Over the last few years, the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors have wandered the desert of NBA obscurity together. Their draft picks, rosters, free agency rejection due to cold weather city status and win-loss records eerily mirrored one another. In 2010-11, the Raptors went 22-60, the Pistons 30-52. 2011-12 Raptors 23-43, Pistons 25-41. 2012-13 Raptors 34-48, Pistons 29-53. It seemed like things looked the same in Detroit as they did four hours east along the 401 in Toronto. That is, until this season, where the Pistons are a familiar 25-39, but the Raptors are now 35-27 after putting up a win last night that showed just how different these two recently similar teams have become.

The difference between these two teams was clear on the court. It wasn’t talent; Detroit can hold their own against almost anybody in the league on that note, probably even more so than the Raps. But that’s hardly helped them. Detroit is a group of curiously assembled individuals who play like curiously motivated individuals on the court. Toronto is a group of players who fit together well as a team, and they play team oriented basketball. That was evident last night, when their simple execution of two-man pick and rolls and ball movement picked apart the Pistons lazy, disorganized defence at will. On the other end, Detroit’s offence was largely composed of Jennings, Monroe, Rodney Stuckey and Josh Smith getting the ball, struggling to get position against Toronto’s team defence and then putting up a bad-mediocre selfish shot. Smith and Stuckey in particular must have had the four Pistons fans still following this team pulling their hair out with the almost sociopathic disregard that they put up atrociously unnecessary long jumpers. Brandon Jennings was equally guilty of this sin as well, except that he was inexplicably hot in his good Jamaal Crawford impression last night, making the bad shots defensible.

The roster choices of the two teams have been very similar between these two teams up until this most recent summer. How it is that Joe Dumars managed to make similar, probably even worse, choices as Bryan Colangelo and still keep his job is a fact that seems at odds with the very fabric of logic and reason. Last night’s game offered a good matchup of how those similar roster choices have panned out for each team.

DeMar DeRozan worried me as a Raptor’s fan pretty much right up until his stretch of markedly improved play in the last six weeks of last season. The reason why? I thought he was Rodney Stuckey. Rodney Stuckey is a player that, while the NBA community surely agrees is very talented, nobody really wants a part of. He’s bad on defence, but that was supposed to be ok, because he’s a scorer. The problem? He’s a woefully inefficient scorer. Stuckey’s career per game averages are 42% fg, 28%3p, 13.4 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal on 11.2 fg attempts. Those are numbers with enough to them to make it clear that he’s an NBA player, but they also make it clear that if he’s a primary player on your NBA team, you won’t be a very good one. Now, for those of you already angry that I’m comparing DeMar to Stuckey, take a look at DeMar’s career per game numbers. 44%fg, 26%3p, 16.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.9 steals and 13.4 fg attempts. Upsetting close, aren’t they? DeMar’s third season, 2011-2012, and Rodney Stuckey’s third season in the NBA, 2009-2010, are almost the same statistically. Stuckey’s steals and assists are the only differences, and they’re much better for Stuckey than they were for DeMar. Coming in to last season, I thought that DeMar was Rodney Stuckey, and with good reason. That did not make me happy. Flash forward to last night, where it was clear that, even in a game where he struggled at times with his shot, DeMar made it clear that he’s a difference maker in the league, while Stuckey made it clear that he isn’t a starter. The difference is that Stuckey’s third season in the league were the best his numbers have ever been, trailing off a little each year since. DeMar’s game started to change last season, and has developed so much so far this year that his career stat line no longer reflects what you see from him on a game-by-game basis. DeMar DeRozan is no longer Rodney Stuckey. Rejoice with me, Raptors fans.

The more interesting player comparison in last night’s game is Jonas Valanciunas and Andre Drummond. Raptors fans have maligned the team’s passing on Drummond with the 8th pick of the 2012 draft, taking Terrence Ross instead. But it isn’t fair to compare Ross with Drummond . The team didn’t pass on Drummond because they liked Ross more, but rather because they had already drafted Valanciunas the season before. Since coming in to the league together last year, Drummond has made much more noise than Valanciunas. He’s been unstoppable in the pick-and-roll and on the boards, putting up more double-doubles this season than anybody in the league not named Kevin Love. But last night, Valanciunas reminded everyone why the Raptors were happy to stick with him instead. Valanciunas outplayed Drummond, who went quiet for long stretches last night when his teammates went into ‘imma get mine’ bad basketball mode around him. Valanciunas was also left conspicuously alone on offence by his teammates last night. The difference was that he didn’t disappear when that happened. Instead, he hammered the offensive glass and hounded the rim on defence. Valanciunas found a way to contribute to his team’s game, and thus stay relevant in it. Drummond fought for some boards, but it felt more like he was waiting his turn to get to play offence than anything else. The point was emphasized late in the game, when Valanciunas was whistled for a preposterous offensive foul while handing off the ball to Lowry in the defensive zone. Jonas had that flabbergasted ‘what can I do?’ look on his face that he’s been getting this season when he’s been getting called repeatedly for the kind of fouls that the Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnetts of the world commit on every single possession and never get called for. On the following possession, Valanciunas was fighting for position in the post and clearly pushed by Drummond, right in front of the ref. No call. What happened next felt like a big moment for Jonas coming out of his shell and finding some confidence. Instead of pouting or fouling back in response, he fought for a great offensive rebound and put back, followed by screaming in celebration and pumping his fists. The sudden burst of emotion and intensity came again when Valanciunas finally drew a foul from Drummond the next time down the court. That kind of intensity and determination is all that’s been holding Valanciunas back from putting up the same kinds of numbers as Drummond, and he showed that last night.

The Raptors proved last night that their 3rd seed compared with Detroit’s lottery quest is no fluke. Detroit tried time and time again to infect the game with their selfish, ugly and disorganized style of play. The Piston’s style of play is like a bad basketball STI, and it can infect the games it plays in with that kind of tough to watch brand of basketball for both teams. But this Raptors team is no longer the type of team that slums around with that type of partner. They refused to get sucked in to Detroit’s style of play, instead executing a solid team game and demonstrative win. Things are trending along very different paths for these once similar teams. For Raptors fans, that’s a good thing.

Plus we got pizza. All is well with the world.

  • morgan c

    Good point about JV. I admit I am largely critical of him (I would like to think mostly because he often deserves it), but it’s because I know he’s talented enough to be a difference maker in this league. Really, despite some of his bone-headed turnovers and mistakes if he shows that kind of consistent intensity game in and game out no matter what is going on around him (admittedly not always easy), then that alone will be a huge boon to our team’s success. Confidence seems to be a big thing with him, and I can only hope he continues this progression.

  • Val Jasme

    we’re a better team than them..

  • Tee

    Nice recap. Well done.

    If you for one second thought that Demar was like Stuckey you Sir, have a lot to learn about basketball.
    Numbers can tell the story but not the whole truth.

    Yeezus man.

  • 2damkule

    drummond is better & further along than i though he’d be, despite some shortcomings in his game that could prove difficult to overcome. i feel bad for him, he’s playing in a such a shitty env’t for a young big, with players who have no clue how to get him the ball or keep him involved in the flow of the game, and who leave him hung out to dry on D simply because they don’t give a shit. he’s picking up bad, lazy habits. as good as he’s been this season, i can only imagine what kind of impact he’d have on a team that knew how to use him even half-decently.

    • rapierraptor

      Same thing is happening to Carter-Williams in Philly (picking up bad habits from being on a shit team). I cannot get over just how little Detroit cared. Their effort level and body language were both absolutely terrible.

    • Copywryter

      He definitely has the tools. His help-defence block of Rudy Gay the other night was ridiculous.

      Do you think he has a higher ceiling than DeAndre Jordan?

      • Pong

        If Drummond played with CP3 on the Clips, he’d already be better than DJ. And if he isn’t, he definitely will be better than the current DJ by the time he reaches 25 (DJ’s 5 years older).

        • jjdynomite

          And isn’t this the whole point. DJ is great because he’s playing with CP3 and a PG-savvy coach like Rivers. Drummond has been playing with PG black holes like Knight and now Jennings.

      • Abused Raptors Fan

        I think he’s got a LOT of potential, but at the same time, I do not think he’s as good as some would have us think. Something I first noticed in the Rising Stars game, which I saw again last night is that a lot of his rebounds come off of his own missed shots, as sometimes he’d get 2 or 3 off rebounds after his own miss. Granted, he wouldnt be able to do so without his great athleticism, but those rebounds really pad his stats. Even the Pistons’ own blogger from the pregame article said that Drummond doesn’t know how to block out on the defensive boards, and thats a skill he’s yet to master.

    • ItsAboutFun

      I don’t know if there’s a team in the league that would know how to use Andre Dimwit. His atrocious D is because his teammates leave him out to dry? LOL, watch how clueless he is. The guy has no smarts, his only skill is jumping for dunks and rebounding, though even our 2nd year C ate him up on that too. Within a year or two, everyone will recognize that one of the best moves BC ever made was passing on Dimwit and drafting Ross.

      • johng_3

        So his atrocious D has him averaging 2 blocks a game. To have a second year guy to average 13, 13 and 2 blocks is great. I hope Jonas develops to what we expect of him but Drummond is better than him right now.

      • FLUXLAND


        • ItsAboutFun

          Now that’s some fine ball talk right there! You’re a genius in the making! Well, maybe the next generation, if they let you have kids.

          • FLUXLAND

            I just realized, based on your above comment about AD, that your bball (and life in general wisdom) is unmatched. And I was advised not to argue with fools, so I concede to the wise one, p00ka the troll.

            The fact you haven’t been contacted by an NBA team is nothing short of shocking. Don’t worry, I am sure it’s coming.

            • ItsAboutFun

              lol, it’s heart warming when you become so lame.

      • Nilanka15

        That’s some serious dislike of a player who has oodles of potential oozing out of every bodily orifice.

        (I tried to see how many o-words I can fit into 1 sentence)

        • ItsAboutFun

          “oozing out of every bodily orifice” except his brain. I don’t dislike the kid. I reserve those sentiments for assholes, or BAD players on my own team. I’m happy as can be that he’s not on my team. What I’m ranting against isn’t him (could care less), but the love-fest for a guy that, though physically gifted, has developed 1 skill, jumping. Tell me one other “basketball” skill that impresses you.

          On defense, he’s clueless every time I see him. Unlike “johng_3”, I’m not easily impressed with his unqualified (against who, how many in garbage time, etc) stats, blocks or otherwise. On offense, the only “team ball” he seems to relate to his getting spoon fed dunks. IMO, the biggest “potential” he’s living up to is as a beast of role player against bench players. Seriously, in 2 seasons has he developed anything that he didn’t come into the league with? JV, as much as he needs work, easily made Drummond a non-factor, again, whenever they were on together, and whether Jonas was on or not, Dimwit was a non-factor on defense, more pylon than anything else,,,,,,,,,,,,, but those stats look good, and just oooooooze potential!

          • Nilanka15

            I admittedly don’t watch much Pistons basketball. But I just see an extremely raw kid who has the body of a linebacker, and can jump 4 feet off the ground.

            I have no clue how good he’ll be, but that blank slate intrigues me.

            Would I trade Jonas for Drummond? Probably not.

            • ItsAboutFun

              As I’ve said, one usually needs to see more than 1.5 seasons, so I have no clue either. Apparently many are convinced he’s the next big thing though, and continually ride his penis over Ross & JV. I’m saying “look at more than stats for a losing team, and potential”. Thing is, there’s a very long list of physical potential guys, in the history of the NBA, that never reached near the potential that many saw. I don’t hate the kid, but all I see from him zero progression, and what appears to be very low basketball IQ. If he puts in the work, a la DD, he has great potential, but that was one of the red flags coming out of college, and appearances are that it’s still a problem. We’ll see.

          • Fred or Something

            Geez, relax. He’s a 20 year old, averaging 13 and 13 on over 60% shooting. He’s raw, yes, but there’s no reason to call him a “dimwit.”

            • ItsAboutFun

              My points are directed at people needing “to relax” about annointing him the next big thing. Perhaps the dimwit thing is being a little harsh, but he really does seem to be living up to the low bball IQ red flag. Just trying to offer some counters to all the Drummond dick riding, particularly as put downs of our sophs.

          • stretch bigman

            If you follow any Grantland and take in Z.Lowe he speaks with players in the NBA all the time and does in depth interviews with them. I think Conley most recently said that Drummond is one of the few bigs in the league that you have to be careful with when you come off the pick and roll because he is quick agile and gets steals from unsuspecting guards. He mentioned Garnett as being the best at this.


            This is not the end all but when players in the league mention other players as being good on the defensive end, I tend to rely on their opinion. That being said, AD definitely has to work on his man to man defence, but to say he’s ‘clueless every time’ on that end of the floor says more about you than him.

            • ItsAboutFun

              I speak to what I see in front of my eyes, not what someone says in an interview. For example, did you watch last night’s game? And the previous game we had with them? Or any other game we’ve had with them?

              I respect Lowe, but don’t know why him interviewing players all the time is relevant to this discussion. And with all due respect for Conley, you realize his total experience with facing Drummond is 2 games this year, and 4.5 minutes last year. Hardly an indication of what a player is like over an 82 game season.

              PS. did I say clueless “every time”?

      • stretch bigman

        Lol. It obviously takes one dimwit to recognize another one.

        You keep believing that. LOL

      • stretch bigman

        How is Jonas’s defence btw?

        • ItsAboutFun

          Needs plenty of work, but much better than Drummond’s, and it appears he’s working on it, unlike Drummond. More importantly, JV’s is on our team. You know, the team that is 36-27, not 25-40,,,, and the team we support. Well, some anyway.

    • johng_3

      Yea its bad when Josh Smith is jacking 3 pointers instead of passing it inside to him or Monroe

    • stretch bigman

      Well said.

  • redrap

    Good write up, really good. The STI metaphor is interesting to me in kind of a different way: I’ve wondered a couple times this season if the teams the Raps have played (and usually beaten) have then gone on to play better themselves and if so, if it’s because of the buzz they may have caught from being on the floor against the Raps for a game. As in (possibly, if there’s merit to this non-scientific observation) being almost inspired by the notion that ‘if the Raptors can do that, maybe so can we’. I dunno. Just a casual hunch from glancing at those other teams’ game results after they’ve played us.

  • redrap

    The DeMar thing is always interesting to me. A few years ago (his second season?), there was a moment in a preseason game in Montreal that perked up my interest in him. It was when he dislocated his finger in the first half of that game. The quick view I got of it (that I thought I saw, anyway) looked like one of those freaky impossible-bone-angle things where you suck your breath in and squirm .. and he just ran off the court to the dressing room. But he came out in the second half with it taped up and he played. I couldn’t help thinking of good ole Vince, how if it was him, he’d have been rolling on the floor all the way out to St. Catherine Street. (I’d still think of Vince on occasion, back then.) Point was as I saw, this was a guy with some fibre in him, enough to make me watch him more closely. The steady-as-she-goes improvement that seems to have been there consistently is what has kept me on board with him. I understand that the ‘athleticism’ that was crowed about before he even got here is not really the typical kind of athleticism that one might expect to see .. in fact — as a few of the knowledgable watchers around here have said — other than being able to dunk *very* nicely on the run, he’s not particularly athletic that I would mention. But what he does have that makes him a keeper (in my book) is his determination to be good. And to get better, to this point in time, constantly. That’s worth tons, gotta be, I figure.

    • Tanks-a-lot

      DeMar Derozan is a pro’s pro.

  • Ion66

    I’m worried that nobody has started an, “I’d rather have high lottery picks than wins, so Detroit is doing way better and we are just fools gold.” thread in this conversation. I was going to make a drinking game out of it.

    • ItsAboutFun

      haha, good one.

      I’m waiting for Flux to come and donate his great wisdom again about how great Andre Dimwit is. Once again, he was pathetic against our lowly (sarcasm) Raptors.

      • FLUXLAND

        You’re trolling.

        • ItsAboutFun

          And your as dumb as Andre Dimwit whose dyck you like to ride.

          • FLUXLAND

            This is you talking “ball”, right? Troll.

    • johng_3

      Detroit has to be in the top 8 in this year’s lottery to keep their pick, which doesn’t seem likely to me

      • ItsAboutFun

        Except that they’re bad, and stand 1 loss away from that top 8.

  • Ogi

    Raptors are 36-27 after the win in Detroit not 35-27

  • DDRvsStuckeyLOL

    You thought he was the same as Stuckey because like someone who never played ball themselves would do and looked at their numbers only,which didn’t even prove your point bc. in that case Stuckey was better than P. George. You didn’t even take into consideration their age did you? You could tell Demar was always a way better talent with way more potential, if you have some sort of vision towards the future. Terrible comparison.

    • ItsAboutFun

      smh at that too. Stuckey is yet another case of the very common fandom over-reaction to a player’s 1st/2nd year stats and how he’s amazing and going to be a star! Except for the odd exception like a LBJ or KD, you really don’t know what a player will turn into until 3-4 years in the league. Andre Dimwit is likely going to be another one. So many fans and pundits riding his dyck now, but we’ll see where he stands in a couple of years compared to our JV. My guess? JV will be a rapidly rising star C, while Dimwit will be a quicker, but dumber, version of the Regend: rebounding beast with no offensive skills and poor defender.

      • stretch bigman

        Who ever claimed that Stuckey was going to be a star? You’re making stuff up.

        Just curious, since you’ve only started taking in the game recently what makes you think that JV will grow in leaps and bounds over the next few years while Drummond will not? Based on last year aI owuld say AD’s game has expanded while JV’s has regressed slightly. Are your reasons based based on footwork or lack thereof of either player ?Or maybe both players strength/weakness of getting to their spots on the blocks and establishing position? Post moves? Court awareness? Just curious why you think JV will develop more than Drummond? It can definitely happen don’t get me wrong but I am curious as to the basketball reasons you think this will occur.

  • robertparish00

    I don’t think anyone has mentioned the free throw shooting by Detroit. They shot 41% from the charity stripe!!! 41% !!!!!!

  • AnthonyF

    Seems every time JV plays a contemporary (Drummond, Kanter, Tristan Thompson, Vesely & even Davis) he has held his own or dominated. Only Sullinger (or all people) owned him.

  • cdhall

    can someone tell me the difference between KLowry making 9 Mil. in Chicago or TO re TAX implications for KLowry{i.e.. take home pay }

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