Last 200 articles shown.
|May 20, 13||Colangelo Out as GM…but not completely||Tim W.|
|May 18, 13||Source: Raptors Making a Run at Ujiri||Doc Naismith|
|May 17, 13||100 (or way fewer) Words: John Lucas III||Blake Murphy|
|May 16, 13||100 (or more?) Words: Jonas Valanciunas||Blake Murphy|
|May 15, 13||Remedial Chaos Theory and the 2012-13 Toronto Raptors||Blake Murphy|
|May 15, 13||God bless him for trying||Arsenalist|
|May 14, 13||Rapcast #156: The Doc Is In – Roundtable with Mike Gennaro and Greg Mason||Sam Holako|
|May 11, 13||Colangelo’s Fate Decided Later This Week?||Doc Naismith|
|May 11, 13||Move out my way||Arsenalist|
|May 10, 13||Realistic Options Regarding Andrea Bargnani||Doc Naismith|
|May 10, 13||100 Words: Andrea Bargnani||Blake Murphy|
|May 9, 13||Open Gym: Missing The Playoffs||Arsenalist|
|May 9, 13||Open Gym: On Team Chemistry||Arsenalist|
|May 9, 13||Lessons From The Playoffs (So Far)||Tim W.|
|May 8, 13||Ex-Raptors Assistant GM, Masai Ujiri, wins NBA Executive of the Year||Arsenalist|
|May 8, 13||Rapcast #155: The Doc Is In – Roundtable Discussion, Tying Back to the Raptors||phdsteve|
|May 7, 13||100 Words: Aaron Gray||Blake Murphy|
|May 3, 13||100 Words: Alan Anderson||Blake Murphy|
|May 2, 13||Rapcast #154: Phil Jackson, Jason Collins, More||phdsteve|
|May 1, 13||The Hangout: Dwane Casey on MEM v LAC||Blake Murphy|
|May 1, 13||Snoop Raptor||Arsenalist|
|May 1, 13||100 Words: Rudy Gay||Blake Murphy|
|May 1, 13||Open Gym: Season Finale Preview||Sam Holako|
|May 1, 13||DeMar and Rudy in LA||Sam Holako|
|Apr 30, 13||Quincy Acy swimming with the dolpins||Sam Holako|
|Apr 30, 13||100 Words: Quincy Acy||Blake Murphy|
|Apr 29, 13||Much Respect to Jason Collins||Blake Murphy|
|Apr 28, 13||Top 3 Raptors GM Off-Season Priorities||Doc Naismith|
|Apr 28, 13||Tim Leiweke Interview (Audio), Implications for Colangelo (He’s Gone)||Arsenalist|
|Apr 26, 13||An Open Letter To Tim Leiweke||Tim W.|
|Apr 26, 13||Will the Raptors Actually Make a Run at Phil Jackson?||Doc Naismith|
|Apr 26, 13||MLSE hires Tim Leiweke as president, CEO||Arsenalist|
|Apr 26, 13||100 Words: Kyle Lowry||Blake Murphy|
|Apr 26, 13||Stats: Why Does No One Look at Variance?||Doc Naismith|
|Apr 25, 13||100 Words: DeMar DeRozan||Blake Murphy|
|Apr 24, 13||Rapcast #153: Dissecting Bryan Colangelo’s Press Conference||phdsteve|
|Apr 23, 13||Bryan Colalngelo Season-Ending Media Conference||Sam Holako|
|Apr 23, 13||Thibodeau: “You win with serious, tough-minded players. That never changes.”||Doc Naismith|
|Apr 23, 13||John Lucas or Sebastian Telfair, Debate Rages On||Arsenalist|
|Apr 22, 13||Top Ten Reasons Matt Devlin is Solid on TNT but Terrible When Calling the Raptors||Arsenalist|
|Apr 20, 13||Top 10 plays of the 2012-2013 season||Sam Holako|
|Apr 20, 13||The Raptors Only Win When it Doesn’t Count – Fact or Fiction? + 2014 Playoff Prediction||Arsenalist|
|Apr 19, 13||Rapcast #152: A Season Wrap-Up, Of Sorts||Blake Murphy|
|Apr 18, 13||Thunder rebuffed by Raptors over Valanciunas inquiry?||Arsenalist|
|Apr 18, 13||And That’s A Wrap!||Tim W.|
|Apr 17, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 114, Celtics 90||Andrew Thompson|
|Apr 17, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ Celtics, Apr. 17||Blake Murphy|
|Apr 16, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 113, Hawks 96||Garrett Hinchey|
|Apr 16, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ Hawks, April 16||J.M. Poulard|
|Apr 16, 13||Rapcast #151: Kobe Amnesty – Yeah, We Go There||phdsteve|
|Apr 15, 13||Valanciunas By The Numbers||Tim W.|
|Apr 15, 13||DeRozan, nothin’ but Net||A-Dub|
|Apr 14, 13||Quick Reaction: Brooklyn Broken||Tim W.|
|Apr 14, 13||Gameday: Nets @ Raptors, Apr. 14||J.M. Poulard|
|Apr 12, 13||Reaction: Bulls 88, Raptors 97||Arsenalist|
|Apr 12, 13||Gameday: Bulls @ Raptors, Apr. 12||Andrew Thompson|
|Apr 12, 13||Rapcast #150: Our Draft Pick, Louisville, Michigan’s Roster, Life||phdsteve|
|Apr 11, 13||Fun With Raptors Radar Graphs||Blake Murphy|
|Apr 10, 13||5.3% Chance of Keeping the Pick||Blake Murphy|
|Apr 10, 13||GREAT EXPECTATIONS||Andrew Thompson|
|Apr 10, 13||Amir Shooting Pictures During The Game||Sam Holako|
|Apr 10, 13||Morning Coffee: April 10th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Apr 9, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ Bulls, Apr. 9||Blake Murphy|
|Apr 9, 13||Rapcast #149: Doctor Positivity Cures Your Negativity, or at Least Tries||phdsteve|
|Apr 9, 13||Morning Coffee: April 9th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Apr 8, 13||Raptors Open Gym: The Lost Tapes||Garrett Hinchey|
|Apr 8, 13||Do You Think Casey Should Be Fired?||Doc Naismith|
|Apr 8, 13||Morning Coffee: April 8th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Apr 8, 13||Congrats to “Swirsky”||Blake Murphy|
|Apr 7, 13||You Win Some, You Lose Most – Bucks Crush Raptors||Arsenalist|
|Apr 6, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 83 vs Bucks 100||Sam Holako|
|Apr 6, 13||1000 Denied!!||Tim W.|
|Apr 5, 13||Reaction: Raptors 95, T’Wolves 93||Arsenalist|
|Apr 5, 13||Gameday: Raps @ Wolves, Apr. 5||RR|
|Apr 5, 13||Is Lowry Still the Raptors PG of the Future?||Doc Naismith|
|Apr 4, 13||The DeMar DeRozan Predicament||J.M. Poulard|
|Apr 4, 13||HOW the Raptors Should Do It||Tim W.|
|Apr 4, 13||Raptors Bully the Wizards||J.M. Poulard|
|Apr 4, 13||Morning Coffee: April 4th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Apr 3, 13||Reaction: Wizards 78, Raptors 88||Andrew Thompson|
|Apr 3, 13||12-Year Old Hits Half-Court Buzzer-Beater Shot at ACC||Arsenalist|
|Apr 3, 13||Gameday: Wizards @ Raptors, Apr. 3||Blake Murphy|
|Apr 3, 13||What The Raptors SHOULD Do||Tim W.|
|Apr 3, 13||Morning Coffee: April 3rd Edition||Sam Holako|
|Apr 2, 13||Rapcast #148: Rant Time for Calderon||phdsteve|
|Apr 2, 13||Raps fall to Pistons, Officially Eliminated from Playoffs||Garrett Hinchey|
|Apr 2, 13||Jose almost walks to the wrong locker room||Sam Holako|
|Apr 2, 13||Morning Coffee: April 2nd Edition||Sam Holako|
|Apr 1, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 98, Pistons 108||Garrett Hinchey|
|Apr 1, 13||Well, Somebody HAS to Win, Right?||Tim W.|
|Apr 1, 13||Raptors Drop Two Spots in NBA.com’s Power Rankings||Arsenalist|
|Apr 1, 13||Amri Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas hilarious double-screen; brothers-in-arms.||Sam Holako|
|Apr 1, 13||Raptors Sign Andrea Bargnani to Extension||Blake Murphy|
|Apr 1, 13||Morning Coffee: April 1st Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 31, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ Wizards, March 31st||Garrett Hinchey|
|Mar 30, 13||Looking at Valanciunas and Lowry v. Pistons and In-Season Development||Blake Murphy|
|Mar 30, 13||Morning Coffee: March 30th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 29, 13||Jonas Valanciunas Monster Dunk||Sam Holako|
|Mar 29, 13||Reaction: Raptors 99, Pistons 82||Arsenalist|
|Mar 29, 13||No win, Jose||A-Dub|
|Mar 29, 13||Rapcast #147 – Jonas and the Future||Blake Murphy|
|Mar 29, 13||Thank You Jose #8||Doc Naismith|
|Mar 28, 13||Yes, it’s a column about the Amnesty Provision||Garrett Hinchey|
|Mar 28, 13||ATL Stomped||J.M. Poulard|
|Mar 28, 13||Is Everyone Ready For The Worst Off-season Ever?||Doc Naismith|
|Mar 28, 13||Morning Coffee: March 28th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 27, 13||Quick Reaction: Hawks 107 – Raptors 88||A-Dub|
|Mar 27, 13||Raptors Look In The Mirror Against Hawks||Tim W.|
|Mar 26, 13||What Is Casey Doing Wrong?||Doc Naismith|
|Mar 26, 13||Rapcast #146: The Doctor Is In – Rondo Poll, 2nd Unit Upgrade, Offensive Coordinators, More||phdsteve|
|Mar 26, 13||Morning Coffee: March 26th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 24, 13||Amir Johnson: Not a Mere Johnson||Andrew Thompson|
|Mar 24, 13||Aaron Gray is BIG||Arsenalist|
|Mar 24, 13||Knicks Trounce Raptors, 12 Games Left||Arsenalist|
|Mar 23, 13||Head-to-Head with Dan Litvin||Sam Holako|
|Mar 23, 13||Raptors Lose Gay, then lose to Knicks||J.M. Poulard|
|Mar 23, 13||Morning Coffee: March 23rd Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 22, 13||Reaction: Knicks 99, Raptors 94||Andrew Thompson|
|Mar 22, 13||Targeting Kelly Olynyk In The Draft Can Be A Good Move||Doc Naismith|
|Mar 22, 13||Catching Up With Morris Peterson||Arsenalist|
|Mar 22, 13||Morning Coffee: March 22nd Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 22, 13||Rapcast #145 – We’ll Always Have Linsanity||Blake Murphy|
|Mar 21, 13||What the Raptors Shouldn’t Do||Tim W.|
|Mar 21, 13||Raptors Lose to Worst Team in NBA, Not Too Upset||Arsenalist|
|Mar 21, 13||Morning Coffee: March 21st Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 20, 13||Reaction: Raptors 101, Bobcats 107||Arsenalist|
|Mar 20, 13||DeMar DeRozan video bomb of Amir Johnson||Sam Holako|
|Mar 20, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ Bobcats, Mar. 20||Blake Murphy|
|Mar 20, 13||Morning Coffee: March 20th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 19, 13||RR and HQ Debate Tanking||Blake Murphy|
|Mar 19, 13||Rapcast #144 (Bonus Footage): My Bro Knows College Ball||phdsteve|
|Mar 19, 13||Rapcast #143: Ticket Prices, 35 Wins, Character, OKC Model Myth||phdsteve|
|Mar 19, 13||Morning Coffee: March 19th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 18, 13||The Heat goes on||A-Dub|
|Mar 18, 13||Miami “Exposes” Rudy Gay||J.M. Poulard|
|Mar 18, 13||Disappointing Season, Optimistic Outlook||Doc Naismith|
|Mar 18, 13||Morning Coffee: March 18th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 17, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 91, Heat 108||Garrett Hinchey|
|Mar 17, 13||Rudy Gay with the luck of the Irish||Arsenalist|
|Mar 17, 13||Gameday: Heat @ Raptors, Mar. 17||Blake Murphy|
|Mar 16, 13||Raptors Find The Motivation to Beat Bobcats||Arsenalist|
|Mar 15, 13||Reaction: Bobcats 78, Raptors 92||Arsenalist|
|Mar 15, 13||Gameday: Bobcats @ Raptors, Mar. 15||Blake Murphy|
|Mar 15, 13||Morning Coffee: March 15th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 15, 13||Rapcast #142 – Bloggers with Access||Blake Murphy|
|Mar 15, 13||RR Site Note: Commenting System Update||Arsenalist|
|Mar 14, 13||Terrence Ross going baseline||Sam Holako|
|Mar 14, 13||Breaking It Down: Offensive Decision Making and Stagnancy||Arsenalist|
|Mar 14, 13||Morning Coffee: March 14th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 13, 13||Raptors Never Arrive in Boston, Get Steamrolled||Blake Murphy|
|Mar 13, 13||Ode to Andrea – Three Things That Went Wrong||Arsenalist|
|Mar 13, 13||Andrea Bargnani Done for Season||Arsenalist|
|Mar 13, 13||Bargnani Out For The Remainder Of The Season||Doc Naismith|
|Mar 13, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ Celtics, Mar. 13||Garrett Hinchey|
|Mar 13, 13||Tweak, Sweep or Tw-eep?||Doc Naismith|
|Mar 13, 13||Morning Coffee: March 13th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 12, 13||Raptors Expected To Pursue Carl Landry||Doc Naismith|
|Mar 12, 13||Rapcast #141: The Doctor Is In Because There Are No Sick Days at RR||phdsteve|
|Mar 12, 13||Morning Coffee: March 12th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 11, 13||How Big of a Raptors Fan Are You?||Doc Naismith|
|Mar 11, 13||No Gay, No Bargs, No Problem||Garrett Hinchey|
|Mar 11, 13||Morning Coffee: March 11th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 10, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 100, Cavs 96||Garrett Hinchey|
|Mar 10, 13||Gameday: Cavaliers @ Raptors, Mar. 10||Blake Murphy|
|Mar 10, 13||Video: Jonas Valanciunas vs Lakers – How does he not play 4Q/OT?||Arsenalist|
|Mar 9, 13||Has Rudy Earned An Extension?||Doc Naismith|
|Mar 9, 13||Raptors Lose to Lakers, Fly Home, Jonas Still on Staples Bench||Arsenalist|
|Mar 9, 13||Andrea Bargnani Injured With Strained Right Elbow – What’s Next?||Arsenalist|
|Mar 9, 13||Reaction: Raptors 116, Lakers 118 (OT)||Arsenalist|
|Mar 8, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ Lakers, Mar. 8||Blake Murphy|
|Mar 8, 13||Rapcast #140 – All of the Raptor Things||Blake Murphy|
|Mar 8, 13||Guest Post: Amir Johnson, A Long Term Plan||Prospect|
|Mar 8, 13||Morning Coffee: March 8th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 7, 13||Rudy Gay taking a whiff of Amir Johnson in the post-game interview||Sam Holako|
|Mar 7, 13||Rapcast #139 (Bonus Footage!): The Doctor Talks College Basketball||phdsteve|
|Mar 7, 13||Raptors End Skid with Blowout of Phoenix, Suns Players Shrug||Garrett Hinchey|
|Mar 7, 13||Morning Coffee: March 7th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 6, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 98, Suns 71||Garrett Hinchey|
|Mar 6, 13||Gameday: P.J. Tucker Highlights Raptors @ Suns, Mar. 6||Blake Murphy|
|Mar 6, 13||Morning Coffee: March 6th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 5, 13||Reflections from MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference||Blake Murphy|
|Mar 5, 13||Rudy Gay alley-oop on the break||Sam Holako|
|Mar 5, 13||Rapcast #138: The Doctor Is In – From Optimism to Despair – Is There a Way Back?||phdsteve|
|Mar 5, 13||Chauncey Speaks. Lowry Better Listen.||Doc Naismith|
|Mar 5, 13||No playoffs, no development, no future.||A-Dub|
|Mar 5, 13||Morning Coffee: March 5th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 5, 13||Reaction: Warriors 125, Raptors 118||A-Dub|
|Mar 4, 13||Bargnani leading the fast break||Sam Holako|
|Mar 4, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ Warriors, Mar. 4||Blake Murphy|
|Mar 4, 13||Pre-game dunk contest between Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan and John Lucas before vs. Wizards.||Sam Holako|
|Mar 3, 13||Is The Colangelo Era Coming To An End?||Doc Naismith|
|Mar 3, 13||The Fallacy of the Pass First PG …..||Doc Naismith|
|Mar 3, 13||Raptors Put Up Fight in Milwaukee, Game Lost, Playoff Talk Ends||Arsenalist|
|Mar 2, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 114 vs Bucks 122 – Mar. 2/13||Sam Holako|
|Mar 2, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ Bucks, Mar. 2||Blake Murphy|
|Mar 2, 13||Raptors Offense Offensive, Lose to Pacers, Devlin Still Believes||Arsenalist|
|Mar 2, 13||Morning Coffee: March 2nd Edition||Sam Holako|
|Mar 1, 13||Reaction: Pacers 93, Raptors 81||Arsenalist|
|Mar 1, 13||Enough With The Tanking Rationale.This is Not a Video Game.||Doc Naismith|
|Mar 1, 13||Gameday: Pacers @ Raptors, March 1||A-Dub|
Let’s say you go to the doctor. He says to you, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the deadly disease you had seems to be gone. The bad news is that it’s left you completely impotent and unable to care for yourself.” How do you think that would make you feel?
So MLSE has decided to ask Colangelo back….in a corporate capacity.
If you’re a fan of Colangelo and think he’s done a good job, it’s obviously good news he’s staying, but bad news he’s not running the basketball side anymore. If you, like me, think he’s done a poor job building the team, you’re happy he’s no longer making any more basketball decisions, but him staying on will most likely have dire consequences on the basketball side.
Now, on it’s own, the decision to ask Colangelo to stay on in a corporate capacity is a smart one, because, while I don’t think he has a good enough basketball mind to build a contender, he’s shown to be VERY adept at the business side of his job. The Raptors have remained profitable, even while losing, and he’s got all the corporate-speak down to be able to survive in the boardroom indefinitely.
But let’s say MLSE is able to lure Ujiri away. Let’s say he decides he wants to make some changes. With Colangelo looking over his shoulder from the corporate side, how comfortable do you think he’ll be making those decisions?
I’ll be on PhDSteve’s podcast, this week, where we’ll get into this and a whole lot of other topics, so be sure not to miss it!
This according to Adrian Wojnarowski. Ujiri’s contract expires this summer in Denver and apparently Leiweke has expressed interested in bringing him back to Toronto. Thoughts?
Throughout the NBA playoffs, where we Raptor fans are left to wallow, Raptors Republic brings you the 100 Words Series. Calling on RR writers and other Raptor scribes from around the internet and MSM, we’ll provide the Republic with 100-word takes on players, coaches, management and announcers. Look for these two or three times a week, continuing today with John Lucas. The mission I charged the contributors with was simple: you have 100 words (prose, poetry, song, whatever) to discuss said player.
Andrew Thompson, Raptors Republic
John Lucas the third will go down in memory for me. Not because of the way he played, which was to shoot a lot in a little bit of time and then sit down again, but because he played. My memory is full of the names of ex-Raptor role players whose names pop in to my mind on random occasion for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Acie Earl, Mike James, Tracey Murray, Chris Childs, Rafer Alston, Keon Clark, Joey Graham, Carlos Rogers, Eric Montross and Walt “The Wizard” Williams. John Lucas III joins this illustrious list as his name too will now pass through my brain on an idle Tuesday drive home, as random synapses fire and remind me just how much time I’ve spent watching and thinking about the Raptors instead of doing other things.
Blake Murphy, Raptors Republic
I realize this whole thing is a terribly weak post, but everything I have to say about JL3 can be summed up with this graphic:
He shoots too much and he’s not particularly good at it. If he was just a three-baller, fine, but he doesn’t play that way. The other holes in his game (passing, ruining basketballs by over-dribbling them, defense) make it so that it’s tough to accept him as a backup point guard. It’s likely the team will look to upgrade that spot this summer, as they should.
Eric Koreen, The National Post
Garrett Hinchey, Raptors Republic
I’ve always had a soft spot for this little guy – yes, he’s a 3rd point guard who was given the backup role. Yes, he’s EXTREMELY undersized for the position. And, yes, his NBA-calibre skills basically consist of 3-point shooting and a reasonable handle. But, when he heats up, there’s nothing like watching a 5 foot 10 point guard take over your team’s offense, even for a couple minutes. And there’s certainly nobody questioning the man’s compete level. So yes, John Lucas the Third, you are an extremely flawed basketball player. But you’re our extremely flawed basketball player. And I’ll take 10 hard-fought minutes of subpar floor generalship followed by a mini heat check over watching Alan Anderson go 2 for 18 any day.
PhD Steve, Raptors Republic
John Lucas 3, a haiku
I don’t know this guy
Since he never gets to play
Throughout the NBA playoffs, where we Raptor fans are left to wallow, Raptors Republic brings you the 100 Words Series. Calling on RR writers and other Raptor scribes from around the internet and MSM, we’ll provide the Republic with 100-word takes on players, coaches, management and announcers. Look for these two or three times a week, continuing today with Jonas Valanciunas. The mission I charged the contributors with was simple: you have 100 words (prose, poetry, song, whatever) to discuss said player.
Adam Francis, Raptors HQ
My expectation for Jonas Valanciunas this past season was as follows; about six points and six rebounds a night, some solid defence, and some signs of improvement on O by season’s end. Interestingly, the inverse happened with Jonas’ offensive game being a step ahead of what most expected, with his defence and rebounding taking the bulk of the season to begin to shine through. But he averaged about 9 points, 6 boards and a block a game as a rookie, and seemed to get better with each game, a great sign for a player expected to be a major building block for the franchise going forward.
Blake Murphy, Raptors Republic
I need more than 100 words to get into Valanciunas appropriately, so look for a longer form piece sometime soon. In the meantime, here are some cool/rare/unique things The Lethaluanian did this year:
*15.6 PER, 61.8 TS%, 14.9 Rb%, 5.0 Ast%, 4.2 Blk%
*Among all rookies with 1200 minutes (Jonas played 1482), there have been just 80 players to post a PER of 15, Rb% of 14, Ast% of 4 and Blk% of 4.
*Among those 80, Jonas ranks 5th in TS% and is younger than all but four (Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis, Uncle Cliffy and Andre Drummond).
*He also has one of the highest turnover rates on this list (11th at 17.3%), the key area in which he needs to improve.
Perhaps most importantly, his best months came in March and April – he showed growth and development, and really put some lipstick on this pig of a season. I’m looking forward to watching him grow up in a Raptors uniform. More to come.
Eric Koreen, The National Post
Does anybody else see a world where Bryan Colangelo and the Raptors part ways, Valanciunas absolutely blows up next season (well, becomes a very solid starter), and every basketball writer and blogger worth his or her salt types a piece that re-assesses the Colangelo era? It happened with J.P. Ricciardi, and it just happened with Brian Burke. If Colangelo leaves, Valanciunas is the best candidate to make revisionist historians forget about the general manager’s flaws. At least in part, he will succeed. Next year, Valanciunas scratches “cult” from “cult favourite.”
Garrett Hinchey, Raptors Republic
For all of Brian Colangelo’s missteps as Raptors GM, and there have been many, let the record show that when it came to the 2011 draft, he got it so, so right. It seems crazier by the day to think that there were fans pining for Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker in his place, yet BC – incredibly, ironically, and one-time-only, as it turns out – stood pat, choosing to sacrifice wins now for a smart, sustainable pick: drafting a potential future All-Star, and a cornerstone of the franchise.
Shockingly, it worked out for him. Funny how that happens, hey Brian?
PhD Steve, Raptors Republic
Jonas is the great hope for Raptor fans right now, in that, if he turns out to be what he projects to be then all will be fine with the franchise. Unfortunately since so much hinges on him succeeding, there is little room for error. While I suspect he has what it takes to be successful the fans are now placing so much pressure on him becoming an all-star right away that if he doesnt -the fans will turn very quickly on him (remember raps fans are fickle) . That’s a lot to ask from a 2nd year center. Let’s hope he’s got big shoulders.
Patience Raps fans, patience.
RapsFan/Sam, Raptors Republic
You never trade big for short; that’s what they say (Milwaukee might have words about that), but I admit it stung when we learned that Harden was offered to Toronto for Jonas this summer, until I realized that:
a) Presti can pick talent; trading for Jonas is a serious validation of his worth
b) He finished the season on a very high note, dominating the paint on both ends of the floor, where other rookies in his class started to fade out *couch* Ross *cough*
c) Three letters: CBA … the kid has three more years on his rookie scale contract; a Godsend when you consider some of the albatross contracts on this roster
If he spends the summer working on his strength and conditioning, and developing a polished low-post game (either send him to Olajuwon or force him to watch tapes of Kevin McHale), than there’s no reason not to expect very big things from him starting next season…no pressure but this franchise is depending on you more than it should.
Tim W., Raptors Republic
What can I say about Jonas Valanciunas that I haven’t already said? He didn’t make the All Rookie first team, which doesn’t really matter, but I still disagree with. Personally, I would have put him ahead of Waiters, who’s a low efficiency chucker, and Barnes, who was solid, but unspectacular during the regular season. And I think every team in the league would trade both of them for Valanciunas.
In fact, on Bill Simmons’ annual NBA Trade Value list, the only rookies who were higher than Valanciunas were Anthony Davis (definitely agree), Bradley Beal (don’ t know if I agree, but I see the argument) and Damian Lillard (who reminds me too much of Damon Stoudamire- great numbers when he can dominate on a bad team). I think next year only Davis will be higher.
Although I’m getting this number out of thin air, I’d say there is a 75% chance Valanciunas will be an All Star within 5 years.
There is the odd moment in the NBA where things can change. With the entire basketball world balancing delicately at these crucial moments, small changes can create completely different universes, all of which henceforth exist parallel to one another.
These moments are rare and sometimes seem insignificant, but we can’t possibly claim we understand quantum hoops, yet – they may seem insignificant, but maybe they are the most significant.
This NBA season had one such moment. This NBA season, we all enrolled in Remedial Chaos Theory. Since many are unversed in travelling between alternate basketball realities, allow me to be your guide.
November 21, 2012
The Charlotte Bobcats lead the Toronto Raptors 98-97 in what is almost unanimously considered a meaningless, throw-away game.
As Andrea Bargnani receives the ball on the right side of the floor, he rises for a jump shot that could win the game.
At this exact point in time, the basketball universe is at a fork in its multiverse.
Bargnani lets it fly…
The possible results from this sequence will split the NBA into three different timelines, all existing parallel to each other from here on out.
Scenario 1: The Darkest Timeline
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist fouls Bargnani but the ref does not make the call. Bargnani air balls the shot and basically falls apart from there. The Raptors struggle, trade for Rudy Gay, and are where they are now. Yes, sadly, the Raptors entered The Darkest Timeline in this instance. All around the NBA, stars are injured, the playoffs are excellent but have an injury cloud hanging over them, and Bryan Colangelo appears to survive another year until Tim Leiweke can find a suitable replacement for 2014.
But, it didn’t have to be this way. Luckier fans in a parallel universe (likely with goatees) got a different result and have went down different paths.
Scenario 2: Il Mago-verse
Michael-Kidd Gilchrist fouls Bargnani and the ref makes the call. Bargnani hits both free throws, giving the Raptors the victory. This invigorates the mercurial franchise players, finally giving him a confident swagger to be “the closer.” While his numbers don’t soar to career highs, he is far more efficient and plays a full slate from then on, adding a few wins to the Raptors total.
Perhaps more importantly, the Raptors don’t pull the trigger on a Rudy Gay deal. Instead, with Bargnani’s value high and the Lakers sputtering, the Raptors send Bargnani and Jose Calderon to the Lakers for Pau Gasol.
Raptors: They still hire Tim Leiweke in the offseason but the fan-base is less upset with allowing Colangelo to stick around a year. After all, Gasol was a great partner in crime with Jonas Valanciunas, allowing Amir Johnson to continue to thrive in a bench role and narrowly miss the Sixth Man of the Year award. The Raptors still have a hole at the three, as Terrence Ross didn’t come along quite as hoped with extra playing time later in the season. With little cap space and no draft pick, the Raptors have a healthy core in the paint but need DeMar DeRozan to continue to evolve and hope Landry Fields has a better season in order to complements the bigs and Kyle Lowry, who was up-and-down all year but found a nice chemistry with Gasol late in the season. The Raptors finished ninth in the East, just two games back of the playoffs.
Grizzlies: With the Raptors unwilling to take on Gay’s contract, the Grizzlies dealt a few lesser pieces to try and trim their luxury tax bill rather than get under the line. Jerryd Bayless and Tony Wroten were jettisoned for picks, leaving the backcourt a bit thin. Still, the Grizzlies handled the Clippers in the first round, but ran into a solid Thunder team in the second round.
Rockets: Picked up Bayless for a second round pick, which meant Patrick Beverley wasn’t on the floor in the first round playoff series.
Thunder: With Bayless a less active defender than Beverley, Russell Westbrook goes un-injured in the first round of the playoffs, leaving the Thunder a strong Finals favorite.
Lakers: The addition of Bargnani and Calderon helped stem the tide while other injuries hurt the team. That added manpower was enough that the Lakers clinched a playoff spot with three games to go, finishing with 47 wins (Golden State, coincidentally, won 48 in this scenario due to the butterfly effect, so the seeding didn’t change). Without a playoff spot to fight for, Kobe Bryant was rested down the stretch, leaving him healthy for the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Lakers still came up short against the Spurs.
Pistons: Don’t get Calderon, nobody notices.
Scenario 3: The Wiggins Huskies
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist fouls Bargnani, the refs call it, and Bargnani splits a pair of free throws to send the game into overtime. In overtime, Bargnani gets in a shouting match with Lowry, who had chastised Bargnani for poor help defense as Kemba Walker drove the lane for a late bucket.
After the game, the team announces Bargnani hurt his elbow and will miss a substantial amount of time. When beat writer Eric Koreen asks too many pointed questions of Bryan Colangelo following the alleged “phantom” injury announcement, Colangelo loses it and tries to choke Koreen out.
MLSE, now owned by media powerhouses Bell and Rogers, act swiftly to deny the option year on Colangelo’s deal due to this public relations fiasco, later bringing in Leiweke to clean it up.
Raptors: With Colangelo handcuffed by his lame duck status, the board freezes on adding any salary to the roster. Instead, the board elects to keep Calderon as an expiring contract and further mentor Lowry for the season. Bargnani does not play a game the rest of the way, and the team’s first announcement of the offseason is that they will use the Amnesty Provision on Bargnani with the aim of “starting fresh” with a new management group, ownership and team identity. This is followed shortly by the announcement that the team will revert to the Toronto Huskies name starting in the 2014-15 season, a move to once again aimed at reseting the brand image while also making the colors of the Toronto-based teams streamlines (#BlackAndYellow -> #BlueAndWhite).
With Calderon off the books and a Bargnani amnesty, the Raptors have ample cap space. Leiweke indicates the team is hoping to build flexibility in its roster construction and won’t spend just to spend, instead accepting another down year or two to add a “major piece through the draft” to accompany the Valanciunas-Lowry-Johnson-Davis-DeRozan core that, Leiweke indicates, the organization feels can make up five of a contender’s top seven or eight players. The Raptors may be bad, he suggests, but there is a giant, Maple-flavored, Jordan-esque prize if the ping pong balls bounce right. (Meanwhile, Raptors Republic kidnap Adam Silver in hopes of getting an “envelope freeze” in the 2014 draft lottery).
Grizzlies: With the Raptors unwilling to take on Gay’s contract, the Grizzlies dealt a few lesser pieces to try and trim their luxury tax bill rather than get under the line. Jerryd Bayless and Tony Wroten were jettisoned for picks, leaving the backcourt a bit thin. Still, the Grizzlies handled the Clippers in the first round, but ran into a solid Thunder team in the second round.
Rockets: Picked up Bayless for a second round pick, which meant Patrick Beverly wasn’t on the floor in the first round playoff series.
Thunder: With Bayless a less active defender than Beverly, Russell Westbrook goes un-injured in the first round of the playoffs, leaving the Thunder a strong Finals favorite.
Lakers: Are unable to make a move, and their fate plays out more or less the same.
Pistons: Don’t get Calderon, nobody notices.
But here we are
The basketball multiverse didn’t give us any more desirable a timeline. In fact, you could argue that none of these timelines were great for Raptor fans, although there are certainly varying levels of hope attached to each. Maybe there was no way for the Raptors’ season to “break right” and give us a clearly more desirable outcome. We might not know for years which of these universes is the “best one” and which is truly the “Darkest Timeline.”
This is also, of course, just an exercise in Remedial Chaos Theory, and is completely a work of fiction. But it’s fun to play what-if, and it’s fun to create a scenario where Kobe and Westbrook are healthy in the playoffs (sorry, Derrick Rose, couldn’t help you). After all, one of the benefits of cheering for a perpetually inept franchise is the “right” to second guess.
What are your “what ifs” for the season, moments that you feel might have created parallel basketball universes? Be elaborate…we need content.
This week on The Doctor is In with Phdsteve, the
Raptors, TFC, the Leafs blow a late lead and lose- who cares- lets talk basketball!!! I have called the boys back in to talk ball and we go for back to back weeks of roundtable discussion that talks about all the action in NBA 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 The Fifth Quarter Blog’s Blair Miller, we discuss:
43mb 47 mins
According to sources, a decision on Colangelo will likely be formally announced in advance of the annual Chicago pre-draft camp later this week. DUN-DUN-DUUUUUUN!
You got three options for Andrea this summer. 1) Amnesty, 2) Keep and 3) Trade. What do you do? Come vote and discuss.
Throughout the NBA playoffs, where we Raptor fans are left to wallow, Raptors Republic brings you the 100 Words Series. Calling on RR writers and other Raptor scribes from around the internet and MSM, we’ll provide the Republic with 100-word takes on players, coaches, management and announcers. Look for these two or three times a week, continuing today with Andrea Bargnani. The mission I charged the contributors with was simple: you have 100 words (prose, poetry, song, whatever) to discuss said player.
Adam Francis, Raptors HQ
There’s not much left to say here with Bargs. This is a player who should never have been extended at his current price, who should have been dealt at least two years ago, and who now, instead of serving as a potentially intriguing “upside” player to teams in trades, looms as the club’s biggest neck-anvil.
What’s left now is an “addition by subtraction” scenario and even then, who knows if we see it come to fruition if Bryan Colangelo is still in charge.
Part of getting the Raptors back on the right path absolutely means resolving the Bargnani situation this off-season.
But considering I can’t recall another top pick in any sport being held onto for as long as he has, with hopes that his upside eventually shines through, I’m not holding my breath.
Andrew Thompson, Raptors Republic
The Andrea Bargnani experience has felt like being in one long fail video. But it hasn’t been without it’s high points, treasured memories and occasional moments when, if you completely ignored the larger sample size, really squinted your eyes and believed hard enough, it seemed like it just might maybe be something special. So let’s give the man his proper tribute with a couple of those special highlights, as I remember them.
Blake Murphy, Raptors Republic
I googled “how many curse words are there,” thinking I could just post 100 of them for my 100 words. Google doesn’t seem to know, so I’m left with actually writing. In an alternate universe, things have gone differently for Bargnani – he’s developed what was a promising shooting stroke, found a more competitive edge, grown to embrace the leadership role instead of wilting from it. And in that universe, the Raptors are better, but probably still not all that great. I think he’ll be gone, but if he remains he’ll remain in his current form – a low-efficiency scorer who hasn’t learned the Italian translations for help defense terms.
Eric Koreen, The National Post
When Bryan Colangelo made his ill-advised (but meaningless!) decision to announce he was looking to trade Andrea Bargnani, I heard it immediately: When Bargnani comes back in a different uniform, he will slay the Raptors. It was vintage Raptors fatalism. Anything that could go wrong will. To that I state, “Who cares?” Sure, the Raptors will not be able to get anything of value for him, given his contract. But he’s been failing in Toronto for too long now. The future might involve Bargnani hurting the Raptors, but the recent past has given us the same.
Tim W., Raptors Republic
He’s gotten more chances to be a star than Ryan Reynolds, but with him you can understand the reasoning behind it. I can’t tell you how many people took my criticism of him over the years personally, and I don’t understand why. If you’re going to align yourself with a player, should it really be a soft, underachieving big man who doesn’t play defense and is one of the worst rebounding seven-footers of all time? I mean, you’d think Bryan Colangelo would have better things to do than insult me. Hopefully he’ll have lots of time starting this summer.
Zarar Siddiqi, Raptors Republic
Invoking the amnesty alone doesn’t buy much in terms of flexibility, and his trade value is nil and declining. As much as we want to turn a new leaf, the stark reality is that a Bargnani resurgence is the only way the current roster improves significantly. On the other hand, it’s madness to give him another chance to let you down. Final Verdict: There’s no option but to keep him here in a limited role and hope he finds his three. He’s like the modern day Jim McIlvaine. Another scenario: Colangelo gets fired, hired somewhere else, and trades for Bargnani.
Note: This column was written before any of the
first second round games had been played.
One round down and three more to go.
I absolutely love the playoffs. All my best NBA memories come from the playoffs. There’s nothing else in basketball like it. Purists bemoan the lack of team game in the NBA, the way the league can reward selfish play, how too many players mail it in during regular season games. It’s true. I can sometimes get bored watching regular season games where the players don’t seem to have much more of a stake in who wins than I do.
But the NBA playoffs is usually better basketball than you’ll see anywhere, including March Madness (that’s another column).
Even though the Raptors didn’t make it to the real NBA season, that doesn’t mean Raptor fans shouldn’t watch. The playoffs are not only a hell of a lot more fun to watch than the majority of the 82 Raptor games we had to slog through, there’s a lot you can learn from watching them. Here is a list of what I’ve learned (or had confirmed):
THE SPURS ARE BUILT FOR THE PLAYOFFS
I’m in awe of the Spurs organization. I will fully admit it. There was a time when I would predict the Spurs would win the title and be right half of the time.
For twelve years, ever since Tim Duncan came on board, the Spurs were in the top 3 in the league in defense. Then, due to an aging core and lack of good defenders, their defense slowly fell out of the top 3, then top 5, then top 10. Last season, The Spurs ranked 11th defensively, allowing 100.6 points per 100 possessions.
Meanwhile, to compensate, they increased their offensive efficiency until, last year, they became the most offensively efficient team of the league, up from 14th when they won their last title.
Gregg Popovich, however, realized that if they truly wanted to have a chance at another title, they needed to improve their defense. Of the last 22 teams that won a title, only one, the Dallas Mavericks, wasn’t in the top 10 defensively during the regular season (read this article for more details on what they felt they needed to improve and why).
While they did come into the season with more of a focus on improving certain things to help their defense, what I think changed the complexion of the team defensively was when Tiago Splitter was permanently inserted into the starting lineup in the middle of December. That’s when the Spurs’ defense really started clicking. Splitter is a much better interior defender than both Boris Diaw and DeJuan Blair, who saw his playing time plummet after the demotion.
When Duncan and Splitter are on the floor together, the Spurs have easily the stingiest defense in the league. And to make matters worse for the rest of the league, they kept their offensive efficiency up so that, at one point before injuries hit, they had the best offense AND the best defense in the league.
Watching the Spurs dismantle the Lakers was a thing of beauty (unless you’re a Lakers fan), but what may have been most impressive was how they didn’t let up in game four when they easily could have.
The Spurs never let the Lakers have a chance to think they could win the game. They came out of the gate playing hard and won every quarter. When a team has easily won the first three games, it’s close-out games like this that are a good indicator just what kind of team they are. The Knicks came out in game four against Boston lethargic and looking like a team that believed they had already wrapped up the game and the series. And then they went on to lose the next two.
And that’s why the Knicks should never have been considered a contender.
The Spurs, though, are the league’s best chance to beat the Heat in the Finals. Not only is their offense the most efficient and beautifully designed, and their defense one of the stingiest, what their close-out game against the Lakers showed is that they are professionals who take their job seriously.
Before the start of game four, Kenny Smith said that Gregg Popovich wouldn’t have to tell his players to play hard. That they just would. And that’s why the Spurs would win game four, which they obviously did. Smith was basically saying that the Spurs players were all self-motivating, so there was no need to have to try and motivate them.
Getting back to the Raptors, how many times have we read that if only this player were motivated or that player were motivated, then the Raptors would be better. The trick is not to motivate the players on your team. The trick is to have players you don’t actually need to motivate.
THE NUGGETS WERE NOT BUILT FOR THE PLAYOFFS
The Denver Nuggets won an astounding 57 games with a roster of players that didn’t include one player who made the All Star team (although to be fair, Andre Iguodala is a former All-Star and Ty Lawson will probably end up becoming one). and without a top 5 draft pick. The Nuggets were the shining example for fans of all those teams that didn’t have an elite player, but still wanted a great team.
George Karl deserves a lot of the credit for the Nuggets vastly overachieving during the regular season. He maximized the team’s strengths and minimized it’s weaknesses. The team had very little interior scoring, and few good outside shooters, which would normally be a recipe for disaster in the NBA, but Karl realized he also had an athletic roster, one of the fastest point guards in the league and an undersized power forward with boundless energy.
Unlike a lot of teams that try to run, the Nuggets still played good defense (finishing 11th in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions and 11th in opponent field goal percentage), anchored by their best defensive player, Iguodala. The fact that they gave up the the 7th most points per game in the league is deceiving, since they also scored the most points per game in the league. One of the things that made them successful, though, was the fact that they took an amazing 43% of their shots at the rim, shooting 66.4% there. They were took more shots at the rim than any other team and had the 8th best shooting percentage from that range.
The team that shot the next most shots at the rim, the Houston Rockets, shot 37% of their shots there and shots 64.8% there, which was 14th in the league.
If you can play some defense, and can shoot that many shots at the rim, shooting that high a percentage, you’re going to be successful in the regular season.
But then came the playoffs.
While everyone loved the Nuggets during the regular season, there were questions about how they would perform in the playoffs. Nuggets general manager, Masai Ujiri, even stated outright that despite winning 57 games, the Nuggets weren’t contenders. And he was right.
The Nuggets have three major weaknesses that would come back to haunt them in the first round against Golden State. They can’t shoot from the three (25th in the league in 3 point percentage), they can’t defend the three (11th in the league in percentage allowed, but first in the league in 3 pointers allowed) and they have no one who can score in the paint in a half court set. Those three are all killers in the playoffs.
Golden State shot 40% from behind the arc as a team. Plus, they had one thing the Nuggets didn’t have. An elite player.
When the chips were down, the best shooter in the league today, Stephen Curry, was able to hit the big shots for the Warriors, whereas the Nuggets by-committee play meant that no single person was expected to step up and no one really did.
No one should blame George Karl for failing to get a 57 win team past the first round of the playoffs (too much- I think he definitely got out-coached by Mark Jackson), because that’s not what they were built for. If Denver had played a team that would have slowed the pace down, the results would probably have been even worse. The only reason the Nuggets even had a chance against the Warriors is because the Warriors like to run, as well.
ANDREW BOGUT IS MORE VALUABLE THAN DAVID LEE
When David Lee went down with a hip flexor injury in game one against the Nuggets, it was definitely a disappointment. Lee was in his 8th season and was playing in the playoff for the first time in his career. Lee was having probably the most satisfying season of his NBA career, up until then. He was on the best team he’d ever been on, and made the All Star game for the second time. He’s an incredibly hard worker, scored 20 or more points forty times, during the season, and led the league in double doubles.
But David Lee is a horrible defender.
How bad? Watch this:
That’s right. Opposing players actually shoot BETTER at the rim when Lee is defending.
That’s why the Warriors traded for an injured Andrew Bogut last year, despite the fact that he had only two seasons where he played more than 69, and had two where he missed more games than he played. The fact is, he’s a very good interior defender and fundamentally sound big man who rebounds, passes, can shoot from outside and score in the post when needed.
In game six against the Nuggets, he scored 14 points, grabbed 21 rebounds and blocked 4 shots, plugging up the paint and preventing the Denver players from scoring where they love to most, at the rim.
Bogut’s importance to Golden State getting to the second round highlights my theory that, despite the way the NBA has changed, having a good two-way center is still very important in the NBA.
It’s highly unlikely that Golden State gets past the Spurs, but Bogut is only 28 years old and is one of the keys as to whether or not the Warriors can build on their playoff success. If he can stay healthy and be somewhere close to the player he was in 2010, then Golden State has a legitimate chance to become a real contender.
This is, once again, why Jonas Valanciunas is so important to the Raptors’ future. Now if only they can find someone at least as good as Curry to play alongside him.
YOUTH IS NICE, BUT VETERANS WIN
Anyone who watched the last few minutes of game six of the Warriors-Nuggets game saw what happens when you have too much youth on the floor in clutch situations. The Warrior players were basically handing the ball to Denver on offense, and the Nugget players seemed to completely forget how bad they are at shooting threes. There were more bad decisions made in in the last two minutes than during an Amanda Bynes Twitter session.
The only player on either team who didn’t play poorly was Iguodala, who was one of the few players on the floor that had been in big playoff games before. It was as if neither team wanted to win, and were begging the other team to take the game.
On a side note, I understand keeping Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on the floor at the end, since they are the “greatest shooting backcourt in the history of the NBA“, but why on earth would Mark Jackson leave the rookie Draymond Green out there, especially to throw an inbound pass in the dying seconds with Denver trying to smother every Warrior player? It’s not as if Golden State didn’t have some veterans on the bench who probably wouldn’t have wilted under the pressure. There’s giving your guys experience and then there’s hanging the team out to dry at the worst time. They were lucky. If they had been playing the Spurs, San Antonio would have wiped the floor with them in those last two minutes.
I’ve always said the difference between a good team and a bad team is what they do in the last few minutes of a ball game. That’s why coaches tend to play veterans over young players, even when it seems to make no sense (cough*Casey*cough). They know that veterans tend to make better decisions than young players in the clutch.
Note to self: Figure out a way to determine how well veterans play in the clutch versus players with less experience.
The Raptors are a young team, but not that young. Both Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry have been in the league 7 years, now, and Amir Johnson just finished his eighth. The Houston Rockets they are not. Yes, Valanciunas was a rookie, and DeRozan just completed his fourth season, but I wouldn’t put too much weight on the idea the Raptors lost because they were too young. Adding more veterans to the team might certainly help, but doing that just to get into the playoffs doesn’t leave you many options to improve once you get there.
MAKING THE PLAYOFFS DOESN’T MAKE PEOPLE CARE ABOUT YOU
There is a line of thinking among some Raptor fans that if only they’d make the playoffs, they’d start getting attention outside of Canada and garner respect around the league. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.
Case in point, the Pacers-Hawks series.
If you watched that playoff series, then kudos to you, because you were one of the few outside of Indianapolis and Atlanta who did. And quite frankly, given the fact that they were the only playoff teams to finish in the bottom third in attendance, you were one of the few, including those in Atlanta and Indianapolis. And the Pacers are a good bet to get to the Conference Finals.
The Hawks won 44 games to make the playoffs for the 6th year in a row, have one of the best, all around big men in the league, in perennial All Star Al Horford, and will have more cap room than any other team in the league this summer. But no one cares about the Hawks. They’ll get in the news as one of the teams that went after, and failed to get, Dwight Howard, but then they’ll probably end up overpaying someone like Al Jefferson or Brandon Jennings, or simply re-sign Josh Smith for way too much money, and go back to being a mediocre team no one pays attention to.
Of course, if the Raptors had snuck into the playoffs, they most likely would have taken Milwaukee’s place as chum for the Miami Heat. Miami swept the Bucks, beating them by an average of 15 points over the four games. Let’s not forget that Milwaukee beat the Raptors in all three games they played against them. They have apparently the best interior defender in the league (see the video above), a “dynamic” backcourt, and the average age of their starting five is just 25 years old.
And nobody cares or talks about them.
And neither team is a place where free agents are lining up to go.
And no one is betting against either team falling into the lottery next year.
So while making the playoffs is nice, the whole “creating a winning culture” thing is overrated when you don’t have the talent to actually do something other than just make the playoffs year after year.
THE NETS ARE IN TROUBLE
Before the trade deadline in 2011, the Nets surprised the rest of the league when they traded Deron Williams, who most people didn’t even realize was available. Elite players like Williams are such a rare commodity that the Nets were willing to gut their team in order to acquire him. They traded Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, their 3rd pick, which turned out to be Enes Kanter, and a future first rounder for him.
While neither Favors or Kanter have set the league on fire, yet, they are both considered two of the leagues better up-and-coming big men. In fact, Bill Simmons had them 41st and 45th on his Top 50 Trade Value list. Deron Williams was just four spots better than Favors, on the same list, at 37th. I will admit that’s probably not the best way to argue a player’s worth, but the fact is that if you offer Williams or one of those two bigs to every team in the league, I’m guessing more than a few would pass on Williams and go for either Favors or Kanter. If you give them a choice between BOTH big men or Williams, I don’t know if there’s a team in the league that wouldn’t take the young big men. Including New Jersey.
Williams is still an elite player, but he has more than $80 million coming to him over the next four years. And there’s always the question of whether or not he can remain healthy. Even at his healthiest, he’s not the best defender in the league. When he’s hurt, which he has been for most of his time with the Nets, he’s a veritable sieve.
And you’d hope that when you pay him the kind of money he’s making, that he can help take the team past the first round.
But then you add Gerald Wallace, who the Nets gave up the 6th pick in the 2012 draft, which ended up being Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard. By the time the Nets traded for Wallace, his game, dependant almost entirely on his athletic ability, was already on the decline. This year, his game fell off a cliff. He averaged 7.7 ppg on .397 shooting (.282 from three). Oh, and he’s still owed more than $30 million over the next three years.
When the Nets traded for Joe Johnson, this summer, they basically went all in on acquiring massively overpriced, declining talent. And he rewarded them with his worst season in more than a decade. And he has $69 million owed to him over the next three years.
By the way, Billy King, the Nets GM, just got a four year extension.
The Nets situation is a great one to look at, if you’re a Raptors’ fan. A lot of fans feel that the team can trade for an elite player, but just look at the Nets. Actually look at the 76ers and Lakers, as well. All three paid a high price to acquire their elite players (Williams, Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum) and not one of them have had much success with them.
Trading away lottery picks in order to win now can also backfire. At this point, it seems like the Raptors didn’t give up a Damian Lillard for Kyle Lowry, but we won’t know what the final result will be for a few years.
And lastly, the Nets skyrocketing payroll should be a huge warning to the Raptors. Just because you spend the money doesn’t mean it will help you win. You need to spend the money wisely.
Let’s hope MLSE doesn’t make the same mistake the Nets did when they extended King.
PREDICTIONS FOR THE SECOND ROUND
Miami vs Chicago: Miami in five
By stopping the behemoth that was the Miami Heat during their win streak, the Bulls, even with Derrick Rose, showed that they matchup well against the Heat. But the Bulls probably won’t win more than one game against a Heat team that has been dominant all season.
Indiana vs New York: Indiana in six
New York has home court advantage, but Indiana has to be the favourite. The Pacers feature the league’s stingiest defense, allowing just 99.8 points per 100 possessions and should be able to control New York’s isolation driven offense. Indiana’s offense, though, is inconsistent, at best, and if David West doesn’t have a good series, the Pacers might be in trouble.
Oklahoma vs Memphis: Memphis in seven
While Russell Westbrook is a flawed player who can hurt the Thunder almost as much as he helps them, you can’t go from Westbrook to Reggie Jackson and expect to weather Westbrook’s injury well. Without Westbrook, Scott Brook’s rather rudimentary offense has been exposed and Memphis’ defense will give them fits. Oklahoma could still win the series, but someone other than Kevin Durant is going to have to come up big.
San Antonio vs Golden State: San Antonio in four
As I said earlier, if Golden State had played like they did in the final minutes of game six in the first round against the Spurs, San Antonio would have made them pay dearly. Golden State is definitely a team on the rise and one to watch for, but San Antonio is playing some of their best ball since they last won a title and mistakes are few and far between with this team. If Stephen Curry gets hot, they might be able to sneak a win in, but even that is unlikely.
On Thursday, the passionate Ujiri will be rewarded for his work — he’ll be named the NBA’s executive of the year, a source told The Denver Post on Wednesday night. Ujiri, the first African-born general manager in major American sports, put together the Nuggets’ roster, a squad that won 57 games, most in Denver’s NBA history.
Who knew we had a great GM right underneath our noses? This is what I had written when he had accepted the Denver job, certainly wasn’t heart-broken about him, but did feel that there’s something about him if Denver is pursuing him.
People always try to make a case that “who would we hire if not for Colangelo” while throwing up their arms in despair. The answer to that question is an assistant GM waiting to get his shot, and props to Denver for spotting something and executing on it. There’s plenty of great basketball minds out there, and with Leiweke on board and Peddie out, I’m fairly confident the right choice will be made in replacing Colangelo.
This week on The Doctor is In with Phdsteve, I know you are dying for some ball talk and so we go loooong (47 minutes long)! I have called in the boys to talk ball and we have a roundtable discussion that talks about all the action in NBA 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 The Fifth Quarter Blog’s Blair Miller, we discuss:
Note: This was recorded on Tuesday.
Throughout the NBA playoffs, where we Raptor fans are left to wallow, Raptors Republic brings you the 100 Words Series. Calling on RR writers and other Raptor scribes from around the internet and MSM, we’ll provide the Republic with 100-word takes on players, coaches, management and announcers. Look for these two or three times a week, continuing today with Aaron Gray. The mission I charged the contributors with was simple: you have 100 words (prose, poetry, song, whatever) to discuss said player.
Arsenalist, Raptors Republic
I like Aaron Gray and think he should return as a third-string center (not second, as he was at times last year). He plays defense, is surprisingly productive on offense at times, and is a matchup-player that any team needs when going up against the bigger bigs of the league. At the same time, nobody’s exactly banging on his agent’s door. Let that not stop Colangelo from keeping a $2.6M player option on his deal. I love this guy.
Blake Murphy, Raptors Republic
The amount of time I spent defending my jokes about Aaron Gray to people probably exceeds the amount of time opposing teams thought about the guy this year. For some reason, some people freakin’ love him. To me, he’s an end of the bench big being paid like a back-up, which isn’t really a backbreaker for the franchise. He’s also goofy and good for a laugh, plus he looks like Garrett, so all in all he’s worth the money.
Garrett Hinchey, Raptors Republic
He goes by many names: AIRon Gray, the White Panther, a Garrett Hinchey doppleganger – but none of these really do justice to my favourite third center in the Association. Sure, he’s a punchline more often than not around these parts, and he leads the team in turnovers more than any backup forward should, but what he really is is the Raptors’ lunchpail guy, a man who accepts his role without hesitation, and one of the few good-value contracts in the organization right now. Oh, and he’s my younger brother’s favourite player in the league, inexplicably. Well, maybe semi-explicably…
Tim W., Raptors Republic
Aaron Gray is the greatest 270 pound, lumbering white center with a beard in the NBA today. And it’s not even close.
Throughout the NBA playoffs, where we Raptor fans are left to wallow, Raptors Republic brings you the 100 Words Series. Calling on RR writers and other Raptor scribes from around the internet and MSM, we’ll provide the Republic with 100-word takes on players, coaches, management and announcers. Look for these two or three times a week, continuing today with Alan Anderson. The mission I charged the contributors with was simple: you have 100 words (prose, poetry, song, whatever) to discuss said player.
Andrew Thompson, Raptors Republic
Alan Anderson was a cartoon this season. When he caught fire and single-handedly won games the Raps had no business winning with impossible shot after impossible shot, the laws of physics did not seem to apply. When he came off the bench, quickly missed six completely unnecessary shots and then went away, it was equally without reason. But I’ll always remember AA for something special we shared. After a mid-season win, I accidentally walked into an abnormally tall man at a local establishment. I looked up and saw Alan Anderson. I nodded knowingly. He nodded back. It was a moment. Goodbye Alan, we’ll always have Real Sports.
Blake Murphy, Raptors Republic
If this were the Raptors’ offense, Alan Anderson would get more than 100 words, just like he hoisted more than his share of shots. He’s a chucker. There’s a place for that, but it’s deeper on the bench than Anderson was positioned and at a price less than Anderson will probably command. I like Anderson and accounts are he’s a chill bro. However, inefficient volume scoring is the most readily available commodity in basketball and there’s no reason to give Anderson guaranteed dollars to do something a waiver guy could do, albeit possibly with less defensive versatility. Also: Vince Face.
PhD Steve, Raptors Republic
Alan Anderson- A Haiku
hard to tell the truth
cause should not swear in haiku
but he makes me #$$%@
Sam Holako, Raptors Republic
I’m okay with giving him a two-year $4.5M to $5M contract with the second year partially guaranteed. There is not much else to say really; he’s the ninth guy off the bench at best… I refuse to say anything else about the guy… I mean come on, the guy is one-dimensional and not really a great scorer in bursts like a Jamal Crawford or even a JJ Reddick…. at least Jamario Moon had freakish hops… look, I’m not saying he’s a terrible player, but if he’s an important part of the summer, this team has very big issues heading into next season.
Zarar Siddiqi, Raptors Republic
Getting playing time due to lack of team depth, and performing sporadically and selfishly, Alan Anderson has deservedly gotten some good flak around these parts. Let that not deter us from giving him his due, which is that of a serviceable ninth man. It’s when his class of player bubbles up the rotation, like Jamario Moon and Sonny Weems, is when this franchise starts looking like a joke. The salary cap constraints are such that it’s the Raptors who need Anderson more than vice-versa. The question is whether the capacity of his involvement will be as a filler or not.
The following podcast contains comments about an ESPN employee that are in no way the opinions of ESPN, with whom we are affiliated. They are the opinions of the author.
This week on the podcast we talk about Jason Collins but not about his decision to come out but rather why ESPN’s Chris Broussard’s response to Collins is poor journalism and a reason for dismissal.
We also confirm the Phil Jackson to the raps rumour and smile to think about what this could mean for the team going forward. But don’t get too excited just yet- as a rejection from Jackson would mean a resigning of BC. Either way we should know about the future of this team in the next 2 weeks.
Throughout the NBA playoffs, where we Raptor fans are left to wallow, Raptors Republic brings you the 100 Words Series. Calling on RR writers and other Raptor scribes from around the internet and MSM, we’ll provide the Republic with 100-word takes on players, coaches, management and announcers. Look for these two or three times a week, continuing today with Rudy Gay. The mission I charged the contributors with was simple: you have 100 words (prose, poetry, song, whatever) to discuss said player.
Adam Francis, Raptors HQ
I wanted to like Rudy Gay. I did. He’s a nice guy, a potential fan-favourite because of his explosive style of play, and is as close to an elite wing as this club’s had since Mr. Carter went to Jersey.
But unfortunately, he also stands for everything I despise about the Bryan Colangelo era, from the cap-killing contract, to the “hollow” statistical production. In isolation I could probably be a Rudy Gay backer, but taking Colangelo’s past moves into consideration, it’s hard for me to look at Gay as much more than Hedo Part Deux.
Andrew Thompson, Raptors Republic
These one-hundred words have evolved over the last three months. When the Raptors made the trade, they would have been ‘Thirty-seven million, two-hundred and six thousand, two-hundred and fifty six million over the next two years?’ and then repeated that six times. By season’s end, they were ‘shot selection!’ repeated fifty times. And then just last week, they changed again to ‘glasses?!’ repeated a hundred times. In all seriousness, I can make peace with the price of the contract if he takes better shots, which he may hit a better percentage of now that he can, you know, actually see.
Blake Murphy, Raptors Republic
From 19 Feet, a poem
New hope springs
A star within our grasp
But when is a star not a star
A meteor across hardwood
Human flight, collects and deposits
Excitement in Great Flight North
A hero, vanquishing at the last moment
The buzzer sounds, his arms raised
Clutch is thy name
Sisyphus for a day, a month
42 percent but oh, the totals
Efficiency is for the rich
We wretched lust for volume
A quick step, a rise
Space created, room to fire
Perfection at 19 feet
Summer is long and dark
The hero works
Correct vision, correct decisions
Attack or step back
PhD Steve, Raptors Republic
Rudy Gay- A Haiku
Haters point to stats
to say he’s not franchise guy
but Gay = wins
Sam Holako, Raptors Republic
(In the spirit of Ayn Rand)
The noble Raptor par excellence. The player as player should be. The self-sufficient, self-confident, the end of ends, the reason unto himself, the joy of shooting personified. Above all-the small forward who balls for himself, as balling for oneself should be understood. And who triumphs completely. A player who is what he should be.
Tim W., Raptors Republic
Rudy Gay is a fine player. He’s an elite athlete who has the ability to be one of the top players in the game. But he’s been an underachiever for most of his basketball life, which is why he was drafted eighth in a weak draft and not first. He was given a max contract in the hopes he would one day live up to it. He has not.
Considering teams tend to take on the personality of the best player, how smart is it to build the team around an underachiever who score inefficiently and defends inconsistently?
Throughout the NBA playoffs, where we Raptor fans are left to wallow, Raptors Republic brings you the 100 Words Series. Calling on RR writers and other Raptor scribes from around the internet and MSM, we’ll provide the Republic with 100-word takes on players, coaches, management and announcers. Look for these two or three times a week, continuing today with Quincy Acy. The mission I charged the contributors with was simple: you have 100 words (prose, poetry, song, whatever) to discuss said player.
Adam Francis, Raptors HQ
You like dunks? You like boundless enthusiasm? You like rebounds and put-backs in traffic? How about all-out hustle? Beards?
If you’ve said yes to all of the above, then Quincy Jyrome Acy is the man for you.
He appeared in only 29 contests for the Raptors last season averaging a mere 11.8 minutes per game, but his per 36 minute averages of 12 points and 8 rebounds were pretty solid, not to mention sporting a PER of 15.9 and looking suddenly like a rotation guy for the Raps going forward.
Not too shabby for the 37th pick in last year’s draft.
Blake Murphy, Raptors Republic
For whatever reason, probably just the “energy” bar, I always think of RZA’s second verse in “Carry It” when I watch Acy play. I’m a big fan of Acy Slater as an end of the bench guy and hope he sticks around as a fifth big, as he showed some potential down the stretch as a rebounder who isn’t a complete zero on offense. There’s not much more to say than that, so I’ll just post the song. Oh also, Q, if you’re reading – beard off, let’s do this.
PhD Steve, Raptors Republic
Quincy Acy – A Haiku
Team thinks hes legit
but I doubt he’ll be around
when new GM comes
Sam Holako, Raptors Republic
Yes he plays hard, yes he hustles, and yes he fills the needed role of garbage man, but come on! The guy couldn’t crack the lineup while the team was stumbling out of the gates, and only saw time when everyone realized that Hollinger knows what he’s talking about. You can’t take away what he did at the end of the season, but you also can’t draw any conclusions from it either. A 9-game sample against 2nd and 3rd line players a career it does not make, but please don’t stop dreaming what-if (he got more minutes) on my account…
Tim W., Raptors Republic
This clip sums up my feelings about Quincy Acy. Imagine Acy as Rudy, Andrea Bargnani as Vince Vaughn and Dwane Casey as the coach.
Zarar Sidiqi, Raptors Republic
P.J Tucker, Nathan Jawai and Quincy Acy. Is third time the charm? Depends on what you call charm. You expect a guy fighting for NBA rights to make most of the minutes, if not in production then in sheer effort, and Acy delivered on that front. An undersized four is a tough business in the league, and he’ll need to convert that athleticism and passion into some semblance of a defensive game if he’s to stick around. With Jason Maxiell a stretch and Reggie Evans a possibility, his game lies somewhere in the middle, provided he adds a mid-range jumper.
Just wanted to extend a congratulations and mad respect to Jason Collins, who today became the first openly gay player in North American pro sports.
You can read the full, first-person article here, and I highly recommend it.
If you were the Raptors’ new GM what would be your top three priorities in terms of personnel? This could involve either players or coaches. Please don’t end it with brief one liners, let’s have some fun with this.
I listed to the new guy on the radio, did a little research about what he’s done in LA, checked his relationship with Jeanie Buss, and have concluded that Bryan Colangelo’s days in Toronto are done. With the Leafs making the playoffs and bringing some genuine enthusiasm to the morose Toronto sports scene, the Raptors under Colangelo are now ominously standing out to be the missteps that Tim Leiweke is being brought here to correct:
The Raptors, for me, are the #1 reason this was an intriguing opportunity because I think we can change that team and we will change that team. I’m an NBA guy by heart, I love hockey and I certainly love soccer, but for me the first task at hand is working with the organization to bring not only a focus, but an energy to the Raptors, but a sense of enthusiasm and environment where people believe this will be one of the great organizations in the NBA for a long time to come.
There’s been no support of Colangelo from the board and the silence pertaining to his option is clear indication that they haven’t bought what was being sold by the Rudy Gay trade. Maybe they would’ve sign on, but under Leiweki, a man who tends to see things for what they are, and has genuinely high standards for the teams he oversees, Colangelo’s act wears too thin and there are simply too many sins in the resume for Leiweke to forgive. The Phil Jackson rumor is a nice one to mull over, and if that happens it would bring real credibility to the scene. I say “real” because that’s what Colangelo’s hire was supposed to bring, however that didn’t last past the honeymoon period.
For me, aiming for Phil Jackson speaks to being serious about winning, and offering the Zen Master the highest position available to a basketball executive is something that will, at the very least, peak his interest. Whether he bites or not is a different matter. Of course, maybe this is just a mummer’s farce and a publicity ploy by the Raptors, who find themselves paling in comparison to the blue and white. If that is the case, then **** whoever started this rumor.
Let me break it down in simple terms. The salary cap and luxury tax is a nice thing and brings a bit of parity to the NBA, but success in the league is ultimately built on whether your’e a financial have or have not; the Raptors find themselves to be perennial losers and its not for lack of financial power and spending:
This organization has greater resources than any organization in the NHL and NBA today. This is amazing what we have with Bell and Rogers, and their commitment to winning, and to have Larry and his reputation, I think that’s an amazing combination. Now our job is set a tone and an environment where everyone knows we’re going to get up everyday and say, ‘What can we do today to get ourselves closer to three championships?’
Toronto’s there, I think the frustration comes from when you don’t spend [the money] well.
The ratio of being top third in salary and bottom third in winning is a serious matter which speaks to mismanagement more than anything. After all, you have to spend the money in the right place and guys like Jason Kapono, Andrea Bargnani, Linas Kleiza, Jarrett Jack and Landry Fields hardly speak to smart purchases. This is a damning track record that will be tough for Leiweke to look past.
Bryan Colangelo’s been on the record as saying that you have to overpay for players to come to Toronto and that, “if there’s a chance to play in one of the major markets in the States, like Chicago, LA, I don’t think we’ll ever win that”. This is at odds with Leiweke’s thinking that Toronto, as a package, should be easy to sell to NBA players. To me, this is a major disconnect. I’ve long maintained that the lack of winning is the problem with players not wanting to stay or come to Toronto, not the city or the taxes, the latter even Colangelo acknowledged isn’t an issue. As Leiweke said:
I do not accept the fact that players want to leave Toronto or won’t come to Toronto, and we’re going to change that culture.
The Leafs are an overachieving young team and TFC just finished making sweeping changes (hired a new head coach and GM), which makes the Raptors situation the most interesting. Keep in mind that this hiring has a lot to do with changing the intangibles around these parts. I’m hearing terms like culture, mentality, and approach, and it’s difficult to change that without a cleaning of the leadership up-top. Now, Bryan Colangelo is supposed to make a presentation to the MLSE regarding the state and future of the Raptors, which is basically, and embarrassingly, a job interview. A lame duck GM (and coach?) who are being made to wait by the ownership by not having this resolved during the season speaks to the lack of confidence MLSE has in Colangelo.
Leiweke doesn’t start till June 30th but don’t be fooled into thinking that he won’t have a complete say in Bryan Colangelo, especially given how he’s an NBA guy more than anything. It’s an exciting time, mostly because change is exciting.
Here’s the interview which aired on TSN 1050, I’ve cut the clip so it’s just Leiweke’s part:
Dear Tim Leiweke,
First of all, congratulations on your new job with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. I know you just landed the job, but before you unpack your bags, there’s something you really need to do.
You see, I am a Raptors fan.
I have been one since the day David Stern announced Toronto was getting an NBA team in September of 1993. I followed them through their expansion days when Damon Stoudamire was thrilling fans with his adrenaline fuelled game, during the golden days of the franchise when Vince Carter was electrifying the league and taking the team to new heights, then through the dark days when Carter was traded, when Rob Babcock’s transaction record started looking like a textbook example of what NOT to do, and when Kobe Bryant scored 81 points on a 27 win team that seemed to have completely lost it’s desire to compete.
As the old saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn, and just a few months after Kobe eviscerated the Raptors, it did look like dawn was finally coming for a moribund team who hadn’t even sniffed at the playoffs in four long seasons.
Bryan Colangelo was coming to Toronto to run the team.
I admit, I bought into the hype. I quickly forgot about the criticism I threw his way while running the Phoenix Suns for trying to win with a defensively flawed roster and a coach that seemed to believe defense should be an after thought. I knew the importance of defense to any team hoping to win a title. Since they began keeping defensive ratings for teams, only one team has won a Championship without being ranked in the top 5 during the regular season. That’s going back 40 years.
There’s a difference between trying to be innovative, and simply ignoring common sense.
But I wanted to believe. That’s why I wrote off Colangelo drafting Andrea Bargnani off as a difference of opinion (I was vehemently against it). Sure, I thought selecting a big man who was a poor rebounder and had bad defensive instincts was a recipe for disaster, but I trusted Colangelo.
I trusted him when he built a team whose ceiling looked rather limited, even after they won 47 games and the Atlantic Division title.
I trusted him when he made move after move that didn’t seem to make a whole lot of basketball sense at the time, or in hindsight.
I trusted him even though the team kept getting worse despite the moves he made.
I trusted him when he signed a 30 year old defensively challenged small forward with a history of motivational issues and a declining game to a 5 year, $53 million contract, to add to a team of defensively challenged players and start in the same frontcourt as Andrea Bargnani.
I trusted that he didn’t REALLY believe that team could win 50 games that year, because it was fairly obvious to anyone outside of his office that wasn’t going to happen.
I trusted him when, after losing Chris Bosh and trading away Hedo Turkoglu, it became evident he was trying to build around Bargnani, because I trusted he would realize that this was a disaster in the making.
Well, after a franchise record five year playoff drought, a team with the payroll of a contender, but the roster of a borderline playoff team, after trying to sell an inefficient, inconsistent and massively overpriced Rudy Gay as an elite player, I’ve had enough.
After seven years running the Raptors, it’s clear that Colangelo has no clue how to built a championship team. Or he’s given up trying, knowing he can take advantage of the Raptor fans loyalty.
Raptor fans deserve better.
Over the last five years, the Raptors are 14th in the league in attendance, despite averaging only 30 wins. That’s loyalty. And I’d say that deserves to be rewarded.
Raptor fans are a passionate group. Often without reason. Over the 17 years the franchise has been in existence, only two teams have made the playoffs less than the Raptors. And they’ve only had four winning seasons during that time. They are one of the least successful franchises in the NBA on the court. But that doesn’t have to continue.
First things first. Colangelo has to go.
He’s a fantastic salesman, but we’ve had enough of him selling us lemonade and trying to convince us it’s wine. He’ll no doubt give you the whole song and dance that he needs to finish what he’s started. That he should be given another year to see what this roster he’s built can do with a full season.
But do we really need a full season to see what this roster can do? Gay isn’t the elite player Colangelo pretends he is. DeMar DeRozan isn’t the All Star Colangelo envisioned him to be, and certainly not worth the extension he was signed to. Not with the one-dimensional game he’s shown so far. Kyle Lowry couldn’t even beat Jose Calderon for the starting position until Calderon was traded away. He’s not a bad point guard, but maybe there’s a reason two previous teams gave up on him.
We’ve already given Colangelo seven years. He doesn’t need eight.
I hear that you might be considering Phil Jackson to replace him. I admit, I have no idea whether Jackson would be any good at running a franchise, since he’s got no front office experience. At this point, however, we’d all willing to overlook it if it means ending the Colangelo era. Raptor fans are that desperate.
I haven’t seen such a lack of hope among Raptor fans in a LONG time. It’s worse than when Bosh left town. Most of them see this team for what it is. A last gasp attempt by Colangelo to keep his job by trying to field a team that he can sell as competitive, even though being competitive is basically the upside for this crew.
Give the fans something to hope for. Maybe it’s a shot at Andrew Wiggins or even Jabari Parker. Raptor fans will be patient if you give them a reason to be. More than anything, they’d really like a chance at this…
Pipe dream for many Raptors fans, but with today’s announcement of Tim Leiweke being named the new MLSE President and CEO, some think if anyone has a chance to make this dream come to fruition to add Jackson in a front office capacity, Leiweke could be the guy to entice him. Thoughts?
Is this the beginning of the end for Bryan Colangelo? As you can see from some of these quotes, Leiweke’s first priority is winning, which is at odds with Bryan Colangelo’s style of management.
“Tim Leiweke is one of the top sports executives in the world, renowned for his ability to build championship teams, premier entertainment events, and innovative brand and marketing opportunities,” MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum said in a news release. “Tim is a leader who understands what fans want and what it takes to build winners. With his deep leadership experience and unparalleled success at the highest levels of professional sports, Tim’s the right CEO at the right time to lead the transformation of MLSE.”
Tim Leiweke, who helped improve Los Angeles’ sporting fortunes and revive the city’s once-woebegone downtown during his 17-year leadership of sports and entertainment giant AEG, on Friday was named president and chief executive of Toronto-based Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
Leiweke, who left AEG on March 14 by what he said was “mutual agreement,” will move to Canada and will assume his new role in late June.
Leiweke said his duties will be similar to those he had at AEG, where he was a passionate and sometimes hands-on overseer of the MLS Galaxy and the Kings. He was the face of the company in negotiating deals with city officials and politicians.
“We’re not going to focus on growth outside of our core assets,” he said of MLSE. “They want to win, and so that’s priority No. 1: build a long-term contender in hockey, basketball and soccer. And they have ambitions, and so we will grow, and that is a priority.”
Throughout the NBA playoffs, where we Raptor fans are left to wallow, Raptors Republic brings you the 100 Words Series. Calling on RR writers and other Raptor scribes from around the internet and MSM, we’ll provide the Republic with 100-word takes on players, coaches, management and announcers. Look for these two or three times a week, continuing today with Kyle Lowry. The mission I charged the contributors with was simple: you have 100 words (prose, poetry, song, whatever) to discuss said player.
Andrew Thompson, Raptors Republic
Kyle Lowry’s 2012-2013 per 36 minute stats:
14.1 points, 7.8 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals on 40-36-79 splits. He’s one of the best on ball defenders in the NBA (when he wants to be) and he’s only making $6.2 million next year. If you’re not thrilled with your point guard for next season, well then, you’re a fool.
Blake Murphy, Raptors Republic
That there is the issue. Kyle Lowry struggled to be both a creator and a facilitator at the same time this year, although a large part of that may have been due first to his changing roles and then to his changing teammates. Coach Casey’s sometimes awkward idea of an NBA offense probably didn’t help either. If Lowry can find a way to mesh above-average court vision with his scoring talents (not just bounce between the two), he’ll once again be the man for whom I penned this.
Eric Koreen, The National Post
Sometimes the narrative exists solely to serve the lazy journalist, and sometimes it is the truth. Kyle Lowry must become a professional this year. The coaching staff did him no favours last year, asking him to be an off-brand version of Jose Calderon. But Lowry did not always try to make the most of the situation. Assuming the Raptors pick up the option on Lowry’s contract, he will be a free agent next year. There is no doubt he can play. All he has to do is accept coaching and lead, and he will be wealthy.
PhD Steve, Raptors Republic
Kyle Lowry – A Haiku
Not sure if hes good
cause coach plays no real offense
wait and see next year
Ryan McNeill, Hoops Addict
In November Lowry teased fans with his potential as he averaged 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.2 dimes, but it turns out that isn’t the style of play Dwane Casey wants from his point guards so the talented point guard and defensive-minded coach butted heads for most of the season. The result was a neutered Lowry that averaged 8.6 dimes in April but only averaged 9.6 points. There were rumours that Lowry played this season injured, but, regardless of the reason, he needs to step up next season as it’s his last year of his contract.
Tim W., Raptors Republic
It recently occurred to me who Kyle Lowry reminds me of. A poor man’s Russell Westbrook. Both are natural shoot first PGs who get a lot of assists. Both are phenomenal rebounders who have a better defensive reputation than they really should. Both take a lot of ill-advised threes, that thrill when they go in, but kill if they don’t. They both play with a reckless abandon and a chip on their shoulder that hurts them almost as much as it helps them. Just as I have mixed feelings about Westbrook, I have mixed feelings on Lowry.
Zarar Sidiqi, Raptors Republic
Whenever I think of Kyle Lowry, I get reminded how he was Colangelo’s Plan B, where Plan A was giving Steve Nash $36M for three years. Considering the alternative, I’d say Lowry was a good gamble where nothing but a pick was conceded (and we have given up picks for far less). This season we learned that reining him in by turning him into a “traditional” point guard doesn’t work because he’s simply not that. The meaningless end to the season did have one meaningful aspect, and that’s Lowry figuring out how to run a team without being reckless.
For those stat mongers who can’t seem to get enough of analyzing numbers, you might be interested in following this discussion.
Throughout the NBA playoffs, where we Raptor fans are left to wallow, Raptors Republic brings you the 100 Words Series. Calling on RR writers and other Raptor scribes from around the internet and MSM, we’ll provide the Republic with 100-word takes on players, coaches, management and announcers. Look for these two or three times a week, starting today with DeMar DeRozan and following up tomorrow with Kyle Lowry. The mission I charged the contributors with was simple: you have 100 words (prose, poetry, song, whatever) to discuss said player.
Andrew Thompson, Raptors Republic
There is going to be endless talk this summer and through training camp of DeMar working on his three point shot. That’s fair, because he doesn’t have one. I don’t care. What he must learn is how to see the court and find his teammates as defensives adjust to him. DeMar’s game is slashing to the hoop and bullying smaller guards on the block and in isolation. If he can find the open big or shooter camped in the weak-side corner when help defense rotates to him at the basket, he can be both productive and efficient, without the three.
Blake Murphy, Raptors Republic
I think I’d like DeMar DeRozan. I also think I’d like all the guys I cheer for to work like he works. While his career trajectory leaves some doubt as to his eventual upside, he has shown an ability to make incremental improvements each season. This year, his playmaking and post offense both got much better. This offseason’s area to work on is obvious – the long ball. DeRozan had a career best 28.3% rate from long range, and this team lacks outside threats and spacing in the half court. Get it done, DeMar, and you and Rudy Gay can co-exist.
J.M. Poulard, Raptors Republic
For one stretch during the regular season, DeRozan was the best player on the Raptors. Bargani was injured and Gay hadn’t yet joined the team. The face of the franchise was unquestionably the Raptors’ guard. Even towards the end of the regular season, DeRozan’s potential and his production seemed to intertwine. Can he lead the franchise into a new direction? Truthfully, recent evidence would suggest he cannot. Then again, perhaps his path is the one that matters most. After failing with Bargnani, the franchise might need to see if DeRozan can coexist with Gay and possibly even win a “battle” for undisputed best player status in the hierarchy of the Raptors.
Ryan McNeill, Hoops Addict
It’s tough to expect too much from any 23-year-old player, but DeRozan just finished his fourth NBA season and he still remains an enigma. The positives are he posted a career-high in minutes, scoring, rebounds and assists. Fan should be thrilled, right? Wrong. DeRozan’s shooting percentage were nothing short of a rollercoaster and he still hasn’t developed a consistent shot from the perimeter. Next season he needs to step it up on the defensive end while adding a consistent perimeter shot.
Sam Holako, Raptors Republic
Took a real leap forward this season after signing a massive contract in the summer. Showed maturity and a willingness to adapt to a new teammate (Rudy Gay) who occupies the same space on the floor. Net result: improved on his shooting, playmaking, trips to the line, true shooting, effective field goal percentage, and wins share after posting two-to-three straight seasons of decline in each of those categories. Hopefully he won’t be the price of unloading Bargnani in the offseason, which would be a bitter pill to swallow, but he’s the shooting guard this team needs.
Tim W, Raptors Republic
DeMar DeRozan is the perfect example of a good player on a bad team. He’s average or below average in advanced stats for shooting guards, except for Usage, Defensive Rebounding, NBA Efficiency, and Alternate Player Efficiency Rating. I simply don’t see how he can fit in on a good team. His below average defense is probably a bigger impediment than his lack of three point shooting and after four years it’s unlikely he’ll improve much. It’s too bad because he’s such a hard worker. You wish every player on your team would approach the game the way DeRozan does.
Zarar Siddiqi, Raptors Republic
An increase in TS%, eFG%, WS/48, FG%, and FT% speak to an improving shooter; what plagues him is his inability to contribute when covered by a locked-in defender, which is when the lack of dribble-drive gets exposed. That area that hasn’t seen much improvement since he came in the league and he’s at that age where he is what he is. Let’s see if Colangelo turns the premature extension into an asset, and flips him for someone that isn’t eerily similar to Gay. Right now we’re in danger of expecting things from DeRozan that he may not be ultimately capable of.
This week on The Doctor is In with Phdsteve, we look at Colangelo’s end of season press conference and unpack what he actually means by “internal organic growth.” After that we spend some time wondering if the Raptors should implement the Triangle offense and if that has always been Colangelo’s plan in acquiring so many wing players! Lastly, after noodling around “Inside Colangelo’s Brain” perhaps the guy to get moved this summer in addition to Bargs is not one of the wings as we all assumed but instead Kyle Lowry.
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You listening or reading this Colangelo? (That’s if your still around this summer) Stop architecting us teams built with clowns.
In what is sure to be a heated summertime debate the Raptors may be faced with a choice that no man should have to make: a choice between John Lucas and Sebastian Telfair. The latter is an unrestricted free-agent while the former has one year left on his deal, and early speculation is that Bryan Colangelo, in a bold and rambunctious move, may bring both guards back, giving the Raptors lethal depth at the point guard position.
While the younger Telfair has seen three fewer springs, it is the older and mayhaps wiser Lucas that boasts a team-low 7.0 TOV%. Although the relevance of that statistic is hotly debated, NBA experts almost unanimously agree that is indeed a statistic and therefore carries some value. Lucas had a pre-season which, if there was a Hall of Fame for pre-season performances, would surely make him a first-ballot entry. He struggled to start the season and continued struggling in December. And also in January, but as soon as February hit, that is when the real John Lucas emerged and shot a blinding 51% for the month. His value as a game-winner was also clear to the naked eye as he supplied valuable ammunition at Indiana and New York in the midst of the Raptors brief but legendary play for the playoffs.
Lucas may have his detractors, like those who value passing and prefer point guards being less prone to the over-dribble, yet even they are forced to concede that he is capable enough to carve out a space on an NBA roster. The dilemma facing the Raptors may be that they already have Kyle Lowry as a starter, a player who much like Lucas, prefers the scoring role rather than the passing. Lowry has undoubtedly made some strides this season as a playmaker, especially later in the campaign, but it is his similarity to Lucas in being a scoring guard that may result in Lucas being considered surplus to requirements. This is where Telfair can eek into the picture.
Now that the nasty rumor about Telfair’s last name being DNPCD has been put to rest, it is possible that the youngish (27) point guard may be able to make one final push in the NBA. After all, Steve Nash didn’t win his MVP till he was 30, so there is a chance. On a serious note, Telfair has shown little to warrant a contract from the Raptors and boasts an unspectacular 25% shooting rate when “at the rim”. On the positive end, he is young. Or at least, youngish. Did I mention that he’s young…ish?
Childish banter aside, here’s a comparison of the season that just passed. It may come down to three-point shooting, which the 26th ranked Raptors (34%) may value, and if that’s the case then Lucas has the edge: 38% to Telfair’s 35%. If it’s playmaking the Raptors desire, it’s Telfair who gets the nod with a 2.6 AST% over Lucas’ 1.7%. Defensively, Telfair is the better player, but he’s also more turnover-prone than Lucas. This is simply too close to call.
In the end it may come down to the Raptors having no draft picks, no cap space, and owning Telfair’s Bird rights, that results in them bringing back both guards in roles similar to the past season. With no bargaining chips on the trade market and having only minimum salaried free-agents to pick from, the Raptors will have to get creative in how they intend to contend for the eight seed next year, and one of the plays may be just to retain their point guard situation. This tandem is only a problem if they’re headlining the scoring off the bench, and if Terrence Ross and Landry Fields can carry that scoring, it may not be the worst thing in the world if Lucas comes back as the official backup instead of the third-stringer that he was the past year. As for Telfair, you always need a third point guard and the minimum might just even cut it with him.
The larger question being posed here is about just how Bryan Colangelo will improve this roster considering the financial shackles it’s in, and without having any significant trade chips. That is what makes this off-season so interesting.
The player, GM and coach season recaps start tomorrow.
After an excessively long hibernation, the crew deployed at the RR home office in Athabasca, Alberta, have checked in with a fresh installment of the list, as they decipher the Top Ten Reasons Matt Devlin is Solid on TNT but Terrible When Calling the Raptors
…and the #1 reason Matt Devlin is solid on TNT but terrible when calling the Raptors…drum roll….
The eye-test of the past five years under Bryan Colangelo, one in which the Raptors have missed the playoffs every time, suggests that this team only wins games when it doesn’t matter. Specifically, when playing out the tail end of the season with nothing on the line is when this team finds the winning mentality. Of course, by then the playoffs are a distant dream but it provides just enough fodder for our MLSE-employed announcers to suggest that a training camp is all you need, usually because we pull off a mid-season trade that completes the real makeup of our team.
Blake and his stats are the best in the business and usually he’d be writing something like this but since it is Friday night, he has a life, and I have nothing to do, I thought I’d take a shot at Microsoft Excel and Basketball Reference. What I basically did here is take the first 80% of the season, and the latter 20% of the season and compare the Raptors record in it. Strength of schedule is not factored, I’m assuming it evens out in the long-run. The percentage split is needed because of the lockout-shortened season when they only played 66 games. This is what the numbers look like:
As you can see, in three of the five years, the Raptors have played significantly better basketball in the last 20% of the season, which is coincidentally when there is zero chance of making the playoffs, other teams tend to care less, and there is no pressure to win. The greatest such run was the 2009 season which is when Shawn Marion came over. This past season comes close with a 14% differential.
The difference between the past year and these seasons is that the Raptors have a good chance of bringing the exact same core back for training camp in Gay, DeRozan, Johnson, and Lowry. Perhaps in previous years, the core wasn’t as clear-cut and wasn’t as developed as the current crop. So there’s that hope.
Scaling this a little and considering a 75/25 split of the season, the trend of playing better basketball in the later stages of the season still holds:
There is something a little more interesting that pops up, and that’s the 2009-10 season which is when the Raptors had a bit of a collapse and lost out when the pressure was on. You might recall Marco Belinelli, Colangelo’s SG of the future at the time, having an 0-4-from-three game against the Bulls at home.
For me, this season ended with the home loss to Washington (Reaction, Recap), and anything after that I safely ignored. We weren’t as bad as some of the losses after that, and not as good as some of the wins. I had not expected the Raptors to grab the final playoff spot but expected to compete for it, and we didn’t even come close. I think the last few wins we notched would’ve had far more meaning if they came with Milwaukee, Philadelphia and the Raptors in a neck-to-neck race, instead of Milwaukee comfortably in control and Philadelphia, much like the Raptors, winning games that hardly count.
I’m cautiously optimistic that this team can nab the 8th seed next year and would go so far as to put some money on it. That’s the good news. The bad news is that that’s where I think they’ll be for a few years to come, which I suppose, given Bryan Colangelo’s record, would be an improvement. The way I see it, Miami, New York, Indiana, Brooklyn and Chicago are locks to make the playoffs for the next few years. That leaves three spots for Atlanta, Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, and Washington. I’m pretending Orlando and Charlotte don’t exist, and rightfully so.
Of this second tier of playoff contenders, I think Boston will go in a full-scale rebuild with Avery Bradley and Rondo as the core, so let’s kick them out. Let’s also presume that the Josh Smith and Jeff Teague leave, and Al Horford can’t carry the load on his own. That’s done with the Hawks. I’ll go ahead and say that the Wizards are still a couple years and few moves away from being a playoff team, of course this assumes John Wall doesn’t completely explode. In the ring still remain Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, and Toronto. I say Milwaukee stays ahead of the Raptors on account of a decent back-court, an improving front line, and overall experience. So now we got a battle for two playoff spots between Philly, Detroit, Cleveland, and Toronto.
I’m contemplating Joe Dumars either wasting his cap space on over-rated free agents, or simply not being able to find anyone to play in Detroit, thus leaving the Pistons marginally better or the same. Now it’s down to two spots and three teams: Philly, Cleveland, and Toronto. I like the core of Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and Anderson Varejao. They’re going to add someone in the draft this year and Irving will continue to significantly improve. I think they’re better than the Raptors so give them one playoff spot. It’s now a showdown between Philly and Toronto, and I think the Raptors are the better team. Jrue Holiday is a nice piece, but overall, the Raptors have better talent and should’ve finished ahead of Philly this year. They didn’t and will next year. There’s your playoff team.
As for Valanciunas, the promising Raptors big man who’s been averaging a 15-7 since mid-March, here’s a true story: When Sam Presti was quietly shopping James Harden last October, he called Toronto to feel out a Jonas package. And got rebuffed. Quickly.
“If you lose the last game of the season, nobody gives a s$@t.”
Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, Moneyball
So the Raptors did what Brad Pitt’s character could never do, in their win against the Celtics last night. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s what he actually had in mind.
It was fanapalooza night and the fans were treated to a good old fashioned blow-out. And while I have often criticized Raptor fans for being too emotional and too wrapped up in the moment, but I’ve also defended them as being among the most loyal in the NBA. And the most vocal.
Some sports writers, who shall remain nameless, will often throw out a Raptor comment knowing they get a lot of response from fans.
You go to any NBA forum and the Raptor boards are always the busiest.
This year, the Raptors had the 13th highest attendance in the league. And while that may not sound like much to be proud of, keep in mind that every team ahead of them had a better record, and either were in the playoffs this year or made the playoffs last year. The Raptors haven’t made the playoffs for the last 5 years.
Speaking of the fans, there have been a number of comments on this site criticizing the writers here, including me, for being too negative. Some feel we should write more positive stories. Personally, I’ve always felt I simply wrote what I saw, whether positive or negative (and really, if I’m so negative, why did my prediction for the season fall one win short ?). With the team missing the playoffs for the 5th straight year, and a team that many feel is built for mediocrity, I think many of us can be forgiven if the “negative” outweighs the “positive” because that’s a reflection of the team. The team won 34 games for the season and were out of the playoff hunt almost a month ago. If it wasn’t for the Raptors taking advantage of a few playoff teams who treated the last few games as nothing more than an exhibition season, the Raptors might have ended up with the same winning percentage as last year, despite adding $20 million in salary and three “core” players to the team.
And then I really listened to Matt Devlin and Leo Rautins talk during the game.
If you listen to any Raptor commentator, and take what they are saying to heart, reading what any other Raptor writer, outside of Doug Smith, has to say would probably be jarring. You see, the Raptor commentators are Raptor employees. When Michael Grange was interviewing Bryan Colangelo, in the halftime feature, this was an employee interviewing his boss.
They HAVE to say positive things about the team or else they’ll be fired.
That’s why you heard Leo Rautins refer to Andrea Bargnani as a workable asset that has trade value, and not the unwieldy contract that will be nearly impossible to move.
That’s why they kept talking up the Rudy Gay trade as if it was such a great move for the team, and not a panic move that is meant to save Colangelo’s job. The organization knows the criticism being levelled at them, and they have an avenue to dispute it without argument.
Of course, there was a game last night, and while Boston came into it with the same level of interest as the Hawks and Bulls before them, the Raptors did have the professionalism to give their fans a good send off.
There wasn’t really a Raptors that didn’t play well, but the player of the game was probably Jonas Valanciunas, who finished the night with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. As usual, he got to the line and played hard every minute he was on the court.
In one sequence, Valanciunas beat every other player up the court to catch a lob from Kyle Lowry for a fast break dunk. If anyone is worried that the Raptors playing a faster pace is not conducive to playing Valanciunas, I suggest you watch this play.
One interesting moment. After a play where Valanciunas fouled Shavlik Randolph, first John Lucas approaches him to explain why it was a foul, and then Alan Anderson. A good sign that his teammates want to help him, and that he’s open to their help.
While Valanciunas had another good game, teams are obviously starting to scout him. All four of his turnovers were due to Boston doubling him and either taking the ball from him or making him pass it. Next year is going to be a big adjustment as teams start sending double teams at him.
Another of Valanciunas’ weaknesses is his penchant for fouling, which is normal for rookie big men. After his second foul in the first quarter, Dwane Casey, as usual took him out. One criticism I’ve had of Casey all year long, is he’s too by-the-book when it comes to removing players with fouls.
It was the last game of the year. Wouldn’t it be a good time to let Valanciunas play with two fouls and see how reacts? What’s the worst that can happen? He gets another foul and sits the rest of the half.
While it’s obvious the Raptors played well, one issue I have with them is the number of times they take a quick three early in the clock. Last night, many of them went in, but that’s hurt them a lot over the course of the season. When you’re hot, that shot is fine. When you’re not, it can be a killer.
I could talk more about the game, but whether you like it or not, it was a meaningless game to finish off a pretty meaningless season. While ending the season going 7-1 might seem like a great thing, how a team plays at the end of a season generally has no bearing on how they do the next season. Worst of all, though, if there was any question before about whether MLSE would pick up Colangelo’s option, this probably seals the deal. And that’s not good news for any Raptor fans that care about building a REAL winning team.
So with the season over for the Raptors, I suggest that everyone watch as much playoff basketball as possible this spring. And make this past season a memory.
|Amir Johnson, PF 23 MIN | 2-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +18AMIR JOHNSON AVERY BRADLIED AVERY BRADLEY! I can honestly say that tonight was the first time I saw a big man steal the ball off of a point guard in a full court press. The timing on his help defense is so nuanced; his veteran play makes it easy to forget that he’s still only 25 years old. Valanciunas and DeMar have given Raptors fans a reason to feel optimistic over the last few weeks, but Amir has been doing it all season long. It’s been a tremendously underrated year for Amir Johnson, who has easily become my favorite Raptor since He-who-shall-not-be-named.|
|Rudy Gay, SF 26 MIN | 6-14 FG | 3-3 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 19 PTS | +15“Get ready for next year. Hope to see you next year.” That was Rudy’s address to the crowd on fan appreciation night tonight. I’m going to leave that one alone. As long as we’re just talking about tonight though, there is no reason not to praise Mr. Gay’s very solid performance. Gay had 19 points and 9 rebounds with relative ease, and if he can do that while being efficient in his shot selection next year, I promise to be his biggest fan. Rudy Gay continues to show how valuable he can be in an offense in which he is a cog instead of the key to.|
|Jonas Valanciunas, C 29 MIN | 6-10 FG | 6-8 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 4 TO | 18 PTS | +20Jonas hammered the early offensive boards and controlled the first quarter of the game, showing why big men have such a value in this league. Jonas drew a foul with a rarely seen pump fake at the 8:06 mark of the first quarter. He busted out that pump fake another couple of times afterwards looking very agile for a man his size and getting fouled, or a good shot as a result. I understand that it’s silly to be excited about an NBA player demonstrating that they can do a pump fake. I don’t care. Dominating Chris Wilcox, Shavlik Randolph and Fab Melo doesn’t make you the second coming of Shaquille O’Neal; but man, it is an absolute joy to watch. Boston gave Valanciunas a few open mid-range jumpers, and he looked confident and comfortable in taking them. Jonas was working his hook shot tonight. His release on it is stiff and overthought. But the ease with which he steps into and creates space for that shot shows that he’s only a few hundred hours of practice away from being very good at a shot that is impossible to defend.|
|Kyle Lowry, PG 22 MIN | 3-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | +17Two weeks ago, I summed up Lowry’s performance by addressing an open letter to him asking where Kyle Lowry, bona-fide NBA starting point guard, had gone. We watched him play tonight. In these last 2 weeks since, Lowry has averaged 8.9 assists, 9.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals in just 32 minutes per game. Point well made Kyle; I’ll shut up and go away now. Lowry acknowledged his own disappointment in his play this season and what needs to and will change for next year. I very much respect and believe that.|
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 29 MIN | 8-13 FG | 5-5 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 24 PTS | +23DeMar has undergone a visible change in demeanor over the last few months. A more relaxed DeMar took a step up after the arrival of Gay removed the weight of the franchise from his shoulders, and he’s been nothing short of fantastic since the Raptors were eliminated from the playoffs. I would love to see if DeMar could be this player again next year when the pressure is back on. The continued freedom from double-teams, increased post-up opportunities in next year’s offense and a summer he’s promised to spend finding his range from 3 (he’s shot 75% from 3 over the last 3 games, no big deal) is reason to believe that good things lie ahead for DeMar and, by extension, the Raptors.|
|Quincy Acy, SF 25 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +9I see you Quincy Acy. If Landry Fields and Amir Johnson hadn’t already demonstrated the possible value of a second round pick to you, surely Quincy Acy’s late season stretch of improved play made the point. Toronto has traded away their second round pick for 3 of the next 4 years. (Pardon me for a moment while my head explodes.)|
|Landry Fields, SF 28 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +10Landry Fields has shown us in games like these why we’re happy to start fresh with him next year. Of course, this deal is predicated upon the understanding that his PlayStation Vita commercials that were so inescapable during Raptors games this year will be less painfully unwatchable in the future. I’m not blaming Landry here; it’s the awkward gimmick, not Landry that’s the problem. But he needs to understand how impatient and irritable a fan base can be when they’ve been tortured by “Primo pasta and sauce” for years.|
|Aaron Gray, C 14 MIN | 1-1 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | 0Aaron gay shot 100% from the floor tonight, proving once again that you simply cannot stop Aaron Gray. You can only hope to contain him.|
|John Lucas, PG 26 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +7I continue to throw things in anger whenever I think about how we traded a second round pick so that Sebastian Telfair could substitute John Lucas as a backup point guard for 185 meaningless minutes. In Lucas’ defense, while his often ill fated drives to the basket really like to get blocked, his right corner 3-point shots really, really like to go in.|
|Alan Anderson, SG 19 MIN | 5-10 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +1The Alan Anderson experience has been a hell of a ride. He’s proven to be a valuable irrational confidence guy at times, winning a pair of mid season games on his own. He’s also the captain of the ‘I-refuse-to-even-look-at-the-wide-open-roll-man’ all-stars. Anderson took every possible shot that he could tonight, but he salvaged his bad selection by grabbing his own rebound and putting it back in on multiple occasions in a game where Boston wasn’t particularly concerned about doing much of anything. It’s been swell Alan, I feel confident in speaking for Raptors fans who wish you nothing but the best, and will fondly remember those 4th quarters you owned.|
|Dwane CaseyCasey has gotten his team to play hard, embrace their short-comings, demonstrate a team mentality and develop confidence in themselves. The team’s front court defence has been impressive down the stretch, and adding a focused and determined Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay to that team defence next season could finally be the unit that validates Casey’s reputation as a great defensive mind. It’s a tough sell to get your team to perform in a manner that gives your fans reason for optimism after you’ve been eliminated from the season. Whether or not that was a good idea in terms of all but ensuring that the team will now miss it’s first round lottery pick, it’s an impressive feat, and one that I’ve enjoyed watching.|
Started from the bottom now we here.
Started from the bottom:
Now we here:
Yup. A whole lot has changed but things remain more or less the same.
The team has, however, looked good of late, winning four straight against playoff teams and six of seven overall. Does this mean anything at all? Probably not, given the difficulty in taking anything this late in the season as true performance.
But there are positive signs – the development of Jonas Valanciunas, the defensive performance of the starting unit (seriously, it’s the fourth-best five-man unit in basketball if we loosen playing time requirements), the continued excellence of Amir Johnson, and more.
2013-14 might not be a terribly exciting season, but it definitely promises to be better than this year, the franchise’s fifth straight season missing the playoffs (the first time that has ever happened). So things should get better. But we thought that last offseason, too. Perhaps this late surge is just a part of the evil master plan, a way to galvanize fans before what will be an uneventful offseason, a red herring for Bryan Colangelo to point at and say “see?” to save his job. But maybe…
As the Raptors tip off at 8 p.m. against the Celtics tonight in a game that means literally nothing to either team, hope for a victory. The chances of keeping the team’s lottery pick are down to less than four percent, so a loss is meaningless, and at least a win let’s the team stick it to Hollinger with….one more win than he predicted.
I doubt we’ll see any Celtic regulars as the team tries to rest up for a first round match-up against the Knicks (and don’t underestimate the Celtics, that should be a fun series). So we’ll be treated to Courtney Lee, Chris Wilcox and likely game-MVP Shavlik Randolph, since he’s exactly the type of guy who would inexplicably have a big game against the Raptors.
But it should be a win, and a way to wrap up a very disappointing season on a somewhat positive note – a five-game winning streak and an up-tick in winning percentage. Plus, hey, just a few games back of the playoffs! BUY SEASON SEATS NOW!
I realize many of you are disenfranchised with the team and any wins now won’t phase you at all. That’s how it should be, since these games don’t mean a whole heck of a lot. But it’s the last time you’ll see a Raptors game until October, and by then I bet you’ll be missing it. Terrence Ross’ alley-oops, Rudy Gay’s separation creation, Amir Johnson’s hustle, Jonas Valanciunas’ enthusiasm, DeMar DeRozan’s mid-range game, Andrea Bargnani’s vacant stare…you get the point.
So yeah, just like Drake, for the Raptors “started from the bottom, now we here” means literally nothing. Drake had an in-ground pool and grew up in a rich suburb. The Raptors moved from cellar dweller to barely-also-ran. Aint nobody’s “here” much too far from where they started.
But embrace the meaningless winning streak. It’s all we have for six months in Raptorland. And after tomorrow….NBA playoffs. And you can’t beat that.
Hollinger: Celtics -5
Blake: Raptors by 8. 34 wins. Mathify that.
|Amir Johnson, PF 36 MIN | 4-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 6 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +22Those 6 blocks were the only thing keeping the Hawks from running a lay-up line on the Raptor defence early on, and, by the time the rest of his teammates woke up and started playing D, the game was already close to out of reach. Another excellent performance from him tonight, as he dominated against Atlanta’s decimated front line. Also, he hit a three, which was fun.|
|Rudy Gay, SF 27 MIN | 9-14 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 22 PTS | +15Tonight, he was DeMar lite, finishing with an extremely efficient 22 points on 9 of 14 shooting. The only reason he gets a lower grade than DeRozan is that his early defense on Korver left something to be desired, but when your team wins by 20 that’s just picking nits.|
|Jonas Valanciunas, C 33 MIN | 4-5 FG | 5-6 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 4 TO | 13 PTS | +7Still needs to work a bit harder to protect the ball when he rolls toward the hoop, but tonight was a great statement game for Jonas on the national stage. He absolutely tore Johan Petro apart on both sides of the floor, as he should, and even finished with his left hand tonight, something I’ve criticized him for in the past. It was great to see him return (surprisingly) to finish out the season and not look like he’d missed a beat after sitting out all last week.|
|Kyle Lowry, PG 27 MIN | 2-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 11 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 8 PTS | +17Those shooting stats aren’t great, but he was a major reason the Raptor offense worked so well tonight. He’s a much better player when the drive-and-kick becomes option 1 for him, and tonight, he ran it to perfection, finding his wing players anytime they were open and throwing up a few highlight-reel alley-oops for good measure.|
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 28 MIN | 11-17 FG | 5-6 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 30 PTS | +13He’s been on fire lately, and his hot streak continued tonight. I loved his shot selection for the most part – he posted up Devin Harris early and didn’t force up nearly as many jumpers as he usually does, instead getting them through the flow of the offense. That might be partially due to a listless Hawks defense, and partially due to a suddenly rejuvenated Kyle Lowry, but, even so, it sure was nice to watch.|
|Quincy Acy, SF 22 MIN | 2-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | +7I’m still loving the hustle and energy, though he clearly needs to work on his jump shot this offseason to keep defences honest. I’m not so sure that he won’t end up being one of Colangelo’s best draft picks, as he’s clearly proven that he’s got the ability to be a rotation-level NBA player as he continues to develop.|
|Landry Fields, SF 9 MIN | 0-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 1 PTS | -3Came in for garbage time and ran around without much of an end-game in mind. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t have a chance to do much else.|
|John Lucas, PG 21 MIN | 4-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | 0So, if Anderson is the poor man’s Kobe, and Lucas is the poor man’s Anderson… Does that make Lucas the homeless man’s Kobe? In all seriousness, he played very well when the game was in doubt in the first half, running the second unit offense excellently – and then decided to try and shoot every time he touched the ball in garbage time. Yuck.|
|Alan Anderson, SG 19 MIN | 1-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +2Shots, shots, shots shots shots shots… EVERYBODY!|
|Terrence Ross, SG 18 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +5Here’s hoping that ankle injury isn’t serious, as he’s finally seemed to pick up his energy level and is looking much more like the promising talent we saw for stretches mid-season. If it does sideline him for tomorrow’s game (I’d assume it will), at least he got one last highlight-reel dunk in, on TNT no less, for good measure.|
|Dwane CaseyMade the right decisions with his lineup, got his guys up to play what was essentially a meaningless game, and showed up a playoff team on TNT. Tonight, I have no complaints. Well, I have one complaint: why the hell is Anderson playing over Fields? Am I missing something here?|
The Optimism Tour continues tonight in Atlanta.
The Toronto Raptors are in the midst of a good run to close out the season and it’s the best way to sell out hope for the 2013-14 campaign.
Since April 3, Toronto has won five-of-six contests. Their last three wins came in succession and against playoff opponents. The Raps defeated the Chicago Bulls twice and most recently the Brooklyn Nets on April 14 at the Air Canada Centre.
During the string of victories, DeMar DeRozan has been averaging 22.8 points per game on 53.4 percent field goal shooting. He’s received some assistance from Rudy Gay, whose produced 17.3 points on 41.9 percent shooting from the field.
But let’s be honest here, those numbers aren’t quite jaw dropping. They are somewhere between decent and good, but obviously not the biggest aspect in these victories.
That in actuality would be their defense. Indeed, since April 3, Toronto’s been surrendering 97.9 points per 100 possessions according to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool.
That would be the third best defense in the league over that period of time, right behind the Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat.
Consequently, the Atlanta Hawks might have a tougher contest than initially anticipated tonight. On their end, they just recently bounced back from a three-game losing streak with back-to-back wins over the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks.
It’s worth noting Atlanta has already been victorious twice against Toronto this season thanks in large part to their frontline play.
Al Horford has simply been a beast against the Raptors this year, averaging 24 points, 11 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game on 60.6 percent field goal shooting.
Matching up with the former Gator will be an incredibly tough matchup. He’s hurt the Raps this year both on the block and in the mid-range game with his jumpers. Every time Dwane Casey has called for his team to rotate off him to contain drives, he’s made them pay.
In addition, his synergy with Josh Smith has simply been impressive. They have a knack for finding each other in a fun set they love to run. They typically both start at the elbows and one of them catches the ball and runs a pick-and-roll with the other.
The action usually results in a smooth big-to-big alley oop.
If the Raptors can contain Atlanta’s big man tandem, they should have an opportunity to slay another playoff team on the Optimism Tour.
On national television no less.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.
This week on The Doctor is In with Phdsteve, a moment of silence for those in Boston who were at the Marathon and a word or two on how that changes our ability to watch live sporting events moving forward. Most of the talk today is about the Lakers and what they will do now moving forward in light of Kobe’s achilles (regardless of whether or not they make the playoffs). For the Raptors, if LA amnesties Kobe there could be several moves to follow that could help the Raptors in their rebuild, retool, growth as franchise. I speculate that this probably allows for the Lakers and Raptors to re-open the Gasol//Bargnani discussion and I argue that moving forward it may be the best way for both teams to improve for 2013-2014.
In a season that has been mostly disappointing, there have been a couple of bright lights for the Raptors. The biggest one is probably the play of Jonas Valanciunas. While he did have a couple of bumps in the road, including a couple of injuries that have caused him to miss a total of 19 games so far, most Raptor fans have a lot of optimism regarding his future.
The question is whether or not it’s warranted.
Let’s compare his current numbers to some of his contemporaries.
- 8th in scoring
- 2nd in field goal percentage
- 4th in free throw attempts and made
- 8th in free throw percentage
- 3rd in rebounding
- 3rd in blocks
- 5th in blocks per minute
- 3rd in double doubles
Those are obviously very good numbers, in comparison to the rest of the league’s rookies. To me, he seems a very good bet to me the All Rookie 1st team, which would make him the first Raptor to make it since Andrea Bargnani and Jorge Garbajosa (wouldn’t that make a great bookend to Colangelo’s tenure in Toronto- most importantly let’s just get rid of him already).
Of course, basic stats don’t tell the whole story, and can often be misleading, so let’s dig a little deeper.
His Advanced Stats are also good. While he’s only got the 11th highest PER, among all rookies, and 10th in Rebounding Percentage, he’s 3rd in True Shooting Percentage, 4th in Win Share and 5th in Block Percentage.
Let’s see how he compares to a former Raptors big man who ended up becoming a perennial All Star, Chris Bosh:
|Jonas Valanciunas||Chris Bosh|
|Per 36 Minutes:||Per 36 Minutes:|
|13.3 ppg||12.3 ppg|
|9.1 rpg||8 rpg|
|Advanced Stats:||Advanced Stats:|
|PER: 15.4||PER: 15.1|
|TS%: .612||TS%: .513|
|REB%: 15||REB%: 12.8|
|Block%: 4.1||Block%: 3.1|
|Win Share/48: .126||Win Share/48: .119|
Bosh was a year younger than Valanciunas, when he came into the league, but it’s interesting to see how Valanciunas has an advantage in nearly all of the numbers, more than can be accounted for simply him being a year older. There are some who have questioned whether Valanciunas will be an All Star, but I think it’s not only a good possibility, I think, depending on health etc, I think it’s a good probability.
Valanciunas has shown the makings of a very good post game and his ability to get to the line is a great indicator of whether he can become a good scorer. Free throws attempted divided by field goals attempted is the best indicator of how well a player can get to the line, and it’s not dependant on how many minutes a player plays and how involved in the offense he is.
Top top scorers in the league generally have a FTA-FGA ratio of, at least, .350. Big men tend to have a higher ratio, especially big men who score inside. In Chris Bosh’s rookie season, he had a .405 ratio.
Valanciunas has a rate of .486. That means for nearly every two shots he takes, he gets to the line once. That’s the best rate among all rookies this year and that’s a great sign that he’ll be able to manufacture points, as he develops his offensive game. Add the fact that he had the 12th highest free throw percentage of any rookie center in NBA history (6-10 and taller), and that that’s even more encouraging.
For your post up center able to hit free throws at a decent rate is so important, especially at the end of games. Interestingly, Brook Lopez, who was an All Star this year for the Nets, is 11th all time for rookie centers, in free throwpercentage (Lopez also had a FTA-FGA ratio of .484).
On a side note, if Shaquille O’Neal had hit even 70% of his free throws, over the course of his career, he would have scored nearly 2,000 more points, which is the equivalent of scoring 24 ppg over an entire 82 game season.
Back to Brook Lopez, he’d be another good player to compare Valanciunas to, not just because they play in the same era, but because Lopez was 20 when he came into the league, and was also a rare, back to the basket center.
|Jonas Valanciunas||Brook Lopez|
|Per 36 Minutes:||Per 36 Minutes:|
|13.3 ppg||15.4 ppg|
|9.1 rpg||9.6 rpg|
|Advanced Stats:||Advanced Stats:|
|PER: 15.4||PER: 17.9|
|TS%: .612||TS%: .568|
|REB%: 15||REB%: 15.8|
|Block%: 4.1||Block%: 4.9|
|Win Share/48: .126||Win Share/48: .112|
Now, Lopez had a little better stats, right across the board, including, interestingly enough, in rebounding, an area which he has been below average in the rest of his career. Lopez had the advantage of playing on a team with two All Stars (Vince Carter and Devin Harris-in his only All Star appearance), both of whom could shoot the three and space the floor better than most of Valanciunas’ teammates.
Still I think it does give an indication of what the future could hold for Valanciunas. Considering the scoring touch he’s shown, as well as his ability to rebound the ball and defend, as well as his renowned work ethic, I don’t see how you can argue he won’t one day make an All Star team.
To end things off, I thought I would see how Valanciunas compares, historically, with other 20 year old, or under, centers statistically.
Valanciunas is 1st all-time in true shooting percentage, 9th in ppg, 10th in rpg, 3rd in free throw percentage, 9th in PER, 9th in Block% and 6th in Win Share/48.
While the future may not be very bright for the Raptor franchise as a whole, at least we have Valanciunas. And that’s a lot better than a cookie.
So that’s what happens when your shooting guard can shoot. DeMar DeRozan, with perhaps the most dead-eye performance of his career, racked up 36 points to lead the Raptors to a fairly comfortable 93 – 87 victory.
To borrow an now over-used term, DD was en fuego on Sunday afternoon as he notched what must be a career high in three-balls. Not one, not two, but three, folks. The third one was so surprising that the officials reviewed it, when it was clear his foot was not close to the 3-point line.
Now the real question is whether this is the beginning of sustained improvement from behind the arc or not. If in fact it is, then not only does DeMar improve his own efficiency and help space the floor (which is what a shooting guard should do, not a big by the way), it opens up his own game that much more. Despite his handles being non-elite, it’s easier to do it from further out then it is long two range.
As has been pointed out recently on this site and elsewhere, the shooting guard position is going through some sort of famine. Never has the talent pool been so diluted, especially with the rules tilted so much in the favor of perimeter players. With that in mind, a DeRozan with a somewhat proficient shot would become a net-positive player going forward. It is a development everyone should keep an eye on.
If you really want to analyze this game, it was really Brooklyn’s anemic offense in the first half that cost them the game. They settled for too many jumpers, thinking the Raptors would be another notch on their winning streak belt. By the time they made their run, it was just enough to make it a close game, rather than to pull ahead.
Quincy Acy was a second round steal. Finally Bryan Colangelo pulled one off. He’s a good fit for today’s game of mobile bigs, although the term “big” is quite generous when applied to him. His basketball instincts, like his pass out of a double team to a streaking DeRozan, are above average.
A word here to temper any kind of optimism you want to draw from this stretch of decent games. The Raptors are in the enviable position of playing relaxed stress-free basketball with nothing to lose AND without “tanking” being a factor. That’s why a banged up Amir Johnson is getting big minutes in these inconsequential games. Generally management and coaching start to give more playing time to the lesser lights under the veil of “development” but really are hoping to not win as many games.
Now Brooklyn is playing for playoff positioning, but come on, it’s not really that important. But what we can applaud is the way the team withstood the 4th quarter run and were able to still preserve a victory when the Nets flipped the switch.
|Amir Johnson, PF 39 MIN | 5-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 10 PTS | -3
Got maybe the quickest foul in NBA history when he fouled while the ball was going up on the tip-off. He played his usual reliable game, defended the paint well and rebounded. He didn’t shoot all that well, but he did his job.
|Rudy Gay, SF 42 MIN | 10-19 FG | 3-4 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 26 PTS | +6
Filled the stat sheet, didn’t disappear in the fourth, and took some shots in the paint. He still takes way too many long twos and there were too many lackadaisical plays, for my liking, but he (almost) earned his paycheque, today.
|Aaron Gray, C 34 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +15
The Raptors are 2-0 since inserting him into the starting lineup for the injured Valanciunas. Obviously the missing link to take this team into the playoffs!
Seriously, he held Brook Lopez in check, grabbed some rebounds and had the biggest +/- of the game.
|Kyle Lowry, PG 37 MIN | 2-10 FG | 3-8 FT | 9 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 7 PTS | +7
He was definitely outplayed by Deron Williams, had trouble scoring, but worked hard on the floor, helped out on the boards, as usual, and did his best to find the hot shooters.
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 42 MIN | 12-22 FG | 9-9 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 36 PTS | +1
The reason the Raptors won. He took a lot of shots, and seemed allergic to the paint, today, but helped carry the team, at times, offensively, and didn’t get lit up on the other end.
|Quincy Acy, SF 23 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -2
Memo to Quincy: DON’T FALL FOR PUMPFAKES! Actually played pretty well, except for getting worked by Andray Blatche in the fourth. He rebounded, brought his usual energy and showed again that he’s got a place on this team.
|John Lucas, PG 11 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -1
The restraint he showed by not shooting ANY threes, especially when he had a number of opportunities was astounding. He still went 1-4, but took mostly good shots and remembered he had teammates on the floor with him.
|Alan Anderson, SG 12 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +7
If he ever stops trying to do his best Kobe impersonations, he’ll have his choice of where to sign. It’s his penchant for trying to do too much that hurts him the most. Other than his usual handful of bad shots, he played his usual feisty game, with good defense.
The fact that he didn’t have much of a bench to go to probably worked in his favour, as his substitutions patterns didn’t hurt the team, this time. He should have insisted the team score more inside, but otherwise, none of his usual head-scratching decisions.
And they did.
Yes, the Raptors have won 3 in a row against playoff teams, but you can’t downplay that Chicago and Brooklyn lost those games as much as as the Raptors won them.
At the start of the season, the Brooklyn Nets captivated the New York area and had basketball fans intrigued.
The team then underachieved and fired head coach Avery Johnson. Ever since, the Nets have been out of the spotlight. They’ve been completely forgotten within their own conference.
Between the Miami Heat’s 27-game winning streak, Derrick Rose’s unwillingness to rejoin the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks’ 13-game winning streak, Brooklyn’s been swept under the rug.
Perhaps the league should start paying attention.
The Brooklyn Nets have won seven of their past 10 games. They are peaking at the right time and seem poised for a good postseason run. Part of their recent turnaround can be attributed to the play of their multimillion-dollar backcourt.
Joe Johnson’s been a solid clutch performer this season and figures to be a prominent figure for the Nets going forward.
The unquestionable catalyst for the Nets as of late though is Deron Williams. The player that many argued once upon a time was on the same level as Chris Paul is officially back.
Since the beginning of March, Williams has been averaging 23.2 points and 8.1 assists per game on 48.5 percent field goal shooting.
The Nets’ point guard has been nothing short of sensational. He’s been getting in the lane more often by simply breaking down defenders off the dribble. Also, he’s been masterful in the pick-and-roll, baiting defenders into stepping up on him and blowing by them.
Once in the paint, the former Utah Jazz member has been either taking the ball to the rim, dishing off to his big people or kicking the ball out to shooters. Not so coincidentally, Brooklyn is the proud owner of the fourth best offense in the league since March 1 per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool.
Brook Lopez has increased his scoring during the run by virtue of an uptick in his field goal percentage, thanks partly to the new Deron Williams.
With their point guard playing at an elite level, the Nets dropped 117 points two nights ago on an Indiana Pacers team that boasts the best statistical defense in the league.
The Toronto Raptors will unquestionably have a tough task on their hands at the Air Canada Centre today when they host their divisional foes.
The Raps are coming off back-to-back victories over the Chicago Bulls and are more than happy to play spoiler down the stretch for teams with playoff aspirations.
Despite matching up against the Bulls’ tough perimeter defenders in the past two contests, Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan averaged a combined 40.5 points per game on 50 percent field goal shooting against them in the back-to-back contests.
Needless to say, how the Raptors’ swingmen perform will go a long way towards deciding the outcome of the contest, but that’s not the lone area of concern.
Since remerging as a playoff contender on March 1, Brooklyn has been the second best offensive rebounding team in the league according to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool. That’s pertinent given that Toronto has been in the bottom five teams in allowing opposing offensive rebounds during the same stretch.
Brooklyn by 5.
Kyle Lowry and Deron Williams should give us a good show.
Enjoy the game folks.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.
|Amir Johnson, PF 40 MIN | 10-15 FG | 3-4 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 24 PTS | +10
I’m starting to think the best play Casey drew up all year was a Rudy Gay air-ball, followed by an Amir Johnson rebound and put-back. It’s some great outside-the-box thinking on the part of Casey and it helps that Johnson beautifully executes it every time. This guy’s basically taken the latter half of this season to become the best player on the team without having a single play drawn for him. Overmatched Boozer for the most part and was too nimble for Nazr Mohammed in the paint.
|Rudy Gay, SF 41 MIN | 8-19 FG | 6-8 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 5 STL | 3 BLK | 4 TO | 23 PTS | +2
Some poor shooting game as usual, but only two of his jumpers looked like aborted babies. Good stuff from Gay at times during this game, especially when he drove the ball end-to-end for a jam and stuff. Hit a key three in the fourth quarter and looked better than average.
|Aaron Gray, C 21 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -13
The only reason to watch a Raptors game is Jonas Valanciunas, and with him injured, this guy was starting. Reminds me of the time I tried internet dating. Girl in the picture was bangin’, when I showed up to the restaurant, Jabba the Hutt was lying sideways on the table.
|Kyle Lowry, PG 36 MIN | 4-10 FG | 5-5 FT | 9 REB | 11 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +12
Pushed the tempo faster than Blake on a first date, and much like him in terms of production, was done early. I’m liking his play of late, he’s pushing the ball more (tonight was a no-brainer with Chicago’s legs and all), looking for his shot in spots, and is turning out to have games where he’s looked responsible. Nice pressure on Hinrich throughout the game.
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 40 MIN | 6-10 FG | 7-8 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 19 PTS | +12
Best part about his life right now is doing the math on how much is pay cheque will increase on a bi-weekly basis. By my math, if NBA players get paid on a bi-weekly basis during the season (approximately 6 months), he’s collecting $257,250 a cheque. That sucker goes up to $730,769. This is all before taxes. Had a good shooting game including a couple sweet short fades over the shorter Hinrich (reminded me of his abuse of Ridnour). Had lots of turnovers, but so did everyone else. Got knocked in the face by Rip Hamilton, who got ejected.
|Quincy Acy, SF 35 MIN | 3-5 FG | 4-6 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +21
I like Acy mostly because he does the little things. Things like putting a new toilet paper roll in when the old one finishes; or holding the door open for you even when you’re 40 feet away and not even intending to use said door; or putting the shopping cart back instead of leaving it in the handicap spot. He’s had a good season, survived the D-League, and is finding that just by playing hard you can get a decent reputation in the NBA. Played a season-high in minutes against a Bulls team that didn’t see him, or his hustle, coming. This guy can be a ninth guy on the team.
|John Lucas, PG 12 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -3
Was psyched to play his old team and came up with an 0-4 followed 0’s everywhere in the box score except the plus/minus, where he was minus. Right now we have two third-string PGs on the roster, and one of them needs to be driven off a cliff.
|Alan Anderson, SG 14 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +4
I like it when he’s benign, which can’t be said about the tumor in my eye caused by watching the Raptors all these years.
Was not given a chance to do anything silly. So he didn’t, although why Landry Fields didn’t play a single minute is confusing.
What better way to spend a Friday night than to watch two teams limp towards the finish line? It’s been a lot of fun to watch Valanciunas as the featured part of the team’s offence lately. Optimism hasn’t played a big role in the 2012-2013 season for the Raptors, but his recent performances have been a genuine source of it. So let’s go ahead and squash any hope of that kind of optimism tonight as Valanciunas will be on suit and tie duty.
With both Terrance Ross and Jonas Valanciunas likely sitting out with injuries, it will be interesting to see how Casey rolls his bench tonight. Heavy minutes and sets have gone to the development of these too, especially Valanciunas. As a result, we’re likely to get a heavy dose of the Quincy Acy show tonight, so set your DVRs to record! (*Sarcasm asterisk: Quincy Acy has actually been surprisingly entertaining and improved at times in recent games, and I’ve enjoyed it. But it’s just not in me to pass up a chance at a cheap joke.) Lowry has looked alternatively on point and disinterested since playoff elimination made the season something of an exercise in vanity. The same can be said of Rudy Gay, who has insisted on dribbling the ball a little bit higher each game for the last 2 weeks. My theory is that he’s playing a game of turnover-chicken with himself as a way of fighting off boredom. I can only hope it’s fun for him, because it hasn’t really gone so well and it isn’t exactly a treat to watch.
The Raptors beat the Bulls in their last meeting on Tuesday. While conventional wisdom tells you to put your money on the much better team (Bulls) beating the team in tank/development/ready for summer mode, I would not be surprised to see the Raptors pull out another sorry looking victory in the form of Tuesdays win.
Chicago has had one of the strangest regular seasons in recent memory. Depending on which night you watch them and which day’s injury report you read, it’s tough to tell whether or not the Bulls are a sleeping giant peaking just at the right time, or a team thats completely and utterly spent, in need of a week’s worth of sleep. In the last few weeks, Chicago has beaten all four of the teams that are ahead of them in the standings. Even more impressive has been their dragon slaying of Miami’s 27 game win streak, followed by vanquishing the Knicks 13 game winning streak last night. However, over that sam stretch of time they’ve also lost games to half-strength Detroit, Toronto, Washington and Sacramento teams.
The reason for Chicago’s over and under performance is head coach Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau is a great coach. He is a brilliant defensive mind and a great motivator, almost always getting the most from his team. He is also insane and something of a sadist. Thibodeau, whose team spends more time playing at playoff intensity–especially on defence– than any other team in the league, barely ever plays more than 8 players a game, with 40 or more minutes going to Deng, Butler and Noah on most nights. Butler has played a combined 90 minutes in the last 2 games alone! Luol Deng is leading the league in minutes played per game for the second consecutive year. Joakim Noah has played over 40 minutes in 26 different game this year. There was a stretch back in December where he spent less than 30 minutes total on the bench over seven games. Joakim Noah has been playing with plantar fasciitis (also known as turf toe) all season. The only way to heal turf toe is to give it consistent rest. Or, you know, you could play 40 minutes a game through it instead for a fifth place seed and one round of playoffs. It’s not like chronic foot injuries have ever proven to be a bad thing for talented young centres… There is no coach in the league for whom a single regular season victory is worth more to than Tom Thibodeau, and his team’s injury report is the result.
I expected Chicago to start crashing back to Earth a couple of months ago, and it’s a testament to this team’s determination that they’ve stuck around as long as they have. But there is a reason that they’ve had 4-6 players officially listed at ‘day-to-day’ for every single game over the last 6 weeks. The big games where Chicago leaves it all on the floor are impressive exceptions to the rule. Right now, they look a lot like a team of humans whose coach plays them as if they’re robots.
Betting Lines: Toronto -2.5
Thibodeau’s Bulls-bots batteries are dry. I’ll give Chicago the two and a half points and take the Raptors. Noah and Gibson are both likely out for the Bulls, who must be feeling a kind of exhaustion right now that tires me out just thinking about it. Everybody’s favourite Amir Johnson is likely to get big minutes, and without Noah or Gibson, I like his matchup on Boozer. If I’m wrong, it’s likely to be because Nate Robinson continued to do ridiculous Nate Robinson things. He’s done it twice in the last week already, so maybe I’m a fool, but I say anytime you get a chance to bet against a team that’s riding on Nate Robinson’s back, you do it.
It took a few days but finally me and my brother Mike were able to sit down and unpack the NCAA tournament. The two Gennaro brothers talk about Louisville’s run to the title, Pitino’s full-court press, the NBA ready roster of Michigan that couldn’t get it done, and a whole host of other fun facts and tidbits!
We even speculate which player would be the best fit as a top ten pick for the Thunder with the Raptors draft pick this spring. Its chalked full of opinion, enthusiasm, and disagreement- but what else would you expect from the brothers G!
I felt like doing something a little different today, so we’re going to have a look at the Raptors players’ contributions this year graphically. Below, you’ll find a radar diagram for each Raptor who qualified for the minutes leaderboard.
I took the 193 NBA players who qualified for the minutes leaderboard this year and created an index out of 100 for five different stats. The stats used are just meant as an approximation of the “attribute” identified in the radar screens. They might not be perfect, but it’s a first try at a methodology like this.
Volume: Indexed Points Per Game.
Efficiency: Indexed True Shooting %.
Rebounding: Indexed Rebound %.
Playmaking: Indexed Assist % minus Turnover %.
Defense: Indexed Defensive Win Shares (yup, it’s flawed, but it’s the best catch-all I have access to).
Let’s have a look at how some other Raptors stack up, loosening the minutes requirement to 1000 minutes. For the record, the NBA’s minutes requirement is “70 games or 2000 minutes,” hence Valanciunas and Lowry missing out.
Flaws & Possible Improvements
Obviously there are some flaws with these. Indexing probably isn’t the best way to go because guys like Tyson Chandlers (TS%) and Reggie Evans (Reb%) really skew the index as outliers. And Defensive Win Shares is probably a poor judgement of defense due to flaws in the statistic and because it’s a counting stat, hurting a guy like Valanicunas or Johnson. I probably should have scaled it for minutes, and perhaps done the same for “volume.” But it was just for fun anyway. If people want I can take suggestions for tweaking it and re-post it next week. If I run it again, perhaps it will be as follows:
Volume – Points Per 36 (or FGA per 36?)
Efficiency – TS%
Rebounding – Rebound %
Playmaking – Ast% – TO%
Defense – DWS Per 36
Based on some great work from Dan of Pistons Powered (with an assist from Kevin Pelton of ESPN), the Raptors have just a 5.1% chance of keeping their pick. You can go there and play around with different teams. This number is based on projections for remaining games and then applying lottery odds to the odds of finishing in each spot.
A reminder that with the win last night, the Raptors are 30-48, the 10th worst record in the NBA. Based on who is around them and the number of games left, that seems like their most likely landing spot, which would provide for a 4.0% chance of getting a top-three pick.
As fans, we are all, by nature, irrational. Don’t pretend to argue otherwise. The amount of time, thought and emotional sway that we invest in the triumphs, falls and daily trivia of a group of men playing an organized game within reasonable driving distance of our homes is not normal, and it’s probably not healthy. But it can be is a lot of fun, it gives us something to insanely argue about connect with and discuss and it pleasantly fills in the void of boredom that so dominates our lives.
From a performance analysis perspective, the most problematic part of being a fan probably stems from expectations. Expectations greatly skew our perception of reality, separating us from objectivity. This can quickly muddy the water when looking at sports, where almost everything but the final score lies in subjectivity. Rarely do we watch a game and see what actually happens. Rudy Gay might go 8 for 27 from the field, but if he hits that clutch winning shot we expect him to, all we remember is his 22 points and the 3 that won the game. People watch Amir Johnson and long for a power forward who can shoot, not seeing how the Raptors defense is 8 points per 100 possessions better when he plays. Most people don’t know what good defence looks like because we’ve stopped expecting it from our stars. We filter each player’s performance through the lens of expectation that we’ve set for them in our mind. Speaking liberally for a group of basketball fan(atic)s whose day to day relationship with rationality is a little too Senor Changesque, this can be a problem.
To better explain the point, let’s look at a player who is more in the international media spotlight and use Rajon Rondo as an example. The expectations on Rondo coming in to this year had never been higher. Some were heralding him as a potential MVP candidate, while still more were saying that Rondo had to make this year’s Celtics his team. When he went down with a torn ACL, Rondo’s season was largely viewed as a disappointment. But why? Rondo’s numbers were actually up—almost unilaterally—with notable improvements in rebounds and points scored, and an increase in his shooting percentages from 3, the free throw line and the field. This improved efficiency comes while taking career highs in attempts as well. Rondo improved statistically in almost every single category, especially shooting, which had been his biggest weakness. How then, can the perception of Rondo this year be that he regressed, which ESPN’s recent NBA player rankings say he did, falling ten spots from #12 all the way down to #22, when his numbers improved across the board?
As I see it, there are two reasons for this.
1) Because the Celtics underperformed when Rondo was playing, and the whole team has notably stepped up their game in his absence. I find it hard to blame Rondo for this. He is not responsible for Jason Terry’s bad defense, Courtney Lee’s cold shooting to start the season or the general lack of urgency and interest that the team was playing with. A veteran leader can try to motivate his team, sure, but on a veteran team to begin with this shouldn’t be a problem. As I see it, the problem was that the Celtics team as a whole was expecting Rondo to do everything for them and be an MVP too. When he went down, the team buckled down, with players like Avery Bradley and Jeff Green stepping up to fill the void and everyone now accepting that without Rondo, they really have to try.
2) Because we expected Rondo to make a leap, and be a top 5 NBA player and MVP candidate. That’s asking for an awful lot, and Rondo didn’t quite make it there.
Rondo did not have an MVP level season, but he was a better player this year than he was last year by the statistical standards we look to for objectivity. So if he was the 12th best player in the league last year, how could he have fallen to 22nd best a year later? It’s possible that ten other players in the league made a giant leap. It’s also possible that Rondo wasn’t really the 12th best player in the league last year, but we bumped him up a few spots because of who we expected he could/would really be. But what I think is most likely is that despite his improvement, he did not prove himself to meet our expectations of challenging to be the best or near best player in the entire league. As a result of these disappointed expectations, we’re unable to objectively judge the season that he had, and we unfairly punish him as a result.
I’ve found myself guilty of the same impact of expectation in judging players this year when looking at the Raptors. Particularly when giving letter grades to each player to quite literally judge their performances for the post-game quick reactions. It’s unfair, but I acknowledge that I’ve been grading them on a curve based on what my expectations are for them. For example, I’m more than willing to cut an immense amount of slack to Terrence Ross. In part this is because he’s a rookie, but if I’m being perfectly honest with myself, it’s just as much because of the expectations of who I want Terrence Ross to become as a player. So I’m more than willing to go along with anything that will better enable me to believe that Ross is going to be something special. That isn’t to say that I objectively think he will or won’t be a very good NBA player, just that I subconsciously boost what I see from him so I can continue to carry a lofty expectation. On the flip side of that, someone like Kyle Lowry gets the short end of the stick. Instead of getting slack, Lowry gets criticized— and sometimes to a fault. No matter how well he plays, if he isn’t the best player on the floor, which is who we expect him to be, then he is simply a disappointment. That’s not fair. I’m not saying we shouldn’t hold our players with all-star potential to all-star expectations, but let’s at least acknowledge that it isn’t really fair, and that the truth gets lost somewhere in the noise.
Let’s take a look at the core Raptors who have been most affected by our expectations and see if that’s caused a gulf to form between our perception and reality.
Lowry came to the team this summer as the big offseason acquisition that was supposed to solve the franchise-long search for an answer at point guard. That’s not an unreasonable expectation given Lowry’s skill-set and on-ball defensive prowess. It would have been worth noting at the time that Lowry was moved from Memphis to Houston because Mike Conley beat him out for the starting job, and that he wanted out of Houston after Goran Dragic beat him out for his starting job for the Rockets. Both of those things would warrant tempered expectations for a player who, despite his potential, has only been a good starting point guard for a couple of brief stretches in his career. The problem is that Bryan Colangelo traded a lottery pick in this year’s draft for Lowry, and since lottery picks have the potential to be star players, that’s who we expected Lowry to be.
Absent the first two weeks of the year, Lowry has not been a consistent star-level player. But then again, Lowry hasn’t really ever been a consistent star-level player. The perception of Lowry this season, which ballooned hyperbolically after the first two games of the season to MVP candidacy for Torontonians, has been disappointment. There are ways in which this perception has been justified.
Lowry’s numbers are either the same or slightly down from his career best numbers a year ago. Lowry has regressed defensively this season, as his gambling for steals and often unnecessary double-teaming has resulted in wide-open spot-up opportunities and cuts to the basket for his man. The kind of freelancing defense he has played pays dividends for some players in the form of steals and fast breaks. But Lowry’s steals per game are the lowest that they’ve ever been for him as a starter.
Offensively, Lowry’s points per game numbers are slightly down from last year, from 14.3 to 11.8. Now, that decline is attributable in part due to his reduced minutes after losing his starting job when Jose Calderon proved a worthy replacement after Lowry went down with injury. But Lowry has scored 20 or points 10 times this season and has single-handedly taken over individual quarters of a game at least as many times. The question is whether these games are outliers when Lowry exceeds his ability, or if they are the instances in which his focus and effort fall in line and reflect who he could be all of the time.
The conclusion with Lowry is that he has proved with his occasional performance that he is capable of playing up to the expectations we have for him. The lack of patience that we as Raptors fans have for him to meet those expectations is the result of the trade that brought him here and our long standing desire for a quality starting point guard and potential all star. While that might not be fair, the reality is that Lowry is going to have accept that those expectations will not go away as long as he is here in Toronto.
I’ve been harsh on DeMar over the years. My reasoning has been simple: I expect a starting NBA shooting guard to be better than 22% from 3. My expectations aside, the real problem for DeMar is that absent of a real star, the team has billed him as their franchise player and organized their offence around him pretty much ever since the departure of Chris Bosh. I can’t imagine that DeMar ever requested that. During that time span, DeMar’s numbers have not been efficient and have not even approached franchise player level. With DeMar getting top line billing, his limitations were under a magnifying glass. DeMar is a pure slasher with a career assist rate that’s identical to Michael Beasley’s—a player who goes in to anaphylactic shock upon passing the ball. As long as DeMar was expected to wear the mantle of franchise player, which fairly or unfairly is inherited by whomever the best player on a team is, he was going to disappoint. Even more importantly, that pressure really looked like it was wearing on him.
Expectations changed in a hurry for DeMar this season. What began with the addition of Kyle Lowry to start the season was completed with the Rudy Gay trade. With Lowry, Gay and two promising rookie players, the weight of the franchise’s future and their nightly scoring has been removed from DeRozan’s shoulders. The benefit of these reduced expectations has been two-fold for DeMar. On the court, he’s played a lot looser. Without the expectation of having to be the one to create a shot or carry the load, he’s settled for his shaky jump shot a lot less, either moving the ball along or forcing his way to the rim, where he has shot an efficient 64% and gotten to the line at a top 5 rate over the last two months.
In terms of expectations, DeRozan’s numbers were a let down when we expected him to lead the team. But, when he is the third or even fourth (given Valanciunas’ development) most important player on the team, his 4 rebounds and 17 points a game are all of a sudden exceeding expectations and casting a complacent shadow over the blights in his game. Perhaps the route to happiness really is through lowered expectations.
Expectations play a huge role in how we interpret the performances and value of who we watch on the court. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Aaron Gray or Lebron James. The narrative of Lebron’s entire career has been dominated by the impact of expectations. We’ve always acknowledged his ability. We’ve been in awe of his physical size, power and speed and we’ve watched his highlights over and over again in amazement. But this is the first year when both we as the sports media and we as basketball fans as a whole have stepped back and celebrated Lebron James. For the first time in his entire basketball career, Lebron is no longer saddled by expectations. We don’t argue about whether he chokes in crunch time, whether he’s an alpha dog or whether or not he’s in the same class as Jordan, Magic and Kareem. We just ask each other if you’ve seen his numbers or demand to rewind and re-watch what he just did. Instead of expecting, we simply appreciate. Lebron has gone from this, to this.
Over the next little while, I’ll continue to run down the Raptors roster and talk about how expectations have affected our feelings about their game, and where that may have led us astray. Expectations are bound to be a thorn in Kyle Lowry’s side for some time to come. Hopefully that drives him towards greatness. For DeMar DeRozan, the burden of expectations has taken a quick turn from archenemy to staunch ally. And for us fans, expectations will turn in to argument and obsession all summer long as we diagnose the season that was and prognosticate the upcoming season that should be.
And Lowry, as everyone connected with the team is, remains confident in the pieces that are in place. “I’m confident in all my teammates, I think they’re all confident in me and I think we’re all confident in each other,” he said. “We’ve got some young pieces, some learning to do to get better in the summer. . . . We had a disappointing year but we’ll bounce back.”
It’s hard to take anything from the results of these quite meaningless games as the Raptors play out the string, but we can look for small beads of development in the rookies’ games and look at things like an improved three-point shot from Gay. All in all, we just ask that you bare with us over this final five games of the season. I’m not sure how much we’ll have to talk about after the games or how many of the games we’ll even have postgame thoughts for, but you can be sure that RaptorBlog will have a ton of its usual content again once the season ends and we can officially start looking ahead to the off-season and next season.
Might as well lead with Butler anyway: he played all 48 minutes, and finished with a career-high 28 points on 10-12 shooting. Also had 7 rebounds. But most impressive was his 3-3 on corner three-pointers on the evening: with this team at full strength Jimmy won’t be asked to do as much as he took on tonight, but he’ll need to hit those 3s. He of course was required to really expand his offense in this one, and he delivered in what was the most thrilling part of the night for the Bulls. The idea of him playing 48 minutes alone with his style of play is impressive.
“They have a team, starting with Luol Deng (their leader), Derrick Rose their other leader that is built to compete and play hard on the defensive end,” Casey said. “They have a defensive roster and I think that’s where it starts with that mentality and with coach (Tom) Thibodeau. He puts a high premium on defence and if you don’t play the way he demands, you don’t play.” Casey feels his team has had that kind of defensive buy-in for portions of the schedule, but not all of it. “That’s something I thought the middle team we had (Calderon starting at point guard, Amir Johnson, Ed Davis holding down the paint) did a heck of a job at. Defensively our numbers were (improved) but again, you have to coach the team that you have.”
Valanciunas was attended to on the Raptors bench as the rest of the team went to the locker room following the 101-98 win. He left on stretcher wearing a neck brace but was seen joking with the Raptors staff who were attending to him. GM Bryan Colangelo described the injury as “whiplash-like” and said Valanciunas was taken to Rush Presbyterian hospital as a precaution.
The poise and composure of Tom Thibodeau’s team, even undermanned, was evident while the Raptors were stuck with the “here we go again” look on their collective faces. Again, execution escaped Dwane Casey’s club down the stretch. They committed costly turnovers, gave up crucial offensive rebounds (Chicago grabbed four in the quarter, 13 in the game) and somehow managed to find themselves in yet another bizarre late-game situation when an inconclusive replay forced a jump ball with nine seconds remaining. Despite the dramatics, Toronto was able to pull out the rare closely-contested victory but likely would not have been so lucky against the healthy version (as healthy as it gets) of this veteran Bulls team.
The Raps enjoyed balanced scoring on this night, with contributions from Rudy Gay (19 points), and three players (Amir Johnson, Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross) adding 13. Getting effective play from Terrence is a huge relief, after the mid-season scoring drought he endured. Quincy Acy continued bolstering his case for more minutes, as he chipped in 8 points and 6 rebounds. It’s clear the Raps are determined to take a long look at our rookies, now that the playoffs are out of reach. The kids are responding well. For the Bulls, Jimmy Butler, an unheralded sophomore small forward, never got off the floor while scoring 28 points. He didn’t miss on 3 shots from deep.
“You have to be willing to leave your guy knowing that sometimes another guy might forget his assignment and your guy might end up scoring,” Raptors centre Aaron Gray said of team defence. “That happens a lot, and you go, ‘OK, I’m going to stop helping other guys because they’re not helping me and it makes me look bad.’ With Amir, he knows how to play the game the right way. He doesn’t care who gets the credit. He’s going to make the right play every time. He’s going to try to do the right thing and continue to hope people have his back like he has ours.”
“It’s one of those plays,” Gay said. “That’s what makes the job tough. That’s why everybody can’t do it. Sometimes, things like that happen being aggressive trying to get the ball. He’s an aggressive player, but he just ended up in the wrong spot. We’re hoping that he’s OK. But we all know that anytime anything can happen. We all know that. Look at the Final Four, some of the crazy injuries that happened in that. This is a physical game.”
The team’s early struggles prompted Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau to insert power forward Malcolm Thomas (six points, eight rebounds), who was recently signed for the remainder of the season, and while the power forward wasn’t directly responsible for the hosts ending Toronto’s run and making it a more competitive affair, he did provide some energy, as well as a focus on interior defense and rebounding. Marco Belinelli, who was held scoreless in his return to the lineup Sunday in Detroit, was one of two scoring threats for the Bulls, along with Butler, as they battled to make it a single-digit contest.
Is there any reason for the Raptors to win this game? No, not really. And it’s semi-important for the Chicago Bulls, as well, so, as is a common story the past few weeks, a win seems unlikely.
Let’s have a look at what each team is focused on heading into Tuesday’s game at 8 p.m. on Sportsnet One.
Raptors – Lottery Odds
The Raptors are 22nd in the NBA with a 29-48 record, tying them with the Washington Wizards for the eighth worst record and thus, the eighth best lottery odds.
Keep in mind that “lottery” means far less than in previous years with the Raptors not owning their pick, while “odds” has become far more important because even tiny shifts in odds could give the Raptors their pick back, if it falls in the top three.
With five games to go, the “best” the Raptors could do is finishing with the fourth worst record, but this seems extremely unlikely. It’s far more likely that the Raptors finish between eighth and tenth in lottery odds, since any team they’re “chasing” will also be losing, both for tanking reasons and because they’re bad.
As a refresher, here are the odds of getting a top-three pick at the three most likely landing spots for the Raptors in terms of overall standings:
23rd – 10%
22nd – 6.1%
21st – 4%
So there’s some serious incentive for the Raptors to try and finish below Minnesota and Washington. I wasn’t a proponent of tanking earlier in the year, but with just five games left and such significant marginal odds for each win and loss now, it certainly doesn’t help to win.
Of course, all of this means little since even in the best case scenario, there’s just a one-in-10 chance the Raptors get a top-three pick. But hey, we’ve gotta hope for something, right?
Raptors – Development
Jonas Valanciunas is the man. While he cooled a bit in that terrible loss to Milwaukee on Saturday, he’s been an absolute treat for about a month now and is the only reason I’m still tuning in for (most) games. I love this kid and can’t wait to see how he’ll look after another summer of development.
Chicago Bulls – Actual Basketball
At 42-34, the Bulls deserve a ton of credit for staying above board with Derrick Rose missing the entire season injured. Add in injuries to Joakim Noah, Richard Hamilton, Taj Gibson and Luol Deng, and it’s a wonder this team has managed a 6-3 record over their past nine. Noah and Deng are questionable for tonight, while Gibson, Hamilton and Rose are out.
The Bulls are an elite defensive outfit, fifth in the league in defensive rating even with all of those bodies in and out of the lineup. Tom Thibodeau deserves some publicity as a Coach of the Year candidate for keeping this Rose-less squad as a power in the East.
In fact, the Bulls are fighting to host a playoff series right now. They trail Brooklyn for the fourth seed by two games with six to play. It seems unlikely but it’s not impossible for the Bulls to pick up those two games (I’m not sure who owns the tiebreaker). They’re also just a game up on Atlanta, and I’d guess that they’d rather play Brooklyn than Indiana (the third seed), so they have the incentive to get wins right now. Which means…
Vegas: Bulls -4.5
Hollinger: Bulls -6
Blake: Bulls by 8.
Yup, not happening, folks. Even banged up, the Bulls should be able to take this thing based on motivation alone. If Deng plays, I’d double down, since he will probably do a really good job on Rudy Gay (love Deng). I hope this team gets healthy over the next two weeks because they’re a lot of fun and I don’t want to watch them whimper out in the first round because of injuries.
This week on The Doctor is In with Phdsteve, Mr. Dr. Positivity returns! Zarar drops by for a year in review podcast where we look at all the positives to take from this season (and by “all the positives” we really mean the play of Jonas). I ask Zarar if this season has been wasted or if we are rebuilding can we see this season as a step in the right direction.
We spend some time disagreeing about Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay before tackling the 3 big questions for this franchise moving forward: 1) Dwayne Casey: stay or go? 2) Who is the core of this team moving forward? and 3) what does this roster look like on opening night 2013-2014? As always your comments and insight are wanted and welcome- but please, keep it classy San Diego, my Nona reads this site!
For many of us, it’s a sigh of relief after what’s unquestionably been a tough season, one that’s shown little in terms of upside. The club is again heading into the off-season without a playoff appearance under their belt (a franchise-record fifth-straight miss I’d add), little financial room to make improvements, and of course, likely no draft picks to help bolster a club that’s got issues at nearly every position. The team hasn’t even finished up the season strong, despite a flattering schedule, losing seven of their last 10, including to clubs like Detroit and Charlotte (and of course Saturday night’s disaster versus Milwaukee.)
Unlike many of his younger teammates who are still working on developing parts of their game, Johnson’s is a finished product for the most part. “Amir is going to be Amir,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “What he does it’s hard to improve on because he has a heart as big as the country of Canada. That’s one thing he brings that you can’t teach. I don’t know how much more you can improve on that.” There is no question that effort and a refusal to back down regardless of the size of opponent or the score of the game are at the core of what makes Johnson the player he is. That’s not going to change. Johnson knows that.
“When you come in and take jobs like that and then you don’t turn it around, I think that the organization should give him an opportunity to get players and do that … Since they got Rudy Gay I think it changed around, it turned around a lot. My young kid (DeMar) DeRozan is out there, I think he’s getting better. You’ve just got to give him an opportunity, you give him a chance, put a couple more pieces around and then see what happens,” Payton said.
Have really enjoyed watching him since he came back from the D-League. He gives it his all and the experience is helping him. It’s important for the Raptors to get a sense of what they have returning for next season and he’s given them reason for optimism that he can be a solid role player. Drafting second round picks is always a crap shoot – he’s showing them that he’s worthy of their trust/faith in him. Is he going to be a big-time player? Likely not but this is more about him developing into a serviceable winning second unit guy and the minutes/experience he earns now will help in that formation. It’s on him to continue to improve his game and body but he looks like a guy who is willing to pay the price to do it – that’s all you can ask.
And this is where I felt like setting the internet on fire. I suppose this is what you get for believing in a 13-game segment from a season ago instead of the six previous seasons, but count me in on the list of people who were all-in on Bargnani. Less than six months later, this statement makes me want to shake my head at myself. It’s been a bad season in Toronto and, through injury/apathy, it has been the worst season for Bargnani. From fans booing to Italian interviews needing to be cleared up, there probably isn’t a Raptors player who is looking forward to the off-season more than Bargnani. The question now: Where will home be for Bargnani next season?
After a week off due to some scheduling conflicts we return with the best podcast in the world on your Toronto Raptors. Least we make the effort to be that which you can question about the Raptors of late. We take a look at the Raptors future and wonder if it really does get any better for this basketball team going forward. Along for the ride as always is Josh from TSN 1050 and TSN.ca.
The Bulls have won five straight in the series. Their 14th different lineup is anybody’s guess after coach Tom Thibodeau admitted starting Hinrich and Nate Robinson together didn’t work against the Pistons.
Head to head, the Raptors are 5-1 ATS in the last 6 meetings and 6-1 ATS in the last 7 meetings in Chicago while the road team is 4-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings and the underdog is 5-1 ATS in the last 6 meetings. The Bulls are 5-12 ATS in their last 17 home games vs. a team with a losing road record, 0-4 ATS in their last 4 home games vs. a team with a road winning % of less than .400 and 12-26 ATS in their last 38 home games. The Raptors on the other hand are 0-7 ATS in their last 7 games vs. a team with a winning S.U. record, 2-5 ATS in their last 7 road games and 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games overall.
Note: what follows in this column is written for the purpose of satire and satire only. Enjoy!
On this instalment of Raptors Open Gym: we go behind the scenes to show you the inner workings of a Toronto Raptors practice, hosted by longtime Toronto Raptors play-by-play man Matt Devlin. Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes? Well, now you’ll get your chance to see (read) about it first hand.
Opening scene: The Toronto Raptors enter their practice gym. Coach Dwayne Casey immediately separates the team into two sides.
Casey: Alright guys, you know the drill. Wings on one side, bigs on the other. You know, the two lineups we’re going to test out this week.
Devlin: Coach Casey again showing his brilliance when it comes to lineup creation. By putting out two lineups, one filled with guards, and one filled with forwards, he’ll keep the other teams in the league on their toes. It’s incredible moves like this that have helped turn the team around these last few games, where they’re 2 and 2. Spread over a whole season, that’s a .500 team right there. Of course, Landry Fields hasn’t come to practice today, because if you had a wife that looked like that, you wouldn’t come to practice either.
At this point, Raptors Director of Analytics Alex Rucker runs into the gym, waving a sheaf of papers.
Rucker: Dwayne, listen! We’ve run the numbers and these lineups just don’t work! You have to listen to…
Rucker is dragged out of the gym kicking and screaming.
Casey: Anyone else want to bring up these so called “stats” in my gym?
The entire team and coaching staff fall silent.
Casey: That’s what I thought. Now, let’s pound the rock.
As the team splits up, Casey allocates his assistant coaches to go work with the Raptor forwards, while he takes the wings.
Casey: OK everyone, let’s start with a simple lay-up line. Can someone go get the balls, please? Anybody but…
Alan Anderson sprints for the cage filled with basketballs.
Anderson reaches the cage. He opens it, and begins shooting the balls indiscriminately at both hoops, until it is completely empty.
Devlin: It’s that offensive mentality that has made Alan Anderson one of the league’s most feared guards. Another genius signing by Bryan Colangelo, who I’ve heard is also close to solving third-world hunger, and whose farts smell like fresh roses.
Casey: Ugh, not again. Alright, go get the balls, guys, and let’s do some lay-up lines. Remember, LAY-UPS.
The Raptor wings begin the lay-up line. All seems well, except for DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay, who are inexplicably shooting 22 footers every time it’s their turn.
Casey: Rudy, DeMar, come over here for a second.
DeMar: What’s up, coach?
Casey: Guys, I asked for lay-ups. Not mid-range jumpers. What’s going on?
Gay: Coach, I thought those were lay-ups?
Casey: How many times do I have to tell you guys…
Kyle Lowry: Don’t worry, Rudy, he’s just jealous.
Devlin: Now, let’s take a look at the Raptor bigs, who have split into groups to work on different facets of their games. Over here, you can see Amir Johnson teaching Quincy Acy how to shoot a jump shot.
Amir: Now, Quincy, what you have to remember is to use your knees. It’s all in the knees. But UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you actually jump for your shot. Think one of those wacky-waving-inflatable-arm-flailing-tube-men.
Acy: Like this?
Quincy takes a smooth jump-shooting stroke that easily swishes through the net.
Amir: Not bad, but more spastic. Also, what did I tell you about shooting from anywhere but 3 feet in front of the 3-point-line?
Acy: …That’s not the Raptor way.
Amir: That’s right, Quincy. You’re on the right track.
At this point, Raptors General Manager Bryan Colangelo enters the gym, flanked by Andrea Bargnani, who is carrying a clipboard. Upon seeing Colangelo up-close-and-in-person, Matt Devlin immediately faints.
Devlin (upon coming to): Wow, viewers. The man himself is here. We are all truly blessed. And he’s come in with his right-hand-man, Andrea Bargnani, who has been acting as an assistant coach since he went down for the season with an injury. Truly, that contract extension is looking like a bargain. What a manager. What a man.
Bargnani: Terrence, Sebastian, over here.
Terrence Ross and Sebastian Telfair leave the guards and head to Andrea, who leads them to an open hoop. He takes a seat beside an idle shot clock.
Bargnani: Now, we practice 3-pointer with shot clock. You run play, and shoot when clock gets too low.
Telfair dribbles the ball up as the shot clock begins to run. He passes it off to Ross, who immediately shoots a 3-pointer. Bargnani stops the shot clock and walks toward the pair, shaking his head in disappointment.
Bargnani: Look at time left! Eighteen seconds left on shot clock. What did I teach you?
Ross: “If the clock’s under 21, then that’s no fun.”
Bargnani: Excellent. Try again.
Telfair dribbles the ball over half-court and immediately launches a 3-point shot, which clangs off the front rim. Bargnani stops the clock, sees it reading “22,” and nods approvingly.
Bargnani: Good, good! And what do we say once shot goes up?
Telfair: After it’s gone, It’s Amir’s problem.
Devlin: And now, let’s look in on the development of prized Raptors rookie Jonas Valanciunas, who most observers agree is the best asset the Raptors have, outside of DeMar DeRozan, who, as we all know, is the best mid-range shooting guard in the league. Of course, Jonas has moved to the opposite end of the court from Bargnani due to the restraining order filed by Colangelo requiring him to be 500 feet away from Andrea at all times. Yet another genius move.
Jonas, working with Raptor assistants, shows an array of impressive post-moves. He’s then approached by reserve center Aaron Gray.
Gray: Jonas, you’re looking great, but I have a few ideas for some moves that could really help your game. I mean, I’ve been a veteran in this league for a long time, and you could learn a lot from me.
Both Jonas and Gray burst out laughing.
Gray: Kidding, buddy, kidding. If you need me, I’ll be playing cards with John and Mickael.
Devlin: And there you have it, folks. We hope you’ve enjoyed this in-depth look into a practice session of the Toronto Raptors, who, as we all know, would be in the playoffs if the season started April 1st and ended on April 5th. Any way you slice it, that’s a playoff team, folks. And now, for some bonus coverage, here’s a live look-in into the Raptors’ 2013 draft war room.
The camera shifts to a view of an empty boardroom. A janitor looks up from his broom at the camera, smiles, and waves.
Devlin: Truly an exciting time to be a Raptors fan. Thanks for watching Raptors Open Gym. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go ask Colangelo to give my good buddy Leo Rautins a try-out, as we all know he can still shoot with the best of them. Until next time!
With his third & final year option already picked up for the 2013-14 season, does that mean Casey is safe or should be safe? Some polls suggest otherwise with most Raptors fans wanting him gone. If so, who would you (realistically) like to see replace Dwane?
Whether it’s Chicago, Brooklyn, Atlanta or Boston, Toronto’s four remaining opponents, each is jockeying for playoff positioning. But with the Raptors, especially at this time of the season, it’s not so much wins and losses, but how they compete, how much fight is summoned, how much pride is shown. “If we’re serious about being a playoff organization, our mental approach has got to change,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey. “I understand where we are and the season’s only got five more games. “But pride comes into to play, individual pride comes into play when you’re approaching the game.”
“I think we’ve really seen a progression of him recognizing, reading, anticipating,” Casey said. “The key word, I think, is anticipating what the offence is trying to do to him. He’s doing a much better job of anticipating the speed of how things are happening, where things are happening, where he has to be. That’s the NBA. The NBA is a complex game when it comes to reading and anticipating. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.”
[Insider] How can a player with barely a 20 PER be a superstar? Well, Bosh can’t be involved in as many possessions, given that he shares those possessions with two other superstars, so his PER is far lower in Miami than it was with relatively talentless Toronto (it was 25.1 in his final season there). Despite taking more long jumpers than ever, Bosh has a spectacular true shooting percentage of 59.0 (just 0.2 off his career high). In short, he’s become a more efficient scorer while subsisting on the most difficult of shots. Ask yourself: Is Chris Bosh playing any less hard than the days where he averaged 24 and 11? Is he any less effective? Close observation would prompt a “no” to each question, and closer observation would actually reveal improvement. He shoots better than before, he defends better than before, and he uses his right hand with increasing facility.
The DEEP 20-team RR fantasy league wrapped up this week, with “Swirsky” defeating yours truly 5-4 in the finals. Coming in third was Doc Naismith, forum boss, while “canadafubuki” finished fourth.
Raptors 83, Bucks 100 – Box
Two nights ago the Raptors won a close one in Minnesota. Last night they got blown out of the water in MIlwaukee. My reaction to both games was the same, and if yours is any different you should check yourself. These games mean nothing and most of the players suiting up are treating it as such. All we’ve learned from this season is that the Raptors can hang with the bad teams and lose to the better ones. And that was true before and after the trade. It’s the very definition of mediocrity, and the only exceptions are a win here and there against the Knicks or Clippers.
Milwaukee was in complete control from the first to the end of the third, which is when the lead was 25 points. The Raptor made the token garbage-time “run” to make it less humiliating. You can check the box score for the low-lights such as Rudy Gay’s 1-10 FG shooting performance, or you could take your pick from DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry etc. Even the lone bright spot of late, Jonas Valanciunas, suffered a poor game as the Bucks tested the Raptors to a man in transition and came out on top. Ironically enough, the team the Raptors were chasing for that final playoff spot clinched it right in front of their eyes in resounding fashion.
[Also read: Quick Reaction: Raptors 83 vs Bucks 100]
DeRozan found Ellis tougher than he had Ridnour the night before, and Gay stayed on the perimeter against Daniels, and never did assert himself. The third quarter surge that he’s come up with a couple times this year never materialized. Maybe his back is bothering him, and if so, shut him down because there’s zero reason he should be playing. The defense was non-existent, both in transition and in half-court. Effort was a major factor as is expected in a game as pointless as this. Maybe preventing Milwaukee from clinching a playoff spot might’ve been motivation, but that wasn’t clearly the case. The Bucks beat the Raptors in every single major statistical category here: rebounding, FG%, assists, turnovers, blocks, FTM…
Looking ahead to the off-season, and given the lack of flexibility on the roster (BTW, where’s the DeRozan’s worth $10M crowd?), I’m even pondering whether this is the year we do want that first round pick. It might be the only way we have a chance to add a quality player. Then again Bryan Colangelo was apparently in Italy scouting some people. Or looking for a job. Both are equally believable.
The Raptors strategy of building a team from other team’s rejected parts is backfiring fast, making the earlier strategy of playing out the season with Davis/Valanciunas/Ross/DeRozan and adding a piece or two in the off-season look rather attractive. The odds now are that the Raptors do a variant of one of the following:
Either way, the core of Gay and Lowry will return which means it’s those two guys that the Raptors are going to lean on to improve the current pathetic state of the club. I think Lowry can turn it around and become a productive member of this team. I’m not sold on Gay, this theory of him adding weight in the summer and returning next season as an All-Star type player is ridiculous (sorry, Leo).
I’m kind of sad there’s no draft to look forward to, because that’s sort of kept us going between April all the way to June.
|Amir Johnson, PF 25 MIN | 1-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 2 PTS | -22Was almost invisible tonight, but contributed across the board somehow. Uhm…he didn’t miss a free throw; that counts for something!|
|Rudy Gay, SF 23 MIN | 1-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -19Garbage-that was some ugly shooting; even missed a dunk from under the rim. I realize he’s still probably injured, but lets shut him down already and spread some more minutes around.|
|Jonas Valanciunas, C 26 MIN | 3-9 FG | 6-6 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | -1Started the game very strong, giving Sanders a lot of trouble on both ends of the floor, but was a non-factor (like everyone else) for the rest of the game. Even though Drew Gooden, of all people, got under his skin when the human victory flag was brought into the game, it was nice to see he played hard to the last second.|
|Kyle Lowry, PG 23 MIN | 3-9 FG | 0-1 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 7 PTS | -19His only impact was with 30 seconds left in the first half; he dropped a quick 5 points…that was it. Dropped a couple dimes, pulled down a few boards, missed a few shots, and gave Jennings enough space to hit a few deeeeeep treys in the 1st half…whatever…|
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 24 MIN | 6-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | -25Aggressive first quarter with some jumpers and a left handed dunk, but invisible for the rest of the game; when he saw the floor that is. Basically let Ellis do whatever he wanted; hurt to watch.|
|Quincy Acy, SF 21 MIN | 4-7 FG | 4-4 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +8Looked like a basketball player tonight. Kid played hard, took nothing for granted and even hit a three. The Bucks bench had no idea what to expect, and he took full advantage.|
|Landry Fields, SF 23 MIN | 2-4 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | -17D+ sounds about right…Fields does a great job of just fading into the background. Pulled down a few boards and scored a few baskets;|
|Sebastian Telfair, PG 25 MIN | 0-5 FG | 3-4 FT | 2 REB | 7 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 3 PTS | +2Led the 2nd unit to redeeming some of the starters self-respect. Had as many assists as the entire starting lineup; not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. Why can’t he finish with some contact off the bounce; I thought these New York kids had heart…must only be a Queens thing.|
|Alan Anderson, SG 22 MIN | 6-10 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | +10He hit some tough shots, and is earning himself a few more dollars on the next contract; wherever it comes from. I say we keep him, the second units needs a natural scorer.|
|Terrence Ross, SG 28 MIN | 4-8 FG | 3-4 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | 0Got out on the break and ran the floor very well. His defense was suspect at times, but overall he did a prett good job on Reddick, chasing him around.|
Not sure why he doesn’t sit Gay, Amir and DeMar and give the kids some run; there’s no glory to be had right now.
WARNING: I actually didn’t realize I was writing this post-game until halftime and after I had taken cold medicine because I felt like total crap. So if I am more incoherent than usual, please forgive me.
After giving Don Nelson and George Karl their 1000th win as coaches, the Toronto Raptors denied Rick Adelman from joining the exclusive club. A club that has fewer members than SNL’s Five Timers Club. It was nice, not only because it prevented the Raptors from being add to list of answers to trivia questions that include, “What team did Don Nelson beat to win 1000 games?”, “What team did George Karl beat to win 1000 games?” and “What team did Kobe Bryant score 81 points against?”. It was also nice because it gave some meaning to what would otherwise be a meaningless game.
Neither the Raptors nor the T-Wolves will make the playoffs, and about the only thing they’re fighting for now is draft seeding. And with the Raptors unlikely to retain their pick, I’m wondering how many Raptor fans even care.
Of course, now the Raptors are riding a two game winning streak, their longest in 20 games. The only danger now is that the Raptors start playing well, giving Bryan Colangelo more of a chance of returning next year to continue mismanaging the team and overpaying players.
But on to the game…
The Minnesota Timberwolves are a peculiar team. They have four point guards on the roster, the only shooting guard has knees worse than mine and who already retired once, their best three point shooter is probably their power forward and their best interior defender is their small forward.
Without a real shooting guard, 6’2 Luke Ridnour has been starting there for most of the season. If you’ve been following the Raptors at all this season, you should know that this pretty much guarantees a big game from DeMar DeRozan, who routinely feasts on undersized defenders.
I’ve been pretty critical of DeRozan over the last couple of seasons, but this year his post-up game has grown by leaps and bounds. And while he takes WAY too many long twos, still has poor ball handling skills and is a below average defenders, what he does do is take advantage of smaller defenders. And that’s exactly what he did against the T-Wolves.
While most of his shots still came from outside of the paint, he hit more than half his shots on the way to 25 points. On the downside, he only got to the line once. Not surprising since he only took took shots at the rim and only four in the paint. While did did score well and when the team needed him to, it was another inefficient night.
Rudy Gay was the team’s leading scorer, with 26 point, his efficiency mirrored that of DeRozan’s, going 12-23 with only one free throw on the night. On the plus side, he seemed more engaged, after the first quarter, and got into the paint more than usual.
Speaking of Gay, I’d like to watch the game again and see what the ratio was of how many times Gay scored and then let his man easily drive by on the very next play. For a guy with his defensive ability, the number of times he let’s this happen is unforgivable.
Of course, the main reason for many of us to watch the game was to see Jonas Valaniunas. Before the game, it was announced that he had won the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for March, which seems like a great honour until you realize that most of the decent rookies are in the West, and the last Raptor that won it was Jamario Moon.
Jonas was going up against possibly the strongest player in the NBA, Nikola Pekovic. Pekovic is an absolute beast and the guy Blake Griffin said was the toughest player in the NBA to play against. I also don’t know if there’s a more underrated player in the league. This is a 7 foot center with pretty decent mobility who weighs in the neighbourhood of 280 lbs, most of which appears to be muscle. And he’s averaging 16.2 ppg and 8.8 rpg for the season. I’d say he’s easily a top ten center this year, yet you never hear anyone talking about him.
Jonas actually played Pekovic pretty well, and was able to score in double digits, yet again, but did have an off night on the boards, only managing 4 in 30 minutes. Still, considering what he was up against, you have to give him credit.
With Pekovic, you knew Aaron Gray was going to make an appearance and he didn’t disappoint. He definitely made an appearance. I was disappointed that I didn’t see his regular reaction whenever he’s called for a foul. I don’t recall another player arguing such obvious foul calls as Gray. Well, maybe Alan “Stink” Anderson, but despite playing in his hometown, Casey didn’t give him very many minutes.
So the Raptors won and are now a half game ahead of Washington for 10th place in the East.
Random thoughts for the game:
- When Andrei Kirilenko goes in to get his haircut, does he ask for the Tom Chambers?
- While the wife of T-Wolves owner, Glen Taylor, isn’t young, she’s quite attractive for her age. Taylor, on the other hand, was definitely not married for his looks.
- I’ve really been intrigued about Derrick Williams as someone who might blossom on another team, and then I watched him slowly jog back on defense, well behind both teams. Twice.
|Amir Johnson, PF 22 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 3 PTS | -15
My only lasting memory of Johnson from this game is that he threw an alley-oop pass to Gay which hit the backboard. He also missed the final FT on purpose to let time run out.
|Rudy Gay, SF 35 MIN | 12-23 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 26 PTS | +1
He was firmly cementing his reputation as a volume shooter until the third quarter, which is when the jumper started to fall and he got a couple break opportunities to put things together. Kirilenko was bothering him for the first half of the game, and after Gay decided to do more than just dribble-and-shoot from the perimeter, it put Kirilenko on his heels and Gay’s height and high-release became a factor. The put Cunningham on him for some reason late and he did well to make the right offensive decisions.
|Jonas Valanciunas, C 33 MIN | 2-4 FG | 8-10 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -1
Played Pekovic rather well all night. He did pick up some fouls which sent him to the bench but the overall positional defense was great and frustrated Pekovic throughout the night. His offense wasn’t quite as smooth as he was unable to execute in one-on-one situations of late, other than a key turnover.
|Kyle Lowry, PG 33 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 7 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 11 PTS | -7
Very unspectacular game where he was tuning in and out. However, at the end he didn’t let Rubio go off on him and in turn had a low-key productive game, albeit with some really ugly turnovers. Now that my opinion of him has been calibrated in context of the Raptors, it’s likely that he really is a backup in starters clothing.
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 36 MIN | 12-23 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 25 PTS | -4
Took the smaller Luke Ridnour into the post area and shot over him all night. It was good stuff all night long from him, even though he stayed mostly on the perimeter. They put Budinger and Kirilenko on him, with only the latter being able to deny him the ball. Of course, that meant Kirilenko wasn’t on Gay which worked out well.
|Quincy Acy, SF 7 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +6
Gave Rubio an elbow and walked away. I didn’t like the walk-away part. Pure hustle, this guy, which along with Valanciunas, make them the only two players that give 100% of shit 100% of time.
|Landry Fields, SF 19 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +11
Further evidence tonight that he’s not useless, which is a long way from how he started the season. Still, grossly overpaid and a completely unnecessary signing given the outlook of the season, but maybe he can be of some use next year. Hey, the good news is that we didn’t sign Steve Nash, although God knows we tried.
|Aaron Gray, C 15 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +3
Got in the game after Valanciunas got some fouls and Casey went searching for bigs to defend Pekovic. Did well, despite picking up a foul every couple minutes. He’s like Rasho, only not as good but more fun to watch.
|Sebastian Telfair, PG 15 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 3 PTS | +9
Got the nod ahead of John Lucas tonight and nailed a three before being nailed to the bench.
|Alan Anderson, SG 9 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | +1
Had a second quarter where he shot (and missed) on every other possession. To be fair, a couple were at the tail end of the shot-clock. To be completely fair, he’s probably a good guy to have on the team as a 10th man, but when he’s coming into the game in the second quarter, a part of me dies.
|Terrence Ross, SG 16 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +6
Had a nice dunk, shot a three, didn’t airball anything. Step up.
Came back to the place he got fired from to notch a W. Nice. Did well to insert Fields in the third quarter and to bench Anderson after the second. Good call on isolating DeRozan on the smaller Ridnour. Also made the right timeout decisions. Tried the 4-guard lineup at one point with Gay at the PF and got away with it.
Forgot I had pre-game duty, sorry. Here’s a game thread. 8 p.m. on TSN2.
I guess if I could use one word to describe Kyle’s season here in Toronto it would have to be “turbulent”. So much optimism last summer when we acquired him from Houston has turned out to be a huge disappointment for most Raptors fans. That being said, does there remain a future for Lowry here in Toronto?
This may come as a surprise but great shooting guards are becoming extinct. Consequently, anything resembling a good or average 2-guard is now somewhat overvalued. This begs the question: where does DeMar DeRozan fit in all of this?
Once upon a time, the Association was flooded with quality shooting guards. Indeed, the sheer rich amount of off-guards led many teams to build their franchises around them. Think of the Orlando Magic with Tracy McGrady, the Philadelphia 76ers with Allen Iverson or even the Toronto Raptors with Vince Carter.
But that is officially a thing of the past.
The NBA is now the home of three great 2-guards, maybe four if we stretch it: Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, James Harden and Manu Ginobili (borderline selection).
The remaining guys that play the position are either one-dimensional or inconsistent players with potential. In truth, there’s nothing wrong with being a decent shooting guard, but a great one can take you places when flanked alongside a solid frontcourt.
This is where DeRozan’s potential comes in.
He is a talented and athletic player with a streaky jump shot. When lanes open up and he puts his head down in direction of the rim, good things tend to happen.
Mind you, the personnel coupled with the offensive schemes the Raptors use fail to consistently highlight his skills.
The Raptors are a bottom five 3-point shooting team. Because Toronto lacks shooters, it creates situations where the paint is often condensed by opposing defenses.
Consequently, DeRozan typically catches the ball on the wing and sees nothing but layers of defense. That partly explains why he spends a lot of time floating out on the perimeter.
Dwane Casey’s solution — a smart one — is to have his starting shooting guard catch the ball on the move. By receiving the ball already going towards the basket, it relieves him off the pressure of creating off the dribble and making decisions when swarmed.
The one problem with the strategy: opponents know it. Hence, they pack the paint, which in turn forces DeRozan to catch and shoot. Per Synergy Sports, the Raps’ 2-guard is converting 41.6 percent of his shots coming off screens.
For the sake of context, have a quick look at the conversion rate of other notable players at his position:
FG% Off Screens
DeRozan’s shooting percentage in this scenario is more than adequate in comparison to the league’s greats. The one caveat though: these four players rarely use off-ball screens for scores. In fact, for the most part, it’s the least used technique they use to generate shots per Synergy Sports.
In the case of DeRozan though, 16.2 percent of his field goal attempts stem from him coming off screens. That’s the second highest percentage of plays he uses to create shots.
Thus, several of his field goal attempts are being put up with defenders in his grill.
In other words, Toronto is misusing him.
Andrea Bargnani was supposed to help mitigate this issue. Camping him on the opposite side of the court would help stretch out the defense and remove one big man from the paint.
In addition, DeRozan could even curl off a Bargnani screen and when his defender would step up to thwart the guard, DeMar would be afforded with the possibility of dishing to Bargs for an open jumper.
Mind you, Il Mago’s lost shooting touch, coupled with his injury have certainly complicated matters for the offense.
Put it all together and DeMar DeRozan has taken the second most amount of midrange jumpers in the league this season per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool. For a player with his athleticism, that’s a startling revelation.
The best 2-guards in the league are exceptional pick-and-roll players. They break down defenders off the bounce for scores and also find open teammates on the move.
The Toronto highflyer is not yet a great ball-handler or passer, so putting him in those situations would not benefit him or the Raptors.
In the offseason, Toronto would be best served by having the 23-year old work on these facets. It would certainly give the offense a new dimension and make the off-guard a bigger threat next season.
In terms of Casey’s concepts, tweaking them might be in order. DeRozan spends a lot of time on the weak side of the court looking like a Blue Jays outfielder whenever the Raptors run a play for another player.
It might behoove Toronto to have him set picks or come off screens even on the opposite side of the action for the sake of keeping defenders occupied. Also, he might even get free by doing so.
With Rudy Gay now a member of the team, one can only wonder if Casey will overhaul his philosophy and play an up-tempo offense. Between the starting wing players, Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross, it might just be the best route for the unit.
DeRozan is part of the team’s future, perhaps the offense should occasionally reflect that.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.
Note: There seems to be a lot of readers who are under the impression that the point of trading players like Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan is to cut payroll. That’s not true. With the team rebuilding, taking back bad contracts isn’t a problem because you won’t need the financial flexibility for a few years, by which time the contracts will have expired. So if the Raptors need to take back a bad contract to get something half decent for Gay (prospect or draft pick), that’s fine.
Also, there seems to be a belief that expiring contracts will somehow be incredibly valuable in the future. I highly doubt it. Not with the shorter contracts that exist now. It’s been suggested that keeping Gay and Andrea Bargnani would allow the Raptors to be able to trade their expiring contracts for something of value.
But let’s look at the numbers here.
The summer that their contracts will expire, there are only three teams projected to be even over the cap. Obviously that will change because of what happens before now and then, but the point is that if a team is going to try and be a player on the free agent market in the summer of 2015, they’re going to be planning ahead, so will most likely not take on any cumbersome contracts they’ll be desperate to unload a year and a half later.
Secondly, and more importantly, take a look at the OTHER expiring contracts of massively overpaid players that teams could trade: Amare Stoudemire ($23.4 million), Carlos Boozer ($16.8 million), Kendrick Perkins ($9.8 million), Tyrus Thomas ($9.4 million), Marcus Thornton ($8.6 million), and it goes on. And those are just the players whose value would basically just be their expiring contract.
The market will be a tad saturated for teams hoping to cash in on their expiring contracts.
But on to the subject of this article…
Blowing the team up and stocking back up your roster with players that aren’t going to help you win many games is only the start. You still need to plan for the long term, even if you don’t know exactly who you’ll be building the team around. You need a blueprint of how to win.
I think one of the biggest mistakes most teams make is that they lack a real blueprint of how to build a winning team. And it’s a mistake Colangelo seems to constantly make. If there is a blueprint he has been trying to follow, it certainly hasn’t been obvious. To me, it’s seemed more like his moves were made without a lot of planning, and seemed more reactive than proactive. The alternative is simply that his plan was not a good one.
Now, obviously you’re at the mercy of the level of talent you can acquire, but that’s not what I mean. In the NBA, and basketball in general, there are basic things that help you win, and there are certain types of players that help with those things.
If you look at the teams that have won Championships, over the years, you’ll see a lot of the same things. Especially the closer you look. Out of interest sake, I’ll also take a look at how the Raptors do in these categories.
WORK ETHIC AND PROFESSIONALISM
Winning or even contending for a Championship is difficult enough. Add on having to motivate or babysit players that need extra attention, and you’re asking for trouble. This is especially true for your main guys. The identity of the team trickles down from your top players. You look at the top teams over the years, and the vast majority of them have workaholic franchise players. The underachieving teams generally had guys who coasted on their talent. Case in point, Carmelo Anthony has been out of the first round once in 9 tries.
But it’s not just your alpha dogs that need a good work ethic and professionalism. It may seem obvious, but then you look over the rosters of the mediocre and bad teams and they’re full of guys who too often give an inconsistent effort. Those teams are often willing to gamble more than the better teams on high-risk high-potential players because they’re desperate and need a big payoff, but it’s a vicious cycle. Those gambles rarely work out, especially on bad teams.
Colangelo doesn’t do well in this category. He’s drafted, signed or traded for Andrea Bargnani, Hedo Turkoglu, Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry and James Johnson, all of whom had either known motivational/consistency issues or checkered backgrounds.
While Gay is supremely talented, his lack of improvement over his career, plus the inconsistent effort he gives on both ends of the court trickles down. And we’re seeing that with the inconsistent play of the entire team.
Take a look around the front offices and coaching staffs of the league, and you’ll see an inordinate number of ex-players who were on Championship teams. Many of the best coaches over the years won Championships as players. Of the eighteen coaches that have won Coach of the Year, in the last 20 years, seven won Championships as players.
And right now, of the six current GMs that have won Championships as GM, four won Championships as players.
It’s not just that those players learned everything by being on a Championship team. It’s that the organizations that won those Championships targeted high IQ players, which is one big reason they won Championships.
The Boston Celtics team that won the 1986 Championship had 5 guys on the team that would go on to become either head coach or GM. Larry Bird won Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year, Danny Ainge won Executive of the Year and a title in Boston, and Rick Carlisle won Coach of the Year and a title in Dallas.
One franchise that seems to have figured this out are the San Antonio Spurs. Take a look at their rosters, over the last fifteen years, or so, and you’ll see very few guys who didn’t have high basketball IQs. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Spurs have been the most successful NBA team over the last 15 years when they always have smart players on the floor.
The only current Raptor I can see achieving success in coaching or the front office is Landry Fields. This Raptor team does not have a high basketball IQ, and not just because they are young.
DON’T OVERVALUE ATHLETICISM
On the flip side, too many teams overvalue how athletic a player is. Elite athleticism is nice, but only when in combination with other skills. And it’s not really necessary for a productive NBA career. As long as a player has the minimum amount of athleticism he needs to defend his position, then, chances are, I’d rather take a more skilled player over a more athletic one.
I’m not suggesting avoiding players with elite athleticism, especially when it comes to acquiring your franchise player, but if you look at most NBA Champions, there are generally very few elite athletes. The Spurs currently have the second best record in the league and might have the best chance of beating the Heat in the Finals, and they have only two or three.
That’s one way they end up drafting so well. They forego the athletic, “high-upside” guy in favour of the skilled role players that fit their system. Of course, when you already have a core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, you can afford not to gamble on players with potential.
The 2006 drafted represented a great cross section of why you don’t overvalue athleticism, but why you can’t undervalue it, either. On one hand, you’ve got Tyrus Thomas and Patrick O’Bryant, both elite athletes for their position but both of whom have been major disappointments. On the other hand, you’ve got Adam Morrison and Sheldon Williams, neither of whom had the minimum amount of athletic ability to make any impact in the league.
With athleticism, it’s a balancing act. Brandon Roy wasn’t thought to have the elite athleticism to be an elite player in the league, but if it weren’t for his knees, he would have been.
Lastly, too many times people connect athleticism with defense. DeRozan was thought to have great defensive potential because of his athleticism, but he’s never been even an average defender. On the other hand, players with average athleticism (or worse) have gone on to become superb defenders, like Shane Battier, Bruce Bowen and Ron Artest (when he was Artest).
The best two perimeter defenders on the Raptors are Landry Fields and Allen Anderson, two of the least athletic players on the roster.
I think one reason so many elite athletes don’t become the type of defenders people expect is that they have been able to rely on athleticism, rather than smarts and instincts, to defend players. Unless they have some excellent coaching in their background, which fewer and fewer players seem to have, they come into the NBA with poor defensive instincts.
DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE
Speaking of defense, I don’t understand coaches like Mike D’Antoni. There hasn’t been one Championship team that hasn’t been, at least, above average defensively. Ever. It’s pretty much a necessity that you need to be a good defensive team if you have ANY hope of winning a title. Yet defense seems to be an afterthought for D’Antoni.
It’s not just the coach that needs to be good defensively, but the players.
Quick, name the last NBA Champion that did not have, at least, one player who either had been, or would in the next year, make the All Defensive First or Second team.
I’ll give you a clue. You can’t, because there hasn’t been one.
Good defense allows you to stay in games when your shot isn’t falling, which will happen. It will allow you to make stops when you need to at the end of close games.
Dwane Casey certainly preaches defense, but the current roster is not one that plays it consistently. And if you’re not doing it consistently, you’re not doing it.
One issue I have is that Colangelo has never seemed to put a priority on defense. He’s seemed to always believe he can simply plug in a few good defensive players into the rotation and that’s good enough. And we’ve seen enough evidence to realize that’s simply not true.
BIG MEN WHO DEFEND AND REBOUND
While it’s important for the vast majority of the roster to play good defense, it’s EXTREMELY important for your big men to not only defend, but be able to grab boards, because that’s part of defense.
Again, looking at the past NBA Champions, you won’t see a whole lot of big men who can’t defend and rebound. Dirk Nowitzki is often brought up, but he was actually a decent team defender who wasn’t a liability on that end of the floor. Even so, Dallas often underachieved in the playoffs. In between their two Finals appearances, they lost in the first round 3 out of 4 times, once after winning a league best 67 games.
Even if you’ve got a great defensive center, a power forward that isn’t good defensively or on the boards will hurt you, often at the worst times. The NBA doesn’t allow your center to stand in the paint the whole time. Both big men have to be able to protect the basket, or else teams are going to isolate them and take advantage of their weakness. And if they can’t grab the defensive board, then it just gives the opposition another chance to score.
Obviously Raptor fans have seen enough of this to know this is true.
On a related note, I recently had a discussion with a couple of friends of mine, and brought up the fact that there are fewer and fewer big men who are both good scorers and defenders. In fact, if you look at the top scoring big men over the last two seasons, I count three under 30 who are very good on both ends of the floor. Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Al Horford. And you could probably make a case for Chris Bosh, who is a better defender than most Raptor fans probably believed he was.
The two power forwards who have recently ascended to Superstardom, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love, are both below average defenders, something I think that will hurt both team’s title chances. When Amare Stoudemire was on the Phoenix Suns, they could never get to the Finals, in part because Amare simply wasn’t a good defender.
That’s one area where the future is promising for the Raptors. I’d much rather have a front line of Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson than the front line of a good majority of teams in the league.
I know the recent trend is to have stretch big men who can step outside and draw out the defense, but teams that have historically done well have had a low post threat that can create double teams, score inside and be a guy who can get you a good look down low when the game slows down or the jumpshots stop falling.
That doesn’t necessarily have to be one of your big men. LeBron James is the main post-up threat for Miami. And it wasn’t until LeBron moved into the post, that he won a Championship. Michael Jordan’s Bulls won their last three titles with him as the team’s only real post scorer.
Having a good post player is especially important in the playoffs, when the game slows down. In the half court, you don’t get the easy looks you do in the regular season. The defense is stingier and the lane shuts down. Having a guy in the post you can throw it into does several things. Obviously there’s the ability to get a high percentage shot close to the basket, but it also makes the defense react, which allow more open looks for teammates.
The lack of legitimate low post scorer (and Russell Westbrook’s decision making) might be Oklahoma’s biggest achilles heal and what keeps them from winning a Championship until they get one. I think they made two mistakes at the start of the season. First, I think they should have kept James Harden and traded Westbrook. Secondly, I think they should have dealt him for a low post scorer.
The best low post scorer the Raptors ever had was probably Jermaine O’Neal, who played less than half a season. Chris Bosh has always been more of a high post scorer, probably due to his slight build, and saying Hakeem Olajuwon was a shadow of his former self, while a Raptor, is probably an insult to shadows.
In the last couple of weeks, Jonas Valanciunas has shown the makings of a potentially excellent low post scorer. He has pretty good footwork, great hands and a knack for getting the ball in the basket. In his last ten games, he’s shooting 68%, while scoring 15.9 ppg, and a fair number of those shots are either off post ups or jumpshots. This isn’t DeAndre Jordan getting half a dozen lobs at the rim a game.
And he’s been extremely physical, which was an area of concern when he was drafted because he LOOKED like a 19 year old kid with not a whole lot of muscle. In less than two years, he’s filled out so much you have to wonder if he’s spent a little time with Barry Bonds. Really, though, he simply looks like a man now, as opposed to the boy the Raptors drafted two years ago.
He still needs to work on his footwork and get a lot better at seeing the floor (for teammates and help defense) when he’s got the ball, but this is an area where the future is very bright for the Raptors.
The best statistic for offensive efficiency is True Shooting Percentage, which takes into consideration percentage for field goals, threes and free throws. This year, the top three teams are Miami, Oklahoma and San Antonio. Last year, Miami, the eventual Champion, was fourth. The year before, when Dallas won their Championship, they were fourth. A team’s scoring efficiency really can’t be downplayed.
Other than teams that had injuries during the regular season, you can go way back and you’ll see the same results. The true contenders are efficient scorers.
There are two components to efficient scoring. The first is making sure your main scorers get to the line at a high rate, so that they can manufacture points even when the shots aren’t falling. The more consistently your main scorers get to the line, the more consistently they will score, and that means fewer scoring droughts when they are on the floor.
But that’s only part of it.
In basketball, the two best places to shoot is under the basket and behind the 3 point line. Obviously under the basket will give you the best chance to actually make the shot, but a three point gives you more bang for your buck. Shooting 33% from the three point line gives you basically the same points per shot as someone who shoots 50% from inside the arc. And if you take into consideration that three point shots lead to more offensive rebounds, it’s obvious why Raptor’s Director of Analytics, Alex Rucker, wants the Raptors to take more threes.
Now, unfortunately, just taking shots from those two areas isn’t quite good enough. You need to actually make shots from those areas, too. Case in point, according to Hoopdata.com, of the ten teams that have the most attempts at the rim, seven are playoff teams, and only three are expected to win 50 games or more. Of the ten teams that shoot the highest field goal percentage at the rim, nine would make the playoffs, if it were held today, and that includes Miami, San Antonio, the Clippers and Oklahoma, so basically the four teams that have the best chance at getting to the Finals.
Of the ten teams that take the most 3 point shots, only two aren’t playoff teams. And Miami, San Antonio and Oklahoma are all in the top five for 3 point percentage.
On the other hand, one of the least efficient shots is the long two. Players rarely shoot a very high percentage shooting them, and unlike the three point shot, they’re not worth any more than a shot closer to the rim.
Miami, San Antonio and Oklahoma are all in the bottom ten for attempts from the 16-23 foot range.
Toronto has the eleventh most attempts from that range, largely due to both DeRozan and Gay taking a lot from there.
Things don’t get any better when you look at shots at the rim, where the Raptors are fourth last in the league in attempts. Thankfully, they are 9th in the league in field goal percentage, at the rim. They just need to shoot a lot more shots there.
The opposite is true from 3 point range, where they take the tenth most attempts in the league, but are 6th last in percentage. So maybe the idea of the Raptors taking MORE threes isn’t the best idea.
Knowing where your shots should come from and actually getting them there are two different things. Players will always go back to where they are most comfortable, so you need to have players that are comfortable scoring inside and can hit for a good percentage from outside.
The Raptors are currently 18th in the league in True Shooting percentage, and would be lower if Bargnani weren’t injured, and Gay had been on the roster the whole season, meaning no Ed Davis or Jose Calderon. And this year, the top 3 scorers on the team have below average scoring efficiency, so you can’t even argue that the team is constructed to be offensively efficient. They’re not.
The last one I will discuss is ball movement. If you watch the better teams in the league, most of them have great ball movement. Good ball movement makes the defense work harder, and leads to more open looks. Watch Miami and San Antonio, and you’ll see teams that move the ball better than just about any other team in the league. And it has nothing to do with the fact they have such great players, because Denver also moves the ball extremely well.
What you need is unselfish players who aren’t ball stoppers and make good decisions with the ball.
Once again, this isn’t an area of strength for the Raptors. Both Gay and DeRozan tend to be ball stoppers, and Lowry will take too many quick shots early in the shot clock. Even Valanciunas has been guilty of grinding the offense to a halt when he gets the ball in the post, something he will have to work on.
Now, the one thing I am leaving out is the elite talent that is necessary to truly contend in the NBA. But that’s where the 2nd part of this series comes in.
And obviously a getting a good coach who will focus on those things is important, but the fact is you need to right pieces. And that’s what this article is about.
This is about acquiring the right types of players that will help a team in these areas, which, in turn, helps the team win.
If you look at the areas I’ve listed, it might seem fairly obvious, but it’s apparently not. One just has to look at Colangelo’s moves during his tenure with the Raptors to see that. From drafting Bargnani, to the Hedo Turkoglu signing, all the way up to the Rudy Gay trade, he’s consistently focused on traits in players that don’t help you win.
Not coincidentally, the one roster he had that seemed to follow the above blueprint, to a large degree, was in 2006 when he first took the job. He had a good defensive team that had a lot of high IQ players (Anthony Parker, Jorge Garbajosa, Jose Calderon, Rasho Nesterovic) all of whom moved the ball well. They didn’t over-rely on athletes, and they finished in the top ten for True Shooting Percentage.
The big downfall for that team was the low ceiling, but Colangelo at least seemed to have the right idea. Then he started making high risk-low payoff gambles that made the team worse.
Just looking at Colangelo’s moves, I was tempted to add DON’T OVERPAY ROLE PLAYERS, but team’s have certainly won while overpaying some role players. It does make it more difficult to improve your team, though. And it’s a rule the San Antonio Spurs obsessively try and follow.
Speaking of the San Antonio, to me, they should be the model of how of how to build a team. Now, as I said before, having Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili certainly helps, but if you look at their rosters since Gregg Popovich took over the reigns of the team, in 1994, you’ll see a plan that focuses on all the areas I talked above earlier.
In his first year, he signed Avery Johnson, who went on to coach the Dallas Mavericks to the Finals, Chuck Person, a well respected assistant coach with the Lakers, and Doc Rivers, who coached the Celtics to a Championship. Then the next year he traded for Monty Williams, currently the head coach of the New Orleans
He almost never took chances on risky players, acquired good defensive players and built the core of the team around true professionals who never took a night off and always worked hard.
It just seems to me that if you’re going to build a team, you need to focus on the things that have worked year after year, and have won titles. Because that’s the goal. Or at least it should be.
The Toronto Raptors gave the Washington Wizards the business last night.
Armed with a strong rebounding game and a relentless interior attack, Toronto completely exploited Washington inside the paint.
The box score reads the Raps scored a mere 32 points in the paint but don’t let that fool you.
Jonas Valanciunas had a statement game. His production alone on this night warranted him getting more touches not only in the contest but possibly for the remainder of the season.
[Also read Reaction: Wizards 78, Raptors 88]
He isn’t always the most aesthetic looking player, but he gets the job done. According to Synergy Sports, the big man came into last night’s game converting 49.4 percent of his shots in post up situations.
Obviously, context is important in this setting. He doesn’t necessarily score that well against every opposing big man, but last night was one of those nights. Valanciunas owned Emeka Okafor and Nene.
He had a few post ups as well as a couple of drives — always to his right! — that allowed him to score.
But JV’s biggest contribution last night on offense was his toughness. Every time he was given an open shot in the paint, he pump faked himself (took him a few seconds to realize how open he was) and then used the landscape at his disposal to attack the basket.
Routinely he was met with resistance, but he kept drawing whistles. His aggressive and physical play resulted in a 16-of-18 free throw shooting night.
Valanciunas’ scoring in the half-court helped the Raptors overcome a sloppy game. The majority of their 15 turnovers on this night were unforced. On a few occasions, players tried threading the needle with passes and instead coughed up the ball.
DeMar DeRozan was on his game in this contest. Dwane Casey’s regular sets were favorable for Toronto’s starting 2-guard on this evening.
One of the Raptors’ pet plays has DeRozan curling off a screen on the left side of the floor for an open jumper. If the big man defending the action on DeRozan steps out to contest his jumper, the shooting guard can essentially drive past him and get into the paint.
DeMar mixed up his game by attacking the paint and nailing his midrange jumpers. According to Hoopdata, DeRozan converted 6-of-12 shots from 16-to-23 feet against the Wizards. He also got himself to the basket and into the paint where he put pressure on Washington.
His final tall by night’s end was 25 points.
Valanciunas and DeRozan did a great job of taking whatever Washington offered them in this contest. But it can also be said that Toronto removed whatever available options the Wiz had, especially in the second half.
Indeed, Casey’s group held the Wizards to 28 points on 7-for-35 shooting from the floor in the final two quarters of the game. They kept John Wall out on the perimeter and the few times he wandered into the paint, he was met with resistance.
He managed 12 points in the second half, but was 3-for-11 from the field.
With the team hitting the road for their three next games, winning at home prior to leaving the friendly confines of Toronto is always a good thing.
After receiving inconsistent minutes to start the year, rookie Jonas Valanciunas played 27 minutes per game in March, and that figure will rise in April. His fellow rookie Terrence Ross had his minutes nearly doubled in March, a trend that will likely continue as well. Beyond that, Quincy Acy has been called up from the D-League, and the Raptors would like to see how much the second-round draft pick has progressed since the beginning of the year. All of that is reasonable. If anything, Casey should have adopted that mindset earlier.
With their loss to the Pistons on Monday, the Raptors were assured of not making the playoffs for the fifth straight year. This is now the longest the Raptors have been out of the post-season. The franchise made the playoffs in their fifth season of existence, and then ended a four-year drought when they won the Atlantic Division in 2006-07. But the Raptors have not sniffed the post-season since being knocked out in the first round by Orlando in April 2008.
Luxury boxes are fun, but not for any viewing purposes. You end up hitting the open bar like men going into combat. Halfway through those games, I couldn’t tell you the score. By the end, I’m iffy on the sport. A $4 ticket at a reseller like StubHub isn’t really four dollars. There’s a $5 service fee (“Here are your tickets”) and a $4.95 delivery fee (“Here are your tickets: The Sequel”). Total cost for a $4 ticket: $13.95. These also weren’t the cheapest tickets in the NBA on Wednesday. Mid-afternoon, some schlub was trying to unload a pair to see Denver (good team) in Utah for 89 cents a pop. If they sold the whole ACC at this price point, they’d make $80K. That’s about two-thirds of what Andrea Bargnani was paid Wednesday for bogarting a courtside seat.
Two of the rookies more than earned their keep Wednesday night as Jonas Valanciunas had a season-high 24 points to go along with 10 rebounds and Quincy Acy contributed eight points and a bundle of energy in his 20-minute run. The most impressive part of Valanciunas’s night was his 16-for-18 performance at the free throw line (both season highs) and the fact he had just four fouls in 41 minutes against two big, strong Wizard big men in Emeka Okafor and Nene.
While Toronto jumped out to a nice lead, the team decided to stop defending and suddenly the Wizards were ahead 50 to 39 at the half. The Dinos weren’t even attempting to guard the Wiz at times and as the third quarter began, this looked to be loss number 48 on the season for TO. However Raptors’ head coach Dwane Casey must have gotten through to his troops during halftime as a different version of the Dinos emerged from the locker room, one that was focused on D and getting stops. And that made all the difference.
After a tremendous game against Detroit, Rudy Gay appeared to be battling injuries. I would suspect his back was bothering him because Gay appeared very stiff, couldn’t beat anyone off the dribble and had trouble getting down in his defensive stance. It’s admirable that he continues to play through his injuries, but I wouldn’t be opposed to him being shut down for the season. Rudy really struggled to score (2-8 FG, 2-4 FT) but he still hit the glass for 8 rebounds and picked up a couple steals. After the game, Dwane Casey said Gay was limited to 24 minutes due to a twisted ankle.
It was an offensive performance reminiscent of the November Wizards. With Wall’s jumper not falling, Martell Webster’s hot stroke fading and Bradley Beal on the sidelines, the Raptors packed the paint and dared the Wizards to beat them from the outside. Washington couldn’t drive and kick for open threes, nor could they force double teams in the post. As a result, their offense consisted mostly of mid-range jumpers from Nene and Emeka Okafor, and that won’t work. The worst part is that the Wizards looked to be in great shape in the first half. It was almost like a role reversal, actually.They had the defense that was stifling. They were grinding out hoops by working through all their half-court options and crashing the glass. They had the 15-point lead at one point. But that was before the third quarter that we will never speak of again.
“The physicality of the game doesn’t bother him anymore,” Casey said, “whereas before he would kind of disappear a little bit. Now he’s huge at the end of a game. You can go to him. He can make free throws. He can pass the basketball but most of all he can defend without fouling. That’s huge for him. That growth for him has been huge.”
“That’s just him playing hard and being aggressive,” DeRozan said of Valanciunas, who shot an impressive 16-for-18 from the free-throw line during his career outing. “As a rookie when you get 20 points that’s definitely big, especially when it’s a double-double as well so that’s going to go a long way.” The 20-year-old from Lithuania has recorded a double-double in three of his last four games, scoring in double figures in 13 of 14.
“They were being aggressive and they just took control of the game,” John Wall said. “They were more aggressive to start the second half and we needed to be that way to close out the game.” Wizards head coach Randy Wittman agreed with his point guard. “We came out the second half and shot around 20 per cent,” he said. “There was no pace to the game. We had no movement, which was disappointing. To be up 11 at the half and then go through the motions…we need that killer instinct and we have not shown it.”
|Amir Johnson, PF 35 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-1 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | +6
Amir Johnson continues to be the most reliable player on this team, game in and game out. He may have the slowest release in the league on his jump shot, but he drilled two of the three that Washington let him wind up for tonight. If Amir can develop the kind of interior passing game he had with Ed Davis with Jonas Valanciunas, I promise never to miss another Raptor’s game ever again.
|Rudy Gay, SF 26 MIN | 2-8 FG | 2-4 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 6 PTS | +7
I know that Rudy had some points tonight, but all that stands out in my mind are the turnovers. He had the opportunity to hit Ross with a fastbreak pass for an uncontested dunk with 6 minutes left in the 2nd. Instead he kept the ball, slowly dribbled in to traffic and turned the ball over. Gay looks open to the concept of passing the ball instead of constantly looking for his shot, he just doesn’t look like he really knows how to go about doing it.
|Jonas Valanciunas, C 41 MIN | 4-7 FG | 16-18 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 24 PTS | +17
Jonas Valanciunas is the Raptors right now, and the announcers spent the entire first ten minutes of television coverage talking about him exclusively. Jonas was kind enough to validate Leo Rautin’s enthusiasm with the best individual performance on the floor tonight.
|Kyle Lowry, PG 37 MIN | 2-8 FG | 4-6 FT | 8 REB | 13 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | +13
Dear Kyle Lowry,
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 37 MIN | 11-21 FG | 3-5 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 25 PTS | +20
With the weight of the team off of his shoulders, DeMar is really coming in to his own as a quality contributor. His willingness to drive to the rim continues to reap rewards on the free throw line. DeMar’s mid-range game was solid tonight, as it often is. But there continues to be a collective wince whenever he puts one up from 3. I encourage you to read this fantastic piece by Dylan Murphy, and think about DeMar’s aggressive leg kick on his 3 point shot. Fixing that could make him an elite player.
|Quincy Acy, SF 20 MIN | 4-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | -4
I was concerned when Quincy picked up a foul with a moving screen after checking in to the game, but before time had even started. After he fought hard for an offensive rebound and then sunk the put-back, I was positive that he was Reggie Evans. After all, he is wearing a pretty convincing Reggie Evans costume. I continued to think so until Acy hit a 19-foot jump shot in the second quarter. Then he hit another one proving that he was, in fact, definitely not Reggie Evans.
|Landry Fields, SF 17 MIN | 1-1 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +12
I can appreciate how difficult it has to be to come off the bench after not playing in the entire first half and suddenly start guarding someone who has been playing all game. Fields has accepted his role on the team this year, stayed in his lane and worked hard to meet his responsibilities. It’s an often unappreciated role, and Fields quietly went about doing it well against the Wiz’, as he usually does. Landry seems to score at least one basket every game off a really intelligent cut to the basket, and Valanciunas found him for one with time winding down in a close game tonight.
|Sebastian Telfair, PG 11 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -3
Telfair posted another chapter in the long-standing Raptor’s tradition of incredibly inefficient back-up point guard performances. There have been good nights for Telfair since he got here. Tonight was not one of them.
|Alan Anderson, SG 8 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -8
Keeps on chuckin’. Gunning his way to a contract next year on a team that doesn’t value shot selection.
|Terrence Ross, SG 8 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -10
Not a lot of minutes tonight for Ross. While Valanciunas is showing his readiness and improvement now, Casey and the coaching staff are likely already looking to planning their summer league around the development of Ross’ promising game.
It has to be frustrating to motivate your guys for a game that they know doesn’t matter. Casey is getting the best out of his young players though, and even managed to squeeze a sporadic stretch of solid play out of Kyle Lowry. It’s next to impossible to judge a coach for a defensive scheme that half of the guys on the court aren’t even willing to play. In tonight’s battle of who wants is less, Casey had his team play less apathetic than the Wizard’s they duelled against.
The Washington Wizards have the stated goal of finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference. Cynically, I’d guess this is so that they can sell their fans on the fact that they narrowly missed the playoffs and showed great improvement in the second half of the season (the latter of which is actually true). The optimist in me, though, remembers the movie Mr. 3000 and how the stated team goal of finishing third instead of fifth actually galvanized Bernie Mac’s Milwaukee Brewers (rest in peace).
The Wizards are now 28-46 but they’re 16-11 since Feb. 4. Before that date, they had a 94.5 O-Rating and a 100.1 D-Rating. Since, their offense has improved to 103.4 points per 100 possessions while their defense has remained mainly the same at 100.2. That’s a really stark improvement on the offensive end, and it can’t possibly all be credited to John Wall, who made his return on Jan. 12.
This turn of strong play has included two wins over the Raptors and one Toronto victory. In those three games, two of which were in Washington, the Wizards have outscored the Raptors 287-272, indicating a relatively close match-up, though one that favors the Wiz.
Blake: 16-11 after a 12-35 start. Simple question: what’s changed?
Amin: Short answer: John Freaking Wall.
Long answer: The confidence of everyone on the team has grown steadily over the course of the year. When you’ve got a top-tier defense, veterans who can do something as simple as “make open shots,” a rookie that’s only gotten better offensively and defensively as the season has progressed, and the fastest point guard in the league… things tend to improve. But also, John Wall injected some serious life into this listless team, and in the 41 games since he’s been back, they’re 23-18. That’s pretty damn good.
So what can the Raptors do to try and contain the Wizards? Well, Kyle Lowry better be amped up to play defense against John Wall, as Amir Johnson won’t be able to over-help and leave Nene alone. The Raptors do have an advantage on the wings, but the SportVu-endorsed strategy of leaving corner shooters open can’t be employed too heavily because Bradley Beal is back., joining Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza as long-range threats.
Offensively, it should be a tough night for Jonas Valanciunas, who has looked great of late but matches up with Emeka Okafor, still a great post defender when engaged. Webster and Ariza are also savvy defenders, while Beal is improving on that end.
I doubt the Raptors can take this one. The Wizards are hot and motivated, and the Raptors are neither of those things (4-15 over past 19 games, including said losses to Wall and Co.).
Vegas: Raps -4.5
Hollinger: Raps -1.5
Blake: Wizards by 7
Sorry for the brevity, but it’s Wiz-Raps in April. Go check out Tim’s post from this morning if you somehow want more Raptor reading at this point in the season.
The game goes tonight at 7 p.m. on Sportsnet One.
First of all, I want to thank everyone for all the welcomes in the comments section for my premier article on the Raptors Republic. My goal is to create some good, intelligent conversations here, so I’ll do my best to respond to as many comments as I can. Emphasis on “intelligent”.
In my last article, I put forth the argument that the current path the Raptors are on was not one destined for anything but mediocrity and disappointment (so basically, the Raptors’ status quo). Keeping Colangelo and the current roster is simply not a good option for anyone with Championship hopes for the team. And with the Raptors going 11-17 since the Rudy Gay trade, it’s becoming more and more evident that staying the course might not even get the Raptors to the playoffs, in the near future. You can make all the excuses you want, but the fact remains this is a poorly constructed, massively overpriced team with too many “core” players who rarely play to their potential and have been too willing to roll over in games they should have competed.
Even PhdSteve changed his mind about staying the course on his latest podcast.
Of course, it’s easy to criticize and not offer solutions, so in this article, I put forth my argument of what they SHOULD do.
Now, before people start assuming this is going to be an article about tanking, let me reassure it’s not…completely.
Again, taking inspiration from PhdSteve, on one of his previous podcasts he talked about the myth of the Oklahoma model. That you couldn’t copy it because of the luck involved in drafting guys like Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka, as well as being able to land Kevin Durant. Well, it was certainly luck that they were able to land Durant with the second pick, but where I disagree completely is the luck he says was involved in drafting Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka, and especially when he talks about the Spurs drafting Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Oklahoma and San Antonio were able to draft their star players not due to luck, but because they have great GMs who make great decisions and have a great scouting department.
What both organizations have in common, apart from their excellent scouting, is good management. You can have great scouts, but ultimately, it’s up to management who to draft. Now I already discussed in the last article that the Raptors need new management, but they also need something else that both Oklahoma and San Antonio have: Elite players.
I don’t think anyone can seriously say that Rudy Gay is an elite player. Not with the mountain of evidence that says he’s not. A word of advice for Bryan Colangelo. Making your announcers say over and over again that Gay is an elite player doesn’t actually make it true, no matter what Joseph Goebbels says.
Again, it’s not that Gay is a bad player by any means. I think he gives too inconsistent an effort on both ends of the court, which causes problems, but if he’s your third guy, I think that’s okay. But he’s not getting paid like a third guy. Unfortunately, on the Raptors, he’s the Raptors #1 option.
On my own blog, I’ve already written why the draft is the best way for a team like Toronto to acquire an elite player, so I won’t go over it again here. I recycled enough of my old material in my last article.
Obviously, there has been a lot of talk among Raptor fans of wanting to try and get Andrew Wiggins, and rightly so. If he comes close to the potential that many are giving him, he’d be the saviour the Raptors have been desperately needing since Vince mentally left town. If you’re a Raptors fan, and you don’t know who Andrew Wiggins is, then I suggest watching this:
The problem, of course, is that you can’t bank on landing the top pick in the draft, no matter how bad you are. Ask just about any of the last place teams that have missed out on winning the lottery and landing a franchise player. The best example of this is Boston, who had the best chance to land Tim Duncan in the 1997 draft, but got the third pick, and drafted Chauncey Billups (who went on to a Hall of Fame career, but that career didn’t start for another 5 years in Detroit) instead. What followed were four more years in the lottery.
The 1997 draft was a one man show. After Tim Duncan was Keith Van Horn. I think you get the picture. That’s not, however, the case with the 2014 draft.
After Andrew Wiggins, the drop-off isn’t nearly as big if the Raptors miss out on the top pick. In fact, the beauty of the 2014 draft is that it can be compared in a lot of ways to the 2003 draft, one of the best draft classes in the last 20 years. Now, I’m not suggesting that Wiggins is the next LeBron, so let’s not jump to any unfounded conclusions.
But it wasn’t just Cleveland that made out big in that draft. Miami got themselves the second best player in the draft, an All-NBA First Teamer and lead Miami to it’s first Championship in 2006. Denver got a 4-time All-NBA player and Toronto got Chris Bosh.
Teams that miss out on Wiggins still have a chance at Jabari Parker, who has a similar game to Grant Hill (when he came out of Duke) and is even going to Hill’s alma mater. Parker might end up being better than Wiggins, although Wiggins has more upside. If you miss out on those two, there’s still Julius Randle, an athletic and strong power forward with NBA ready offensive skills and a willingness to compete on defense, and Andrew Harrison, a Russell Westbrook-clone who is a more natural PG. And Aaron Gordon, who has a Blake Griffin-like game and body, now is being looked at on the same level.
Now, some will argue that lots of guys have been high school phenoms and never made it big in the NBA. Felipe Lopez was one of the most highly recruited high school players in history, appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated before playing one NCAA game. He played four years at
Seton Hall St. John’s before being drafted 24th in the 1998 draft and lasted only four years in the league.
The difference is that those five would probably go be the top five in the 2013 draft, if they could, and both Wiggins and Parker could probably start for most of the teams in the league right now. These guys aren’t Kwame Brown. They have skills most NBA players don’t have.
Basically you’re looking at, at least, four to five potential elite players from this draft, and possibly more. If you’re going to tank to get an elite player, next year is the time to do it. And that’s exactly what I’d recommend the Raptors do.
I can understand the argument not to tank if there’s only one franchise altering player in the draft, or if you’ve already got that player or your team is in a good situation. But the Raptors are a mess. They are a lottery team without an All Star, yet starting next season the team’s top three scorers, and also three of the team’s most inefficient scorers, will be making a combined $37.3 million. If the Raptors sign a player to the MLE this summer, it will put them into the luxury tax.
Of course, it’s easy to gut your team and tank. The difficult part is figuring out how to do it well and what to do next.
Gutting the team obviously doesn’t mean getting rid of everyone, because you still need players. And the idea is not to get clear salary, because that’s pointless when you’re rebuilding. So who stays and who goes?
In part one, I said Jonas Valanciunas was the Raptor’s most important player, and he’s the only player who’s in this category. Legit 2-way centers who can run the floor and play hard are such a rarity in this league that you’d have to be nuts to trade him away. While he’s an untouchable, he’s not good enough, at this point in his career, to make much of an impact in the win column and hurt your chances of getting a top pick.
LOW-COST BUILDING BLOCKS
A team trying to tank obviously is rebuilding, and rebuilding teams need young players. That means guys on their rookie contracts who still have decent potential. On the Raptors, there are just two of them, Terrence Ross and Quincy Acy. If you need to package them in a trade to get something done, it’s not a big deal, but if possible you hold on to them.
LOCKER ROOM VETERANS
Just because you’re tanking, doesn’t mean you don’t want your young guys to have good influences around them that can give you some minutes. They’re good enough to play 15-20 mpg, but not good enough to make an impact in the win column. Plus, none of these guys have any trade value, so you might as well keep them. Aaron Gray and John Lucas are those guys for the Raptors. Both have contracts that go for one more season.
LOW VALUE-BIG CONTRACT
These are guys who are overpaid and who really aren’t worth trying to trade. Landry Fields isn’t worth his contract but would be perfect guy to start at small forward. He’s the type of guy who is more valuable the more talent he has around him, and he’s not going to have a lot of talent around him. But he could be a good role player down the road. Linas Kleiza may not ever player again, due to bad knees. His contract ends after next season, so it’s not a problem.
HATE TO SEE YOU GO
Amir Johnson is a guy you love having on your team. He’s a great teammate who will do anything to help the team and always makes a positive impact when he’s on the floor. And his contract is actually pretty good, despite what early critics said (I was not one of them). Unfortunately, if you’re trying to tank, he’s the kind of player that will not help your cause. If I was the GM, I’d sit him down, lay my cards on the table and ask him what he wants. I think you owe a guy like Amir that. Most likely, he won’t want to lose for another few years, and you find a playoff team who can send you a first rounder and/or young prospect for him. And then you see if you can sign him back when his contract is done.
HIGH VALUE-GOOD CONTRACT
These are guys who you don’t want to keep, but should have good value. Unfortunately, about the only guy that describes on the Raptors is Kyle Lowry. I doubt you’d be able to get the same value for him that you gave up (lottery pick), because he’s disappointed as a starter, but he’s definitely an asset. You might also need him to move one of the Raptors more difficult to trade players.
HIGH VALUE-BAD CONTRACT
If Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan’s contract were cut by a third, then they’d be good assets that you could probably get a lottery pick for. Unfortunately, their contracts make them difficult to move. Ironically, Gay is probably the more difficult player to move, despite him actually have a pretty good impact in the win column (decent, but not great). That impact makes him absolutely necessary to move for a team that wants to lose.
DeRozan has a negligible impact on the court, so it’s not necessary to move him if it becomes to difficult to find a taker. Plus he’s a hard worker, so that’s good to have around the young players.
DON’T BOTHER WRITING
Andrea Bargnani has one of the worst valued contracts in the league and he’s still owed $23 million after this season. Considering how little of a positive impact he makes, he could actually help a team that wants to lose. But with his history and how much of a dark cloud he is over the franchise, you have to cut ties with him. If you can’t find a trade partner that won’t make you take someone like Carlos Boozer back, then you bite the bullet and amnesty him.
Now that you know who you’re going to keep and who you’re not, you need to figure out how you’re going to do it and how you’re going to fill back up the roster. While it might seem reasonable to suggest that if you want to tank, you should go out and get a bunch of bad players, that’s not necessarily the best move, especially considering you don’t want to create a toxic atmosphere for guys like Valanciunas, Ross and Acy.
Ideally, what you want is to find a good mixture of young, undervalued prospects who could be either good building blocks for the future, or assets whose value will go up, and semi-useful veterans who are good in the locker room and can give you some decent minutes, if need be. The trick is to not have too many veterans so that a coach will not play and develop the younger players, trying to win a few more games.
Now, it’s been suggested by some that it would be very difficult to trade Gay and DeRozan because of their contracts. I believe that depends on what you expect back. Gay’s contract is certainly cumbersome. But we’ve seen Atlanta trade Joe Johnson for expiring contracts and a couple of picks. And we do know that other teams were interested in trading for Gay before Colangelo swooped in and did it. Toronto might need to take back a long term contract or two, but since cap space is not the goal here, that’s not a problem.
First up, target some of the young players who haven’t developed as expected, and who may not be getting the chance they need. Players like Kendall Marshall, Terrence Jones, Derrick Williams, Alec Burks and even a guy like Evan Turner, who has been in the league a few years, but has never been in a system, or surrounded by players, that complimented him.
An example of a trade I would try would be trading DeRozan to Minnesota (who apparently has coveted him) for Derrick Williams and Like Ridnour. Now, I’m not suggesting Minnesota would accept this deal (I’m guessing they wouldn’t, as is), but this is the type of deal I would be looking for.
As usual, I’ve gone a little long, so I will end it here and finish up in the next column, which will be posted later this afternoon. In that one, I’ll discuss how the Raptors should try and rebuild.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
- Am I the only one who couldn’t watch the Duke-Louisville game after Kevin Ware went down with one of the most gruesome sports injuries in television history? I remember seeing him lying on the side of the court, wondering why the announcers hadn’t mentioned it, and then when it became evident the extent of the injury, I couldn’t watch. I’m definitely not one of those who likes to watch injuries. I’ve had too many of my own and even a sprained ankle will cause me to turn my head, as if afraid to give my body any ideas.
I fast forwarded (I always DVR basketball games) until they started playing again but I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I switched to watching the Raptors-Hawks game, an only slightly less gruesome experience.
- As someone who personally lived through the Vancouver Grizzlies years, saw first hand what he did to the organization and heard from an insider friend how he carried on while in charge of the Grizzlies, I think I’m quite qualified to warn every NBA team out there to stay as far away from Stu Jackson as possible, as he apparently becomes interested in moving back into a team’s front office.
- Truth be told, the Spurs have been one of my favourite non-Canadian teams since before Tim Duncan was drafted. And this article on how the Spurs improved their defense this year is incredibly interesting, but not just to Spurs fans. One of the interesting things is how open Gregg Popovich is to changing his coaching strategy based on stats collected through analytics. Considering how reluctant coaches like Dwane Casey and Doug Collins are to use analytics, it really makes you appreciate how progressive Popovich is despite him being so old school.