Heading into next season every member of the roster has something to prove to the fans, franchise and the league. Here goes.

Quincy Acy: Can he prove that he’s more than a Lonny Baxter sighting? Will he end up carving himself a niche like Dejuan Blair did for the Spurs a couple years back? Assuming Bargnani’s out, the minutes will increase, but whether the productivity will scale from garbage time minutes to meaningful ones remains to be seen.

DeMar DeRozan: Can he prove that he’s worth the $9.5M salary that’s due to him next year? In comparison, Paul George will make $3.3M on his rookie scale deal, which the Pacers haven’t even extended yet. Areas of improvement remain the same for DeRozan: shooting, ball-handling and defense, none of which have seen significant improvement since he came into the league.

Landry Fields: Can he prove that he’s even worth 1/3rd of what he’s getting paid? Signed because of the failed luring of Steve Nash (thank God!), Fields was sold as a defensive three who could fill the gaps on offense as needed. After a disappointing initial campaign, “bouncing back” in his case would only entail not being downright harmful to the team.

Rudy Gay: Can he prove that he’s not the reason Memphis was being held back? Can he prove that he can be an All-Star type player, which he’s advertised as? Can he prove that he can be the #1 option on a team? Can he shed the label of a selfish player? Actually, he’s got a LOT to prove.

Amir Johnson: Can he prove to the Raptors that they don’t need to look for a starting power forward, and that instead of grooming Bargnani all these years, it was him they should’ve paid attention to? Whether he’ll revert to a bench role, or elevate himself to become the unquestioned starter in the NBA will be determined this year. Can’t wait.

Kyle Lowry: Can he prove that he can be a starting NBA point guard on a playoff team? Memphis, Houston and now Toronto, he’s had a chance everywhere and has never made the shift from a scoring backup to a legitimate starting option. There are no obstacles in front of him, and the Raptors even shed Jose Calderon to show confidence in him. They even got his friend to play with him, and the ball is now entirely in Lowry’s court.

Terrence Ross: Can he prove that he’s not a Chris Jefferies? The rookie campaign was hampered by inconsistent playing time, but you’d have a hard time arguing that said playing time wasn’t commensurate with the quality he displayed. Will he be to Andre Drummond what Hoffa was to Iguodala? We’ll find out soon enough.

Jonas Valanciunas: Can he prove that he’s capable of taking the next step in his development now that the book is out on him? Getting by with hustle and anonymity was nice to see, but now the scouting reports are out and the surprise factor is gone. Teams will be zoned in on him and he’ll have to be stronger, work doubly hard, just to repeat the impact he had last season.

Guys that don’t fit in this post:

Linas Kleiza: Can he prove that there is justice in the world? The Raptors made him a millionaire for doing nothing, the least he could do is get traded.

Aaron Gray: He’s fine. Do what you’re doing.

Andrea Bargnani: Um…can he prove that…er…he can…umm…got it..can he prove that he can…um…close the door on his way out?

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  • robert_

    I do not agree with your Kyle Lowry “has never made the shift from a scoring backup to a legitimate starting option” comment. He did make the shift from a backup in Memphis to a starter in Houston. If I recall, Lowry was a starter with Toronto as well but unfortunately he lost his starting spot due to injuries and his confidence got hampered upon his return as a backup like in Houston. Something like “injury prone starter to all start point guard” would be more valid.

    • ben

      Just because you are a starter does not mean that you are starting caliber. Lowry, in his short stint in Toronto, has not shown himself to be truly worthy of a starting job and therefore needs to prove to the organization that he can be quality starting material and not just another stopgap at point guard.

      • ppellico

        he has reached allstar status as a whiner. Never saw anybody who makes the standard NBA player ref gripe so embarrassing. Wish he could learn to do this in some manly way.

      • robert_

        As proven from his stints in Houston and Toronto out of training camp, Lowry is worthy of a starting job and he starting caliber. His problem is that post injury for one reason or another he has trouble supplanting whoever replaced him in the lineup. Usually starters go back in the starting lineup after an injury but right or wrong that has not happened in Lowry’s case.

        By your definition, how does one show himself to be “truly worthy of a starting job”?

  • CalgaryRapsFan

    I think for Fields it should be a matter of proving that the last two seasons were a result of injury, rather than declining talent/ability. He needs to prove that he’s healed and able to return to his rookie season form. If he does that, he’ll be able to earn his contract.

    • mountio

      Agree with the statement .. except switch “earn his contract” with “earn the contract any rational person would have given him”. If he gets back to his rookie season form, he will be serviceable role player (which he has not been at all yet in a Raps uniform) .. which makes him a $3-$4 mm player.

  • Brett

    The fact of saying DD hasn’t improved since he came into the league is absolutely ridiculous, his jumper has I’m proved dramatically yes he needs to workon his ball handling and d but he did score 18 a game and has shown large ssteps forward from being just an athletic wing imo

    • He didn’t say that DeRozan hasn’t improved since he came into the league. He said he hasn’t made SIGNIFICANT improvement. And no, his jumper has not improved dramatically. Take a look at his percentages from the different spots on the floor over the course of his career.

      And DeRozan scored 18 points a game because he was given 15 shots a game, not because he’s a great scorer.

      • Marz

        His jumper has definitely improved. Stats don’t tell the whole story. His first season percentages were high because he was the 5th option on the team and would receive the ball and shoot at the elbow. There were several articles regarding how coaches had him fixing his shot mechanics, which is now allowing him to come off screens and drill jumpers.

        Perhaps the percentages have gone down as a result of higher volume and being more of a focal point in the offense, but DeRozan’s jumper has certainly improved dramatically since his rookie season.

        • It’s improved, but I definitely wouldn’t say drastically. Go back and watch him in his rookie season and you’ll see he could hit the 16 footer back then. Yes, he’s a higher option, now, but it’s still not a shot I’m all that comfortable with him taking a lot of.

          • robert_

            The fact of the matter is, DD does not make his team better when he’s playing on the court. He has a poor Basketball IQ with little improvement over since his rookie year. He is the guard version of Tyrus Thomas who’s game is a poor man’s Corey Maggette.

      • Tee

        One can also argue that demar scores so much because he gets to the ft line better than the average player. This should also improve as he adds strength.

        There are many factors that add to the complete narrative of a player.

        Enlighten me, how many shots should a sg take during a game?

  • Lin

    It was not Raptors who made Kleiza a millionaire. He was a millionaire before.
    And he averaged 11.2 points in his first, 9.7 in his second and 7.4 pts in his last season as a Raptor. Not that bad. It’s just last season that he almost didn’t played because of the injuries.

  • ppellico

    personally? I would like Gray to work every waking moment on a decent set shot from out under the basket. Presumeing he doesn’t have one now and that he has not been told NEVER to take a shot…I truly hope he can be a significant threat IF he could develop a decent 8 to 10 foot shot…however slow it takes him t get it off.

  • RapierRaptor

    There is no reason that Rudy should not be an all-NBA defender. All of the physical gifts are there. That should be a goal for next season.

  • WhiteVegas

    This is a stupid comparison right here:

    “DeMar DeRozan: Can he prove that he’s worth the $9.5M salary that’s due to him next year? In comparison, Paul George will make $3.3M on his rookie scale deal, which the Pacers haven’t even extended yet.”

    Really? You want to compare rookie scale contracts to free agent contracts? Well Chris Paul must be grossly overpaid because he makes $17.8M per year and Kyrie Irving who is nearly as good only makes $5.3M per year. See how stupid that looks? If you want to assess DD based on his contract, you have to compare him to other FA from his class who signed extensions, not to a rookie scale contract. That is as unfair a comparison as you could possibly make (DD also only made $3.3M this past season on his rookie deal). There is a much better comparison that also achieves your goal of making DD look overpaid, but also makes sense, and that’s Stephen Curry. He is from the same draft class, plays roughly the same position, and was extended at about the same time. Curry only makes $300K more than DD next year, and only $2.6M more in 2016-17. That shows how Curry was either a freaking steal for GS at that price, or the Raptors got fucking ripped off resigning DD. Considering James Harden’s max deal (also from the same draft class), I’d say that GS got a great deal, and that the Raps overpaid, but only slightly. Even Taj Gibson (also from the same draft class), who is just a bench player, got a deal that is only about $1.5M less than DD’s per year. Ty Lawson, also from that draft class, got paid significantly more than DD as well. When you look at it logically, instead of comparing DD’s deal to a rookie deal (which aren’t negotiated), you see that his extension falls pretty much in line with everyone else from his draft class who was extended. The real test will be Tyreke Evans new contract, as I look at him as the most comparable talent to DD from that draft class (lots of promise early on, kinda fizzled since then).

  • Statement

    I’m not sure about the Amir Johnson writeup. I don’t really know what else he needs to do to prove that he is a starter. How is this even a debate anymore?

    • theswirsky

      its a debate because people are still convinced Amir doesn’t score enough, or doesn’t have a specific offensive style that is allows him to go one on one with people on a regular basis.

      The story is always the same, its always back to points.

      I’m sure some guy or girl will come out here and say “no its not his scoring its blah blah balh”

      Well we know – he is an excellent defender. We know he is a good rebounder. We know he plays hard every minute. We know he’ll do all the little things game in and game out. We know he is a big and isn’t expected to be a ball handler or passer.

      There is nothing left to question about him except scoring.

      Yet there are only so many shots to go around. As of right now the Raps have 2 players who like to shoot often (Rudy and Demar), another who is at his best when he shoots more often (Lowry), a C that needs more touches (Val) – yet somehow a defensively gifted, rebounding proficient, details oriented, offensively efficient may or may not be starting calibre.

      Amir Johnson has been the single most productive player on this team for 3 years now. He should have been starting over Bargnani for the past 3. He should be starting this coming year, and this team shouldn’t need to worry about its PF position for the next 5 years assuming he stays healthy.

      • SR

        I love Amir, but the biggest knock on him has shifted from his propensity to foul (much less of a problem now) to the fact that he is a slightly undersized big who doesn’t stretch the floor that well. Typically you get either size or range out of your 4/5 spots – Amir does many things well, but I’d think he’s slightly below average on the size/range fronts. He needs to keep working on extending his jumper so he can pull his defender away from the basket consistently. More space in the key would really help DD/Gay/Ross get to the basket.

  • Vega

    “Can he prove that there is justice in the world?”

    I laughed.

  • Wiley Chamberlain

    DD has definitely improved his ball handling. There were multiple times this season where he would go coast to coast for a lay-up or jam. He never did that in the previous three seasons. I’d say for Demar it’s all about the three-ball and rebounding. For a guy with his athleticism he should be a lot more active on the boards.

  • nich obert

    I just figure i’ll jump on the newest post here.

    The way you characterized the way DC and DC management thinks about John Wall is utterly ludicrous. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever heard someone misrepresent a situation with a player so egregiously.

    They think he’s a kid? They don’t think he’s a leader? He’s “WORN OUT HIS WELCOME” ?!!?

    Apparently you missed the part where John elevated- literally- every single player on his team this year while leading them to the biggest midseason turnaround in NBA history (well..if you ignore those last 6 games when they shut the team down at least. even if you don’t ignore that, it’s the third biggest turnaround in NBA history behind Nuggets & Warriors teams who did it simultaneously in 06 or 07)

    They don’t see him as a core franchise player? As in.. PART of a core? Or *THE* core. Either one is wrong. if anything the Wizards biggest issue is that they’re totally convinced that Wall will be better than Derrick Rose and make guys like Kyrie and Lillard look like chickenfeed in comparison.

    This is amazing. It’s like you invented this entire thing out of whole cloth. Yes, there was a period where Wall struggled and a bunch of dummies asked if maybe Beal was the guy more worthy of the 5 year extension.. but come on man. I live, breathe, eat and shit Wizards coverage every day and it seems like you’re – intentionally or not- sewing false hope that the Wizards might come off of Wall.

    Gilbert Arenas would refuse to be benched. Gilbert Arenas took dumps in peoples shoes and tore their clothes up. Gilbert Arenas brought dueling pistols to the locker room over a gambling debt.

    What exactly are Wall’s transgressions that put him on GIlbert’s level in your mind? Because for a guy like myself who types “John Wall” and “Wizards Rumors” and “Wizards Trade Rumors” and whatnot into google roughly a dozen times a day, it’s utterly flabbergasting to think that any person would make that comparison.. And either hilarious or downright infuriating that they’d characterize the Wizards front office as holding that same opinion.

    You don’t see the good decision making? You don’t see that the Wizards were 27th in 3 point shooting before Wall came back and top 5 for the rest of the year? Including being the best corner 3pt shooting team in the league? You know when Beal had that stretch where he was so impressive? *100%* of his 3s were assisted. 11th best defense the first 32 games, 3rd best defense after that. etc. I’d have a difficult time listing 10 players in the league you could stick back onto their teams and see such a radical positive transformation. But it makes sense. Because every personnel decision the Wizards have made in the past 3 years is based around the question “What will give John Wall the best chance of success?” – now. the Wizards have had some questionable ways of going about that, but it isn’t for lack of trying.

    John Wall is a pure point guard in a Ferrari’s body now that the fixes he made to his jumper have become second nature and given him that extra inch that’s all he needs to tear defenses apart.

    You call Wall a headcase and then say he’s available and won’t cost a lot. That he’s a DISTRACTION?

    This is pretty much a “Stop Lying” situation.

    Other than all this? I thoroughly enjoyed the insights in your podcast.. but after going back and listening to this again, I feel like I need to take every shred of Non-Raptors news with a massive dose of salt.

    You follow the Raptors. I follow the Wizards. I know everything you’re saying is false. Keep it real.