What’s an unusual fact about the two is how low of a draft pick they were coming out of college.
Matter-of-fact Leonard was the highest draft pick on the court for the Raptors in the game clincher.
Raptors players by draft status
- Kawhi Leonard - 15th
- Serge Ibaka - 24th
- Kyle Lowry - 24th
- Pascal Siakam - 27th
- Danny Green - 46th
- Norman Powell - 46th
- Marc Gasol - 48th
- Fred VanVleet – undrafted
Answer could be some top NBA Lottery picks might be too talented for their own good.
In other words, since so little effort was needed to defeat their peers at the local level, they may not see a reason to develop their game any further.
Let me explain by quoting what Raptors coach Nick Nurse said about the Raptors’ approach to winning the game through defense.
”Our communication, scheme, switching, blitzing, our rotations, contesting shots, all those things have been growing here since the start of the playoffs,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “The other thing is there are some moments, like stretches -- we call them consecutive stops -- and there are some stretches where it’s darned hard to complete a pass against us. That wears into a team after a while when you’re up into them and you’re denying, and everybody is just that connected and playing that hard.”
The first word he used was communication, that is, having the mental skills at the next level trumps the physical traits (both are necessary though) at the professional level.
Number one picks like Andrew Wiggins have all the physical tools in the world, but if they can’t don’t understand the game on a NBA level they won’t go any further than their raw physical talents will take them.
Looking at the heights of the Raptors’ players questions the concept of positionless basketball promoted by the Boston Celtics.
Raptors rotation by minutes played and height in last three games.
- Kawhi Leonard – 6’7”
- Kyle Lowry – 6’1”
- Pascal Siakam – 6’9”
- Fred VanVleet – 6’0”
- Marc Gasol – 7’1”
- Serge Ibaka – 6’10”
- Norman Powell – 6’4”
- Danny Green – 6’6”
With Lowry and VanVleet playing the 2nd and 4th most minutes, height and speed alone didn’t hold the Bucks to 102, 99, 94 points in their last three contests.
Enough about the Raptors. What does their success have to do with the Miami Heat?
First, the back end of the draft may hold value as scouts over weigh the importance of physical attributes among some lottery candidates.
Second, a few (not every) top draft picks may think their physical gifts as teenagers suffice to win the later battles against the best basketball players in the world.
Third, being able to finish at the rim against high school and college amateurs in highlight fashion takes a back seat to communication skills and teamwork on championship teams in the NBA.
Fourth, even though intangibles count a lot, at least one transcendental player is needed on a NBA team to reach the top tier.
The Miami Heat had planned for one or more of the players among Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow to reach first team All-NBA status, but that hasn’t happened as of today.
Perhaps Bam Adebayo could make a quantum leap to become leader of the pack.
As for the June 20 NBA draft, finding a star NBA professional among the talented amateur hopefuls means going beyond video clips of teenagers to select a man who will understand basketball at a world-class level as a professional.
Pat Riley could have some surprises in store in June and July, because the rise of the Raptors and Bucks emphasize that while the NBA has many elite athletes, the playoffs separate the men from the boys in June.