Chris Boucher puts up a 38-point, 19-rebound game

Raptors forward/center Chris Boucher continues to show signs of huge talent, while mostly coming off the bench this season. On Thursday, he started, and put up a monster game. Via the Toronto Star:

Chris Boucher played a game that was better statistically than any ever before by a Raptors big man.

Better by numbers than anything Chris Bosh ever did, or Pascal Siakam, or Antonio Davis, or Jonas Valanciunas, or any of the many other frontcourt players — good and bad — in the first 2,044 games of the franchise’s existence.

It was a wonderful night: 38 points and 19 rebounds in a loss to the Chicago Bulls on Thursday, one rebound shy of the first 30-20 game ever by a Raptor and the first time anyone has reached those numbers in the same game.

There have been better scoring nights — the list of 40-plus games runs the gamut from Acie Earl to Andrea Bargnani to Bosh, who did it nine times.

And there have been better rebounding nights up front — Bismack Biyombo once had 25; Bosh went over 20 twice, as did Valanciunas; Donyell Marshall had 24; Joey Dorsey once grabbed 20.

But never before had anyone put up 38 and 19, and for that Boucher should praised and held in high regard.

The Raptors are just 20-32 this season, which is the 11th best record in the Eastern conference.

Boucher is averaging 13.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 23.6 minutes per game.

Yes, Kristaps Porzingis says he misses NYC

Generally, every NBA player, when asked, usually says yes, he misses some aspect of a former team he used to play for. Sometimes the team itself. Other times the arena. And of course, usually the city, and the fans. On that front, here’s Mavericks forward-center Kristaps Porzingis, via the New York Post:

Kristaps Porzingis’ return to the Garden on Friday won’t be as viciously loud as it was in 2019 with only 10-percent capacity allowed during this pandemic season.

But the 2,000 fans permitted inside when the Mavericks visit the Knicks should be vocal. And judging by last season and social media, the 7-3 Latvian is still viewed a villain and undoubtedly will receive more jeers than cheers.

Ironically, Porzingis, traded from the Knicks 26 months ago, says he’s greeted differently on the streets of Manhattan when he visits, though he gave up his Midtown apartment.

Porzingis says he, in some ways, misses being a Knick.

“I do,” Porzingis said. “I miss the city. I miss this place. A lot of great memories. Every time I come back, it’s special. A lot of people here still recognize me and show me love and support. It’s always good to come back.”

The Mavs are 25-21 this season, which is the 7th best record in the Western conference.

Porzingis is averaging 20.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 30.5 minutes per game.

RJ Barrett having an impressive season for Knicks

RJ Barrett is having an impressive season, and has been an essential Knick in 2020-21. Via New York Newsday:

RJ Barrett was one of the finalists for Eastern Conference Player of the Week last week when it went to Charlotte’s Terry Rozier, but he has still not gotten over the award he feels he really was slighted by. Last season Barrett was left off the All-Rookie team — first and second team. After being drafted third overall he was confident that there were not 10 players better than him in his draft class and his play this year has stated his case for him.

“I think you see it,” Barrett said. “I think everybody sees it. Been working my butt off, producing on the court. I don’t know what else to say. I still think it’s crazy. All I can do is just continue to play well. The team’s playing well. That’s all that really matters.”

The Knicks are 24-23 this season, which is the 5th best record in the Eastern conference.

Barrett is averaging 17.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 34.1 minutes per game.

On the rebuilding Pistons

The Pistons aren’t going to win the NBA championship this year. Beyond that, there are plenty of unknowns going forward. Via the Detroit News:

The Pistons are 13-33 and the rebuilding season keeps slogging on. There are questions about where the team is going, but for the first time in a long time, there’s a very clear path forward, and several young players to be excited about.

Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and Saben Lee all look to be keepers, and the only remaining question about last year’s draft was the No. 7 pick, Killian Hayes. While there have been plenty of questions about the rest of the roster, the most interesting position has been point guard, because Delon Wright had been the starter for most of the season and he was traded to the Sacramento Kings last week.

It begs the question about what the Pistons’ future will be with a draft that many experts consider to be deep on talent, especially in the top five, where the Pistons appear to be headed. What does that mean for the core that they’ve already established?

The best Pistons player this season has been new addition Jerami Grant, who in 35.1 minutes per game is averaging 22.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists, shooting 42.4%. He’s a talented player, but not a superstar, and shouldn’t be expected to carry a squad by himself. The question is, who he’ll be playing alongside in Detroit next season and beyond.

Raptors racking up losses in a tough season

The Raptors aren’t having the best of seasons, to put it mildly. Via the Toronto Sun:

Things are dire in Raptor-land. It’s going to take a miracle for them to get back into the middle of the conference and there have been no signs one is coming. They’re going to have to be excellent to even get to seventh or eight in the East (which would mean they’d only have to win one play-in game to qualify for the playoffs, instead of the 9-10 teams, which will have to win two). Long-term there’s no question it would be more beneficial to nab a Top-10 pick, preferably a Top-5 prospect in what’s believed to be a pretty good. And the veterans are battered and exhausted and could benefit from a lower-stress finish/rest down the stretch (although it’s hard to see Kyle Lowry agreeing to a shut-down or an ease-down, since he is reportedly trying to land a new two-year contract for significant money and needs to prove he is still elite and durable at 35. Fred VanVleet is third in minutes-per-game, and 13th in overall minutes despite missing some games while in the protocols. His foot scare against Detroit had to have sent shockwaves through the organization and maybe have them questioning what they’re doing here and how much sense it makes.

The Raptors are just 18-29 this season, which is the 11th best record in the Eastern conference.

Their leading scorers so far in 2020-21 are Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakim each at 20.1 points per game, Kyle Lowry at 17.0 ppg, OG Anunoby at 14.7 ppg, and Chris Boucher off the bench at 13.4 ppg

They recently traded Norman Powell, who was the team’s third leading scorer at 19.6 ppg, for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood.

Clippers playing well lately, riding six-game winning streak

The Clippers are on a six-game winning streak, and playing much better basketball these days than they were early in the season. Via the LA Times:

There are myriad ways to measure the differences between now and a five-week stretch starting in mid-February in which the Clippers scuffled to a 5-8 record.

In those five weeks the Clippers’ offensive rating of 111.6 ranked 16th, their 113.8 defensive rating ranked 23rd and their rebounding rate ranked 12th.

Since the winning streak began March 20, the Clippers’ offensive rating of 126 points per 100 possessions leads the league by a mammoth seven-point gap — the same margin that separates teams ranked two through 11.

Their defensive rating of 106.1 ranks seventh. Their rebounding percentage ranks third. Their average margin of victory is 17.6 points. They are turning the ball over the third-fewest percentage of possessions, as well.

The Clippers are now 32-16 this season, which is the third best record in the Western conference.

Their leading scorers so far in 2020-21 are Kawhi Leonard at 25.9 points per game, Paul George at 22.5 ppg, and Marcus Morris at 12.7 ppg.

Key 2021 NBA Draft dates announced

The NBA announced today that the 2021 NBA Draft will take place on Thursday, July 29, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

The first round will be televised by ESPN and ABC, and the second round will air on ESPN.

The NBA also announced additional key dates relating to the 2021 NBA Draft:

The 2021 NBA Draft Combine: Subject to evolving public health conditions, Microsoft Surface NBA Draft Combine 2021 is scheduled to take place Monday, June 21 through Sunday, June 27. ESPN networks plan to televise the NBA Draft Combine, with coverage featuring five-on-five games and strength and agility testing.

The 2021 NBA Draft Lottery will take place on Tuesday, June 22, airing on ESPN at 8:30 p.m. ET.

The 2021 NBA Early Entry Application and Withdrawal Deadlines: The deadline for an early entry player to apply for this year’s NBA Draft is Sunday, May 30 at 11:59 p.m. ET. The deadline for an early entry player to withdraw from the NBA Draft is Monday, July 19 at 5 p.m. ET.

Heat struggling from three-point range this season

The Heat have an issue that needs fixing. Via the Sun Sentinel:

The Heat (22-20) made nine of their 34 3-point attempts (26.5 percent) in their 137-110 loss to the Pacers, wrapping up a week in which they shot 28.3 percent from beyond the arc on 36.3 attempts per night across four games.

The recent 3-point showings only further displayed one of the more perplexing developments for the Heat this season: how they went from one of the NBA’s best 3-point shooting teams just a year ago to one of the league’s worst this season.

The Heat are 22-20 this season, which is the 4th best record in the Eastern conference.

Duncan Robinson is taking 8.5 three-pointers per game and hitting 38.5% 3FG. Kelly Olynyk shoots 5.7 threes per game, hitting 32.8% 3FG. Tyler Herro shoots 5.6, hitting 32.9% 3FG. And Kendrick Nunn shoots 5.5, hitting 35.1% 3FG.

The team is shooting 34.5% from three this season, which ranks them just 27th in the NBA, ahead of the Wizards, Cavs and Rockets.

James Harden is having yet another amazing season

James Harden, traded by the Rockets to the Nets in mid January, continues to prove that he’s the rare type of superstar who can move mountains on a basketball court. Via the New York Post:

Where would the Nets, who are tied for the lead in the Eastern Conference, be without trading for Harden? Durant hasn’t played since Feb. 13 but the Nets are 12-1 without him as part of an extended 14-1 stretch. Irving was on a personal leave of absence when Harden was acquired and he has sat out three games during the recent surge, including Wednesday’s win over the Pacers, due to various shoulder and groin injuries.

“James is so elite he’s able to make the big plays that very few people can make down the stretch,” Nash said after coaching Harden through his 11th triple-double (40 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds) in 42 minutes on Wednesday. “When he plays that many minutes, he stuffs the stat sheet. I could go on and on about James and the nuances of what he does all night, but he definitely is a winner, a leader, and an elite, elite performer.”

The Nets are 28-13 this season, which ties them with the Sixers for the best record in the Eastern conference.

Their leading scorers so far in 2020-21 are Durant at 29.0 points per game (just 19 games played), Irving at 27.6 ppg, Harden at 25.7 ppg, and Joe Harris at 14.7 ppg.

Raptors thoughts heading into the NBA trade deadline

As the trade deadline approaches, it needs to be determined who this season’s real Raptors are. Via the Toronto Star:

Are the Raptors the team that started 2-8 and is currently in a 1-9 swoon? Or are the Raptors the team that rattled off a 14-6 run in between that included wins over all the big boys of the Eastern Conference and showed they still have some big-time fight in them?

It is not easy. And deciding what to do may be harder this year for the president and general manager than it has been at any point in the seven-year run of post-season appearances the Raptors are in danger of seeing broken.

In many ways, it makes no sense to do anything of substance and to ride out the season before making any startling moves.

The Raptors can be good — they can be very good, in fact — and while they certainly have a hole to climb out of, there’s reason to think they won’t.

The Raptors are just 17-23 this season, which is the 11th best record in the Eastern conference. They’re being led in scoring by Fred VanVleet at 19.9 points per game, Pascal Siakam at 19.8 ppg, Norman Powell at 19.7 ppg, Kyle Lowry at 17.8 ppg, Chris Boucher at 14.3 ppg, and OG Anunoby at 13.8 ppg.