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Toronto Raptors

Do the Toronto Raptors need a traditional closer to go far in the playoffs?

Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): This week, our Micah Adams wrote an article about how this year's Toronto Raptors team is the most clutch team in franchise history, better even than last season's team that won the championship. It's quite a surprise considering they lost arguably the most clutch player in the NBA in Kawhi Leonard, but it's a testament to how deep this team is and how well-coached they are.

In saying that, there are still some concerns. As good as they have been in the clutch this season, the Raptors - Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam specifically - have struggled when the game has slowed down.

As Adams wrote, "It's not the end all, be all - no single data point ever is - but the Raptors rank dead last in the NBA late in the shot clock in the fourth quarter, shooting a paltry 27.9 percent, with Lowry (6-27) and Siakam (7-22) a combined 26.5 percent.

"There will come a point when someone needs to step up and out-Superman the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Damian Lillard, James Harden, Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler or maybe even Leonard himself with the clock ticking down."

What do you make of that? Do you think the Raptors can continue to score by committee in the clutch or do you think they need a Kawhi Leonard-like closer to make it far in the playoffs?

Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): I think they'll need a defined closer. We can't expect any of the current Raptors to perform the way Kawhi did last season, but someone needs to be in that role. It should be Siakam. He's the team's best player and he's best suited to create scoring opportunities when the game's on the line or the shot clock is winding down. His 26.5 percent shooting from the field late in the shot clock looks bad on paper but what I'd like to also see is how many assists or scoring chances he's created for others in the clutch. That's just as important as putting the ball in the basket for me.

If Siakam can't demand extra attention from defenders in the clutch, it doesn't bode well for the Raptors. Kawhi was great at that, all the best players in the league are good at it. Siakam's next step as an All-Star and ultimately a superstar should be becoming a threat in the clutch.

Rafferty: It's important not to forget how new all of this still is to Siakam. Last season, his usage rate in the clutch was 13.7 percent, the same as Delon Wright, Dwight Powell and Davis Bertans to name a few. This season, his usage rate in the clutch has skyrocketed to 33.5 percent, putting him on the same page as LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Nikola Jokic.

That's a humongous jump, so I'm not surprised that he's still going through some growing pains. As you said, the next step for him is to become a legitimate closer. That takes time.

By the way, Siakam has six assists in the clutch this season, ranking third in the team behind Kyle Lowry (20) and Fred VanVleet (eight).

Gay: Yeah, that needs to improve. It sounds like a knock but it's not. Siakam is an All-Star and Raptors fans should be patient with his growth, but it's important to point out where that growth needs to happen if he's going to become the player we NOW expect him to be. No one saw this coming from him and he has time to reach his peak, but we do need to have honest conversations about what he is now and what he needs to be for this team to once again win an NBA title.

Rafferty: That's why I included him as one of the players who I think has the most to prove in these playoffs. Maybe I was being a bit harsh on him, but I think we'll learn a lot about where Siakam is and where he still has room to grow based on how the Raptors do in the postseason.

Listen to Rafferty and Gay talk more about the Raptors in the clutch below...

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The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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