Raptors Wrap: Future is Later
Ruling From Afar
At the Canadian Basketball Speakers Forum that tipped off the CIS Final 8 week in Toronto, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri came out strongly in guaranteeing a Canadian on his NBA roster.
“There is no doubt in my mind during my time, even if my time is short, there will be a Canada playing for the Toronto Raptors 100 per cent,” Ujiri said. “I have no doubt in my mind, it’s something we think about every day, it’s something we study. The guys in the NBA, the ones outside the NBA, the younger kids, the kids in college, the kids playing overseas. We’re just waiting for that one to come.”
On Wednesday, the player the Raptors really covet (and may have made a push for last season had the team not suddenly gelled) walked the halls of the ACC for the first time as a pro.
Andrew Wiggins received plenty of media attention in a Timberwolves uniform, but battled foul trouble en route to 15 points in a Minnesota loss.
Ujiri’s speech left little doubt Wiggins was the prize catch in his bid for a Canadian face of the Raptors franchise, saying “We all know who he is, I’m not even going to say his name,” before adding, “He might be Canadian.”
Minnesota’s GM Milt Newton told Sportsnet, “Andrew’s a rookie and he’s going to be here for a very long time… we landed [in Toronto] and came to the hotel and there’s already a crowd out there waiting for him. I mean, it’s good to be considered a big superstar in your hometown, and for ‘Drew there’s no way around it.”
There remains optimism that Toronto could land a star under Ujiri’s guidance, a greater long shot he would be Canadian, but the future is far and the playoffs are just 14 games away!
Lowry’s Battered Body
Heading to Chicago to play the Bulls, the Raptors may be without their All-Star point guard who left the Minnesota game with a sore back and did not return.
It’s a game with East playoff seeding implications:
But the Raptors have already proved they’re willing to rest Lowry before the playoffs, giving him three games off earlier this month to ensure he’s fresh for the stretch run.
It may cost the Raptors their shot at 50 wins for the first time in franchise history, but emerging from this season with a first-round playoff series win is the only goal the team should be looking towards at this point.
So if Lowry needs the rest, give it to him. He dives to the floor for loose balls, he plays through an injured finger, and he still leads the league in charges taken. All this from the smallest guy on the court.
Lowry had been averaging 18.6 points on .423 shooting before the all-star game, but has regressed to 18.1 on .416 since that point.
Maybe the Raptors best course is to let the Bulls pass them since they always finish strong (.692 win percentage in April the last four years) and finish fourth to set up a second round series with Atlanta rather than face Chicago or Cleveland in the second round.
Baby Boy for Valanciunas
It won’t be easy to drop to fourth spot with the Raptors Charmin ultra soft schedule to end the season. Only three times will they see a team with a winning record in their last 14 games.
If Lowry doesn’t miss any games but still takes it easy it would be a huge help if Jonas Valanciunas could wreak some havoc on offence.
JV has seemed slow and methodical at times in the post: not seeing the easy pass, pump-faking unnecessarily, getting trapped by double teams.
Lately the big guy has been more effective, shooting 21-26 in his last three games since missing one for the birth of his son. It will be interesting to see if the Raptors look to Valanciunas to carry more of the burden on offence, but it’s a question that has persisted all season.