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Toronto Raptors Season Review: Frontcourt

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Coming off of the 16-17 NBA season, the Toronto Raptors were certainly more set in how they envisioned their front-court. With Serge Ibaka firmly established as the starting power forward and Patrick Patterson, Demarre Carroll, and PJ Tucker on the way out, continuity seemed to be the springboard for the Raptors’ success. Now that Valanciunas could play with a true stretch-four, the Raptors offence was primed for the revitalization that we saw this past season.

It certainly needs to be mentioned that the Toronto Raptors have one of the most international frontcourts in the NBA. Brazil, Austria, Cameroon, Congo, and Lithuania are the countries represented at the PF and C position for the Toronto Raptors. Say what you will about on-court production, the Raptors are representing diversity at a level you couldn’t imagine even ten years ago in the NBA. We The North? No, We The World.

Lucas Nogueria

Nogueria was not extended a qualifying offer for 18-19

 8.5 MIN, 2.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.9 BPG, .263 3P%, .721 2P%, .679 FT%


In a way you could say Bebe did exactly what we expected and still disappointed. For another year Bebe was given the opportunity to be the primary backup to JV at the beginning of the season. After an on-off preseason followed by an injury to begin the regular season, he was quickly supplanted in the starting lineup by Jakob Poeltl.

Bebe did put up an impressive 17 points and 9 rebounds to go with 2 assists, steals, and a massive 5 blocks against the Portland Trailblazers early in the season. In fact, his opportunity was fair, logging more than ten minutes in ten games by the end of December. It was just inconsistency and being placed in a role doomed for failure that did him in. Being asked to guard mobile bigs and switch on the pick-and-roll are weaknesses, but at his age and development you have to see some fault in where he was placed rather than the results of his effort.

Verdict: C

  • Bebe is a very skilled player, just wholely underappreciated in today’s NBA and especially with the Toronto Raptors. While he’s no Clint Capela, you wouldn’t say to anyone that he wouldn’t be successful working off the PnR with a talented wing or that being the primary passer out of the high post for a stretch offence wouldn’t be to his strengths. He might be out of the league next season due to lack of exposure alone, or we’ll see him teamed up on teams like the Rockets or Spurs who can utilize his skills while understanding his limitations.


Jakob Poeltl

18.6 MIN, 6.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.2 BPG, .500 3P%, .660 2P%, .594 FT%


For the second year in a row Yak has truly impressed. Going ninth overall, most NBA pundits rated him a bust. A top ten pick that averages 7 PPG and 5 RPG isn’t something that the average pundit appreciates. Yak’s role this year was significantly more diverse and in teaming with the bench mob, his skills were truly on display throughout the season.

Coming out of college, Poeltl’s ability to move his feet was noted and valued. For today’s NBA, it’s important for a big man to not be exposed on every turn by the opposing guard. Not only did he excel in not getting beat on switches, he did excellently to stay in front of his more agile defender more often than not. On the help side he improved by bounds, raising his BPG from 0.4 to 1.2 for the season. His start to the season was excellent, posting a double-double against the Spurs and Warriors while beating out Bebe in the rotation.  Outside of being outmuscled or outclassed, Poeltl kept his consistency throughout the year allowing the bench mob to truly flourish. Oh, who else gets giddy when you see an inside feed from Pascal to Yak for the finish?

Verdict: A

  • Yak is showing skills that suppose he will have a long career in this NBA. Though, when his athleticism fades and he’s relegated to a grinders role (which he excels at) what is there left for him to contribute? The drive and kick offence of the bench mob worked as he and Siakam slammed the offensive boards, but paired with more individualistic offensive schemes he is left on a island and needs to become more of an option. Let’s wait and see if Yak develops that mid-range J to complement his game, as a poor free-throw shooter it’ll be a while for development but seems a natural next step.

Pascal Siakam

20.7 MIN, 7.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG, .220 3P%, .612 2P%, .621 FT%


Was that Pascal Siakam we saw out there this past season or was that a Cameroonian Draymond Green putting on a show for the Raptors this season? It began with him doing what we expected, hitting the boards, running in transition, and dropping deep for easy layups. Last season he started blocking some shots, this season we saw him dropping dimes, pushing the ball in transition, and even hitting a couple open jumpers.

Tempo change is about the best way you could describe what Pascal did for the Raps when he came into the game. Coming off a slow-footed starting lineup for the Raptors, the injection of speed and youth that the bench mob brings in is almost unrivalled in the NBA. Most valuable though was his defence. In his first season he at times looked like he’d been thrown to the wolves when moved onto a big name on D. This season, he relished the opportunity. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George, all of them got a taste of Pascal Siakam and while they’ll always get theirs P-Skills did a remarkable job all season as the go-to defensive option off the bench.

Verdict: A

  • Pascal really came into his own this season. Knowing he’s not the most potent option in any offensive situation, he focused his efforts on the less tangible plays that will endear you to coaches and fans alike. He’s got a bit of JYD in him (the good one, not the one we dumped at the Brooklyn Humane Society) which will take him a long way. Get that shot going young man and stay on track with skill development, we might be talking about a big pay-day.

Serge Ibaka

27.5 MIN, 12.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.4 SPG, 1.3 BPG, .360 3P%, .559 2P%, .797 FT%

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Toronto Raptors

Every time he comes on the court it truly is a tale of two Serge’s. To the point Raptors fans almost came to accept the idea of “Serge on one-days rest is a world beater”. Well, you don’t always get that. What we did seem to get was clanking unwarranted mid-range jumpers on the first opportunity from the free-throw line extended.

On the defensive end he brought it and we can’t really ask for more there. He blocked shots, stayed with drivers, and switched out when asked. Frankly, he was probably the Raptors most successful defensive big. While there’s some annoyances to his shot selection, he is also a viable candidate from the mid-range. It all seemed to come down to his body. On some days he looked like himself from days at OKC, bouncy and full of effort. On other days he seemed like he moved with cement blocks in his shoes.

Verdict: C

  • Don’t get me wrong, without Serge the Raps don’t get to 59 wins or maybe even out of the first round. He was essential to the Raptors success in almost every way. Unfortunately, as the season progressed it seemed Serge’s effort couldn’t be sustained and it’s worrisome for someone in the first year of a $65m contract. He’s also only 28, but if Kobe could loan us that Cryo-Chamber he uses for recovery we’ve got a unit of a big man that could use it.

Jonas Valanciunas

22.4 MIN, 12.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.9 BPG, .405 3P%, .587 2P%, .806 FT%


In game one of the Raptors’ second round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jonas Valanciunas went for 21 points and 21 rebounds. There wasn’t a soul that could guard him down low. In subsequent games Kevin Love woke up and decided not to beat JV one-on-one but use his quickness to beat him off the ball and trust James to set him up. That Cleveland series really summed up JV’s season. In situations where he could truly dominate and contribute, he did. But at the slightest resemblance of unsteadiness on the defensive end he was taken out entirely and the Raps were robbed of his other contributions.

Now, I’m not saying JV doesn’t have to play defence. He’s a great one-on-one post defender and even improved his help-side positioning and reactions this year. He’s just not the most talented passer and struggles for opportunity in what was supposed to be an egalitarian offence (the bench mob succeeded in that regard more than the starters). He has to be a weapon when he’s on the court, if not you may as well play Ibaka at centre. The development of his three-point shot has been a revelation and with that we saw the return of bouncy Valanciunas from his rookie season that would take one dribble and finish at the rack. He’s only 26 years old everyone, loves Toronto, and is on one of the more reasonable if not tradable contracts. Unlike some, with JV we always know what we’re going to get and he brings it.

Verdict: B

  • Skill development was huge for JV and we saw it this year. Watching Dwight Howard go sailing on a three-point pump fake then on the very next play stay home and watch JV sink a three summed up the offensive weapons he showed this year. He’ll never have the foot speed to keep up with guards, but without him on the court there’s a severe downgrade on the offence and on the boards. The Raptors should think long and hard with what they want out of JV and his contract. 


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