After another demoralizing sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, many are writing the Raptors off for good labelling this season as their chance to prove their worth.
Unfortunately, this series could have taken a different turn if game one and three ended differently, but the Raptors had absolutely no answer for LeBron and the Cavaliers. Thus, it is another summer of questioning what the team needs to do going forward.
Building for the future requires taking a brief seat back rather than letting knee-jerk, emotional reactions to short term failures dictate your decision making from this point onwards.
With that in mind, I will give a grade for every player on the Raptors from the season and the playoffs separately.
Point Guard: Kyle Lowry – 16.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 6.9 APG
Season Grade: B
Playoffs Grade: B+
Despite posting career lows in points per game, Lowry rebranded his game from an athletic slashing guard to a bit more of a selective shooting three point specialist at point guard. While he brought his usual defensive intangibles, charge drawing ability and hustle, Lowry took just 12 shots per game, and averaged under 17 points, despite his improved efficiency.
While I wanted to give a higher grade than a B, Lowry wasn’t a standout offensive player in the East, and I gave him a B grade because he kind of just did what we expected less often. He did his job, but I found that he lacked the same ability to create his own shot and when the team needed it the most, we saw flashes of that in game three against the Cavaliers, but overall in many games that the Raptors struggled to score, Lowry wasn’t always consistently able to take over a game like the other elites of the NBA.
So, while his lesser amount of shots can be attributed to Nick Nurse’s offence emphasizing ball movement and less isolation, Lowry seemed to lack the same ability to show off that ability to take over games when the team needed it most with the exception of a few select games this year.
Lowry had a great season, and a very efficient playoffs, but I believe the five points that he scored in the elimination game in Cleveland kind of shows that Lowry may not be able to be a top two option on a team that can ever compete and go really far in the playoffs.
I love Kyle and I hope this doesn’t come across negatively, because he had a very good season at both ends of the floor
DeMar DeRozan – 23.0 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.9 RPG
Season Grade: A-
Playoffs Grade – C
DeMar had a phenomenal season posting a career high in assists, setting the individual points record in a single in Raptors history, becoming more willing to drive to the rim, and lower the amount of mid range jumpers that he took.
The Compton native even added a passable three point shot to his repertoire, which was a revelation at times while at others being a hinderance to his game. DeRozan shot 31% on threes during the season, but it was nice to see him willing to take that shot rather than shooting a step inside the line at a similar efficiency.
While his improvements were prevalent during the season, DeMar’s old tendencies started to resurface in the playoffs. He went into full hero ball mode in game four against the Wizards which led to him scoring 35 points, but it took him 29 shots to get there, and many of those shots were contested isolation jumpers late in the game that the Raptors wound up losing.
Despite that, DeMar was good against Washington, however in round two he scored just 67 points on 66 shots against the Cavaliers who used a combination of J.R. Smith and Jeff Green with Kevin Love rim protecting for the majority of his struggles. This is simply not good enough, and when DeRozan isn’t scoring well in the playoffs, he is a hard guy to keep on the court.
Unlike a Paul George, who shot 2-16 with five points against Utah in an elimination game, it becomes difficult to keep DeMar on the floor because he struggles as an off ball spacer, and he is a poor defender. If he is not scoring well, he is hurting your team, and that efficiency in the second round shows that DeMar needs to improve other facets of the game to make himself a plus player when he is struggling to score.
He has gotten better every year, so here’s hoping we haven’t seen the peak yet.
OG Anunoby – 5.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 0.7 APG
Season Grade: B+
Playoff Grade: A-
The stats don’t serve OG’s value justice. While the stats to me held his grade back from being an A during the season, OG’s defence was absolutely fantastic, and his shooting was better than expected.
In fact, just having OG on the court for 74 games was a blessing for the Raptors as he was not expected to be ready for action until the middle of the season, and he did not participate in summer league.
The 2017 first round pick is looking like an absolute steal and I cannot wait until he gets a summer league tournament under his belt to develop his offensive skills.
He did everything he was asked, and the stats are not a product of him being another Andre Roberson. They were a product of playing just 230 minutes out of his 1668 without both DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas – the two highest usage players on the team.
What stood out to me for the 20 year old was the reluctance of LeBron to get matched up with him in round two and his no-fear attitude with regards to James.
The respect of James towards Anunoby was paramount, as LeBron spent the entirety of late game possessions trying to get a switch to get any other defender on him besides OG, and that speaks volumes for the talent and ability of the Indiana grad, who has many years to reach his full potential, which I believe to be very high.
Anunoby had many defensive accolades this season, including holding the likely league MVP in James Harden to 3 for 14 shooting in the first meeting between the two teams of the season.
It was about as exciting a season as possible for someone who averaged just six points per game.
Serge Ibaka – 12.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 0.7 APG
Season Grade: C
Playoffs Grade: D
Ibaka had an average season which featured inconsistent shooting, and average defence, but a big game sprinkled in every now and then.
Bad Serge showcased himself way more often than not. The Raptors should do their best to find a team that wants to take on this awful contract.
The playoff grade would have been worse if not for Ibaka’s big game one against the Wizards, and his good fourth quarter against the Cavaliers in game three. However, when you are paid 22 million dollars, that sort of inconsistency is unacceptable.
Ibaka’s playoffs were highlighted by awful shooting, poor defensive rotation, inconsistent play, and dumb decisions. There is no silver lining or way to sugar coat this. He was awful and he is a problem with the Raptors going forward.
Ibaka averaged eight points per game in the playoffs and his label as a great rim protector and defender is simply outdated.
The positives are the good games and if he could be more consistent offensively I could live with his flaws, but Ibaka is what he is.
His playoffs to me can be summed up in game four when he tried an isolation on LeBron, almost fell over, and got called for a travel. After you couldn’t penetrate on Kyle Korver all series, you thought getting Lebron on you was a good switch?
Jonas Valanciunas: 12.7 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.1 APG
Season Grade: B
Playoffs Grade: A-
While Valanciunas has his flaws, he makes up for it by being a dominant post presence. In limited minutes, Valanciunas was a virtual lock for a double double if he was faced up with another team that didn’t go small, and this alone makes him a valuable commodity.
While he had ups and downs during the year, and Jakob Poeltl at times seemed poised to overtake him, the Lithuanian always seemed to bring out his best fundamental abilities and he played hard every night despite his limitations.
While he can never be a 35 minute a game centre due to his slow footedness and the changing NBA, for a traditional NBA centre, Valanciunas is one of the most reliable ones. He even shot 40% on his three pointers this year!
In the playoffs, despite missing that game one bunny against Cleveland at the buzzer, I thought Valanciunas was phenomenal. He was a rebounding presence and threat out there, and despite his shortcomings for covering guys like Kevin Love on the perimeter, for what he is, he does his job every night. He was also one of the few players to show up against Cleveland in all four games, averaging 16.3 PPG, 12.3 RPG and 1.8 BPG in just 24 minutes a game.
It is so easy to forget that he is only 26 years old. He continues to improve and I was happy with him this season.
Fred VanVleet: 8.6 PPG, 3.2 APG, 2.4 RPG
Season Grade: A
Playoff Grade: C-
Steady Freddy was a God send off the Raptors this season. He had a net rating that topped that of Steph Curry, and a presence that was hard to quantify.
VanVleet made everyone around him better, as the Raptors bench was the best in the NBA. Here are some cool stats.
The four bench players WITHOUT VanVleet: ORTG – 101.1, DRTG – 115.7, NET – -14.6
The four bench players WITH VanVleet: ORTG – 125.9, DRTG – 105.5, Net – +20.4
If this doesn’t reflect Fred’s value to the bench, I’m not too sure what will.
VanVleet was a catalyst for many comebacks and he was present in almost every single one of the Raptors best lineups.
While the season was fantastic, the playoffs were a different story. Dwane Casey stupidly played all of his players in the final game against the Miami Heat, and VanVleet hurt his shoulder. He was not the same in the playoffs after recovering.
He had many poor moments and missed two game winners, and also had that brain cramp in Cleveland when he didn’t know how much time was on the shot clock near the end of game three. Perhaps it was the lack of chemistry with the different units he played for, but whatever the reason, he was simply not good.
He shot just 33% and was reminiscent of Patty Mills in Drake’s long lost brother’s body at times, dribbling in circles. Hopefully it was a health thing and we see the same Fred back next season.
Delon Wright – 8.0 PPG, 2.9 APG, 2.9 RPG
Season Grade: B
Playoffs Grade: B
Delon had an up and down season, but overall it was nice to see his shining moments this year. Wright had many big games and was a very serviceable starting point guard for the Raptors in games when Lowry got hurt.
A part of me is worried about how bad that bench looked this season and during the playoffs when VanVleet sat out, but I do think Wright has great intangibles to be a very good two way player.
He spent a lot of the year improving his three point shot, but I struggle to believe that he can create his own threes and knock them down consistently, rather than just catch and shoot threes that the defence gives him.
In round one, Delon won the Raptors game five and was vital in sealing the game two win against the Wizards.
In round two he was a no show, but without him there may not be a round two for the Raptors.
Jakob Poeltl 6.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 0.7 APG
Season Grade: B
Playoffs Grade: D
Jakob had a really good season, and turned into an excellent option at the centre position, while having many huge games for the Raptors at both ends of the court. His play was highlighted by blocked shots, rebounding, and hustle plays. He also possessed a very good ability to switch for a 22 year old.
At times, he threatened the starting job from Valanciunas.
Poeltl struggled in the playoffs, but he is still very young, and there is time for him to grow.
Pascal Siakam – 7.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.0 APG
Season Grade: B+
Playoff Grade: B-
Siakam had a terrific season, and is your perfect modern-day hybrid forward. He can drive, run the floor, stretch out a defence in the fast break, and make the extra pass. He also has an incredible ability to switch onto guards and wing players.
He is extremely versatile, and the only part of his game that needs to be worked on is his three point shooting. Siakam shot just 22% from three point range this year, including a lengthy slump where he missed 27 threes in a row, while shooting 3% from downtown for the month of December.
The form isn’t too bad, and he improved throughout the year as he shot 34% after December, and 75% in a small sample size in the playoffs.
If he can develop that shot, he can be a really special two way power forward.
C.J Miles – 10 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.8 APG
Season Grade: C+
Playoffs Grade: C+
Miles is what he is. A streaky three point shooter who is valuable when he is making shots, and a huge liability when he is not making stats.
He is an average defender, and his shot selection is at times poor. He won the team some games this year, however, and is a decent end of the bench option. However, he should not be relied upon to play significant minutes if he is not on fire like he was asked in the playoffs.
Norman Powell: 5.5 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.3 APG
Season Grade: D+
Playoff Grade: D
Norm had high hopes coming into this year off his four year extension. He did nothing but disappoint. He quickly fell out of the rotation, and seemed to try to do way too much when he came in to games in short spurts.
Norm’s value is at an all time low, so there is nothing the Raptors can do besides hoping that Norm re-establishes himself as a consistent sparkplug off the bench.
Powell remains just 24 years old so there is time.
I would have given a lower grade, but it’s hard to give a guy an F who gives 100% effort every time he is on the court at both ends. He just simply wasn’t good.
Lucas Nogueira – 2.5 PPG, 1.9 RPG
Season Grade: C
Playoff Grade: D
Nogueira hardly played, and he remains a huge presence under the basket defensively. He is simply too skinny and not talented enough to deserve minutes despite averaging over 4 blocks per 36 minutes.
Nogueira got torched in his two minutes against the Cavaliers on his assignment against Kevin Love, but he did have a good closing set of minutes in game one against the Wizards.
I believe this is all Bebe ever will be unless he finds minutes on a subpar team down the road.
Season Grade: A+
Playoff Grade: F
He was great all year with 59 wins, a new culture, a new offence and seemingly new life, but when it really mattered, Casey had no answers for the Cavaliers. The Raptors easily could have lost to Washington as well.
Putting Miles on Love in game two, constantly allowing his players to switch at will against the Cavaliers, and inexplicable lineup decisions at times make it hard to give Casey anything besides an F.
The Raptors spent the whole year preparing for the moment that they failed absolutely miserably and a lot of that was on poor preparation and in-game adjustments.
I think his time is up.