Grading Every Player so Far in Raptors-Warriors 2019 NBA Finals

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 4, 2019

Grading Every Player so Far in Raptors-Warriors 2019 NBA Finals

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    Two games into the 2019 NBA Finals, there's zero separation between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors.

    There is, however, enough statistical data and eye-test evidence to grade the on-court effectiveness of all 22 players to hit the hardwood.

    These assessments aren't tied entirely to production, though that's obviously a significant part. In essence, the grades are meant to reflect the overall performance, particularly in relation to expectations and roles.

    With those parameters set, let's throw some red ink all over this series.

Warriors Role Players

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    Jordan Bell: D

    Bell's up-and-down sophomore season is trending the wrong direction again. He drew the start in the series-opener and had no answers for Marc Gasol, who scored a playoff-high 20 points. Plagued by spotty awareness and unable to make his presence felt in a positive way, Bell received just nine seconds of action in Game 2.


    Andrew Bogut: D+

    Passed over in Game 1, Bogut made a seven-minute cameo in Game 2. While he crushed a couple of lobs and scored six points, the Warriors lost his floor time by six points in large part due to his defensive limitations. The 34-year-old can't defend in space, and the Raptors exploited that throughout his brief appearance.


    Quinn Cook: B

    Cook is a shooting guard in a point guard's body and not much of a defender, so his success will always hinge on his outside shot. So far, it's falling—4-of-7 outside—and the depleted Dubs have needed all the scoring they can get. For a one-category contributor, he's helping as much as can be reasonably expected.


    Jacob Evans: Incomplete

    Much like Evans' rookie season as a whole, his Finals run has been a blink-and-you-missed-it experience. He's actually seen action in each contest, but only for a total of seven seconds.


    Jonas Jerebko: D

    The full-strength Warriors wouldn't have floor time for Jerebko, and even this injury-riddled version has limited his exposure. He hasn't topped eight minutes in either contest, and he's 2-of-5 from deep overall. While playing with reserve-heavy lineups hasn't helped, it's still worth noting his net differential is a comically atrocious minus-46.1 points per 100 possessions.


    Shaun Livingston: B+

    As per usual, Livingston was having a fairly nondescript series before the closing seconds of Game 2. He'd been good-not-great in multiple areas but also, at times, chewed into some of the offensive spacing as a non-shooter.

    But he made a game-saving—potentially series-savingplay at the end of that contest that may have flown below the radar. With the Warriors only up two, Livingston saved a near-turnover from Stephen Curry by coming to his rushed pass and arriving just ahead of two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard. Livingston then delivered a no-look dime to Andre Iguodala, who splashed a dagger with seven seconds left.

    "I always call Shaun a bad receiver," Draymond Green told reporters afterward. "He turned into Megatron tonight for that pass."


    Kevon Looney: B-

    Since Toronto has the personnel to shapeshift its frontcourt, Looney's defensive versatility has been critical. Good enough, in fact, to mostly offset the fact he has just nine points and four rebounds across 39 minutes. The Warriors are a minus-2 with him on the floor, which isn't a bad mark for any member of this bench mob. A chest contusion forced him out of Game 2 and could prove problematic if it lingers.


    Alfonzo McKinnie: C+

    McKinnie hasn't stood out in any noticeable way, which is probably a good thing. Having him defend Kawhi Leonard for a short stretch predictably went awry, but that should've been expected. The Warriors are plus-2 over McKinnie's 18 minutes. Golden State will surely take that.

Raptors Role Players

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    Danny Green: B-

    Green appeared to be a shell of himself entering this series. Over his previous eight outings, he'd shot an anemic 20.9 percent from the field and 18.8 percent from distance. He started that stretch by receiving 30-plus minutes per contest and ended it seeing fewer than 15.

    He's been better this round, hitting 7-of-16 from the field (43.8 percent) and 5-of-12 outside (41.7). He's also helped bother the Splash Brothers a bit. But his off-the-dribble limitations were an issue in Game 2 (three turnovers), and he's not doing quite enough to demand major minutes (27.7).


    Serge Ibaka: C-

    The Raptors have more bigs than openings, and Ibaka has drawn the short end of the stick in terms of floor time (16.7 minutes per game). But he hasn't helped himself when he has an opportunity, shooting just 35.7 percent from the field and getting caught out of place defensively. His five offensive rebounds have helped, though, and Toronto should keep trying to extend its advantage there.


    Norman Powell: B

    Powell might be as volatile as anyone in Toronto's rotation, and his minutes can attest to that. He didn't even play five in the opener, and then topped 21 in Game 2. His attacking mentality helped Sunday night as he energized the arena with both a dunk and a triple. While there's certainly static with such a tiny sample size, he does lead this series in raw plus/minus at plus-15.


    Patrick McCaw: D+

    McCaw logged seven minutes in the opener, enough time to drop a dime and drill a revenge triple against his former team. He wasn't seen at all in Game 2, which might set the stage for plenty of sideline time going forward. 

DeMarcus Cousins: A-

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    A torn quad suffered in mid-April threatened to end DeMarcus Cousins' season. Getting him back in action at all is no minor victory.

    But this grade is about more than his body beating the odds. His on-court contributions in Game 2—11 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a plus-12 in 28 minutes—were just as impressive.

    "We came in thinking, all right, he can maybe play 20 minutes, and he gave us almost 28," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, per ESPN's Nick Friedell. "... He was fantastic, and we needed everything he gave out there—his rebounding, his toughness, his physical presence, getting the ball in the paint and just playing big, like he does."

    Cousins isn't close to 100 percent. His mobility is compromised, and he has almost no lift.

    Still, his skill level is such that he can still make a super-sized impact on the proceedings. The Warriors have fared 25.0 points better per 100 possessions with him than without. Considering his physical state, that borders on unfathomable.

Stephen Curry: B

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    Stephen Curry has battled it all this series.

    He's fighting against the pesky Fred VanVleet, Golden State's injuries, seldom-used defensive strategies, a mystery illness and all the physical contact that comes his way this time of year. All of the above have conspired against his statistics, which still show sufficient volume (28.5 points, 4.5 assists) but lack his trademark efficiency (40.0 shooting, 36.8 from distance).

    That said, his fingerprints are all over this series. While the obvious focus of Toronto's defense, he's fought temptation to force the issue and instead focused on making the right reads. In 81 minutes of work, he's committed just four giveaways.

    He's also used his gravitational pull on defenders to the Dubs' advantage. Whether setting screens or racing around them himself, he's pulling attention his way to free up his teammates. As a result, Golden State's offense is pumping an extra 7.4 points per 100 possessions when he's behind the wheel.

Marc Gasol: B-

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    It's been a tale of two games for Marc Gasol.

    In the opener, he was the unheralded hero. While Pascal Siakam stole the headlines with his 32-point eruption, Gasol was a force with 20 points, seven rebounds, two triples, two steals, a block and an assist over 30 minutes.

    "Him being able to orchestrate the offense at the top of the key, able to shoot the three, it helps everybody," Kawhi Leonard said ahead of Game 2, per Canada's Leandro Fernandez. "He's just playing well on both ends of the floor."

    But Gasol became more hindrance than helper in the second go-round. He had more shots (seven) than points (six) and as many turnovers as assists (two). He was outplayed by Cousins, and Toronto lost Gasol's 31 minutes by six points.

    Given his place on the Raptors' hierarchy, Gasol's strong moments do more good than his bad ones do harm. So, he's grading above-average for now, but Toronto can ill afford a repeat of his Game 2 flop.

Draymond Green: B

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    While Curry is the face of the Warriors and Kevin Durant is their most talented player, Draymond Green remains the tone-setter. If he's not ready to go, usually they aren't either, which was the case in Game 1 as the Raptors raced to a win with 24 fast-break points.

    "I have to be more aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. I think aggressiveness starts with me and everybody else will follow that," Green said the next day, per Bay Area News Group's Mark Medina. "If I'm on my heels, everyone else is on their heels."

    Green vowed to do better and made good on his word. He flew around the floor defensively in Game 2, and the rest of the Warriors followed his lead. By night's end, Toronto had converted just 37.2 percent of its field goals and 28.9 percent of its threes. None of the eight Raptors to see the floor shot even 43 percent, and three starters—Gasol, Siakam and Kyle Lowry—finished below 37 percent.

    Green's stat line shows a lot of good (13.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 9.5 assists) and some bad (38.1 percent shooting, 5.5 turnovers), but his impact is best captured by how helpless Golden State has been without him. During the 15 minutes he's spent on the sideline, the Warriors have been outscored by a whopping 25.8 points per 100 possessions.

Andre Iguodala: A-

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    Evaluating Andre Iguodala is always tricky because if he's doing his job, you don't always notice him.

    That said, he's been hard to miss in this series. He helped lead the charge at containing Kawhi Leonard in the opener. While Toronto's supporting cast rose to that challenge, Leonard had his fourth-worst scoring game of the postseason (23) while matching his low in field goals (5-of-14).

    Offensively, Iggy is doing a masterful job of picking his spots. Given the space he's been given—a "disrespectful" amount in the eyes of Curry—Iguodala could choose to fire at will. He's opted for discernment instead, totaling nearly as many assists (13) as shot attempts (15).

    But if the game demands he launches, he'll do so without a second thought. The former Finals MVP again looked super cool in the clutch with a coffin-closer that for now stands as the biggest shot of this series.

Kawhi Leonard: B

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    Kawhi Leonard paces this series in minutes and rebounds, and he shares its scoring lead with Curry.

    But this hasn't quite been the soul-snatching stuff to which Raptors fans had grown accustomed. Entering the Finals, Leonard had been flirting with a 50/40/90 playoff shooting slash (50.7/38.8/87.5). Other than free throws, he's nowhere close to those marks in this series (38.2 overall, 33.3 outside).

    Granted, Golden State threw the kitchen sink at him in Game 1, so he probably did well to finish with 23 points on 14 shot attempts and five assists against two giveaways. But he couldn't take advantage of receiving less attention in Game 2. No one should ever scoff at 34 points and 14 rebounds, but he did shoot just 40 percent from the field (22.2 from three) and have more turnovers (five) than assists (three).

    There might be a medical reason behind these (relative) struggles.

    "Kawhi Leonard has been battling a sore left knee since early in the conference finals," Joe Vardon reported. "... Sources told The Athletic's Sam Amick and me that Leonard's knee issue stems from overcompensating for his injured right quad suffered last season."

    Toronto's supporting cast has battled inconsistency all season, meaning Leonard might need to go superhuman to save this squad. But he can only do as much as his body will allow.

Kyle Lowry: C-

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    While most mentions of "Playoff Player X" often describe someone's innate ability to elevate at the most critical time, "Playoff Kyle Lowry" reflects something far less flattering. The five-time All-Star has often failed to look the part in the postseason, and he's arguably taken as much blame for Toronto's past stumbles as anyone.

    The Raptors have safeguarded themselves against an ill-timed Lowry disappearance to some degree by adding Leonard and developing the likes of Siakam and Fred VanVleet. But Lowry still handles a critical role for this club, and so far, he's reverting back to his old ways.

    "Lowry's play the first two games simply hasn't been what the Raptors need," ESPN's Brian Windhorst wrote. "He shot 2-of-9 in Game 1, which was covered by his teammates' strong shooting performance. He was 4-of-11 in Game 2 and fouled out in 27 minutes."

    Ten players have logged at least 50 minutes in this series. Lowry has the group's lowest field-goal percentage (30.0) and worst plus/minus (minus-6). His 11 personal fouls are the most of anyone, and his six in Game 2 forced the Raptors to play nearly the final four minutes without their starting point guard.

Pascal Siakam: B+

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    If Game 1 was your formal introduction to Pascal Siakam, then you likely carried warped expectations into Game 2.

    The third-year forward took a massive leap forward this season, being named a Most Improved Player Award finalist and narrowly missing out on an All-Star selection. But he fills the hustler/glue-guy role. In other words, he might've opened with 32 points on 14-of-17 shooting, but everyone should have known the schedule wouldn't match the original.

    He crashed back to earth with 12 points in Game 2, which, if you're wondering, was only his fifth-worst scoring effort of the postseason. Otherwise, he was almost the same player. He had identical rebound (eight) and assist (five) totals in both contests, and while he couldn't repeat his two blocks or one steal, he didn't turn the ball over in a game-high 41 minutes.

    Siakam outworked the Warriors in Game 1, and the Raptors took a series lead because of that effort. While his 5-of-18 follow-up wasn't exactly easy on the eyes, he's still well ahead of expectations overall.

Klay Thompson: B-

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    Klay Thompson sandwiched a disappointing Game 1 and a hamstring injury late in Game 2 around a fiery shooting display that kept the Warriors close enough to even the series.

    So, how exactly do you put a letter grade on that?

    Good question. His first outing landed in the C-minus/D-plus range. He misfired on nine of his 17 shots—six of his 11 two-pointers—had a quiet night defensively, picked up a frustrating technical foul with five minutes remaining and finished with a team-worst minus-10 in 39 minutes.

    But in Game 2, he seemed en route to at least an A. He delivered four of the Dubs' first five field goals, scored 11 points in the opening period and tallied a team-best 25 points in 32 minutes. He hit 10-of-17 shots on the night (4-of-6 from deep), grabbed five boards and dished five dimes against one assist. But he also exited early with hamstring tightness.

    "Klay said he'll be fine, but Klay can be half-dead and he'd say he's [fine]. We'll see," Kerr said, per Friedell. "He pulled his hamstring. He thinks it's minorI don't know what that means going forward."

    Thompson is a critical component in this attack, especially if Kevin Durant's calf strain keeps the two-time Finals MVP out of action. Golden State needs Thompson, even if he grades out as more good than great so far.

Fred VanVleet: A

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    This is a subjective stance and impossible to prove, but it's arguable no one has elevated his profile in this series more than Fred VanVleet.

    The third-year point guard has established himself not only as Toronto's best option for defending Curry, but one of the Association's most effective overall. VanVleet has defended Curry on 71 possessions in this series. Curry has just 13 points on those possessions, shooting 2-of-10 overall and 1-of-6 from deep.

    "It's not fun, but that's what you love to do," VanVleet said, per Marc Berman of the New York Post. "He's one of the great players for a long time. I was watching him in the Finals when I was in college. It's great for me. You got to keep bringing it and not have many lapses or he'll make you pay."

    VanVleet's defense has been razor-sharp, and his offense—which has disappeared at times this postseason—is becoming an asset. His 32 points are the Raptors' third-most, and he's committed just three turnovers in 71 minutes. If his three-ball comes around—the 39.4 percent career sniper is just 3-of-12 in this series—he could play his way into an A-plus.


    Unless noted otherwise, statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.