Let’s go back to late in the first quarter in Charlotte. This is before the disastrous 38-14 third quarter in which Toronto committed 13 fouls, 10 turnovers and let Charlotte shoot 80 percent. It’s before Jerryd Bayless scored 14 in the final frame to make a game of it. 44 seconds left in the first, the Raptors are up by seven. On a set play, Ed Davis receives a pass from Gary Forbes at the left elbow. DeMar DeRozan gets a step on Reggie Williams, cutting baseline from the corner, and it’s over. Bounce pass, hammer dunk.

On the Toronto broadcast, Leo Rautins raved about DeRozan’s timing. While it looked like an easy play (and, given that Bismack Biyombo was occupied with Amir Johnson at the right elbow, the finish certainly was easy), making reads and cuts is just as important as having the necessary skills to score in the NBA.

Take Gerald Green, who is producing for an Avery Johnson team that runs a play almost every time down the court — he always had that talent, but struggled with the mental part of the game.

Take Chris Paul, who has made the Clippers into a top-five offensive team in part because he has incredible court vision and is an extremely efficient scorer himself. He also does the little things, like teaching DeAndre Jordan to count to two before rolling to the basket.

I jumped when DeRozan smashed it because it was a sweet play and I love those kind of assists from big men. It was also unexpected. Davis isn’t selfish, nor a black hole, but he only has 38 assists on the year and is almost never asked to be a playmaker. His four assists last night were a career high. No one questions Davis’ talent; his finishing ability and his shotblocking made you think he was a great NBA prospect from day one at UNC. Same goes for DeRozan — he was a project when drafted in 2009, yet seemed like the obvious choice at No. 9 for a team in need of a shooting guard. The question is if they can harness this talent, work effectively with the rest of Toronto’s core, and make the Raptors a serious threat two or three years from now.

For some, Davis and DeRozan haven’t lived up to expectations this season. Their numbers are down, even factoring in the uptick in DeRozan’s scoring over the past six weeks. But they’re not supposed to be finished products yet, so we shouldn’t be talking about them with doom and gloom. Development takes time. Adjusting to a new system takes time. Doing so with your star on the bench most of the time doesn’t help. Part of getting better is playing smarter and building chemistry. If you’re looking for reasons to be optimistic, they’re there below the surface. It’s alright if it takes a fancy dunk to get your attention.

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  • fk

    Davis is a great passer but he’s not being used properly. He needs to get some consistent touches for better development.Anyways, Derozan seems to be rounding out his game, even though the scoring has gone a bit down. Seems like he gets 4 or 5 assists every other game.

    One thing I like about both guys is that they know how to play within the flow of the offence. You don’t see too many young players like that on lottery teams.

  • Bendit

    This might be a bit of a buzz kill but I suspect some of Davis’s energetic play last game might have had something to do with him being back on his stomping grounds (UNC & isnt NC/Charlotte where he grew up and still lives?). No one questions Demar’s capacity to dunk or run the break when the opportunity arises. It’s some of the other very important offensive elements of being an elite SG as well his defensive awareness which are questioned in this his 3rd year. 

  • Buschfire

    DeRozan needs to work on his ball handling, and learn how to get his own shots with the ball in his hand. He also needs to get stronger. The only time he dunks is when there is a green light throught the lane to the open slam. I have rarely only 2 or 3 times i can recall where he had a dunk over someone. Most of the time when he does this he just gets fouled or turns the ball over.

  • 2damkule


  • Ppellico

    Fans…do we REALLY know why a player does what he does?

    Think not.
    Nobody in the stands knows for sure what Casey has told his players what to do.
    Nobody knows for sure who was told could shoot and who should not.
    Perhaps Davis was told NOT to be a playmaker…but to go to his spots and do his rotations as the plan call for.

    There are times I want to pull my hair out when a player does not take a shot I feel he has…but then remember, if he DID, he might take a beating in the lockerroom and even take a financial hit from the coach.

    As far as Davis…there are times I find he and Gray together make some awesome plays, but then suddenly dissapear. Its as if they are NOT supposed to do certain things.

    Ya…I feel coaching staffs have a bit of control over players playing free. Sometimes this is a good thing, right?
    You don’t want to see Gray suddenly feel he is a point guard.
    So its a tough spot.