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Questions in the Mentions – On Mario Kart, five-big lineups & more

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

I’m bored, and three off days has left me starved for original content. That means it’s time to fire up twitter and answer your questions. No need for a lengthy preabmle. Let’s begin, shall we?

For the purposes of this question I assume we’re talking about Mario Kart Double Dash — the best Mario game on the best gaming console ever conceived by man. If your parents failed you and you haven’t played, the concept is slightly different than standard Mario Kart. Each player gets to choose two characters — one drives, the other throws items from the back, and you can switch them back and forth at your leisure. Or if you want, you can play with four people, and have people relegated strictly to causing mayhem on item duty while the more dexterous partner drives (apologies to my younger brother and sister for all the times they got stuck on the back growing up. At some point, throwing banana peels stops being fulfilling, and I understand that now).

Let’s assume the Raptors are playing solo, so everyone gets to pick two guys to represent them. For reference, here’s the complete list of characters available to you once you beat the All Cup Tour on Mirror Mode. I’m a Koopa Troopa / Waluigi guy myself.

Serge Ibaka — Serge strikes me as someone who has never played a video game in his life. He’s too handsome for that shit. He would pick Mario and Luigi because they’re the first two guys on the list, and would get bored and quit after one race.

Pascal Siakam — Pascal is fast as hell. So are Toad and Toadette. He’d ride the golden mushroom wave to dominance on the sprintier courses. His Baby Park time trials would be historic.

DeMar DeRozan — There’s an inherent inefficiency to DeMar’s preferred style of play. Contested mid-range shots are hard. But my oh my does it ever feel good to watch DeMar drain one in a defender’s eye. The same goes for Wario and Waluigi’s special, the Bob-omb. It’s not the most accurate instrument of mayhem in the game — that’s probably the first-place hunting flying blue shell, which has the same conversion rate as an uncontested transition dunk. Nope, more often than not, a Bob-omb toss will not disrupt an opponent. But man, when you do land a direct hit with a forward heave of one of the evil twins’ exploding chaos grenades, it feels incredible. DeMar would relish the challenge.

Lucas Nogueira — Easy. Bebe Mario and Bebe Luigi. Not only is there name synergy, but Mario and Luigi’s high-pitched sons’ special, the Chain Chomp, offers much of the same volatility that Toronto’s enigmatic bench big does. There are times when a Chain Chomp can be the catalyst for a comeback, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Other times, it’ll run into an obstacle and detach from your vehicle in less than a second — the in-game equivalent of Bebe getting called for moving screens in a minute.

CJ Miles — Miles is all about offensive volume, making Koopa Troopa and Para Troopa his animated spirit animals. Their special item — either a trio of red or green shells — encapsulates everything Miles has brought to the team. Miles is currently jacking 11.9 threes per 36 minutes — the on-court equivalent of firing off six red or green shells in rapid succession. The shells come in threes, as do his points. And the disparate efficiency of the heat-seeking reds and straight-line greens mirror Miles’ own night-to-night streakiness.

OG Anunoby — OG would be Peach and Daisy. They’re light on words, and probably have the best defensive special item in the game: a rotating pink force field that absorbs would-be injurious items and turns them into items for their own use:

OG’s defense is further along than his offense at this point — much of his scoring is the result of a teammate setting him up in some way. Same goes for Peach and Daisy.

Kyle Lowry — Kyle’s small in stature but, as proven by his rebounding numbers this year, he plays enormous. That’s why he’d play with Bowser Jr. and Diddy Kong. Both are dwarfed by their more oafish fathers(?), but pack the same punch with their specials; Diddy with giant, path-blocking bananas, Bowser Jr. with the obnoxiously large, spiky, green shell.

I have little doubt that Kyle would become the best Kart player on the Raptors. I bet he’d use his children as guinea pigs as he honed his craft at home.

Jonas Valanciunas — Large, lacking a special skill, kind of irrelevant to the game, disappears often — he is the Petey Piranha / Boo pairing that no one ever uses.

Delon Wright — Physically, Delon is the wiry Waluigi.  In terms of his driving, it feels like Birdo best encapsulates Wright’s offbeat stylings. No one ever plays with Birdo, not when there’s the more famous Yoshi right there — same as no one messes with non-shooting point guards when there are sexier, three-point bombing backups out there. But roll with Birdo, and you’ll be treated to all of the effectiveness of Yoshi without the mainstream label. That seems to fit Delon perfectly.

Norman Powell — Norm is a wrecking ball at his peak. Slicing into the lane, cramming dunks, jumping passing lanes — he plays with the reckless abandon you’d expect to see from Donkey Kong and Bowser in a wrestling match. Playing so many minutes at the three, you can also so why he’d be prone to playing big.

Fred VanVleet — Uhhhhmm… I’m running out of ideas. Toad and Diddy Kong? Why not!

Jakob Poeltl — I mean … it has to be some combination of the four turtles available, right?

Kawhi Leonard won his first DPOY in 2014-15, his third season in the league. So like, definitely in 2019-20 because they’re the same player, right?

Consider this the final time I will address Marc Gasol trade stuff on this site until the Raptors do in fact acquire Marc Gasol, which isn’t going to happen.

Firstly, as Raptors HQ’s Daniel Hackett pointed out in the replies to Dan’s question, it’s tough to make the money work on a deal if OG is involved. His rookie scale isn’t enough to make salaries match if he’s paired with JV in the outgoing package. You’d have to add more stuff in, but then you get into the territory of giving too much of the Raptors’ collection of youth in exchange for an aging centre — straddling the line between being good and developing would become trickier.

I’m choosing to read this question as: would you prefer to have Marc Gasol through the 2019-20 season, or OG throughout the duration of his rookie deal and hypothetical second NBA contract.

It’s not an easy call. As good as OG’s been as rookie, Gasol’s probably going to be the better player over the next three seasons — the years that line up with the contracts of Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and DeMar DeRozan. If the Raptors want to inch closer to winning the East, Gasol could make that much less of a pipe dream.

Ultimately I think I’d side with wanting OG more, though. Gasol’s 32, and has had a not inconsiderable amount of injury concerns in the last few years. Depending on how you feel about Pascal Siakam, Anunoby is probably the highest-upside guy among the Raptors’ developmental crew — he could be a pillar of a post-Lowry/DeMar Raptors team. This opinion could change if LeBron James leaves Cleveland after this season, but it still makes the most sense for him to stay in Cleveland if he wants to keep racking up Finals appearances. Does a Lowry/DeRozan/Ibaka/Gasol get you past LeBron in the next two years before decline starts to kick in for those guys? I’m not so sure. If a deal can be orchestrated that doesn’t involved OG, sign me the hell up. But if there’s anyone on the roster who should be untouchable, OG seems like that dude.

This question rules.

I’m making Bebe play point guard. He’s easily the best passer of the Raptors’ five bigs. His handles are obviously not great, but as a facilitator who apparently isn’t afraid to jack up threes, gimme Point Bebe. Ibaka is a gunning two guard stuck in a big man’s body. He can be my shooting guard, and imbue the team with the spirit of Jamal Crawford. Pascal Siakam can play small forward while taking on a fair chunk of the creation duties — think Utah Gordon Hayward, or LeBron. No Raptor over 6’7 has the handles Siakam apparently taught himself over the summer. And I’m all in on Pascal running fast breaks after grabbing rebounds. He would average 27-9-9 in this lineup.

Jonas can be the four, mostly because of the cheeky passing he’s begun to show from the elbows this season. Imagine the comedy of him running a dribble hand-off with Serge to set up a three. He could be like a bankrupted edition of Blake Griffin … with less shooting, athleticism, handles, talent, etc. I’m confident in JV’s ability to drain LaMarcus Aldridge-range jumpers to breathe a touch of space into the offense.

Jakob Poeltl’s aversion to shooting outside eight feet limits him to centre duty. But hey! He’s really good at playing centre. His instincts around the rim could help cover for JV when he inevitably gets blown by on the perimeter, and there’s a potential 4-5 pick-and-roll lob partnership brewing in this front court too.

I’m reasonably confident this starting five would be better than Atlanta’s.

First off, congrats to CJ and Lauren Miles on their new baby girl!

In terms of what I’d try to get out of, I’d probably just use it as an excuse to cancel plans with friends. Look, I love my friends. I cherish the time I get to spend with them. My best friend is coming home today for the first time since moving to somewhere in hick ass Northern Ontario, and I couldn’t be more excited.

But holy shit does canceling plans ever give you a high. Before you do it, there’s just a cloud hanging over your Google Calendar. You have to structure your day around the meet up. Picking a place to go, determining when to start getting ready, figuring out how to get there, seeing how much money can you scrape together from the couch cushions to afford a half pint of Labatt 50 — all are the unsatisfying foreplay of a night out with pals. Yet you have the power to wash all those anxieties away with one group text. It’s an awesome amount of power. You need restraint to keep from wielding it. But sometimes you give in to the temptation. The reward? A night in watching the Bucks play the Blazers or something. CJ Miles doesn’t have to hang out with friends ever again, and I envy him.

I would power rank them: second thing, third thing, first thing. But I’d advise not buying anyone you love any of these things.

Ugh. Did you know the NHL’s Minnesota’s Wild’s wildnerness logo is actually in the shape of a bear? I didn’t learn that until they’d been in the league for 15 years — and do you know why? Because I wasn’t hammered over the head with the meaning of the damn thing ever day of my life. Subtlety is good, and it’s an area the Raptors don’t excel in.

Look, I get that the Raptors are targeting the Canada-wide appeal thing. And I also understand that Canada is, in fact, North of most of the United States. But plastering NORTH across the front would be like if the Lakers’ jerseys said CELEBRITIES LIKE OUR TEAM LOOK OVER THERE IT’S JACK NICHOLSON AREN’T WE PRESTIGIOUS? We get it.

I do dig the chevron design. That’s been an understated accent on the Raptors uniforms since the purple and black days. But instead of NORTH, why not go back to basics and just have the word TORONTO? It’s super weird that they haven’t had that since the re-brand in 2015. And as much as I think the Drake relationship has been an overwhelming positive for the team, I’m ready to part ways with the OVO colours. Give me purple and black, a chest chevron and the name of the damn city and I’ll buy one yesterday. If that’s not in the cards, and we’re stuck with this proposed concept, I hope the Blazers come out with a jersey that says MORE NORTH as the ultimate undermining of the Raptors’ brand.

Thanks for your questions! Feel free to send any questions you may have in the future to me on Twitter (@WoodleySean)

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Podcast host and writer for Locked on Raptors, Raptors HQ and Hoop Talks Live. Terrence Ross believer. On Twitter @WoodleySean. It's 10 grown men playing with a ball -- let's have some fun with it.

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