Toronto at Cleveland
Time: 6 PM CT (NBA TV)
Spread: TOR -8.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
Toronto now becomes a very scary team on paper with its addition of Marc 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.”
CLE TEAM NOTES:
The Cleveland Cavaliers have lost eight of its last 10. It is 16-50 and in second-to-last place in the Eastern Conference.
The Cavs fans can turn their attention to a talented draft class, but as for this season, the theme will continue to be developing the existent young talents on this roster and trying to find a semblance of chemistry between rookie Collin Sexton and the several notable offensive talents the Cavs still possess. Kevin Love is still good for 19 points and 11 rebounds a game, but he is never going to be back to the level of production he showed in Minnesota before Joining LeBron James.
Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood are both good scorers, but neither should be a team’s No. 2 and No. 3 options—not if the goal is winning basketball games. Sexton has been everything the Cavaliers hoped he would be, but he still is facing the typical issues of rookie point guards, which includes hardly getting any calls. Tristan Thompson is averaging a double-double, but it is clear he has capped his potential and is a role player at best.
The Cavaliers will simply hope that a talent such as Zion Williamson can change its fate when it drafts in the summer. Because there is precious little to be gained from a season derailed by not only injuries but a sheer lack of talent with the subtraction of James, who simply made a lot of rag-tag performers play far above their usual levels. Remove the best player in the game, and this team is right where most figured it would be, in the cellar.