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Areas for Improvement for Individual Players

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  • Areas for Improvement for Individual Players

    I have to admit that, in what is going to be (barring contact dispute shortenned seasons) the longest offseason in Raptors history, I believe there is a lot of opportunity for individual improvement. I think of DeMarr (as the dominant example) coming back every fall with added dimensions to his game. Young players have the room and possibility of the largest improvements from season to season. With most of the US wide open, allowing access to gyms, personal coaching and informal group workouts, I think it is reasonable to expect Flynn, Harris, Trent, Yuta, Boucher, OG, Gillespie to all show significant improvement. Of the older guys, quite frankly I expect to see improvements in the play of Siakim, VanVleet and Birch as well.

    Siakim is a special case I think. He seemed to be most affected by the whole COVID experience. Not sure if it was him missing his family, missing his workouts and development routines or what. I'm hoping getting back to TO, and settled into a groove gets him on a better trajectory. Certainly the last two seasons do not seem like the previous ones.

    VanVleet needs to sit down and study late clock scenarios when he has the ball in his hands. Complaints about him just dribbling out the clock and then firing a hot potato to someone, or taking an ill-advised drive into a forest of trees for a layup attempt seem justified. It's had to believe there isn't something he and Nurse could work out to avoid those scenarios.

    Lowry needs to continue being Lowry

    OG needs to polish his midrange shot and continue to work on his handles. His passing was improved this year, as was his off-ball movement. Further improvements should be upcoming.

    Trent is such a streaky shooter that achieving consistency is an obvious target. He started hot after the trade and that may have been because he was just playing fast and loose. And guys were feeding him. He seems to gamble on D too much and still has to learn Nurse's system.

    In fact, all the new guys didn't have much opportunity to practice and get integrated into the Raptor's schemes. I think I was most impressed with how well Birch fit in. I also don't think he was asked to do too much other than protect the rim and provide standard help-side D. I suspect he puts more effort into developing his 3 pt shot, which he was discouraged from while with the Magic. He quadrupled his attempts and brought his % up from 19% to 29%. He is almost a career 70% free throw shooter so there is hope for an improved result next season.

    Flynn shot well beklow his expected level. 80% free throw shooter and he only shot 32% from three and 37% overall. Give him a pass due to irregular minutes and his first year in the league having to deal with the COVID BS and facing such high level competition. There is certainly room for a big-time jump in his shooting. I suspect he gets steadier minutes this coming season. He did demonstrate to Nurse, in the last quarter of the season, that he could be trusted bringing the ball up. I think his turnover to assist ratio also improves. Just based on having accumulated experience playing against NBA caliber players. Ball handling is something I would expect him to work on, along with his shooting.

    I can't go through all the players. I'm not knowledgeable enough and have outside work to do today that needs to get started, but the long off-season, and the flashes shown by a lot of the younger guys, as well as the past history of the vets, give me great confidence in continued improvement in the team.


  • #2
    FVV - More court vision. If you're running the offence, look for the better shot the overall team can get (as opposed to using 18 seconds of the clock looking for your own shot then passing the hot potato at the end of the clock when your shot is not there). Get versed at pocket passes to bigs on pick and rolls early in the clock.

    Trent - Drive more

    OG - midrange shots

    Siakam - shoot the 3 better

    Birch - Just honing the timing of rolls or pops after setting the pick, continue to shoot corner 3's

    Lowry- can't think of anything glaring

    Flynn - shoot the 3 better

    Yuta - post up and take it to the rim if it's a shorter player guarding him

    Harris - team defence awareness (will come with time)

    Chris - He's been awesome but if he wants to add another dimension to his game is popping to the midrange after the pick (like Serge used to)
    2019 NBA Champions. Glad to have doubted the doubters.

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    • #3
      Siakam just needs to play to his strengths better, which he & the team had him doing more towards the end of the season and his overall game was really coming around. More drives and scoring at the rim, more catch and shoot J's and fewer off the bounce. You can focus on that and still take a couple pull ups a game to work on that aspect, still be an initiator and create looks for others (a massively underrated successful leap in his game this past season), still play great defence.

      Another aspect they didn't really get him going on all year was easy transition points. Let him finish in transition and get some easy buckets. That's a big part of his game and they didn't feed it at all last year.

      I say you still give him a chance to close out games. Man that sucked this year, the number of final shots he had rim out, but I think he can do it. Keep giving him reps.
      "We're playing in a building." -- Kawhi Leonard

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      • #4
        I think Pascal will be a plus 3pt shooter once he gets to play in Toronto again. The splits are really crazy when you look at his numbers since he was a rookie. Tampa was not a good experience for him. My only thing with him is that he gets in his head a lot I think. He's probably our most emotional player.. and wish he learned calmness from Kawhi when he was here.

        Fred is the guy that has to improve way more.. he needs some kind of mid range shot, or ability to figure out how to play around the rim more. Maybe pass it out if he's stuck or in trouble. He's got a really good first step, and is a lethal shooter.. but just mucks it up around the paint. He needs to learn from guys like Kemba/IT/Iverson/etc.. small guards can score in the paint and around the rim. It just requires a lot of communication with bigs, and to be open to passing things out when things are not working.

        Will OG turn into Kawhi? I doubt it but his career arch is right there with Kawhi. Kawhi took that huge / superstar step though, and I don't think OG will.. but he has that ability. Will he demand the ball more? Will he have a higher usage? Does he take over games? He's hit that elite 3&D ceiling.. but hopefully that's not where he plateaus.

        The only other guy I'd like to comment on is Flynn as he's going into his sophomore year. That's a tough one, because there will be growth expectations and we'll really see if he's matured and let the game slowed down a bit for him. Lots of guys flame out in their second year though. Look at Terence Davis for example. He looks like he's got a good head though. Just needs to get better at shooting.. he's at his best when he takes control of a game.. more fearlessness I guess. Hope we see more of that next year.

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        • #5
          inthepaint wrote: View Post
          FVV - More court vision. If you're running the offence, look for the better shot the overall team can get (as opposed to using 18 seconds of the clock looking for your own shot then passing the hot potato at the end of the clock when your shot is not there). Get versed at pocket passes to bigs on pick and rolls early in the clock.
          For me, it's two things offensively: keeping his dribble alive when he gets in the paint and trusting his teammates. The latter ties into a lot of your points but the former is a much easier fix.

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          • #6
            slaw wrote: View Post

            For me, it's two things offensively: keeping his dribble alive when he gets in the paint and trusting his teammates. The latter ties into a lot of your points but the former is a much easier fix.
            That and a runner. He needs a floater from the FT line down, that's a huge shot for a small guard who's only going to get stuffed if he takes his drive right to the basket. Ja's got a great one already, can put shots right over DPOY Gobert at will. It's really critical for a small guard who wants to be able to finish when there's traffic in the lane.
            "We're playing in a building." -- Kawhi Leonard

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            • #7
              slaw wrote: View Post

              For me, it's two things offensively: keeping his dribble alive when he gets in the paint and trusting his teammates. The latter ties into a lot of your points but the former is a much easier fix.
              Maybe just my memory playing tricks on me, but it seems like he looked off a lot of guys when he took it to the rim. I mean if he is driving the paint and 3 guys meet him under the rim, there is a pass there that should have been taken. It's one thing for a guy who is uber athletic, 6'8" tall and weighs 245 lbs to invite contact and take the shot, but not a high % strategy for someone Fred's size unless you are super smart about how you do it. And I didn't see super smart methodology from Fred.

              Glad to see some others seeing obvious things that can be improved by our vets. It goes without saying that our rookies should take significant steps.

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              • #8
                Puffer wrote: View Post

                Maybe just my memory playing tricks on me, but it seems like he looked off a lot of guys when he took it to the rim. I mean if he is driving the paint and 3 guys meet him under the rim, there is a pass there that should have been taken. It's one thing for a guy who is uber athletic, 6'8" tall and weighs 245 lbs to invite contact and take the shot, but not a high % strategy for someone Fred's size unless you are super smart about how you do it. And I didn't see super smart methodology from Fred.

                Glad to see some others seeing obvious things that can be improved by our vets. It goes without saying that our rookies should take significant steps.
                In fairness to FVV, the Raps have a lot of bystanders at times and he was forced to carry an outsized load offensively far too often. If Toronto had a SG with lots of weapons, it would solve many problems, including the ball being in Fred's hands too much. Also, if the Raps are like every other team, they value layups and threes and that can lead to forcing things at the rim rather than shooting floaters (as SR points out is very helpful) or even pulling up for a jimmy (heaven forbid!).

                And there is Good Fred and Bad Fred. Good Fred does a lot of the things we are talking about but then Bad Fred rears its head and goes in the opposite direction. Which is to say this isn't a case of reinventing a player but simply the player making better decisions consitently.

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                • #9
                  Fred started to take some jumpers around the FT line on the final 1/3 of the season. May have been a result of too much stuffing at the rim. That's not a layup or a 3, but it's a better % shot compared to 3 guys converging on his drive, at his height.
                  2019 NBA Champions. Glad to have doubted the doubters.

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                  • #10
                    slaw wrote: View Post

                    In fairness to FVV, the Raps have a lot of bystanders at times and he was forced to carry an outsized load offensively far too often. If Toronto had a SG with lots of weapons, it would solve many problems, including the ball being in Fred's hands too much. Also, if the Raps are like every other team, they value layups and threes and that can lead to forcing things at the rim rather than shooting floaters (as SR points out is very helpful) or even pulling up for a jimmy (heaven forbid!).

                    And there is Good Fred and Bad Fred. Good Fred does a lot of the things we are talking about but then Bad Fred rears its head and goes in the opposite direction. Which is to say this isn't a case of reinventing a player but simply the player making better decisions consitently.
                    I'm pretty sure that Nurse wants his ball-handlers as a first option to take it hard to the rim with 2nd option being kick-out to shooters at the 3-pt line. I recall Nurse lamenting Malachi early in the season, saying he had to learn how to be more of a straight line driver, instead of east-west action. But the thing is... probing east-west & in-out is more of Malachi's natural game which is closer to Chris Paul, Tony Parker & even Luka as opposed to the hard drive & kick like Fred.

                    Some of that could also be Fred having tunnel vision, as we see a clear difference between Fred and Lowry on fast-breaks: Fred rarely passes, whereas Lowry seems to have eyes in the back of his head to find the trailer or make a pass for the easy layup/dunk.

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                    • #11
                      slaw wrote: View Post

                      In fairness to FVV, the Raps have a lot of bystanders at times and he was forced to carry an outsized load offensively far too often. If Toronto had a SG with lots of weapons, it would solve many problems, including the ball being in Fred's hands too much. Also, if the Raps are like every other team, they value layups and threes and that can lead to forcing things at the rim rather than shooting floaters (as SR points out is very helpful) or even pulling up for a jimmy (heaven forbid!).

                      And there is Good Fred and Bad Fred. Good Fred does a lot of the things we are talking about but then Bad Fred rears its head and goes in the opposite direction. Which is to say this isn't a case of reinventing a player but simply the player making better decisions consistently.
                      I value Fred highly, believe me. It just seems like if you were more of a threat to pass it out, you wouldn't get so many times where three guys are closing on you under the basket. I see the Raptors players standing still when he drives. Maybe it's because they don't expect a pass to come out. Chicken and egg situation I expect. I also don't know if Fred is just executing Nurse's strategy or being a little oblivious to the situation. Watching tape should help him out. Almost every time he got stuffed, there was a better play.

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                      • #12
                        Van Vleet is a Shooting Guard, with his height limitations physically, inability to finish down the rim and the challenges to set up a half court offense even when Ibaka and Gasol were still here had turned out to be an inefficient chucker. Lowry being gone soon would exposed him more and we dont want that. His value would just continue to plummet. Plateauing value is way better then crashing down value so this offseason is a good time to unload him.

                        Siakam, he still has room to grow. He just have to be mentally committed that he is a high dollar offensive option of this team night in and night out and when it matters most. Set that switch has to be “on” always, no excuses now. He also has to shy away from laying up the ball but most likely may have difficult palming that spalding that dunking is a lesser option. He however has the athleticism, motor and length to overcome a bad habit of laying it resulting to high frequency of being short, wrong use of the backboard causing a miss or just being blocked.

                        All that said, him and Van Vleet are a bad combination. They cannot co-exist. One has to go or both.

                        OG/ GTJ/ Flynn/ Harris have a long ways to go because of their age.

                        While Siakam and Van Vleet have narrow margin of error.

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                        • #13
                          Huh, I always thought Siakam and VanVleet were perfectly compatible SG/PF combos. Their defensive styles really complement each other, and Fred's shooting really helps unlock Pascal's inside game, whereas a PF who is more of a perimeter player would in theory be opening up the paint for Fred to drive inside, which he shouldn't be doing anyway - and vice versa, with a driving SG having Pascal park at the perimeter more than he should.

                          Both need a PG on the court with them to be best used, but that's true of most NBA players.
                          twitter.com/dhackett1565

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                          • #14
                            DanH wrote: View Post
                            Huh, I always thought Siakam and VanVleet were perfectly compatible SG/PF combos. Their defensive styles really complement each other, and Fred's shooting really helps unlock Pascal's inside game, whereas a PF who is more of a perimeter player would in theory be opening up the paint for Fred to drive inside, which he shouldn't be doing anyway - and vice versa, with a driving SG having Pascal park at the perimeter more than he should.

                            Both need a PG on the court with them to be best used, but that's true of most NBA players.
                            It is so difficult to perfectly gauge the team because this team lack the dynamic wing we lose when Kawhi left. But to get back to that level, i am sure you would agree that financially, management would have to let go 1 of Van Vleet or Siakam’s salaries or both to be included in a package. Unless luck is on our side that we pick one in the draft who is NBA ready. But if not because it requires 2-3 years development, the conundrum is that both of our high dollar earners are 28 years old with low ceiling of growth (Van Vleet most especially).

                            Van Vleet is too short of a Shooting guard with limited skillset to pair with Siakam. While Siakam is relegated to a spectator when Van Vleet initiates the offense as a point guard wherein he is failing miserably. Eye test would prove that but I wont mind more advanced statistical data to prove me wrong.

                            Siakam is at his best in open court but becomes predictable now as opposing defenses had honed on his usual “pirouette” low post move most especially in the playoffs. That said with him and Van Vleet together on the court can easily be limited when it matters most in a 7 game series without that Numero uno option. We have seen that the last playoffs.

                            OG however IMO with his limited handles is more effective as a power forward when they go small. But of course his 3 point fg and defense is a very valuable piece as a Shooting Forward to a team with Championship aspirations. 23 years old with so much more room to grow.

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                            • #15
                              The Claw Reborn wrote: View Post
                              ...OG however IMO with his limited handles is more effective as a power forward when they go small. But of course his 3 point fg and defense is a very valuable piece as a Shooting Forward to a team with Championship aspirations. 23 years old with so much more room to grow.
                              With the long off-season, we might see an improvement in those handles. Likewise, if Siakim finds his 3 pt shot again, we won't have to worry so much about him getting stripped or stuffed trying to make awkward layups.

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