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?
Posts tagged DeMar DeRozan
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.
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.
After getting Jamaal Magloire, the Toronto Raptors signed a handful of players:
- Rasual Butler (G/F)
- Anthony Carter (G)
- Aaron Gray (C)
Non of those names would sound familiar if you’re a casual NBA fan. But let me tell you this: those players are subs at best.
Rasual Butler is a fringe starter for the New Orleans Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers in the past and he spent most of last season sidelined. As a started, the scored 11 points a game and shot around 37% beyond the 3-point line. His specialty is primarily offense.
Anthony Carter is a back-up point guard who spent last season with the Knicks and he played sparingly. His best season was in 2007-2008, when he started for the Carmelo Anthony-headlined Denver Nuggets.
Aaron Gray is a slow-footed back-up center good for 10-15 minutes a game. He’s relatively young and could give Ed Davis a break in the center position.
The three are vets who will probably not see that much playing time. I don’t see the sense in signing older players who’ll just mentor the core of Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan.
What this rebuilding project needs are folks who play defense.
While we’re waiting for the 2011-2012 NBA season, Toronto Raptors followers can enjoy some of the DeMar DeRozan highlights I grabbed from YouTube.
Apart from DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani, no other Raptor is making folks anticipate how the season will unfold. Will the two become a dynamic duo a la Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks?
Yes, that’s their biggest area for improvement this coming season. If you look at ESPN’s Defensive Efficiency rankings, the Raptors were dead last in the league last season by allowing 110 points per 100 possessions. The team also were ranked 26th out of 30 teams in points allowed.
Why are the Raptors bad on defense? Take a look at the roster— the team’s “star” player, Andrea Bargnani, is known for his offense more than his forgettable defense. DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon are also offense-focused players.
With the majority of the starting line-up more interested in offense, the defensive responsibilities fall on the shoulders of the two Johnsons: Amir Johnson and James Johnson.
Those two do a fairly decent job of defending the frontline positions, but they won’t be enough to stop the likes of Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudemire. Case in point: last season, Howard averaged 29 points against the Raptors, six (yes, six!) points over his season average of 22.9 points per game.
What can the Raptors do to shore up their defense? Get a defensive-minded big man, like Tyson Chandler or Nene. Bargnani at center doesn’t just cut it and coach Dwane Casey better personnel to utilize his defensive schemes.
If the Raptors don’t learn from last season, we’ll see the same result: no playoff berth, a win total in the 20’s, and a permanent fixture at the cellar of the NBA’s Atlantic Division.