First things first. Raptors are third in the inverted standings, two losses “ahead” of Sacramento and five losses “behind” Cleveland and Minnesota who are fighting for “first”. The recent Raptors “run” that “propelled” them from 5th to 3rd could be crucial, because as this table illustrates, it’s a full 5% increase of chances to land the top pick. It’s unfortunate that the Raptors can’t “catch” Cleveland or Minnesota, because finishing 2nd would mean almost another 5% increase in chance. Tired of quotation marks? I encourage you to read this “recap” of last night’s “game”.
Raps in a blowout. Don’t let the final score fool you, it wasn’t even close. The Nets made a fourth quarter rally to make the final score more respectable, not that anybody cared. This picture does well to illustrate this point:
Deron Williams, Kris Humphries, Anthony Morrow, Andrea Bargnani, Leandro Barbosa, Jose Calderon and Amir Johnson were all missing, making this already unwatchable game a sure health hazard. You take what you can get in terms of Raptors ball now because there’s going to be nothing till October, I can’t say I’ll be missing it either. I was fully prepared to suffer this season and suffer I did, we all did, now it’s time to shut this baby down, wait for the NBA lockout to play itself out and hopefully there’s going to be ball next season, and even more hopefully, Bryan Colangelo can have his first decent summer since 2006.
DeMar DeRozan had most of his 18 points in the first quarter where he looked like – and I’ve never had the opportunity to say this about any Raptors player this season – the best player on the court. All flavors of the jumper were working – pull-up, the catch-and-shoot, he even the hit the ones where he prematurely picks up his dribble only to hit a shot against an arched-in defense. No Amir Johnson in there meant Reggie Evans and Ed Davis started against Brook Lopez who made his height and weight advantage count. He had 35/11 as a follow up to his great game in London, funny moment for me was Matt Devlin ripping Lopez for “only” averaging 5.9 rebounds, and using that stat to draw off criticism from Andrea Bargnani who averages 5.2. Honestly guys, do we have to stoop to these kind of levels to defend our players?
We’ll give the second quarter to the 11 points coming from James Johnson. The Nets were running their offense with a backcourt of Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar, making this one of those rare occasions where the Raptors backcourt of Bayless and DeRozan is clearly superior. Sasha Vujacic is one of my least favorite players in the league, he plays with a sense of entitlement that I never quite understood, it probably stems from his Laker days and some of it is carrying it over to the Nets. I don’t want to get into it too much, but let’s say that Sasha Vujacic is the type of guy that cuts off old ladies on the highway and then slows down to flip them off and then cuts them off again.
The Raptors were up 19 at the half and this had already been a blowout for some time, yet Solomon Alabi, who the franchise is very high on, couldn’t get a minute. Why? I can’t explain it. Is there a clause in his contract which says that if he plays a single minute he’ll automatically become the coach, GM and owner of the franchise? I would look into that because it certainly appears that way. When he was drafted there was a whole thing about how the Raptors and Masai Ujuri had tracked and what a potentially great defender he’d become. Right now he’s behind Alexis Ajinca in the rotation which has to be as confusing to Alabi as it is to Ajinca. However, I can see why Triano likes Ajinca, he’s wide, he’s big and if properly installed can be used as a wall between the den area and the kitchen.
Ed Davis had 18/8 on 9-14 shooting and only attempted two shots outside the paint. A-Dub brought around the point that Davis shouldn’t focus on bulking up because it doesn’t come natural to his athletic and leaper-type game, and doing so could damage his body. I agree, and it definitely is more about strength than muscle, and nobody’s asking the guy to have Creatine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, just that he gain enough strength that he doesn’t get pushed out of the block too easily. Getting muscled out is a problem for any big and we’ve seen it happen to Davis in the last few weeks. Needless to say, the Raptors’ strength and conditioning team has its work cut out for them. Davis also needs to improve as a pick-setter, the Raptors are by enlarge a high pick ‘n roll team and if Davis is to be a focus of the offense, that’s where it starts for him.
Davis doesn’t necessarily need to bulk up because to become a great scorer because equating good post-up games with weight is fallacious. There’s Karl Malone and Charles Barkley, but there’s also Kevin McHale and Kevin Garnett, with the approach to the game being entirely different. Malone and Barkley relied on muscle and bulk, McHale had the treachery (the “slippery eel”), Garnett has developed the high unblockable release-point, the list continues with Elvin Hayes and his devastating turnaround jumper and countless others. Davis’ defensive projection is fairly easy to make, he will continue to improve given his physical tools and mental commitment, offensively it’s an unknown. The short jumper is coming along nicely of late, and he’s shooting 37.9% from the 10-15 feet range. To put it in some perspective, Garnett shoots 45% and Bosh shoots 43% from that range. It could be that gradual improvement there will make him a solid offensive weapon, but the likelihood that that alone will make him great isn’t high. The approach to a power forward’s offense has always been two-pronged. Barkley and Malone developed jumpers with experience to supplement a strong post-up game, Garnett went the other way around, Chris Bosh after seven years is still trying to get his inside game going and you can argue that it’s what’s lacking from his arsenal. Can Davis become the post-up threat that Chris Bosh never was? Stay tuned to find out and by stay tuned I mean wait five years.
I realize even bringing Davis’ name up in sentences where Hall of Famer’s are mentioned is a little ridiculous, but c’mon, we were playing the Nets.