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Toronto Raptors

One stat and one question for each player in the Toronto Raptors' rotation

The playoffs will be here in the blink of an eye.

Just 27 regular-season games stand between now and the start of the postseason for the Toronto Raptors, which means it's time for the defending champs to hone in on preparing for a testy title defence.

It's been a complete team effort all season long as the Raptors have dealt with more injuries than any other team currently projected to make the playoffs. Each and every player in the rotation can expect to play a vital role down the stretch as the Raptors fight for prime playoff positioning in a year when seeding matters perhaps more than usual.

In order to help sift through the clutter, we identified one key stat and one pressing question for each of the players in Nick Nurse's rotation. Every game counts and as the countdown to the postseason continues, the focus will only continue to sharpen.

Pascal Siakam

One stat: Siakam has scored a total of 28 points on 12-for-42 shooting against Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis this season.

One question: Can Siakam hold his own against the best defenders in the league in the playoffs? Not that Siakam is going to see Antetokounmpo, Simmons, Embiid and Davis, but he will draw the opposing team's best defender each time he takes the floor in the postseason. He got a taste of it in the playoffs last season against Embiid and Draymond Green, the difference this season being that he can't afford to have too many off games because the Raptors can't turn to one of the best closers in the league anymore in Kawhi Leonard. If Siakam can have more success against those types of defenders, the Raptors have a real shot at repeating.

- Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles)

Kyle Lowry

One stat: In late shot clock situations - between seven and four seconds remaining - Lowry is shooting 48.9 from the field and 34.8 from 3.

One question: Without Leonard, the Raptors will lean heavily on Siakam and Lowry in the playoffs when the offence breaks down and they need to get a quality look. To this point in the regular season, Lowry has been able to create offence late in the clock. But when the defence tightens up in the postseason, will he be able to replace what Leonard brought last year?

- Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)

Fred VanVleet

One stat: The Raptors are 18-5 this season when VanVleet makes at least three 3-pointers.

One question: Will VanVleet continue to hit timely shots? OK, so this is an oversimplification, but it cuts to the core of VanVleet's identity as a timely shotmaker. The Raptors don't win the title last summer without VanVleet rising to the occasion as a microwave from downtown, particularly against Milwaukee and Golden State. That same trend has carried over into the regular season. That 18-5 situational record is more impactful than looking at the same split for Lowry (17-9), the other half of Toronto's two-headed backcourt. While it's going too far to suggest that VanVleet's outside shooting is the most important X-factor moving forward, there's little doubt that he's got the ability to single-handedly swing a quarter, which can swing a game, which can swing a series. If it feels like good things happen for the Raptors when Fred VanFinals MVP vote-getter starts raining in 3s, it's because they do.

- Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13)

OG Anunoby

One stat: Anunoby has a team-high 2.6 defensive win shares.

One question: Has Anunoby finally realized his potential as a game-changing 3-and-D role player? Ever since a head-turning rookie season in which Anunoby's defensive acumen led to him drawing the primary assignment of defending LeBron James in the playoffs, the thought of him developing into the prototypical modern 3-and-D wing has never escaped the daydreams of Raptors fans and pundits. So great was the idea of Anunoby that Masai Ujiri even balked at including him in the fateful Kawhi Leonard trade. After taking somewhat of a step back last season, Anunoby has settled into a nice role in his third year. Not only does he lead the team in defensive win shares, he's done so while doubling up both his steals and blocks average from a season ago. Toss in more made corner 3s than anyone else on the team, and Anunoby is once again starting to fulfill his destiny as a valuable high-end 3-and-D starlet.

- Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13)

Marc Gasol

One stat: Gasol's usage rate is 12.7 percent, the lowest of his career. He's averaging just 6.6 field goals a game, also a career-low.

One question: Can Gasol keep opposing teams honest? He is no longer a go-to-guy. He was able to get by being the fourth or fifth option on the floor in the playoffs last season. This year, he'll have to be more aggressive to help the Raptors maximize their playoff run. It's not just about scoring, it's his ability to force the defence to guard him. Too many times in the playoffs last year Gasol was a reluctant offensive threat. When he gets his opportunities on the floor this time around, he has to become someone the defence can't blatantly ignore.

- Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)

Serge Ibaka

One stat: Since Dec. 18, only five players in the NBA have more 20-point, 10-rebound games than Ibaka, who has nine of them.

One question: Are the Raptors leaning too heavily on Ibaka? It takes a village to replace Leonard offensively. And while much of the burden is shouldered by Siakam, Lowry and VanVleet, it's been Ibaka that has exploded into the forefront with a barrage of big-time performances. When Ibaka went for 25 points and 13 rebounds in a road win over the Pistons back on Dec. 18, it marked his first 20-10 game of the season. Since then only Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Luka Doncic and Anthony Davis have done it more often. More importantly? The Raptors are 8-1 in those nine games, meaning Ibaka's not simply wracking up empty numbers. He's enjoying the best offensive season of his career, is up to over 40 percent from 3 and has unexpectedly become a reliable source of volume production. Three words to think about moving forward: is that sustainable?

- Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13)

Norman Powell

One stat: Powell has almost doubled his scoring average from last season, from 8.6 points per game to a career-best 15.3 points per game.

One question: Can Powell continue to provide a consistent scoring punch off the bench? Consistently is what has plagued Powell the most in his NBA career. It hasn't been a problem this season. Case in point: Powell has scored 20 more points in 12 games this season. He had a total of 12 such games in his career entering this season. The Raptors can only hope Powell can continue to fill it up, both when he returns from injury and in the playoffs, because his scoring and 3-point shooting adds another dimension to this team. He's been one of the best spot-up threats in the league this season, ranking in the 76th percentile with 1.11 points per possession.

- Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles)

Terence Davis

One stat: The Raptors are outscoring opponents by 11.9 points per 100 possessions with Davis on the court this season, giving him the best net rating on the team.

One question: Will Davis hit the rookie wall? It helps that he's not carrying as big of a load as other players in his draft class, but it's a concern with any rookie, regardless of their role or how many minutes they're playing. Davis has quietly worked his way into an important role on this team. Whenever a key member of the rotation is out with an injury, he always seems to be the next man up.

- Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles)

Patrick McCaw

One stat: McCaw is shooting 41.7 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s this season.

One question: McCaw has been better than most realize in his role this season. He's been able to knock down the open 3 when given the opportunity. He wasn't bad on catch-and-shoot 3s in the postseason last year either, shooting 33.3 percent in those situations. Where things break down for McCaw is when he has to put the ball on the deck. If teams chase him off the 3-point line in the playoffs, McCaw has to be far better and far more decisive with the rock.

- Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

One stat: Hollis-Jefferson has played 64 minutes this season alongside Siakam but without Gasol, Ibaka or Chris Boucher.

One question: Has RHJ unlocked Toronto's best small-ball lineup? It's an incredibly small sample size so it's dangerous to read too much into it, but RHJ's size and defensive acumen gives Nick Nurse a small-ball option that at least can soak up some minutes and match up with the likes of the Boston Celtics who like to go small. In Toronto's second-to-last game before the All-Star break, Nurse went to a lineup of Hollis-Jefferson, Siakam, Anunoby, Lowry and VanVleet for 21 minutes and that group responded by torching the Minnesota Timberwolves to the tune of 137.5 points per 100 possessions. RHJ's versatility could allow for more experimentation down the stretch and it's something to keep an eye on as Toronto eyes another late postseason run fueled by sneaky adjustments in the margins.

- Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13)

Chris Boucher

One stat: Boucher is averaging 2.4 blocks per 36 minutes this season.

One question: Given the questions surrounding the health of Gasol and Ibaka, can Boucher emerge as a reliable backup big come playoff time? Boucher has always been an elite rim protector. Those who've never taken the time to watch him play tend to look at his frame and say "there's no way this guy is a great shot blocker." He is, and not just on the weak side either, he'll reject you straight up. If Boucher wants to earn serious minutes in the playoffs, he has to bring his energy and rim protection to the table. The main thing for the Montrealer to worry about, however, is he's averaging 5.2 fouls per 36 minutes. If Nurse is going to give Boucher the extra time, Boucher has to learn to not put himself in foul trouble.

- Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)

Matt Thomas

One stat: Thomas has made 47.9 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts this season. That ranks fourth in the league behind Rodney Hood, George Hill and Khris Middleton.

One question: Thomas is playing only 10.4 minutes per game this season. It's clear what he brings to the table - elite 3-point shooting - but will Nick Nurse trust him in the playoffs? It'll hinge on whether or not he can hang defensively, as teams will almost certainly target Thomas when he's on the court.

- Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles)

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