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Toronto Raptors Season Review: Wings

The Toronto Raptors wing positions are occupied by an incredibly diverse group of four that fill slots from shooting guard to power forward depending on the lineup. Gone are the days of the rigid five-position lineup and in is the flexible contributions the wing spots can bring you.

To begin the season, the wing spot saw a bit of an overhaul. Tucker, Ross, and Carroll were shipped out while Miles and Anunoby looked to fill in between the contributions of Powell and Derozan. Powell, looking to get his opportunity as a full-time role player saw the chance at the beginning of the season until an injury derailed his progress and made way for the bench mob’s success.

Norman Powell

Agreed to a 4-year $42 million extension

15.2 MIN, 5.5 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .285 3P%, .516 2P%, .821 FT% 

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It seems like Norm has been with us a lifetime when really it has only been three years. Over that three year span, inconsistent rotations, injuries, and an influx of new players made it seem every extended run for Norm was a whole new season. At the beginning of the season, Norman Powell was given a shot with the starting lineup as the starting Small Forward. At 6’4 but long he seemed tailor made for the Raptors new speedy and egalitarian offence which, honestly, seemed to work for a short time. While he didn’t start October shooting the ball well, by the beginning of November he put together a three game run scoring 14, 15, and 19, to suggest he’d finally gotten his rhythm back. However once he injured his hip against the Celtics and OG Anunoby came to life with the starting five, it seemed there was no looking back for the Raptors and Norman Powell.

While the Bench Mob was a revelation for the Raptors this season, it was a prime factor regarding why Norman Powell never truly returned to form. In an interview, Nurse stated that as the bench mob progressed together Norm was being held back by the coaches inability to include him in those lineups. As expected, Norm always put the work in, but the planning and execution of his role with any lineup was a difficult ask as he was merely a band aid for certain lineups and not a recognized option.

Verdict: C

  • Toronto loves Norman Powell. He signed an extension with the Raptors that will keep him with the team until 2022 when Powell is 29 years old. At the time it was a decent extension, being a prime piece for the future for the Raps if Derozan and Lowry fail in their three-year window. But with the current cap situation and disappointment of the Raptors’ performances he seems on the fringes of the roster. To say he needs a bounce-back season is an understatement, we can only hope he at least gets the opportunity.

CJ Miles

Acquired in a sign-and-trade from the Pacers in exchange for Cory Joseph

19.1 MIN, 10.0 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .361 3P%, .434 2P%, .835 FT%

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CJ Miles came into the Raptors organization through the sacrifice of hometown fan favourite Cory Joseph. Contractually it was necessary and with a glut of point-guards the trade-off for a dead eye three point shooter was a must. Dead eye was an understatement. Throughout the 17-18 season Miles attempted a career high 6.5 three-pointers per game while maintaining a very respectable 36% from three.

I don’t know if the bench mob would have worked if not for the shooting threat of CJ Miles. While they’re a talented group of guys, having an option to throw it to in a tough situation to hit a shot was incredibly valuable for the young lineup. Defensively he was no downgrade over Demarre Carrol and his offensive contributions while being backed up on D by pitbulls Vanvleet, Wright, Poeltl, and Siakam very much made up for any shortcomings. Posting thirty-four double digit games off the bench as primarily a spot-up shooter is nothing to scoff at.

Verdict: A

  • If your role on the team is to nail open three’s it is pretty much a pass-fail and Miles passed with flying colours. His veteran presence with the bench mob was also a key factor in their success as he was always a trustworthy outlet when the young players were in pressure situations.

OG Anunoby

Selected 23rd overall in the 2018 NBA Draft

20.0 MIN, 5.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .371 3P%, .604 2P%, .629 FT%

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Best name in the NBA, bar none. Also probably the coolest cat. Also probably the most underappreciated rookie in the league. Coming off of a difficult injury, some projected OG wouldn’t play until December. Then he was ready for training camp. Then exhibitions, preseason, soon enough OG was there for the regular season and we didn’t think twice about his physical ability. While his stats were modest, he was a steady presence for the starting lineup when given the opportunity and rarely made mistakes on either end of the court.

I feel like OG was what people wanted out of Joey Graham back in the day. A strong athletic wing defender who can make open shots and relieve pressure off the big players. His defence was a marvel throughout the season. While he’d get caught with a lot of rookie calls, playing agains the likes of DeRozan in practice surely helped him get a grasp of the offensive tricks across the NBA. Come playoffs we saw a different side of OG. Usually calm and collected, both Washington and Cleveland players tried to press the young rookie. With no hesitation OG nailed open jumpers, jammed it in players faces, and talked back to who some would consider NBA tough guys. This kid is legit.

Verdict: A

  • This kid has a great future ahead of him. He’s already got the 3&D down, so what’s left for him is refining those skills while developing team and individual skills for the future. He got into a lot of difficult situations when trying to create for himself. A developed handle and rhythm off the dribble will be valuable going forward to pair with that silky, if not a bit awkward, jumpshot.

DeMar DeRozan

33.9 MIN, 23.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .312 3P%, .456 2P%, .825 FT%

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DeRozan is undervalued in the eyes of most NBA fans. Inefficient, not great defensively, poor three-point shot, all regular criticisms of DeMar. They also like to point at how he “disappears” in the playoffs. Defences know how to play against DeMar DeRozan, but he generally gets the job done anyway. He came back this season knowing change was necessary and became a competent distributor while showing flashes of that ever deadly three-point shot the world has been clamouring for him to develop.

After averaging 27 in the previous year, DeMar chose to sacrifice points for playmaking which resulted in a career-high 5.2 assists per game. His development as almost a point-forward gave an outlet to the Raptors backcourt which didn’t stifle the offensive flow as in years past. At this point in his career we know what we’re going to get from DeMar, buckets. He’s not going to be a top-notch defender or a sniper from range. He knows his game and has developed in a way that suits it. His passing ability has worked well with the new offensive movement, allowing him to operate in space while keeping other options available. He was an MVP candidate, you don’t give that up as easily as some are clamouring for.

Verdict: B

  • His playoff performaces were great, but a bit isolated. His difficult shot selection is criticized while few give recognition to the lack of contribution from those around him which forced his hand. Everyone wants a LeBron or a Kawhi, but those are generational players that only a third of NBA teams acquire every other decade. We can’t glance over the fact that if his contract was ten-million dollars cheaper our criticisms would be more tempered. Needless to say, DeMar is a star in our NBA and regardless of their sweep to the Cavaliers you musn’t forget the NBA is played against 29 other teams. To gut your squad after a lack of success against one just doesn’t really make sense does it?

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