Last 200 articles shown.
|Dec 20, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ Mavericks, complete with rant||Blake Murphy|
|Dec 19, 13||Five Stages of Grief||William Lou|
|Dec 19, 13||Rapcast #179: The Doc – CHA Loss, 2PG Rotation, Jonas Still on the Team?||Steve Gennaro|
|Dec 19, 13||Morning Coffee: December 19th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Dec 18, 13||Reaction: Raptors 102 Bobcats 104 – Dec. 18/13||Sam Holako|
|Dec 18, 13||Gameday: Raptors vs Bobcats – Dec. 18/13||Sam Holako|
|Dec 18, 13||Morning Coffee: December 18th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Dec 17, 13||Toronto Interested in Jordan Crawford?||forumcrew|
|Dec 17, 13||What’s Your Price on Amir Johnson?||forumcrew|
|Dec 17, 13||Sample Size Theater Encore: Trade Effect on Pick ‘n Roll Play, JV, Amir, Ross||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 17, 13||RR on ESPN: Toronto’s new national agenda||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 17, 13||Talking Raptors Rapcast (Ep. 8): Fight Club; Tank Nation Struggles; Pizzagate; Amir or DeMar||Barry Taylor|
|Dec 17, 13||Morning Coffee: December 17th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Dec 16, 13||Today at the Small Sample Size Theatre: Pre-Gay vs Post-Gay Numbers||William Lou|
|Dec 16, 13||The Big “T”ease||Prospect|
|Dec 16, 13||Morning Coffee: December 16th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Dec 16, 13||Caption Contest! (featuring Rudy Gay)||William Lou|
|Dec 15, 13||Short-term fun vs. long-term gain||Garrett Hinchey|
|Dec 14, 13||Jonas is the 24th ranked under 25 player in the league [Insider]||RR|
|Dec 14, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 99, Bulls 77||Garrett Hinchey|
|Dec 14, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ Bulls, Dec. 14||Blake Murphy|
|Dec 14, 13||Rapcast #177: NYK/TOR Trade + Tanklantic Talk with Knickerblogger||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 14, 13||How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the The Toronto Tankers||William Lou|
|Dec 13, 13||Reaction: Raptors 108, 76ers 100||William Lou|
|Dec 13, 13||Report: James Dolan Nixed a Potential Lowry Trade?||William Lou|
|Dec 13, 13||Raptors vs. 76ers: Are You Sure One Of Us Has To Win?||Andrew Thompson|
|Dec 13, 13||Morning Coffee: Friday the 13th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Dec 13, 13||Lowry Wants Out of Toronto?||Tim W.|
|Dec 12, 13||Asset Valuation and Redistribution||Tim W.|
|Dec 12, 13||Lowry to New York?||William Lou|
|Dec 12, 13||Free tickets to Raptors/Sixers on Dec. 13th @ ACC||Sam Holako|
|Dec 12, 13||Rapcast #176: SAC Fans, Trade Winners, Ujiri Strategy, Week Pre/Review||Steve Gennaro|
|Dec 12, 13||Morning Coffee: December 12th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Dec 11, 13||Tim & Sid: Bruce Bowen running down the Raptors roster||Sam Holako|
|Dec 11, 13||Where do we go from here?||Garrett Hinchey|
|Dec 11, 13||Valanciunas starts the game off with a dunk over Duncan||Sam Holako|
|Dec 11, 13||Essay on How the Raptors Hung with the Spurs for a Quarter||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 11, 13||Morning Coffee: December 11th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Dec 10, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 103 vs Spurs 116 – Dec. 10/13||Sam Holako|
|Dec 10, 13||Gameday: Spurs Visit the Not-So-New Look Raptors||Tim W.|
|Dec 10, 13||Talking Raptors Rapcast Ep. 7 – The Kobe and Gay Episode||Barry Taylor|
|Dec 10, 13||Tim & Sid: I believe in Masai||Sam Holako|
|Dec 10, 13||Colangelo Shares His Two Cents on the Rudy Gay Trade||forumcrew|
|Dec 10, 13||Who ESPN thinks the Raptors would draft if they win the lottery (Insider)||Sam Holako|
|Dec 10, 13||Scouting Reports for your four new Toronto Raptors||Blake Murphy|
|Dec 10, 13||Morning Coffee: December 10th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Dec 9, 13||D.J. Augustin Waived||Tim W.|
|Dec 9, 13||Marc Stein: Toronto looking to avoid “accidental success”, says tank is on||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 9, 13||RR Roundtable: Reactions to the Rudy Gay trade||Blake Murphy|
|Dec 9, 13||ESPN Insider: Rudy Gay Trade Grades||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 9, 13||Zach Lowe on the Rudy Gay Trade||William Lou|
|Dec 9, 13||“Tanking” Raptors May Have Improved After Trading Rudy Gay||Tim Chisholm|
|Dec 9, 13||Terrence Ross banks in a half-court hail-mary at the 1st quarter buzzer||Sam Holako|
|Dec 9, 13||Morning Coffee: December 9th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Dec 9, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 106, Lakers 94||Garrett Hinchey|
|Dec 9, 13||Emergency Rapcast #174: Rudy Gay Deal Analysis with James Ham from Cowbell Kingdom||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 8, 13||Raptors save $12.4M in Rudy Gay Deal: Here’s How||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 8, 13||Rudy Gay Traded to the Kings for Vasquez, Patterson and Others||William Lou|
|Dec 8, 13||Gameday: Raptors vs Lakers – Dec. 8/13||Sam Holako|
|Dec 7, 13||JV rolls to rim, finishes strong, gets tangled up, then misses Plumlee with a devastating high elbow||Sam Holako|
|Dec 7, 13||Clips of Dwindling Faith from Raps vs Suns; USA Draw Group of Death||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 6, 13||Quick Reaction: Suns 106, Raptors 97||Garrett Hinchey|
|Dec 6, 13||Gameday: Raptors Enter the Valley of the Suns||Tim W.|
|Dec 5, 13||Rudy Gay one of Bill & Jalen’s Least Valuable Players||Sam Holako|
|Dec 5, 13||Depicting a Disaster||William Lou|
|Dec 5, 13||Rapcast #173 (The Doc): GSW Meltdown, Blame Game, Fast Break Points, NCAA AP Top 10||Steve Gennaro|
|Dec 5, 13||Morning Coffee: December 5th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Dec 5, 13||Jonas Valanciunas Spins and Slams On Andrew Bogut||Sam Holako|
|Dec 4, 13||The Coaching Question||Tim W.|
|Dec 4, 13||An Open Letter To Masai Ujiri||forumcrew|
|Dec 4, 13||Red Means No, Yellow Means Slow, Green means Go||William Lou|
|Dec 4, 13||Does DeMar Deserve To Be In The All-Star Game?||forumcrew|
|Dec 4, 13||The Warriors ripping the Raptors hearts out||Sam Holako|
|Dec 4, 13||The Aristocrats||Andrew Thompson|
|Dec 4, 13||Morning Coffee: December 4th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Dec 4, 13||Poll: What Will Be Dwane Casey’s Fate?||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 4, 13||Reaction: Raptors 103, Warriors 112 (27-point lead blown)||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 3, 13||Ten Reasons NOT to Trade DeMar DeRozan||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 3, 13||Zach Lowe’s Thoughts on Jonas Valanciunas||William Lou|
|Dec 3, 13||Where the Raptors Sit Based on Expectations||forumcrew|
|Dec 3, 13||Rapcast #172: “Talking Raptors” with Gareth Wheeler of TSN||Barry Taylor|
|Dec 3, 13||Who to Trade, or Not to Trade?||forumcrew|
|Dec 3, 13||Gameday: Raptors visit Warriors amid myriad questions||Blake Murphy|
|Dec 3, 13||Morning Coffee: December 3rd Edition||Sam Holako|
|Dec 2, 13||Remember the Pick ‘n Roll? Me Neither||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 2, 13||Raptors Lose, Jonas Wins||William Lou|
|Dec 2, 13||DeMar crosses Evan Fournier to the ground||Sam Holako|
|Dec 2, 13||Morning Coffee: December 2nd Edition||Sam Holako|
|Dec 1, 13||Rudy Gay Refuses to Pass on Break; DeMar DeRozan Feels Pain||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 1, 13||Mozgov blocks Gay’s dunk attempt||Sam Holako|
|Dec 1, 13||Brian Shaw escorts DeRozan from the Nuggets bench||RR|
|Dec 1, 13||Super Late Reaction: Nuggets 112, Raptors 98||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 1, 13||Gameday: Nuggets @ Raptors, December 1st||Garrett Hinchey|
|Dec 1, 13||Casey Looks at +/-, Considers Lineup Change; RR Looks at NetRtg, Suggests Who To Bench||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 30, 13||Valiant, Vigilant, and at times Voracious, but not Victorious||William Lou|
|Nov 29, 13||Reaction: Heat 90, Raptors 83||William Lou|
|Nov 29, 13||ESPN: Gay and DeRozan the 5th and 6th Worst “Black Holes”||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 29, 13||Game Day: The Champs Are Here!||Tim W.|
|Nov 29, 13||Morning Coffee: November 29th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 28, 13||Winter War: RR’s 16-Team 3-on-3 Tournament in Toronto (Individual Sign-Up Available)||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 28, 13||Inside the Toronto Raptors Thanksgiving dinner party||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 28, 13||Morning Coffee: November 28th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 27, 13||Rudy Gay Passes Ball, Shocks Amir Johnson||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 27, 13||Rumour: Dion Waiters for Terrence Ross||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 27, 13||10 Things About Last Night||Andrew Thompson|
|Nov 27, 13||Quincy Acy reacts to Rudy Gay’s clutch three||Sam Holako|
|Nov 27, 13||Morning Coffee: November 27th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 26, 13||Dwane Casey Comments on Last Play, Approves of Amir Three (GIF, Quote)||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 26, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 100 Nets 102||Sam Holako|
|Nov 26, 13||Open Gym: Kyle’s House (trailer)||RR|
|Nov 26, 13||Dwane Casey – Nov. 16/13||RR|
|Nov 26, 13||Gameday: Nets @ Raptors, Nov. 26||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 26, 13||Rapcast #171 (Doc): The Week Ahead for the DeRozan-led Division Champs||Steve Gennaro|
|Nov 26, 13||Rudy Gay Doesn’t Want Team to Look at Box Scores||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 26, 13||Responding to Double Teams||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 26, 13||Morning Coffee: November 26th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 25, 13||Raptors Should Pursue Winning Trades||Tim Chisholm|
|Nov 24, 13||Reality Check||Tim W.|
|Nov 23, 13||Player Highlights from Raptors vs Wizards (Amir, Demar, Lowry, Ross)||William Lou|
|Nov 23, 13||Raptors/Wizards: The Running Diary||Garrett Hinchey|
|Nov 22, 13||Reaction: Wizards 88, Raptors 96||William Lou|
|Nov 22, 13||Gameday: Wizards @ Raptors, Nov. 22||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 22, 13||In Defense of Kyle Lowry||William Lou|
|Nov 22, 13||Morning Coffee: November 22nd Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 21, 13||The Raptors Offence: Not Good, But Not As Bad As You Think||Andrew Thompson|
|Nov 21, 13||In case you missed it||RR|
|Nov 21, 13||DeMar DeRozan’s crosses James Anderson out of his shoes||RR|
|Nov 21, 13||Raptors Dismantle Sixers; Signs of Hope Illustrated GIF Style||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 21, 13||Morning Coffee: November 21st Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 20, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 108 vs 76ers 98||Sam Holako|
|Nov 20, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ 76ers, November 20th||Garrett Hinchey|
|Nov 20, 13||Morning Coffee: November 20th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 19, 13||Surprise! Two high-usage wings are struggling to play together||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 19, 13||Rapcast #171: Doc Is In – DeRozan’s growth, Casey Improving, Novak Role, Lowry Rising, and RONDO!||Steve Gennaro|
|Nov 18, 13||Ujiri Active, but is he a Buyer or Seller?||Tim W.|
|Nov 18, 13||A Closer Look: Amir Johnson||Tim W.|
|Nov 18, 13||Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword||William Lou|
|Nov 18, 13||Morning Coffee: November 18th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 18, 13||Batum posterizes Jonas…dang it was a nice play…||RR|
|Nov 17, 13||Gameday: Blazers @ Raptors, Nov. 17||RR|
|Nov 16, 13||Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan dunks over Bulls’ Joakim Noah||RR|
|Nov 16, 13||Same Old, Same Old||Tim W.|
|Nov 15, 13||Quite Possibly the Worst Shot Chart You’ll Ever See||William Lou|
|Nov 15, 13||Reaction: Raptors 80, Bulls 96||William Lou|
|Nov 15, 13||Gameday: Bulls @ Raptors, Nov. 15||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 15, 13||Morning Coffee: November 15th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 15, 13||Raptors Interested In Asik?||Tim W.|
|Nov 14, 13||A few realities about tanking||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 14, 13||Rudy Gay: Raptors/Grizzlies Post-Game||RR|
|Nov 14, 13||Dwane Casey: Raptors/Grizzlies Post-Game||RR|
|Nov 14, 13||Kyle Lowry: Raptors/Grizzlies Post-Game||RR|
|Nov 14, 13||Give us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses||Andrew Thompson|
|Nov 13, 13||Reaction: Raptors 103, Grizzlies 87||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 13, 13||Bargnani’s defense is not missed||Sam Holako|
|Nov 13, 13||#WheresSteveNovak||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 13, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ Grizzlies, November 13||Garrett Hinchey|
|Nov 13, 13||Morning Coffee: November 13th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 12, 13||Quincy Acy blocks Dwight Howard’s dunk attempt||RR|
|Nov 12, 13||Contextualizing Gay and Derozan’s Cold Starts||William Lou|
|Nov 12, 13||Rapcast #170: Doc Is In – West Analysis, Debuts for Wiggins/Parker/Randle, Casey’s Coaching||Steve Gennaro|
|Nov 12, 13||The Good, the Bad, and the Rudy Gay Shot Selection||Garrett Hinchey|
|Nov 12, 13||Amir clicking his heels||Sam Holako|
|Nov 12, 13||Morning Coffee: November 12th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 12, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 104, Rockets 110 (2OT)||Garrett Hinchey|
|Nov 11, 13||GIF: Bargnani goes for the block||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 11, 13||Silver Linings: There Aren’t Any in Dwane Casey’s Playbook||William Lou|
|Nov 11, 13||Depressing Reminder That 3 out of 4 Raptors Fans Want to Tank||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 11, 13||Gameday: Raptors vs Rockets – Nov. 11/13||Sam Holako|
|Nov 11, 13||Morning Coffee: November 11th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 10, 13||Sunday Schadenfreude: Chronicling Bargnani’s Performance in NYK-SAS||William Lou|
|Nov 10, 13||Raptors vs Jazz Brief Comment; User Experience Tips||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 9, 13||Reaction: Raptors 115, Jazz 91||Andrew Thompson|
|Nov 9, 13||Game Day: Raptors vs Jazz||Tim W.|
|Nov 9, 13||A Tale of Two Teams||William Lou|
|Nov 8, 13||Reaction: Indiana 91, Raptors 84||William Lou|
|Nov 8, 13||29th out of 30||forumcrew|
|Nov 8, 13||Gameday: Raptors vs Pacers – Nov. 8/13||Sam Holako|
|Nov 7, 13||Rudy Gay’s bricks and turnovers against the Bobcats||Sam Holako|
|Nov 7, 13||Gerald Henderson illustrates a problem for the Raptors||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 7, 13||A Few Positives||forumcrew|
|Nov 7, 13||Avoidable Loss in Charlotte; Weird Decisions Made Again||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 7, 13||Morning Coffee: Movember 7th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 7, 13||Presented Without Context: Gay and Bargnani’s Shot Charts Through Five Games||William Lou|
|Nov 6, 13||Dwane Casey Explains Decision to Not Foul||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 6, 13||Reaction: Raptors 90, Bobcats 92||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 6, 13||Jonas posterizes LeBron||Sam Holako|
|Nov 6, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ McBobcats, Nov. 6||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 6, 13||Gay Struggles, Lebron Shines, Small-Ball and Game Theory||William Lou|
|Nov 6, 13||Morning Coffee: Movember 6th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 5, 13||Reaction: Raptors 95, Heat 104||William Lou|
|Nov 5, 13||Rapcast #169: The Doctor Is In – The Raptors and the East||Steve Gennaro|
|Nov 5, 13||Gameday: Heat @ Raptors, Nov. 5||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 5, 13||Morning Coffee: Movember 5th||Sam Holako|
|Nov 4, 13||Demar Derozan’s Passing Game||William Lou|
|Nov 4, 13||Rudy’s Struggling In The Right Way||Tim Chisholm|
|Nov 4, 13||Morning Coffee: Movember 4th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 4, 13||How Crazy is the Steve Nash to Toronto Rumour? This Crazy.||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 3, 13||Rudy Gay’s shot chart through the first three games of the season||RR|
|Nov 3, 13||Dwane Casey MIL Post-Game Interview (COTY?)||RR|
|Nov 3, 13||Raptors Go Deer Hunting||Tim W.|
Our beloved Toronto Raptors start a four-game road trip tonight with a visit to Dallas to take on the 15-10 Mavericks (8:30 p.m. tip off, Sportsnet One on the broadcast).
On the bright side, you get to watch Dirk Nowitzki rain jumpers from all over the court which is always a treat, a treat we may not get many more times.
On the downside, this is likely the second of what promises to be at least a four-game losing streak. Following Wednesday’s heartbreaker against Charlotte, the Raptors now visit Dallas, Oklahoma City and San Antonio before breaking for Christmas, then return with a home-and-home against the Knicks. Maybe the Knicks are victories, maybe not, most likely it’s a split. In any case, they’ll almost certainly enter the game at Madison Square Garden on the 27th on a four-game skid.
And allow me a rant here: the NBA sucks. I understand that many fans have now switched gears to taking the long-view and are hopeful of more losing than winning for the rest of the season. I understand completely that for the long-term success of the franchise, it probably behooves the team to lose to improve lottery odds and improve the chances of getting a better pick. I am not stupid, I understand these things. My distaste for tanking is nothing new, and I’ve softened on the Raptors doing it, but goddam if it isn’t infuriating to see fans openly rooting against the team. Wednesday’s game was a perfect example, with many fans pleased with the outcome; after all, close, entertaining games that end in a loss are the best-case scenario for fans of the tank. But I just invested three hours in that thing, and I invest a ton of time, energy and (sadly) emotion into this team, there’s no way I can bring myself to root for Kemba Walker to hit a game-winning overtime buzzer-beater. I just can’t. Long term, sure, it makes all the sense in the world. But I’m not rooting for individual losses in the moment, ever, just like I won’t look at a tough stretch of games and think “awesome, losing streak.” You’re free to, and I understand, I just can’t do it and it drives me nuts that the realities of the NBA allow for and encourage rooting against your team.
Anyway, let’s break this thing down.
Point Guard: Kyle Lowry and Greivis Vasquez vs. Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin
I miss Calderon here in Toronto (reminder: I named my dog Jose) but the Raptors recently acquired a lite version of him in Vasquez, and Lowry is of course a more complete player. larkin could be a nice player and Monta Ellis spends some time at the point that increases the difficulty of the match-up, but for the most part Raptor guards just have to be ready for pick-and-roll after pick-and-roll. Offensively, this is a match-up to exploit, because as you may recall, Calderon isn’t exactly a terrific defender. I’d also expect to see plenty of two-guard looks from Dwane Casey, as Ellis is a small two.
Wings: DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and John Salmons vs. Monta Ellis, Shawn Marion, Jae Crowder and Vince Carter
BOOOOO. Shit, sorry, we’re in Dallas, not Toronto. Ellis can fill it up and has been far more efficient this year than in year’s past (it’s almost like playing alongside another really good offensive player can make things easier for someone). Marion remains a top-shelf defender and will probably draw the DeRozan assignment, meaning DeRozan may have one of his long-two games. hopefully he stays aggressive and attacks off the bounce, even with the difficult check. Carter off the bench is a nice look for Dallas, too, though he’s shot horribly to start the year. Crowder and Marion, by the way, basically play as interchangeable forwards, splitting time between the three and four.
Bigs: Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, Tyler Hansbrough and Patrick Patterson vs. Dirk Nowitzki, Samuel Dalembert and DeJuan Blair
I mean, it’s Dirk, what do you want me to say? He’s one of the best to ever do it and remains a very efficient scorer. The Mavericks do a nice job getting Nowitzki the ball in many different situations, though it’s been his post-up game that’s been his greatest weapon so far (he ranks seventh in the league in points per post up). As for the others, Dalembert is another nice test for Valanciunas on the offensive end and Blair will keep everyone working for boards. It’s all about Nowitzki here, though.
Vegas says: Mavericks -6 with 72 percent of public action on Dallas, Over/Under 202 with 69 percent of public action on the over
Hollinger Rankings say: Mavericks -5.5
“Averages” say: Mavericks -1
B-Ref says: Raptors have 35% chance of winning outright
Destiny’s Child says: My name
Blake says: I feel pretty confident the Mavericks will take this one, but there are two pretty clear ways to score on Dallas, at least: Get to the restricted area (the Mavericks are the sixth worst team in opponent field goal percentage there) and exploit the corner three (the Mavericks allow an above-average number of attempts from there). It’s not “analytics” really, as much as shots at the rim and corner threes have been hammered home as tenants of that kind of thinking, it’s just a matter of exploiting what Rick Carlisle’s defense allows, and the Mavericks happen to take away the mid-range game more than any other team but the Knicks.
In any case, that’s but one end of the floor and it’s difficult to see the Raptors stopping both Ellis and Nowitzki.
Enjoy the game!
Psychology and basketball go hand in hand like Freud and his theories about our mothers.
Dr. Jennifer Melfi taught me everything I know about psychology via her cross-legged conversations with Tony Soprano. Freud is king and his theories are gospel. Here are the cliff-notes: everything you do is to please your mother. Everything. It’s #Science.
Okay, I’m being a bit facetious. I did take some psychology courses in university and although I skipped/slept-through more than half the lectures, I studied enough psych to know that outside of post-Millgram social-psych and neuroscience (read: psychology studied as a science), everything else is mostly crap. That means that the forefathers of the field – Freud, Yung, Piaget and co – were mostly full of hot air and intricate hypothesis that simply served to justify their own personal insecurities.
But you know what’s not pure crap? The Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief. Oh sure, the model has been debunk by numerous scholars, but think about the last time you’ve experienced a tragedy – did you experience denial? Anger? Bargaining? Depression? Acceptance? Probably, right? See? the crux of every good model is predicated on confirmation bias.
Anywho, the Raptors played last night and in the spirit of recapping last night’s loss, let’s diagnose last night’s tragedy through the frame of the five stages.
Flash back to the last play of the game. There’s 1.0 seconds left in overtime. Demar just tied the game at 102 apiece by splitting a pair of free-throws. McBob is in-bounding from the sideline and the only big on the floor happens to be the ground-bound Al Jefferson, meaning there’s only one option for the ‘Cats: fadeaway jumpshot from one of the wings.
The whistle didn’t blow. Patterson didn’t jump up and down, flailing his arms like a madman in an effort to cut off passing lanes. There’s wasn’t any weakside action from Henderson and he didn’t try to cut backdoor for an alley-oop. The play wasn’t totally obvious – a pin-down for Kemba. Jefferson didn’t sets a slightly illegal screen on Lowry and Kemba didn’t cut to the left side of the floor. With a mere second left on the clock, the Raptors didn’t switch and Jonas wasn’t tasked with guarding the speedy Walker and Jonas wasn’t a step too slow to react. Kemba didn’t catch the ball, turn, fade, and he certainly didn’t shoot a high-arcing jumper from 18 feet over the leaping wingspan of Valanciunas. The ball did not painfully arch over the height of the backboard, stopping for a second in mid-air before splashing into the basket, catching nothing but net.
The game was not over on that shot. Nope.
Okay, maybe all that did happen, but why did it happen? Why did it even get to that point? The Raptors were up 10 going into the half. How did they squander the lead?
AHA! It was that misguided coach! It was Dwane Casey! Lame ducks aren’t supposed to quack! Why doesn’t he have a playbook? Why did he let the Raptors descend into pure isolation plays for the entirety of the second half?! Why did he bench Jonas?!?! Why did he play so much of the two-PG lineups!?!?! FYI, Lowry/Vasquez is not Dragic/Bledsoe! Why did he give so many minutes to John effing Salmons!?!?!
I mean, look at this shot chart for the OT period. FYI: red means no!
And why did Derozan shoot so many damn times? 30 points on 26 shots? What was that about? Did the ghost of Rudy possess Demar (no, ghost Rudy was clearly haunting Baskets)? He was 3 for 9 in the fourth quarter and OT. ATTN: we have other options on offense!!!
And come on, only 24 and 22 minutes apiece for Ross and Valanciunas? What was that? I thought we’re tanking? Why not give these kids some time on the floor to try to work through their mistakes?????? Seriously, what the hell was going on in that second half?
Okay, Will, just breathe. Calm down. Calm down.
It was a pretty fun game. The view from the RR season seats were great. The game went into overtime on a clutch three by Lowry and the Raptors made a big comeback in OT to tie it. It wasn’t that bad, and hey, you have Kemba on your fantasy team. His 29/5/1/3 line is WHOA BOY! worthy.
And come on, the Bobcats are a top-10 defensive squad this season. I mean, you try to score on the likes of McRoberts and Jeff Adrien. That’s like going up against Hibbert and George! The Raptors were always going to struggle to score.
And hey, this gets the Raptors closer to Wiggins/Smart/Randle/Parker! If that’s not the silver lining in a gut-wrenching loss, what is? Cheer up, Amir! I know you’re working your butt off and you’re enjoying the best season of your career, but let’s just waste all that so we can catch a sniff at some more ping-pong balls! It’ll totally work out! Look at who we’ve drafted – Araujo, Bargnani, Graham, Ross – I mean how could you say no to THAT track record?
You know what? I just read through that list of names and I can’t do it anymore. This team is just awful. All of our hopes rests on the shoulders of a 21 year old big man with wonky defensive instincts and one post move. The only time we’re happy is when we get out from underneath a terrible contract that we put on ourselves (Bargnani, Gay, Turk). We have to force ourselves to love a player like Ross. I mean honestly, who had more skills in their second season: Sonny Weems or Terrence Ross?
And come on, it’s not like this is the calm before the storm or anything. There is no calm, there’s only ever storm with this team. If it’s not years of watching the aging husk of Jermaine O’Neal lumbering around, it’s cheering for Alan Anderson or Ben Uzoh. It’s seasons where Bargnani and Derozan are the only viable options on offense. It’s getting excited because some assistant coach brought a rock into the locker room. It’s getting excited that Hedo Turkoglu chose our crack-capital over beautiful Portlandia because his wife is “international”. It’s hoping so hard for Nash that we signed Fields to a ludicrous 3-year-18 million deal.
The boxscore said there were 15K+ in attendance last night, including myself, but I have to ask: why are we still here? Seriously, why? And why would you want a generational Canadian talent like Wiggins here? When was the last time we actually developed a draft pick? Bosh?
The Raptors suck. Teams that suck lose games. They’ve lost to the Bobcats twice this season. But hey, at least this guy doesn’t play here anymore:
It’s a solo effort this week on The Doctor is In with Phdsteve podcast. I look back at the last 7 days where the Raptors went 2-1 and explore a little bit of life after Rudy Gay. As always, I dig deeper into the season that still has optimism and potential even after a hugely disappointing loss at home to Charlotte on the eve of a Western Conference Road trip that will take the team to Dallas, OKC, and San Antonio.
Some topics of discussion include:
As the year end approaches, a big thank you to my brother Mike (who knows college basketball), Greg Mason (the brain from the south) and Blair Miller from The Fifth Quarter Blog. The worldwide roundtable returns in the New Year as we start looking ahead to the trade deadline and the cards that Masai Ujiri has in his hands.
Wishing you and your loved ones a very happy and safe holiday season.
(Listen for the guy who who cackles after the game winner)
The game’s aesthetic value lingered around nil for most of the night, to the point where an ennui-soaked beer vendor proved to be the highlight for world-weary press row. (Sample dialogue: “Tall cans. Big and small tall cans. A big selection of two.” Also: “No lineups, none whatsoever: just me talking to myself.) After Casey spent much of his pre-game session with the media complimenting his team’s ball movement, the Raptors went rogue in the first quarter, managing just two assists. The Bobcats, who had zero in the frame, conspired to make them look like the Spurs in comparison.
Sidenote: Matty D called Amir “The Doctor”. That’s worse than “Doctor of Denial”.
Toronto actually came out with some effort, but couldn’t hit a shot early. Once things stabilized, Charlotte went on a furious rally in the third quarter.
One of the main reasons why Toronto stormed past Charlotte in the 2nd quarter was because of how easy it was for them to penetrate to the rim. That fact alone is the reason why Charlotte needs MKG to come back because of how great he is as a perimeter defender.
If I told you Anthony Tolliver was going to shoot 80 percent from the field and score 10 points in a comeback effort, you would have laughed at me. Well, that happened too.
Still, Casey maintains that it’s a give and take with Valanciunas on the floor in these scenarios. Although you have a theoretical advantage offensively with Valanciunas against the smaller Jefferson, it’s understood that you are giving something up on defence. Is one worth the other? Instead, Casey rotated the more experienced, more versatile trio of Amir Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough and Patrick Patterson in the fourth.
As is common with the Raptors, Toronto started off with a play into the post for Jonas Valanciunas and the Raptors young center showed something new by passing out and re-posting deeper. On the pass back, he easily scored over Al Jefferson with a short hook. Valanciunas also putback an offensive board 2 plays later, but points were hard to come by in the first quarter as both teams shot under 32 percent from the field and the Bobcats took an 18-15 lead on a late Kemba Walker three-pointer. Bobcats turning the ball over 5 times to the Raptors 4.
While there’s a certain soul-sucking aspect about wanting your team to lose deliberately when it’s not even Christmas so that it can join the great Eastern Conference conga line to the draft lottery, it has become reality. Even as Lowry nailed a brazen three-pointer with 12.1 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, the Twittersphere exploded with one thought: “Trade him, Masai. Trade Kyle Lowry right now.” Odd, isn’t it, that a player whose character has often been a cause of concern for his coaches has shined even as trade rumours swirl around him? “He is,” head coach Dwane Casey remarked later, “playing at a very high level.”
“Kemba, he lives for those shots,” Jefferson said. “I really think he missed those free throws on purpose so we could be in that situation, because that’s what he lives for. That’s what he does. He’s been doing that his whole life.”
A worthy cause to give to if you so desire.
|Amir Johnson, PF Shot Chart 40 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 13 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -9All over the glass. Made a big target rolling for Vasquez to hit with a pass. No threes. Set the perfect pick on Kemba Walker to get Kyle Lowry wide open for the game-tying three. He deserved more than 8 shots, but you wont hear him complain. I really have nothing else to say. Amir just plays his position the way it should be played.|
|Jonas Valanciunas, C Shot Chart 23 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | -2Here’s an idea: take your promising sophomore, whisper things like “franchise player” in his ear, and don’t give him minutes when it matters. Seriously, he sat from the 5:31 mark in the 3rd till overtime, then was just thrown out there cold. What is f****** going on here? Really? He started the game playing very big banging with Jefferson in the post, but yea, he got Casied and saw sparing/sparse minutes. Way to develop talent.|
|Kyle Lowry, PG Shot Chart 41 MIN | 6-14 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 5 TO | 17 PTS | -11I want to call him Buckets from now on. That was a stone cold three to send the game into overtime. Pulled down a couple very timely offensive rebounds, distributed the ball. The Raptors need to trade him ASAP if this tank is going to work. Score would be higher, but Kemba really took advantage of him all game. I said in my pre-game that the key match-up would be the point, and Kemba won that by himself.|
|DeMar DeRozan, SG Shot Chart 41 MIN | 11-26 FG | 8-10 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 30 PTS | -1The offensive was there: 30 points on 26 shots. The defense was there: 3 steals including a big one on Kemba to send the game into overtime. Whenever he put it in his head to take the ball to the rim, he did it. His off-the-ball movement was world class. The Bobcats couldn’t contain him, and rightfully so, he’s a tough cover. That missed foul shot wasn’t on you. I mean, you missed it, but you did your share tonight.|
|Terrence Ross, SG Shot Chart 24 MIN | 2-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +1There was a few minutes at the start of the 2nd half where he hit a three in transition, and played tough defense on Henderson, but man, that was his worst game since the Gay trade.|
|Tyler Hansbrough, PF Shot Chart 19 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +5Had a ridiculous block on Zeller in the 2nd quarter, and played hard despite looking like he’s not fully recovered. Have to appreciate that warrior mentality.|
|Patrick Patterson, PF Shot Chart 24 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -4Did what was expected, but 17 of his 24 minutes should have went to Jonas. Why didn’t those minutes go to someone who will be here long term? Why, Jesus?|
|John Salmons, SF Shot Chart 25 MIN | 3-7 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | +3As much as I don’t like Salmons, he makes good decisions, and hits his shots. I was uber comfortable with him|
|Greivis Vasquez, PG Shot Chart 29 MIN | 4-15 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 8 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | +84-15 totally negates the 8 assists. I like his game, I like that he looks for the pass first, but his shot selection was Gay-levels tonight. Not only were the shots bad, the timing was worse.|
Garbage. Stop. I know what you’re going to say: “at least he got the team to foul tonight!” Stop. Just, stop it. If he didn’t make that call, he wouldn’t have made it out of the ACC alive. That call was made out of fear, not good coaching or learning. Straight fear. He cost the Raptors the game in the 3rd when his unwillingness to call a timeout to stem a slow Bobcats comeback erased a 16 point Raptor lead. I hate Casey.
I’m just putting this out there, but the Raptors are 1 of 3 remaining teams left in the league (hi, Milwaukee/New Orleans) who haven’t won a game against an above .500 team; 0-10 in fact. That number doesn’t sit well with me; it’s not that “oh, the Raptors suck, they can’t beat anyone over .500,” no, it’s that by now, they should have at least one win under their belt. Both the Houston (the Jazz beat the Rockets ffs) and Portland losses in overtime were there for the taking. Just floating this, but IF the Raptors split one of those two games, AND beat the Nets like they should have (I’m not over that win…hate the f****** Nets), this team is .500 and Ujiri would be working overtime to get this team back to the lottery.
But if if was the fifth…yes yes…
As it stands, the dice landed where they did, and the Raptors only trail the Celtics by a game for the Atlantic and 4th seed in the East. For the first time in a while, it’s been fun to watch this team play hard and have some success in-spite of Colangelo’s grubby fingerprints still lingering all over the place. Which brings me full circle on this ridiculous tangent: Colangelo was the worst GM in Raptors history. He was handed a dream situation by Embry, and spent the next 7 *sigh* years ruining our lives.
Go nuts in the comments.
Ok, I’m done…sorry…
After going 3-1 since moving Gay for General Greivis & Co., the Raptors have a chance to make amends for past coaching transgressions; not all of them, just for this one:
The Bobcats have been moving in the opposite direction over the last week, dropping 3 of 4, but are coming off a convincing 95-87 win over the Kings last night. They started the game very fast, running the score up 35-22, never really letting Sacramento back in despite Boogie going off for 30pts 17rebs.
This is the games key match-up. It all starts and finishes with the Kemba and Ramon, who are a formidable combo, and give the Bobcats (can’t wait till they change back to the Hornets) different looks throughout the game and a pretty solid 48 minutes of point guard play. But surprise, mother f*****, the Raptors have their own 1-2 punch with Lowry and General Greivis that will keep the Bobcats defense honest. Yes, they have the 2nd ranked defense in the league, but they also play one of the slowest paces, and without a real rim protector, there is real pressure on Walker and Sessions to defend the perimeter. I like Lowry’s and Greivis’ size in this match-up, but will be tight.
With MKG out, Ben Gordon gets more time than he should, but Henderson will occupy a bulk of the minutes at the 2-guard. What the Cats lack here, is defense. Henderson, and especially Gordon, will be giving up lots of good looks, giving Ross the opportunity to make them pay. However, I want to see the slashing/attacking Ross tonight. There will be open lanes and sub-par rim protection; there’s no reason Ross can’t drop 15+ and get to the line 7-8 times. MKG’s injury also shortens the options at the 3 significantly, which gives Casey some match-up options he normally wouldn’t have. Jeff Taylor’s been getting the bulk of the minutes at small forward, but again, the wing position is short (in stature and depth). Expect a 25+ point night from DeRozan. Between DeMar, Ross, and Salmons, the Raptors should own this match-up for a full 48.
This is where things start to get interesting; marginally. Josh McRoberts is a nice stretch four that sees the floor well, but things drop-off significantly after him. The Bobcats have been heavily playing on a front court rotation of McRoberts, Jefferson, Biyombo and Zeller, and as you can see, there is something, but not a whole lot. This can’t happen again. Fortunately, with Gay out of the picture, the court has opened herself up for Amir and Jonas to get to work in the paint. Both have responded to the call and started to reverse the slow start to the season. Al Jefferson is a ball-stopping black hole in the paint. Biyombo is a raw 40 year old who is probably at his peak. Zeller was selected far too high and McRoberts…I have no problem with Josh; just that he’s not a starting PF in the league. What I’m trying to get at here is that even if Hansbrough doesn’t dress, the Raptors front court should be able to handle the Cats front court.
The Raptors are 5.5 point favourites with an over/under of 191.5; sounds about right. After tonight, the Raptors play 8 of the next 10 games on the road. Wins will start getting harder and more expensive, so they need to handle business tonight. I like the Raptors. You like the Raptors. The gamblers like the Raptors. The Raptors by 8; no pizza.
Nineteen years after the birth of the NBA in Canada, basketball’s presence in Canada probably isn’t as large as what was expected. This is unquestionably a hockey country, making the experience of a Canadian basketball fan a peculiar one. Perhaps that’s why, despite being smaller in numbers, Raptors fans are regarded as one of the most rabid and passionate groups in the league. Outcasts in their own country and afterthoughts on a league scale, they’re ready to put everything into a winning team or, failing that, a top Canadian player, as we saw with Nash.
The pick-and-roll, it is not all about the screen. “I call it a marriage,” Casey said. “Those two guys [the screener and the ball handler] have to be married and get it done, helping each other. That’s so important. “[Johnson] doesn’t mind contact. That’s something that he learned from Ben Wallace and those old guys in Detroit, how to set legal screens, how to hit people and understanding it doesn’t hurt if you set it properly and protect yourself. He’s one of the best. You’ll always see him at the end of the game setting screens, understanding angles and timing, because in crucial parts of the game you don’t want [an illegal] screen.”
“I believe I can score 12-14 points, but I am not looking for the scoring part, that will come when you are in the right (spot). When you run pick-and-roll and keeping the defense off balance a little bit, that’s when the scoring will come for me. For me, it is about making my teammates better, being unselfish and being a leader.”
But nine years ago today, when it was announced that the Toronto Raptors were trading Vince Carter to the New Jersey Nets for Eric Williams, Aaron Williams, an Alonzo Mourning that you knew would never play here, and two middling first-round draft picks (one of which thank god turned into Joey Graham…wait…), try as you may, you just couldn’t come up with much in terms of a positive spin on the deal.
Amir Johnson intoned that Charlotte was a lot more competitive than its recent record. “They’re a good team, scrappy, they get after you, play hard for the whole 48 (minutes),” Johnson said. “For us, we definitely have to match their energy. Main thing we’ve got to do is out-work those guys.” Back in November, Charlotte embarrassed the Raptors in the first quarter, scoring 32 points.
Is Masai Ujiri the real Il Mago? The Toronto Raptors pulled off a seven player deal that sent Rudy Gay and his 40 shots/game to Sacramento. On this week’s podcast we break down the trade between the Raptors and Sacramento Kings, recap the past week with the Toronto Raptors, Terrence Ross’ performance in the starting lineup, the emergence of Amir Johnson, Austin Daye’s winter driving and our Wenningtons of the Week where we recap the best NBA Canadian performances from the past week.
Want to be included in Morning Coffee? Send me your links: [email protected]
Fox Sports’ Sam Amico is reporting that the Raptors are one of a couple teams that are rumoured to be interested in acquiring the services of one Jordan Crawford. Yay or Nay?
Since the word on the street is that Amir is drawing interest from various NBA GM’s at the moment, what do you feel is the true value of our beloved fan favourite Amir Johnson right now?
A little while ago I looked at how the Raptors used the pick ‘n roll/man in a very limited manner despite there being some evidence that it was a play that yielded positive results. Now that the greatest addition-by-subtraction trade in the history of the NBA has been executed, let’s take a look at what subtracting the black hole from the lineup has meant for the pick ‘n roll.
Here’s how the Raptors fared when that article was written, and how they’ve done in the four games following the trade – these are all numbers from mySynergySports.com:
|Rate Executed||Success Rate|
|PnR Man – Before||4.50%||43.60%|
|PnR Man – at Lakers||4.70%||75.00%|
|PnR Man – vs Spurs||4.90%||40.00%|
|PnR Man – vs Sixers||7.40%||37.50%|
|PnR Man – at Bulls||11.90%||66.70%|
The biggest thing to note here is the jump in running that play in the Sixers and Bulls games, the two games where Greivis Vasquez got minutes. The Raptors chose to pass the ball back to the screener on 7.4% and 11.9% against the Sixers and Bulls, respectively. That’s a considerable increase over the 4.5% that they were doing before, and this number will steadily rise until it aligns with the forms of Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas – two guys who live off of this play.
What’s not measured in these statistics are the intangible effects of ball movement, and the feeling on the court that your presence is valued rather than being reduced to a spectator.
Taking this a step further, let’s look at how the Raptors are faring in assists, and how the two beneficiaries of the pick ‘n roll/man are doing post and pre-trade. These are from NBA.com:
|Valanciunas Usage Rate||17.70%||19%|
|Valanciunas Net Rating||-4.1||-0.2|
|Johnson Usage Rate||15.50%||21.40%|
|Johnson Net Rating||1.6||20.4|
|Ross Usage Rate||15.70%||23.50%|
The table speaks for itself as the team’s ball-distribution has been phenomenal and Valanciunas and Johnson are more involved in the Raptors offense. With DeMar DeRozan being the constant threat in the Raptors offense, this new dimension of play being brought forth by Johnson and Valanciunas gives the Raptors a distinctly different look.
Terrence Ross is another man seeing an increase in minutes and production since the Gay trade:
|Ross Usage Rate||15.70%||23.50%|
Suddenly, he doesn’t look like a terrible player because he’s getting cleaner, in-rhythm looks within the offense and doesn’t have to look over his shoulder for the hook. Whether this is sustainable we’ll see soon enough, but at least the negative effects of the congestive play appear to have disappeared momentarily. If Ross does struggle again it’ll be for reasons of skill, not for lack of a framework to operate under. Having said that, I do hope that Casey continues to manage his minutes/role well.
My feelings on this season have been summed up perfectly by Garrett’s latest post and I continue to hope for the playoffs. One of the mods here probably deleted the comments from the Chicago Reaction and Recap posts, but I do believe that the phrase “tanking mangina” is the single greatest thing this site has ever produced. Thank you, to whoever came up with that.
Sign up for the 3-on-3 – we still got spots available for individuals and teams.
RR’s very own Blake Murphy wrote a piece on TrueHoop regarding our beloved Raptors. Brief excerpt:
The Toronto Raptors began their journey in the NBA in November 1995. The feelings of inferiority among the fan base were born just two and a half seasons later.
Damon Stoudamire was the first draft pick ever made by the franchise and the face of NBA basketball in Canada up to that point. But after two losing seasons with the expansion team and faced with another, the point guard demanded a traded. He wanted out.
He wouldn’t be the last.
This week on the Talking Raptors podcast:
- Tank Nation’s struggles
- Who to trade: Amir or Demar
- Fans cheering for pizza
- Primo’s comeback
- Tom Sterner TV
- Lamar Odom is the next Stephon Marbury
- Rudy Gay is handsome
- Toronto Raptors Fight Club
“In the past, that’s where a team like Chicago has taken us out — being physical on the defensive end, and we kind of give into it and [do] not bust it to go get the ball or be aggressive in our post-ups,” Casey said. “That’s a step I think we’ve grown to.” Casey thinks that the additions of swingman John Salmons and Patrick Patterson, in particular, have helped. But Toronto’s recent wins came over two in-transition teams — the Lakers and Bulls — and one of the worst defensive teams in the league, the 76ers. After playing Charlotte on Wednesday, the Raptors go into the Christmas break with games in Dallas, Oklahoma City and San Antonio. Those contests could reveal the true progress the Raptors have made.
“Just have to be more focused, you have to be dialed in,” he said of his new starting role. “There’s a lot more that you have to deal with and a lot more you have to know and take on. “When Rudy left, it was, OK, we have me and Landry (Fields) so one of us is going to start and either way you’re going to get big minutes. I just knew it was an opportunity for me to go out there and show what I can do.”
Ross was last year’s favourite public whine. That’s you whining, not him. Whenever a member of the fan base would jump on Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, the first or sometimes second lament was why Ross wasn’t being given the playing time to develop. For some, Ross was whine No. 2 behind Valanciunas’ minutes, but either way, it didn’t take an upset fan long to get to either youngster and why anyone in his right mind would play an Alan Anderson ahead of them. The answer is rather obvious. One, because he wasn’t ready and two (and every parent out there should recognize this one) because you don’t give a maturing young man exactly what he wants when he’s still showing signs of immaturity.
In DeMar DeRozan, Ross has a willing mentor, a player who has successfully overcome similar limitations. DeRozan – not unlike Ross, who is only a couple years younger – was once, in the not-so-distant past, considered to be one-dimensional. In his fifth season, DeRozan is blossoming into a complete player, averaging career highs in points, assists and three-point shooting, also growing on the defensive end. “Both of them are similar,” Casey said of his two young wing players. “Similar body types, similar games, fighting to find consistency. DeMar went through the same things his first couple of years in the league. Two guys in similar positions, same skill set being around each other can only benefit.”
What if Toronto mimics the Atlanta Hawks for four seasons—making the playoffs again and again without turning in a genuine run at the Finals—while Andrew Wiggins is learning how to play the NBA game and growing somewhere else? The Raptors will have been through a Drake-fronted rebranding and, coupled with a few playoff appearances, the perception of the franchise may just change for the better.
Image courtesy of Redbubble.com
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Spoiler alert: the results are exactly what you’d expect.
Much has been made of the Rudy Gay trade. When the deal went down, many pundits (including most of us) proclaimed that it was a clear indication of Masai Ujiri’s intentions. By trading away the team’s perceived star player and number-one option for a collection of spare parts and salary fodder, the Raptors were boldly throwing their hats into the tanking ring, opting to join the ranks of Milwaukee, Utah, Philadelphia and many others in the race to accumulate ping-pong balls. Every present asset is now for sale at the price of future value. If you play for the Toronto Raptors and your name isn’t Jonas, keep your bags packed, especially if you’re on an expiring contract (Lowry) or if you’re a wily veteran (Novak, Hansbrough).
Then something happened, something fans and pundits alike didn’t expect – the Raptors started winning. Since the Rudy Gay trade, the Raptors have won 3 out of 4 games, 2 of which have come on the road (@LAL, PHI, @CHI) and dropping a no-contest at home to the 19-4 San Antonio Spurs.
It appears that the Raptors might have actually…improved?
By all accounts the Raptors have performed much better. Yes, their victories have come against some sub-par opponents (all sub .500), but the team’s improvements certainly pass the eye test (the eye test being whether watching the Raptors offense causes your eyes to bleed or not). The ball isn’t sticking nearly as much, there is more motion in the offense, the front-court is getting more touches and there isn’t a whole swath of isolation plays drawn up for our wing players.
First and foremost, the Raptors have performed better on both offense AND defense. In the 18 games with Gay in the lineup, the Raptors’ net rating (Offensive rating minus Defensive Rating) ranked 18th in the NBA at -1.1 (101.0/102.1). In 4 games without Gay, the Raptors are 8th in net rating at +6.8 (106.4/99.6).
The improvements in the offense have been accompanied by upticks in assist numbers, suggesting an increase in ball-movement (which totally passes the eye test). The Raptors are averaging more total assists per game, improving from 30th to 11th in the NBA (23.0 vs 17.3), and the Raptors have also registered a higher assist ratio (% of possessions ending in an assist, 17.81 vs 13.71). In particular, Derozan and Lowry have both posted higher assist numbers in Gay’s absence and the addition of Greivis Vasquez has also undoubtedly helped facilitate ball-movement.
The composition of the Raptors offense also looks completely different, shifting from an isolation oriented offense to a more motion-heavy, pick-and-roll based offense. According to data from Synergy Sports, the Raptors are spending less possessions on isolation plays, and more on pick-and-roll (split into ball-handler and roll-man). Seasonal averages and post-Gay numbers are shown below (calculations shown here). The main beneficiaries of this new offense are Valanciunas and Johnson, who have both seen upticks in their usage rates (reflected in increase in PnR). The shift away from isolation plays has also allowed the Raptors to play at a significantly faster pace (97.40 vs 94.82):
Perhaps as a result of running more pick and rolls, the Raptors are also shooting a significantly higher percentage in the restricted area. While Gay was on the team, the Raptors shot a putrid 55.4% in the restricted area in large part due to Gay’s uncharacteristic inability to finish at the rim this season (52% this season vs career ~60% shooter at the rim). With Gay out and more shots for Valanciunas and Johnson, the Raptors are shooting a whopping 73% in the restricted area.
Lastly, Gay’s departure has freed up a giant swath of possessions (Gay’s usage rate in Toronto was ~30%) for his former teammates and many have increased their production in his wake.
Terrence Ross has taken Gay’s spot in the starting lineup and he has looked impressive. In four games, Ross has upped his scoring (14.5 ppg from 6.2), rebounding (4.5 per game vs 2.5) and shooting percentage (55.1 TS% vs 51.4 TS%) all while taking on an expanded role in the offense (20.2 usage rate vs 14.7).
Amir Johnson has also seen a significant uptick in his numbers. As usual, Amir has been fantastic in pick and roll/pop situations, but he’s also scoring more on post-ups. Johnson has scored 20.5 points per game on 76 TS% in Gay’s absence as compared to 9.6 ppg on 59 TS%, all while increasing his usage rate (18.9 vs 14.6).
Finally, although many believed that Gay’s departure would have a negative impact on Derozan’s production, Demar’s numbers pre and post-trade have looked more or less the same. He’s using about the same amount of possessions (~26%) while scoring at the exact same rate (53.9 TS%). However now that Demar is taking on more ball-handling responsibilities in the starting lineup, he’s managed to create more shots for his teammates, as evidenced by the increase in his assist ratio (19.9% vs 11.0%).
So all in all, the trade seems to have actually improved the team in the early going. The metrics and the eye test both agree – the offense has performed much better thanks to increased ball movement in Gay’s absence. The Raptors are (thankfully) running fewer isolation plays and more pick and rols for both the ball-handler and the roll-man. As a result, the Raptors are shooting a better percentage from the field while assisting on more of their baskets. The main beneficiaries of the trade have been Johnson and Ross, who have filled much of the void left by Gay and improved both their output and their efficiencies. Meanwhile Demar Derozan, despite becoming the “number-one option”, and consequently the focal point of opposing defenses, has largely managed to keep his production constant.
But before you plan the parade route and apply the finishing touches on the Ujiri float, don’t forget to dip your toes into the cold waters of reality. While the metrics certainly paint a rosier picture, we are dealing with a miniscule sample size of four games. Just as a reference, 4 games is ~1/3 of 13, which is the number of games in which Bargnani averaged 24 and 6 on 47% shooting in 2011. Or, if you’d prefer, 4 is twice as large as 2, which is the number of games that Gay has played in a Kings uniform and averaged 25 points per game on 56% percent shooting from the field. These numbers are descriptive, meaning that they’re an account of what’s happened, but they aren’t predictive, meaning they don’t necessarily indicate how things “will be” going forward.
Regardless, it’s a fresh breath of air for us fans. We’re getting a glimpse of what could be; a fluid, motion based offense revolved around 1/4 pick-and-rolls and drives from the wings, rather than the stagnant, isolation-heavy attack that left our wits senseless, our throats hoarse, and our eyes poked out. And really, we can’t lose either way. If the Raptors are legitimately improved, we get to enjoy a young team on the upswing with potential and flexibility. If not, we regress and we finish with a high lottery pick, affording Masai the ability to add a blue-chip prospect via the draft.
Statistical support courtesy of Synergy Sports, Basketball-Reference, Hoopdata and NBA Stats. H/T to TheScore on the cover photo.
Following Rudy Gay’s departure, NBA analysts and media pundits immediately jumped to the assumption this trade signalled Ujiri’s tossing of the white flag to enter full on tank mode, and yet again, another rebuild in Toronto. Since I’m one of those people who won’t eat everything on my plate just because it’s put there, you’ll pardon my musings on why I think Masai literally has a full vernacular of “T” verbs other than tank such as tease, think and triumph.
Granted, I’m taking a completely different view of the Raptors’ direction than the masses and may in fact find myself with egg all over my face should Lowry literally be traded as I write this. (Of note: I wrote my initial draft prior to Friday’s game vs. Philly; the Raptors have gone on to win two straight games including a thrashing of 2nd best defensive team, Chicago). Regardless, I’m committed to my Ujiri theory with or without Kyle here, so this post will endeavor to explain why I’m convinced we aren’t fully committed to tank or at the very least open a dialogue on the possibilities.
Entering our sixth season without playoff basketball, it’s understandable why many Raptor faithful are open to tanking, especially with the prospect of a bonafide franchise player who happens to hail from our fair city and better still, has earmarked Toronto as his desired destination. The problem is, aiming for abject failure and delivering on that promise isn’t as simple as it seems.
First, even if Ujiri wanted to bail there are no guarantees of a top, or rather bottom 3 finish, which would be the desired result to obtain one of Wiggins, Parker, Randale or Joel Embiid who might actually end up being better than all of them; especially given the East’s feebleness this season.
Moreover, trading away all of the Raptors top talent won’t guarantee one of the coveted top 3 selections since almost every team with picks to spare in a trade scenario have the caveat of top 12 draft pick protection. While teams positioned to select those precious first three to five picks won’t want to part with them having tanked themselves. Nor will it ensure a future of rapid ascent if all we’re left with is one or two core players surrounded by a mediocre cast. Remember Seattle/OKC took several years to get to the promised land and although James brought Cleveland to the postseason he was never able to deliver the Holy Grail because the Cavs didn’t surround him with enough talent.
So, let’s assume the Rudy Gay trade was not a signal of a blow-out sale but a move made to accomplish several team objectives:
Looking at the new team, immediate upgrades are obvious with ball movement drastically improved and it’s resulting in increased assists. Prior to the trade, Toronto sat at a league worst 18 APG but the four games since the trade have resulted in a steady increase of 19, 23, 24 and 26. In fact, the assists in the two games Toronto has played with the newly acquired players would have us ranking second in the Association! Obviously Gay’s departure helped in this regard, however better ball movement, floor spacing, Lowry controlling the ball more and multiple players utilizing the pass has produced this impressive leap.
Meanwhile, social media has been blowing up with Lowry trade speculation involving one of Brooklyn, New York, LAL or GSW but given the brief success of the new squad I believe Ujiri won’t make any significant moves until the end of January. December offers a brief window to view the potential of the new squad as they face solid Western Teams: Dallas, San Antonio and my pick to win the West: OKC and will close out the month with a critical back to back vs. New York. January brings 17 contests but only 5 are against the West, while Boston plays 9 Western foes with most of these matches featuring seeded teams. In fact, by the end of December, Toronto only has 18 games remaining out of 53 vs. Western teams while most of our Division have 25 remaining; given the disparity of conferences this season those 7 additional contests could prove to be pivotal in the race to claim the division.
To that end, my “Ujiri Theory” involves him keeping the masses wondering (i.e. everyone from fans, media and most importantly the competition) what his intentions are while he assembles a team who can win the division/a top playoff seed and still work the phones to not only make the current squad better but also pick up some valuable additional draft picks in the process.
As I outlined earlier, trading away core assets won’t result in a top 3 pick unless Ujiri can convince cellar teams like Utah, Philly or Milwaukee to give away their own first round pick. The odds of that happening are slim to none even for Masai the Magician. Therefore, his best bet might involve trading “specialist” players who’ll improve upper seeds to amass multiple picks and in turn package those to garner one of those coveted picks.
I’d be surprised to see Masai trade Lowry to a team within his own division; especially considering any move he makes could help that team past this season. Therefore I think his plan has been to create the illusion of a team on the precipice of tanking. Brilliantly this has resulted in New York and Brooklyn trying to outbid each other and shifting their focus from the product on the floor that is currently losing. Simultaneously, Ujiri can work with other teams to fulfill their pressing needs with players who Toronto can afford to lose, especially now that he’s improved their depth.
To wit; Golden State has not performed as expected and now find their front court somewhat thin, losing O’Neal to wrist surgery while both Ezeli and Kuzmic are out another 4 weeks. The addition of Patterson who can rebound and hit from the field allows for the option of trading Hansbrough who only signed a 1 year deal. Certainly GSW offers a talent base much more appealing than either New York borough and better still they’re in the West.
If my theory is correct, Ujiri will bide his time, observing the newly formed team and await the February trade deadline where we might see him pull a trade involving multiple teams. The ideal scenario would feature involvement with Phoenix who has publicly said they’re willing to part with a couple of their 4 first round picks. As mentioned these picks won’t kick in until the 12th round, however if Ujiri could manage to grab two of these picks or amass two picks from different teams then he could barter with the bottom teams to trade these two or three picks to grab one of those coveted first three picks. This option in my opinion presents the best case for Toronto to get Wiggins and it also keeps most of the core intact.
Masai is a patient, charming and intelligent GM who has amassed an impressive resume specifically when it comes to ridding his team of albatross salaries. We remember the Carmelo, Bargnani and Gay trades but don’t forget he also was able to rid Denver of Nene’s contract; one that had more years and more money on it than Andrea’s and Nene is three years older!
Given Ujiri’s penchant for ridding his team of unwanted contracts I think he may actually spend some time trying to oust Landry Fields’ contract either in a straight up trade or married in a package. To be honest I think that feat would impress me more than his Bargnani or Gay achievements.
The other factor to remember is while Toronto has pinned their future hopes on Jonas, ridding the team of Lowry, DeRozan and specifically Johnson actually serves to set back his progress since they are the players Valanciunas has worked beside since the onset. Even if the Raptors falter I wouldn’t expect to see all three traded, it’s more likely only one would depart. Obviously Lowry is that player given he’s in the final year of his contract but losing him means the Raptors once again become weak at the point even if Vasquez steps into his starting shoes. Conversely, if the Raptors improve, having two quality guards who can run the offense and finish games on the court together makes more sense.
Bottom line; simply blowing up the team won’t deliver a top 3 pick and crossing our fingers we get Wiggins won’t translate into a guaranteed top seed next season.
I expect we’ll see some changes moving forward but the only one I’m willing to count on is Masai the Magician improving the current squad, driving other GM’s crazy guessing what he’ll do and ultimately putting the most important “T” front and center: TEAM.
In closing, I’m thrilled to be writing for Raptors Republic and look forward to talking hoops. You can follow me on Twitter: @TTOTambz.
Tipping Off to another exciting Raptor Week!
Raptors GM Masai Ujiri watched Fenerbahce Ulker-Partizan game in İstanbul… Think that he was there for Bogdanovic.
— Halil Can Pelister (@HCanPelister) December 13, 2013
This team needs to get busy losing, or get busy dying. Yes, it is perverse that sports has incentivized failure in this way, but them’s the breaks. In the NBA the superstars, if given the choice, usually gravitate to the glamour franchises. Raptors management is said to believe that yes, tanking is the way to proceed, breaking a long string of team history in which they accidentally lost games. Failure is success. War is peace. Ignorance is strength.
“No matter who’s on the court, we’ve still got to play to win,” DeRozan said earlier in the evening. “That’s our whole mindset, to go out there and play as well as we can. Put our hearts out there and play to win the game. “I think everybody in this locker room is living game-to-game. Nobody looks too far ahead. We just take care of our job and do it every single day.” The “we” is a little different now but then, so are the results. In the three games since Gay’s departure was made official, the Raptors have moved the ball for 23, 25 and 26 assists, uncorked from the forward’s ball-stopping ways. Toronto still ranks last in the league at 18.3 assists per game – but in a mere week’s time, it has boosted that average by a full assist.
This isn’t another slag on Gay, who had been Toronto’s second-best defender and rebounder this season even as his once renowned offensive game had left him. He’s a fine player, just not here, not with this group, not in the role he had been given and that’s what Casey tried to tiptoe around following Saturday’s convincing win by the Raptors over the stumbling Chicago Bulls. Asked whether it was a rather large knock on Rudy that the team looks far more effective without him, Casey declined to play that game. “No. It has nothing to do with Rudy whatsoever. I think just the pieces fit more from that respect. It has nothing to do with Rudy personally,” Casey finessed.
Their unselfish play appears to be contagious. DeRozan – who Casey said is playing “like an old man,” on account of his improved court awareness – has taken advantage of his new role in the offence, acting as the team’s quarterback, a role Gay could never or would never accept. Casey is getting 48 minutes of competent point guard play from Vasquez and Kyle Lowry, whose trade value continues to go up as he produces at a high level. Even sophomore Terrence Ross – averaging less than an assist per game as a pro – contributed a career-best four helpers.
I should probably make clear that neither Salmons nor Hayes will be sticking around for the long haul. Please don’t act surprised. Both individuals were added to simply make the numbers work from a salary standpoint.
Send me your Raptors-related links: [email protected]
Write a caption for this hilarious photo of Rudy Gay! Winner gets the Rap of the Week.
My take: ‘”I…might have gotten the wrong type of eye surgery”
H/T: Photo courtesy of TheScore
The Toronto Raptors are a fun basketball team to watch. They’re also pretty good.
The first point, obviously, is great news for all basketball fans north of the border. Regardless of whether you’re hoping for a division title or a number one draft pick, everyone likes to be entertained, and a pick-and-roll heavy offence that emphasizes ball movement and our 21-year-old center pounding the ball inside is SO much more enjoyable than watching a $19 million a year “star” hoist up a ton of contested jumpers.
The second one, though, is where you’ll find contention among fans. It’s also where you’ll catch me flip-flopping every few days. No, these Raptors aren’t title contenders. But, as currently constructed, they’re probably the co-favourites in the Atlantic along with the Celtics (seriously, who predicted that?) and a surefire playoff team in a historically weak East. Yeah, this will probably change during their upcoming Western swing, but it’s not like they have to play more Western games than the rest of the conference, and when they play the majority of their games against the East, someone has to win.
This was evident last night as the Raptors ran the injury-depleted Chicago Bulls out of their own building – a 22 point blowout in which the Raptors clearly looked like the better team against a lineup that boasted two 2012/2013 All-Stars. Talk about the fact that the Bulls are having a tough year/don’t have a point guard all you want, but this was still a statement game: on the road, the second half of a back-to-back, and against a team that probably boasted an advantage in four of the five starting spots, depending on how you feel about Boozer/Amir.
The Raptors won last night by playing the kind of ball that fans of the team have been hoping to see for years. Gone were the hero-ball antics of Rudy Gay, Andrea Bargnani, and DeMar DeRozan (pre 2013 edition). In their stead: a pick-and-roll centered offence that featured a ton of ball movement (26 assists on 40 made field goals), a solid game plan against a Bulls defence determined to clog the paint, and different, effective looks from the bench unit (when’s the last time we got to say that?).
Some people will say that it’s far too early for me to post a gushing review of this version of the Raptors with just four games gone post-Gay trade, and they’d be very right. Some, though, would say that this is just running back the clock pre-Gay, with Greivis Vasquez playing the Jose Calderon role, and they’d be quite wrong. As MacGruber would say: the game’s changed, even if most of the players are the same.
DeMar DeRozan is the most obvious example here, though this analogy could extend to Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, and even Jonas Valanciunas. Last year, DeMar was the high-volume, low efficiency leading scorer that seemingly paced the Raps because nobody else was willing to. This year, he’s not only embraced the role, but is playing it far more effectively. His stat line last night – 15 points on 7/14 shooting, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and a block – isn’t the most showy, but when you watch the game, it’s clear that he’s embracing his role as the team’s offensive leader in ways that go beyond “I need to score the most points.” We’re seeing a newfound maturity from DeMar – a new commitment to passing, a willingness to defer when the game calls for it (as it did late in the fourth quarter last night with Vasquez and Amir Johnson running the pick and roll to perfection), and a sense to step up when the Raptors need buckets to stay in the game, or ice it. He’s been excellent early in the fourth quarter as of late, which is great to see. He’s flawed, sure, but to say he’s not improving – significantly – this season is simply ignorance at this point.
I Tweeted after the Gay trade was made that I thought it would improve the team right away, and that’s come true particularly because of two things: the new touches available to the Raptor starters, and the fact that we now have a group of bench players that are:
a) fine with their role as bench players,
b) competent bench players, and
c) all have a skill they can do above-average in the NBA, and play within themselves (a combination of columns a and b).
Whether it’s outside shooting (Patrick Patterson), perimeter defence (John Salmons) or not being Julyan Stone or Dwight Buycks (Greivis Vasquez), all of the Kings imports bring a dimension to the Raptors that they sorely needed, and its sped their ability to fit into the team’s system. All three players contributed to the victory last night in real, meaningful ways, and with Casey sticking to a 9-man lineup, that meant that every Raptor who got in the game did so – something that we haven’t seen in Raptorland on a consistent basis in a long while.
Can this be sustained over the rest of the season? Is it just a blip – a team of excited guys looking to strut their stuff while trade rumours swirl? The jury’s still out on that one, though I’d venture a guess that we’re closer to the first option than the second: game plans aren’t flukes, and the way these guys fit together makes the team’s performance far less likely to slip than if a few players had simply had massive nights. The ironic thing about Masai’s first move in what most people are assuming is an attempted “tank” is that he may have built a far more sustainable model for success than the Raptors have seen in years.
In a lot of ways, actually, it reminds me of the 2007 team – a group that wasn’t long on individual talent, but managed to ride a weak Eastern conference and selfless team play to an Atlantic division title. Long-term, it’s probably not what’s best for the franchise. I’m certainly not delusional enough to suggest that this team has the ability to contend for titles – or even develop into that team – as currently constructed. Expect plenty of articles on here and across the blogosphere in the coming weeks and months debating the merits of fleeting success vs a chance for sustainable long-term contending. I’m not even going to attempt to say what I think the right answer is – I’m riding high on a wave of emotion right now, clearly, and I feel like I change my mind every game.
For now, though, the Raptors are fun to watch, and pretty good, too. And that’s new and refreshing enough that it’s more than enough for me.
|Amir Johnson, PF 30 MIN | 6-11 FG | 2-3 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | +13Looked tired tonight (understandable given the torrid pace he’s been on lately), but worked his ass off, as usual, and had a big fourth quarter to turn in a respectable stat line. Watching him work with Vasquez on the pick and roll is a thing of beauty and should only get better as they become more comfortable with one another. Not sure how I feel about the “Doctor of Denial” nickname.|
|Jonas Valanciunas, C 31 MIN | 6-11 FG | 3-4 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 4 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | +14One of his best games of the year, though it still came with a couple of things to improve. Fought hard to get his through an excellent scouting job by the Bulls, who were content to let him shoot from the free throw line. He also had difficulties at times containing Joachim Noah down low, mostly due to a strength disadvantage, and missed a couple chances to convert when he was hit in the hands with a pass and wasn’t ready for it. With all that said – he had four blocks and made his presence felt against the veteran Bulls on both ends of the court for most of the night. It’s clear that the more touches he gets, the more confident he becomes, and I hope the Raps continue to look for him in the block.|
|Kyle Lowry, PG 33 MIN | 7-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | +18Excellent game against a depleted Bulls backcourt – just a single turnover, and made excellent decisions with the ball. His stock continues to rise in the face of what most consider to be an inevitable trade, and you have to love the compete level with rumours swirling.|
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 39 MIN | 7-14 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 15 PTS | +22Not the most impressive stat line, but what stood out for me the most in this game is how he didn’t force any plays on the offensive end. With Gay gone, he’s got more confidence in moving the ball among his teammates, and it’s making him a far more efficient player. He also seems to always come through in the fourth to ice the game when the team needs him to. Had difficulties guarding Luol Deng in a smaller starting lineup, which you’d expect.|
|Terrence Ross, SG 24 MIN | 4-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 9 PTS | -6An up-and-down game – forced his shot a ton in the first quarter to the tune of a 1-for-8 start, but settled down nicely and affected the game in different ways as it went along. Was rightfully benched for Vasquez in the fourth quarter when the Raptors put the game away. A career high in assists, most of the highlight-reel variety – you have to like to see that in what has become a motion-heavy offence.|
|Tyler Hansbrough, PF 14 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +7Grind, baby, grind. Did what everyone expected of him in limited minutes and had a nice conversion of a Vasquez pick and roll early in the fourth. He’s not going to move the needle, but when he’s your fourth big, you’re in pretty good shape.|
|Patrick Patterson, PF 21 MIN | 4-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +11Much, much better game than his first one in a Raptors uniform. Held his own defensively and hit every long range shot he took, including two threes (his lone miss was on a reverse layup following some excellent Raptor passing). His ability to stretch the floor was key tonight in the first half against the paint-clogging Bulls.|
|John Salmons, SF 28 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +19Eight shot attempts is too many for him, but he hit a three and played some excellent perimeter defence, which earned him his minutes. He’s really got a nose for the ball – it seems like he’s in passing lanes more often than not.|
|Landry Fields, SF 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -1Fields/Novak/Daye/Buycks all got in for a minute of garbage time with the game out of reach late. I’m not going to write this out for all four of them.|
|Greivis Vasquez, PG 17 MIN | 2-6 FG | 3-3 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +16Invisible for most of the game until an excellent fourth, when DeRozan and Lowry rightly deferred to what had become an almost unstoppable pick-and-roll offence. His D looked pretty good tonight, too, though most of his minutes came against DJ Augustin.|
It’s ridiculous that it took Rudy Gay being moved for the offence to open up, but it did, and it has. Had the team playing hard defensively, the ball movement was excellent, picked the right five players (the starting lineup with Vasquez in for Ross) to ice the game, and even ran a few inbounds plays, which was about as surprising to type as I bet it was to read. It’s weird giving him an A, but tonight, I have no complaints.
At 8 p.m. on TSN, the 8-13 Raptors visit the 9-12 Bulls.
That’s all the pregame you get. I’m sick, sorry.
The Raps are 1.5-point dogs, if that matters to you at all. They’ll lose.
We got trade winds blowing right across Lake Ontario into New York and to help us make sense of just what is going on is Jim Cavan, better known as the Knickerblogger. To get a taste of what this dude is about just read his Reaction post from the BOS-NYK 41-point disaster.
You can follow Jim to get the latest on how and when the Knicks will surrender to Ujiri.
On this weekend edition of the Rapcast we hammer through some key topics:
Let’s talk ball.
Over the last two months more ink has been spilled over the subject of “tanking” than anything else on this site, and quite frankly, it gets tiresome.
Is the future of this franchise worth discussing? Of course it is. By all accounts, this upcoming draft class is chocked full of talent, Kyle Lowry’s deal expires after this season, and the key pieces on the roster aren’t all that great, so change is both necessary and imminent. However, do we really need to talk about the future in every freaking comment section? What more is there to be said? Masai Ujiri, like many others, is clearly of the opinion that the Raptors, as currently constructed, are not very good. Therefore, he’s choosing (or chosen, in the case of Rudy Gay) to exchange his present assets for future value. We get it. It’s been discussed ad naseum.
So how’s this for a change? Instead of debating the merits and demerits of trading player X for player Y and fantasizing over how bad it would make the Raptors, let’s actually talk about basketball for once?
[Check out the Quick Reaction!]
The Raptors and 76ers, two purportedly tanking teams played a basketball game last night and in my opinion, it was quite entertaining. The Raptors got off to a scorching hot start in the first thanks in large part to some excellent ball movement (Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry both racked up five assists apiece in the first). Derozan was confident and aggressive early on, repeatedly driving into the paint, drawing help defenders to him, and then finding the open shooters. Terrence Ross was the main beneficiary as he hit a couple of spot-up corner three’s from the right side of the floor. Lowry and Valanciunas even successfully teamed up to execute a screen-and-roll!
The Sixers did their part to help the Raptors along by being very careless with the ball. They turned it over 6 times in the first quarter which allowed the Raptors to push the tempo and capitalize on some easy transition opportunities (9 transition points in the first quarter).
Late in the first, we got our first glimpse at the scrap heap that we received in the Rudy Gay trade. Patrick Patterson made his first appearance as a Raptor with four minutes left in the first quarter and looked mostly lost on both sides of the floor (which is expected given that he’s only had one practice with the team). He looked slow-footed and provided very little rim-protection. He was unafraid to shoot from mid-range and beyond, but he only hit 1-5 in this game (a layup off a nice dish from Lowry).
Greivis Vasquez (I’m dubbing him Greasy Baskets, let’s see if it sticks) checked in to start the second and he didn’t mess around. Every play he ran was a pick-and-roll with either Jonas or Amir but it was clear that he and his bigs had yet to nail down the timing on the play. Greasy Baskets tried particularly hard to feed Jonas, but Jonas had trouble timing the roll – at times rolling too soon and sometimes lingering too long – which resulted in a slew of turnovers for the Raptors. Once Greasy Baskets realized that his roll-men weren’t up to the task, he decided to score instead. He dropped two very nice floaters in the lane and while he lacks quickness, he was able to create space for himself by subtly changing speeds (slow to less slow, hey it worked).
We also saw the return of Tyler Hansbrough, who had been sidelined since the game against Phoenix due to a separated shoulder. Hansbrough rocked a brace, a new haircut and his usual psychotic expression and proceeded to do what he always does – grab rebounds and draw fouls. He nearly got into a tussle with Evan Turner near the end of the second, but Hansbrough thought better of it and cooler heads prevailed. He looked a little hesitant to bang in the post, but I’m sure he’ll be back to his body bangerz ways when his shoulder is fully healthy. It’s good to have our goon back.
Terrence Ross was also quite impressive. Ross did most of his damage in the first half, scoring 16 points mostly through spotting up in the corners, but Ross took a more self-directed approach in the second half. On numerous occasions, Ross drove into the lane and pulled up for mid-range jumpers, which normally is a bad shot but it was falling for Ross. He finished the game with a season-high 24 points on 16 shots.
The Raptors went into the fourth with a 7 point lead and Dwane Casey, armed with an upgraded bench, was actually able to give most of his starters a breather. Greasy Baskets captained the ship for most of the quarter, generating great looks that the Raptors simply failed to capitalize on. Amir Johnson chipped in with a few baskets, including two drives to the rim.
The Sixers got to within four points of the Raptors, but the Raps hit three three-pointers in a row – two from Baskets, one from Johnson – to secure the victory for good. Dwane Casey gave the fans quite the scare when his misadventures in lineup tinkering allowed the Sixers to get within single-digits of the Raptors (2 point guards, Ross, 2Pat and JV didn’t look so great as a unit), but the he rectified his mistake by putting his starters in to end the game. Amir Johnson recorded a fantastic block on Tony Wroten late in the fourth and on the ensuing possession, Derozan sunk a baseline pull-up jumper to seal the 108-100 victory for the Raptors. Solid all-around win against an inferior squad.
For better or worse, the Raptors roster will be an endless revolving door until the trade deadline. Rudy Gay’s departure has left a surplus of possessions to his former teammates and players like Ross, Derozan and Johnson have really profited. The offense looks significantly different – there is much more passing, less isolation and the Raptors are playing at a higher pace. Soon, Lowry will also be traded and Greasy Baskets will likely become the starting point guard, which will change the offense once more. With every trade, with every shuffle of the deck, this team and it’s play style will look vastly different, and while we’ll always be looking to the future with this team, it’s still worth tuning in every game to see the development of the young core. I know losing gets us close to Wiggins/Randle/Parker, but it’s okay to enjoy the ride in the meantime.
A fun game between two members of the Atlantic division. I’m serious!
|Amir Johnson, PF 37 MIN | 8-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 17 PTS | +19Amazing game from Amir. Recipient of excellent passes in the first quarter. Hit two outside jumpers tonight (including a three). Worked the pick and roll with Vasquez and hit the boards. Played awesome defense in the paint tonight, providing excellent help defense while also stymieing Hawes in the paint. Just a fantastic performance from Johnson. The Gay trade has done him wonders.|
|Jonas Valanciunas, C 32 MIN | 3-10 FG | 6-6 FT | 13 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 12 PTS | -7Pretty quiet double-double, but he had his moments. The team looked for him early and he drew two fouls on his first two possessions in the game. Schooled by Hawes on a few occasions (blocked twice on one play), but he held his own. A sight for sore eyes: scored off a screen-and-roll in the first with Lowry.|
|Kyle Lowry, PG 34 MIN | 2-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 11 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +21Didn’t shoot the ball all that well, but he did a wonderful job facilitating the offense tonight. Pushed the tempo when he needed to and got the ball to the right players. Helped the Raptors jump out to an early lead with 5 assists in the first. I’m really going to miss having him in Toronto. He’s not the ideal point guard, but he’s damn good and I wish him well.|
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 40 MIN | 9-19 FG | 7-9 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 27 PTS | +24Hasn’t really missed a beat since Gay’s trade. Remember all that talk of “oh, Demar will turn back into a pumkin when opposing defenses gameplan around him instead of Gay”? Yeah, didn’t happen tonight. Had the whole
|Terrence Ross, SG 34 MIN | 10-16 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 24 PTS | -2Season high in points. Money all night long from the right corner. He looked great in the starting unit and was the recipient of a couple Demar Derozan drive+kicks. If he can shoot the ball like he did tonight while providing energy on the defensive end, maybe the Raptors don’t need Shumpert/THJ.|
|Tyler Hansbrough, PF 9 MIN | 0-2 FG | 2-4 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | +4Not the greatest showing tonight. Looked a little hesitant to bang bodies in the paint given his injury. Still drew fouls and looked like a maniac. Also, terrible haircut.|
|Patrick Patterson, PF 19 MIN | 1-5 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | 0Jumper looked off, slow on defense, ground-bound. Hoping for more out of this guy, but early returns are not positive.|
|John Salmons, SF 20 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -3Why did he even play? Looked decent handling the ball, but didn’t do a whole lot. I sincerely hope he’s not going to be stealing minutes from Ross going forward.|
|Greivis Vasquez, PG 17 MIN | 5-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 12 PTS | -16Say hello to your latest point-guard controversy. Greasy Baskets looked great tonight. Every time he initiated the offense, it was a pick-and-roll/pop. Hit two threes to help the Raptors pull away. The assist totals are a bit low as the Raptors missed some open shots. I’m excited for this guy.|
No matter what grade I give this man, people still complain in the comments, but here’s an explanation anyway. The good: He cleared the “iso-wing” plays out of his offense, and ran a whole bunch of PnR for Vasquez (and even Lowry). The bad: putting Amir on the bench in the fourth (which let Philly back into the game), giving some of Ross’ minutes to Salmons.
JD landed a straight shot…at the Knicks’ chances of getting Lowry
According to the New York Daily News, mercurial Knicks owner James Dolan blocked a trade that would have seen Kyle Lowry traded to New York for Raymond Felton, Metta World Peace and one of Iman Shumpert, a 2018 1st round draft pick or Tim Hardaway Jr.
A source with knowledge of the situation said that a deal had been reached, but Dolan pulled the plug over concerns that “he didn’t want to be fleeced again by Masai”.
The Atlantic division is a bit of paradox, as these two teams whose front offices are actively trying to be as close to last place as possible find themselves vying for the Atlantic division lead.
The Vasquez, Salmons, Hayes and Patterson era is set to start in Toronto tonight. Casey should have a full bench tonight, though I would be surprised to see more than a handful of minutes for any of the new faces as they continue to learn the defence. Toronto has been able to lose 4 of it’s last 5 games, but the 76ers are going to make it tough for the Raptors to make it 5 out of 6.
After an unfortunate string of early season wins, the 76ers have finally been finding ways to lose consistently. The best thing they’ve done in this pursuit is having promising rookie Michael Carter Williams sit out of the lineup with a sore knee caused by a skin infection (Gross!). In his absence, the 76ers offence has looked exactly like how an offence centred around Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner and Tony Wroten should look (Gross!).
The key match-ups of the game may not be names on the recently released all-star voting leaderboards, but they’re all among the league leaders in attempted ESPN NBA Trade Machine fake trades so far this season:
DeMar DeRozan vs. Evan Turner – As an NBA general manager, your spidey sense should be tingling whenever an opposing team is enthusiastically shopping their young, leading scorer. Both of these teams would be happy to sell high on their entertaining though inefficient scorers. If only Brooklyn and the Knicks had more first round draft picks to trade. Both Turner and DeRozan are averaging career highs in Usage, attempts and turnovers. While those stats are valuable to a team that is vying for the lottery, it makes it tough to get good value back in a trade. If only this were a league where fringe contenders mortgaged their future for playoff scoring help, GMs made panic trades to try and save their jobs and teams consistently overvalued ‘potential’…
Spencer Hawes vs. Jonas Valanciunas – Can we please not talk about how Spencer Hawes is having a much, much better season than Jonas Valanciunas? I would instead prefer to live in the hypothetical future, 4 years from now, where Jonas is a dominant two-way franchise centre with no foot-back-knee problems (the unholy trinity of big men beginning of the end chronic injuries) and Spencer Hawes has moved on to the over-paid, oft-traded and rarely played portion of his career known as “The Raef LaFrentz years.”
Thaddeus Young vs. Amir Johnson – Neither of these players are the stars or best players on their teams. While both players are largely appreciated in NBA circles, few would think it that big of a deal if either were to be traded. However, the fan bases of both these teams would lose their collective ish if they were to read about either player being dealt on twitter. The list of players that Raptors fans would be ok with trading Amir Johnson for is more or less the all-star game roster. That trade isn’t happening. Therefore, the Raptors fanbase responding rationally to an Amir Johnson trade also isn’t happening. I include myself in this diagnosis.
Kyle Lowry vs. The New York Knicks salary cap constraints and lack of 1st round draft picks – This matchup is likely to get as much talk throughout tonight’s game as any of the actual on-court ones, and it’s a tough one. I don’t doubt that the rumours are true, but the math and required number of additional teams is tough on this one. Is anybody in the league giving up 2013-2014 1st round picks? Well, aside from the dozen or so teams that have already traded them. Things that aren’t that fun: watching your team in full tank mode play against an even worse team whose best/most interesting player is out who is also in full tank mode. Things that are fun: fake Kyle Lowry trades.
http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=ma6csdp -plus Raptors get Detroit’s 1st round pick.
http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=mq89n8k -Raps get pick from Cavs, Cavs get pick from Lakers.
Barring John Salmons being given Rudy Gay’s minutes and isolations, the Raptors are unfortunately poised to jump another game ahead of the 76ers in the standings. Now is the part of the season where we await trades, watch development in Ross, Valanciunas, DeRozan’s 3 pointer, start developing a short-lived infatuation with Vasquez-Johnson pick and rolls and enjoy the final days of what has been some very stellar play from the soon to be departed Kyle Lowry. Tanking is NBA purgatory, but we get in to heaven afterwards, right…
“You know players in this league. I’m not going to go out there and just give the ball away. ‘Here, you score,’” Vasquez said. “I want to go out there and compete. Whether we win or lose at the end of the day, you want to feel like you gave everything. I was in New Orleans. We lost a lot of games. But we played the right way. We competed the right way. That’s how it is sometimes.”
“I’m tired of losing,” Vasquez proclaimed, shortly after his first practice in Toronto Thursday afternoon. “I think winning just feels so much better. I’m not looking be an all-star or anything else like that, right now I’m just looking at how I can help my team.” “It’s all about fit and I think I fit in here.”
“Dolan didn’t want to get fleeced again by Masai,” was how one Knicks source put it. “They had a deal ready.”
Knicks owner Jim Dolan is sensitive to the public perception that Toronto general manger Masai Ujiri bamboozled New York in the Carmelo Anthony trade, and the chance of getting panned for giving up too much in a deal for Lowry has become a hurdle in these talks, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
On the outset, can’t say I’m a fan of this proposal and tough to see how Masai Ujiri would pull the trigger on this without additional assets. Sure, Felton likely helps the tank, but he’s on the hook for another year after this one, and has a player option on a third year. Not exactly the definition of “increasing cap flexibility.”
The Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors were also said to be interested, although any details of trade participants were few and far between. Yahoo was reporting a Toronto interest in Bojan Bogdanovic, a 24-year-old shooting guard playing in Europe, whose rights are owned by the Nets.
Felton is out for 2-3 weeks with a hamstring injury, and he has two years left on his contract for $3.8 million and $3.95 million (player option). Plus, he’s not that good — and Toronto just waived a point guard, D.J. Augustin, who is not that good. Also, Toronto acquired Greivis Vasquez from Sacramento in the Rudy Gay trade, and they’ll likely find a way to keep him if the price is not too high (Vasquez will be a restricted free agent in July). Ujiri already dealt for Felton once when he was with Denver and engineered the Carmelo Anthony trade, so the postulation here is that he is not all that enamored of Felton.
A slew of new faces will try to help the Toronto Raptors turn around a sluggish stretch. The Philadelphia 76ers would like to begin altering one of their own, and solving their turnover issues could help. The Raptors are expected to have four new additions available Friday night when they attempt to win for the second time in eight tries against the 76ers.
When negotiating a contract in 2011, Hayes displayed an abnormality during a test. Ultimately, doctors cleared Hayes to play, but the Raptors just want to make sure Hayes is still OK to suit up for the Raptors on a regular basis.
“Chuck Hayes can’t go yet until he has his baseline cardiac testing with the Cleveland Clinic,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “The doctor that does that is out of town. He can’t do that until Monday.”
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports:
Lowry has wanted a trade for most of the season and the Raptors became more motivated to move him after acquiring point guard Greiveis Vasquez in a deal with the Sacramento Kings.
And regarding Lowry going to the Nets:
Toronto officials have been scouting and calling European contacts on Bojan Bogdanovic, a 24-year-old shooting guard with whom the Nets own the rights, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Apparently Brooklyn has resisted including their 2020 first round pick (the soonest one they can trade), possibly because they think they will be able to draft flying robots by that time.
Lowry said he has not spoken to Masai and has not asked the Raptors GM for a trade
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) December 13, 2013
With December 15th just a couple of days away, the day when free agents signed over the summer are eligible to be traded, and the Rudy Gay deal already old news, it’s probably a good time to take a closer look at the assets the Raptors still have, as well as the new ones, since it’s Masai Ujiri probably isn’t done dealing.
In the press conference to discuss the Rudy Gay trade, Ujiri gave this rather revealing quote:
“The one thing I can say is we won’t be trapped in the middle, I can honestly say that. We will not be stuck in no man’s land, that’s for sure.”
It’s really hard to claim, now, that the Raptors aren’t in rebuild mode, although it’s kind of difficult to call it a rebuild when there wasn’t much building there in the first place. The Raptors are currently sitting at 7-13, which is fairly similar to the starts they’ve had the previous two seasons1.
On a side note, I don’t recall a season that had so much trade discussion so early. Whether it’s because of the loaded upcoming draft, or the fact that so many teams are underperforming, but there are more early season trade rumours swirling around than I remember.
I had actually started this column before the Rudy Gay trade went down, and had written up a lovely breakdown of Gay and the options for trading him. Yes, Sacramento was one of them, but I also mentioned Cleveland, Milwaukee, Detroit, Washington and Minnesota, none of whom apparently wanted anything to do with him.
There is some confusion over my reaction to the trade. I never said I didn’t like it and in fact said the opposite. I like it, but I was hoping for more and I thought the timing of the trade wasn’t the best. I did mention, in my now deleted Rudy Gay portion, that Gay would be extremely difficult to trade and might need to be held onto in order to increase his trade value (something that admittedly may or may not have happened).
One thing I also hadn’t taken into consideration was the $4.6 million trade exception the Raptors now have from the Rudy Gay deal, which could come in very handy in any future deals this year.
With Gay now a memory, whether you are on board with the apparent rebuild or not, we now have to look at the rest of the team and try and evaluate what assets the Raptors have and what they may be worth around the league.
Salary: $9.5 million a season over next four years
DeRozan is having a career year in his fifth season and, apart from the game against Phoenix, is on a torrid pace offensively recently. He’s an incredibly hard worker, a solid citizen and has shown steady improvement since entering the league.
His play has been good enough to be mentioned as a possible All Star reserve, so that has many Raptor fans excited about his future.
POSSIBLE TRADING PARTNERS
Most of the teams that could have used Rudy Gay could use DeRozan. But there are more teams that would be more willing to trade for DeRozan because while he’s basically Rudy Gay-light, without the heavy contract and some of the other problems that come with Gay’s play (like Gay’s anger at the ball, which causes him pound it against the floor incessantly and recklessly throwing it against the rim).
Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Denver, Minnesota, Dallas and Oklahoma all could use his services and have the assets that the Raptors could use. Many of those teams are also in a position where they could feel some pressure to make a big move.
TRADE VALUE: HIGH
DeRozan’s value has never been higher and it’s not likely to get any higher. That’s not to say that he won’t improve any more, but trade value isn’t directly related to how good a player he is or what his production is. In the NBA, potential has more value than almost anything else, and right now DeRozan is at the apex of potential and production.
DeRozan isn’t quite as good as some Raptor fans seem to believe, but he’s become the Raptors’ most valuable asset, outside of Jonas Valanciunas.
Grantland’s Zach Lowe recently had this to say about DeRozan:
DeRozan has improved incrementally in almost every one of his pro seasons, and he has much wider appeal around the league than Gay. He’s passing better and shooting the 3-pointer at a career-best rate, though we’ve seen DeRozan have hot 3-point streaks that prove fleeting. He’s still a midrange type who plays (mostly) below-average defense and is due $9.5 million in each of the three seasons after this one.
KEEP OR MOVE
There seems to be far too much angst over the possibility of trading what is basically a slightly above average shooting guard who doesn’t really have a lot of the traits that you find on Championship teams. He can score, yes, but he’s a below average rebounder, defender, and he doesn’t have a very high basketball IQ, despite the work he puts in at the gym.
He’s endearing because he works hard and is a proud Raptor, but those aren’t reasons to keep him.
And while he’s a good scorer, always beware the good scorer on the bad team. DeRozan isn’t any more an elite scorer than Aaron Afflalo (21.9 ppg) or Evan Turner (20.7 ppg), two young shooting guards who score about the same as DeRozan does. But Afflalo does it far more efficiently, and Turner is a strong defender, rebounder and passer, as well.
One of the reasons the Raptors have had the rather forgettable history they have is that they rarely end up selling high on their assets. They either hold onto a player too long so that his value declines (see Andrea Bargnani, Vince Carter and even Jose Calderon), or waits until he leaves via free agency.
Whether you agree with tanking or not, Philadelphia sold high on a player who wasn’t quite as good as he probably appeared, in Jrue Holiday, and now have a brighter future by having traded him.
I doubt Toronto can get the haul for DeRozan that the Sixers did for Holiday, but I think there’s a market for DeRozan and I think they should act quickly before Philadelphia and Orlando decide to offer up Turner and Afflalo respectively.
While he’s well liked, DeRozan is a highly replaceable player playing at a highly replaceable position. Keeping him would be more emotional than basketball. I’m not suggesting trading him at any cost, but he’s got value and there’s a good chance some team will get desperate enough to overpay for a young, athletic scoring guard.
As a footnote, my favourite DeRozan trade proposal involves a three way deal sending DeRozan to Detroit, Kyle Lowry to Chicago and getting back Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic (currently playing in Europe), Charlotte’s first round pick (via Chicago) and possibly Chicago’s first round pick and salary in the form of Charlie Villaneuva and Jonas Jerebko. Greg Monroe would also go to Chicago and Taj Gibson would be sent to Detroit.
This would be the perfect trade because it does absolutely nothing to help the team immediately and everything to help the team starting next year.
My second favourite deal is a much less complicated DeRozan to Atlanta for Dennis Schroeder, Elton Brand and either Atlanta’s first round pick or Brooklyn’s (which Atlanta owns for giving them Joe Johnson!!!).
Salary: $6.2 million (expiring)
When Bryan Colangelo traded for Lowry, the hope was that he would finally be the answer at point guard for the Raptors. He came to the team with a bulldog reputation on offense and defense. In just over a year, Lowry seems to be on his way out of town, just like so many other rejected Raptor point guards before him.
Still, like DeRozan, he’s having a career year, despite the presence of the ball-stoppin Gay, and has played well.
POSSIBLE TRADING PARTNERS
Unfortunately, there is not a huge market for point guards right now, especially fairly average starting ones like Lowry. If you look up and down the league, most teams are pretty set at the point guard position. Lowry would make a great backup guard for a contender, but I would certainly be hesitant to give up assets to bring Lowry off the bench, considering his reputation as being a bit difficult, and the fact he’s a free agent at the end of the season.
Most contenders would not want to risk the drama just to strengthen their bench. And if you’re a team that is rebuilding, chances are you’re not interested in giving up anything for what is likely a temporary point guard upgrade.
That said, there are a few teams that are in need to a point guard upgrade. Those teams are New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, the Lakers, and there’s an outside chance Sacramento would want to take on Lowry after losing all their depth at point guard in the Rudy Gay deal.
TRADE VALUE: MEDIUM
While Lowry has played well this year, he has two things working against him. The first is the afore mentioned strength at the point guard position around the league. The second is that Lowry could very well leave for nothing at the end of the year, so trading for Lowry would be considered a rental for less than a season. If the other team can get Lowry to agree to an extension prior to the trade, then more teams might be willing to discuss a trade for him.
There are things in Lowry’s favour, though. His contract, while expiring, is very good value for what he brings to the table. And he has good all around skills, which should, on paper, translate to him being able to fit into a variety of situations.
KEEP OR MOVE
Due to Lowry’s expiring contract, it’s almost a given that Lowry is going to be moved. Better for the Raptors to get something for him now rather than nothing this summer.
The problem with Lowry isn’t that he’s a bad player, because he’s not. Unfortunately, he’s also not a really good one, either. He does play with a chip on his shoulder, but that comes with both positives and negatives, and those negatives are often too much to bare. His decision making, especially when times get tough, is often poor, and he is far too willing to get into a shooting match when the smart thing to do is get the ball inside.
The best point guards are generally smart, calm under fire and mature beyond their years, and none of that describes Lowry. A tough point guard oozing with attitude and with always something to prove might be entertaining for the fans, but that rarely translates into winning.
Because of Lowry’s expiring contract, to get maximum value for him, Ujiri must be willing to take back a longer contract (otherwise you’re just trading expiring for expiring), and that’s not going to return much value. It’s not as if we’re talking about Rudy Gay-type money, here, and the Raptors are going to be well under the cap, anyway.
Packaging Lowry with a valued asset with a longer contract (like DeRozan or Tyler Hansbrough) will minimize the risk the team has acquiring Lowry and maximize his value.
The Lowry to New York deal doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on the surface, since they have no draft picks to return and the only asset they have worth taking is Iman Shumpert, but if a third team is brought in then it might return a draft pick.
Salary: $6 million a season for this year and next year ($5 million is guaranteed next year)
I’ve never felt Amir has truly gotten his due in Toronto. Yes, he’s a fan favourite, but most see him as simply an energy player, easily replaceable and whose best role is off the bench. And he’s much more than that. He’s been the team’s best player since Chris Bosh left for warmer pastures, and still might be the Raptor who has the most impact on the game, despite the fact he’s not the scorer DeRozan is.
It’s no coincidence that the better he plays, the better the team plays. Amir actually shoots a better percentage of close shots than LeBron James, and only three players in the NBA shoot a better percentage from that range. And it’s not as if those shots are all dunks and layups. He’s got an incredibly accurate short hook that he can seem to hit over just about anyone.
And on defense, opponents shoot just 46.6% at the rim against Amir, which is the same as Andre Drummond and Al Horford.
There are not a lot of players that are as low maintenance, but with as high an impact as Amir has.
And while he started out the season rather poorly (for him), his improved play has him playing as well as he ever has.
POSSIBLE TRADING PARTNERS
I don’t know if there is a team in the league that wouldn’t jump at the chance to acquire a player like Amir who has the impact he does at both ends of the court, but not everyone has the assets or would be willing to alter their team enough to get him.
Amir would fit in far more seamlessly than DeRozan or Lowry because he’s such a low maintenance player who doesn’t need the ball to have an impact.
Portland, Denver, Minnesota, the Clippers, Golden State, San Antonio, Houston and ironically Memphis will probably all be putting together trade proposals for Amir.
TRADE VALUE: HIGH
Amir is one of the best values around, for his production, and because he is so low maintenance yet so impactful on both ends of the court, there should be plenty of suitors for Amir. He’s only 26 years old, despite this being his eighth season, plus he was developed surrounded by players who knew how to win.
Amir is never going to make an All Star team, and he is what he is, after 7 years in the league, but what he is will help any team win.
KEEP OR MOVE
In any other circumstances, I would consider Amir close to untouchable because of what he brings and what he costs, but for a team in the position the Raptors are in, he’s a bit of a luxury. In many ways, he reminds me a bit of when Matt Bonner, another fan favourite, played for the Raptors during a time when his three point shooting and smart play was wasted on a team that was going nowhere.
Amir is more talented than Bonner, but like Bonner, having Amir play his prime years on a rebuilding teams seems almost a waste of his talents2.
Still, because Amir is still a role player, no matter how impactful, it doubtful that the Raptors could get the type of return on him that would make trading him worth it. The only way I can see Amir being traded is if he’s packaged with other players in a larger deal.
Even then, Amir is someone one of the few players on the team I would like to see sticking around because of the intangibles he brings to the team, both on and off the court.
Salary: $3.5 million in his second year of a rookie contract.
Last year, Valanciunas was touted by many as the future of the franchise. While he only played 23 minutes per game, he showed enough promise and production to be able to make it onto the All Rookie second team and had Raptor fans putting him on the ‘untouchable’ list. He had one of the best true shooting percentages in the league and in the last month of the season had one of the highest PPP in the entire league. He seemed almost unstoppable.
Unfortunately, this season has seen a bit of a regression for Valanciunas. His shooting percentage has fallen off a cliff (comparatively), he’s getting to the line at a much lower rate, and his defense has been spotty, at best. About the only improvement we’ve seen from him is in the rebounding department, but the improvement has been nominal.
That has caused many fans to suddenly question whether Valanciunas is ever going to live up the the hype.
There are several things to remember, though. The first is that Valanciunas is just 21 years old, and hasn’t even spent an entire year in North America. While he’s got talent, he was always going to be a project. And projects take time to develop. Most European big men come over after they’ve developed into a force in Europe, and that didn’t happen with Valanciunas.
Valanciunas is never going to be an elite
center player, but it’s far too early to start making judgements on a big man as young an inexperienced as Valanciunas. Roy Hibbert spent four years in college and still struggled early, but is now one of the best centers/centres in the league. Serge Ibaka took time to develop.
POSSIBLE TRADING PARTNERS
No matter what you think of Valanciunas’ future, every GM would love to get their hands on a center/centre with his talent and skills. Because he would return a lot of assets and require time to develop, not a whole lot of teams would be able to have an enticing enough package to get Valanciunas.
Boston, Atlanta, Washington, Charlotte, Oklahoma and Phoenix would be the only teams in the league who have the desire and assets to be able to pry Valanciunas away from the Raptors. There are numerous other teams that will probably try (Lakers, San Antonio, Portland, Dallas) but simply don’t have the assets.
TRADE VALUE: VERY HIGH
No matter how Valanciunas is playing right now, he’s still got loads of skill and potential. He’s still one of the most promising big men in the league and only 21. He plays with passion, works hard and doesn’t back down.
KEEP OR MOVE
No, he’s not looking as good as he did last season, but he’s still the same player. Casey has never displayed much acumen at developing big men, and none of the big men looked all that good playing with Rudy Gay. It’s so difficult to acquire a center/centre with the potential Valanciunas has, and while the Raptors could definitely get good value for him, the chance they will end up regretting the trade is high. And since Valanciunas isn’t at the point where he’s having a big positive impact on the game, then keeping him in a year they seem to be tanking does no harm to the team’s prospects.
With Gay gone, maybe Valanciunas will end up getting more touches and more minutes, which should help his production and confidence.
If the Raptors are offered a ludicrous deal, then fine. Otherwise, it’s simply not worth trading him.
Salary: $3.2 million (first in a two year deal)
Tyler Hansbrough is the kind of player that opposing fans (and teammates) hate with a passion, but hometown fans love to watch play. He doesn’t play a lot of minutes, but when he comes in you know you’re going to get hard-nosed play and hustle. He’s not quite as good defensively as his reputation suggests, but he’ll do a lot of things to annoy opposing players. And he’s got a very strange knack for drawing fouls on the offensive end.
POSSIBLE TRADING PARTNERS
Hansbrough is an acquired taste. You get the feeling he’s not the most well-liked player on his teams, and while he rebounds and hustles, he’s never come close to shooting 50% from the field. The fact that Indiana let him walk and the Raptors were able to pick him up for as little as they did might be an indication that he doesn’t have a whole lot of value around the league.
It’s likely that if he’s traded, he would be packaged with one of the more valuable assets, so it’s difficult to say where he might go, but Detroit (if they trade Monroe), Cleveland, Charlotte, Washington, Portland, Denver, Minnesota, the Clippers, Golden State, Houston and Dallas could all use his services, and since the Raptors wouldn’t be asking much back, they wouldn’t need a lot of assets to get him.
TRADE VALUE: MEDIUM TO LOW
Hansbrough has a reasonable contract that extends just to next season, and, on paper, is a great big man to have come off the bench. But Indiana not wanting him back and the fact that he didn’t seem to have a whole lot of suitors around the league makes me wonder about his value.
Perhaps other teams wondered whether Hansbrough wouldn’t flourish as much outside of the Indiana system? Who knows. Maybe his play on a team like the Raptors has actually increased his value.
Either way, he’s probably a guy who is going to be traded within a bigger package, so as long as he’s not a negative, which I don’t think he he, then his trade value is fine.
KEEP OR MOVE
Hansbrough is 28 years old, and doesn’t actually do a whole lot on the court. He’s a nice player to have off the bench for 15 mpg, but you don’t want him having a bigger role than that.
Hansbrough’s biggest asset right now is that he can be thrown in on a bigger deal to make it a bit more enticing and to make salaries work. There is really no point in keeping him, especially now that the Raptors have acquired a couple more front court players.
Salary: $2.7 million in his second year of a rookie contract
Right now, Ross’ biggest claim to fame is winning the dunk contest last year,in one of the more forgettable dunk contests. Raptor fans will, unfairly or not, too often view Ross as the guy the Raptors took instead of Andre Drummond.
He was drafted with the reputation as a excellent three point shooter and defender, neither of which he’s shown a whole lot of consistency at. He’s shown marginal improvement in a couple of areas, but it’s still difficult to tell whether he’s got much of an NBA future.
POSSIBLE TRADING PARTNERS
There was a rumour going around the Cleveland was offering Dion Waiters for Ross, but it’s doubtful there was any truth to those rumours. I’m not sure there would be a lot of teams lining up to trade for Ross, and he would most likely simply be an enticement in a larger trade.
TRADE VALUE: LOW
Ross has shown very little so far in his young NBA career, but is still young, athletic and has some potential. Players in Ross situation are common enough that his value would be fairly low.
KEEP OR MOVE
It would be disappointing to give up on Ross so early, but I’m not sure he’ll ever become good enough that the Raptors will regret trading him away. He’s young enough and with enough potential, it’s probably a good idea to keep him around during the rebuilding process, but if adding him to a deal gets something nice back, then the Raptors probably shouldn’t hesitate to add him.
Salary: $6.25 million this season and next season
Let’s be clear. Landry Fields is horribly overpaid. Colangelo overpaid someone in order to try and block someone else from signing someone so they would have no choice to sign with the Raptors. The fact that those two players are Landry Fields and a 82 year old Steve Nash makes it all the more stupid.
And to make matters worse, it turns out Fields’ decline in play had been because of a nerve problem in his shooting arm. Not good.
While he can’t shoot, he is a very good defender, passer, rebounder and high IQ player. If he could actually shoot, he might be quite valuable.
POTENTIAL TRADING PARTNERS
None. Nobody wants to take on that contract for a player who can’t shoot.
TRADE VALUE: NEGATIVE
Did you read what I wrote above? It’s still true.
KEEP OR MOVE
Despite what I’ve said, I simply don’t understand the desire of Raptor fans to try and trade Fields. He’s got negative value, so the Raptors would have to give up something for another team to take him. They already will have loads of cap room this summer (and maybe more if they trade DeRozan or Amir) so there is no reason the Raptors need to be unchained from his contract.
And despite his shooting problems, Fields is actually the type of player that usually ends up on a Championship team, somewhere. He’s smart, plays defense, understands how to play in a team concept and plays better the more talent he has around him.
Fields’ contract only goes for one more season after this one, and it’s doubtful the Raptors will need the extra cap space before then, so it makes far more sense to hold onto Fields and then when his contract comes up, if his shot has improved, sign him for a more reasonable contract when his present one expires.
Salary: $3.75 million this season and $7.25 over the next two years
Steve Novak came over from the Knicks in exchange for Andrea Bargnani, so no matter how Novak plays, fans will probably be forgiving. For a guy with such a deadeye reputation, though, Novak has been pretty mediocre from behind the line this year.
Of course, one needs to only look to Dwane Casey to understand why. In New York, Novak got lots of open looks. In Toronto, Novak has had to create a shot himself more times than I care to think. When you have a shooter of Novaks talents, getting plays to make him open is probably smart.
POSSIBLE TRADING PARTNERS
There are plenty of teams that would love to have a shooter like Novak, but not a whole lot that would want to take on his salary. It’s not obscene, but he’s definitely overpaid. Like Hansbrough, Novak would probably be a throw in on a larger deal to sweeten the pot. “How about I throw in Novak? I know you guys need three point shooting. Will that get it done?”
Lots of contenders would probably like a guy like Novak, and it’s conceivable Ujiri could move Novak alone just to clear his contract. If that’s the case, I would look to Brooklyn, Detroit (who aren’t contenders, but need outside shooting), Miami, Portland, Oklahoma, Minnesota (see Detroit), the Clippers and Houston.
TRADE VALUE: ON THE HIGH END OF LOW
If it weren’t for his contract, more teams would be interested in a shooter like Novak, but he’s overpaid, so the deal would have to be just right.
KEEP OR MOVE
Novak is a very nice shooter, but his talents are obviously being wasted on a team like the Raptors. If the Raptors can add him to a larger deal or move him for an expiring contract, then they should do it.
Salary: $2.1 million this season with a qualifying option next season
Greivis Vasquez is really the only decent player the Raptors got in return for Rudy Gay. He’s a hard-nosed player who distributes the ball well and watches opponents drive by him like a McDonalds drive-through clerk.
Because of NBA rules, Vasquez would only be able to be traded by himself until about a week before the trade deadline, when he can be packaged in a larger deal.
POTENTIAL TRADING PARTNERS
Vasquez would make a very good backup point guard, and teams are always in the market for one of those. Indiana, Chicago, Milwaukee, Oklahoma, the Clippers, Golden State and New York are probably the teams that would be most interested in acquiring Vasquez.
TRADE VALUE: MEDIUM TO LOW
Vasquez is a nice point guard in a league full of nice point guards. He had a very good year in New Orleans, but he’s best suited in a backup role. Lots of team would want a guy like Vasquez, but not a lot of teams would want to give up a whole lot for him.
He has a very good salary and the team receiving him has the option of matching any offers for him at the end of the season, or letting him go, if they want. That’s probably the most valuable part about him.
KEEP OR MOVE
Vasquez is probably a very good player to have for a team like Toronto. He’s not good enough, especially defensively, to make an impact in the win column, but he moves the ball and will keep players and fans happy by making the offense look better.
And with his contract situation, the Raptors can choose to re-sign him or let him go for cap space at the end of the season.
Salary: $3.1 million this season with a qualifying option next season
The Raptors were looking at Patterson in 2010 before drafting Ed Davis, and I have to say I couldn’t understand why. He was a big man who played small, wasn’t good defensively and really didn’t do ANYTHING at an above average rate.
POTENTIAL TRADING PARTNERS
Patterson is at the point now where he’s only a throw in for another team, but he’s young enough and has a few talents that might sweeten a trade deal.
TRADE VALUE: LOW
Last year, Patterson was traded for the 5th player in the previous year’s draft, so he might have some value to someone. Of course, it was Sacramento that gave up Thomas Robinson for Patterson, so maybe that says something.
KEEP OR MOVE
I put all these guys together because they have zero trade value, bring nothing to any team and are only good as throw ins to make salaries work.
Still, they all are in the NBA, so they have to be proud of that.
Black Friday is everyday in the Great White North
Latest trade scuttle: Raptors trying to construct deal with Knicks that would send Kyle Lowry to New York
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) December 12, 2013
New York has almost no draft picks to speak of (their 2014 belongs to Houston, 2016 first belongs to us, full breakdown here), so the most likely target is Iman Shumpert, who has been bandied about in trade rumors for months.
However, any trade structured around Iman Shumpert and Kyle Lowry will be difficult without some additional pieces thrown in. New York is (significantly) over the luxury tax threshold, meaning that the total salaries, at least for this season, must be within 125%. Since Lowry makes approximately 6 million dollars this season and Shumpert only makes 1.7 M (lol, only), other pieces must be involved to facilitate such a trade. Something like the following works:
UPDATE (1:39 PM)
Knicks had interest in Denver’s Andre Miller, but focusing now on trying to make deal for Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, sources tell Yahoo.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 12, 2013
UPDATE (1:41 PM)
— Jared Dubin (@JADubin5) December 12, 2013
UPDATE (1:45 PM)
Okay, that aforementioned trade seems implausible (Felton is on the books for two more years after this season at ~3.5 M/year). However, if New York throws in a pick (of course they will), something like this should work (Knicks give Philly their 2018(lol) 1st):
UPDATE (1:50 PM)
Knicks, Nets & Warriors all interested in Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry.
— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) December 12, 2013
UPDATE (1:53 PM)
Tough situation for Knicks: With no first-round pick to add, NYK could be confronted w/unsavory option of putting Tim Hardaway Jr. in deal
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) December 12, 2013
UPDATE (2:40 PM)
Nothing earth-shattering here, but I’ve been told that Iman Shumpert’s name has come up in the #Knicks trade talks with TOR for Kyle Lowry.
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) December 12, 2013
UPDATE (2:53 PM)
Shumpert fans, exhale: I’m told chances of him going to TOR in a Lowry deal are slim. Raps not high on him. Knicks prefer to keep (for now).
— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) December 12, 2013
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Knicks are offering Felton, Metta World Peace and a 2018 first round draft pick.
UPDATE (4:46 PM)
Knicks’ pursuit of Kyle Lowry being held up by Knicks’ refusal to give up 1st round pick, sources say
— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) December 12, 2013
UPDARE (5:02 PM)
And at last report, Toronto was said to be seeking TWO of the following three: Shumpert, Hardaway Jr., Future First. A bit pricey, I'd say
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) December 12, 2013
Enter for your chance to win.
This week on The Doctor is In with Phdsteve, I have called in the boys from the worldwide roundtable to talk NBA and NCAA while continually tying it back to the Raptors! Joined by my brother Mike (who knows college basketball), Greg Mason (the brain from the south), and Blair Miller from The Fifth Quarter Blog we discuss:
There is 5 minutes of bonus material after the outro for those who want to hear more about Wiggins vs Florida.
“It was a difficult decision for me,” Salmons said on Wednesday. “I had a couple options on the table. I just felt like it was a thing where I relied on my faith. I felt it wasn’t the place for me to be at the time. I hope the fans don’t hold it against me. I felt like it was something I had to do because of my faith. That’s what it was.”
It was the best time of my life. As far as the NBA, that’s all (Toronto) I know. I come in early in the morning. I eat. I work out. … That is my home, everyday playing there. It’s Toronto. I wouldn’t change it. The fans were great. The people were great. The city was great. I had great teammates. It was a great start to my career. Everything happens for a reason. But I’m just glad I was able to start my career in Toronto. … I’ve got great tweets and [messages] on my Instagram post, and I didn’t even play. That says a lot.
“My phone was blowing up left and right — friends, people on the team, my agent is calling me,” Patterson said. “I answer it as I’m going into the theatre, and he tells me about the trade and how I’ve been traded and everything. I’m like, ‘Yo, I’ll call you back in about 2½ hours, I’m taking my mom into a movie.’ So I literally found out like five minutes before the movie.”
“I think they’re a high basketball IQ (group),” Casey said. “We met with them for a long time, going over all of our defensive schemes, offensive schemes. They understand, they’ve been around the block a few times so that’ll help to mix them in with our guys. The hard part is getting the chemistry, the timing, understand where guys like the ball, those types of things so that will take some time but the veteran play will help.”
Vasquez got off to a slower start in the NBA, but in his third season, he started 78 games for the Hornets (now Pelicans) and averaged 13.9 points and 9 assists. His shooting steadily improved to 43.3 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from three-point range, but still had room to get better. This year, he has been shooting 49 percent on 2-point field goal attempts and 93.8 percent at the free throw line providing some evidence that the improvement has continued. His impressive assist rate of 44.9 percent in his third season was actually higher than Calderon’s at the same age.
If I’m Masai, here’s what I do – nothing. The Gay trade happened well in advance of the trade deadline of February 20, which allows sufficient time for the new-look Raps to develop some chemistry. If that happens, let’s enjoy the ride. If not, c’est la vie; there’s lots of time to shop Kyle. A contending team which loses its point guard to injury might well be prepared to pony up a high price for Lowry.
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My, what a difference a week makes. Seven days ago, the Raps were mired in some of the most depressing basketball you could ever hope to (not) see, the team seemed rudderless, and the DeMar DeRozan/Rudy Gay duo were getting syndromes named after them by Bill Simmons. It was boring to watch, soul-sucking to cover, and even though you knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel, you couldn’t even see it yet. It was just miles and miles of… not exactly darkness, but greyness. It was blah.
Finally, though, with the aforementioned Gay shipped out of town for eminently more moveable (and arguably more useful) pieces, the Raptors as a franchise have finally turned a corner to where the light is visible, albeit faintly (and yes, I know I made a train analogy in my Rudy Gay trade reaction, too). On the court, the team looks better, or at least more watchable. Our youngsters are getting minutes – and touches – that they weren’t getting before the move.
Most importantly, though, the front office has apparently placed a large “clearance sale!!!” sign on the front door of the ACC. The tank is on, say the various Raptor commentators/bloggers/analysts/Doug Smith. The front office seems to have acknowledged it too, if not overtly, and, as fans, we’re left to wait and see who the next player is to be shipped out the door for prospects, picks, cap relief, or some combination of the three.
On its face, it seems like an easy assignment for Raptor management: lose the useful players, lose the games, get Andrew Wiggins (or one of the many exciting consolation prizes). In reality, though, nothing is that simple. Yes, Rudy Gay (and his contract) were a dark cloud hanging over the franchise, and that cloud has been lifted. But just because it’s easier to see doesn’t mean the landscape’s changed. Nobody thought Gay was a long-term solution for the Raps, and so, for Masai, the real work begins now.
See, the problem with building a franchise is that your best players – AKA your most tradeable assets (and, in the case of the Raptors, quite possibly your only tradeable assets) – are also the players most likely to be part of a successful team moving forward (again, in the case of the Raptors, quite possibly the only players who can be part of a successful team moving forward). The conundrum for management of a rebuilding team is to decide how to balance the team’s future on the court with the success of the “tank” today. I mean, Andrew Wiggins is good, but one great player does not a champion make.
Essentially, Masai and his team are still in the evaluation stages. What’s changed since the Gay trade is that the evaluation is no longer focused on the core group as a whole, but on each player individually – balancing the success he could have as a part of the Raptor franchise with the return he’s likely to get on the open market. Without commenting on the four new faces coming to town, I’d imagine there are only six Raptors that the jury’s still out on in this regard: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough, Jonas Valanciunas, and Terrence Ross. These players are the condundrums, the enigmas; the only Raptors good enough to both command significant return on the open market and hurt a potential “tank,” and also the only ones who could reasonably expect to be part of this franchise post-rebuild. What management decides to do with this group will effectively determine the course of this franchise up until the end of the season (though I no longer doubt Masai’s abilities – I wouldn’t be shocked if we woke up tomorrow and found that he’d flipped Landry Fields for a first-rounder and season tickets to Cirque de Soleil).
On paper, I think this group breaks up into three reasonably distinguishable categories. The first of these is the players most likely to stay put – Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross. Both of these guys are young, have shown flashes of considerable potential, and are on rookie deals. Both have proven they can contribute on the court in meaningful ways. And both aren’t good enough now to significantly affect the team’s win/loss total in the short term. There’s been a lot of talk about how nobody – not even Jonas – is “untouchable” in this stage of the rebuild, but I’d be pretty shocked if not just Val, but Ross as well, were moved for anything besides players at a similar stage in their careers for positional fit. In a nutshell, there aren’t a whole lot of guys on the team who have a chance to outplay their contracts, and these two do – essential for a successful team. Luckily, for the Raps, it doesn’t appear like that’s going to happen this year, which works perfectly with the Raptors’ unstated intention to snag a high draft pick in 2014.
The second of this group is the guys most likely to be headed out of town in the near future – Tyler Hansbrough and Kyle Lowry. On first glance, these guys are about as dissimilar as you can get: one’s an established starter, one’s a bench guy; one’s on an expiring deal and due for a raise in free agency, one has another year to go. Where these two are similar, though, is in their relative value on the open market. Both of these players are clearly more valuable to contending teams than to a franchise focused on the future like the Raptors. Hansbrough, who’s seemingly bounced back from a disastrous season last year in Indiana, could be brought on to fortify the end of a playoff team’s bench at a miminal cost, and his departure from the Raptors won’t swing the needle either way in terms of wins, as evidenced by the team’s recent performances following his injury.
Lowry’s case is even more clear-cut. On a very reasonable expiring contract, and with a proven track record as a starting point guard, he could very easily slide in as a major contributor to a team with aspirations to make a move this season (Chicago? Indiana?). If he stays on the Raptors, though, he’s very likely to lead the team to a few wins just by his presence alone. For a team that’s unlikely to re-sign him to the type of deal he’s looking for once he hits free agency in the summer, that’s a net negative, and so it’d be very surprising if Masai and crew don’t flip him for assets now, while they can.
The final group – Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan – is the most intriguing. Along with Lowry, these two players are inarguably the most valuable on Toronto’s roster, and trading them would likely bring the biggest haul of assets while most dramatically affecting the team’s win total. Both are young and signed to reasonable contracts past this season (Johnson might be one of the best values in the league – if he gets traded, expect the gushing articles to follow as soon as he departs the blind spot NBA writers seem to have when it comes to Toronto). However, both have plenty of potential to positively affect the next iteration of the Raptor franchise, and so, for Ujiri and co., it’s decision time. Making calls on players like Johnson and DeRozan is why guys like Masai get paid the big bucks.
In a perfect world, it’d be great if both of these guys came down with mysterious “injuries” at some point this year – keeping their value for the future with the Raptor franchise but mitigating their impact on the court this year. Don’t rule this out, especially near the end of the season, though it’s a bit slimy and the league will likely be on high alert with so many teams in tank mode. However, the far more likely course of action is that the next few months for Raptor management will be spent heavily evaluating the contributions of DeRozan and Johnson (and the rest of the team, but especially these two), and weighing their value tomorrow against it today. Don’t expect these guys to get moved in the summer. If they’re here after the deadline, they’re here to stay.
Basically, now that the first big – and most obvious – step has been taken, the real decision-making can begin for Raptor management. Things are about to get interesting again for Raptor fans. Just expect the excitement to come off the court, rather than on it.
Even with a full-strength squad there were no expectations of winning this game, so watching a depleted Raptors unit get smoked at home is par for the course. The excellent first quarter that the home team delivered felt good, and I was at the ACC to feel the relief and joy in the crowd as they witnessed what ball movement, pick ‘n roll play, and assists looked like. They watched in amazement as one Raptors player drove the lane, and get this, passed the ball to an open teammate! They sat there in shock and horror, with mouth agape, as Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas rolled to the rim and received a pass which they converted.
It was brilliant stuff and it felt like the shackles had been lifted and a new team had been formed. That’s when sober reality kicked in and you knew that the 14-point lead had as much chance of lasting as Dwane Casey returning next year: nil. You realized that the immovable and unfazed Spurs didn’t even bat an eye at this meekest of deficits. You realized that the Raptors were being fueled by the adrenalin of change, whereas the Spurs’ engine had yet to be ignited.
[Did you read Reaction: Raptors 103 vs Spurs 116 – Dec. 10/13]
Before we do a post-mortem let’s talk about what we saw that was new with this team in the absence of Rudy Gay. The first thing you realize is that the ball does not get stuck. I know that’s a cliche of sorts but it holds true here. The Raptors were switching their offense on every possession, sometimes it was Lowry running a PnR with Johnson, sometimes DeRozan with Valanciunas, sometimes Valanciunas in the post, and what you saw as the result of this was ball-movement. Having multiple points of attack increases reduces the predictability of the offense, forcing the defense to cover wider ground. Once you sprinkle this with crisp ball movement, the defense is bound to be on its heels, as San Antonio was in the early going.
Here’s a look at the first quarter box score for the Raptors.
Lots of touches for Valanciunas resulting in him scoring, heavy focus on Amir Johnson in both pop and roll situations, and Terrence Ross becoming the benefactor due to so much focus inside. The Raptors had nine assists in the first quarter, which is a season high (I don’t even have to look that up, I just know it’s a season-high). Of course, they ended up with only nine for the rest of the game but let’s leave that aside for now. The point here is that the Raptors, for one quarter at least, played the type of game that we expected them to play all season – win or lose.
Then things changed.
The Spurs let the Raptors have their fun and made a couple adjustments: they started sagging on the screens and taking the “roll” pathways away from the Raptors bigs. This resulted in the ball being swung back out to the perimeter or held by a big man at the top of the key. The Raptors, not having much of a game-plan, swung it and tried to attack via DeRozan who had moderate success, but more importantly, it was an offense that the Spurs felt comfortable defending.
Once the Raptors bench, headlined on this night by Dwight Buycks, Steve Novak, and Austin Daye, came into the game, it quickly became clear that the Raptors had no chance in this game against a Spurs offense that has enough dribble-penetration, outside shooting, lateral movement, and ridiculous interior screening to score almost at will. From the Raptors perspective, the game deteriorated into something close to unwatchable as guys like Jeff Ayres, Patty Mills, and Aron Baynes administered a rather humiliating punishment, all via the assembly-line San Antonio offense.
You won’t find too many Raptors games that aren’t also hilarious and this one didn’t disappoint as Austin Daye and Steve Novak played extended minutes in a smaller lineup where they were the PF/C. We’ll get to Valanciunas in a bit, don’t worry, but let me just close the books on these two.
There is no point in playing Steve Novak unless you are being very prescriptive in the sets being run, sets that are designed to move whoever Novak’s defender is away from Novak. Steve Novak cannot do anything else on the basketball court. When not on offense and being catered to, he may as well be an usher in the stands. Why Casey feels that he can afford to have Novak out there wandering like a chicken with its head cut off is a question that needs to be asked. If Lowry is entering a battle with Tony Parker on the strong-side of the court, the Spurs will easily contend with that by having a big drop down, or have the strong-side corner defender help out (if needed). There is zero chance that the weak-side defender will leave Novak long enough (he has no reason to) for Lowry to find him. It just isn’t going to happen.
So Dwane Casey, please, give some thought to Steve Novak. He actually has a skill we can use but it’ll involve some thinking on your part, maybe a play. How does a baseline double-screen with DeRozan operating in a pick ‘n roll with Amir sound? No? How about simply a misdirection and a down-screen? No? Well, why don’t you come up with something yourself then.
That’s Novak, and now onto Austin Daye. I feel like I’m witnessing his funeral out there. The guy has zero skill, no skill whatsoever. Maybe he can shoot, maybe he can’t. Maybe he can be a serviceable three-point shooter, maybe he should be working at Footlocker, who really knows? All I know, and I can confirm this, is that the guy does not break a sweat. He could be playing for 35 minutes (not like that will ever happen in the NBA) and look like he woke up from beauty sleep. I guess it was unavoidable for Daye to get playing time given the player shortage, but man, it is quite depressing to see our beloved Raptors trot out a lineup of Buycks, Daye, Novak, Ross,and Fields to reverse a home deficit. I call that my “tank lineup”, I’ll get to that in a bit, but first to Valanciunas.
After the hot start, our Lithuanian giant got taken aback by the aggressiveness of which the Spurs big men were hitting the glass. He was visibly frustrated at the swiftness at which the Spurs offense moves and how quickly opportunities materialize after their guards and forward make interior passes. He got scored in some one-on-one situations, got moved on the boards, and went through a second-quarter spell where things weren’t going right for him. Unfortunately for him, nothing was quite done to reestablish him in the game, not via the post and not via the two-man game. I’ll spell this out one more time this season. The Raptors need an interior post-up presence to balance their offense and whether they like it or not, Valanciunas is that man. Keep feeding him the ball and figure out how you can play around him, just like you do with DeRozan.
His game has obvious flaws: he takes too long to make his move, his shoulder and head fakes are weak, his jumper doesn’t scare anyone (even though he nailed one on Timmy), and he doesn’t yet have a go-to move that you can somewhat depend on (nice jumphook last night, though). However, they’re all works in progress and there’s no reason to think that if given the time and ball, he’ll improve. Just like Terrence Ross needs game time to settle in, find his rhythm, not need to look over his shoulder, the same is true for Valanciunas. What is player development if not nurturing the talent that a player shows in glimpses?
Forget everything else and focus on this now. San Antonio has taken charge of the game, the Raptors bench and starters have stunk it up after shooting 63% in the first quarter, and the Spurs are up 19 with 8:15 left in the game. Dwane Casey pulls DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson, thus conceding the game. Valanciunas is already on the bench and the Raptors are in a tank-lineup of Daye, Buycks, Ross, Novak, and Fields. The ACC crowd is heading out and more t-shirts are being given away begging them to stay. Things are progressing as expected in this rout till 2:44, when in a 16-point game, Dwane Casey trots out Jonas Valanciunas to replace Landry Fields.
What. In. The. World?
Does he want Valanciunas to get some exercise? Does he think he’s going to start the comeback? Is he trying to get him injured so the tank is official? It boggled my mind as I sat there and saw the look on Valanciunas’ face when his number was called. He was not happy. He picked up an offensive foul after a pass was zipped to him, which after sitting on the bench for 20 minutes in a blowout isn’t something you expect. He was probably icing his knees and getting ready for a shower before this madness transpired.
Now, since we’re on the talk of weird substitutions, let’s address tanking.
I’ve been in denial here, I’ve believed that the Raptors were trying to win this year and I supported the cause. In any debate in the comments on this site, I’ve tried to shoot down the tank but I’ve now accepted it, or a variant of it. I believe that somehow Ujiri will land a pick in the draft, whether it be via the tank or trade route. Here’s how it’s going to play out: the Raptors will be shipping off Amir Johnson and Kyle Lowry, two of the more tradable guys, and retaining the services of Dwane Casey till the end of the year because, frankly, he is simply perfect as the tank commander. If I were him I’d resign before things get ugly, but he’s too absorbed by the head coaching position to see through that. The Raptors will politely decline to renew his contract come the summer, and get a head coach that is of Masai Ujiri’s picking. Perhaps George Karl, perhaps Jeff Van Gundy, perhaps Stan Van Gundy, perhaps Jonas’ dad. I don’t know. This appears to be a full-on reset, as even the players acquired in the Gay deal have enough value, which will be added onto, to be shipped at the deadline.
As I sat there watching Casey and Popovich stand on opposing ends of the baseline, it dawned on me that this might be the biggest coaching mismatch ever. Here we have a perennial NBA champion going up against a guy who makes hockey line-changes in the second quarter. While I was wondering that I saw Tony Parker go the other way on a Diaw screen, put Lowry on his hip and score on an easy leaner as the help defender hesitated to leave Green open in the corner. A simple play. On the next possession, I saw Lowry go one-on-one trying to get back at Parker, end up in a turnover and on to the next play. This is where a coach like Popovic would call timeout, inform his PG that this isn’t a personal battle and one shouldn’t make it such. In Casey’s case though, play continued.
I also played special attention to the out-of-timeout success rate by the Raptors and I can confirm that every instance I monitored failed. Some of them ended up in offensive fouls and most didn’t result in more than two guys touching the ball. If Casey chooses to hand DeRozan the ball a the wing or top of the key, he also has to make an effort to construct an outlet for him, because otherwise DeRozan will simply drive the ball and try to score, or if he finds himself in trouble, dribble it out for a reset using up clock. There needs to be some passing options – and I’m not even talking about assists – that allow DeRozan or another penetrator like Lowry to pass out without breaking rhythm of the play. Currently, when the Raptors pass out of a drive it either ends up in a low-percentage jumper or some wild sequences where players end up crossing paths and getting in each other’s way as they try to figure out just what to do now that the original drive-play has gone away.
I’m not sure what DeRozan’s fate is going to be. Last night you saw him score against some excellent defense in Kawhi Leonard and to a lesser extent, Danny Green. At the same time you saw both those guys easily take advantage of him on defense and DeRozan taper off as the game got older. How Green pass-faked him out with his hips at one point was downright embarrassing. At the same time, Ujiri has to see that the offense is a shambles and that there are zero in-game adjustments being made to cater to the team’s limited strengths. DeRozan’s excellent mid-range game is hardly utilized off the ball, I don’t think the Raptors have run a Princeton-cut all year which would put DeRozan’s athleticism against the opposing team’s bigs. My feeling is that Ujiri has to value DeRozan and believe that he is a player that’s part of the solution, not the problem, and hence keep him.
While I’m at this I’d like to give my thoughts on the D.J Augustin cut. Really, you could’ve thrown darts and decided which of Stone, Buycks, or Augustin to cut loose. My guess it came down to the money they make and Augustin led that category. Stone’s sole strength appears to be to dribble the ball up the court without turning it over, and the dribble penetration and defense that you may have hoped Buycks would bring aren’t anywhere to be seen. They’re basically on the team because the NBA has a minimum roster size requirement.
Before I end this, I have to comment on how enjoyable it is to watch the Spurs play. This was a Raptors Republic Group Night and although it was a blowout, I’m glad I picked this game to go because it is mighty impressive how the Spurs have found roles for Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli, and other no-names.
Final word goes to the ACC fans who ERUPTED in a 16-point game with 33 seconds left when the Raptors scored a 100 points thinking they had gotten free pizza, not knowing that the home team must win as well. I felt embarrassed as even the Spurs bench wondered what the celebration was about.
Terrence Ross on challenge of starting: "I know what to expect now, still learning some new things, but for the most part, I'm just ready.”
— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) December 11, 2013
The Raptors have very little depth, and it could get worse if general manager Masai Ujiri continues to chop from the top of the roster. On Monday, when discussing the deal, Ujiri said he is judging everybody, including Raptors coach Dwane Casey, on player development. Ujiri rightly pointed out that if he were being guided by wins and losses, he would have made more severe changes by now.
For the second straight game, the Raptors’ offense looked much improved as the club finished with 23 assists (season average is 17.4) and showed off some much improved ball movement, meaning easy looks for a bevy of players. DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Kyle Lowry all got involved early and again, Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson dominated down low. But that was the starting group. (Yes, Ross got the nod tonight.) The bench…that’s another story.
“We were trying to play big minutes with (the starters) and they got us in the second quarter and that was the difference in the game. I’m going to chalk this one up to travel, we ran out of gas as the game ran on,” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey.
On Tuesday the Spurs looked dead in the water eight minutes into the game. Tim Duncan couldn’t hit a shot and Tony Parker couldn’t hold on to the ball. To make matters worse, Raptors big men Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson looked like All-Stars. Gregg Popovich’s leash is short on back-to-backs and San Antonio looked headed for a night of frustration. But thanks to the organizational systems in place and a team culture that emphasizes readiness and preparation, the Spurs left Toronto with a big win. And a large Australian (Aron Baynes) man had a night he’ll never forget.
Aron Baynes, you guys. This was Baynes best game as a NBA player, by far, and his biggest contributions surprisingly came on the offensive end. Baynes provided a presence inside that the Spurs were lacking. His screens were as wide (and possibly illegal) as ever. Bangers scored 14 points on 7-9 shooting and pulled down four offensive boards. He also faked a hand-off and darted to the rim for a thunderous dunk. It was glorious and hopefully it nets him another chance in the rotation. Stop it. I know a part of you, a little voice inside is saying “if Baynes can play like this, then Splitter is expendable.” Stop it.
Valanciunas was a force in the opening minutes, scoring 10 of the Raptors 24 first-quarter points and making all five attempted field goals, flipping in a hook over Duncan after an up-fake, and taking a Lowry pass at the chest, backing down Duncan before turning around and hitting a short jumper. By the time the game was six minutes old, DeRozan and Lowry had combined for seven assists. But Valanciunas spent the final 6:40 of the first half on the bench after two quick turnovers, and the Spurs came back from a 43-42 deficit to lead 59-53 at the half. Valanciunas didn’t score another point until making two free throws and throwing down a dunk with less than two minutes remaining.
For the second straight contest, sans Gay, there was a more cohesive flow to the team’s offence. With 23 on the night – nine coming in the first quarter – the Raptors reached the 20-assist benchmark for the first time in seven games and only the fourth time in 20 games to begin the season. “I did like the ball movement,” Casey said. “I’m really going on the first quarter when we were fresh, humming and in sync more, so to speak.” As per usual, the drop-off was most significant when Lowry went to the bench.
“You have to coach the guys that you’re given,” said Casey, in a one-on-one interview Tuesday. “Whatever happens (with me) happens. I’m not worried about ping pong balls (NBA draft lottery) or anything like that. “My job is to make DeMar (DeRozan) better, to make Terrence (Ross) better and make Jonas (Valanciunas) better. Whether we win or not, that’s a different story. “Nobody has said anything to me about tanking … We’re trying to teach these guys how to win. The most difficult thing in sports is to win and grow. We’re trying to do both.
|Amir Johnson, PF 28 MIN | 9-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 19 PTS | -2Played very well as far as I’m concerned; would be an A+ but he took that three; I can’t forgive those. I really don’t have much to say about Amir other than I appreciate how he just shows up and does his job.|
|Jonas Valanciunas, C 28 MIN | 6-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 14 PTS | -1014 points off 8 shots is not bad, but 4 rebounds, not so much. With Gay, and his 19 shots, exiled out west, I assumed we’d see JV call for the ball a bit more, but it didn’t happen. I’m just floating this out there strictly for discussion, but how untouchable is JV, really?|
|Kyle Lowry, PG 32 MIN | 4-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 7 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 11 PTS | -4Zero trips to the line and brutal shooting from the field, but the near triple-double should be rewarded. Was a step off, but maybe I’m just seeing something that wasn’t there.|
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 30 MIN | 6-16 FG | 7-7 FT | 0 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 19 PTS | -70 rebounds…I mean, he didn’t even grab 1 or 2 accidental ones like Bargnani used to. Led the team in scoring, but needed 16 shots to get 19 points. You do have to appreciate how he saw the floor and got others involved though.|
|Terrence Ross, SG 38 MIN | 4-13 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 5 TO | 14 PTS | -6Can we agree that Ross isn’t the long term solution for replacing Gay in the starting lineup? I’d much rather Fields, if for nothing else than Ross would provide a spark off the bench that Fields lacks.|
|Landry Fields, SF 19 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -13Zero, dude lacks spark. Rebounds well, but god, man, do something. Play with some passion, man.|
|Steve Novak, SF 28 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -154 shots in 28 minutes. Yes the Spurs play defense like champs, but 4 shots in 28 minutes? You had the likes of Baynes, Bonner and Diaw covering you; it’s not like they were up on you like Bruce Bowen.|
|Austin Daye, SF 14 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-3 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +6I had forgotten Daye was on this team.|
|Dwight Buycks, PG 18 MIN | 4-9 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -3All his production came in garbage time during the last 6 minutes of the game with most of the Spurs icing themselves down on the bench.|
|Julyan Stone, SG 4 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -11Yea…|
I’m too tired.
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.
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.
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS
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 MySynergySports.com, 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.
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.
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.
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
Wondering what Bryan Colangelo felt about the Rudy Gay trade to Sacramento? Click the pic the find out.
The Toronto Raptors acquired four players in the Rudy Gay trade. While we’ve already given you our piping hot takes and these names should be familiar, we thought we’d dig in a little further and provide a brief, high-level scouting report on each acquisition.
Blake’s take: We’re probably not going to like Salmons, given that he seemingly fell out of favor with Kings fans. Add in that he once (thankfully) spurned the Raptors and that any touches he get will be touches more important players don’t get, and there’s an easy path to possibly-unfair hate.
Synergy Pro: Ranked 32nd in points allowed per possession defending isolations in 2012-13.
Synergy Con: Turned the ball over on more than 20 percent of plays where he was the pick-and-roll ball-handler in 2012-13.
ESPN Insider snippet: Good shooter and playmaker, but lacks the ability to create his own shot. “Solid” defender.
Guest blogger take, by Jonathan Santiago of Cowbell Kingdom: In terms of offense, John Salmons may not be able to give the Raptors much. The veteran swingman has seen his shooting percentages steadily decline over the last few years. But like Hayes, what he can provide is defense. Despite being the oldest player on the Kings, Salmons was actually their best perimeter defender before being dealt.
Patrick Patterson, aka 2-Pat
Blake’s take: Many were enamored with 2-Pat as a prospect, and I remain hopeful he can be an effective stretch-four. He and Jonas Valanciunas are nice offensive complements but would give up a lot defensively, so it’s unclear how that pairing might work in unison.
Synergy Pro: Ranked 10th in points per possession off of offensive rebounds while with the Rockets in 2012-13.
Synergy Con: Despite doing well in isolation situations, struggled guarding post-ups while with the Rockets in 2012-13.
ESPN Insider snippet: Can grab offensive boards and make plays from the wing but can’t create his own looks. Can defend in man situations but struggles with help.
Guest blogger take, by Michael Pina of Red94: When healthy (he always seemed to be nicked up with something or other on his lower body) Patterson had a solid back-to-the-basket post game. His turnaround jumper from about 10-feet was modestly reliable. But the part of his game everyone talked about before he left was the corner three. Somehow, someway, Patterson morphed himself into a guy who could legitimately stretch the floor with a good average from the corner. He wasn’t afraid to take the shot, and with defenders constantly sliding in to help on James Harden, he was open a ton.
As a defender he was solid, albeit unspectacular. I’d say his athleticism was a bit underrated (thanks to those injuries that were really limiting) and he could attack the glass with most other power forwards in the league. He wasn’t getting bludgeoned in the post, but in open space he sometimes had trouble.
Blake’s take: He’s exactly the kind of point guard Raptors fans will mistakenly fall in love with, because he’s going to provide something they haven’t seen for a while in the sticky-ball offense of the Rudy Gay Era. He is creative passing the ball, but that’s his only above-average skill. That has value on this team, but please don’t expect to anoint him as PG of the Future Part 47; his defense and scoring limit him to being “just” a good back-up.
Synergy Pro: Some of this may be due to classification, but he ranked 16th in efficiency on hand-offs, averaging 1.1 points in 90 possessions.
Synergy Con: Got torched in isolation and pick-and-roll defense situations in 2012-13.
ESPN Insider snippet: Pass-first player who can create but struggles to score or get to the hoop. Poor lateral quickness, hurting his man and pick-and-roll defense.
Guest blogger take, by Jason Calmes of Bourbon Street Shots: Greivis Vasquez is half great player, half replacement player. His excellent skill is his passing, and he passes a ton. It will look like he’s turning the ball over more then you would hope (because that is true), but when you look at the amount of passing (not just assists), you see that it is a volume effect, not an efficiency effect. He also scores more than you would expect from such a great passer, and one who takes that job to heart. The problem there is (here’s where the bad bits start), he’s about as efficient and Rudy Gay. I’ll spare you the numbers, but this is not hyperbole; it’s a warning label. On defense, he’s just too slow. Not too slow for this, not too slow for that . . . just too slow. Any NBA backcourt player can get around him seemingly at will (when Vasquez is healthy). This amounts to a net zero if he’s a starter, which is really a minus since people need to contribute something to win (assuming this not some cryptotank). If he can get minutes and the not-ready-for-primetime players, he’ll show better. He’s a great guy to have in the locker room, in the community, and he’s passionate on the court. There’s so much about him to root for, but you can’t ignore the cost. Most nights, he’ll be involved in 3 of the 5 best plays and 3 of the 5 worst plays for the Raptors, and this makes him sooo polarizing.
Blake’s take: I love me some Chuck Hayes. Undersized guy using smarts and effort to close the gap? That’s exactly the kind of guy you want around a young, developing team, setting the tone for the other frontcourt players. He’s also apparently a really good dude, so there’s that, too.
Synergy Pro: Ranked 16th in the league guarding the dive man on pick-and-rolls in 2012-13.
Synergy Con: Didn’t rank in the top-100 in a single offensive play type in 2012-13, peaking at 105th in production off of offensive rebounds.
ESPN Inside snippet: Uses effort, positioning and IQ to make up for size disadvantage, though he rarely scores. “Elite” post defense.
Guest blogger take, by Jonathan Santiago of Cowbell Kingdom: What Chuck Hayes can provide the Raptors is good low post defense. He’s also a pretty good rebounder despite being an undersized power forward. One overlooked aspect of his game is his passing. Hayes has great vision and is excellent at finding cutters from the high post. He’s also a very good outlet passer. However, that’s about all you can expect from Hayes on the offensive side of the floor.
So, let’s say it for Ujiri: The Toronto Raptors are tanking. They have no intention of winning this year. If you are a Raptors fan, you might as well start cheering for losses. The Raptors’ draft lottery odds cannot get high enough. Some fans, of course, have been doing this already. As Ujiri prepares to further dismantle his team, though, there is no doubt that he will eventually be doing the same, even if he cannot say it. “The one thing I can say is we won’t be trapped in the middle,” Ujiri said. “I can honestly say that. We will not be stuck in no man’s land, that’s for sure.”
After the haul you got in the Carmelo Anthony deal during your Denver days, we should never have doubted you, but in all honesty, we did. It’s not that either man you dealt didn’t have value. It’s almost comical the way the fanbase dismisses a 20-point a game scorer like Gay as if he’s run-of-the -mill, but that’s a completely different story for another day. It’s just that the warts on Bargnani were so obvious and off-putting and Gay’s contract was such a tough sell we didn’t think you would find a taker for either. But we also have the strong feeling you are only getting started.
“That option was tough on our part. It’s a tough place to be where you can’t go to Rudy and say: ‘Hey, we need to talk about the future.’ That option really put us in a tough position to plan. I would say flexibility long-term,” Ujiri said. He added that he’d continue to keep a close eye on the new cast of characters and decide what further moves need to be made. He wouldn’t admit to being in teardown mode, but that’s what’s happening here. “I don’t think it’s fair to say that. I think in some way, we can build. We can build for the future. I think we didn’t come here (to) just tear everything down. I think we’re giving everything a fair shot, and we will continue to,” said the reigning NBA executive of the year.
The initial shock of the Rudy Gay acquisition already hit the Sacramento Kings. Like any other instance of shock, the disease has started but remains local. Gay is now a King, and Hickory-High has taken the proper steps by frantically diagnosing and treating the underlying condition. His presence has started becoming symptomatic and the pulse – not of his heart, but rather of the Kings – will begin to rise.
Once seen as a starting-caliber floor general, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2008 draft has had a swift decline in production since leaving the Charlotte Bobcats two seasons ago. He shot just 35 percent from the field last year and 29.2 percent for the Raptors, never able to find his rhythm in limited playing time under head coach Dwane Casey.
Guys like Johnson, Jones Valnciunas, Terrence Ross, and Tyler Hansbrough are all decent defenders and tough players, but they’re not the type of players a coach can run an offense through. That leaves Toronto playing one-on-one, isolation style basketball for large stretches, and against a team like the Spurs, there is no chance for that to work for 48 minutes, especially while trying to break in a new lineup.
With Gay shipped out, DeMar DeRozan – scoring a team-high 21.6 per game – becomes the only Raptor averaging more than 15 points. DeRozan has scored 25.0 per game over his last 10 overall, and put up 29 in each of his last two at home against the Spurs (15-4).
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Per Slam Magazine:
The Raptors continue to make roster moves — having confirmed the blockbuster Rudy Gay trade, the team announced that guard DJ Augustin has been waived. From the press release: “Augustin was signed by the club as a free agent July 22. Augustin appeared in 10 games, averaging 2.1 points, 1.0 assists and 8.2 minutes. The roster now stands at 14.”
Stein is reporting that the Raptors are intent on tanking.
The Raptors, meanwhile, have been expected to be active in the trade market since the season began, with ESPN.com reporting since Nov. 1 that everyone on the roster apart from prized center Jonas Valanciunas had been made available.
New Raptors front-office boss Masai Ujiri has managed to trade away Andrea Bargnani and now Gay over the past six months to create financial flexibility going forward and — with Toronto apparently determined to avoid any accidental success in the Atlantic Division — is said to be happy to surrender veteran point guard Kyle Lowry next.
The priority in Toronto is clearly finishing as high as possible in the lottery with Canadian sensation Andrew Wiggins and several other top prospects expected to be available to teams picking at the top of the June draft. Lowry is in the final year of his contact at an affordable $6.2 million and believed to be eminently available because he’s not part of Toronto’s future plans.
If Stein is to be believed, then the tank is on.
As Tim Chisholm pointed out this morning, the Raptors did actually improve in the Rudy Gay trade, so if the ‘tank’ theory is to be believed then massive changes are coming because as it stands, the Raptors are in line to make the playoffs in the East.
The Toronto Raptors traded Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.
The deal sends Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray to Sacramento for Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes and John Salmons.
Of course, we’ve all got opinions, so the Raptors Republic crew assembled to give out quick(-ish) takes on the deal. Enjoy, and share your own in the comments.
This is awkward. First, I just want to say, you’re a great guy, and I care
about you a lot. But… Look, we both knew this was coming, right? It just
isn’t working. And this is the hardest part to say, but it’s not me; it’s
you. I thought that you could be something more. I saw the potential in
you and wanted so badly for you to be that stretch 4 who creates for
others instead of shooting through double teams. I tried, I really tried.
But you wouldn’t stop dribbling at waist height through traffic, you
wouldn’t stop launching bad long distance twos and you refused to use your
length and athleticism with any kind of consistency on defense or in
transition. I wanted so badly to believe that it was because you’ve been
inexplicably playing without contacts or goggles with diminishing eye
sight for the last few years. I mean, it was one of the most infuriatingly
stupid things I’ve ever heard, but I thought “it’s ok, maybe that means
that LASIK eye surgery can turn this all around.” That was stupid of me.
This is just who you are. It’s my fault for thinking I could change you. I
know that now. So I have to move on. Please don’t be mad, and don’t be
jealous of Greivis Vasquez or Patrick Peterson. I’m not doing this for
them. They aren’t my future. They’re simply the best I can get right now.
That’s what I have to accept, not what I want to accept. Because everyone
else knows exactly who you are too.And Salmons and Hayes, that’s just a
money thing (it’s complicated). This is about me needing to move on from
you. I need someone younger. I need someone who is more low maintenance,
contract wise. If you hear rumors about the terrible, scandalous things
I’m doing out on the court this year, please don’t think of me as a loser.
It’s just a phase I need to go through right now in order to find myself
(a lottery pick). I wish you the best Rudy. I hope you find someone who
loves and accepts you for who you are. God knows, if there is anywhere you
hilariously belong, it’s Sacramento. Good luck.
P.S. Please return my CDs and that book I lent you. I’ll get a friend to
pick them up. Thanks.
Masai Ujiri accomplished Step Two, perhaps Step 1B, on Sunday in dealing Rudy Gay to the Kings. Make what you will of the players coming back – more on this tomorrow, though none figure into long-term plans in a meaningful way – but this deal is far more about flexibility and development.
Gay’s absence creates further opportunities for the players left on the roster, specifically Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross. The offense should become more fluid and balanced, with the only potential detriment coming if DeMar DeRozan is unable to navigate increased defensive attention. Still, there are more shots and more touches available now, and that’s not insignificant for a young, rebuilding squad.
Even then, you could scrap that and call the deal a victory. I’ve been one of the only people who thought there was a possibility that Gay opted out of the final year of his deal, but the Raptors were right to absolve themselves of that risk when they could. With his value in the tank, perhaps it’s 75/25 Gay exercises the option – that means there was a 75 percent chance the Raptors would be on the hook for $19.3 million next year rather than the now-100 percent chance they’re on the hook for $7 million (Chuck Hayes at $6 million and John Salmons’ $1 million buyout). Those are big savings, and they’re savings that could help Ujiri reshape the roster.
Flexibility and cap space are transactional currencies that extend beyond attracting big-name free agents to Toronto. The Utah Jazz, for example, acquired a pair of first round picks from Golden State just to take on some bad salary (and keep your eyes on future picks – with the team unlikely to acquire another 2014 lottery pick, future firsts may be the currency of choice for Ujiri to lay the foundation for the franchise).
Whether this makes the team better or worse, this year or next, is irrelevant. Ideally, yes, the team gets worse and improves their lottery odds, but that’s just as likely to come from further moves as it is from removing Gay. More moves are almost surely on the way, and they’ll probably give the team a worse on-floor outlook.
As I’m sure everyone else will echo, Gay and Bargnani were the cracked pillars upon which this aimless franchise stood. They have been removed, which provides the opportunity to build a more stable foundation. But that building is going to take time, and it’s definitely going to take patience, and it’s not a sure thing.
It might be a long process, but based on early returns, the right man is at the helm.
I feel like most of my thoughts on the trade can be accurately summed up with this image, but I’ve been asked to elaborate, so here goes:
Plenty of my colleagues are stat guys, and I’m sure they’ll be able to tell you and I how this trade will impact the Raps on the court. For me, though, this move is all about the big picture. For the entire offseason (save the equally incredible Bargnani move) and the first couple months of the regular season, the Raptors as a franchise were stuck in a malaise. They were directionless, depressing to watch, and it seemed like everyone – players, coaches, fans – were waiting for the first domino to fall, and doing their best to endure until it did.
Well, endure no longer. The domino has fallen, and we’re finally off on the rebuild. For most fans, save the most delusional, this is a huge sigh of relief – an acknowledgement by management that the team built by the previous regime wasn’t going anywhere, and a step towards one that, hopefully, is.
Up until this point in the season, we kept telling ourselves that the Raptors could move in any direction – we could try and pick up another piece or two and work towards a playoff spot, or we could move all our assets and bottom out. With Rudy Gay’s albatross contract off the books, though, and replaced with solid – and tradeable – assets, that statement is actually true for the first time this season. In the short term, we’re better simply by subtraction (not to mention having two reliable point guards, and a couple more scorers on the bench). In the long term, we have real monetary flexibility for the first time in years. In one fell swoop, Masai Ujiri has taken a train that was flat on its sides and put it back on the tracks. We’re moving again. And that’s so, so much more exciting than whatever it was we were doing before.
No, we don’t have an All-Star. No, we might not be bad enough (right now) to join the race for top draft picks this season. But Brian Colangelo’s footprint on this team has been minimalized by December, and that’s cause for celebration.
In Masai we trust. Let’s see which domino falls next.
This is clearly the 1st in a series of move, and I say Goddamn!, Ujiri is nothing if not a boss. I hated the trade the moment I heard about it (I’m an ardent Gay apologist; so short of landing a top-5 1st rounder, I wasn’t going to like anything), but the more I percolate on it, the more it becomes obvious that Ujiri is the best GM in the game.
Tim is right; this trade actually improves this team, but not because of the incoming talent, but because of their fit. However, you have to give Ujiri the benefit of the doubt, and assume that the guy who’s traded Bargnani and Gay for a first rounder, two second rounder’s, Steve Novak, Grevious Vasquez, Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson and the cost-effective corpses of Marcus Camby, Quentin Richardson, and John Salmons, has more tricks up his sleeves; heaven help the rest of the league, for reals!
Don’t be surprised to see trades for Amir, DeRozan, and Lowry; expect nothing short of immediate cap relief, serviceable players on friendly contracts, and pics in return. This is what having world class leadership/stewardship is about. It took a few minutes to realize, but… tears of happiness, man.
Let’s be clear, I’m thrilled I no longer have to watch Rudy Gay on a semi-nightly basis. While I’m happy Gay is gone, and I don’t think was a bad deal in the least, I’m not as over-the-moon about the trade as some are (cough**Zarar**cough).
Before you start throwing the pessimist tag at me once again, let me explain.
First of all, no one the Raptors are getting back are all that good. Greivis Vasquez is an average player, at best, and he’s the best player of the bunch by far. If Raptor fans hated Calderon’s defense, wait until they see Vasquez’s. But Vasquez isn’t as good offensively as Calderon. And he turns 28 in January, so he’s as good as he’s going to get.
There are some calling Patterson a prospect, but I think that’s being generous. He’s a poor rebounder who really doesn’t do anything well other than hit the mid-range jump shot.
Both Salmons and Hayes are useless players who were only included because the Raptors needed to take back salary.
What the Raptors failed to get back was a draft pick or a decent prospect, and that’s the main reason I’m not ecstatic about the deal. While it’s doubtful Gay alone would have gotten that much value back, packaging him with another decent asset (sorry Aaron and Quincy) might have maximized his value.
Of course, Ujiri didn’t get great value for Gay because he traded him when his value was at his lowest, and that’s something that has happened too often in Raptors history. It turns out the deal Joe Dumars apparently offered him, back in the summer, would have been better value because Stuckey has played so well this year and would have at least been a better trade asset than anyone they got from Sacramento.
It’s true the Raptors will have lots of cap room this summer, but to what end? The majority of teams in the league will have some form of cap room and who would the Raptors be able to sign?
Holding onto Gay longer might have increased his value, especially after December 15th when free agents signed over the summer are available to trade.
The team looked MUCH better without Gay (against the Lakers), but they’re still not very good and the consensus now seems to be that the Raptors are selling in preparation for the 2014 draft, so why make the trade now?
There are only two reasons I can think of. The first is that the market for Gay was so bad that he took the only offer he could get. The other, and the one I hope is the reason, is that Ujiri can still repackage the incoming players before the February 20th trade deadline (players can’t be repackaged in trades for two months after they are initially traded).
If I were to grade this deal for the Raptors, I’d give them a C+, but I’m definitely anxious to see what else is coming.
Last year, when Bryan Colangelo made a naked and desperate attempt to save his job by trading for Rudy Gay, I had a tantrum of sorts. I paced back and forth in my house, cursing and ranting, much to the dismay of my bewildered roommates. I was angry at Colangelo for trading away a promising big-man and an all-time favorite, but more than anything, I was pissed that Colangelo saddled us with Rudy Gay, a man so maligned for his high-volume/low-efficiency production that he rivaled the likes of Monta Ellis and Dion Waiters. I was so upset that I boldly declared to the twittersphere:
— William Lou (@william_lou) January 31, 2013
And of course, after a month-long hiatus, I came crawling back for I loved the Raptors too much and myself too little. I still hissed at the television set whenever Gay shot the ball, but for the most part, I hoped for the best. Some part of me clung to the idea that with the right coaching and direction, this team of misfit toys could bring us a winning record come Christmas for once, which of course did not happen in large part because Gay was shooting more and worse than ever.
When you strip away all the bells and whistles, basketball, like many other sports, is a competition of which team can translate their possessions into more points. Throughout his career, despite being gifted with size, athleticism, awareness and ability, Rudy Gay has consistently turned a whole bunch of possessions into very few points, and therefore he’s not very valuable. Despite what everyone wants to believe, he doesn’t make his teammates better, he can’t run a decent offense and despite being a “high-impact player”, he merely affects the form of the team, rather than the bottom line. He is a relic of the past, the days of yore when points per game mattered more than points per possession, true-shooting percentage, or anything else for that matter. Despite his burgeoning salary figure, the Raptors gave up very little in this deal.
As for the players coming back, I’m glad that the Raptors got some salary relief. Although I’ve always maintained (and still do) that Gay will turn down his player option in favor of job security, the risk of Gay opting-in was a potential ax that dangled precariously over the flexibility of the roster.
Acquiring Rudy Gay was a terrible decision, therefore getting rid of him can only be a good one. Rudy Gay’s deficiencies are well-documented and the man was a net-negative in every category so watching him depart is a net-positive (by a lot). The trade is nothing more than the deconstruction of the roster handed to Masai Ujiri by Bryan Colangelo. Two of the most frustrating players in Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay have been shipped out, and the Raptors can now at least boast of a leaner cap situation.
None of Salmons, Vasques, Patterson or Hayes appear to be long-term prospects, but all of them are decent role players (well, maybe not Salmons). Nothing to build a franchise around, but good enough to pepper across your roster to add some depth. Having said that, the question remains whether this is a move to tank or a move to improve. I can’t say this is a tank-move because this trade does improve the team (addition by subtraction, and such). At the same time, it obviously isn’t a blockbuster that pushes the team to the next level. What it is is a step, a step that sets up the Raptors by saving them money this summer – $12.4M to be precise. So if you evaluate this team from a flexibility and personnel perspective, you have to like it because:
- Got rid of a cancer before it metastasized
- Improved team depth for this season
- Freed up playing time for a first round draft pick (Terrence Ross)
- Upgraded the offense by getting rid of a one-on-one player, hopefully resulting in more team-ball and more touches for another draft pick (Valanciunas)
- Freed up cap space for the summer
- Got a chance to have a long look at Patterson and Vasquez as they’re RFAs next summer
It’s hard to argue with this one. Wonder if Ujiri is done? Is Lowry next now that his buddy is gone? Is DeRozan even in Ujiri’s plans (remember the Bledsoe rumours)? It’s all shaping up to be quite interesting.
In trading Gay, Ujiri has undone the last big move by his predecessor, Bryan Colangelo. The players Toronto got in return weren’t as important as ensuring Gay’s $19.3 million option wouldn’t clutter the Raptors’ cap next summer. This deal reduces that commitment to Hayes’ $6 million salary and the $1 million guaranteed portion of Salmons’ contract, enabling Toronto to clear approximately $17.5 million in cap space.
This is only the start for the Raptors. Getting this trade done early will allow Ujiri to package Vasquez and Patterson as part of deals before the deadline. (Players acquired in trade can only be traded individually for two months, a restriction that will expire a little less than two weeks before the Feb. 20 deadline.) Both players should have some value as experienced starters in the final seasons of their contracts; whatever Toronto gets for them is a bonus on top of the cap relief the trade will provide. Point guard Kyle Lowry….
With Isaiah Thomas moving into the starting lineup at point guard and either Ben McLemore or Marcus Thornton at shooting guard, the Kings should be able to put more outside shooting around Gay than he has had in either of his previous two stops. In that sense, this might be the best situation he has ever enjoyed. But adding Gay to the mix presents other issues for Sacramento. He’ll have to share the ball with Thomas and Sacramento anchor DeMarcus Cousins, who have combined usage rates north of 60 percent of the team’s possessions. As much as possible, Kings coach Mike Malone will want to stagger his rotation so just two of the three players are on the court together.
There’s also the crucial matter of Gay’s $19.3 million player option for next season. If Gay opts in, the Kings are now committed to…
More of the same, but from a superstar of the NBA bloggosphere.
Zach Lowe, over at the Bill Simmons branch of the mothership, had a couple thoughts on the Rudy Gay trade. Here’s an excerpt:
And so here we are: The last remaining Rudy Gay suitor has agreed to send four rotation players to Toronto in exchange for Gay and (very tall) salary filler. If you’re even a medium-level NBA fan, you probably know the names of all four players going to Toronto. But don’t be fooled: This is a salary dump. This is not about Patrick Patterson, or Greivis Vasquez, the league’s second-leading assist man last season. This is about Toronto sloughing off Gay’s endless barrage of midrange bricks and beginning a full teardown — with the potential for a top-five pick in this draft, max-level cap space this summer, and similar space every summer going forward.
Here’s the thing: This deal, by itself, may well make the 2013-14 Raptors better. And that’s why we should expect the Raptors to begin (or continue) gauging the market for both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry as we approach December 15, after which most free agents who signed over the summer are trade-eligible again. Dwane Casey, the team’s head coach, may also be in trouble, depending on Ujiri’s timetable with the position, per several league sources.
As McNulty with a fake/real British accent would say, spot on.
It’s not often that a tank-triggering move makes a team better, but I think last night’s trade of Rudy Gay may have achieved just such a paradoxical outcome.
At this point we don’t need to delve too deeply into all of the ways that Rudy Gay was hurting the Raptors. His low-percentage, shot-happy, turnover-prone style of play has been torn apart and blogged about in so many corners it’s amazing to think he’s only been at it for 39 days this season. He was a “star” player, though, and so his departure is meant to signal the inevitable descent in the NBA’s basement, except that there is a chance that this move could actually make these Raptors better rather than worse, especially if Dwane Casey doesn’t get the memo on losses becoming a priority.
With Gay gone, that means the Raptors have freed up 15.9 shots and 57.8 touches per game to give to more efficient scores and more intelligent playmakers. Without even considering the incoming players, that means more looks for Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, Kyle Lowry and the noticeably-improved DeMar DeRozan. That means fewer accommodations need to be made for a player that will simply arrest the offence by holding the ball and making decisions at the pace of an MLB pitcher. That means players might feel encouraged to move without the ball because now there is a better chance they’ll actually see a pass if they get themselves open. By removing just one player the Raptors have completely blown apart their offence, and considering that offence ranks in the bottom-third of the NBA, that can’t be a bad thing.
Of course, Gay wasn’t just sent away, there were players sent back to Toronto in return. There is the pass-first point guard Greivis Vasquez, the sweet-shooting big man Patrick Patterson, the exceptional post defender Chuck Hayes and three-point threat (and one-time near-Raptor) John Salmons. While collectively this group brings a much more flexible cap situation to Toronto (the biggest motivation behind last night’s trade), they also bring play that might actually interrupt the team’s hopes of cascading down the Eastern Conference standings.
Vasquez represents the kind of player that most Raptors fans began coveting as soon as they saw what Dwane Casey’s offence would look like if run by someone other than Jose Calderon. Vasquez is a true playmaking point guard and, mercifully, someone who should finally be able to put Valanciunas and Johnson back into some pick-and-roll situations. While he’s been splitting time this year with Isaiah Thomas, last season he ran the point in New Orleans to the tune of nine assists per game, good for third in the NBA. He simply has a great feel for passing the ball to open teammates, which is a skill that Raptors fans may have forgotten existed after watching this team play through 18 games this season.
While he’ll immediately become the team’s backup point guard, supplanting the putrid three-headed monster that was attempting to hold down the position, it is likely to be a short-lived stay on the bench. Not only will Casey probably see the same benefits to starting Vasquez that he saw in starting Calderon last season, expectations are running rampant that Lowry will be the next Raptor shown the door as Ujiri continues to de-Colangelo his roster before the trade deadline. Either way, his ability to run a functional offence (the Hornets scored 104.5 points per 100 possessions last season with Vasquez on the floor, which would have been enough for a top-ten offence) will greatly improve the club’s bench production until Lowry is traded, and may even improve aspects of the starting unit’s attack if he can fully recapture his form from a season ago.
After Vasquez comes Patterson, a player that Raptors were intrigued by in the draft three years go and someone who could possibly supplant Steve Novak in the role of stretch four if he can return to his ’12-’13 shooting from behind the arc. Patterson may not be as deadly from three-point range as Novak (although he did manage to shoot .386 from three last season), but even still he’s a great pick-and-pop option that will help spread the floor for Valanciunas and DeRozan while also providing help in other areas like offensive rebounding and post scoring – something that Novak simply cannot do. As an offensive partner with Valaciunas, you can see the benefits immediately, with Patterson pulling power forwards out of help position and leaving Valanciunas more room to operate on post-ups and more space on dives to the basket.
Unfortunately, what has really held Patterson back in his career thus far has been his defence. It’s not good. Since Valanciunas has not yet developed into the kind of defender that the Raptors expect him to be, playing the two of them together could be problematic at that end. While they fit very nicely on offence, neither one looks capable of picking up the slack for the other on defence. Considering Casey’s predisposition to favour defence first, Patterson may not see enough minutes in the team’s now-crowded frontcourt to affect the rotation in any meaningful way.
That situation could be exacerbated by Hayes, a rugged defender and tremendous team-first guy that Casey may have trouble keeping off of the court, especially when Valanciunas is playing. Despite being hilariously undersized for a centre (6-foot-6), Hayes knows every trick when it comes to positioning and angles and has acted as the last resort on defence for some very good defensive teams in Houston. On paper he replaces the outgoing Aaron Gray, but in reality he is offers so much more to this team. The Kings were 3.8 points per 100 possessions better on defence when Hayes plays this season and were 5.8 points per 100 possessions better last year. The Raptors defensive efficiency has been in a free-fall of late and since Casey knows that he needs a top-tier defence to prove his worthiness as a head coach (in Toronto or elsewhere) you can expect to see Hayes log time, possibly and probably at the expense of newcomer Patterson.
The last new addition is John Salmons, the player that controversially backed-out of a deal with the Raptors in Colangelo’s first year with the club to sign a more lucrative deal with the Kings back in 2006. Salmons is an infuriatingly inconsistent player, but he tends to play really well after he’s been traded and his three-point shooting accuracy (.381 this season) could help offset the loss of Gay’s strong three-point shooting this season. Also of benefit to the Raptors, Salmons is a willing passer. This is why he stands a chance of inheriting the starting small forward spot, because he combines that three-point shot with an ability to get the ball to his teammates, a combination that Gay was never able to master. At 15.0, Salmons possesses an assist percentage that exceeds that of every regular Raptors rotation player outside of Kyle Lowry. Just imagine, the Raptors starting two players that are interested in moving the ball – it’s almost a notion to incredible to be believed.
Of course, Salmons doesn’t have the starting spot yet, and truth be told he may never get it because, again, he’s maddeningly inconsistent. He’s sort of the kind of player that fans tend to hate to have on their own team, which is why it’s also a positive that he’s owed only $1 million on his deal next season, which means the Raptors are almost sure to waive him this summer.
Regardless of how Salmons plays, though, this club has just done a pretty significant remodelling job on large swaths of their roster, and how the rotation shakes out will take a couple of weeks to determine. You can definitely expect Vasquez to get serious minutes, and Salmons will likely see time considering how shallow the wings are. Patterson fits ideally next to Valanciunas on offence, but Hayes fits better on defence, and lest we forget the Raptors already have two effective big men in Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough that have yet to give any reason to be unseated from their spots in the pecking order. There is no doubt that more trades are in the pipeline, but who knows how long that will take. There may be another trade tomorrow, or it may take until February for the next player to be dealt away. Until then, Casey has to figure out how to make his new rotation work, all the while knowing that he’ll likely have to remake it again at some point, all while fighting for his job that seems to constantly be in jeopardy.
Maybe that’s Ujiri’s grand plan, though. Maybe he plans to keep this roster so destabilized that they are never able to create any chemistry or momentum at any point this season, thus leading to a poor enough record to players in the 2014 NBA draft. At 7-12, the Raptors are ninth in the NBA standings, which is not good enough by tanking standards to be considered a ‘success’. At this point I maintain my stance that this team is too good right now to compete with the worst that the NBA has to offer. Last night’s trade, while removing a big name player, actually goes a long way towards balancing the club’s roster and addressing holes that were previously holding them back. They’ve ditched a terribly inefficient forward and replaced him with an a solid backup point guard, two effective big men and an erratic-yet-capable wing that tends to play his best basketball after he’s been traded. The Raptors may be signalling a move into tank mode, but I don’t know that they’ve actually gotten any worse as a result.
RR 3-on-3 Tournament:
64% of 99 voters strongly approve
In the end, the move amounts to nothing more than a salary dump. Of the four players that the Raptors are receiving, only Hayes, scheduled to make nearly US$6-million, has a fully guaranteed contract next year. John Salmons’ US$7-million can be bought out for US$1-million, while the other two players will either become restricted or unrestricted free agents, depending on whether the Raptors extend them qualifying offers. The Raptors believed Gay was very likely to exercise his US$19.3-million player option for next season, based on his marginal effectiveness and what similar talents received last year. If that is the case, the move clears as much as US$12-million of salary for next year.
While there’s no player of Gay’s talent coming back to Toronto in the deal, the move give the club a ton more financial flexibility as well as one of the league’s top pick-and-roll point guards in Vasquez. The Raptors worked out Patrick Patterson in the draft where they selected Ed Davis, and he should give the club some needed depth up front. Salmons at one point was a do-it-all wing type and a solid perimeter defender but his stock has dropped in recent years and is likely viewed more as salary cap fodder. And finally Chuck Hayes, while undersized at the forward position, will replace a lot of what Quincy Acy provided in terms of hustle and rebounding.
“One of my best friends (hello there, Ed Davis) got traded last year and I had to go out and play,” DeRozan said recalling that tough night in Atlanta late last January. “It’s just something you have to deal with. I mean we’re still friends at the end of the day. It’s not the end of the world. We’re just not teammates. You just go out and play.” DeRozan said he never allowed himself to think there was actually a possibility that it might be him on the move. “Nah, I don’t think about it like that,” DeRozan said. “I just go out there and do whatever I can and let my game speak for itself and leave it up to management.”
Coming off a career year in New Orleans, where he averaged 13.9 points and 9.0 assists, Vasquez fills a need for the Raptors at the point guard position and also makes Kyle Lowry expendable in a subsequent trade. The 26-year-old Venezuelan excels in the pick-and-roll, a weak point for Casey’s Raptors and could help aid the continued development of Jonas Valanciunas.
How off-the-radar was the Gay trade? Even 48 hours ago sources close to the Raptors and around the NBA were saying the same thing: moving the Raptors’ $19-million man was proving so difficult and the market for a fading, high-volume shooter who has shown no ability or aptitude for meshing in an offence that didn’t revolve around him that Ujiri had basically given up trying to move him.
Minnesota, Lowry for Barea/Shabazz Muhammad/2nd? Minny wants vets and Flip hates Shabazz, yet drafted him anyways.
yle lowry has been playing better ball as of late, averaging 14pts/7 ast with a good 3pt % and could def be a great asset to a team, contending. He has a cheap contract that expires at the end of the year of about 6mil. I think a mid to 20s pick is fair. would any teams do this?
The trade for Gay was one of the last acts of former Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo, who resigned last summer. New general manager Masai Ujiri has been attempting to offload long-term contracts, and this move accomplishes that. Combined with the trade of Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks during the offseason, the Raptors will have cleared more than $20 million off their books for next season.
That’s called good business. Ujiri got the deal done with his former assistant from Denver, Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro, who gets an asset capable of taking some of the scoring burden off DeMarcus Cousins. If Gay decides to walk as a free agent, the Kings are no worse off.
The Raptors had 11 players available after holding out Gay, centre Aaron Gray and forward Quincy Acy, all set to head to the Kings in exchange for Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes. That turned out to be plenty, thanks to two Los Angeles natives. Johnson, who attended nearby Westchester High School, went 14 for 17 and surpassed his previous career high early in the third quarter. Johnson didn’t take a shot in the fourth, but USC product DeRozan and Lowry held off the Lakers.
“I really applaud our players and that’s what you can do when you really band together,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “No disrespect. It has nothing to do with the trade, but that’s the way you have to play — together and moving the ball.”
An MRI Saturday in Los Angeles showed the injury to be nothing more than a sprain. “I don’t think it’s going to be very long,” Hansbrough said Sunday before the game. “It’s already feeling better and it’s just a matter of me being able to play with it.” Hansbrough said his arm went sort of numb when it first happened.
While there was plenty of speculation about the impact of these 2 major changes to each teams’ lineup, no one really knew what to expect, but it was the 6-12 Toronto Raptors racing out to a 15-4 lead that the Lakers could never quite overcome. In the end it was a 106-94 win for the visiting Raptors.
In a game marked by the presence of Kobe Bryant and the absence of Rudy Gay, the Toronto Raptors secured a much-needed win. The Raps have been bitterly disappointing lately due to their inability to maintain early leads, but that wasn’t the case on this night.
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|Amir Johnson, PF 36 MIN | 14-17 FG | 4-4 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 32 PTS | +22The easiest A+ we’ve given out all season. Kind of fell off in the fourth when the team stopped looking for him down low, but he absolutely eviscerated Pau Gasol tonight and turned a lot of the Raps’ more questionable possessions into buckets with some great rebounding. Finally got to play a big part in the Raptor offence and made the most of it.|
|Landry Fields, SF 31 MIN | 0-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +9Got the start in place of the now-departed Mr. Gay and promptly took (and missed) three 3s. The defensive effort was solid, and he was effective on Kobe, but, then again, everyone was effective on Kobe tonight.|
|Jonas Valanciunas, C 28 MIN | 2-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +9Kind of hoped he’d have a big game tonight with Robert Sacre (seriously, WTF?) starting opposite him at center, but, for the most part, he looked lost out there. I was disappointed the second unit didn’t look to feature him more. On the plus side, showed some nice passing and was literally right beside Amir for a few of his put-backs, which would have boosted his stat line a bit.|
|Kyle Lowry, PG 37 MIN | 8-13 FG | 6-6 FT | 5 REB | 8 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 23 PTS | +19I won’t give him an A+ out of respect for Amir’s career night, but he was the straw that stirred the drink tonight. Got his hands in the Laker passing lanes over and over again, started the fast break with some excellent outlet passing, and even got in on the offensive rebounding action. Oh, and he only missed one shot from inside the three point line.|
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 41 MIN | 8-19 FG | 10-11 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 3 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 26 PTS | +22Not the best shooting numbers, but he showed he can still succeed with the defence keying on him as the number-one option. Kind of hit a lull in the second and third, but settled down the offence in the fourth when it looked like the Lakers were going to close the gap with some nice floaters in the lane and a bunch of key free throws.|
|Steve Novak, SF 28 MIN | 1-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -9Steve, I’m sorry. From here on out, you’re getting a grade from me based on your stat line from behind the arc. 1 for 9 gets you an F. Every. Time.|
|Julyan Stone, SG 11 MIN | 3-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -7Much, much better than his effort last time out in Phoenix. Got his assists by looking for Amir Johnson every chance he got, which was an excellent decision tonight, and keyed the only real run the bench had in the fourth quarter with a couple of nice drives (one he finished with a monster dunk in traffic). One of his best games of the year.|
|Terrence Ross, SG 28 MIN | 4-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -5Have a rough game shooting from outside (missing some wide open threes), but he was super-active on the offensive glass – those three boards could have been way more if he got a few bounces his way. Played reasonable D and banked in a half-court 3 at the end of the first for good measure.|
I almost want to give him an F for the sake of continuity/hilarity, but he gets a pass tonight after one of the most fluid offensive games the Raps have played all season. He had a tough job tonight with a severely depleted lineup due to the trade and Hansbrough being injured, and besides one head-scratcher of a lineup late in the third (Stone/Ross/Fields/Novak/Val) that nearly let the Lakers back in the game, he handled it well.
This isn’t The Doctor is In. This isn’t Talking Raptors. This is the Arsenalist talking to James Ham from Cowbell Kingdom about the Rudy Gay deal. Old school style. Give this cat a follow, if not for his sick basketball knowledge then for his hair. Give his site a follow at @cowbell_kingdom too. Also, sign up for the tournament as an individual or a team.
Listen up as:
Related to Rudy Gay deal:
Do a little more math and the Raptors will be at $47,343,133 at the end of this season if things hold, well under the cap.
The Massiah has answered our prayers.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings have agreed on a trade involving Rudy Gay. The deal breaks down as follows:
Salmons will earn 7.6 million this season and is on the books for 7.0 million next season, but the second year is only partially guaranteed and can be waived for 1 million dollars (Ujiri will definitely waive him).
Chuck Hayes is slated to earn 5.7 million dollars this season and 6.0 million dollar next season.
Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson’s contracts both expire at the end of this season.
Here are the per-game numbers of the incoming players:
And the advanced statistics:
Somehow, some way, Masai Ujiri found his dance partner in this year’s equivalent of Bryan Colangelo (GM Pete D’Alessandro, formerly of the Denver Nuggets). In getting rid of Catch-22, we Yossarians are finally able to escape the endless “long-two and iso-ball” horror show.
Don’t get it twisted – this is little more than a salary dump for Masai Ujiri. Rudy Gay has a player option for 19 million next season and if Ujiri waives Salmons and renounces Vasquez and Patterson next off-season, the Raptors will save nearly 13 million dollars next season.
However the Raptors did acquire some interesting pieces. Vasquez (or Dad’s Grey Biscuits, as Tas Melas likes to call him) is a young pick-and-roll point guard who had a semi-breakout year with the Pelicans last season (14 ppg, 9 apg). He will likely slot in at back-up point guard (or starting point guard should Lowry be dealt) and help stabilize the rudderless bench unit.
Patterson is a pick-and-pop big who can stretch the floor. He will likely contend for minutes at power-forward (he’s too small to play center). Chucky Hayes (also undersized) is a solid post-defender and and excellent locker-room presence. Salmons is washed up and will probably be glued to the bench (remember how hard Colangelo tried to sign this guy? Irony).
A full breakdown and analysis of this trade will be posted tomorrow morning at 9 AM. I’ll leave you with my two cents on the deal:
This is probably the only time anyone outside of Toronto was looking forward to a Raptor game this season, but leave it to Kobe to keep this Raptor team in people’s minds; we can only hope this isn’t one of those record setting type days. While we would like to see Kobe in classic form, we don’t want to see him drop 82 for example.
Just to recap what a big deal his return is:
I realize I’ve left out a ton of detail, but the last time I turned my ankle playing pickup with my buddies, I was out of commission for 6 weeks. I realize I’m not a elite athlete getting millions of dollars of treatments, but I remember a time I used to tighten my shoelaces and walk it off.
The Raptors are glad to start a new week, after the humiliating loss to the Warriors, and the loss to the Suns who haven’t read the memo they are supposed to be tanking (and are a half-game behind the Warriors for the 8th seed).
The Lakers sit two games behind the Clippers for the Pacific, beating the Kings and dropping a tightly played affair to the Blazers, and sit a game out of the playoffs heading into tonight’s game. Anything that Kobe can give this team, that doesn’t look like hero ball, will be huge:
“I don’t think it’s a magical number,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said after practice Saturday when asked about a minute range for Bryant. “He’s totally well and ready to go. I think he’ll be limited by his wind and ability to be able to take the pounding. So, I would be surprised if more than in the twenties. It shouldn’t be any more than that.”
And unsurprisingly, no one knows what to expect from Kobe:
“I think there will be some ups and downs,” D’Antoni said. “Now, it’s Kobe Bryant, so I don’t know that. Anybody normal would have ups and downs. You might play well the first couple games then fall off a little bit or start off kind of slow and build your way up. So, it will be an adjustment period for him and also for us.”
Mike D’Antoni is coaching his ass off. He’s squeezed a dollar out of $0.15; somehow starting Jodie Meeks, Steve Blake, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill (along with Gasol) and going .500 in the West. Go…!
Rey: Mike D’Antoni is a master of finding guys out of nowhere and making them into something (Jeremy Lin, Earl Clark, Chris Duhon, Boris Diaw, etc). The thing about D’Antoni is that, for the most part, he gives his players leeway and the freedom to shoot so long as there is good ball movement and spacing. I’m not sure if most other coaches can take this squad to a .500 record. D’Antoni knows full well what the strengths of his team are and, boy, does he accentuate them.
Darius: What D’Antoni does very well as a coach is promote a style of play that most players enjoy and then creating buy-in when the players have success doing it his way. Last year, of course, that success never really came and the buy-in didn’t occur until the threat of missing the playoffs was staring them in the face. But, this season, the guys are hanging in a tough conference and doing it without Kobe, creating more confidence in what they’re trying to do on both sides of the ball. So, yeah, give D’Atnoni credit for fostering an environment that these players can be successful in and harvesting some of the talent in these reclamation projects that other coaches were not able to do. However, the players also deserve a lot of credit. It is clear that many have worked on their games in the past year and have improved on skills that they needed to in order to become better players. Now that they’ve gotten an opportunity in a system that gives them some freedom and inspires confidence, they are running with it.
What exactly is spaghetti cake, and why is this need to know info for Nick Young who is playing well; I mean, I was expecting Gasol to have murderd him by now?
Rey: Spaghetti cake sounds disgusting. Nick Young’s play, however, is not and it’s a bit surprising. Does he take bad shots? Of course, but D’Antoni doesn’t seem to mind it. And it’s because of that confidence by D’Antoni that Shaggy P (hey, Jeff Van Gundy called him that and I will, too) has a renewed focus on defense. It feels like he would be rewarded if he plays hard on that end of the floor. And he’s definitely a better fit on the bench when he can chuck more shots than he can get away with as a starter.
Darius: Of all the guys signed during the off-season, Young was the one who concerned me the most. Not because he’s a bad guy or doesn’t have talent, but I knew his reputation as a ball-stopper and feared that his history of being a below average defender would outweigh his ability to create shots and be a solid scorer. I think what we are seeing, though, is a guy who loves playing in his home town and loves being a Laker. He’s bringing good energy to both sides of the ball and making more good plays than bad. He’s still Nick Young and will still hoist bad 20 fadeaway footers, but I can live with that on most nights if he’s also working hard on D and trying to get to the rim in transition.
The Kobe contract is a polarizing one. Bill & Jalen seem to think it is paving the way for Kobe to win his 6th championship in three years when Love and Westbrook come home. So a few questions: would Kobe have taken less? Why was he offered so much (Kobe says he signed what was offered)? Why was he offered so much while he was off with an achilles injury? How many more years does he have left?
Rey: Would Kobe have taken less? Maybe. But he made it clear that he wasn’t taking a paycut before (he ended up doing so but not as much as a Garnett/Duncan would). The Lakers organization wanted to reward Kobe for his loyalty so they gave him that amount, for better or worse. The franchise wanted to keep him happy instead of lowballing an offer and risk insulting him. How many years does he have left? Before the Achilles, I’d say he had a good three years left. But right now? I have to see him play first before I can come up with a reasonable conclusion.
Darius: Let’s work backwards here. I think Kobe can play 3-4 more years at a relatively high level should he remain injury free. He’s so skilled and works so hard, he could extend his career to 20 seasons and still be a very good player in this league all the way through the end (sort of like John Stockton). So, in terms of his contract, I think the Lakers offered him the money they did because 1). they think he can still play at a high level and 2). he is worth that much to their organization as the face of the franchise. As I wrote, this deal does make their lives harder in terms of building a winner under this new CBA, but I am sure they have seen enough of him in workouts and practice to think they can build a competitive team with him still being a centerpiece player while making a high salary. Whether that ends up being true remains to be seen.
What is this teams upside with a healthy Kobe/Gasol and a Steve Nash who can play 20+ minutes of product ball a night?
Rey: The West is tough. But I can see them winning 45-48 games tops. Will they? I think there’s a chance but I won’t be surprised if they finished below .500. I do expect the Nuggets and Mavs to drop off a bit while I expect the Warriors and the Wolves (to a lesser extent) to catch fire. I definitely expect the Suns to drop out altogether and I can’t forget the Grizzlies although losing Marc Gasol was huge. With that whole mess, that could squeeze the Lakers into the playoffs. This is the most confidence I’ve had on the team all season. Who thought they would go 10-9 without Kobe?
Darius: First of all, I’m not sure that scenario exists. Pau has already been banged up this year (he’s currently nursing a sprained ankle) and, considering what type of injuries he’s dealing with, I am to the point that I don’t expect much from Nash for the rest of this season. All that said, if all three were as you describe and considering what the rest of the roster has shown they are capable of, I think the Lakers can top out at between 48-50 wins on the year. Before the season I had their ceiling at 48 wins with the thought that they’d probably win between 42 and 46 games to compete for the 8th seed. I still think that’s about where they end up, but with the way they’ve fought and competed this season, it would not surprise me if they outperformed my original prediction.
A few thoughts:
The line is Lakers -5.5 with an over/under of 204.5. The Raptors generally don’t fair as well when the pace and score climb, and with Kobe’s return, the emotional factor and fan support will be off the hook. I like the Lakers tonight, but with so many eyes watching this one, Casey will want to avoid a laugher, might start to listen to his assistants and call some plays and such…sub players in at the right times, call timely timeouts, you know, coach…
This post-game report is an obligation. It is not written because I want to, but because it has been assigned to me and I must produce an article. There used to be a time, I remember, that I used to derive some pleasure out of writing about the Raptors. Those days are long gone, a distant memory where Vince Carter and Antonio Davis drift in and out. Nowadays, it’s all about getting through a Raptors game without shaking your head, without wondering just why so much of your personal time is dedicated to this seemingly lost cause. These are disturbing thoughts so to distract me I’ll talk about this game briefly, show you some GIFs and call it a night.
Dwane Casey gave Tyler Hansbrough another shot in the starting lineup ahead of Amir Johnson. To me that’s replacing one bench player with another, kind of like robbing Peter to pay Paul but whatever. The Raptors got down early after some turnovers which were converted to fast-breaks, Hansbrough promptly got his shoulder injured (left game, didn’t return) and Amir Johnson stepped in to have a terrific game.
[Did you check out the Quick Reaction from Suns Game?]
The score was tied at the end of the first, the bench got a lift from Novak, and Rudy Gay went on one of those runs where he shoots greater than 50% for a brief stretch. If that happens in the fourth quarter he’s hailed as clutch, the truth is that his “hot stretches” happen randomly and last night it was the second quarter where he went 4-6FG in 8:32 for 9 points. Other than that, he was 2-9 FG for the rest of the game. Credit to him for keeping the Raptors in it at halftime.
Jonas Valanciunas had a nice first half where he found himself in passing positions, usually at the top of the key and made some good decisions which netted him three assists. I’ve been calling for his passing abilities to be leveraged in the offense for some time and last night, at least for the first half, it worked well. In the second half his usage dropped significantly because the Raptors forget what works and their coach doesn’t seem to remind them.
It took about two minutes of watching the third quarter to figure out that the Raptors had no chance to win this game. Why? The energy wasn’t there and the Raptors started taking “tired shots” – shots that are born out of not just an ability to execute, but out of not even bothering to execute. They are shots that, when taken, the viewer is left shaking their head at just how, in such a close game, the Raptors are self-destructing at the slightest sign of adversity. The point differential in the quarter was only -5 but it may as well have been -30 because Phoenix had gained the upper-hand by dominating the glass (53-36 for the game), and the Raptors were obliging by taking one-and-done low quality shots. You don’t need to be a basketball guru to figure out how things turned out.
Dwane Casey has yet to impress me with anything, specifically his ability to recover from a negative position in a game, and that’s what the third quarter presented. So I know without a shadow of doubt that the game was over, that there was absolutely no adjustment the Raptors could or would make to reclaim balance. I don’t even remember what the lineups were because they don’t matter. The lead ballooned to the 10-12 range in the fourth and when the Raptors needed to settle down, buckle up, and make a stand, these are the kinds of possessions they produced. Click on the link to view the HTML5/GIF clip.
Overall in the fourth quarter, the combo of DeRozan, Gay, and Lowry went 3/12. Blah. There’s also tons of defensive stuff I can talk about but I’ll just leave it at the Suns shooting 51% of the game. Remember, Casey is a defensive coach and he can’t even get an honest effort out of the guys.
Losing faith here, losing faith big time.
Take your mind off things – here’s the World Cup draw.
|Tyler Hansbrough, PF 3 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -6Went out early with a shoulder strain and didn’t return. Given the softness of the Raptor D inside, he was sorely missed, which says plenty about the state of this team.|
|Rudy Gay, SF 32 MIN | 6-15 FG | 4-4 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTS | -6The stat sheet doesn’t show it, but I think this was one of his better games offensively this season. Seemed to have an eye to distribute and didn’t resort to the early in the shot clock look as much as DeMar did. His defensive effort, though, was generally nonexistant. PJ Tucker outplayed him on that end continuously, which should never happen.|
|Jonas Valanciunas, C 29 MIN | 4-10 FG | 3-4 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | -15Showed some nice creativity on offence – a couple of gorgeous passes to cutting wings stand out in particular. On defence, though, he was basically a pylon. He needs to find a way to a) stay in front of his checks and b) be stronger and not give up initial position down low so easily. He also seemed to have some issues with the Suns’ high pace.|
|Kyle Lowry, PG 39 MIN | 7-16 FG | 5-6 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 21 PTS | -11The Raptors’ only consistent offensive option – given the way he blew past Bledsoe and Dragic so regularly, he should have done it far more often. Not a great game from 3 by his standards which helps explain his poor shooting percentage. Got lost a few times on D, but, honestly, the whole team looked lost on that end for most of the game, and Bledsoe/Dragic are tough marks.|
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 39 MIN | 5-15 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | -17He reminded me a lot of the DeMar we got used to seeing the past few seasons tonight. Poor decision making on offence and a lot of forced shots, coupled with a lackadaisical effort on D = not his finest hour.|
|Amir Johnson, PF 33 MIN | 9-15 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 22 PTS | +9The guy deserves better than getting booted from the starting lineup and glass-cleaning on offense. He worked his butt off out there and was effective despite being the only real muscle the Raptors had down low. The Lowry/Amir pick-and-roll is very effective and should be used far more often. This would have been a blowout were it not for him.|
|Landry Fields, SF 18 MIN | 2-4 FG | 1-1 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -3The only Raptor wing that seemed to give a crap on D for the entire game. Had a nice 3 point play and even a backdoor dunk in the first half.|
|Quincy Acy, SF 0 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0Got in for 12 seconds at the end of the first half. Stood in the block for those free throws like a champ.|
|Steve Novak, SF 20 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +6Hit a couple threes, which is honestly all anyone should expect out of him. Again, it’s not his fault he’s playing extended minutes. That said, the Raps are basically four-on-five when he’s out there. Why he’s playing crunch time instead of Jonas is just beyond me.|
|Julyan Stone, SG 18 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -10I’m sure he’s a nice guy. But he’s not an NBA caliber player. Playing him for the whole second quarter was either a not-so-subtle tank job or an absolutely brutal coaching decision.|
|Terrence Ross, SG 9 MIN | 0-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +8You’d think, given the Suns’ pace of play and the difficulty their guards have in staying in front of their checks, that this matchup was made for him. Instead, he was more or less invisible, though I blame some of that on coaching. The guy needs to be put in a position to succeed if he’s going to succeed. This complete lack of a system that is not.|
|D.J. Augustin, PG DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS | Hey coach, remember me?|
It’s almost too easy to give him an F at this point – but when the rotations are this messed up and the offence is this stagnant, the buck ultimately stops with him. There were some good things on offence in the first half, followed by a reversion to hero-ball in the second – not many coaches can make negative adjustments in the locker room like Casey can. If the Raps are serious about tanking, keep him for the year. If not, he should have been out the door a month ago.
Last summer, there were three teams that were rumoured to be going after Eric Bledsoe in trade talks. Orlando, Phoenix and our Toronto Raptors. As we know, it was the Suns that won the Bledsoe sweepstakes and a team that everyone picked to be one of the worst teams in the league, right now has a winning record in the West (10-9). If the Suns played in the Eastern Conference, they would be a third seed. In the West, they are sitting at nine.
Bledsoe is currently averaging 18.8 ppg on .491 from the field, grabbing 4.2 rpg and dishing out 5.9 apg while sharing point guard duties with the equally impressive Goran Dragic. Together, those two lead a very surprising Suns team that has done just about everything management can to tank, including trading their productive starting center, Marcin Gortat, to Washington for a guy who might never play again and a first round draft pick.
The Suns also have first round picks from Minnesota AND Indiana. So they will have four first round picks, in 2014, three of which will probably be pretty decent. And they are probably a Dragic trade away from quickly losing ground in the West and entering the tank zone, if they choose.
About the only thing not to like about what the Suns are doing is them deciding to go with the stupid trend of sleeved jerseys.
I mean, is there ANYONE who really thinks these sleeved jerseys look good? Why are teams doing this? But I digress…
The Raptors, on the other hand, traded away the guy who had a negative impact on the team and strengthened the bench. They had apparent momentum after a strong finish the previous season, but while the Suns are doing better than expected, the Raptors have been a major disappointment for most Raptor fans and currently sit with a 6-11 record, good for 10th in a horrid East.
After the debacle that happened in Golden State, this game against the Suns is a gut-check. Too many of the Raptor players seemed to be fine with losing the 27 point lead. Hold on, let me just clarify this. Not only did the Raptors give up a 27 point lead, but it was a 36 point turnaround in less than two quarters.
You almost need to want the other team to win in order to allow that. A game like that has so much stench to it, that a roster purge seems almost inevitable just to get rid of it. Kind of like what Dallas did when they collapsed in the Finals against the Heat in 2005. Only two players remained on that team when they went to the Finals five years later and won.
Of course, the Raptors roster remains intact, for now.
Some fans will want me to point to some positives. Like the Raptors defense, that is rated 12th in the league. Of course, this is the same defense that gave up 42 points in the all important fourth quarter against the Warriors. Zach Harper, of CBS Sports, looked at just how poor the defense was in that game, and it’s a bit horrifying. He even included screenshots, for those who like pictures.
He also included this Tweet:
In the 4th quarter, the Warriors’ offensive rating was 207. Two Hundred and Seven. Over two points per possession…
— Kevin Draper (@kevinmdraper) December 4, 2013
And they gave up 36 points to Denver in the fourth quarter in the previous game.
They had played good defense in the fourth quarter in many of the other recent games, but consistency is what separates good teams from bad teams. If the Raptors don’t play good defense, they don’t win because they are one of the worst shooting teams in the league and back in the basement in assists.
The teams that the Raptors have had the most success against have been lower scoring teams, like Memphis and Boston. The Raptors are near the bottom of the league in pace, and we saw what happened against Golden State when the pace sped up. The Raptors simply don’t have the firepower to compete with higher scoring teams.
The Suns are a middle of the road team in scoring, but near the top of the league in field goal percentage. Interestingly, they are near the bottom of the league in assists, just a few slots above the Raptors, despite basically starting two point guards. This could be an indication that the Suns might have trouble against a good defensive team. The question is whether the Raptors will be playing good defense tonight. And whether they will do it for a full 48 minutes.
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS
Will DeMar DeRozan continue his hot shooting?
DeRozan has shot 50% or more in 7 of the last 9 games, and has shot 46% from the three point line in those same 9 games. And he’s scoring 25.4 ppg during that time. While it might seem it will last forever, logic dictates it won’t. The degree of difficulty in a lot of the shots he’s been hitting has been high, and lots of players go through hot streaks. The question is how long will it last.
He had a similar 9 game streak at the end of last season. And no Raptor fan can forget Bargnani’s mythic 13 games.
Phoenix features a small backcourt (Green, who is a shooting guard, starts at small forward), and DeRozan usually plays well against smaller opponents he can post up. If Bledsoe defends him, though, Bledsoe is a strong defender, and I literally mean strong. He might give DeRozan difficulty in the post, if he defends him, but DeRozan should have his way with Dragic.
Will Rudy Gay continue to suck?
Gay was finalist in Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose’ Least Value Player Award, for the first Birdmester of the season. Simmons, on his most recent BS Report, also called Toronto the worst team in the league to watch, thanks mostly to Rudy Gay.
The stats don’t even do justice for how bad Gay is playing. He’s become the butt of jokes among NBA analysts almost on the level of Rob Ford. Okay, not really, but Toronto is not looking good, right now, thanks to the combination of Ford and Gay. When Golden State was in the midst of it’s comeback, Gay was nowhere to be found. Not exactly what you want from what is SUPPOSED to be your best player.
In theory, Gay should dominate the much smaller Green, inside, but coach Casey will probably end up going small to match the Suns, moving Gay to the four. And Gay will probably continue to pound the ball into submission as he makes up his mind whether to take a long two or a contested long two. Decisions, decisions.
Will Jonas Valanciunas play more than 27 minutes?
Phoenix has the type of front court that Valanciunas tends to dominate. Channing Frye has decent size, but he doesn’t really have the strength or bulk to defend Valanciunas in the post well. And the only other players on the roster above 6’10 are rookie Alex Len and Viacheslav Kravtsov, who have combined for a total of 54 minutes.
This is the type of game that Casey should use Valanciunas to punish the smaller Phoenix players, but we all know how much he likes to go small. Playing small will play right into the Suns hands and will mean we won’t see Valanciunas in the fourth quarter, as usual.
No matter who plays point guard, the Suns have an advantage. Bledsoe is physically dominant and Dragic is a crafty player who makes those around him better. Lowry and whoever backs him up will have their hands full.
DeRozan has been on a hot streak, but both Dragic and Bledsoe are simply more productive players than DeRozan. If DeRozan isn’t scoring, there’s not much he can do to help the team, unlike Bledsoe and Dragic. The one advantage DeRozan has is his size and his history for playing well against smaller opponents.
Gerald Green takes four fewer shots than Gay, yet scores just two fewer points. Gay does shoot better from the three point line, get to the line more, grab more rebounds and actually dishes out more assists than Green. Of course, my guess is that Green actually touches the ball about thirty minutes less a game than Gay does. Gay is a better player, but he hasn’t been playing that way. Still, there’s always the chance Gay will actually decide to have one of his better games.
The Raptors have Amir Johnson, who was one of the few who played well against the Warriors, and Tyler Hansbrough, who has played well enough to get pushed into the starting lineup. The Suns have one of the Plumlee brothers. I’m not sure which one, but I’m not sure it matters. They both play pretty much the same way. They also have BOTH Morris twins, and they both are having very good seasons.
As I said, this is the type of matchup Valanciunas should do well in. Both he and Frye play the same amount of minutes and score about the same amount of points. But while Valanciunas does most of his damage in the paint, Channing takes 4.6 threes a game and hits close to 40% from there. Will Valanciunas be able to defend Frye on the perimeter?
I’m going to go with Valanciunas, but there’s a chance that Frye could have a great game because there really isn’t a big who can defend him out at the three point line, and players like Frye tend to have big games against the Raptors.
While Casey’s days might be numbered, rookie head coach, Jeff Hornacek, has been a great find for Phoenix. The team has overperformed, they look well coached and he’s done well with a oddly constructed roster. Hornacek has been able to relate to the young roster and gain their respect.
On paper, the Raptors look like they are a more talented team than the Suns, but the game isn’t played on Paper. The Suns have been playing well, while the Raptors are the leading candidate to have the next players only meeting. As far as I know, there isn’t a Raptor who has a house in Phoenix they can all get together (they’re 2-0 after such events), so it’s hard to envision the Raptors breaking their losing streak just yet.
Score: Suns 94 – Raptors 86
How a single sequence from Stephen Curry changed the fortunes of an entire franchise.
In his youth, when he was no more than a budding sapling with his feet rooted in a pair of Converse sneakers, he dreamt of this moment. He had pictured it a million times in his mind. He had lived it. He ran all through all the scenarios, exploring the myriad of endgames in the same way a computer solves complex multi-variate matrices.
When the moment finally came, his mind and body were ready. Psychology, athleticism, instinct and practice collided with opportunity, and in that fleeting sequence, the hardwood equivalency of a big-bang, a paroxysm of hoops emanated from the fingertips of a savant.
In one fell swoop, Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors knocked out the backpeddaling husk of the Toronto Raptors.
Our narrative picks up at the midpoint of the fourth quarter. Curry and his merry band of yellow-clad teammates were stuck 8 points to the Toronto Raptors, but the tension inside Oracle Arena was bubbling to a precipice. Not too long ago the lowly Raptors surmounted an improbable 27-point lead, and the game looked to be well out-of-reach for the Warriors. Somewhere in the suburbs of Chicago, a sleepless Chuck Swirsky put down the remote and rummaged through his fridge for his favorite midnight munch – a salami and cheese sandwich – but he dared not eat. The immortal and partially inhuman Kobe Bryant had taught him better. Rather, the sandwich sat by his table-side like a trophy, a spoil of war waiting to be ransacked.
Demar Derozan stood on the left side of the floor with fourteen seconds left on the shot clock. A nervous bead of sweat blazed down his neck, searing his senses. He knew that his Raptors faced two enemies – the Warriors and the clock. To his right, referee Marat Kogut blew sharply into his whistle, tilting the hourglass in Demar’s mind. He had five seconds to inbound the ball.
Amir Johnson flashed to the wing, but the aging husk of Jermaine O’Neal, fueled only by the necromantic spells of the Warriors training staff, draped himself over the back of Johnson like a cape, limiting Amir to merely tipping the ball back towards the sideline. Alertly, Demar jumps into the fray and seizes control of the ball as Johnson tumbles over. Demar waits patiently for Amir to gather himself, before calling for a pick. Unfortunately, the Warriors are fully prepared and the duo of Thompson and O’Neal conjoin like clockwork to ICE the sideline screen-and-roll, leaving Demar without an avenue to the basket. Alertly, Johnson notices this and rolls down the lane. Out of options, Demar springs up in the air and rifles a two-handed pass to the rolling big.
Curry watched the entire play unfold. He knew that his man Kyle Lowry would not dare leave the corner for a baseline cut, for the Raptors lacked ball-handling like Raptors fans lacked self-respect. He also knew that with his teammates icing the ball-handler, a pass to Lowry over top of the outstretched arms of O’Neal was not feasible. Therefore, he sagged off his man and poached in the lane, laying in the weeds for the opportunity to spring like a trap. As soon as he saw Amir rolling towards the basket, he hedged, knowing that a pass was imminent. When the pass was thrown, Curry pounced and tapped the ball to Draymond Green, who has apparently lost more weight than Curry ever weighed.
In the blink of an eye, the possession changed hands, and Stephen Curry was racing up the floor.
With the ball nestled safely in his hands, Curry jetted towards the Raptors’ half of the court. The hapless Raptors, running on borrowed time and banking on the tardiness of an impending regression, dutifully backpedaled onto into their own end, eager to play the role of immobile object against the onslaught of unstoppable force. The Oracle, having prophesied a victory, sensed the tides of cruel momentum shifting in their favor. Fans stood up and craned their neck over top of one another hoping to catch a glimpse of their franchise point-god crafting magic.
Rudy Gay, the 17 million dollar enigma, he of the 7-foot wingspan and bound-2-less athleticism picked up Curry while Tyler Hanbrough came barreling down the floor to join him. Curry scaned the court, assessing the play and doing the calculus. His numbers were limited; Lee and O’Neal were slowly trudging up the floor and Green had stopped short of the three-point line. The abacus in the abstract said no, but the equation in Curry’s mind had already been solved. With all the pieces in motion, hawked by assailing eye of SportVU cameras, Curry hoped into the air and with one flick of his left wrist, he lobed a pass across the court to his fellow splash-brother Klay Thompson, who rises up over the exasperated and shocked Demar Derozan and cans his league leading 66th three-pointer of the season to bring the Warriors within five.
Curry’s sequence served as a wake-up call to every player, coach and manager in the Raptors organization. Rudy Gay knew it. Dwane Casey knew it. Masai Ujiri knew it. The dumbfounded Raptors, stunned by the moment, suddenly found themselves starring into the mirror, and they saw themselves for the first time. They saw the imperfect monstrosity; the flawed go-to-guy, the predictable offensive system, the lack of assets on the roster. Forget lofty championship aspirations – that’s reserved for teams with players like Curry – the Raptors were nothing more than a chided roster of misshapen players, a mishmash of puzzle pieces that when assembled, form a mediocre roster.
If it wasn’t already, change is now imminent. Masai is painting a “FIRE!-sale” sign while Tim Leiweke and Drake are busy concocting excuses to feed the media. Rudy Gay is keeping his bags packed, Kyle Lowry is too. By the laws of economics, their value can be maximized elsewhere, which therefore necessitates a trade. The same goes for veteran bench producers like Hansbrough and Novak, who are known commodities at this point, and are ready to switch allegiances at anytime like mercenaries on a battlefield.
Change is overdue for this Raptors squad. The organization is a stack of Jenga after a dozen rounds; it’s still standing, but remove one more block and the whole thing comes crashing down. Stephen Curry, who once roamed so innocently on the ACC’s court, nipping at the feet of his father, might have just pulled the plug, mercifully putting down this accursed franchise, blazing it down to a pile of ashes from which a Wiggins-shaped phoenix may rise.
Hopefully, that is.
This week on The Doctor is In with Phdsteve, I have called in the boys from the world wide roundtable to talk ball and we have a discussion about all the action in NBA and NCAA while continually tying it back to the Raptors! Joined by my brother Mike (who knows college basketball), and Blair Miller from The Fifth Quarter Blog we discuss:
As the Raptors try to pick themselves up from the wreckage in Golden State where they frittered away a 27-point third-quarter lead and ended up losing 112-103—”We were hit by a three-point train,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said via text message. “We played as well as we could for three quarters and as bad as we can for the fourth”—there is an uncomfortable reality setting in around an organization that can no longer fool itself about what it might take to get out of the mess they’re in. And that reality is that it’s going to take time to make this right. A lot of time.
The Raptors have shown they can be as good as any of the bottom 5 playoff teams in the East and when the schedule turns in their favor, their record will likely reflect that. The real question for Toronto becomes, is that an acceptable level of play? It is hard to believe that it is. Whether Toronto ends up as that middle of the pack also-ran playoff team probably comes down to what President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri decides to do over the next month.
Many are calling for the head of coach Dwane Casey at this point. While a game like that is one that I think ranks right up their as one that can get you fired I doubt we will see that happen anytime soon. After all the Raptors most likely will be making the shift to rebuild mode sooner than later. Casey’s contract ends at the end of the year and I doubt the Raptors will be in a rush to find his successor.
“I, uh, did a lot of stuff in my past,” Clark tearfully said at his plea hearing in Vermilion County Circuit Court in Illinois, The News-Gazette reported. “I have to own up to it.”
If Ujiri really does decide to blow it up, and Gay truly can’t be traded, then we have to hope that Rudy doesn’t opt in next year. Perhaps if we treat Gay even worse then Bargnani, booing him every possession for the rest of the season, we can hurt his feelings enough to not return. I say we as raptor fans, turn on him harder then we did on BC, make booing Gay viral and make the opt out happen.
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After the absolute drubbing the Raptors received against the Warriors, yesterday, one hot topic of discussion has become how long Dwane Casey will remain head coach of the Raptors. In fact, by the time you read this the Raptors may have a new coach.
According to the incredibly scientific poll1 conducted here, 40% of Raptor fans believe Casey won’t even last through the current road trip (they play at Los Angeles and Phoenix before heading home to play San Antonio) without getting axed by Masai Ujiri.
On a personal note, there was a closeup of Casey at one point during the Warriors comeback in the fourth, and I felt bad for him. He LOOKED like a guy who knew he was on borrowed time. Casey certainly isn’t a good head coach, but he’s apparently a good guy and anyone losing their job is sad. He is a hard worker who has the right attitude. He just doesn’t seem to have the talent.
Casey was hired two and a half years ago to great fanfare and optimism. Coming off a Championship as the defensive coach for the Mavericks, Casey promised to instil a defensive mindset among the players and change the culture. This was music to the ears of Raptor fans who had seen far too many poor to mediocre coaches, throughout it’s history, leading poor to mediocre teams.
The first thing Casey did was place a 1300 pound boulder inside the locker room to symbolize the new mentality the team was expected to take. While the “pound the rock” mantra was definitely not new in the NBA, Greg Popovich was the first to use it, Casey took it to new heights with an actual rock.
In his first season, the new attitude seemed to take hold, and team went from the 30th Defensive Rating in the League to the 14th (not great, but still a big improvement) and ended up winning more games than most, including Bryan Colangelo, expected.
While fans were still debating about the roster, the GM and the direction of the team, optimism was high about the coach for the first time in a long time.
Fast forward to today, and I’m not sure whether a Raptor coach’s stock has been lower. And that’s saying a lot. Jay Triano wasn’t well liked by the end, but at least you could point to a few positives and to a roster that really had no chance of success, no matter who was in charge.
Under Casey, this year, the team’s biggest foundation piece, Jonas Valanciunas, has regressed and can’t seem to find the floor during the fourth quarter, the offense is just a series of isolation plays that result in a bunch of contested long jumpers, and there hasn’t been a game this season that Casey hasn’t been out-coached by his counterpart.
And the only argument to NOT fire Casey seems to be that he’s actually helping the team tank.
So without getting into what the team should or shouldn’t do, in that respect, let’s take a look at the options the Raptors have….
At this point, the only reason the team should keep Casey as the head coach is if the goal is to get a top pick in the upcoming draft. And while it might sound like a joke, that actually might be a good reason to keep Casey. Casey, himself, is responsible for at least a couple of the team’s losses this year. Keeping him on might just go a long way to reducing the win total for the team over the course of the season.
On the other hand, in both seasons that Casey has been head coach, the team has played much better in the second half than the first half, so there’s a risk the Raptors, under Casey, could see an improvement in play at the worse time. Again, if the team’s goal is for a high draft pick.
Plus, there’s also the not so little issue of Jonas Valanciunas’ lack of development, this year. While with the Raptors, Casey has shown a lack of ability to develop young talent, especially big men. Ed Davis only got consistent minutes when Casey had no choice but to play him, despite playing well in the limited and inconsistent playing time he did receive.
I don’t see how Casey can last much longer, though. The team is playing poorly, he’s not developing his players well, and the fans want his head.
Whenever a team has a head coaching vacancy, the majority of fans want a coach they’ve heard of. And that usually means an experienced head coach. Raptor fans aren’t any different.
It makes sense. If you know a coach is pretty good, then you choose him over a complete unknown who might just be a continuation of the coaching carousel that has been the Raptors organization.
In the comments section of one of the articles, one reader (whose name I can’t remember, and I apologize for not crediting him) pointed out that of the eight coaches the Raptors have had, six had never been head coaches in the NBA before. And it’s not as if the team has had a whole lot of success, in the coaching department, so the argument was that the Raptors needed to go with a coach who had a successful track record, this time.
There have been a number of names thrown around, but the most common ones have been Jeff and
Stu Stan Van Gundy<sup”>2, Lionel Hollins and George Karl. I don’t think anyone else should be in the conversation. Some coaches, like Byron Scott, Scott Skiles and Doug Collins have failed too many times to consider.
And keep in mind that the Raptor head coaching position isn’t the only one rumoured to be soon available. The Knicks, Nets and Cavs head coaches are probably keeping uHaul on speed dial, at the moment.
JEFF VAN GUNDY
Van Gundy is already making plenty of money in broadcasting, so money is not going to entice him to step into a coaching role. And now he’s being mentioned as a possible replacement on the Knicks bench if and when Woodson gets fired. He always regretted leaving the Knicks and this would be a possible way to return, but only if he was given say in personnel decisions.
Toronto isn’t the prime destination that the Knicks are, and have little on the roster to entice Van Gundy out of broadcasting, so I see little chance he’s a possibility.
STU VAN GUNDY
Like his brother,
Stu Stan is comfortable in broadcasting, right now. And without an enticing situation, it’s doubtful he’ll want to drop everything to take over a team as poorly constructed as the Raptors.
Besides, while Van Gundy has seen success, he’s also been heavily criticized during both his coaching tenures. In both Miami and Orlando, it was claimed he would crack under too much pressure, which is not a trait you want you team to take after.
Either way, I don’t see Van Gundy agreeing to take over the Raptors.
Fans of Hollins point to the job he did in Memphis, and he did do a fine job there. He took a struggling team and helped turned it around, on the court, eventually coaching them to the Conference Finals. His teams play hard-nosed defense and seem to overachieve, so it looks like an obvious fit.
Unfortunately, Hollins doesn’t exactly have a great record in terms of developing players, especially big men. Thabeet never should have been drafted where he was, but he regressed after a subpar rookie season. Ed Davis has not shown the promise he did while in Toronto. Several young players have gone on to more success after leaving Memphis. Even Gay was basically the same player he was at the end of his tenure in Memphis as at the beginning.
And then there is the issue of analytics. In this day and age, coaches need to be open to analytics, even if they don’t fully embrace them. Even the old school Popovich is well known for changing strategies based on what the numbers tell him. Despite the most success the team has ever had, Hollins was let go from an organization that is moving towards analytics.
Successful organizations have a GM and a coach who are completely in tune with one another, and if Hollins is averse to analytics, then I’m not sure he’s the right man for the job.
A lot of Raptor fans seem to think Karl and Ujiri have a great relationship because he was Ujiri’s coach in Denver, but Ujiri never hired Karl, and the team never did poorly enough to give reason to fire him. At this point it’s impossible to know what the relationship is between them.
The thing about Karl is his teams always achieved plenty of regular season success, but usually underperformed in the playoffs. That in itself is troubling, especially knowing that Karl isn’t the greatest coach at making adjustments when they need to be made. You just have to watch the Denver-Golden State series to see plenty of examples of that.
It’s true that Karl’s teams usually are exciting, that’s not a reason to hire him.
The biggest reason not to hire Karl, though, is he’s never left an organization on good terms. And that’s a problem if you’re trying to create a stable organization. One thing Karl has never seemed to learn is when to keep things in house. He routinely takes his gripes with players and management to the media, and there is usually far more drama surrounding his teams than there should be.
Karl is also 62 years old, a year younger than Lenny Wilkins was when he took over the Raptors. I don’t think getting a coach on the tail end of his career is the best idea for an organization that is is still years away from contending. This is the same reason I’d never consider Jerry Sloan, despite me being a huge fan of his coaching career.
While hiring someone fans don’t know might not make them happy, teams are more likely to find great coaches, nowadays, by searching through the assistant files than finding an out of work head coach.
Tom Thibodeau, Frank Vogel, Greg Popovich and Eric Spoelstra, who are four of the top probably five or six coaches in the league are all coaching their first NBA team. And of the teams that seem to be performing better than expected, most have head coaches who are new to the job. Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, Denver’s Brian Shaw, Orlando’s Jacque Vaughn, Phoenix’s Jeff Hornacek, Philadelphia’s Brett Brown and even Boston’s Brad Stevens all have impressed with their coaching ability and look to be the new wave of successful coaches.
The problem with the Raptors is not that they’ve hired too many coaches without head coaching experience. The problem is they’ve hired too many below average head coaches.
And just because fans haven’t heard of a coach, doesn’t mean he’s going to be a worse prospect than someone you’ve heard of.
Seven different Chicago head coaches have taken the Bulls to, at least, the second round of the playoffs. All but one had never been an NBA head coach before, including Tom Thibodeau and Phil Jackson.
The most likely scenario, though, is that if Casey is let go, one of his assistants will simply move up as interim head coach. In a season like this one, there’s no real point in trying to bring in someone mid-season. Other teams don’t tend to let their assistants go in the middle of the season, so the pool of talent to choose from is pretty small. And the Raptors aren’t in a position that would require someone to come in right away and turn things around, because they simply don’t have the talent to do that.
The best scenario is to wait until next summer, when the Raptors will (hopefully) be in a better position than they are in now to attract a head coach, and cast their net as big as possible.
Read this plea to Masai from just a regular Raptor loving fan. Come and sign the online petition while your at it: http://tinyurl.com/nluyxre
How to lose a game in 12 minutes.
I looked in the thesaurus, but I couldn’t find a thousand synonyms for “collapse”. So here’s a picture instead:
Happy hump-day, folks.
Well, as the title reads, do you guys think DeRozan has done enough to warrant a spot on the Eastern Conference roster for the all-star game this year?
I knew it was coming the whole time. I’m not claiming clairvoyance, and it’s not because I think the Raptors are terrible. It’s because I know that the Warriors are nothing close to as terrible as they were for the first 30 minutes. Even though the Raps were up double digits all game, the way the Warriors were randomly fouling, mailing in defence (even for them) and turning over the ball with such dedicated purpose made me nervous. It had hustle written all over it. I couldn’t get the image of Woody Harrelson awkwardly warming up on the side as Wesley Snipes pretends to be furious about getting stuck with him as a teammate in a money game. The classic hustle that the plotline of White Men Can’t Jump revolves around. The Warriors were hustling us, and the 3-point barrage comeback was always going to happen.
Now, while the Warriors get a ton of credit for pouring it on the way that they did, they got a lot of help getting back in this game. A LOT of help. At some point during the Warriors frenzied comeback, the Raptors went from running a team offence and pretending to play disciplined defence to quite simply emptying their collective metaphorical bowels all over the court and then throwing it.
As I see it, I have only two choices as to how to respond to a 27 3rd quarter lead turning into a 9-point loss in that fashion. I can do what one of the characters from White Men Can’t Jump did when he got hustled like that, and go get a gun out of my car, or I can respond with a series of increasingly snarky remarks. Being that I’m a Canadian and thus do not own a gun, I will go with door number 2, and hurl criticism and sarcasm from behind the sanctity of my ivory tower. What follows is a list of increasingly snarky observations breaking down last night’s collapse.
I love DeMar DeRozan, 3-point shooter. Motion is smooth, his body is so much better set and he fires with confidence.
Amir Johnson has quickly matched his per game statistical output by halftime, despite not starting. It’s almost as if David Lee was just begging for someone to exploit him this whole time.
Raptors are generating ball movement on at least some regular possessions. This continues to open up good shots and seems like it might actually catch on.”
Haha, remember when we thought things like that? Before the dark times.
It was a devastating blow to a Raptors team that really needed a positive of any sort after dropping three in a row at home and heading out west looking much the worse for wear.
“This is a special group.” – Mark Jackson
“It’s one of those where they started hitting the 3 in the third quarter and we couldn’t turn the water off,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “We did an excellent job in the first three quarters and then we couldn’t score in the fourth quarter.”
In the end, it was an epic collapse by the Toronto Raptors as they squandered a 27 point third quarter lead and were out scored 42-15 in the fourth quarter for a 112-103 loss to the Warriors at Oracle Arena on Tuesday night.
“When I was in Indiana I felt like the opportunity wasn’t good enough for me, in my opinion. So I wanted to come to Toronto and be a bigger piece. I didn’t come here to try and start, just be a bigger piece of the picture.”
DeRozan sounds like someone who has spent too much time invested in the welfare of the Raptors. We have seen this before from other players drafted into the organization who grew to become the team’s face, or at least voice — primarily Vince Carter and Chris Bosh. Eventually, being a part of repeated Raptors implosions can wear on a basketball soul. To be clear: DeRozan has not asked for a trade, and remains positive about the city and team.
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He’s having a terrible season and is looking more and more lost by the game. Do you think he’ll recover? I’ve been sticking up for him for a while but the in-game decision making along with the static, motionless offense has now become indefensible. Worst of all, the team isn’t putting in the defensive effort any more, and that’s the one are where he deserved commendation (especially his first year).
There’s no doubt he’s a lame-duck coach (hence the contract situation) but I honestly thought that Masai Ujiri was going to give him a real shot at earning the job permanently, but based on results so far I simply don’t see Ujiri being impressed. If he keeps Casey on while the results continue to go south, it might appear that he’s endorsing tanking.
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|Tyler Hansbrough, PF 29 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-1 FT | 9 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | +7
Got the start and had a solid defensive game. Really competed in the first half despite this not exactly being the grind of a game that he’s best suited for. Things got a little more difficult in the second half with O’Neal there to match the physical presence, but nothing to complain about given his role on the team. Also, him trying to post-up 18-feet out isn’t his fault, it’s lack of direction.
|Rudy Gay, SF 34 MIN | 6-12 FG | 5-6 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 18 PTS | +2
Converted a lot of his isolation sequences, again, mostly in the first three quarters. Yes, he’s playing a lot of me-ball but when you look at the sets the Raptors are running, it’s not like he’s continuously ignoring teammates – that’s what the play appears to be designed to do: have Rudy go one-on-one! I can’t believe he lost that jumpball in the fourth. More shockingly, I can’t understand why, despite having the physical tools and the skill, he is not a more consistent defender. He talks about being a “team leader”, well that usually starts on the defensive side and he’s shoddy at best.
|Jonas Valanciunas, C 27 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 8 PTS | -4
Started well but got hit with a couple fouls that weren’t necessarily of his doing, Struggled defensively against O’Neal and was unable to produce anything in the post with O’Neal in there. This was one of those games where it became more evident how much he needs to get strong physically before he’s considered a legitimate force.
|Kyle Lowry, PG 38 MIN | 7-13 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 9 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 20 PTS | +3
Solid game, really solid. Took it hard at Curry, distributed beautifully in the half-court and transition, and played excellent defense up-top. He was coaxed into taking desperation/bad shots late in the game when the offense died due to zero movement, but I won’t hold that against him.
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 43 MIN | 10-18 FG | 4-5 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 26 PTS | -18
The go-to man for the Raptors delivered in the fourth on several occasions, but isolation plays will only get you so far, eventually you’ll have to play team-ball to sustain success. Much like Gay in this game, I’m not blaming DeRozan by any means for taking questionable one-on-one shots, it’s entirely due to to the structure of our “offense” that those shots are produced.
|Amir Johnson, PF 33 MIN | 7-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 16 PTS | -18
Produced big time in the bench role. Struggled a little early but then took full advantage of the pick ‘n roll situations he found himself in. Drained a couple open jumpers, but then again, took that horrible three with the game tight very late on. Once again, I lay the blame on Casey, not the player.
|Landry Fields, SF 4 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +6
No idea he even played.
|Steve Novak, SF 11 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | -13
Hit a huge set of threes in the first half to really give the Raptors momentum, but had no business starting the fourth quarter where no plays were run for him at all. The Raptors essentially played 4-on-5 for the first part of the fourth as Novak was like a chicken with its head cut off. Blame Casey.
|Julyan Stone, SG 10 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -12
Good defense overall on Curry, some of the high trapping in the second half was questionable as it led to open threes for the Warriors but I’m guessing that’s by instruction.
|Terrence Ross, SG 10 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +2
Disappointing game for him because you’d think this type of tempo might suit him. I was surprised to see him get the hook so soon, and somewhat undeservedly. I thought he was needed at the start of the fourth, not Novak.
He rode the hot-shooting to a big lead, but then did not make a single adjustment to preserve that lead. Starting Novak against a gunning GSW offense in the fourth was silly, the out-of-timeout plays in the fourth were all isos, the decision to leave their three-pointers open to trap the PG was appalling. He’s not long for this job. This is how I envision him.
Did anyone notice how no GSW player came out to defend the Amir three? Yeah, that's for a reason and it's not cuz they missed the coverage
— Raptors Republic (@raptorsrepublic) December 4, 2013
[Did you vote? Poll: What Will Be Dwane Casey’s Fate?]
[Did you read Ten Reasons NOT to Trade DeMar DeRozan?]
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Here’s 10 reasons not to trade him:
It’s easy to poke holes at DeRozan’s game – yes, we know he’s got defensive problems, but sometimes people need to look at the coaching (or lack of) our players have received. We’ve had Jay Triano and Dwane Casey managing player development, two guys that are entirely unproven as head coaches and motivators in the NBA. Before we trade DeRozan for a pick and satisfy the devastating cravings of TankNation, maybe it’s better to look at the positive developments of the player and see where he can fit in the future, rather than trading him for an entirely uncertain one.
Spots are available in the Winter War – RR’s 3-on-3 tournament, sign up your team now.
When Zach Lowe speaks, we listen.
Over at the Bill Simmons branch of the mothership, Zach Lowe wrote about “young players who are looking to make the leap to greatness”. In the article, he gives his thoughts on several budding stars across the league, including Ricky Rubio, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and our very own Jonas Valanciunas. Here’s a bit of what he had to say:
I’ve tried to avoid second-year players here, but I’ll make Valanciunas an exception, since he came via the 2011 draft and carried very high expectations into this season after hitting double figures in 14 of his last 15 games last season, flashing a polished post-up game in the process.
But Valanciunas’s game had stagnated before a ferocious 18-point, 11-rebound effort against Denver on Sunday.1 His minutes are barely up, and Dwane Casey hasn’t consistently trusted Valanciunas to play crunch time — mostly because of Valanciunas’s struggles to execute Toronto’s defensive schemes. He’s using just 17.5 percent of Toronto’s possessions, a below-average number for a high-profile starter, and barely above his rookie-year share.
One reason is simple: This team belongs to Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan, for better or worse. Even sets that don’t start with those guys — a Kyle Lowry–Valanciunas pick-and-roll, for instance — probably will end with one of them isolating, curling around a screen, or taking a dribble handoff before dribbling a bunch and heaving a midrange jumper. Lots of Toronto possessions look great for 12 seconds, before devolving into hero ball for the last eight or 10. “He’s third on the food chain,” Casey says, “and sometimes even fourth. Our offense is built around Rudy and DeMar.” Valanciunas is often left to simply get out of the way and prepare for an offensive rebound.
But it’s not all on the wing “stars.” The classic image of Valanciunas to this point is of him setting a pick, rolling down the lane, and raising both his arms in the air, convinced he’s wide open — and then pouting when he doesn’t get the ball
But Valanciunas often rolls to the hoop before making any contact on his pick, meaning he has provided Kyle Lowry, Gay, or DeRozan with no daylight — no space to penetrate, no clear angle to hit Valanciunas in the lane. “He feels like he’s open,” Casey says, “but he’s not. He’s just so far down there. He needs to learn the short roll.”
Pretty bang on, right? Anyway he goes on to break down Jonas’ misadventures on defense as well. Give the whole column a read – Zach Lowe is always worth the ALT+TAB experience. Happy Tuesday!
Now that we’ve reached December, we are fast approaching the Dec 15th date to remove restrictions on new player movement. Since the trade talks are likely to heat up, it seems a good time to take a minute to reflect on what we’ve seen so far. Are the Raps meeting or exceeding expectations in any areas? What surprises have we seen?
This week, we’re talking with TSN’s Gareth Wheeler about all things ball, the topics include:
Be sure to check out RR’s 3-on-3 tournament to be held on Feb 15 – sign up your team now!
Whether you believe that The Raps should tank and get their future centerpiece or whether you believe that they should take advantage of their week division/conference and go for a playoff birth and a series win isn’t the goal of this discussion. Its to discuss who we should trade and who we should keep and what direction that puts our team in going forward. Come and share your 2 cents.