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Five thoughts recap: Toronto Raptors 113, Boston Celtics 97 – RaptorsHQ

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It’s been 10 days since Norman Powell, Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam all got hurt, and we’ve spent that time wondering which Toronto Raptors might step up in their absence — the same way Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Terence Davis and Chris Boucher stepped up when Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka were out, and the way Powell himself did when Fred VanVleet was out.

We may have finally gotten some answers, at least for one night — a very enjoyable Christmas revenge victory over the Boston Celtics.

Patrick McCaw: Faith Rewarded

During last year’s Eastern Conference Semi-Finals I worried that Nick Nurse’s faith in Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell was going to cost Toronto that series. VanVleet and Powell were terrible, and although (obviously) Toronto the series, I might go so far to say they won despite the play of VanVleet and Powell.

Then in the Eastern Finals Powell was excellent from the get-go, and VanVleet eventually turned it around (shoutout to Fred VanVleet Jr.) and was absolutely brilliant in the Finals.

If Nurse had benched those guys in Round 2, would they have contributed the same way in Rounds 3 and 4? We’ll never know for sure, but Nurse believed in them, and that belief paid dividends.

So we can, perhaps, give Nurse the benefit of the doubt that his belief in Patrick McCaw will reap similar rewards. It sure did last night; McCaw was aggressive from the tip, with a strip block and a steal in the opening minutes, along with a layup and a banked-in J. He had two more buckets and a nice swing pass to VanVleet during a 12-2 run later in the quarter.

Perhaps most notably, McCaw was on the ball at the top of the arc more, freeing up both VanVleet and Kyle Lowry to be in better scoring position. This worked brilliantly, as VanVleet and Lowry combined for 48 points and 36 shots, and McCaw finished with a career-high eight assists.

We’ll see if McCaw can be trusted to run the offense for extended periods, but for one night, Nick Nurse’s faith was rewarded — and once again he made the rest of us look pretty dumb for questioning him.

Matchup Mania

Speaking of Nick Nurse, let’s also give him credit for subbing Serge Ibaka out early last night, so that he could bring him back earlier and match up with Enes Kanter.

Kanter bullied Chris Boucher on Wednesday, and Nurse smartly wanted the stronger Ibaka to body Kanter up. It worked: Kanter scored 5 points and grabbed six boards in his 17.5 minutes, better (for the Raptors) than the 12 and 11 he had in his 18 minutes on Christmas.

I also liked that this strategy gave Boucher more time with the starters; VanVleet and Lowry can put Boucher in position to succeed better than McCaw or Terence Davis can at this point.

OK Oshae

So who saw Oshae Brisset making a difference in this game? The undrafted rookie played a career-high 15 minutes last night, and they were impactful — none moreso than a stretch at the end of the third where he hauled in two big rebounds and played great D on Jayson Tatum, all of which helped the Raptors maintain a 10-point lead heading into the fourth — and gave Nurse confidence that he could trust Brissett in the fourth.

Sure, he made some rookie mistakes (a dumb foul and missed layup at the start of the fourth) but overall his D and his hustle were much-needed factors in the win.

It’s too early to say if Brissett has found a spot in the rotation (and it’s unlikely there’ll be room for him when the team is healthy), but maybe Nick Nurse has found one more reliable guy on his bench.

Hit the Boards

The Celtics killed the Raptors with their rebounding on Christmas, so it was nice to see the Raptors respond by dominating the boards last night. On Christmas, the Celtics were +11 on the glass, and had 13 offensive boards that led to 24(!) second chance points.

Last night, the Raptors were +22(!) on the boards, and held the Celtics to just seven offensive boards and five second-chance points.

The Ibaka-Kanter matchup, and Oshae Brissett’s energy, helped, but credit the guards too: VanVleet (three rebounds), Lowry (four), McCaw (seven) and Davis (seven) all hit the boards as well.

I’m Happy for Kemba

Sometimes you just root for a guy to find success, you know? Kemba Walker always seemed like a good guy and a good teammate, along with being a heck or a scorer. But he was stuck for so long on those terrible Hornets teams. So it’s nice to see him making an impact on a good team with a good coach and quality, reliable players around him.

Now, Kemba’s been a Raptor killer forever, and remains a terror (22 points on Christmas, 30 last night) so I don’t wish him too much success — not against us, anyway. Against the other 28 teams? Go get yours, Kemba.

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Man, five thoughts already and I didn’t even get to Kyle Lowry, who had 30 points and seven assists last night? What does that guy have to do to get some respect around here! Sheesh.

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Mirtle: This may very well be the last stand for this Maple Leafs core – The Athletic

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Kyle Dubas stood in front of a small group of reporters on the NHL’s trade deadline day and offered some serious honesty about his Maple Leafs.

He swore. He called their play embarrassing. And he offered a firm “I don’t know” when asked why they were so inconsistent — or “Jekyll and Hyde,” as he put it at one point.

“The truthful answer is we don’t know,” Dubas said. “That might draw some criticism to say ‘I don’t know,’ but I’m not gonna bullshit and tell you I have some magical solution. I think we have to go through this.”

Dubas spoke for nearly 18 minutes on Monday afternoon, with long answers that followed a now familiar theme. The tale he told was about how his team still has lessons to learn and that this adversity, these brutal losses, are the path to getting there.

It seemed some came away from the speech believing it was another rousing…

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Trade grades: Oilers acquire 2020 version of Mike Green – ESPN

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Edmonton Oilers trade for Detroit Andreas Athanasiou

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This in from Gord Miller of TSN, that the Edmonton Oilers have traded for Andreas Athanasiou and Ryan Kuffner from Detroit. The Oilers gave up Sam Gagner and two second round picks to get Athanasiou, who will be a Restricted Free Agent this summer.

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My take

  1. It looks like Oilers GM Ken Holland wants his team to take a run at the Stanley Cup. Can you blame him? Not me.
  2. Athanasiou, 25, is a major pick up for the Oilers. He’s having an off year but he scored 30 goals in 2018-19.
  3. When it comes to even strength scoring, Athanasiou ranks 238th out of 393 regular NHL forwards this year, with 1.57 points per game.
  4. Sam Gagner ranks 284th for even strength scoring with 1.38 points per game. But Gagner lacks the wheels to play with Connor McDavid. Athanasiou has got them. Gagner was moved for cap reasons, so Edmonton can fit Athanasiou under their cap.
  5. Kuffner, 23, is a struggling AHL player.
  6. Athanasiou kills penalties and plays on the power play in Detroit. This year he’s at 1:37 per game on the PK and 2:21 per game on the PP. But his big number is that -45 NHL plus-minuus in 46 games. That’s a wretched number but it’s a number earned by the entire Detroit Red Wings team when Athanasiou is on the ice, it’s not an individual stat. We’ll see how well Athansiou plays defence when he gets here, though there are doubts about him in this regard.
  7. Athanasiou has been on the ice for 21 even strength goals for this year and 60 against.
  8. Brian Burke of Sportnset said: “All I can tell you about Athanasiou is: he makes both teams dangerous. This is a guy who has speed for sure, but he is not a fanatic about defence. I can tell you that. This one, I’ll give Kenny the benefit of the doubt. They definitely got faster but this guy is not a defender.”
  9. Former NHL coach Bruce Boudreau of Sportsnet said Athanasiou would help push NHL defenders back with his speed. “I think it’s going to work out. If Connor is skating full speed and this guy can keep up to him, how do you check them”?
  10. Louie DeBrusk of Sportsnet said: “This is going to be the first time that Connor McDavid has a running mate that can actually keep up to him and be right there with him and be right on the door step waiting for those back door tap ins.”
  11. Scottie Upshall on TSN said, “I like the move. They need speed. He’s one of the fastest players in the league. And Connor needs that. He needs a guy who is going to step up and keep the pace of play and be able to move the puck, be able to create some space.”
  12. TSN’s Ray Ferraro said: “Certainly Ken Holland knows him from Detroit. He’s seen the ups and downs of AA as he’s gone from Grande Rapids to a part time pro in Detroit to a full time guy. Seen him score 30 goals. He’s there to watch him -42 this year. So I think there be a pretty direct line of communication of what’s expected from Athanasiou. He can skate. He can score. McDavid is on a line right now with Alex Chiasson and Sam Gagner. That doesn’t fit. They need more there. And I think the Oilers… they’ve got a player that can play with McDavid. Will it be successful. We’ll see…. It feels like this is the type of player who has had such a crappy year that can hit lightning here playing with a guy like McDavid.” Ferraro said he’s intrigued by this for Edmonton. “I think that what concerns me is that he likes the puck. Athanasiou likes the puck. He likes to rush it. He likes to carry it. The guy he’s going to be playing with should be carrying the puck all the time.”
  13. TSN’s Craig Button wondered if Athanasiou would get to the right places at the right time on the ice. “He plays with blinders on… He’s like a drag racer. He’s not a formula one racer. He’s just straight ahead. And if you’re going to play with Connor McDavid, you better be thinking, ‘Where’s Connor so I can get him the puck?’ I don’t think Athanasiou will be a good fit for Connor McDavid. I don’t.” Buttons suggested playing Athanasiou with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and putting Drasaistl back with McDavid.
  14. TSN’s Jeff O’Neill said: “It’s going to be nice to see him in a competitive situation too. There’s not a lot of fun going on in Detroit right now and I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of fun. That would be a player who would just be drowning in that year after year.”
  15. TSN’s Mike Johnson said: “Even if it doesn’t fit perfectly, if they’re not a perfect blend, Connor McDavid is talented enough, if you have any kind of offensive instincts, or even enough to know just get out of the way, go to the net and let him do his thing, you’ll pick up points, you’ll pick up goals, you’ll feel better about yourself. There is an element of truth that if you just keep it simple even it’s not exactly your style of game, if you just keep it simple and go to to the net and get out of the way, Connor McDavid is great enough for you to have a little bit of success just like that.”
  16. I like this deal. Edmonton has a great chance to both win the Pacific division and to make the Stanley Cup semi-finals. Second round picks are valuable, but they have about a one in five chance of turning into a good NHLer.
  17. Athanasiou makes $3.0 million this year. He’s a restricted free agent this summer, so Edmonton will have to make a call on him then. For now, we’ll see how he does this spring in Edmonton.

In case you’re wondering about the value of draft picks, Brad McPherson has dug into this a this website, the Blue Bullet Report:

Essentially, he’s found that a forward taken in the various rounds has the following average career value:

  • 1st overall: 102 value
  • 10th overall: 26.2
  • 20th: 13.2
  • 30th: 8.9
  • 40th: 4.8
  • 50th: 4.2
  • 60th: 3.6
  • 70th: 3.4
  • 80th: 2.2
  • 90th: 1.8
  • 100th: 1.5
  • 110th: 0.9
  • 120th: 0.9
  • 130th: 0.8
  • 140th: 0.8
  • 150th: 0.8
  • 160th: 0.8
  • 170th: 0.6
  • 180th: 0.6
  • 190th: 0.5
  • 200th: 0.5
  • 210th: 0.5

The first overall pick has an average career value four times greater than the 10th overall pick and more than 10 times greater than the average 30th overall pick, and more than 20 times greater than the average second round pick.

Sometimes lower round picks turn into fine players, like Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones. Most often, they do not.

Major recent trades:

  • Edmonton gets Athanasiou for two second round picks and Sam Gagner.
  • Pittsburgh gets Patrick Marleau for a third round pick.
  • Carolina Hurricanes get Vincent Trochek for forwards Erik Haula and Lucas Wallmark and two prospects (Chase Priskie and Eetu Luostarinen).
  • Washington Capitals acquire Ilya Kovalchuk for a third round draft pick.
  • New York Islanders get Jean-Gabriel Pageau for first round draft pick in 2020 (lottery protected), 2nd in 2020 and 3rd round pick in 2022 if Islanders win the Cup.
  • Colorado gets Vlad Namestnikov for a fourth round pick in 2021.
  • Boston Bruins get Ondrej Kase, traded for a 2020 first-round pick along with David Backes and defensive prospect Axel Andersson, Bruins retaining 25 per cent of Backes’ contract.
  • Vegas Golden Knights get Alec Martinez, D – Traded for ’20 2nd-rd pick, ’21 2nd-rd pick
  • St. Louis Blues get Marco Scandella, D – Traded for ’20 2nd-rd pick, ’21 cond. pick
  • Washington Capitals get Brenden Dillon, D – Traded for ’20 2nd-rd pick, ’21 cond. pick
  • Winnipeg Jets get Dylan DeMelo, D – Traded for ’20 3rd-rd pick
  • Vancouver Canucks get Tyler Toffoli, RW – Traded for Tim Schaller, Madden, picks
  • Tampa Bay Lightning get Blake Coleman, LW – Traded for Nolan Foote, ’20 1st-rd pick
  • New Jersey Devils get David Quenneville, D – Traded w/ ’21 2nd-rd pick for Andy Greene
  • Pittsburgh Penguins get Jason Zucker, LW – Traded for Alex Galchenyuk, Addison, ’20 1st-rd pick
  • Los Angeles Kings get Trevor Moore, LW – Traded w/ picks for Jack Campbell, Kyle Clifford
  • Buffalo Sabres Michael Frolik for 4th -round pick (2020)
  • Montreal Canadiens Marco Scandella for 4th-round pick (2020)
  • Arizona Coyotes Taylor Hall and Blake Speers for 2020 conditional first-round draft pick, 2021 conditional third-round draft pick, Nate Schnarr, Nick Merkley Kevin Bahl

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