The Toronto Raptors have once again been on top form this season, sitting second in the Eastern Conference. Which three players are having career years?
As the reigning champions of the NBA, the Toronto Raptors were on course for another strong season. Sitting second in the Eastern Conference with a record of 46-18, the Raptors had already secured a spot in the playoffs and were on course for yet another 50-plus win season.
Even without the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, the Raptors are still the most dominating teams in the NBA. They are home to the league's second-best defense and one of the brightest young cores.
No matter who steps on the court for Nick Nurse, they'll do a job. That's the modus operandi for this team. There aren't many other teams who have suffered the number of injuries that the Raptors have dealt with this season. Everyone from Kyle Lowry to Patrick McCaw has missed significant time, but the winning remains.
In the absence of so many players at so many different times, the Raptors have had a number of different combinations on the court, and that has given way to multiple players stepping up in ways that they haven't been able to before.
The result has been career-years across the board. Fred VanVleet has stepped into a full-time starting role seamlessly, while Pascal Siakam has made the jump from the NBA's Most Improved Player to a bonafide star, but who else has made the jump this year?
From top to bottom, which three players delivered career-years in the 2019-20 NBA season?
It's hard to believe, but Chris Boucher is now 27 years old. He came into the NBA at 25 years old with the Golden State Warriors before joining the Raptors 905 last season where he was voted the G-League MVP and Defensive Player of the Year while splitting time with the Toronto Raptors.
In his first season with the Raptors, Boucher played a sporadic role with the team, featuring in 28 games, averaging 3.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 0.1 assists per game, shooting 45-percent from the field and 32-percent from three. While he was noticeably raw, Boucher didn't hesitate to shoot on sight and his length was a major disruption on both ends.
This season saw Boucher take on a bigger role with the team, and so far, he certainly delivered. It's clear that with his slight frame and slow shooting motion that he's still a little raw, but in his third NBA season, Boucher is having a career-year.
In 55 games, he's averaging 6.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 9.4 assists per game. The raw numbers aren't much of an increase from last season, but it's clear that Boucher has made tremendous strides since last season.
He was a prominent part of the Raptors' greatest regular game in franchise history - the 30-point comeback against the Dallas Mavericks, as he scored 21 points, a career-high, and added seven rebounds, and four blocks on the occasion.
Two games later and he set a new career-high with 24 points on 7-of-10 shooting as the Raptors were downed by the Boston Celtics in their first-ever Christmas Day game. In recent times, he's fell in and out of the rotation, but this is the best Boucher has ever been.
When Serge Ibaka lined up at power forward against the Cleveland Cavaliers two seasons ago, it felt like his days of being an impactful player for the Toronto Raptors were long gone. Ibaka, in truth, looked washed.
And then he made the switch back to his more natural position of center and the results were incredible. Last year, Ibaka averaged 15 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.4 blocks per game, shooting 53-percent from the field and 29-percent from three.
Until the arrival of Marc Gasol, Ibaka was a regular starter for the Raptors, but once his Spanish compatriot arrived, Ibaka was relegated to a role on the bench but didn't miss a beat. His performances against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals were vital in helping the Raptors progress, and his three-pointer in the face of Ben Simmons is an often forgotten about moment in the series.
It was a lot to expect Ibaka to be as good as he was last season, but in truth, he's become even better. He's averaging a career-high 16 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game, shooting 52-percent from the field and 40-percent from deep.
With Gasol missing considerable time, Ibaka has split his minutes between the bench and the starting line-up. He's excelled in both scenarios, giving the Raptors energy off the bench and meshing well with the starters
Now in the final year of his contract, Ibaka will be looking to prove that he's worth some considerable money in the offseason. So far, he's done a pretty good job.
After four inconsistent and often frustrating seasons with the Toronto Raptors, Norman Powell has finally found his groove and, boy, does it look good?
Following his career-year in the 2018-19 NBA season when he averaged 8.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game, shooting 48-percent from the field and 40-percent from three, Powell was an impactful player for the Raptors in the postseason, coming up big with performances against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Now an NBA champion, Powell is better than ever before. In 44 games this season, he's averaged 16.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game, shooting 50-percent from the field and 40-percent from deep and has been a key player for the Raptors on a nightly basis.
Unfortunately, Powell has battled injuries this season, missing 20 games over the year. Upon his return from injury last time around, Powell was as good as he has ever been and knocked down a career-high 37 points against the Golden State Warriors, shooting 13-of-21 from the field.
During that period, he scored 22 points, 24 points, 26 points, 37 points, and 31 points before suffering another injury against the Utah Jazz. Not only is Powell scoring more points than ever before, but he's also doing it on elite efficiency with a TS% of 63-percent.
To put it into context, Powell leads every guard who averages more than 15 points per game in TS%. That's a collection of players that include the likes of Damian Lillard, James Harden, and Chris Paul.
Out of every Raptors player who is amid a career-year, Powell's is certainly the most impressive.