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Malachi Flynn maturing faster than expected

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In hindsight it’s possible I underrated Malachi Flynn when I wrote that he has star potential? In that prediction I wrote about his the future, in that Flynn has plenty of room for growth. I wrote this then:

Flynn plays like a Steph Curry who shoots well, instead of GOAT-level, and isn’t quite as burst-y a dribbler or an athlete. That’s still a very good player. Think Jamal Murray.

That’s the path to stardom for Flynn. Plenty has to break right for him to sniff Murray territory. He needs to improve his strength, most of all, but his ability to create separation from defenders also needs work. His jumper has to carry into the NBA and perhaps become even more accurate. He needs to prove that his reputation as a defender remains true in the NBA. Basically, everything needs sharpening, which is a normal expectation for a rookie.

I’m joking, of course, that I was underrating him. Reaching those heights remain an unlikely goal. Though possible, of course, if all things break right. But I did underrate how quickly Flynn’s skills would translate to the NBA. I thought it would take time for his ability to manifest, for his passing feel to adapt to NBA speed and athleticism, for his handle to maneuver around NBA defenders, for his jumper to reach over NBA length. Keep in mind that this is of course preseason, so every possible projection has to taken with salt as large as a grain can grow. Still. Things look rosy.

Flynn already seems stronger than advertised. His ability to finish in the lane hasn’t been compromised at all by the presence of NBA athletes; his body control has allowed him to create good looks from the mid-range at will. Against Charlotte, he never forced the issue on his drives, but he was able to absorb contact and still maintain his elite touch within the six-to-eight foot range. His pull-up jumper was immaculate, whether from behind the arc or in the mid-range. He can create space with his dribble, and he dusted multiple defenders with a nasty right-to-left crossover. All that projects well. And as a result, he has shot over 50 percent through two games despite taking a huge majority of his shots from deep or the mid-range.

His passing was the skill that most obvious would translate, and it surely has. He’s been flinging passes all over the court. That hasn’t escaped the notice of Nick Nurse.

“He’s been a good generator of offence and I don’t mean just because he’s been scoring,” said Nurse. “He’s just been getting in to the heart of the defense; again, he’s making some good drives and he’s finding some great fire-outs to guys, getting the offence initiated and breaking down the defense into rotations. That’s been a pleasant surprise. That’s not easy to do in this league, to be able to come in and do that.”

And defensively, Flynn has been better than advertised. To be fair, he wasn’t supposed to be a poor defender. Remember, he won Defender of the Year for the Mountain West Conference. But with his size and build, it was a fair question whether his success would transition to the NBA right away. Thus far, Flynn has been excellent. His anticipation has allowed him to snag four steals through two games, and they’ve come on the ball and off, as he’s jumped live dribbles as effectively as passing lanes. He’s also been able to guide larger offensive players without fouling, forcing poor shots with picturesque contests. He’s shown a grasp of the small things, such as taking good angles when chasing the ball around screens. He doesn’t drop out of plays.

In the fourth quarter, with all youngsters on the floor and everyone playing for real things like minutes or contracts, Flynn took over. He hit deep pull-up triples. He drove and finished from the short mid-range. He threw one-handed passes on the move for triples. He was, far and away, the best player on the court, and he was facing a player picked 26 spots ahead of him in LaMelo Ball. He was so good that Nurse took him off the court with six minutes remaining in the game so as to get a longer look at deeper-bench players. Flynn hasn’t earned his stripes yet, but it’s telling that he’s not one of the players left on the court to close a preseason game.

All told, Flynn has now compiled 26 points and 7 assists in his first 40 preseason minutes. He’s shot 42.9 percent from deep. Perhaps most significantly, the Raptors have outscored Charlotte by 48 points with him on the court, highest among all Raptors. (Next highest, by the way, is DeAndre Bembry at plus-27. And remember: the Raptors have won the two games by a combined 14 points.) Those numbers are tough to dismiss. He’s done it while frequently performing as the best player on the floor. Certainly, that deserves an asterisk, because — and this is putting it mildly — not everyone tries as hard as possible in preseason. But even given those mellowing elements, Flynn looks like he belongs, which is rare for a rookie of any stripes, let alone an undersized late-first round pick. Flynn is ahead of schedule.

His teammates recognize his promise, without wanting to get ahead of themselves. So far in the preseason, Fred VanVleet has been a mentor to Flynn.

“Getting the offence initiated and breaking down the defense has been a pleasant surprise,” said VanVleet of Flynn. “That’s not easy to do in this league and to come in and be able to do that, I mean listen, it’s still preseason and don’t want to get carried away here, but he’s looked good.”

All this points towards Flynn being less a project and more a player. He’s ready for real minutes already to start the season. They may not come. As has become tradition, the Raptors have a deep bench. Pat McCaw, Terence Davis, and Matt Thomas are all entrenched ahead of him in the rotation for guard minutes. Not to mention Norman Powell. But with Flynn’s floor general qualities, he offers something no other bench player can. Consequently, one day soon, Flynn could be coming for minutes. If his trajectory remains the same, that day could come sooner rather than later.

Source: – Raptors Republic

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Report: Blue Jays finalize agreement with reliever Kirby Yates – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays are closing in on a significant addition for a bullpen in need of reinforcements.

Kirby Yates, who was at the team’s training facility in Dunedin, Fla. Tuesday, is now in agreement with the Blue Jays, as first reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. While the Blue Jays have not confirmed that an agreement is in place, sources tell Sportsnet that the contract is for one year with $5.5 million in guaranteed salary and $4.5 million in performance bonuses.

Considering that Yates underwent surgery in August to remove bone chips from his pitching elbow, a physical may have been a necessary step to completing a deal.

When healthy, Yates has been among the game’s best relievers. As a member of the 2019 Padres, for instance, he posted a 1.19 ERA with a league-leading 41 saves on his way to an all-star selection and Cy Young votes. In 60.2 innings that year, he walked only 13 while striking out 101.

Clearly, that kind of arm would be a welcome addition to a Blue Jays bullpen that lost Anthony Bass and Ken Giles to free agency. On Monday, the Blue Jays agreed to terms with Tyler Chatwood, who could also factor into the bullpen mix for manager Charlie Montoyo.

Also in the Blue Jays’ projected bullpen are Jordan Romano, Rafael Dolis, A.J. Cole, Ryan Borucki and Shun Yamaguchi. While Anthony Kay, Julian Merryweather and Thomas Hatch contributed in relief this past season, they’re likely to be stretched out as starting pitchers in 2021.

Beyond the pitching staff, the Blue Jays are also pushing for George Springer, believed to be their top off-season target.

The Blue Jays’ 40-man now includes one empty spot, which means one more player will have to be removed if Yates eventually joins Chatwood on the team.

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What we learned from the Leafs pummeling the Jets – Pension Plan Puppets

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The Maple Leafs pummeled the Jets in most statistical categories, and the only reason the score was an ENG-padded 3-1 was Connor Hellebuyck. The Jets did not have Patrik Laine, and that might have made that game a lot easier for the Leafs.

Special Teams

The Leafs laid down a glorious power play for five seconds less than two minutes on the only penalty called on the Jets. It had movement of all kinds, and might be the single best execution the team has done in some time.

The Jets had four full power plays, and their total shooting on those four looked like this:

Oh, look, the Leafs had two shots on the Jets’ power play making the total shot difference in the Jets’ 8 minutes to the Leafs’ 1:55 minutes 12 to 14. However, not only would it be unwise to give up that penalty differential if Laine is in the lineup, it’s very unwise to do it against Edmonton.

This was the Oilers last night:

I mean, yes, on the one hand, LOL Oilers, but on the other, that’s a very intimidating orange blob when you consider who is doing that shooting. That was a relatively poor showing for the Oilers too, considering they had 11:36 of five-on-four to the Canadiens 9:03.

Yeah, that’s the other thing. This is a weird NHL season, but it’s still NHL, so the penalties are frequent to the point of absurdity in some games. That should go away in about two weeks There were only 36:46 minutes of five-on-five in that Montreal – Oilers game.

Zach Hyman

The Leafs finished off the Jets with a Corsi of 62% and Expected Goals of 71%. Meanwhile the Kerfoot line had 39% Corsi and 60% Expected Goals (the worst of any line).

At the same time, however, Hyman had seven shots (Corsi or all shots, not shots on goal) second only to Matthews and Tavares with eight each.

How can you be on the worst line, and one of the best shooters?

The entire 6:49 seconds the Kerfoot line was together only five shots of any kind were produced by any Leafs player. In 1:49 of Hyman with Marner and Matthews, there were six.

Zach Hyman has been cloned in a way. He plays two deeply distinct roles on the team as the muscle winger of the “shutdown” line that doesn’t shut down top lines very well, and as the support the offence winger on the top line in his free moments.

No one should be too concerned about the Kerfoot line in that Jets game, they were more than good enough, but there’s not much about their matchup results that recommends them for the role against better teams. They dummied Ottawa okay. They folded like wet tissue against the Canadiens, and using Kerfoot’s stats as a proxy for the line since he only played two minutes away from Hyman and Ilya Mikheyev, you get this:

  • 31% Corsi against Nate Beaulieu and rookie Logan Stanley
  • 31% Corsi against Mark Scheifele
  • 34% Corsi against Paul Stastny

The only forward they really shut down was Matthew Perreault. To give them their due, they did keep those top two lines on the Jets to less effective Expected Goals while allowing them to dominate the matchup. But when the Matthews line, and particularly the Tavares line rolled over the entire lineup, this doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence that this third line, as constructed, can handle life outside the North Division. Or the Habs. Or even the Oilers for that matter, although, we’re about to find out.

There’s a lot of time to get to a place where that can be a priority to fix, and I don’t think it is now, but no one actually needs a shutdown line that only works against Ottawa.

All numbers are from the Natural Stat Trick Full game report. All are five-on-five, score and venue adjusted, unless other wise specified or in reference to specific Corsi counts, and then they are unadjusted.

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Raptors waive centre Alex Len after seven games with team – Sportsnet.ca

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The Toronto Raptors have waived centre Alex Len after just seven games, the team announced Tuesday.

The bruising big man had fallen down the team’s depth chart at centre after signing the former fifth-overall pick to a one-year deal in the off-season.

Len — who’s also had stops in Sacramento and Atlanta after being drafted by Phoenix in 2013 — averaged 2.3 points and 1.6 rebounds in 10.8 minutes for the Raptors.

The 27-year-old had missed the team’s last three games, the first for personal reasons and the latter two because he was in the NBA’s health and safety protocol.

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