With new additions to the roster, the Raptors maybe looking at changes to its core. Will DeMar DeRozan continue to be the main man on the wing? Or will Kyle Lowry dictate the inside-out attack?
I’ve been away for a few weeks because I was busy moving in to a new apartment. Now that a majority of the moving tasks are done, I’m back to blogging about the Toronto Raptors.
What happened to the Raps in January? Here’s a quick list:
- Main man Andrea Bargnani got injured and missed a lot of games late in January. In this shortened season, missing a dozen games means missing roughly 20% of the season.
- The team kept losing. At one point, the Raptors went on an 8-game losing streak. Is it too early to say the Raptors are making a play at the top pick in the 2012 NBA Draft?
- There was little personnel improvement. So much for the “organic growth” GM Bryan Colangelo was looking for. Coming into February, youngsters DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis are far from being big time contributors.
- On a positive note, the Raptors have shown glimpses of improved team defense.
I also caught a recent game against the Atlanta Hawks at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors lost horribly, but it was surprising that the arena was 70% capacity— people seem to still support a team hovering below the league standings.
If you told me a year ago that the Toronto Raptors team was “defense first,” I’d be rolling on the floor laughing (probably along with thousands of NBA fans).
But so far in the 2011-2012 season, the Raptors are changing the punchline.
The Raptors seem to be buying into coach Dwane Casey’s defense and team-oriented philosophy and their numbers are showing it. The Raptors now are 13th in the 30-team league for the Points Allowed stat. These are the roughly the same team that finished at the bottom 10% last season.
Another good number the Raptors should be happy about is their number of assists per game. They are #1 in the league with 24 assists per game as a team. What’s makes this stand out is that the Raptors average 34 field goals per game and that means 70% of their field goals facilitated by assists. That’s pretty high by NBA standards.
But it’s still a long season and folks shouldn’t speak the P-word (playoffs) until the teams in the league have jelled.
The folks in Dallas are thanking the Toronto Raptors right now. The sliding champs were win-less prior to the game and a good dose of the Raptors changed the Mavs’ fortunes.
The Raptors gave the Mavs’ the team’s first win of the season and the Raps now find themselves in a 2-game losing skid of their own.
The positives of the game for the Raptors? Andrea Bargnani did his best Dirk Nowitzki impression by scoring 30 points on 11 for 18 shooting and Leandro Barbosa got 20 off the bench. The rest of the game? It was forgettable.
The game became a career night for Mavericks sub Ian Mahinmi (19 points) and the Raptors lost despite holding the Mavs to 28% shooting from downtown.
Another issue sticking like a sore thumb was the turnovers (17 for the Raptors). This is another game where the opponent got less turnovers.
I’m not disappointed that the Toronto Raptors lost their home opener against the Indiana Pacers. What’s disappointing was watching it in the cheap seats. (Yep, I was at the home opener at the Air Canada Centre.)
The Raptors dug themselves into a deep hole in the game by turning the ball over many times and not getting the penetrations in the lane. The pick-and-roll game was not present and they resorted to jump shots.
Oh, well. At least I got a Raptors t-shirt to show for it.
The Toronto Raptors looked impressive over the weak Cleveland Cavaliers squad in their 2011-2012 NBA season opener. The Raptors beat the Cavs 104-96.
What was looked impressive was the defensive effort by the Raptors, challenging shots and blocking a handful of them. The front line was active, with James Johnson, Amir Johnson, and Ed Davis got at least two blocks each.
The Cavaliers looked dreadful in the game. It’s clear that prized rookie Kyrie Irving needs more time to adjust to the pro game. The top pick of the last draft shot 2 for 11 but registered seven assists.
The Raptors face a stronger team in their home opener tomorrow. The Indiana Pacers visit Toronto and look to test the Raptors’ defense.
I’ll start this post by making a bold pronouncement: The Toronto Raptors will contend this 2011-2012 NBA season.
But they won’t be contending for the NBA championship, or the division title— they’ll be in the mix to get the league’s worst record.
The Raptors brass have already said that this season is a continuation of the team’s rebuilding efforts. And in the NBA, “rebuilding” means sucking to get a high draft pick in June and getting cheap and long term contracts for salary cap flexibility. The way the roster stands, it looks like the plan in is in nicely falling into place.
Let’s look at the roster.
The projected starting lineup is Jose Calderon (PG), DeMar DeRozan (SG), James Johnson (SF), Andrea Bargnani (PF), and Amir Johnson (C).
Looking at the starters, this team is imbalanced. There’s too much focus on offense with the best players (Bargnani and DeRozan) preoccupied by a making buckets. Calderon is a year older and his effectiveness has slight dipped in the last three seasons. James Johnson is still an unproven commodity as a starter and Amir Johnson is undersized.
The key subs are Jerryd Bayless, Leandro Barbosa, Gary Forbes, Ed Davis, and Aaron Gray. The bench is again too offensive-minded. Ed Davis is the bright spot in this group.
Dwayne Casey is a new coach and preaching a new gospel of defense and accountability. The question now is if the players will buy in to his defense-first philosophy. But the team is relatively young by NBA standards (Raptor’s average age is 26.8 years) so they may be open to learning.
As I’ve mentioned, the Raptors will battle for the league’s doormat record. The other teams would be contending for that forgettable distinction the Charlotte Bobcats and Cleveland Cavaliers. The way I see it, it the Raptors will win 16-18 games in the shortened 66-ame season.
If you’re a betting person, I think you’d have a 75% chance of winning if you bet against the Raptors.
This is a team that hopes to have a high draft in 2012 and bring Jonas Valanciunas in to form the NBA’s most lethal European frontline in the next season. Bottomline: Raptors fans shouldn’t hold their breath for a playoff season in 2011-2012.