San Antonio at Toronto
Time: 6 PM CT (ESPN)
Spread: TOR -7.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
SAN ANT TEAM NOTES:
The San Antonio Spurs have won six of its last 10 games and are currently 33-26. The Spurs lead the Houston Rockets by half a game in the Southwest Division standings, and this is a team truly without as much talent as Houston but it does possess one of the greatest coaches of all-time in Gregg Popovich. The Spurs replaced do-it-all forward Kawhi Leonard with 2-guard DeMar DeRozan this offseason, but this is not a Spurs team resplendent with offensive talents. LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay are both very solid strong veterans, but the rest of the roster is a rag-tag collection of players Popovich has found every way to maximize the respective talents of.
DeRozan and Aldridge combine to score 42.2 points per game, but the offense has hardly been a problem for this Spurs team which averages 112.3 points per game. Bryn Forbes has evolved into a very useful guard and is averaging 13.6 points per game, and Marco Belinelli is still a sharpshooter who thrives in the right system. The Spurs are hoping Derrick White can become a star, and he has looked good in his 22 starts this season.??Even Jakob Poeltl has found his defensive calling under Popovich and though he plays just 15 minutes a game, the Spurs utilize an 11-man rotation and call deep into its bench.
Toronto now becomes a very scary team on paper with its addition of Gasol. The Raptors will have a three-man rotation at the 4/5 spots featuring Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakem and Gasol. Additionally, OG Anunoby moonlights at the 4-spot, and Greg Monroe adds further depth. The Raptors are now filling out a top-flight rotation that can absolutely win the Eastern Conference, particularly with its perpetual thorn-in-the-side of LeBron James taking his talents out westward to L.A.
No matter what the Raptors do with Gasol, finding time for Siakem will remain a priority. He is making a run for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award this season, averaging 15.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 blocks/steals per game. Over his last five games, Siakem has tallied 19 points and six boards and the Raptors have won three of those contests. His athleticism and feel for the game are undeniable, and he has become a crucial part of the Raptors attack.
Over the course of the season, Siakem is shooting 55.7 percent from the field on 10.8 field goal attempts per game and absolutely is a key part of what Toronto is doing moving forward. It is unsurprising he was left out of the Gasol trade, as he was at one point becoming the centerpiece in the Raptors offer for Anthony Davis. While he’s obviously not on Davis’ level, Siakem looks to be a power forward any team could build around and his value to Toronto is immense both on the court and in potential trade markets.
The biggest difference maker, though, of course, has been Kawhi Leonard. Though many at the time felt the move of trading DeMar DeRozan for Leonard was nearly “lateral,” it has been anything but. Leonard brings a true lockdown defensive presence in addition to his scoring and is arguably the best “two-way” player in the Association. Leonard is averaging 27.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.4 blocks/steals per game this season. In the Raptors most recent win over the Philadelphia 76ers, he came up with three steals, three assists, seven rebounds, and 24 points despite shooting just 3 of 11 from the field.
Leonard got to the line to knock down 16 of 17, showing that he can be a major force offensively even while his field goals are not falling. He is a transcendental talent, and between Leonard, Siakem, and Gasol, the Raptors now have one of the best starting frontcourts in the league. Serge Ibaka will likely come in to spell both Siakem and Gasol off the bench, and he is now one of the best frontcourt reserves in the league with that likely “demotion.”