By: Adam Pasternak
Heeee’s here! The NBA’s next great big-man, Jahlil Okafor of the Philadelphia 76ers. Drafted 3rd overall in this past draft, Okafor finds himself in a weird situation in the City of Brotherly Love. He joins ex-top pick Nerlens Noel to form one of the leagues more interesting front courts in recent memory. Both players are 6’11 and both are natural centres, so how do they fit?
Philly’s GM Sam Hinkie has been known to be different with his approach to building a franchise. He seems to just draft the best talent available, not necessarily the best talent that fits his team best. His singing of Carl Landry really surprised me as he is over 30 years old (32, in fact) and in the past, Hinkie has had extremely young teams. Teams without anyone well into their 30’s. Landry joins this crowded front court as the lone natural power forward. This essentially means that to start the season, one of Okafor and Noel can start. Honestly, I have no idea who I would start between the two. I think one day down the road, they could turn out to be the core of a championship contending 76ers squad. But right now, I agree with coach Brown that they can not start alongside each other this season. If I were to choose, I would have to go with the more experienced Noel. He’s only played one full season but has been around the league for two years now. Okafor, I think, will be the better player in the end. I love his tenacity and determination to finish every shot or silky post move and to get those boards. Like I said before, I think he is the NBA’s next best big-man. He will continue to develop his mid-range game and for a kid who’s 6’11, his footwork is outstanding in the paint. Watching him play at Duke and lead them to a NCAA title was a joy. He played so well all year in college averaging 17.3 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per game while shooting 64% from the field. He was outstanding and I think his game will translate well to the NBA. He and Noel will create a crazy athletic, shot blocking duo that could reek havoc on the NBA. In order for them to have success though, Okafor really has to improve on his mid-range game. Otherwise, it will be too crowded in the paint and they won’t produce good, efficient numbers . It will also be interesting to see who Hinkie surrounds them with over the next few years. Overseas sensation Dario Saric will be coming over next season and he looks to be an exciting small forward to watch. Will they continue drafting young talent, or finally surround them with something they can actually produce wins with?
The Toronto Raptors begin their season October 28th against a new look Indiana Pacers squad at the ACC. The Raps enter the new season with many questions. Is Dwayne Casey the right man to lead the team? Will Kyle Lowry and the hometown kid Corey Joseph be able to co-exist on a new look Raptors team? Is Demarre Carroll the man the Raptors have been missing all these years? We will not know for sure until the season unwinds later on, but for now we can always make predictions…right?
Question Number 1: Is Dwayne Casey the right man to lead the Raps?
My Answer: No, No, NO!
I never liked the hire to begin with. He was a great assistant coach on a very talented and experienced Dallas Mavericks team. With guys like Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd…my brother could have designed a championship caliber defence with that team. The Raps showed early signs of improvement on the defensive end early in his tenure as coach, but last season it actually got worse. Without Lou Williams jacking up ridiculous, one-legged, fading three’s there’s hope that the team can be more efficient on both ends of the court. Dwayne has the pieces to make the Raptors defence a force to be reckoned with. If he can’t improve their defence this season, I would think this would be it for him. I really hope he plays JV more in the fourth this year, I think his development has been stunted in result of Dwayne Casey and his lack of trust for the big Lithuanian. Early on in Jonas’ career he should have gotten more minutes. The Raptors had nothing to lose. It would have allowed him to learn from his mistakes earlier in his career and he would have been more developed by now. Because of his slow development, he is not where he needs to be to play big minutes and so I can understand Casey’s mistrust in him late in the game. But that is Casey’s own fault. He created that mistrust. Nowadays the Raps are a contender in the east (sort of) and can’t afford to risk JV screwing things up for us late in games. It’s a sticky situation and I don’t think Casey is going to be here this time next year.
Question 2: Will Kyle Lowry and Corey Joseph be able to co-exist?
Answer: Yes, and No
I think they will compliment each other well, but as the year goes on (or even years), Joseph is going to improve to the point where he needs to start. I don’t trust Kyle Lowry lately and he’s going to be 30 years old by the time the season ends with one year left on his deal. He was a starter in the all-star game last season, but after that the rest of his season was a complete disappointment. His ego clashed with the coach and the refs and he got fatigued as the season went on. Now, he is in better shape and is looking good in preseason, dropping a preseason franchise record 40 points on an efficient 13/18 shooting, 6/9 on the long ball. This season, I think both Lowry and Joseph can co-exist but come the end of next season I think the Raps will have to let Kyle go and keep Joseph as the starter, especially with Delon Wright and Norman Powell looking like nice fits. It will be interesting to see what GM Masai Ujiri decides to do when the time comes.
Question 3: Is Demarre Carroll the missing piece?
Finally, the raptors have a small forward who is what Terrence Ross was supposed to be. Demarre Carroll is a perfect fit with the Raptors. He joins Lowry and DeRozan in the backcourt forming an athletic trio who can defend and attack. Carroll is a player with a chip on his shoulder, not being drafted he is always having to prove his doubters wrong…and that’s what he has done all his career. He started on the Utah Jazz as an un-drafted free agent. He didn’t get many minutes but he made use of them, playing tenaciously on the defensive end of the court. The Raps had good runs against LeBron and the Cavs last season, but had no one who could keep up with LeBron on defence. Carroll proved he can defend him last season with the Hawks, in the regular season and in the playoffs. Looking back on last season, Demarre Carroll was what the Raps needed last season. It would have changed everything, but now with the team changing identities and players, I don’t think they are going to do any better. They will be better on defence, but not great, due to Carroll and his defensive abilities but the Raptors offence has gotten worse. They are now relying on Kyle and Demar for majority of the load. Lou Williams took off the pressure for the two star guards and help ease the load on offence, but was a huge liability defensively. Demarre Carroll will not average over 16 points per game and who knows what the front court will look like,
The season is going to be interesting to watch. The east is improving and the Raps are getting defensive. I don’t know if their offseason additions will be enough to take the Raptors to the next level. Only time will tell.
How do you think the Raps are going to do this year? Comment below!