Drake joining the Raptors as a global ambassador. Sure, why not? Actually, there’s many reasons why not but let’s just go with the flow here in the name of Jay-Z. If it’s good enough for Russian billionaires, it’s good enough for the Toronto Raptors. I don’t follow Drake (still stuck with Cypress Hill and Tribe) but I have heard his name bandied about at All-Star games, in commercials, and sometimes I see him sitting courtside. I suppose the Raptors are banking on his appeal to attract more fans, and in turn deepen their pockets. It’s a fair strategy from a business perspective. What he can bring to the Raptors as a “consultant”, I really don’t know. If he has yay/nay decisions on what the logo, look, or whatever will be, I don’t know how I feel about that.

There was a recent re-brand of sorts done with Everton FC of the Barclay’s Premier League and the fans didn’t receive it too well so they’re going to re-do the logo with “supporter consultation” and then have a vote on the options picked. It’s an approach that I like and hope the Raptors use when talking about far-reaching things like branding. If a bigger club like Everton (compared to the Raptors, that is) can do it, there’s no reason why we can’t do the same, and we even have a precedent with the Raptors naming thingy way back in the 90s.

Of course, none of all that matters since it’s the product on the floor that counts. And on that matter let’s look ahead to some of the parameters heading into training camp, and some of the desired outcomes.

There could be as many as eight but more likely six new faces this season: Augustin, Buycks, Daye, Hansbrough, Morais, Novak, Stone, Wright. About three of them are going to be rotation players which is pretty standard across the NBA, meaning that the ever-elusive gelling should not be of concern. The starting five of Lowry, DeRozan, Gay, Johnson, and Valanciunas is intact, and the Raptors haven’t been able to stay that for some time. That could be huge in the month of November where we have been historically bad at:

Season	Record
2012-13	4-13
2011-12 7-15
2010-11 6-11
2009-10 7-11
2008-09 8-8
2007-08 9-7

So you have to go back to the 2007-08 season since the Raptors ended November with a +500 record, and in every single one of those season there was turnover which included starting positions being swapped out. This year that’s not the case and how much bearing that will have on the results remains to be seen.

In terms of competition, there’s a couple spots that are wide open. First, it’s the backup point-guard where Dwight Buycks and D.J. Augustin will go at it – Buycks looked impressive in summer league but Augustin has the NBA experience and has had success as a reserve – shot 39% from three as a starter, 35% as a reserve. Defensively, Augustin is behind Buycks and Stone, so that could play a part in selection.

The backup small forward is a spot where Landry Fields, Steve Novak, and if you want to entertain him there, Terrence Ross, have opportunities. It’s hard to see the Raptors using the 30-year old Novak as a first-choice backup over Landry Fields, despite the latter’s struggles with the game of basketball. At the same time we can’t be using the “Carmelo ruined him” excuse much longer because the evidence against him is piling up to the degree where the good part of his career is looking the anomaly, not the poor one. It’s a stretch to suggest that the competition will come from Austin Daye, and my dark horse right now is Chris Wright. Yes, a summer leaguer could be our backup small forward when the season starts (Alan Anderson anyone?)

My exposure to Chris Wright has been in summer league where I saw every possession he played and I can attest that the guy will, 1) play hard on both ends, 2) not do dumb things on purpose, and 3) score. Yes, score. That’s something Fields, Ross, and Novak struggle to do on their own, and even with help. Dwane Casey’s approach for this position should not be to cater and develop Terrence Ross, and it should be completely a matter of earning the minutes through practice play and game performance.

The position where there should be more competition but isn’t is backup center. After Jonas Valanciunas we have Aaron Gray and that’s about it. As is the case every season, Amir Johnson ends up playing a bunch of center and actually does well which causes the dilemma of playing a guy who isn’t built for the position at the position. If one of Valanciunas or Gray get hurt, Casey will have to use some pretty creative lineups to hide the soft middle. We might call it small ball when the real issue is lack of depth.

Training camp is officially underway and Dwane Casey, predictably, is preaching defense (video).  There’s also some quotes in there about tanking where he says it’s “it goes against every grain in the coach’s body”.  When asked about Andrew Wiggins, he goes, “I wouldn’t know him if he walked in the gym”.  Some fresh-faced reporter with a rather androgynous voice kept on persisting and Casey kept shutting him down.

Three guys he mentioned as having worked on their bodies and conditioning: Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry, and Austin Daye.  Gay’s been working with a strength coach all summer and Casey thinks it’ll allow him to live in the paint more instead of relying on the jumper.  Tons of videos in there including Rudy Gay.  The same reporter talks about tanking here again, this guy needs to stop.  And so should this post.

  • Roarque

    Thanks Arse I needed something to read over my coffee almost as much as you must be needing the team to start actually playing some competitive basketball.

  • Nilanka15

    With Rudy’s new found bulk, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the “small ball” lineup used more often than not.

    PG: Lowry
    SG: DeRozan
    SF: Fields (mainly for guarding the best wing player)
    PF: Rudy
    C; Jonas (with Amir as the backup at both PF and C).

    • pran

      or even ross at sg, and derozan at sf

      • ghotte

        Ross has, so far, been terrible. I’d wait to see how he plays before pencilling him in anywhere. (Not sure how a player that aspires to make an impact can look so lost even in Summer League.)

    • jb

      Sup Nilanka its Jeev. It’ll be interesting to see if Rudy loses some speed or range of motion after bulking in the offseason. I personally hate that small ball lineup stuff but I guess that’s where the game is going.

      • Nilanka15

        Sup Jeev. I’m indifferent on the small ball lineup, within reason (obviously can’t use it against Gasol and Randolph, for example). I’m for whatever works.

    • Roarque

      I like the concept of Amir being our ‘sixth man’ and could see him blossom in that role. Whether it’s Landry or Tyler starting, they both provide very good defensive options and the one who would start would depend on the opposition. Rudy can move between PF and SF easily imo.

  • trh84

    would people please stop saying Amir Johnson starting is a given. Hansbrough is no chump and will challenge for that spot

    • DDayLewis

      Amir is, at worst, the third best player on the team.

      • thead

        and he will be equally effective backing up Hansbrough and Valanciunas.

        • DDayLewis

          No, it makes no sense to give some of his minutes to Hansbrough.

          • thead

            Yes it does.

            • DDayLewis

              You have 48 minutes to hand out to Amir and Hansbrough. Amir produces more than Hanbrough. Therefore, you should give Amir more minutes to Hansbrough if you want to maximize the chance of winning a game,

              They’re not even close. Hansbrough is an okay player. He’s a decent third big off the bench. Amir is a top-20 power forward in this league.

              • thead

                you have 96 minutes to hand out between three bigs.

                28 Hans
                28 Amir
                28 JV

                The remaining 12 minutes would obviously go to whoever is performing the best and in the least amount of foul trouble as bigs are want to do.

                Amir will still be playing starters minutes and is a better backup C option than Hansbrough.

              • thead

                per 36 Amir points (12) Rebound (9.5) FTA (3)
                per 36 Hansbrough Points (15) Rebounds (10) FTA (8)

                It’s the 8 FTA that really sell me because….getting the other teams starting bigs in foul trouble can hugely beneficial for our wing guys.

                • RaptorFan

                  LOL hahaha….I absolutely love the way Psycho T plays (now that he’s on our team) BUT 17 minutes per game last year against bench players doesn’t mean much to me. Amir WILL start and Amir IS the better player right now.
                  I would love for Hansborough to have a great season, but it won’t come at the expense of Amir.

                • SR

                  Yes, I love comparing the per 36 stats of a bench player against a starter.

                  Hansbrough’s got hustle and he’ll help. Amir’s got hustle, talent, and a lot more athleticism – Psycho’s not about to take his minutes, nor will he need to (non-issue here, really). They’ll give him all the minutes he can handle as a backup.

                • thead

                  I’m sick of people being stuck in their own god damn head and not even taking two seconds to look at facts.

                  Fine you don’t want his backup numbers from last year.

                  Here are his starting numbers from his SECOND season

                  PTS: 11 PTS-36: 18.0
                  REB: 5 REB-36 8.6
                  FTA: 3.6 FTA-36 5.9


                  James Harden is many orders of magnitude better than Thabo…

                  The stats are there to prove he can hold his own. The FTA are to show the unique skill set he brings.

                  AMIR is a great player. He might be individually better but I would be willing to bet my left testicle that the team will end up being most productive with him playing starters minutes off the bench.

                • DDayLewis

                  They’re not even close. Rebounding and scoring aren’t nearly everything. Amir Johnson’s TS% is 6.4 percentage points higher than Hansbrough. Johnson is also the better passer, rebounder, better at steals and blocks.

                  Furthermore, Johnson has a more polished offensive skill-set. He’s money in the pick and roll, he’s one of the league’s best on putbacks and he has a functional outside jumper.


                • thead

                  I’m not saying glue his ass to the bench. I want him to play starters minutes. I just want those minutes to be backing up Hans, and JV. It’s not about being the best player. There are 48 minutes in a game and when your starters need a blow its incredibly invaluable to have someone come in that can hold and even increase the lead.

                • DDayLewis

                  Yes, but why would you bring your best big off the bench?

                  Also, the minutes aren’t the same. If he’s starting, he’s more likely to be matched up against the other team’s bigs. I’d much rather have our best vs their best rather than Hansbrough vs their best

                • thead

                  ask Lamar Odom.

                  Seriously though, the reason I cling to this idea, Hansbrough is not a center and he doesn’t think like one. He is out there to smash people in the mouth, get under their skin and get their opposing bigs in foul trouble (something he is among the best in the league at). I think their is a LOT of value in getting people like Pau Gasol in foul trouble, rather than Robert Sacre. I’d rather Hansbrough be pissing off starters. I would rather have balanced scoring over the course of 48 minutes. I would rather have a legitimate player to hold JV accountable with as he learns…I mean seriously are we going to throw games away with Aaron Gray when he makes his inevitable fuck ups?

                  Amir is more versatile and can easily slide from the 4 to the 5.

                • DDayLewis

                  Lamar Odom came off the bench because Gasol and Bynum were better players than him. That doesn’t really apply.

                  I get where you’re coming from. You want Johnson to play centre when Valanciunas isn’t on the floor because the prospect of playing anyone else at centre is unpalatable. I am of the same mind.

                  However, I’d rather Johnson spend half his time backing up Jonas, and half his time with Jonas, and I want the both of them to play against other teams’ starters.

                • thead

                  great…he will still do all those things for the team in the same amount of minutes.

                • Casey Sherman

                  The starting lineup has enough scoring pop with Lowry DeRozan Gay and Valanciunas as it is. It doesn’t need an extra 3 pp36 at a lower percentage. Johnson is perfect in the starting lineup because he doesn’t take a lot of shots, helps on the pick and roll and is a capable passer, along with the energy that Hansbrough brings as well.

      • Statement

        Who are the other two that are better? Lowry and….?

        • thead

          Hansbrough…okay now I’m trolling

        • DDayLewis

          Gay. Yeah he’s inefficient and blah blah, but there has to be some value in what he does.

  • ItsAboutFun

    Good stuff Zarar, except I don’t see Novak being in the conversation as a 3. He’s a situational (need and match-up) stretch 4, nothing more, nothing less.

  • Ds
    • SR

      Hahahahahahahahaha! Wow, is that article ever a.) a laugher, and b.) a relief. All the same Bargs issues, now for another team to chew on. See ya later!

      What a fantastic idea they’ve got there – “Hey, how about trying Bargs at the 3?” Because that hasn’t been tried before, with disastrous results. Because a guy whose biggest weaknesses are defensive rotations and general hustle would be better suited chasing smaller players around screens on the perimeter [/sarcasm]. I love the Sam Mitchell response: “”[Playing small forward on defense] takes a commitment to running, and he’s not gonna do that.” Priceless!

  • Rap fan2

    Hey, let’s not forget about Tyler Hansbrough and Quincy Acy. Two high motor intensity players will probably earn some minutes. Attacking the rim, getting to the line, rebounding and going after after loose balls, playing with grit and in your face, hitting open shots.

    • DDon

      Yes Psyco T is certainly going to contribute. But I think Acy will too. He may have a breakout year!

    • jb

      The Raptors are filled with high-motor energy guys at the 4.