This game fell apart very quickly in the second half. Even though the Raps are a young team, the straw that has been stirring the drink this year for them, yes I’m talking about Jose Calderon, didn’t have much left after chasing Deron Williams around the night before. Without him generating the offense, you do not have another player that can create offense like that. In fact, the Raptor’s haven’t had someone like that since you-know-who. But you all knew that. And you also know that if you’re relying heavily on Jose Calderon to be your offensive messiah, you’re in for a long ride.
Andrea Bargnani, bless him for showing clear improvements in almost all areas this year, did have a 20/10 game. The rebounds are great, but the kind of offense he showed tonight kind of took a step backward. What I’m trying to say is that their was an exciting trajectory that we are witnessing this year where he’s attacking the rim and even creating opportunities for others by drawing extra defenders. Kind of like a point-forward role, but it wasn’t there today. We’ll give him a flier because of the unfavorable schedule, but there’s going to be a lot of crappy scheduling this year. It’s almost unfair to be asking this of him, but when your actual shooting guard and small forward lack in these skills, you need to find them somewhere.
So right, this brings us to the real topic of tonight, DeMar DeRozan.
I’m a big proponent of the three year “theory”. There are exceptions to this rule, as with any rule, but here it is: You know what you have in an NBA player by his third year. Forget All-Star caliber players, even competent starting NBA guards do not have consecutive games of 3 and 8 points. With that much time on-court and pretty high up on the offensive pecking order.
I hate focusing solely on point totals, because there’s really a lot of different ways one can contribute to winning a game. That’s why Bargnani was such a polarizing figure at least at the beginning of last year, because of the fixation of his scoring average and almost nothing else. But DeRozan the player, that’s all he does. Hate to simplify like this, but he’s not good at creating assists, he isn’t noteworthy as a rebounder, his defense leaves a lot to be desired. So if he isn’t scoring and efficiently at that, he becomes a major liability.
There’s two things to highlight here. What he can do to get out of this little early season funk and the bigger issue of whether he’s reached his ceiling. He’s getting to the line 3.4 times this year compared to 4.9 last year. He’s attempting almost 4 times more three pointers than he did last year. Looks like he’s starting to fall in love with the perimeter shot. Personal choice, or discouragement due to so many thwarted drives to the bucket? He does see to get more than his share of offensive fouls and no-calls near the rim.
Only DeMar knows, but I think a DeRozan who is averaging 15 – 20 points with an aggressive approach is preferable to a guy who falls in love with shooting and more prone to streaky performance. The improved range is great, make sure you avoid the long two’s and maintain the aggressiveness approach. Averaging 5 free throw attempts a game should be the minimum, especially as a player builds a reputation for taking it to the rack.
What more to say about this game, other than Amir Johnson had a good game and can still get better. So much talent there. The shot could probably be a little quicker.
That’s a lie, it could be a lot quicker. He could also probably face-up and learn to drive on most bigs if he ever concentrated on that part of his game. Maybe it’s just me, but the dude has great hands and body control, the sky is the limit, truly.
Leandro Barbosa, if he didn’t come as such a nice guy, you’d think he’s a selfish prick with the way he plays basketball. Pure tunnel vision and questionable shot selection. But he’s still so quick that he somehow created offense for himself. This is the exact kind of player a veteran playoff-bound team needs and a rebuilding team like the Raptors does not. He takes away touches for other guys who may be part of the long-term plan. In this context of team-building, all he does is score some points off individual efforts.
Which might even help this team win a couple of extra games that maybe they wouldn’t without him.
That would be bad. It’s going to be a fun year, where wins can be enjoyed in the present and losses can be enjoyed as an investment for the future. Such is life in the Association.