Gameday: Spurs Visit the Not-So-New Look Raptors

Note: None of the new Raptors are scheduled to play against the Spurs. They all need to pass their physicals first.

I don’t know if there are two more different franchises than the Spurs and the Raptors.

Since the Spurs organization entered the NBA (after the ABA folded) 39 years ago, they have missed the playoffs exactly four times. Yes. Four times in 39 years.

The Raptors have missed the playoffs more in the last five years.

To make matters worse, of the four times they have missed the playoffs, they have lucked into getting the number one pick two of those times, and those happened to fall on draft years that had franchise big men that would go on to win at least one MVP award. They have had a top 5 pick 3 times, and the worst player they chose was Sean Elliott who ended up being a two-time All-Star.

Just in the last 18 years, since the Raptors joined the league, the Spurs have made the playoffs 17 times, been to the second round six times, the Conference Finals three times, the Finals five times and won the Championship 4 times.

To say the Spurs have been a successful organization is an understatement.

I don’t think we need to go into the Raptors history to highlight the differences between the two clubs.

The Spurs are actually my second favourite team, next to the Raptors. That’s kind of like being married to Roseanne Barr but having Charlize Theron as a mistress1.


Sure, it’s nice my mistress is Charlize Theron, but I’m pretty much stuck with Roseanne Barr2 and what I really want is for her to be more like Charlize Theron.

But I think I’m kind of going off the rails a bit here. I believe they’re playing a game against one another tonight. The Spurs and Raptors, not Charlize Theron and Roseanne Barr.

The Spurs are currently sitting with the second best record in the Western Conference, and have won 7 of their last 10 games. They have the largest point differential of anyone in the league, the 10th best Offensive Rating (down from last year), but have the second highest team field goal percentage, as well as the 2nd best Defensive Rating.

The Raptors have the ninth worst record in the league, have lost 7 of their last 10, have the 14th best Defensive Rating and the 17th best Offensive Rating.

Players on the Spurs roster have 21 All Star appearances, one Sixth Man of the Year award, one Rookie of the Year award, four Finals MVP awards and two MVP awards, not to mention many more All NBA team appearances as well as All Defensive team appearances.

Los Angeles Clippers v San Antonio Spurs - Game One

Players on the Raptors’ roster have one All Rookie second team appearance.

Just about every team in the league uses the Spurs organization as a role model of how to build a franchise. Executives and coaches from their organization are scattered throughout the league as other teams try and pilfer their bench and front office to try and capture a bit of the Spurs magic.

Only one former Raptor head coach even has a job on the bench of another NBA team, and the only former Raptor GM currently working in the NBA is Rob Babcock, ironic since many consider him to be the worst Raptor GM ever.

I don’t think I can highlight any more the differences between these two franchises.

There are similarities, besides just the fact that they are next to one another if you look them up alphabetically.

Both teams are not prime destination teams, so have to be a little more creative in finding and acquiring talent.

The Raptors being the only non-US based team in the league, has often relied heavily on foreign players, much to the distain of many Raptor fans who see international basketball players as lesser alternatives to American players. Right now, the Spurs roster contains TEN players who were not born in the United States. That’s ten of fourteen players.


ESPN ran an interesting article last June about why the Spurs have so many international players on their roster, and it’s something that the Raptors hopefully are taking note of. Especially in light of the Raptors’ recent struggles playing as a team and doing things like, you know, passing the ball.


Will the Raptors offense continue to click?

In the game against the Lakers, the Raptors’ offense looked as good as it has all season long. Obviously, many people were pointing to the fact that the league’s most egregious ball-stopper, Rudy Gay, was no longer trying to pound the ball into submission.

And I’m guessing that’s partly true.

But I think you also have to look at the fact that the Lakers have one of the worse defenses in the entire league and most teams would look good offensively against them. The Spurs have one of the best defensive teams in the league and excel at frustrating teams on that end of the court.

The Spurs front line is also a tad better than the Lakers front line, and Amir Johnson had a field day against Pau Gasol’s shadow and other players who shouldn’t be rotation players. And when Steve Blake, Nick Young and Jodie Meeks together play 95 minutes, is it any wonder that DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry scored 49 points between them?

How is DeMar DeRozan going to react to having more of an offensive burden placed on him?


With Rudy Gay gone, DeRozan is now the Raptors’ number one option. He’s scored well so far this year, but he’s should never be a number one option and it will be interesting to see how he reacts.

Expect to see a lot more double teams on DeRozan and collapsing on him when he drives the ball. He’s never been great reacting to double teams (although he has improved) and he’ll probably get a lot fewer open looks.

According to, DeRozan is most productive spotting up, on hand offs and cuts, but he’ll see fewer of these as the primary scorer. Teams will now focus their defenses on DeRozan.

Of course, if Valanciunas starts scoring like many hoped he would, then it will take some of the pressure off DeRozan.

Keep in ming that DeRozan will be facing Danny Green, tonight, one of the best perimeter defenders in the league.

Was Rudy Gay’s play detrimental to Amir Johnson?


Amir Johnson is having one of his worst statistical seasons of his career. While he hasn’t played poorly, his play hasn’t exactly been Amir-like, for most of the season. Like on cue, the first game without Gay dominating the ball and gumming up the offense, Amir breaks out with a career high scoring effort.

So was Gay the problem all along?

Amir has always been a high energy player who requires his teammates to get him the ball. He’s a fantastic cutter and pick and role player, which requires good passing and willing teammates. Amir is the type of player who plays better with better teammates because he relies on them so much.

While Gay is not a bad player, he hasn’t been a good teammate, and that has hurt Amir.

Of course, with Amir going up against the Spurs tonight, don’t expect a game similar to the one against the Lakers


Instead of going position by position, which doesn’t really make sense when players play so many different roles, I thought I would do things a little differently.


The Spurs have one of the best, most balanced starting five in the league. They aren’t the most TALENTED starting five, but they all fit together perfectly. Tony Parker isn’t putting up the gaudy stats he did last year, but he’s doing what he needs to do.

A lot of people didn’t like where I ranked Danny Green in my shooting guard rankings, but he brings exactly what the team needs: Shooting and defense. He struggled mightily early in the season, but has played much better recently.

Kawhi Leonard has disappointed some because he hasn’t broken out like many expected, but he’s still a dangerous defender and can score when needed.

Duncan is having his worst statistical year of his career, but he still has enough to have become the oldest player ever to have a 20-20 game this year. At 37, his level of play is amazing.

Tiago Splitter scores efficiently, defends and rebounds, which is exactly what he’s asked to do.

The Raptors’ starting lineup simply doesn’t matchup well against the Spurs. The Raptors play well against smaller teams that aren’t great defensively and have a smaller backcourt. That does not describe the Spurs.

Lowry will have his hands full trying to keep up with the plays they run for Tony Parker, and DeRozan will likely struggle against Green. The Raptors front line will also likely have a long night.

Edge: Spurs


The Raptors’ bench wasn’t very good to begin with, but now it’s even worse without Tyler Hansbrough and with Fields now in the starting lineup.

The biggest problem the Raptors have is that they literally have no power forwards or centers that can come off the bench against the Spurs. That means Steve Novak and Austin Daye will have to play minutes at those positions, which might very well be a sign of the apocalypse.

Edge: Spurs


Gregg Popovich is one of the best coaches of all time. Dwane Casey might be one of the worst head coaches in the league right now.

Edge: Spurs


Teams often play well after a big trade, as players get a renewed energy and there is a desire to prove themselves. We saw that against the Lakers. We’re not likely to see it against the Spurs.

Score: Spurs 103 – Raptors 87

  1. Insert your favourite hot female or male celebrity here in place of Charlize Theron. But leave Roseanne, because it works no matter what.
  2. In this analogy, either I’m not allowed to get a divorce (perhaps in some sort of crazy deal where I’ll lose my billion dollar inheritance, or something like that that, only happens in movies), or love my wife despite the fact that she’s Roseanne Barr. It’s possible my analogy falls apart at this point. It’s also possible this is the most apt analogy anyone could come up with for being a Raptor fan.

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