The Toronto Raptors have had some miscues down the stretch of games recently and it leads to the question: Who should be given the ball with the game on the line? The answer is complicated but Amit Mann is here to guide you through the possibilities.
- Onions! Big-time onions!
- [? Tough ?] shots, and he hits it.
- He is ridiculously impressive.
- Bang, bang, bang, Pascal Siakam.
AMIT MANN: So who takes the final shot for the Toronto Raptors? In the absence of a bad man like Dame or Steph--
MIKE BREEN: Bang! Oh, what a shot from Curry!
- It's good!
AMIT MANN: --a slim reaper like KD--
MARV ALBERT: He shoots. Yes!
AMIT MANN: --or the experience and playmaking combination of LeBron--
- LeBron James delivers.
AMIT MANN: This can be a tricky question for franchises to answer, and for the Raptors in the past, it's been Kyle or DeMar, or for one blissful season, Kawhi Leonard.
KEVIN HARLAN: Is this the dagger? Oh!
AMIT MANN: That dumbass voice you hear is mine.
Oh my God!
Ugh. The Raptors have a few players with the skill to be, as Shay would say, him--
- What a shot!
AMIT MANN: --but maybe not someone who is the total package, but that doesn't mean they can't execute down the stretch of games. Let's discuss starting with the fourth quarter versus the Nets.
So here Nick decided to not call a timeout and gave Fred the ball to get a bucket. The problem with this is Fred wasn't put in a position to be successful. Why? David Duke, Jr. is 6' 4", an athletic guard. Fred is 6' 1". Teams are increasingly using bigger, more athletic players on Freddy because he's cooking their point guards. Similar to the OKC game where Fred tried to go downhill on Shake, he doesn't have the burst or quick release to get a quality shot off in these matchups.
With that said, we know Freddy has ice in his veins. He's 12th overall in fourth-quarter scoring and has hit some big-time buckets for the Raptors.
But look at these examples. He's hitting shots coming off screens. He's working high pick and rolls where he can make space or attacking a mismatch. That's how you've got to use Fred in the clutch.
It sounds kind of silly, but you do at the very least have to make sure you get the ball to the rim. You've got to give yourself a chance, and the Raptors have a few players that are probably better suited to do something like this in isolation situations.
- Two seconds. Trent drill it!
AMIT MANN: Man that was a fun game. Gary showed off his clutch gene last season and has followed it up with a few daggers this year. He's got a lightning-quick release, and it's got a decent chance of going in, and his step back is as beautiful as it is lethal.
Because of his speed, it would take a special kind of player to block his shot. So when you have, say, oh, I don't know, Patty Mills guarding him with 10 seconds remaining, he's not a bad option.
While his footwork is pretty impressive when it comes to his jumper, around the bucket, not so much, at least not yet. He's only 22 years old, so I'm certain he's going to grow in this area, but at the moment he doesn't really have, like, the trickery or the physicality to finish in the paint when there's a lot of bodies in there. You know down the stretch of games it gets very physical down there. And also, I mean, he's not exactly the best passer, so you can't really rely on him to find the open man.
- [INAUDIBLE] rebound. Gary Trent, Jr. the lead.
AMIT MANN: But he's shooting 43% on catch-and-shoot 3's, which is 8% better than the 17 games with Toronto last season. So Gary as your pull-up threat, a pick and popper-- you find him, you know, curling off screens or something kind of like that-- isn't a bad option at all, and he only needs, like, one second to get the shot off.
Meanwhile, OG Anunoby only needs exactly 0.5 seconds.
BRIAN ANDERSON: [INAUDIBLE] on the line. Anunoby got it off, and it goes!
AMIT MANN: I have a love-hate relationship with that series. Anyways, OG Anunoby, we are in the midst of his leap year, and I can't wait for him to return to just show more of his versatility on the offensive end. I mean step-back 3's, sidestep 3's, fadeaways out of the post, or a fine dribble that he can use to get to the bucket or rise up for jumpers. So he'll be able to shoot over just about anyone. Heck, he shot over Jarrett Allen.
My issue with this play is I'd rather see Khem Birch screen down for OG to let him get some steam going to the ball. That way Jarrett Allen wouldn't be here. He'd be somewhere here. It was a 1-point game, so Allen had to protect the rim, which would have opened up more of the midrange for OG. Anyways, OG has shown a knack for finding the open man on dive and kicks and obviously is not afraid of the moment.
So what's his weakness? Well, it's kind of just polish overall. He still isn't as fluid as you'd like with his movements. The ball could get poked away with increased attention, and despite taking four more 2-point shots this season, he's still only averaging two free throws a game, so there's room for improvement there.
- Siakam drives, gets into the lane, puts it up and in.
AMIT MANN: Pascal Siakam, on the other hand, is a lot better at getting to the free-throw line and is legit the Raptors' best offensive weapon and is the most consistent player when it comes to bending the defense. He's taken almost half as many midrange shots as he did last season despite only playing 17 games and is dramatically better in the 5 to 9 feet range. He's still only heading 32% of his 3-point shots, so it's below league average. We're hoping over time that's going to increase.
But overall, Pascal has exceptional stride length. His post moves can be deadly, and he's kind of your only player who's capable of scoring on any player anywhere on the court, which is really important when we talk about just getting the ball to the rim.
- Shows the double. Siakam tough jumper. It's off. Siakam trying to get the tip in, and that will do it.
AMIT MANN: But these were scarring and depressing, and I'm not really sure if Pascal has moved on from this. But, really, the only way to find out is by giving him the ball and finding out.
The OKC game seemed like a time you could have cleared a side for him to drive or put him right here. He was 10 or 15 in the game, was getting doubled constantly. They were having issues with him.
Look, he's performed under the brightest lights. He hit one of the clutchest shots in Raptors franchise history. He's your max-contract guy. He needs to be involved down the stretch of games, and if it's not him shooting, it's screening. It's him being a decoy. And maybe even more importantly, it gives you a chance to get Fred off the ball as a shooter.
- One on one with KD. Firing off the spin. He finishes.
AMIT MANN: And now finally our rook, Scottie Barnes. In the blink of an eye, he's taken huge steps forward in isolation scoring.
IAN EAGLE: Edwards there defensively. Step back. Oh, ridiculous.
AMIT MANN: He's shooting 41% from 3 over his last 10 games. Scouts definitely did not see that coming.
- Go to work, young man.
- And he puts up the shot. That's a double clutch.
AMIT MANN: And his poise as a post scorer is coming through. I mean, he's 6' 9".
NICK NURSE: And he's 6' 10".
AMIT MANN: Could be 6' 11" by the end of this video.
There are going to be times when OG returns that teams are simply not going to have enough size to cover OG and Pascal and Scottie. And if you're telling me that the Raptors are going to give Scottie Barnes the ball with 10 seconds left 10 to 15 feet away from the bucket and a mismatch, I don't mind that option because he's got a flair for finishing down low, and this is going to help him grow.
PASCAL SIAKAM: And the sky's the limit for him.
AMIT MANN: You heard Pascal. So that was a lot of information.
To recap, Fred's your most steady hand and is least likely to mess up but will struggle against bigger, more athletic guards. Gary can shoot over almost anyone but might have issues around the bucket and isn't a great passer. OG could score from anywhere on the court but is lacking a bit in the mechanics department. Pascal is probably your best option if he's mentally ready for it. And Scottie has inserted himself into the combo for end-of-game possessions, which is a great step for him in his rookie season.
Overall, Nick Nurse has a locker combination of options, but there is only one code for each game. So he's going to have to get crafty, find ways to expose the other team, and choose the player who is best suited to win you the game.