• Nathan Sherman

How the Raptors Defensive Matchups Must Change Once Kevin Durant Returns

Via Sporting News

Kevin Durant is arguably the best player in the National Basketball Association, and his slender shadow has been looming over the Finals as he nears return from injury. The Warriors had enough firepower to get through a close-out game in Houston and to sweep a solid Trail Blazers team without KD, but the Raptors are a whole different story.

Toronto is in many ways the antithesis of the Golden State. They’re a team built on depth and defense, perhaps like the Warriors of old, and are the most talented defensive team these Dubs have ever faced. Golden State may very well need Durant to win the title.

Whenever the reigning two-time Finals MVP does return, the Raptors entire defensive scheme will be thrown out the window. Here’s the most likely reconfiguration Toronto head coach Nick Nurse will employ:

Who guards Steph Curry: Danny Green or Fred VanVleet

Via. Sports Illustrated

VanVleet has been incredible when guarding Steph Curry in this series. He’s guarded Curry on 101 possessions over the first three games, and has held the two-time MVP to 24 points on 6/18 shooting with forced 4 turnovers.

Green, meanwhile, has had solid on Curry as well; through 52 possessions, Curry has managed just 15 points on 4/12 shooting with one turnover. Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard will both guard Curry on switches and in transition, too, and have the capability to stay in front and challenge.

Who guards Klay Thompson: Kyle Lowry

Via. Yahoo

Kyle Lowry hasn’t guarded Klay Thompson much so far (only 21 possessions), but with Durant back in the lineup Lowry won’t be able to hide on Iguodala, who presumably goes back to the bench. On the 21 possessions that Lowry guarded Klay, Thompson scored 11 points on 4/8 shooting.

Lowry will be tested with this matchup but should be able to make life tough for Thompson. Green and Siakam will be used on Klay as well.

Who guards Kevin Durant: Kawhi Leonard

Via. NBC

Kawhi Leonard will be the primary defender on Kevin Durant. The two dueled in the only regular season matchup in Toronto. Durant went for 51, while Kawhi dropped 38.

Leonard guarded Durant on 46 possessions that game with KD scoring 21 points on 7/11 shooting. Leonard was able to force one turnover and had one block on KD.

Siakam guarded Durant for the majority of the regular season matchup in Oracle in which Leonard sat. On the 56 possessions that Siakam guarded Durant, he held KD to 23 points on 10/23 shooting, and was able to force three turnovers. Leonard will be the primary defender, but Siakam is a solid backup option to throw on him. If Durant is healthy, trying to slow him down will be of critical importance.

Who guards Draymond Green: Pascal Siakam

Via. Bleacher Report

Siakam will start on Green, with Lowry and Leonard as likely secondary options. Siakam has locked down Green on 87 possessions so far, with Green scoring only 11 points on 4/12 shooting and ten turnovers to only six assists.

Who guards Demarcus Cousins: Marc Gasol

Via. Grand Forks Herald

In an ongoing battle of behemoths, Gasol has guarded DeMarcus Cousins on 55 possessions, holding Boogie to 7 points on 1/7 shooting.

We’ve seen the Raptors utilize zone schemes and a switch-heavy defense in the Finals. For that reason, the idea of a primary defender is a relatively fluid concept.

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