TORONTO — Despite looking to have slim pickings with picks No. 29 and No. 59 in this year’s NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors think there’s a lot of talent to be found at those spots and are doing a lot of homework right now to cover their bases before the Nov. 18 date.
“It seems to be a very balanced draft this year,” said Raptors assistant general manager Dan Tolzman in a conference call with the media Wednesday, “which for picking almost smack dab in the middle of it, at 29, we feel pretty confident that we could be looking at 50 different players maybe just for that one pick because we have really no idea who could go at the 20 picks in front of that pick, or the 20 picks after, and it’ll be anywhere in between.
“We have interest in guys in that whole range because there’s a lot of uncertainty just because of the typical draft process not being the same… usually there’s a lot of risers and fallers based on whether it’s the draft combine, individual workouts, three-on-three workouts, all that kind of stuff, that isn’t happening so a lot of the same names that we usually would have maybe bounced around on our list a little more frequently… they’re still very much in the mix and a handful of those guys will probably end up going well before our pick and we’ll be looking at some names that we may not expect at both of our picks.”
Though the great NBA bubble experiment has come to a close, the effects of COVID-19 are still impacting the league in big ways, most notably right now in the fact that the draft has been moved to November from its usual June date and the pre-draft process has gone entirely virtual, creating hurdles not seen before.
Thankfully for the Raptors, however, they haven’t been too disrupted by their new reality.
“It’s very different than what we’re used to, I can tell you that,” Tolzman said of the workflow happening now. “It’s one-of-a-kind and it seems like it’s never-ending, to be totally honest with you. It’s one of those things where we are doing what we can within the guidelines that the league has given us, and we’re making the best of it. Thankfully, our scouting department, our front office is designed to not be too thrown off by these new ways of doing things.
“It’s just it seems like forever since we’ve seen these players. They might be completely different from the last time we saw them playing in March. We’re basing a lot of these decisions on extensive film work, discussions as a staff, and a lot of background digging on players to get as much info as we can to make an educated decision come draft night. So it’s gonna look a little different, the process leading up to it, but hopefully when it’s all said and done, looking back on it, it won’t be much different in terms of outcome of it.”
The Raptors take a holistic approach to their entire draft process and rely on data they’ve accumulated on players over the span of multiple years rather than just looking at a players’ most recent season. So it makes sense when Tolzman says his team is well-equipped for these extenuating circumstances. Still, he does admit that not being able to see players live face-to-face for interviews or to bring them to Toronto to work out has made the process more challenging than before.
“It’s unfortunate for that side of things to kind of miss out on that opportunity. We’re still getting some one-on-one time,” Tolzman said. “We’re doing a lot of Zoom interviews. Of course, it doesn’t recreate the inter-person discussions, but we’re doing our best to at least get to know them through those sorts of interviews, but then also reaching out and talking to people within their circles to just kind of learn as much as we can.
“More than anything, a lot of times what we do is we’ll talk to guys early in the pre-draft and they’ll talk about all the different things they’re working on, what they’re hoping to change in their game as they transition to the NBA, and usually the workouts, the visits, that’s where we get to see that first hand and see all the transitions they’re making. We’re not getting a lot of that this year…
“I’d definitely say it’s not something that’s going to make it impossible for us, but it’s just a valued part of the process that we just won’t have this year.”
Another complication for the Raptors, in particular, Tolzman mentioned was the fact the team puts a lot of emphasis on player development and utilizes tools like Summer League and the G-League to help develop young players recently drafted or signed. With no concrete information about when next NBA season is going to start, those development opportunities are also on hold, adding another variable for the Raptors to considerer heading into this draft.
“It’s definitely something that we’re trying to figure out right now,” Tolzman said. “It’s going to impact how we address the two-ways, the Exhibit-10, G-League kind of mentality big time because we just don’t know… what those sorts of deals that these players will be on, how it will impact their ability to go and continue to develop.”
With that said, however, Tolzman is confident the team’s player-development program will still be able to help whoever the Raptors bring in from the draft with little to no drop-off.
“Honestly, we feel really comfortable with whoever we target and bring in,” he said. “We know that our development program is in place regardless of what type of deal they’re on or what the status is within the organization, but we know once guys get with us they’ve shown enough potential to draw the interest in the first place. We just feel comfortable that as long as we bring in the right types of guys that are wired the way all the guys we’ve had success with are, regardless of what the season actually brings, the development work is still going to be there, all the hours of work are still going to be put in and we fully trust our development staff to work with these guys.”
And it’s probably for this reason that the Raptors are so confident picking where they are right now and why they’re looking to cast their net as wide as 50 possible players they could be interested in. No matter who they acquire, the team’s player-development program has proven to be one that can turn prospects into good NBA players with names like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell being shining examples of that.
So while this is a draft that may lack the kind of star power of previous ones to draw casual eyeballs, Tolzman’s assessment that this is a balanced pool of players seems very fitting and explains why he suggested that even players who go undrafted could get plenty of attention from around the league.
“There’s going to be a lot of rotation-level players that come out of this draft, kind of all across the board, and I think probably more than usual the undrafted market is going to be huge because normally players that maybe early on were expected to go undrafted, they worked their way into the draft picture and those workouts and those opportunities for them to do so just didn’t happen this year. So a lot of these guys that have maybe been earmarked unfairly as an undrafted player, they’re going to end up on that market and you’re going to see guys come out of nowhere and be contributors next year.”
Some of the players that may get overlooked are the Canadian contingent, which includes point guard Karim Mane of Montreal, shooting guard Nate Darling of Saint John, N.B., and power forward Isiaha Mike of Toronto. Unlike 2019’s record-setting draft for Canadian basketball, the crop of Canadians hoping to have their name called on draft night in 2020 is much smaller in both number and profile.
“I think the few [Canadian] players that are in the draft are interesting and we always like to make sure that we get to know all of these guys and we don’t want to miss anything with any local guys because we kind of pride ourselves on having a pretty thorough program in terms of keeping guys developing with some local ties because it makes it easier for them to get comfortable and develop as young players as well,” Tolzman said.
“So, there’s definitely some interesting players who we see with the right development, the right program put in front of them they could absolutely turn into legitimate NBA players.”
The Raptors have never drafted a Canadian player in the franchise’s history. Given the kind of draft this is, this year might not be a bad one to cross that particular bit of Canadian basketball history off of the club’s list.
Rogers Centre, formerly SkyDome, aka SexDome, may be umm, going down – Deadspin
The end of the Rogers Centre is nigh, according to a report in the Toronto Globe and Mail as Rogers Communications is in negotiations to demolish the 31-year-old stadium and build a new one.
The stadium, which opened in 1989, was built as a modern update to the multi-purpose, AstroTurf stadiums of the 1970s. It soon seemed antiquated as the opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992 led to a wave of retro, natural grass stadiums being built. SkyDome was the first park to have a fully functional retractable roof (Montreal’s Olympic Stadium also was built with a retractable roof, but, umm, it had … issues), and Mike Lupica once derisively referred to the place as “Disneyland.”
Skydome also featured a Hard Rock hotel in the stadium, which led to it being the only baseball stadium where fans and players could simultaneously circle the bases.
SkyDome featured one of baseball’s most dramatic home runs – Joe Carter’s series-winning blast in 1993 off Mitch Williams. But before that, two fans were seen doing the nasty.
From a 1990 UPI report:
Some baseball fans think the Toronto Blue Jays’ retractable roof SkyDome home should be renamed SexDome after fans watched a couple make love in a hotel suite that overlooks the playing field.Tuesday night, during the team’s 4-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners, those with binoculars could see an older man and a buxom, blond woman having sex in their suite. Although the lights in the suite were off, the couple’s room was illuminated by a bank of television lights in the SkyDome.
The incident Tuesday follows one several weeks ago where a male guest in the hotel, built into the SkyDome itself, masturbated in the window of his suite in front of thousands of Blue Jays fans.
That was not the end of the live sex shows at the SkyDome, renamed the Rogers Centre in 2005. In 1996, during a Blue Jays-Red Sox game, 31,000 fans were treated to what was described as a 30-minute sex show.
“It’s a good thing they finished before the game ended or I don’t think anyone would have seen the game,” Blue Jays first base coach Alfredo Griffin said.
Fantasy: Start, Sit, Stash, Quit – Week 12 – theScore
SSSQ is a weekly look at under-the-radar fantasy players to consider starting and potential busts you should leave on your bench. We also identify breakout candidates to stash on your roster and players you can safely cut.
Cam Newton, Patriots
After missing time following a COVID-19 diagnosis and taking a couple of games to settle back into the offense, Newton has emerged as the QB10 based on fantasy points per game over the last month.
He’s also coming off his second 300-plus-yard passing effort as a Patriot after benefitting from the Texans’ defense and its lack of resistance. Fortunately for Cam, the Cardinals are nearly just as generous, offering the eighth-most favorable matchup for fantasy quarterbacks this season.
Continue to start Newton as a low-end QB1 in Week 12.
Boone’s projection: 241 passing yards, one passing TD, 38 rushing yards, one rushing TD
Other QBs to start
- Derek Carr at Falcons
- Taysom Hill at Broncos
- Tom Brady vs. Chiefs
Kareem Hunt, Browns
Hunt has averaged 15.8 fantasy points per game in PPR formats during the six contests he’s shared the backfield with Chubb, compared to 13.6 without him.
On Sunday, Cleveland’s rushing attack will be in one of its best spots of the year as 6.5-point favorites versus a Jaguars team starting Mike Glennon. The Browns shouldn’t struggle to control this game, and they’ll also take advantage of Jacksonville’s bottom-five defense against opposing fantasy backs.
Both Chubb and Hunt can be started as top-12 options at running back this week.
Boone’s projection: 83 rushing yards, 29 receiving yards, TD
Other RBs to start
- Wayne Gallman at Bengals
- Jonathan Taylor vs. Titans
- David Montgomery at Packers
Justin Jefferson, Vikings
Adam Thielen was placed on the COVID-19/Reserve list earlier this week, but at the time of this writing, we still don’t know whether he tested positive or was identified as a close contact.
We’re waiting for more information on Thielen’s Week 12 status. In the meantime, Jefferson has become a fantasy must-start no matter who’s in the lineup around him.
Since Week 3 when he became a full-time player, Jefferson is averaging the seventh-most fantasy points among receivers, right behind Thielen.
The Panthers don’t offer the best matchup, but they’ve given up 75-plus yards to five different wideouts over their last five games. Jefferson is about to make that six.
Boone’s projection: 107 receiving yards, TD
Other WRs to start
- D.J. Moore at Vikings
- Chris Godwin/Mike Evans/Antonio Brown vs. Chiefs
- DeVante Parker at Jets
Austin Hooper, Browns
Hooper has dealt with heavy winds and rain over his last two games since returning to the lineup in Week 10. That’s put a damper on the Browns’ passing attack, but there are still positives to be gleaned from Hooper’s performances.
The tight end has resumed his role as the team’s full-time starter, seeing five targets last week. If he gets better weather conditions, Hooper is sure to deliver against a Jaguars defense that’s allowing the third-most fantasy points to tight ends.
Even though he hasn’t played like it yet, Hooper can be treated as a TE1 in a year when plenty of fantasy managers are still looking for stable options at the position.
Boone’s projection: 59 receiving yards, TD
Other TEs to start
- Evan Engram at Bengals
- Mike Gesicki at Jets
- Robert Tonyan vs. Bears
Ryan Tannehill, Titans
Since becoming the Titans’ starter, Tannehill has struggled against the Colts while posting passing yards totals of 182 and 147 – the most recent coming in a loss two weeks ago.
That’s not surprising, as the Colts present the third-most difficult matchup for fantasy passers, behind only the Steelers and Rams.
Better days are ahead for Tannehill, with the Browns, Jaguars, and Lions on the schedule over Tennessee’s next three games. But he should remain on your bench for one more week.
Boone’s projection: 176 passing yards, TD, INT, nine rushing yards
Other QBs to sit
- Ben Roethlisberger vs. Ravens
- Jared Goff vs. 49ers
- Kirk Couins vs. Panthers
Melvin Gordon, Broncos
Gordon posted his best stat line in over a month last week, putting up 84 yards and two touchdowns against a Dolphins defense missing linemen. But don’t be fooled.
Though chasing those points and putting him back in your lineup may be enticing, his situation hasn’t changed. In his previous three outings, Gordon was held to 46 yards from scrimmage or fewer with no trips to the end zone.
The Saints’ defense is also one the league’s stingiest against fantasy backs and perhaps the biggest reason to shy away from Broncos ball carriers on Sunday.
With Phillip Lindsay siphoning touches and capping his ceiling, Gordon is more of a risky RB3 in Week 12.
Boone’s projection: 43 rushing yards, nine receiving yards
Other RBs to sit
- Leonard Fournette vs. Chiefs
- Darrell Henderson/Malcolm Brown/Cam Akers vs. 49ers
- Frank Gore vs. Dolphins
Tyler Boyd/Tee Higgins, Bengals
We’re in wait-and-see mode with the Bengals’ talented receiving duo following Joe Burrow‘s season-ending injury.
That’s bad news for Boyd and Higgins, who have operated as WR2s in recent weeks, and they’ll now fall into the risky WR3 range. Though big games are still possible, inconsistency and a lack of scoring opportunities are the new reality in Burrow’s absence.
Boone’s projection for Boyd: 56 receiving yards
Boone’s projection for Higgins: 45 receiving yards
Other WRs to sit
- D.J. Chark vs. Browns
- Jerry Jeudy vs. Saints
- Travis Fulgham vs. Seahawks
Jimmy Graham, Bears
Before getting too excited about a possible revenge game for Graham against the Packers, it’s important to acknowledge his situation.
Graham is a touchdown-dependent fantasy option, and he’s topped 35 receiving yards only twice this year, scoring once over his past five games.
Meanwhile, the Packers present the fourth-most difficult matchup for fantasy tight ends in 2020. We might see the Bears go out of their way to get Graham a red zone target or two, but there’s likely a streaming option with more upside on your waiver wire.
Boone’s projection: 31 receiving yards
Other TEs to sit
- Jared Cook at Broncos
- Trey Burton vs. Titans
- Jordan Reed at Rams
Andy Isabella, Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald will be sidelined for Week 12 and maybe longer after testing positive for COVID-19. And while we wish the veteran a speedy recovery, his absence opens the door for Isabella (1% rostered) to finally see increased playing time.
The Cardinals have yet to unleash their second-round pick from 2019, holding him to 50% or less of their snaps in every game this year.
Gabriel Davis, Bills
In the three games Brown has missed, Davis has produced stat lines of 4-81-0, 5-58-0, and 1-11-0 while playing at least 70% of the snaps in each contest. In fact, the 21-year-old has put up 55-plus yards and/or a touchdown in five of his 10 appearances.
If Brown’s ankle injury lingers, Davis could be a sneaky add for the stretch run in one of the league’s best offenses.
Marquise Brown, Ravens
Even with Jackson healthy, Brown has been a major disappointment this season. The 2019 first-round pick hasn’t posted double-digit fantasy points since Week 5, and he’s recorded just six catches for 55 yards and one touchdown over his last four outings.
He can’t be trusted in your lineup, and there are surely better waiver-wire options.
Kalen Ballage, Chargers
Ballage (68% rostered) was banged up in last week’s game and re-aggravated his lower-leg injury in practice on Thursday. His Week 12 availability is now in doubt after a couple of solid outings as the Chargers’ lead back.
With Austin Ekeler nearing a return, Ballage can be dropped for the next hot waiver-wire back who might be thrust into a bigger role. Potential candidates include Brian Hill (Todd Gurley missed practice Wednesday and Thursday), Samaje Perine (Giovani Bernard is trying to clear the concussion protocol), or Ballage’s teammates Troymaine Pope and Joshua Kelley (potential fill-ins if Ekeler isn’t ready yet).
‘There’s got to be natural grass’: Richard Peddie on the Rogers Centre’s future and past – Toronto Star
Longtime sports industry executive Richard Peddie, who was president of the Rogers Centre (then SkyDome) between 1989 and 1994, said it was clear almost from the time it was built that it was on the wrong side of history.
“I walked into (Baltimore’s) Camden Yards for the first time and went ‘oh, s—.’ SkyDome was really the last of the big multi-purpose stadiums that were built,” Peddie said Friday after a report that Rogers, which also owns the Blue Jays, might knock down the stadium and build a new ballpark as part of a major downtown redevelopment.
The stadium’s revenue took a big hit, he said, once the Air Canada Centre — now Scotiabank Arena — was built.
“We had to do a forecast just before I left. The biggest risk — which we noted in the forecast — was the possibility of a real arena being built, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Peddie, who was also CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment from 1996 to 2011.
Peddie added that the idea of building a new stadium on the existing parcel of land simply isn’t practical.
“There’s no way you could do it on the same site, because it would mean the team needing to play somewhere else for three or four years. You’d need to keep this open while you built somewhere else,” said Peddie, noting that the land is still owned by the federal government. “Rogers has a lease which says the land is being used for a sports stadium. They can’t just change it by themselves.”
He also had a few suggestions for what a new stadium should look like.
“There’s got to be natural grass. It should be an open-air stadium which you can cover up, rather than a domed stadium where you can roll the roof back. It should be smaller. And wearing my progressive hat, there shouldn’t be money from any level of government going towards this. Pro sports team owners are very wealthy people. A lot of them are billionaires, who have seen their franchise values increase by a lot.”
Strang urges Nova Scotians to maintain health during COVID-19's second wave – HalifaxToday.ca
Rogers Centre, formerly SkyDome, aka SexDome, may be umm, going down – Deadspin
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