Toronto Temperature: A truly bizarre week for the Raptors in Tampa

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What an absolute monster of a weird week for the Toronto Raptors.

Beginning this odyssey, the Raptors suffered a ten-point loss that featured a now routine fourth quarter meltdown to an Oklahoma City Thunder team that was missing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort, and even veteran Al Horford. After that embarrassing loss and a couple of days of rest, Toronto calmly decided to obliterate the Golden State Warriors by a franchise-high 53 points — no big deal. As if that excitement weren’t enough, newcomer Gary Trent Jr. popped a game-winning three pointer at the buzzer in Raul Neto’s exuberantly acted face, only to follow that gem up by getting absolutely spanked by the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers who were missing LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and even “veteran” Andre Drummond.

Of course, through all of this week, the Raptors have had injuries and COVID protocol issues of their own to deal with. In some combination over the four games, Toronto was missing Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, DeAndre’ Bembry, Patrick McCaw, Paul Watson Jr., Rodney Hood, Jalen Harris, and OG Anunoby — who admittedly was only missing after being egregiously ejected for flipping Dennis Schroeder ass over tea kettle.

Want some more? Well, as if this Raptors season from hell in Tampa Bay wasn’t enough, this happened!

Please let this season end and get the Raptors home!

Who’s Hot

Gary Trent Jr., A Very Green Light

Gary Trent Jr., the newest Toronto Raptor, is very much an old school Toronto Raptor: he’s willing to get in the mix during physical altercations; he’s a fan-favourite after a buzzer beater to win in a season that has featured so, so many buzzer beaters that didn’t end up dropping; he says Toronto without the second “t”; and most importantly, he has a green light to jack up long-twos. Is there a record for Toronto falling in-love with a new player? Is it Kawhi after his laugh or Gary Trent Jr. after becoming best friends with OG Anunoby on his first day with the team?

Washington Wizards v Toronto Raptors

Gary and his best friend Ogugua.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

While Gary stunk it up against the Lakers Tuesday night, here is what his first four games as a Raptor looked like. Oh, and that buzzer-beater? Why not watch it one more time.

If nothing else, the Gary Trent Jr. era in Toronto is going to be extremely entertaining.

OG Anunoby, Top 25 Under 25

As is the time-honoured tradition, ESPN has released a terrible list that omits Raptors players who are clearly better than other players on the list. This year’s Toronto snub goes to OG Anunoby, who despite being, you guessed it, under 25 years old, is not featured on the Top 25 Players Under 25 Years Old.

While the tweet above only illustrates the past eight games, those numbers are not terribly far off from OG’s output on the season with the exception of the points, as OG is currently averaging 14.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. Those offensive numbers should be enough to get him to the bottom end of the lazy list, but it’s his defensive prowess and ability to guard 1 through 5 — OG is literally the most versatile defender in the league — that should catapult him ahead of the likes of likes of Colin Sexton (25), Lonzo Ball (24), Jarrett Allen (23), John Collins (22), Tyrese Haliburton (21) and Mikal Bridges (17).

Who’s Improving

Aron Baynes, Better off the Bench

It’s fair to say that Aron Baynes was not a successful starting centre for the Toronto Raptors. Very, very fair to say — BUT! — since moving to the bench, Baynes has been remarkably consistent and is managing to find a place both in the offensive flow and the ultra-aggressive defensive coverage that coach Nick Nurse still relies on. In the four game week where Toronto went 2-2, Baynes only managed to average six points and six rebounds per game — BUT! — the newly minted backup centre managed to put up a dazzling +38.

So, not hot, but not beginning of the season frozen tundra either. That type of improvement is paramount to Toronto not bleeding out whenever Baynes plays. Now if only Nurse wouldn’t play Baynes and Stanley Johnson together.

Hey, is that Stanley Johnson’s music?

Who’s Not

Stanley Johnson, A Negative Miracle

Look, it’s important to note that Stanley Johnson is much improved from his previous season with the Raptors, but the team is wholly worse with him on the floor. While Johnson has showed improvements over the season, he’s still capable of some of the more absurd, head-scratching moments in recent Raptors memory. For instance…

Not only was Johnson a -7, he was the only Raptor to finish with a negative rating. Yes, Toronto won the game, so who cares, but moments like this crystalize what has been a very odd Raptors tenure for Stanley.