2-6. Your pre-season play isn’t exactly indicative of what you might do in the regular season but it still speaks to the team’s strengths and weaknesses. Last year we finished pre-season 4-4 but started off the campaign winning three straight, so it’s not inconceivable that the Raptors will have something up their sleeves, even though we haven’t caught a glimpse of it yet. If you’re not at the very least concerned about the team then you are wildly optimistic. As much as we’ve used the injury and ‘nine new players’ crutch the last month, it’s abundantly clear that there are many questions to be asked of this roster, which on paper looks like it might do some damage but has a ways to go before it can realize the potential credited to it.
Last night’s loss in Sioux Falls against a Minnesota team missing Kevin Love and Al Jefferson was disappointing, especially once you consider that our starters played heavy minutes. Bosh with 36, Calderon with 39, Bargnani fouling out after 28. Turkoglu’s minor injury limited him to only 14 minutes but we shouldn’t need him to beat this Minny team given that we were actually trying to win, as suggested by Bosh a couple days ago. Wing production seems to be the issue once again, but this time it’s a different flavor of the problem.
As a team we’re shooting 24% from three-point range with Calderon being the only perimeter playing shooting higher than 27%. For a team with a point forward who can create for shooters, 3-point shooting becomes a critical component of the offense. Last year’s Magic team with Turkoglu at the helm had success by shooting 38% from three, they were also safe in the knowledge that they had the third best rebounding team to clean the misses up. The Raptors’ rebounding has been suspect in the pre-season (20th in the league, went up because of yesterday’s performance) but that could be written off to Bosh and Evans missing a chunk of time.
Marco Belinelli has been a huge disappointment. His play should be a cause for concern and helping him try to find a niche on the team should be a priority for Triano for the next three days. You could convince me that Bosh-Bargnani-Turkoglu-Calderon-DeRozan are a good enough starting five, but after that the only person who you could say has shown that he’s a regular rotation player is Jack. In other words, we can’t even pick out a 7-man rotation at this point. Colangelo sought Belinelli for his scoring and playmaking and although the latter showed glimpses of his passing ability and drives, he also showed us how inconsistent and undisciplined he can be in exactly those areas. I’m not expecting much from Wright and those who are banking on him to “fix” anything are out to lunch. He’s a situational defender, nothing more. He could help us out in late-game situations but counting on him to provide a punch during normal business hours is setting yourself up for disappointment.
Reggie Evans going down hurt the team more than Wright’s injury, he was playing as advertised by setting a good tone in those early games and giving Amir Johnson a run for his money. Since Rasho has been so bad, Johnson is now the first option as the backup PF, which I’m not sure is a good thing. Bosh went to task on the depleted T-Wolves frontline last night but Johnson – who was the first big off the bench – went 0-3 with 3 turnovers in 12 minutes. It’s not a performance that can fill anyone with confidence and you have to wonder just how he’s going to deal with bulkier big men on disciplined defensive teams (ahem Shaq, Varejao, Ilgauskas). So far he’s shown that he can be a great fit in an up-tempo style because he can beat you up and down the floor. His short-minutes play has been questionable and it’s largely because he’s very easy to defend since his mid-range jumper has left him. He also can’t seem to gain rebounding position and is often found reaching over the top of his man, hence the fouls.
Bargnani’s pre-season has been up and down just like his career. A great game against a good team followed by a bad one against a bad team. Make sense of that if you can, nobody’s doubting his tools or his skills but this pre-season failed to even touch on the question of whether he can put it together for 82 games. We’ll be entering opening night asking the same questions of him as last year – early fouls, consistent shooting, will the scoring make-up for the rebounding…and so forth. Bosh has looked better and better with each game, I saw the second Boston game again and I have to say that he looked utterly fatigued. He didn’t react to the rebounds, didn’t pay attention to the screens and looked a step slow. According the two people I talked to who were at the T-Wolves game, Bosh looked as agile as ever and scored from all angles. I know it’s against a Minny team without their two main big men, but if you’re evaluating conditioning he apparently passed with flying colors.
Jonny Flynn lit up Jose Calderon. No other way of putting it, I’m hoping it’s because Jose played 39 minutes which is too much for him on any given day. In fact, he shouldn’t be doing anything for 39 minutes. His backup suffered another poor shooting night and looking at his shot chart you can make out that he’s sticking to the perimeter. Still, not concerned about the PG spot, Jose looks fresher and Jack looks like he can run an offense as long as you’re not asking him to be the main scorer (that’s why we need Belinelli to step up).
The end of the bench is just that, the end of the bench. My man Q has been terrible and is playing like a ball-hog, Patrick O’Bryant still hasn’t jumped and Marcus Banks may as well be the mascot. The pleasant surprise has been Sonny Weems who at this point is making a case for himself as the best wing player after Turkoglu and DeRozan. That says a lot. There’s a lot more gelling to be done on the Raptors and the only improvements we’ve seen is when analyzing individual play of players like Calderon, Bosh and DeRozan, as a team we’re functioning a lot like we did against Philly in Hamilton. I understand defense takes some time to come into place but shouldn’t a full pre-season be enough to get a glimpse of what Triano’s trying to do? Positively thinking, the aspect of our defense that I am pleased with is that we have more athletic defenders this year so you’re not seeing nearly as much 1-on-1 breakdown as last year, there’s some comfort to be taken from that. If they can just put forth an honest effort, we’ll already be better than last year. I also picked out four stats that I’d keep my eye on this year.
Let me remind you of the schedule coming up: Cleveland, @Memphis, Orlando, Detroit, @New Orleans, Dallas, @San Antonio, Chicago, @Lakers, @Phoenix, @Denver and @Utah. It is not inconceivable to think that this team will start the year 2-10. I’d settle for a 5-7.Follow @raptorsrepublic