Playful Gradey Dick gets rise out of social media, but his on-court play must grow

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There was a recent stretch of play when Gradey Dick was turning heads.

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Following what appeared to be a choreographed post-game jersey swap in the wake of Toronto’s seventh loss in a row Sunday night in Orlando, Dick raised eyebrows.

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In today’s social media world, the line easily can be blurred, but when an opportunity arrives the moment becomes too appealing to pass up.

Dick, whom the Raptors selected with their first-round pick (13th overall) last June, and Anthony Black, whom the Magic selected sixth overall, met at half court following the Magic’s 111-96 win, its second in in three nights over Toronto to sweep the three-game season series.

Once Dick and Black exchanged jerseys, the Magic sent out a tweet of the photo, which would later get deleted.

To ensure the funniest photo op, Black agreed to change positions at Dick’s behest, moving from Dick’s left side to the right.

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It was easy to see Black doing his best to refrain from laughing.

All jokes aside, anything that provides some form of levity in the face of so much losing can’t be overstated, even if some took exception.

These are tough times for the Raptors, to say the least, with the team about to endure additional losses with looming visits by Sacramento on Wednesday and the OKC Thunder on Friday before Toronto completes its back-to-back set with a date in Washington on Saturday night against a very bad Wizards team.

The way Toronto has been ravaged by injuries, a win against the Wizards is far from a sure thing.

Dick had a tough time in the two games against the Magic. In Sunday’s loss, he had a game-high minus-37 rating in 27 minutes.

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Dick isn’t known for his ability to crash the glass, but his instincts do allow him to retrieve misses that lead to extra possessions and potential second-chance points. On Sunday night, he had zero rebounds, while turning the ball over three times and making only four shots in the Raptors’ 111-96 setback.

Two nights earlier at Scotiabank Arena, Dick’s play was even worse. When all was said and done, the minus-32 attached to Dick’s stat line was hard to overlook.

To further illustrate his difficult night, he had as many fouls (3) as makes from the field.

The Magic presents a tough matchup for the Raptors, who lack size and are short on players capable of bringing a physical presence to guard the likes of a Paolo Banchero, whose 29 points led Orlando.

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A healthy Scottie Barnes would ideally be used to defend Banchero. Before each was traded, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam could easily be given the assignment.

Under no circumstance can Dick defend Banchero and nor was he asked in either game, outside of the occasional switch.

It was telling that Dick was on the bench to begin the second half for Jordan Nwora, who has size and has shown an ability to score.

Moving forward, he’ll need to become more of a defensive presence when the Raptors flip the page to next season. For now, he’s one of the few options off the bench head coach Darko Rajakovic can turn to when an in-game move is necessary.

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In Sunday’s loss, Nwora, who was acquired from Indiana as part of the Siakam trade, led the Raptors by scoring 18 points. After Orlando built a 17-point advantage in the third period, he scored 12 straight points for the Raptors.

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Keep in mind the Raptors began the second half by going 3:33 without making a field goal after allowing the Magic to bury a three-pointer just before intermission to take a 52-47 lead into the break.

Including Friday’s game, Nwora shot a combined 12-of-17 from the field to score 32 points in the two losses to Orlando. On Sunday alone, Nwora went 7-for-9 from the field and recorded seven rebounds in 25 minutes. He had zero turnovers and would end the night with a plus-10 rating.

“Opportunities are something you have to seize when the moments come,” Nwora told reporters post-game in Orlando. “Obviously, it would be a lot better if they came in some wins, but that’s part of the NBA that you have to learn.”

While Nwora’s future in Toronto remains very much up in the air, he can cement a slot based on improved defence, Dick is a lock, whether he’s swapping jerseys or not.

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On a Raptors team that wants to play in transition, Dick is well-suited to play in an up-tempo style.

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Dick has started the past five games for the Raptors. In his first three, Dick averaged 36 minutes while in his past two, he has averaged 25.

Even though he is known for his perimeter shooting, Dick can be useful on nights when his shot is off because he does a nice feel for the game, can move off the ball and normally makes the right read.

At least for the balance of this season, Dick isn’t going to add much strength. When the off-season rolls around, one of the team’s objectives will involve Dick and getting the kid to bulk up, a process that does require time and commitment.

After those two tough matchups against Orlando, the way the Kings and Thunder like to play with pace, it should make Dick feel right at home.

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