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One of the many questions surrounding the Toronto Raptors this season is who Head Coach Nick Nurse can rely on to hit clutch shots in the closing moments of close games.
There are more than a few options Nurse can experiment with and try out throughout the course of the year. Last season was definitely a struggle, but over the years Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. have all shown they are capable of hitting clutch game-winning shots. So, who is the strongest candidate to take the last shot this season?
Can Pascal Siakam get back to his winning ways?
Pascal Siakam was the go-to player, making decisions and taking tough shots in the clutch last season. Nick Nurse showed a lot of trust in Siakam last season and there is no denying he has earned that opportunity over his time in Toronto.
His shots weren’t all falling but it might be a little harsh to say Siakam failed to capitalize on his game-winning shot attempts last season. Siakam was able to get to his spot, get a good look, but often times the rim wasn’t very friendly and the ball simply rolled in and out.
Even after several bad luck plays in the closing moments of many games last season, Nick Nurse and Kyle Lowry stuck by Siakam, instilling confidence in his abilities to hit late-game shots, like he has in past seasons.
It’s easy to suffer from amnesia and only remember the tough plays from last season, but we can’t forget Siakam’s clutch moments from the past few years. Siakam hit one of the biggest shots of the 2019 NBA Finals to seal the championship and he has also shown he can hit tough shots at the buzzer to win games.
It won’t be easy for Siakam to regain his rhythm coming off shoulder surgery in the off-season. With Siakam bound to miss the start of the season, Nurse will have to turn to other players.
Fred VanVleet has shown up on the biggest stage
Confidence might be one of the most important factors when it comes to hitting a big shot at the end of a game and Fred VanVleet is never afraid of the moment.
Much like Kyle Lowry, VanVleet was among the Raptor’s leaders in fourth-quarter scoring. Now that VanVleet will take over as the primary ball-handler, we can expect Fred to get more looks at the game-winning shot and even run the play that sets up the final shot.
VanVleet didn’t have a whole lot of clutch moments last season, but he has shown he can hit huge shots on the biggest stage during the 2019 NBA Finals. If VanVleet can show more flashes of his 2019 Finals form, the Raptors will be in good hands for the closing moments of games.
VanVleet is also a great asset to have for defensive purposes in the deciding moments of close games. The point guard position is one of the most difficult positions to guard on a nightly basis in the NBA and VanVleet is more than capable of getting a stop as the on-ball defender when the Raptors need it.
OG Anunoby can get a stop and a bucket
Much like Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby will also be one of the Raptor’s primary defenders for the opposing team’s best player. Devin Booker was one of the most outstanding offensive players in the league last season, leading the Suns to an NBA Finals appearance. Anunoby showed he was capable of guarding the likes of Booker last season and that responsibility will be assigned to OG throughout the season.
Anunoby showed flashes of his offensive potential last season and the hope is that he can continue to develop his scoring ability and take another step offensively this season. Anunoby’s game-winning shot against the Boston Celtics in the 2020 playoffs is the highlight of his career so far. At just 24 years old, the future is bright for OG Anunoby and there could be several more clutch moments in store this season and throughout his career.
Gary Trent Jr. has the confidence
Gary Trent Jr. is the Raptor’s best shooter and his great catch-and-shoot ability will be incredibly useful to help stretch the floor. If Trent is knocking down threes, he can make it much easier for Siakam, VanVleet and Anunoby to create opportunities for themselves and others at the end of close games.
Trent’s confidence and abilities to hit the clutch shot were also on display during the Raptor’s narrow victory over the Washington Wizards last season. It was his first big moment as a new member of the team and Raptors fans should be excited to see how Trent does with the increased opportunity this season.
With Pascal Siakam likely to miss some time at the start of the season, Nick Nurse will have to look elsewhere when the Raptors need a clutch shot during crunch time. Luckily, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. have all shown the ability to take and make big shots over the course of their careers, but most importantly, they will be hungry and ready to take on that responsibility.