season and saw his numbers increase from 26 to 34 and it looked like the perfect fit with what the Preds are doing. Gather a group of young and talented players and build around making them good while also still competing. Ryan Johansen wanted a change out of Columbus and go to a winner, and if everything goes good Johansen could see himself become a winner sooner than later.

Roman Josi might be the most intriguing to watch, as he gets set to partner on the blueline with newly acquired PK Subban. Josi has gone from top young prospect to elite and reliable defenseman for the Predators. He was second on the team in points with 61  and really established himself as one the best defenseman in the game today. At age 26 he is just starting to find his form, and with Subban next to him on the blueline, the Predators will have a dangerous 1-2 punch on the backhand for years to come.

The Nashville Predators had an up and down last couple of years, but with a young and skilled blue line, a youth driven forward core and a really good coach in Peter Laviolette the Predators are ready to make the big jump and compete for a Stanley Cup.

 

3 Questions Facing the 2016-17 Toronto Raptors

 

The Toronto Raptors had one of if not the best season in franchise history last year, finishing with a team best record of 56-26 good for second in the east and a trip to the eastern conference finals before eventually bowing out to Cleveland in 6 games. But despite the loss the Raptors had an exceptional season that only raised the expectations of the team coming into the 2016-17 season. A revamped Eastern Conference that showed Boston getting Al Horford and the Bulls getting a veteran star in Dwayne Wade will provide a new set of challenges for the Dinos, and here are 3 key questions they face heading into the season.

  1. Can Demar Derozan Come Through And Prove His New Deal.  

Demar Derozan had a fantastic regular season that had him averaging 23.5 points per game while shooting 44% from the field. He also had his best season PER averaging 21.5, his usage meanwhile was also his career high due to the Raptors iso based offense. He made the All-Star team for the second time in his career and looked to have a great post-season, but unfortunately he struggled alongside Kyle Lowry for most of the post-season and was one of the factors in the Raptors struggling to have consistent offense.

Even after the struggles of the playoffs for Demar, there was no real doubt that he would leave Toronto, he wanted to stay with the team that gave him a chance to become a star. Like his fellow teammate and friend Kyle Lowry, he showed dedication and loyalty to a team that was known for past stars bouncing given the chance.

The Raptors followed through on their promise signing Derozan to a massive five-year 139 million dollar deal insuring the Raptors and Demar Derozan are both in this for the long haul. Demar now has a chip on his shoulder and has a big task of proving he is worth that much.

As much as a scorer Derozan is his game is only consistent inside the three-point line only shooting only 33% from behind the arc while he managed to take most of his shots from the mid range averaging 44% from 15 feet out. His shot is there he just needs to realize his best options and not give in to the open three point shot.

Derozan should again be a valuable asset to the Raptors, but the first season after a big contract is always the most looked at and a big question is whether he can produce in the post-season after years of disappointment. I think Demar has it in him and Demar can realize it if he works hard enough.

2.  Will Jonas Valanciunas Become An All Star. 

It was a coming out party for a couple of Raptors last season, one of them being center Jonas Valanciunas, who saw his greatest output offensively as well as on the glass averaging close to 13 points and 12 boards a game. He battled injuries and lack of touches to have a very productive season for the Raptors, he gave them a solid 1-2 punch with defensive specialist Bismack Biyombo captaining the second unit.

His pick and roll offense was a key set with Kyle lowry last year, and his post game got more and more consistent in the mid range elbow area being able to knock down open shots and not use the  pump fake to try to bait his opponent. If Jonas had not gotten hurt or if he would have gotten more touches in the Raptors offense who knows how good he would have gotten. The growth and the maturity grew with Jonas, while also thriving in a league that is getting more and more used to having smaller centers who can knock down 20 footers and even hit some threes.

the ability of Jonas to go from utility center to All-Star will heavily depend on his patience to make his old school game work in a game where more pick and pop is being used. His post game is getting better but still needs work, his footwork needs work and he needs to be able to do more than just a shoulder to your chest running hook. The pick and roll with Lowry was his best weapon, at times it was seldom used but when it did work it gave the Raptors two very lethal options. Have a big switch to Lowry and he would use his quickness to get into the lane, have a guard switch to jonas and it would be an easy matchup that Valanciunas would easily take advantage of.

If Jonas can continue to get better and keep in the work ethic; the Raptors realize the talent of JV and give him better touches as well as  looks at the basket he should be able to flourish and be a consideration for the Eastern Conference team down in New Orleans next year.

3. Will This Be Norman Powell’s Coming Out Party

The other Raptor who had a eye-opening year was rookie Norman Powell. He fit in right away with the club, giving them athleticism and stingy defense at the 3 that 4 year player Terrence Ross struggled to do. He was originally a slashing forward kind of reminiscent of the Joey Graham years, but Powell had more hunger and want to make this team permanently after spending time in the D-League down in Mississauga for the Raptors 905.

He showed how valuable a development team can be for a young player like Powell. He led the team in points, steals and minutes, and showed he was ready for the primetime. The Raptors agreed, calling him up and after eventually putting him in the starting lineup.  Powell was a key piece for the Raptors and they contributed better with Powell on the court than off, according to Basketball Reference

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Powell had a rough playoffs but for him it was all about experience, being able to see what the big time was like with a team that went so far and achieved so much for such little history. If another dominating summer league from Powell showed anything, is that he is ready to hit the NBA full-time and it is only a matter of patience and growth.

The Raptors saw their team grow and go farther than they ever saw any former incarnation of the team go, and despite losing to the future champ Cavs in a series they had no chance off, they still took two games from the champs. The Raptors are looking like they will repeat as the second seed in the Eastern Conference, The Cavs are a juggernaut and it will take a miracle on ice for the Raps to beat them. But this is about showing that they can again make it to the East Finals and presumably face off against the Cavs, and who knows maybe miracles do happen on the court.