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Analyzing Raptors’ big men after Monroe signing

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The Raptors flexible big man rotation is a good problem to have. Greg Monroe‘s signing yesterday, 1 year $2.2 million, adds another body to the versatile group. Full information on Monroe signing here.

With Monroe, the Raptors now have a total of six “bigs” (4s and 5s) that will be in the rotation.

Jonas Valanciunas, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, OG Anunoby, Kawhi Leonard and now Monroe.

Why OG and Kawhi?

It’s no secret a bunch of teams in the NBA are trying to replicate the Golden State Warriors small ball formula. With Nick Nurse at the helm, an offensive minded coach, there’s no reason to doubt the Raptors will take their crack at it this season.

With all the shooting and versatility on the team it would be malpractice not to experiment with small lineups.

Also for Anunoby and Leonard to be on the court together, one of them likely will have to play the four. Both are skilled enough and have the strength to play stretch four. Anunoby at six-foot-8 and 235 pounds might be more suited to fill the role because he’s an inch taller and 5 pounds heavier according to the NBA’s listings. Not to mention he’s 21 years-old and should continue to get bigger every year.

Draymond Green is listed at six-foot-seven and 230 pounds for context.

Anunoby shot 37 per cent from three last season and Leonard shot 38 per cent in his last full season with the San Antonio Spurs in 2016-17.

Both should get their chances as the Raptors mix and match lineups throughout the early part of the season. Remember last season Norman Powell was a starter and Anunoby came off the bench.

The Raptors shouldn’t be afraid to experiment because they don’t know exactly what will work in the regular season. Imagine what a hypothetical Raptor “death lineup” could look like this season.

Lowry, Green, Leonard, Anunoby and Ibaka. A couple players could be switched but the point is the same.

On paper this kind of lineup would allow the Raptors to matchup with other small units easier. The Cavaliers clearly exposed them in that area in the playoffs. All of them have the ability to shoot, run the floor, and guard multiple positions. Obviously Lowry and Green aren’t looking to defend forwards but it happens playing this style.

Stephen Curry matched up one on one with Lebron James almost once every quarter in the finals this past June. The Warriors still swept them. The Raptors as a whole are challenged defensively already. Maximizing the team’s offensive potential possibly is the best avenue to success. Especially with an offensive minded head coach. Only the games will show if either of Anunoby or Leonard can actually fit the role but they should have their opportunities.

The Rest of the bunch?

The Raptors have a group of talented and experienced big’s.

Valanciunas, Siakam, Ibaka, and Monroe, with the exception of Siakam, are all veterans with at least six years under their best. The most intriguing thing about these guys is their versatility as a unit.

JV and Ibaka are both quintessential big men offensively for modern basketball. Mobile, with the ability to step outside and make three’s. The two can also play old school back to the rim basketball, more so Valanciunas as age is beginning to catch up with Ibaka.

Nevertheless, they both have the skillset to play effectively in multiple lineups. Big or small.

It will be interesting to see if Valanciunas can play with a small ball unit consistently or if the Raptors will try to keep another big on the court with him.

JV has consistently improved over his career. Last year we all know he added the 3-point shot to his arsenal. He shot 40 per cent during the regular season and post-season.

If history is any indication, Valanciunas will continue to expand his game and improve.

Ibaka is consistent in his inconsistency. Some nights he has it some nights he’s off. He’s on the downside of his career but nowhere near washed up. He should be able to put together a couple more productive season’s in Toronto unless he’s traded.

Ibaka has valuable playoff and finals experience the Raptors may need if things go the way the city is hoping.

The Wildcard

Pascal Siakam is one of the most intriguing players in the league. A six foot nine power forward that run’s the floor and jumps like a guard.

Still raw as a player, coming into his third season, the possibilities once he develops are almost endless.

Last season he averaged 7.3 points per game with a 50.8 per cent field goal percentage. Last season he primarily played the four. It’s possible Nurse could put him in multiple different lineups.

Siakam has the build and ball handling to develop into an Anthony Davis type player. Not saying he will become as good as Davis, but he can do similar things. Run the floor, shot block, catch lobs, and occasionally hit threes on good nights.

The Raptors are in a good situation. With all their talent and the prospect of playing small, Siakam might not get massive minutes. He might not be needed for more than 15-20 reliable minutes off the bench. Last season he averaged 20.7 minutes.

On the flip side he could play a big role if guys don’t produce or if the team wants to keep it traditional offensively. If Ibaka were to start, Siakam would be the lone true power forward on the bench.

Many questions about Siakam will be determined by what role the Raptors place him in. His versatility makes it difficult to predict his role on the team this season under the circumstances of the Kawhi trade and a new coach. But his potential and the Raptors lack of other true power foward’s could make it hard to keep him on the bench.

The New Guy

Not a huge signing or game changer but Monroe is a solid addition for depth.

The six-foot-11 big man moved teams four times in the last year, including coming to Toronto, but still can give the Raptors great value in a limited role.

The Raptors will need something out of him. Without him the team is relatively small. The Kawhi trade also means someone has to replace Jakob Poeltl‘s 18.6 minutes per game. The Raptors will need him to pick up some of those minutes.

As stated earlier the team will probably play more small ball so Monroe won’t have to replace all those minutes.

He’s a solid rebounder and inside scorer. Averaging 8.6 rebounds and 13.7 points per game over his eight year career. The Raptors are probably hoping he can be effective in short stretches or in case of an injury.

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1 thought on “Analyzing Raptors’ big men after Monroe signing”

  1. Did i just read this right “The Raptors as a whole are challenged defensively already.” How are they challenged by their greatest strength? This team was already a top 5 defensive team last year.. Swap demar with not 1 but 2 defensive monsters on the wings and this is hands down the best defensive team we’ve ever had and very possibly the best in the league this year.


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