Pascal Siakam holds a disappointing team: Raptors midseason report card

With their 132-120 win Tuesday night over Charlotte, the Raptors have reached the halfway point. By all accounts, the first half was a disappointment for the Raptors, who will face a complicated trade deadline decision no matter how the next month goes.

With that in mind, here’s my annual mid-season report card. Reminder: If someone meets expectations, I generally rate them in the B-minus/C-plus range, though I give them more credit if they have a significant role. (Similarly, I might be harsher if their role was also critical.)

“It’s going to take some better individual play from a lot of players,” said head coach Nick Nurse before the team moved to 18-23. “A lot of focus is on the key players and all that stuff. But a lot of the guys just need to get back to where they were. They’re supposed to improve. Some guys have been out. Some guys have been out for a long time. The rhythm of some guys has changed with the line-up. “A little bit. It affects them. Some guys play really well in the long stretches but can’t handle the short stretches. There are a lot of things that have to come together individually and there are a lot of things that have to come together as a team.”

Since I always get this question, no, I don’t rate the front office. A front office job is tough enough to evaluate on a season-by-season basis, let alone half-season when the most important date of the season is a month in the future. Masai Ujiri, Bobby Webster, and their team clearly have a lot of work to do, but it’s hard to narrow down what they’ve done to just a few months of action (or inaction).

to grades…

Precious Ichiwa – C
17 games, 17.5 minutes per game, 7.6 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game, 39.0 field goal percentage, -6.8 net rating

Uchiwa’s ankle injury deflected any shot for the third-year forward to find his rhythm. The Raptors were desperate to pick up where he left off last year, when he developed into a semi-reliable shooter and one of the best defensemen on the team. It’s hard to put a lot of pressure on him given the injury, but the Raptors need him to move back into the sixth starter role.

OG Anunob – b +
37 games, 36.9 MP, 18.3 ppi, 5.9 rpg, 36.8 3-point field goal percentage, 0.8 NRtg

Anunoby started the season as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Considering the Raptors ranked 13th in defensive efficiency heading into Tuesday’s game, he’s no longer in that conversation. He was the best defender on the Raptors, even if he became a bit prone to punting. Offensively, his real shooting percentage has rebounded from rock bottom in the past year (mostly thanks to career-best numbers from the free throw line), but he has yet to return to his proficiency as an underused player. His playmaking has also stalled.

Dallano Panton – C
22 games, 10.1 MP, 5.2 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 42.3 FG%, -12.2 NRTG

Banton spent the latter part of the Games with the Raptors 905, which is probably the best. The Raptors were trying to develop the ball on and off the ball, but it was most effective with the Raptors playing another dominant player on the ball. His bird wasn’t where it should be on either level, but it did appear as a weapon in transition. The Raptors might be better off when Banton focuses on playing off the ball.

Scotty Barnes – D+
38 games, 14.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 4.7 assists per game, 44.8 FG%, 0.7 NRtg

This has been more than just a sophomore slump. Barnes’ shooting efficiency, not Sterling to begin with, took a huge hit. He has routinely spent halves or entire games on the sidelines of the event. Only his assist numbers are up significantly from last year. Barnes has had some great games, and there are places where he looks like the best player on earth. However, they are very few and far between. There are plenty of reasons for optimism, but it’s been a tough half of the season.

Khem Birch – C
20 games, 8.1 MP, 2.2 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 59.4 FG%, 2.8 NRt

Birch wasn’t given many opportunities to star in a role. Based on how inconsistent the Raptors seat is, that’s awful in and of itself. The Raptors were good on defense when on the ground, but didn’t have the impact that Christian Coloco did in this end. He’s a useful body in confrontations against Joel Embiid, but his three-year contract was at least too long for the Raptors.

Chris Boucher – D+
36 games, 20.9 MPG, 9.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 28.1 3P%, -1.8 NRtg

Boucher’s season is clearly in line with his team’s season. He was an important part of getting off to a good start, and a key figure in the Raptors transition. He fell behind during Pascal Siakam’s absence, trying to fit in with a second unit that was changing often. Since then, he’s had little effect, getting some very short nights. He still has a positive effect on offensive glazing and in making swings, but his reliability in the half-court has fallen.

Jeff Dotin Jr. – Incomplete
12 games, 7.2 MPG, 2.3 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 52.2 FG%, 5.2 NRtg

He had a moment in the win against Detroit, resulting in a key defensive play down the stretch. He had a 6.8 to 1.4 assist-to-spin ratio with the Raptors 905, but wasn’t particularly effective with his shooting. Don’t expect much from a two-way tag, but Dowtin is running out of the runway to take a chance with the Raptors.


Malachi Flynn. (Dan Hamilton / USA Today)

Malachi Flynn – C
29 games, 15.1 MP, 5.7 ppm, 1.5 APG, 39.1 3P%, -6.2 NRtg

Say hello to the Raptor’s sole imaging better than expected from the rear. Recently, he has become very dependent on the shot, finishing possessions with shots when he should keep the ball moving. Flynn’s defensive shortcomings were also evident. Mostly, it seems Flynn just didn’t have enough time to organize the offense. His last season and a half hasn’t been expertly managed, but Flynn takes some responsibility for not shining in his role.

Juancho Hernangomez – C
28 games, 17.1 MPG, 3.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 28.5 3P%, 0.6 NRtg

Hernangomez has not been an above-average shooter since his rookie year. He’s had ample opportunity to grab the rotational role, and his poor success rate from deep undercuts his solid defense and intuitive off-the-ball movement. It’s been a while since the Raptors hit the league’s minimum signing. Hernangomez was fine, but nothing more.

Christian Koloko – b
38 games, 16.1 MPG, 3.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.2 blocks per game, 7.8 NRtg

Looks like Koloko could be a solid player in the NBA. Notably, he has the best net rating on the team, and most of that is based on his defensive impact, with opponents scoring 11.6 points per 100 more possessions against the Raptors when Koloko is on the bench than when he’s playing. His offense was limited, and his lack of physical fitness was sometimes exploited. At the 32nd pick, Koloko exceeded expectations.

Otto Porter Jr – Incomplete
8 games, 5.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 35.3 3P%

Porter missed the start of the season with a hamstring injury, returned to the team after his wife gave birth to a child, played in eight games and then dislocated his toe in mid-November. And the team announced, on Tuesday, that it would undergo surgery on its left foot at the end of the season. Not an ideal use for a middle level exception.

Pascal Siakam – a
31 games, 25.8 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 6.5 APG, 3.5 NRtg

Siakam’s previous high for free throws is 5.6 per game. He reached 8.5 this year. He also has a career-best assists average, despite the team’s lack of shooting. He was a dynamo in transition, and his individual defense was better than anyone on the team outside of Anunoby. This has been Siakam’s best year, and he’s wasting it.

Gary Trent Jr – B-
34 games, 18.5 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 36.7 3P%, -2.8 NRtg

Guess who is the best high volume 3-point shooter on the Raptors? Yes, it’s Trent, who struggled really hard to start the year. He came into the Charlotte match having hit 45 percent of his 60 attempts over the previous eight matches. The guy is a certified bucket collector. Sadly, his play-by-play and defensive growth have stagnated to the point where he is perhaps ideally suited to be a scorer off the bench rather than a regular for a good team. He’s young enough to make progress in those areas, but those shortcomings are part of why he’s the worst plus/minus of any of the heavy minutes on the team.

Fred VanVleet – C-
33 games, 18.4 PPG, 6.3 APG, 32.8 3P%, 1.2 NRtg

This sounds like the most divisive score on the board. The Good: The Raptors are still better with him on the ground than off (-1.9). His leadership helped the Raptors stick together through a frustrating first half. He is in the top five in tackles per game and top 10 in steals. The bad: His defense has slipped on the ball, and he’s having his worst shooting season since entering the team’s rotation in his sophomore year. His play is heading in the right direction.

Thaddeus Young – C+
35 games, 16.5 MP, 4.9ppg, 3.6RPG, 1.6APG, -4.6NRG

It’s very simple with Young. It fits in well with seasoned groups, but doesn’t do much to elevate the younger, less astute lineups. His passing and defensive positioning are great when he can count on his teammates performing in the right way, but less so when his teammates are less… predictable. He’s a nice player on your list, but, at this rate, the Raptors seem more likely to either trade him or waive him before the end of the season, with only $1 million guaranteed out of $8.15 million for next year.

Nurse Nick J
18-23 (23rd in the NBA), 113.0 offensive rating (15), 112.7 defensive rating (14), 0.3 net rating (14)

It is always difficult to understand how a coach deals with the shortcomings of the roster that he has to deal with. However, the half-court offense was the Raptors’ most worrisome coming into the season, and it’s still poor (and remarkably dependent on isolation for a team so ineffective in isolation). The Raptors’ aggressive defensive tactics haven’t worked out this year, as Raptors’ opponents have shot among the best percentages in the league, and the Raptors’ error rate has skyrocketed as the season has progressed. The seat did not evolve. A recent change to the transition team’s defense has yielded positive results, and the offense is generating enough good looks that Nurse can’t be blamed for some of the best pitchers having worse seasons in their careers. If the league has adapted to the Raptors’ style, we’re only in the beginning stages of the Raptors trying to adapt again.

(Top photo: Dan Hamilton/USA Today)

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