3-on-3: Scoring, Defense & Leadership

Who were the last/only two Raptors to average 20 points a piece in the same season?

This summer, ESPN.com championed a great format, the 5-on-5: five questions asked of five ESPN bloggers (The Raptor one here). Since Arsenalist is wigging out from writing article after article without anything new to talk about, we thought we would adopt the 3-on-3 format created for the TrueHoop Network sites. Three of us (as well as bloggers from other sites, folks from Twitter and even RR commenters) will answer three burning questions. If you want to participate in future ones, drop me an email.

Will the Raptors have two 20pt scorers this year for the first time since the 2005-2006 season? (extra points if you can guess who the only two Raptors to average 20 points in the same season were without looking)

Arsenalist: I got a feeling Bargnani’s attempts will decrease from 17.9 a game, and DeRozan’s will increase from 14.6 per game. Not sure how that’ll affect their scoring numbers, from what I can see the only way Bargnani can maintain his scoring numbers while taking less shots is hitting more of his threes. Last year he shot 34.5% from there, he needs to be around 39-40% from downtown in order to 1) be a dual threat (drive/shoot), and 2) be of real value to the team, like he was in his first season (37.3%) and when O’Neal got traded (40.7%).

Chris Bosh and Mike James is the answer, which tells you how meaningless this stat is.

AltRaps: I’d be surprised if we have one. Depending on how much time this club has to prepare in “training camp” under Coach, I’m not sure we have one go-to guy in the new offence. I think you’ll see 3-4 guys in the mid/high-teens. If DeMar is keeping up his conditioning during the labour strife, he has a shot to be over 20, but barely. If you are the opponent and DeMar is hot, you double him (or show double) and take your chances with our less than stellar supporting cast.

Sam: I think we’re going to see scoring on the whole drop in the league this season (if there is one); what, with all the players coming to camp looking like Shawn Kemp and Vin Baker. I’m optimistic about this team going forward, and think with the improved defense, there will be more scoring opportunities in transition, where DeRozan can cause a lot of damage. I really don’t see a reason why both these guys can’t average high teens to low twenty’s.

Also, Mike James and Chris Bosh averaged 20 a piece in one of the most frustrating seasons we’ve had chance to witness.

It’s fair to say that the Raptors have never had a defensive focus until this season. What kind of improvement will we see from this team with Casey barking at them throughout the year? Who will improve the most?

Arsenalist: I expect defensive positioning to improve, which means shorter rotations and better close-outs, a grave problem for the Raptors under Mitchell and Triano. Casey will hold the players accountable for their defensive mistakes, which is a long time coming for the Raptors. Look for heightened sense of personal pride when defending too. I think DeMar DeRozan, who by all accounts is a good listener, will see significant improvment.

AltRaps: very little. I still live by the fact that you can’t really teach defensive skills to player who simply don’t want to play it. Your quarterback makes a better bullfighter than a defender, your main big has Carter-itis in that he’ll play hard if he gets riled up, and your young stud looks dazed most of the time. Coach has alluded that he will hold players personally responsible and make them earn time, but what does that leave him with? I fear he falls into the same pit that Triano fell into: preach and teach D, then 10 games in realize nobody cares, look at the subs and just break stuff. DeMar will improve because he HAS to.

Sam: You can’t teach defense, but you can sure as hell hold people accountable for what they don’t do. Again, I’m super optimistic for Casey and will give him the benefit of the doubt. While Bargnani wont ever be a great defender, his man defense is passable, we should see some improvement on his positional defense/awareness if for no other reason than Casey will be working on that end of the floor more than any of the last few Raptor coaches have. For the team as a whole, positional defense and rotations are the low hanging fruits, and I have a feeling we’ll witness less hand-clapping and blow-by’s than years past.

Barring any trades, who should be named captain this year?

Arsenalist: Not sure what a captain does. Just scanned the roster and nobody sticks out, maybe Amir Johnson but that’s a real big stretch for him. This question has me thinking if the Raptors have addressed the leadership void that’s been missing since….Oakley?

AltRaps: Nice setup….I’d say Jose. LL Cool J, after all. He loves the city, does a lot for the team off the court, kids love the guy and his players listen to him (apparently). He never shies away from media and you get the impression opposing teams and coaches respect him. Personally, though, I’d stick a C on Alvin Williams’ lapel and have him show up at every practice and whip some candy-asses.

Sam: Leadership has been an issue since Oakley left the team. Jose is the closest thing this team has to a leader (passing out Gatorade at half-time and all), and will probably wear the ‘C’; maybe Reggie Evans if he’s back. As far as someone who can put this team on his shoulders and lead them out of tough situations, the guys in suits on the bench (Casey, Williams, English??) are the best we have.

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