38 days till the first pre-season game, 60 days till the season starts. When opening night does come, it’ll be 6 months and 13 days without Raptors basketball. Until then we must survive, we must help each other, support our brethren in this cause and get through each day by holding hands, singing chants, lighting bonfires and holding vigils. We must control the addiction by showing patience at work, by not pressing the buttons for all 40 floors in your elevator just because you thought it was ‘funny’, by suffering quietly through the baseball season, by not making fun of the WNBA no matter how hard it is to do so, and most of all, by being safe in the knowledge that as the weather cools and summer drifts away, we’re getting closer.
Bargnani elbow post-up. He doesn’t have the strength to back his man down Barkley-style but he can catch it near the elbow and shoot over most defenders. Since shooting is his forte, this is a great way to get him more ‘inside’ than the three-point line. Early last year he was posting his man up, turning and hitting that 15-foot face-up jumper – then it all went away. No pump-fakes, no fancy dribbles, no pull-backs, just a clear-out and then a shot, there’s not even a need to rise for it. More specifically, I’m referring to the 21-39 for .538 zone here.
Lob it in against the fronter. Our main advantage is size in the frontcourt – Turkoglu at 6’10″, Bargnani at 7’0″ and Bosh at 6’10″. Last year we didn’t see Bosh and Bargnani get any easy baskets underneath the rim and that needs to be fixed. Defenses are aware of the problems they might pose if they get deep position and they front them with success far too easily. We’ve had PGs deny Bosh and Bargnani the ball, the problem is two-folds, inability of the post player to put the mismatched man on his back and the inability of the guard to make that pass away from the defender and towards the basket. We got to work on our entry passes and fight harder to take advantage of mismatches when they do present themselves. Hopefully with a healthy Calderon and a veteran like Jack, we can finally figure out the angle on the post-pass.
DeRozan Iso. Not necessarily because I think he’s going to be great at it, but because it’s so important for a two-guard to create his own shot and the earlier he develops his one-on-one game, the better. I know it sounds ridiculous now but Morris Peterson actually had a one-on-one game coming out of Michigan State; it was stunted because we strictly asked him to be our off-the-ball guy and he bought into the role hook, line and sinker. From the USC and summer league games I’ve seen, DeRozan possesses two key mental attributes of any great one-on-one player: composure and recognition. He doesn’t panic when D’d up and he recognizes what the defense is giving him and goes about taking it. An unproven commodity in the NBA, it’s the coaching staff’s job to help him get there.
The Press. The athleticism of Jack, DeRozan and Wright combined with the size of Bosh and Bargnani should give us options when trying to increase the defensive pressure. Last year we didn’t use any sort of press because it asks of too much effort from the players and even more from the coaching staff. The C**tics deploy a press with Rondo/House pressuring the would-be ball-handler near the baseline, Garnett clogging the view of the out-of-bounds guy and one of the Allen’s troubling the release-guy. I’d like to see some of that here. We were 22nd in the league in forcing turnovers which means we rarely got easy baskets and didn’t make the offense sweat. It’s much harder to bring the ball up-court through passing than dribbling and the Raptors need to test the opponent’s ability to do that; you’ll be surprised how difficult it is for players to do the fundamental things – like breaking a press – in today’s game.
Roll, not pop. They don’t keep stats for this but I’ll bet we did 10 times as many PNPs than PNRs. Turkoglu’s used to the screener (Howard) rolling to the rim and attracting help, giving him the option of a high-pass to Howard for a finish or a pass back to the three-point line to make the helper pay. I strongly feel that the roll is more effective than the screener going back to the 15-foot area and waiting for a pass, that strategy often resulted in a reset for us than advantage gained. Honorable mention: the slip-screen, it’s a dying art.
Drive ‘n kick. Sounds almost too simple but its true. If we only produced half the dribble-penetration we gave up last year we would’ve had 7-10 more wins. I think Turkoglu can go a long ways in remedying this situation and in the process open up things for Belinelli, DeRozan and Calderon on the wing. Dribble penetration is a necessity for any offense to function in the fourth quarter and we have to do better than 18th in that department. It’s not just Turkoglu, Calderon and Jack have to find a way to get right in the heart of the paint and make plays. Very simple and not needing further comment.
Decide on defense. Figure out a strategy of how to handle an offensive player and stick to it. This speaks to the team’s preparation more than anything, for example, if we’re going to double a player, everyone should be on the same page about where it’s going to come from and what their rotation responsibilities are. If we’re forcing a guy to his left, let there be help ready to meet him. If we’ve decided to test out a guy’s jumper, let’s test it out and not play him tight one possession and give him space the next. The inconsistencies in our defense is what led to us having no defense. When you have a player like Jamario Moon who proudly confesses to not reading the scouting reports and gets away with it, you have a problem. Here’s to Triano preparing these guys for teams and matchups the right way, something that hasn’t happened since Butch Carter.