Last 200 articles shown.
|Dec 4, 13||The Warriors ripping the Raptors hearts out||Sam Holako|
|Dec 4, 13||The Aristocrats||Andrew Thompson|
|Dec 4, 13||Morning Coffee: December 4th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Dec 4, 13||Poll: What Will Be Dwane Casey’s Fate?||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 4, 13||Reaction: Raptors 103, Warriors 112 (27-point lead blown)||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 3, 13||Ten Reasons NOT to Trade DeMar DeRozan||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 3, 13||Zach Lowe’s Thoughts on Jonas Valanciunas||William Lou|
|Dec 3, 13||Where the Raptors Sit Based on Expectations||forumcrew|
|Dec 3, 13||Rapcast #172: “Talking Raptors” with Gareth Wheeler of TSN||Barry Taylor|
|Dec 3, 13||Who to Trade, or Not to Trade?||forumcrew|
|Dec 3, 13||Gameday: Raptors visit Warriors amid myriad questions||Blake Murphy|
|Dec 3, 13||Morning Coffee: December 3rd Edition||Sam Holako|
|Dec 2, 13||Remember the Pick ‘n Roll? Me Neither||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 2, 13||Raptors Lose, Jonas Wins||William Lou|
|Dec 2, 13||DeMar crosses Evan Fournier to the ground||Sam Holako|
|Dec 2, 13||Morning Coffee: December 2nd Edition||Sam Holako|
|Dec 1, 13||Rudy Gay Refuses to Pass on Break; DeMar DeRozan Feels Pain||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 1, 13||Mozgov blocks Gay’s dunk attempt||Sam Holako|
|Dec 1, 13||Brian Shaw escorts DeRozan from the Nuggets bench||RR|
|Dec 1, 13||Super Late Reaction: Nuggets 112, Raptors 98||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Dec 1, 13||Gameday: Nuggets @ Raptors, December 1st||Garrett Hinchey|
|Dec 1, 13||Casey Looks at +/-, Considers Lineup Change; RR Looks at NetRtg, Suggests Who To Bench||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 30, 13||Valiant, Vigilant, and at times Voracious, but not Victorious||William Lou|
|Nov 29, 13||Reaction: Heat 90, Raptors 83||William Lou|
|Nov 29, 13||ESPN: Gay and DeRozan the 5th and 6th Worst “Black Holes”||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 29, 13||Game Day: The Champs Are Here!||Tim W.|
|Nov 29, 13||Morning Coffee: November 29th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 28, 13||Winter War: RR’s 16-Team 3-on-3 Tournament in Toronto||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 28, 13||Inside the Toronto Raptors Thanksgiving dinner party||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 28, 13||Morning Coffee: November 28th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 27, 13||Rudy Gay Passes Ball, Shocks Amir Johnson||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 27, 13||Rumour: Dion Waiters for Terrence Ross||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 27, 13||10 Things About Last Night||Andrew Thompson|
|Nov 27, 13||Quincy Acy reacts to Rudy Gay’s clutch three||Sam Holako|
|Nov 27, 13||Morning Coffee: November 27th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 26, 13||Dwane Casey Comments on Last Play, Approves of Amir Three (GIF, Quote)||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 26, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 100 Nets 102||Sam Holako|
|Nov 26, 13||Open Gym: Kyle’s House (trailer)||RR|
|Nov 26, 13||Dwane Casey – Nov. 16/13||RR|
|Nov 26, 13||Gameday: Nets @ Raptors, Nov. 26||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 26, 13||Rapcast #171 (Doc): The Week Ahead for the DeRozan-led Division Champs||Steve Gennaro|
|Nov 26, 13||Rudy Gay Doesn’t Want Team to Look at Box Scores||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 26, 13||Responding to Double Teams||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 26, 13||Morning Coffee: November 26th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 25, 13||Raptors Should Pursue Winning Trades||Tim Chisholm|
|Nov 24, 13||Reality Check||Tim W.|
|Nov 23, 13||Player Highlights from Raptors vs Wizards (Amir, Demar, Lowry, Ross)||William Lou|
|Nov 23, 13||Raptors/Wizards: The Running Diary||Garrett Hinchey|
|Nov 22, 13||Reaction: Wizards 88, Raptors 96||William Lou|
|Nov 22, 13||Gameday: Wizards @ Raptors, Nov. 22||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 22, 13||In Defense of Kyle Lowry||William Lou|
|Nov 22, 13||Morning Coffee: November 22nd Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 21, 13||The Raptors Offence: Not Good, But Not As Bad As You Think||Andrew Thompson|
|Nov 21, 13||In case you missed it||RR|
|Nov 21, 13||DeMar DeRozan’s crosses James Anderson out of his shoes||RR|
|Nov 21, 13||Raptors Dismantle Sixers; Signs of Hope Illustrated GIF Style||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 21, 13||Morning Coffee: November 21st Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 20, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 108 vs 76ers 98||Sam Holako|
|Nov 20, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ 76ers, November 20th||Garrett Hinchey|
|Nov 20, 13||Morning Coffee: November 20th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 19, 13||Surprise! Two high-usage wings are struggling to play together||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 19, 13||Rapcast #171: Doc Is In – DeRozan’s growth, Casey Improving, Novak Role, Lowry Rising, and RONDO!||Steve Gennaro|
|Nov 18, 13||Ujiri Active, but is he a Buyer or Seller?||Tim W.|
|Nov 18, 13||A Closer Look: Amir Johnson||Tim W.|
|Nov 18, 13||Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword||William Lou|
|Nov 18, 13||Morning Coffee: November 18th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 18, 13||Batum posterizes Jonas…dang it was a nice play…||RR|
|Nov 17, 13||Gameday: Blazers @ Raptors, Nov. 17||RR|
|Nov 16, 13||Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan dunks over Bulls’ Joakim Noah||RR|
|Nov 16, 13||Same Old, Same Old||Tim W.|
|Nov 15, 13||Quite Possibly the Worst Shot Chart You’ll Ever See||William Lou|
|Nov 15, 13||Reaction: Raptors 80, Bulls 96||William Lou|
|Nov 15, 13||Gameday: Bulls @ Raptors, Nov. 15||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 15, 13||Morning Coffee: November 15th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 15, 13||Raptors Interested In Asik?||Tim W.|
|Nov 14, 13||A few realities about tanking||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 14, 13||Rudy Gay: Raptors/Grizzlies Post-Game||RR|
|Nov 14, 13||Dwane Casey: Raptors/Grizzlies Post-Game||RR|
|Nov 14, 13||Kyle Lowry: Raptors/Grizzlies Post-Game||RR|
|Nov 14, 13||Give us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses||Andrew Thompson|
|Nov 13, 13||Reaction: Raptors 103, Grizzlies 87||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 13, 13||Bargnani’s defense is not missed||Sam Holako|
|Nov 13, 13||#WheresSteveNovak||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 13, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ Grizzlies, November 13||Garrett Hinchey|
|Nov 13, 13||Morning Coffee: November 13th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 12, 13||Quincy Acy blocks Dwight Howard’s dunk attempt||RR|
|Nov 12, 13||Contextualizing Gay and Derozan’s Cold Starts||William Lou|
|Nov 12, 13||Rapcast #170: Doc Is In – West Analysis, Debuts for Wiggins/Parker/Randle, Casey’s Coaching||Steve Gennaro|
|Nov 12, 13||The Good, the Bad, and the Rudy Gay Shot Selection||Garrett Hinchey|
|Nov 12, 13||Amir clicking his heels||Sam Holako|
|Nov 12, 13||Morning Coffee: November 12th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 12, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 104, Rockets 110 (2OT)||Garrett Hinchey|
|Nov 11, 13||GIF: Bargnani goes for the block||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 11, 13||Silver Linings: There Aren’t Any in Dwane Casey’s Playbook||William Lou|
|Nov 11, 13||Depressing Reminder That 3 out of 4 Raptors Fans Want to Tank||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 11, 13||Gameday: Raptors vs Rockets – Nov. 11/13||Sam Holako|
|Nov 11, 13||Morning Coffee: November 11th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 10, 13||Sunday Schadenfreude: Chronicling Bargnani’s Performance in NYK-SAS||William Lou|
|Nov 10, 13||Raptors vs Jazz Brief Comment; User Experience Tips||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 9, 13||Reaction: Raptors 115, Jazz 91||Andrew Thompson|
|Nov 9, 13||Game Day: Raptors vs Jazz||Tim W.|
|Nov 9, 13||A Tale of Two Teams||William Lou|
|Nov 8, 13||Reaction: Indiana 91, Raptors 84||William Lou|
|Nov 8, 13||29th out of 30||forumcrew|
|Nov 8, 13||Gameday: Raptors vs Pacers – Nov. 8/13||Sam Holako|
|Nov 7, 13||Rudy Gay’s bricks and turnovers against the Bobcats||Sam Holako|
|Nov 7, 13||Gerald Henderson illustrates a problem for the Raptors||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 7, 13||A Few Positives||forumcrew|
|Nov 7, 13||Avoidable Loss in Charlotte; Weird Decisions Made Again||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 7, 13||Morning Coffee: Movember 7th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 7, 13||Presented Without Context: Gay and Bargnani’s Shot Charts Through Five Games||William Lou|
|Nov 6, 13||Dwane Casey Explains Decision to Not Foul||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 6, 13||Reaction: Raptors 90, Bobcats 92||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 6, 13||Jonas posterizes LeBron||Sam Holako|
|Nov 6, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ McBobcats, Nov. 6||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 6, 13||Gay Struggles, Lebron Shines, Small-Ball and Game Theory||William Lou|
|Nov 6, 13||Morning Coffee: Movember 6th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 5, 13||Reaction: Raptors 95, Heat 104||William Lou|
|Nov 5, 13||Rapcast #169: The Doctor Is In – The Raptors and the East||Steve Gennaro|
|Nov 5, 13||Gameday: Heat @ Raptors, Nov. 5||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 5, 13||Morning Coffee: Movember 5th||Sam Holako|
|Nov 4, 13||Demar Derozan’s Passing Game||William Lou|
|Nov 4, 13||Rudy’s Struggling In The Right Way||Tim Chisholm|
|Nov 4, 13||Morning Coffee: Movember 4th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Nov 4, 13||How Crazy is the Steve Nash to Toronto Rumour? This Crazy.||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 3, 13||Rudy Gay’s shot chart through the first three games of the season||RR|
|Nov 3, 13||Dwane Casey MIL Post-Game Interview (COTY?)||RR|
|Nov 3, 13||Raptors Go Deer Hunting||Tim W.|
|Nov 2, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ Bucks, Nov. 2||Blake Murphy|
|Nov 2, 13||Uncomfortable Coaching Questions Rise as Raptors Lose in ATL||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 2, 13||Reaction: Raptors 95, Hawks 102||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 1, 13||Masai Ujiri Addicted to Trade Checker||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Nov 1, 13||Gameday: Raptors @ Hawks, Nov. 1||Garrett Hinchey|
|Nov 1, 13||Morning Coffee: November 1st Edition||Sam Holako|
|Oct 31, 13||Raptors Post-Game: Dwane Casey||RR|
|Oct 31, 13||Raptors Post-Game: Rudy Gay||RR|
|Oct 31, 13||Raptors Post-Game: Amir Johnson||RR|
|Oct 31, 13||Rapcast #168: The Boston Win||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Oct 31, 13||Tank you very much, Boston||Andrew Thompson|
|Oct 31, 13||Morning Coffee: Halloween Edition||Sam Holako|
|Oct 30, 13||Quick Reaction: Raptors 92 Celtics 87||Sam Holako|
|Oct 30, 13||Stripes is in the house||RR|
|Oct 30, 13||Amir posterizes dude in locker room||Sam Holako|
|Oct 30, 13||Raptors Practice: Dwane Casey||RR|
|Oct 30, 13||Raptors Practice: Rudy Gay||RR|
|Oct 30, 13||Drake welcomes us to the 2013-14 Raptors season||RR|
|Oct 30, 13||Gameday: Celtics @ Raptors, Oct. 30||Blake Murphy|
|Oct 30, 13||Raptors set to introduce Stripes, the 2013-14 Raptors mascot||RR|
|Oct 30, 13||Toronto Star: Raptors to unveil new Raptor tomorrow||RR|
|Oct 29, 13||2013-14 Raptors TV Schedule||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Oct 29, 13||There Is An Elephant In The Room And His Name Is Rudy||forumcrew|
|Oct 29, 13||RR Season Preview Panel – Part Two||Blake Murphy|
|Oct 29, 13||Morning Coffee: October 29th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Oct 29, 13||Video: Valanciunas rolls ankle in background as Casey talks about need to keep balance||RR|
|Oct 28, 13||SCHOENE Projects Raptors as 9th Seed||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Oct 28, 13||RR Season Preview Panel – Part One||Blake Murphy|
|Oct 28, 13||Morning Coffee: October 28th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Oct 27, 13||Amir does Toronto zombie walk because he’s awesome||RR|
|Oct 27, 13||Ode to Chris Wright||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Oct 26, 13||Slipping and Sliding||RR|
|Oct 25, 13||Condensation 1 – Raps/Bucks 0||Sam Holako|
|Oct 25, 13||Quick Post: The Fragility of the Toronto Raptors||William Lou|
|Oct 25, 13||A New Take On Tanking||forumcrew|
|Oct 25, 13||Serious business in the locker room||Sam Holako|
|Oct 24, 13||Strong League-wide Interest In DeRozan?||forumcrew|
|Oct 24, 13||Where Will Rudy Gay Spend Christmas?||Tim W.|
|Oct 24, 13||Happy Birthday, Global Ambassador||RR|
|Oct 23, 13||2013-2014 Toronto Raptors: Great Team, or Greatest Team?||Andrew Thompson|
|Oct 23, 13||A Little Less Arguing, A Little More Fandom Please||William Lou|
|Oct 23, 13||What Could the Raps get for Rudy?||Garrett Hinchey|
|Oct 23, 13||Morning Coffee: October 23rd Edition||Sam Holako|
|Oct 22, 13||Theory: Raptors will have league’s longest average game time||Blake Murphy|
|Oct 22, 13||Metta World Peace defends Tyler Hansbrough on Twitter||RR|
|Oct 22, 13||Morning Coffee: October 22nd Edition||Sam Holako|
|Oct 21, 13||Recap of Raptors v. Knicks (Return of the Bargs)||William Lou|
|Oct 21, 13||Tyler Hansbrough: Not so tough, it turns out||Blake Murphy|
|Oct 21, 13||Go download the Hardwood Paroxysm season preview||Blake Murphy|
|Oct 21, 13||Morning Coffee: October 21st Edition||Sam Holako|
|Oct 20, 13||Ranking the Centres/Centers||Tim W.|
|Oct 19, 13||Raptors Town Hall: Tim Leiweke Q & A||RR|
|Oct 19, 13||Raptors Town Hall: The Team||RR|
|Oct 19, 13||Three Notes from the Raptors’ State-of-the-Union||William Lou|
|Oct 18, 13||Quincy Acy and a bunch of guns; hunting…wearing Adidas…||RR|
|Oct 18, 13||Why the Raptors are the Anti-Jays||Garrett Hinchey|
|Oct 18, 13||Morning Coffee: October 18th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Oct 17, 13||Bargnani a Triangle All Star||Tim W.|
|Oct 17, 13||Julyan Stone Dunk Fail||RR|
|Oct 17, 13||Raptors top Celtics in second unit showcase||Blake Murphy|
|Oct 17, 13||Morning Coffee: October 17th Edition||Sam Holako|
|Oct 17, 13||Raptors vs Celtics Highlights||RR|
|Oct 16, 13||Reaction: Raptors 99, Celtics 97||William Lou|
|Oct 16, 13||ESPN Raptors Projection: 37-45, 2nd in Atlantic, 7th in East||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Oct 16, 13||Rapcast #167: Training Camp and Pre-Season Review||Zarar Siddiqi|
|Oct 16, 13||Morning Coffee: October 16th, 2013||Sam Holako|
|Oct 15, 13||Terrence Ross Victim of /r/photoshopbattles||RR|
|Oct 15, 13||A Guide to the NBA Preseason||William Lou|
|Oct 15, 13||Morning Coffee: October 15th, 2013||Sam Holako|
|Oct 13, 13||Morning Coffee: October 13th, 2013||Sam Holako|
|Oct 11, 13||Raptors defeat Knicks in what will now be known as The Quincy Acy Game||Blake Murphy|
|Oct 11, 13||Weird||RR|
I knew it was coming the whole time. I’m not claiming clairvoyance, and it’s not because I think the Raptors are terrible. It’s because I know that the Warriors are nothing close to as terrible as they were for the first 30 minutes. Even though the Raps were up double digits all game, the way the Warriors were randomly fouling, mailing in defence (even for them) and turning over the ball with such dedicated purpose made me nervous. It had hustle written all over it. I couldn’t get the image of Woody Harrelson awkwardly warming up on the side as Wesley Snipes pretends to be furious about getting stuck with him as a teammate in a money game. The classic hustle that the plotline of White Men Can’t Jump revolves around. The Warriors were hustling us, and the 3-point barrage comeback was always going to happen.
Now, while the Warriors get a ton of credit for pouring it on the way that they did, they got a lot of help getting back in this game. A LOT of help. At some point during the Warriors frenzied comeback, the Raptors went from running a team offence and pretending to play disciplined defence to quite simply emptying their collective metaphorical bowels all over the court and then throwing it.
As I see it, I have only two choices as to how to respond to a 27 3rd quarter lead turning into a 9-point loss in that fashion. I can do what one of the characters from White Men Can’t Jump did when he got hustled like that, and go get a gun out of my car, or I can respond with a series of increasingly snarky remarks. Being that I’m a Canadian and thus do not own a gun, I will go with door number 2, and hurl criticism and sarcasm from behind the sanctity of my ivory tower. What follows is a list of increasingly snarky observations breaking down last night’s collapse.
I love DeMar DeRozan, 3-point shooter. Motion is smooth, his body is so much better set and he fires with confidence.
Amir Johnson has quickly matched his per game statistical output by halftime, despite not starting. It’s almost as if David Lee was just begging for someone to exploit him this whole time.
Raptors are generating ball movement on at least some regular possessions. This continues to open up good shots and seems like it might actually catch on.”
Haha, remember when we thought things like that? Before the dark times.
It was a devastating blow to a Raptors team that really needed a positive of any sort after dropping three in a row at home and heading out west looking much the worse for wear.
“This is a special group.” – Mark Jackson
“It’s one of those where they started hitting the 3 in the third quarter and we couldn’t turn the water off,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “We did an excellent job in the first three quarters and then we couldn’t score in the fourth quarter.”
In the end, it was an epic collapse by the Toronto Raptors as they squandered a 27 point third quarter lead and were out scored 42-15 in the fourth quarter for a 112-103 loss to the Warriors at Oracle Arena on Tuesday night.
“When I was in Indiana I felt like the opportunity wasn’t good enough for me, in my opinion. So I wanted to come to Toronto and be a bigger piece. I didn’t come here to try and start, just be a bigger piece of the picture.”
DeRozan sounds like someone who has spent too much time invested in the welfare of the Raptors. We have seen this before from other players drafted into the organization who grew to become the team’s face, or at least voice — primarily Vince Carter and Chris Bosh. Eventually, being a part of repeated Raptors implosions can wear on a basketball soul. To be clear: DeRozan has not asked for a trade, and remains positive about the city and team.
Gimme links: [email protected]
He’s having a terrible season and is looking more and more lost by the game. Do you think he’ll recover? I’ve been sticking up for him for a while but the in-game decision making along with the static, motionless offense has now become indefensible. Worst of all, the team isn’t putting in the defensive effort any more, and that’s the one are where he deserved commendation (especially his first year).
There’s no doubt he’s a lame-duck coach (hence the contract situation) but I honestly thought that Masai Ujiri was going to give him a real shot at earning the job permanently, but based on results so far I simply don’t see Ujiri being impressed. If he keeps Casey on while the results continue to go south, it might appear that he’s endorsing tanking.
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|Tyler Hansbrough, PF 29 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-1 FT | 9 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | +7
Got the start and had a solid defensive game. Really competed in the first half despite this not exactly being the grind of a game that he’s best suited for. Things got a little more difficult in the second half with O’Neal there to match the physical presence, but nothing to complain about given his role on the team. Also, him trying to post-up 18-feet out isn’t his fault, it’s lack of direction.
|Rudy Gay, SF 34 MIN | 6-12 FG | 5-6 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 18 PTS | +2
Converted a lot of his isolation sequences, again, mostly in the first three quarters. Yes, he’s playing a lot of me-ball but when you look at the sets the Raptors are running, it’s not like he’s continuously ignoring teammates – that’s what the play appears to be designed to do: have Rudy go one-on-one! I can’t believe he lost that jumpball in the fourth. More shockingly, I can’t understand why, despite having the physical tools and the skill, he is not a more consistent defender. He talks about being a “team leader”, well that usually starts on the defensive side and he’s shoddy at best.
|Jonas Valanciunas, C 27 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 8 PTS | -4
Started well but got hit with a couple fouls that weren’t necessarily of his doing, Struggled defensively against O’Neal and was unable to produce anything in the post with O’Neal in there. This was one of those games where it became more evident how much he needs to get strong physically before he’s considered a legitimate force.
|Kyle Lowry, PG 38 MIN | 7-13 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 9 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 20 PTS | +3
Solid game, really solid. Took it hard at Curry, distributed beautifully in the half-court and transition, and played excellent defense up-top. He was coaxed into taking desperation/bad shots late in the game when the offense died due to zero movement, but I won’t hold that against him.
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 43 MIN | 10-18 FG | 4-5 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 26 PTS | -18
The go-to man for the Raptors delivered in the fourth on several occasions, but isolation plays will only get you so far, eventually you’ll have to play team-ball to sustain success. Much like Gay in this game, I’m not blaming DeRozan by any means for taking questionable one-on-one shots, it’s entirely due to to the structure of our “offense” that those shots are produced.
|Amir Johnson, PF 33 MIN | 7-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 16 PTS | -18
Produced big time in the bench role. Struggled a little early but then took full advantage of the pick ‘n roll situations he found himself in. Drained a couple open jumpers, but then again, took that horrible three with the game tight very late on. Once again, I lay the blame on Casey, not the player.
|Landry Fields, SF 4 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +6
No idea he even played.
|Steve Novak, SF 11 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | -13
Hit a huge set of threes in the first half to really give the Raptors momentum, but had no business starting the fourth quarter where no plays were run for him at all. The Raptors essentially played 4-on-5 for the first part of the fourth as Novak was like a chicken with its head cut off. Blame Casey.
|Julyan Stone, SG 10 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -12
Good defense overall on Curry, some of the high trapping in the second half was questionable as it led to open threes for the Warriors but I’m guessing that’s by instruction.
|Terrence Ross, SG 10 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +2
Disappointing game for him because you’d think this type of tempo might suit him. I was surprised to see him get the hook so soon, and somewhat undeservedly. I thought he was needed at the start of the fourth, not Novak.
He rode the hot-shooting to a big lead, but then did not make a single adjustment to preserve that lead. Starting Novak against a gunning GSW offense in the fourth was silly, the out-of-timeout plays in the fourth were all isos, the decision to leave their three-pointers open to trap the PG was appalling. He’s not long for this job. This is how I envision him.
Did anyone notice how no GSW player came out to defend the Amir three? Yeah, that's for a reason and it's not cuz they missed the coverage
— Raptors Republic (@raptorsrepublic) December 4, 2013
[Did you vote? Poll: What Will Be Dwane Casey’s Fate?]
[Did you read Ten Reasons NOT to Trade DeMar DeRozan?]
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Here’s 10 reasons not to trade him:
It’s easy to poke holes at DeRozan’s game – yes, we know he’s got defensive problems, but sometimes people need to look at the coaching (or lack of) our players have received. We’ve had Jay Triano and Dwane Casey managing player development, two guys that are entirely unproven as head coaches and motivators in the NBA. Before we trade DeRozan for a pick and satisfy the devastating cravings of TankNation, maybe it’s better to look at the positive developments of the player and see where he can fit in the future, rather than trading him for an entirely uncertain one.
Spots are available in the Winter War – RR’s 3-on-3 tournament, sign up your team now.
When Zach Lowe speaks, we listen.
Over at the Bill Simmons branch of the mothership, Zach Lowe wrote about “young players who are looking to make the leap to greatness”. In the article, he gives his thoughts on several budding stars across the league, including Ricky Rubio, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and our very own Jonas Valanciunas. Here’s a bit of what he had to say:
I’ve tried to avoid second-year players here, but I’ll make Valanciunas an exception, since he came via the 2011 draft and carried very high expectations into this season after hitting double figures in 14 of his last 15 games last season, flashing a polished post-up game in the process.
But Valanciunas’s game had stagnated before a ferocious 18-point, 11-rebound effort against Denver on Sunday.1 His minutes are barely up, and Dwane Casey hasn’t consistently trusted Valanciunas to play crunch time — mostly because of Valanciunas’s struggles to execute Toronto’s defensive schemes. He’s using just 17.5 percent of Toronto’s possessions, a below-average number for a high-profile starter, and barely above his rookie-year share.
One reason is simple: This team belongs to Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan, for better or worse. Even sets that don’t start with those guys — a Kyle Lowry–Valanciunas pick-and-roll, for instance — probably will end with one of them isolating, curling around a screen, or taking a dribble handoff before dribbling a bunch and heaving a midrange jumper. Lots of Toronto possessions look great for 12 seconds, before devolving into hero ball for the last eight or 10. “He’s third on the food chain,” Casey says, “and sometimes even fourth. Our offense is built around Rudy and DeMar.” Valanciunas is often left to simply get out of the way and prepare for an offensive rebound.
But it’s not all on the wing “stars.” The classic image of Valanciunas to this point is of him setting a pick, rolling down the lane, and raising both his arms in the air, convinced he’s wide open — and then pouting when he doesn’t get the ball
But Valanciunas often rolls to the hoop before making any contact on his pick, meaning he has provided Kyle Lowry, Gay, or DeRozan with no daylight — no space to penetrate, no clear angle to hit Valanciunas in the lane. “He feels like he’s open,” Casey says, “but he’s not. He’s just so far down there. He needs to learn the short roll.”
Pretty bang on, right? Anyway he goes on to break down Jonas’ misadventures on defense as well. Give the whole column a read – Zach Lowe is always worth the ALT+TAB experience. Happy Tuesday!
Now that we’ve reached December, we are fast approaching the Dec 15th date to remove restrictions on new player movement. Since the trade talks are likely to heat up, it seems a good time to take a minute to reflect on what we’ve seen so far. Are the Raps meeting or exceeding expectations in any areas? What surprises have we seen?
This week, we’re talking with TSN’s Gareth Wheeler about all things ball, the topics include:
Be sure to check out RR’s 3-on-3 tournament to be held on Feb 15 – sign up your team now!
Whether you believe that The Raps should tank and get their future centerpiece or whether you believe that they should take advantage of their week division/conference and go for a playoff birth and a series win isn’t the goal of this discussion. Its to discuss who we should trade and who we should keep and what direction that puts our team in going forward. Come and share your 2 cents.
Ahh, the Toronto Raptors.
Off to a disappointing 6-10 start that, by any number of routes, could be a few games better, the Raptors head out on the road amid calls to bench the team’s highest paid player or trade the team’s best offensive player through a month of the season.
Quickly, a couple of responses: The first isn’t happening without a signed and notarized commitment that Gay will waive his option for next season, because benching him would make it a certainty that he picked it up, having lowered his value with such a dramatic (and public) move. And to sign said imaginary document, Gay would probably need a commitment from the team of a starting spot and a hefty shot load…so, yeah, doubt it.
As for the second, I get the argument, but unless the goal is to quickly build the team with free agents around a high pick, I don’t see the point. He’s the team’s best offensive – and probably most popular – player, and his contract is only really a burden when paired with Gay’s albatross. You can survive one scoring wing making a bit too much, especially if the rebuild isn’t going to be a one-year thing. Unless the return is appreciable (unclear) and the sights are indeed set on all-out tanking (which they would be, then), it doesn’t move the needle much for the franchise, as happy as it may make the player.
Oh yeah, some in the fanbase is also calling for lame duck coach Dwane Casey’s head. Which, you know, is probably fair. The offense has been obvious, boring, ineffective and getting worse, while the defense is only occasionally strong. Clock management is an obvious weakness, the rotations provide more questions than answers and he just pulled perhaps the team’s best player out of the starting lineup for Tyler Hansbrough. And then there’s the curious development plan for Jonas Valanciunas. However, a general manager only gets so many coaches, which is why Casey got a stay of execution in the first place. If this trip goes poorly, a move on the bench would hardly be surprising, but further preaching of patience wouldn’t be, either.
Anyway, the Raptors visit Golden State tonight (10:30 on Sportsnet 360) and then play in Phoenix on Friday and against the Los Angeles Lakers – maybe even with Kobe Bryant in uniform – on Sunday night.
And…yeah, this trip is starting with a loss at The Oracle.
Golden State’s “elevator doors” play became a fairly popular study in 2012-13. What are some other ways the Warriors work to get Steph Curry the ball with space to operate?
Strauss: They love to improvise staggered screens for Curry when moving the ball in semi transition. Usually it’s Bogut and Lee, creating a wall for Curry to hit an off the dribble three. Curry also gets plenty of threes off high screens from Bogut in the halfcourt.
The defense has obviously taken a hit with Iguodala sidelined, but this was still a league-average defense last season without him and ranks seventh on the season. Can this team be the league’s third best defense behind Indiana and San Antonio?
Strauss: Yep, but I’m not sure how good the defense is without Iguodala. With Iguodala out, they probably need more playing time from Draymond Green to be better than top 10. This unit really struggles without possibly the best perimeter defender out West.
The Warriors have only taken fewer than 20 3-point attempts four times this year and shot 52 percent on twos in those games. Is there any hope of keeping this team off the 3-point line successfully, or are opponents left to simply hope they go cold?
Strauss: Oh there’s hope, especially with Iguodala out. He’s never been known for his shooting, but the Warriors lost a competent three-point threat when he got hurt. If any of their distance shooters (Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Green) get into foul trouble, the Warriors are at risk of not spreading the floor enough to generate open looks.
Harrison Barnes is a bit of a sore spot for Raptors fans since the Warriors won a coin-flip for the seventh pick in 2012, leaving the Raptors with Terrence Ross at number eight. How does that coin flip coming up differently change this team’s upside for 2013-14?
Strauss: It changes the upside, but I’m not sure how much it changes the reality of 2013-2014. I’m sure Ross would get plenty of open threes on this Golden State team. Barnes is such a fascinating and frustrating player. I could write about him for days. He has superior physical gifts, but is often at a loss for how to leverage them. He boasts awesome defensive tools, though. Even if he doesn’t cash in on his offensive potential, he’ll bring the D.
Kyle Lowry and PG2 To Be Decided On A Last Minute Whim vs. Steph Curry and Nemanja Nedovic
Edge: Warriors by the length of Steph Curry’s range
This one’s not exactly close, even if Lowry plays as well as he has the past few games. Curry is the best shooter in the league, maybe ever, and I don’t at all trust the Raptors defense to be disciplined enough to stay tight on him off the ball.
DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Terrence Ross and Landry Fields vs. Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green
Note: Andre Iguodala is not presently expected to play due to a strained left hamstring.
I can see why some may argue in favor of the Raptors duo here, especially with Barnes struggling to start the year and DeRozan flourishing. Still, the efficiency of the Warriors duo – maybe in small part due to lower usage demands and the presence of better players alongside them – gives them the edge. Barnes is also the best defender in the group, and Thompson has the edge on DeRozan in that regard, too.
Tyler Hansbrough, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, Steve Novak and maybe some Quincon Gracy vs. David Lee, Andre Bogut, Marreese Speights and Jermaine O’Neal Yeah Remember Him The Raptors Traded Roy Hibbert For Him
Bogut will be a nice test for Valanciunas and Hansbrough’s activity could get Lee into some foul trouble, but the Raptors are just at a major talent deficit here. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it doesn’t make it any less painful.
Vegas says: Warriors -7.5 with 65 percent of action going that way; 75 percent are also taking the over on 201
Hollinger rankings say: Warriors -7
‘Averages’ say: Warriors -2
John Mayer says: Say what you need to say
Blake says: There’s little to no chance, I feel pretty confident calling this a double-digit loss. With the way this team has struggled of late and struggled against good teams in general, it’s hard to envision them playing a strong 48 minutes. That may sound cliché, but it’s where the team is right now.
Fun fact: Dell Curry ended his career with the Raptors from 1999-00 to 2001-02. Steph’s father ranks 15th in Raptors history with 194 games played (it’s hilarious that that’s a top games total) and 12th in 3-point field goals made with 202. He’s also ninth in 3-point percentage at 39 percent, a leaderboard that contains some truly hilarious names.
Enjoy the game, folks. Please drink your grain alcohol responsibly.
DeRozan sounds like someone who has spent too much time invested in the welfare of the Raptors. We have seen this before from other players drafted into the organization who grew to become the team’s face, or at least voice — primarily Vince Carter and Chris Bosh. Eventually, being a part of repeated Raptors implosions can wear on a basketball soul. To be clear: DeRozan has not asked for a trade, and remains positive about the city and team.
Asking Gay to initiate the offence far less frequently also could be a potential solution. He is a below average ball-handler and passer, so it’s not clear why he has been tasked with being Toronto’s primary ball-handler, particularly with Lowry playing well. It’s led to poor numbers, both for Gay (17 games in a row shooting less than 47% from the field, tons of turnovers) and for the team and has limited the effectiveness of Valanciunas and Amir Johnson.
“Our bench has got to give us something,” Casey maintained after Denver’s subs scored 72 points, an opponent record against the Raptors. “Our (starters) can’t play for 48 (minutes), so we’ve got to get production from the bench.” “The guys coming in have got to develop a toughness, a resilience of getting stops and it starts on the defensive end. That’s where our problems started in the second half. They shot well but we didn’t make them feel us and that’s the difference.”
Don’t let the Warriors’ 10-8 record fool you. Near .500 in the West means absolutely nowhere near the same thing as in the East this season. Golden State has looked like one of the stronger teams in the Western Conference and they’ve absolutely dominated this matchup over the years with 10 wins in the last 12 meetings and eight straight in Oakland.
If Casey would like to change one thing about his team before they get back to Toronto, it’s their collective penchant for holding onto the ball too long. The Raptors, as poor as they have been in sharing the basketball, have had games this year where the ball did move from side to side and back again. They did it in Memphis, they did it in Milwaukee and they did it in Philly, but they’re not doing it nearly consistently enough. Casey pounds home that message every practice, every walkthrough and sometimes the message takes, but more often it’s forgotten either by game time or soon after the first quarter.
If you’ve watched even a handful of Raptors games this season you’ve undoubtedly attempted to claw your own eyes out. The league’s 18th ranked offense is perhaps one of the most isolation-heavy offenses in the league. According to Synergy Sports the Raptors are in the top three in the NBA when it comes to “isolation plays”, with 12.1% of the plays basically being a guy going one-on-one. Here’s an example (HTML5 Video, GIF) of one such play as per Synergy.
I get it, we got guys who have never been part of winning teams, guys who have a severe case of “me ball”, and a coach that doesn’t punish the behaviour, hence the numbers. I don’t like it, but I can at least understand why we are where we are in that category. What perplexes me is this:
Notice that of every type of play the Raptors run, the pick ‘n roll with a pass to the roll guy is the second-least run play. This is despite having two great (not good, great) roll guys in Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas in the starting lineup. Let that sink in. The offensive play that suits 40% of our starting lineup is run only 4.5% of the time, and we wonder why our big men are inconsistent.
OK, once that has sunk in, focus your attention to the right of that graphic. That play, the one we only run 4.5% of the time, has a success rate of 43.6% – the highest of any set play we run! Let that sink in. The play that we run the least is the play that we have the most success with. To highlight this is essentially the point of this post.
The problem isn’t exactly hard to identify: the two highest usage guys on the team are Rudy Gay (31%) and DeMar DeRozan (27%), neither of which are great at pick ‘n roll play. The next highest usage rate for a starter is Kyle Lowry and he’s at 18%, that’s a full 13% behind Rudy Gay! Let that sink in. The guy that is best suited to kickstart our most effective play (the pick ‘n roll) has a usage rate which is 6th on the team, and the two guys that are most ill-suited to run that play are #1 and #2.
I wonder if Dwane Casey has completely lost control of the offense or if Rudy Gay and the gang have been given cart blanche on things. Casey is an NBA head coach and knows more about basketball than the entire Raptors blogosphere collectively, so why this sort of madness continues is beyond me. The only explanation I can muster is that there are non-basketball matters at play, like players not following direction or some other matter. I really have no idea as all I have to go by is what I see on the court, which makes no sense.
There’s been a general uproar about the lack of touches Jonas Valanciunas has gotten (8th on team in usage rate, 4th amongst starters). That’s primarily been because, as it stands whether you like it or not, he is considered a cornerstone of the franchise and the last thing we want to do is pull off another Tracy McGrady where we starve a young kid of the basketball. I contend that he needs touches, not just because he needs nourishment, but because it’s the right thing to do from a basketball perspective.
He is the only big man that has any sort of post-presence. He is the only big man that allows you to play an inside-out game, adding some variety to an offense that otherwise reeks of selfish play (dead last in assists, nothing speaks more than that). Does he have flaws? Many of them, sometimes even he’s hard to watch when he’s deciding between faking a shot the defense wants him to take or driving head-first into a defender perfectly placed for a charge. However, that’s a small price to pay for sprinkling a pinch of diversity into the offense and giving the defense a look that they don’t see coming for a mile.
People slag on Valanciunas for his defensive play and rightfully so, but I’ll tell you this, and this is true if you’re playing pick-up, rec league, college, or the NBA: if you know you’re not getting your due on offense, your going to have a tough time convincing yourself to bust your butt on defense. We’re not talking about Reggie Evans here, a guy who will rebound no matter what because that’s all he can do, we’re talking about a 21-year old skilled 7-footer that needs to be managed carefully because he will walk out the door at the end of his contract if things continue as-is.
This post isn’t specifically about Valanciunas, Gay or DeRozan. It’s about the team doing what makes sense and playing a brand of team basketball that’s suited to its strengths, and Gay and DeRozan hoisting up bad shots without repercussion is not a strength.
A few words about the game, followed by some praise for Jonas’ WHOA BOY! line (17 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks)
Watching the Raptors nowadays is like watching a Fast & Furious movie; you know exactly what you’re getting (RIP Paul Walker).
Take today’s game. The Raptors went up against a superior (read: from the Western Conference) foe and the better team won. The Raptors jumped on the Nuggets early (which makes sense given that it was the equivalent of playing at 11 AM) and grabbed a 15 point lead at one point. Demar was hot early, sinking 4/6 from the field, including a three-pointer, and Jonas worked his butt off (more on this later).
Annndddddd then the familiar storylines kicked in.
So rather than regurgitating the same narratives, I decided to be positive and focus on the only positive from this game – Jonas Valanciunas’ had his best game of the season.
It’s been a frustrating season for Jonas. After finishing last year with such promise and aplomb, Jonas Christ Superstar was the lone shining star on this mishapen pick-up roster. Discussions of his promise and potential carried us Raptors fans (and aspiring bloggers) through a painfully boring off-season. Some of us dared to dream big, boldly thrusting Jonas into the conversation for “top-10 center in the NBA”. Others were more hesitant, dutifully nothing that he’s still only 21 years old and they hedged their expectations accordingly, but all of us, each and single one (except maybe “FLUXLAND”) had high hopes for Jonas’ sophomore season.
But then the season actually came, and aside from bulking up, Jonas has looked more or less like the same player. Same boundless energy on both ends of the floor. Same number of post-moves: 1. Same problems with moving too early on screens. Same nose for grabbing offensive boards. Same ineffective jumpers.
As much as we’ve bemoaned his lack-thereof, or improper usage within the context of the offense, the ugly truth is that Jonas hasn’t really been all too impressive when he’s been given the ball. He’s definitely getting frozen out of the offense for long stretches of games (basically anytime outside of the first 6 minutes of either the first or the third quarter), and he’s being used less in the pick-and-roll (20% of possessions last year, 13% this season per Synergy Sports), but all-in-all, 8.7 points per game on 47% shooting isn’t all that great.
Therefore needless to say, his 17 point, 11 rebound and 3 block performance came as a huge sigh of relief. Let’s breakdown his illustrious night.
A caveat before I go on: the Nuggets were without JaVale McGee, so they were forced to throw a combination of Hickson/Chandler (too small) and Mozgov (too slow) at Valanciunas, so it’s not like Jonas dominated Tim Duncan or anything (remember when he did? That was fun), but having said that, there were plenty of positives from Jonas.
Jonas pulls out an abbreviated version of “The Jonas”
The book is out on Jonas Valanciunas. He has one pet-move in the post: the shot-fake, two steps towards the middle of the lane, and then a hook shot (I’m dubbing this “The Jonas”). That’s the shot he wants to take, and defenders all know that it’s coming. On this play, he catches the ball in the post and Hickson bodies up on him and tries to force Jonas baseline, but Valanciunas simply over-powers the smaller Hickson and scores easily.
A Counter-Move in the Post
“The Jonas” might be effective, but defenders have figured out how to guard it, either staying back and conceding a jumper (FYI: he’s not going to shoot a jumper), or they’re forcing Jonas towards the baseline, which is exactly what Wilson Chandler does on this play. Wilson digs in, holds his ground and firmly pushes Jonas towards the baseline. Sensing this, Jonas simply spins away from Chandler’s pressure and drops in a beautiful left-handed hook.
A Second Counter-Move in the Post
Once again Jonas gets decent post-position against Hickson before going to work. Having learned from their last encounter, Hickson does a better job of boding up on Jonas and manages to keep Jonas from driving towards the middle. Jonas takes two dribbles, feels the pressure from Hickson, spins baseline and hits a turn-around jumper over the out-stretched arm of Hickson.
You know Jonas is really feeling it when he pulls out the jumper. He slips the screen on this play (doesn’t really set one anyway), gets the ball at the free-throw line, and tosses in a line-drive jumper. If Jonas could sink this jumper with any sort of consistency (>45%), he’ll be a force in the pick-and-roll. He’s already pretty effective when rolling to the rim (1.23 points per possession last season, 16th in NBA), and if he’s able to pick-and-pop, defenders won’t be able to simply sag into the paint every time Jonas gets the ball.
Jonas doesn’t have explosive vertical athleticism, but he is quick, strong and energetic. He’s still out of position a lot, but defensive awareness takes time to learn, and for his age, Jonas does seem to be ahead of the curve. On the following plays, Jonas doesn’t WOW anyone with his athleticism. He simply moves his feet, keeps himself in position, and uses his length to record the block. Verticality, indeed!
Jonas is far from a finished product. If he were, I wouldn’t have to outline his single game accomplishments, or splurge about 17/11/3 in a post-game article. However there is clearly potential locked inside the young Lithuanian. He has a lot of tools – his scoring touch, his rebounding, his mobility, his motor – he just needs to learn how to put it together on a consistent basis. In all likelihood, Valanciunas will develop into an excellent center, and he will likely don the Raptor claw (or whatever design Drake comes up with) for many years to come. In the meantime, we’ll have the pleasure of watching one of the most promising big-men in the league go through growing pains.
He’s just like any of us. He’ll have good days and bad days, which will likely culminate in us diehards waffling between suffering and rejoicing, but in reality we’re all in the same boat, trying as best we can to endure the tumultuous tides and misfortunes of life that rock our ship and sway our spirits.
Either that, or it’s late and I don’t know how to finish this column.
After another frustrating loss — the third straight for Toronto at home — DeRozan took charge in another way. By calling out his team, albeit somewhat gently. DeRozan, who scored 17 points in the loss (the first time in the past five games he hasn’t led the Raptors in scoring), let his frustrations bowl over. And though his tone was measured and his comments delivered almost in a whisper, the message was clear. “I’m frustrated, period,” said DeRozan, who also picked up seven rebounds and four assists. “Just losing at home, man. I mean, I hate it. I hate it with a passion and we just have to figure it out and turn it around on the road.” Easier said than done.
Amir Johnson sat in front of his locker room stall, his feet outstretched on another chair. His eyes were fixed on his phone, and the muffled sound was blasting out of the device. He was playing Fun Run about an hour in advance of his Toronto Raptors playing the Denver Nuggets. “It’s better with the sound on,” Johnson muttered when questioned by a teammate. Johnson, it was clear, was not his normal high-energy self. A little bit later, some of the reasoning became clear: Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey chose to make the first change to his starting lineup of the year, in the 16th game. It made little difference, as the Raptors dropped their third-consecutive home game, falling 112-98 to the Denver Nuggets.
Finally, during the fourth, some productivity from Gay forced the Nuggets to call a time-out. Unfortunately, I can’t say the productivity lasted. The fourth consisted of back and fourth points. Toronto would put up a great shot, but Denver would return with an easy transition bucket. The Raps jogged out to their checks and constantly gave them time and space to shoot. In the fourth quarter alone, Nate Robinson had 18 points. The few times the Raptors did get out and defend, Robinson would add in a great step back to complete the play.
“Tonight was all about the contributions from our second unit,” Head Coach Brian Shaw said. “Our starters didn’t really have it going at all and our second unit, Andre Miller, Nate Robinson, Jordan Hamilton, Darrell Arthur and Timofey Mozgov came in and got us back into the game in the second quarter and when they came back at the end of the third quarter, when we were kind of struggling and stuck in the mud, they got us going again. 72 points off the bench is huge for us tonight and that’s what it takes, contributions from everybody on this team.” The Raptors bench only scored 16 points.
The Denver Nuggets bench had four players in double figures (with Andre Miller only a point shy of joining them at nine), with Nate Robinson leading all Nuggets scorers with 23 points, Jordan Hamilton had 10, Darrell Arthur added 14 (on a ridiculously efficient 7 of 7 from the floor. Arthur may have been one of the sneakiest trades of the off-season), and Timofey Mozgov… oh, hello Mozzie. I’ve been a Mozzie detractor at times, and I still remain firmly convinced that he has two sets of hands in a case somewhere, one set made of stone and butter, and the others the set he used today. Mozgov was all over the floor, and gave a couple of solid Raptors bigs fits all night. He had rim-rattling jams, both in transition and in tough traffic under the basket. His passing was solid. He gathered rebounds with intensity. With 16 points and a career-high 15 boards, Mozzie was the star of the game and deserves some credit. Now… I hope he loses those stone-and-butter hands on the flight to New York, and this is the guy we see game after game, but history says we’ll see some fluctuation there. In total, the bench contributed 72 of the Nuggets 112 points today.
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This GIF is from the third quarter of the Denver game. Kind of epitomizes Rudy Gay’s play of late. (HTML5 video).
DeRozan’s reaction to his non-pass is telling of the frustration he’s feeling.
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Click here for the HTML5 version, otherwise, see for yourself below.
|Tyler Hansbrough, PF 34 MIN | 2-4 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | -5
Got the start ahead of Johnson with Casey thinking he’d perform equally well as a starter as a bench player, but ended up having his usual game and the starting lineup change had a net effect of zero.
|Rudy Gay, SF 38 MIN | 10-23 FG | 3-4 FT | 9 REB | 3 AST | 3 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 23 PTS | 0
Shot poorly, killed any offensive continuity the Raptors had in the first half, and made up for his poor shooting numbers with meaningless points late.
|Jonas Valanciunas, C 37 MIN | 8-16 FG | 2-4 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 18 PTS | +5
Decided to get his and took a lot of shots (for him). Solid game and has figured out that on this team nobody’s looking out for him so he’s got to do it himself.
|Kyle Lowry, PG 39 MIN | 5-15 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 17 PTS | -13
Poor shooting night, got burned defensively multiple times but showed good ball-distribution in some situations. Overall, 9 threes is a bit too perimetery for my liking, even if he does shoot a high percentage from there. If he’s launching jumpers at sight, it sets a bad example.
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 35 MIN | 5-14 FG | 6-8 FT | 7 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 17 PTS | -9
|Amir Johnson, PF 14 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -16
Suffered as a bench player, Casey’s move backfired.
|Steve Novak, SF 12 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -12
Productive in a short spell. Unfortunately, he’s out there as part of random units where he doesn’t quite know where his shot is going to come from.
|Julyan Stone, SG 9 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -1
With Augustin and Buycks out, Stone stepped in and did nothing.
|Terrence Ross, SG 21 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -19
Sporadic shooting, suspect defense, and little that will restore your faith in him. Still though, it’s baby steps with him and hopefully one day he’ll be capable enough to become a rotation player.
|Quincy Acy, SF DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS |
That lineup change was pointless, it resulted in the bench getting outscored 72-16 and outrebounded 26-7. You can officially start the countdown till he gets canned. Time to brush up the resume because Masai Ujiri won’t stand for this, not after preaching how this team was going to “kick your ass” on early Sunday afternoons.
As the calendar turns to December, the Raptors (6-9) continue their homestand against the house that Masai built, the Denver Nuggets (9-6). Unfortunately, turning the calendar to December means that I’m swamped with end-of-term schoolwork (for the final time in my life though, fortunately), and so this preview’s going to be a bit more abbreviated than usual. Instead of reading through my questionable-value-add preamble, let’s just get down to brass tax:
Tale of the Tape
O-Rating: Toronto 104.44 (15th), Nuggets 107.69 (8th)
D-Rating: Toronto 103.81 (9th), Nuggets 105.88 (17th)
Pace: Toronto 95.5 (24th), Nuggets 100.8 (3rd)
Strength: Toronto offensive rebounding (1st in the league in O-rebounding percentage), Nuggets general offence (not in top 5 in anything – in top 12 in most offensive categories)
Weakness: Toronto distribution (30th in assist rate), Nuggets turnovers (5th in TOs, 28th in forcing opponent TOs)
The line is off on this game as Kenneth Faried is still day-to-day – and if he can’t play, expect the Raptors to have a big advantage on the boards. Danilo Gallinari is still out, too, and so it’s going to be tough for the Nuggets to match the Raps in terms of wing scoring if Rudy Gay even has a semi-passable game. I’m going to say Raptors by 4 as they end their losing skid and take control of the Atlantic once again, with the Lowry/Lawson matchup being the game’s pivotal one.
Again, apologies for the brevity of this post. I’ll make it up to you all with Raptor-themed Christmas carols.
After four consecutive losses to teams that aren’t tanking, Dwane Casey is considering a lineup change after looking at some rather mercurial statistics:
“Our starters are minus-18 (in points scored vs. points against), so it’s something with the start of the game…When you start with your starters going minus-18, that’s difficult to come back from”
Hmm. This is quite bold, he’s honing in on a stat that he finds troublesome and is about to do something about it – isn’t a bit too short-sighted to rely on just stats?
“With their minutes on the floor, they are minus-18. That’s the analytics, but I know what my eyes see.”
Good stuff, the eye-test is confirming the stats. I stand relieved. But hey, what’s Casey going to do about it?
Whether it’s a lineup change or change in personality, we have to look at something to start the game because we can’t expend that much mental and physical energy to fight against all the teams we are going against. That’s what it has been the last couple of weeks. We’ve got to look at it and just see where we are.
I don’t question our guys’ fight,” he added. “It’s not that we are not playing hard with the first group. It’s just not meshing together with that first group, but we have to look at that. It may be just a matter of time to let it go. We are still searching. We are not panicking, but we have to make sure we understand and get the right group together.
A lineup change! The age-old answer to fixing deep-rooted chemistry issues. Let’s look at who has been the worst starter in the first quarter for the last “couple of weeks” (8 games). Again, this is over the last 8 games and considers only the fist quarter of those games.
There you have it. Of all starters, Rudy Gay has the worst Net Rating of all players. Case-closed.
Of course, we all know that’s not going to happen and someone like Jonas Valanciunas will be getting the axe, or worst yet, Amir Johnson. Casey will likely introduce Tyler Hansbrough into the lineup to bring his energy up front, and although that move might pay dividends in a game or two, Hansbrough is best suited to the role that he’s currently excelling in.
Make sure to check out the RR 3-on-3 tournament held in T.O – play some ball, it’s way better than the internet.
Commentary, rather than analysis of last night’s game.
I usually try to work some kind of analysis into my post-game recaps. I try to find some interesting trends in the numbers, or I break down a play or two, but I’m going to try something completely different; I will shift to just commentary.
Here goes nothing.
So the Heat defeated the Raptors last night by a score of 90-83. Nobody should really be all that surprised; these are the two-time defending world champions. This is simply what they do. You know what you were getting when you saw this match-up on the schedule – you were in for a loss. Lebron James wears a jersey for this team. So does Dwyane Wade. You know what you’re in for.
[Want an abbreviated version of the recap? Check out the Quick Reaction post with grades for your beloved Dinos!]
And credit to the Raptors; they clearly had a plan of attack, albeit a flawed one. I understand that the Heat have no real centers on the roster (Greg Oden’s broken body does not apply), and we have this big shiny Lithuanian prospect manning the pivot, but playing through Valanciunas against the Heat was a fool’s errand. At this point, Jonas is not skilled enough to successfully handle double-teams, which was apparent in the early going. Either by luck, or by familiarity, Dwane Casey shifted the gameplan to a wing-oriented attack early in the first.
I should mention that I am not of the opinion that Valanciunas should have been frozen out of this game. I would have liked to see the Raptors use him in a variety of ways – cutting towards the rim, pick-and-rolls – but this was simply not a good match-up for our prized blue-chipper. As of right now, Jonas has three credible offensive skills: posting-up one-on-one (shot-fake, drive towards the middle, hook shot), pick-and-roll (he keeps the ball high and rolls HARD), and offensive rebounding. The Heat doubled Jonas in the post and blew up pick and rolls by trapping the ball handler; this wasn’t a good match-up for Jonas.
So without Jonas (or Amir) in the mix offensively, Casey reverted to attacking through his wings, and against all odds, it worked to some extent in the first quarter. Demar hit a handful of tough shots over Wade early on, using an assortment of dribble moves to create enough space for him to rise up and hit some jumpers. Were they good shots in the abstract? No, but with the Heat’s defense locked in to start the game, Demar’s answered prayers were all that we had. His development on the offensive end has been rather promising – he might be more than just Corey Maggette 2.0
While the Raptors played isolation-ball through their wings, the Heat also played through their wings, but they did it with passing. Both teams saw their starting shooting guard and small forward shoot a combined ~35 times this game, but not all shots are created equal. The Heat passed the ball very well, especially when Lebron drew a second defender in the post, and they found open cutters darting towards the basket, or they found wide-open spot-up shooters on the perimeter. Meanwhile, the Raptors offense usually consisted of Demar curls around a Hansbrough/Amir/Jonas screen and shooting, or Gay attacking Lebron/Beasley on dribble drives from the top of the key. The Raptors couldn’t stop the Heat, and the Heat didn’t really need to stop the Raptors. Unsurprisingly, the Raptors were down 14 to the Heat at the end of the half.
Since they were up big, the Heat seeming stopped caring, and just began to toy with the Raptors. Lebron came down the court on a few possessions and took a few lean-back threes just because he could, and because he’s Lebron James, he actually hit a whole bunch of them. Wade did his usual off-the-ball/in the post stuff. Typical stuff from the Heat.
To their credit, the Raptors made a run in the third on the back of a Tyler Hansbrough-led small-ball attack. Thanks to his frenetic and boundless energy, Hansbrough was able to mitigate any loss in rebounding while also giving the Raptors some quickness on the interior. He rotated well and stayed between his man and the basket. With Hansbrough in to handle some of the defense, Gay and Derozan were freed up to attack more on offense, and the Raptors learned to beat the Heat’s traps by doing something magical called “passing“. Lowry sunk a pair of threes from the left wing (what a commie), Demar hit a few jumpers and Gay tossed in a heroball shot over Lebron. There was life.
And to be fair, the Raptors defense was quite successful. The lineup of Hansbrough-Gay-Ross-Derozan-Lowry worked hard on defense, rotating and generally being where they should be. They forced Miami into taking tough shots and committing uncharacteristic fouls. On the other end, Hansbrough grabbed offensive rebounds like a Black Friday shopper grabbing discounted electronics and gave the Raptors extra possessions to tie the game. The Raptors even got to within four points of the Heat after Demar crossed up Rashard Lewis (remember him? Whaddup to the Sonics) and nailed a jumper in his eye.
But then the free throws. Good lord. DeRozan. Gay. Hansbrough. So many wasted opportunities (8, to be exact, they shot 2/10 in the fourth). The Raptors offense was successful in the last six minutes of the game, but the damn free throws just wouldn’t drop, and before too long, time just ran out for our beloved Dinos (there’s an extinction joke here). Valiant effort, but not enough.
Raptors lose winnable game against the defending champs on the back of missed free-throws. Eat your heart out.
|Amir Johnson, PF 16 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -14Let’s hope he’s still struggling with the flu because he was struggling with the whole “playing basketball” thing tonight. Benched in favor of Hansbrough, and for once, it was actually the right move.|
|Rudy Gay, SF 40 MIN | 9-21 FG | 2-7 FT | 11 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 21 PTS | -2Best game from Gay in a while. Solid rebounding (he was mostly used as the small-ball four), some much needed scoring and a very nice weak-side block on the Birdman. Yeah, he still took a bunch of bad shots, including one where he completely ignored a wide-open Ross in the corner to shoot an ill-advised iso-long-two, but hey, I’m not expecting much from Gay at this point. The missed free throws hurt (running theme). Oh, and your answer to the most important question of all?|
|Jonas Valanciunas, C 18 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -16You know it’s bad when even the opposing commentating crew noticed that Valanciunas is “a missing man in the Raptors’ offense”. Even they have figured it out, and the Heat has played the Raptors twice. Meh game from Jonas. Got open, demanded the ball, and rarely saw the ball end up in his hands. Just another depressing day at the office for the young Lithuanian.|
|Kyle Lowry, PG 43 MIN | 4-10 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 7 TO | 15 PTS | -2The 7 turnovers stick out, and some of them were really ugly (mostly trying to force bad passes), but his threes from the left wing were huge. Worked tremendously hard on defense as well. I’m glad to see that Lowry has put the finger injury behind him because he is playing very well.|
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 44 MIN | 10-20 FG | 3-7 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 25 PTS | -14Hit some really tough shots in the first. Cooled off as the game went on, but this was a pretty impressive performance from Demar. He was schooled a bunch of times by Wade, but that will happen to the best of shooting guards. He hurt a finger on his shooting hand which likely impacted his free-throw shooting. He missed some key FT’s in the fourth. Promising couple of games from Derozan.|
|Tyler Hansbrough, PF 25 MIN | 0-2 FG | 8-12 FT | 12 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +13HE. WORKED. SO. HARD. I. LOVE. THIS. MAN. (more on him in the recap tomorrow)|
|Landry Fields, SF 5 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -5He played?|
|Quincy Acy, SF 4 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -2He played?|
|Steve Novak, SF 17 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +12He did play. He just wasn’t very effective. The Heat ran him off the three-point line a lot and the lack of ball-movement in the Raptors offense didn’t afford him very many good looks. Hey, he’s like a wrench; just because the carpenter is an idiot, doesn’t mean that the wrench is useless. Some decent defense tonight.|
|Dwight Buycks, PG 5 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -5He played?|
|Terrence Ross, SG 23 MIN | 0-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0Played for almost the entirety of the fourth, and rightfully so. He played some excellent defense on Dwyane Wade, using his superior athleticism and quickness to stay in front of Wade and forcing him into some tough shots. Didn’t score, but this was a pretty promising development for the young swingman.|
I slag Dwane Casey’s coaching all the time, so it’s not like I’m some sort of apologist for the man or anything, but he coached a good game today. He recognized that Amir and Jonas didn’t have it tonight, so he went with his most effective unit (Hansbrough + smalls) for the majority of the third and fourth. He also drew up a very nice play coming out of a timeout for Hansbrough in the last two minutes of the fourth that resulted in free throws. It’s not his job to sink free-throws.
As per an Insider article, Rudy and DeMar DeRozan are in the top ten of the worst “ball hogs” in the league. The article summarizes:
Well, if you can shoot it like Thompson, maybe you can get away with not sharing the ball. But the Golden State shooting guard fires up nearly as many shots as passes when he’s out there, which is pretty remarkable. The Warriors probably don’t care, as long as he continues shooting 50 percent from the floor and 46.8 percent from downtown.
We can’t say the same for Gordon, Thornton or Gay, who have collectively shot 38.3 percent from the floor this season. These are the Black Hole guys you don’t want to see on your team. For perspective, Gay fires up five more shots per game than James, but dishes out 14 fewer passes. Also, Gay is shooting 37.5 percent from the floor. In related news, Gay has banned his team from looking at the stat sheets in the locker room.
Here’s the table:
The good news is that they also categorize “ball hogs” and Gay and DeRozan are not part of that group. How is all this possible? It’s all because of SportsVU:
We have a brand-spanking-new trove of numbers from SportVU that will help us expose those who monopolize the basketball and keep it from their teammates. No longer must we be shackled by the confines of the box score. Thanks to 3-D cameras in every arena, we can see exactly how many passes a player makes, how many seconds he possesses the ball, and how often he dribbles.
It was three years ago yesterday that the Miami Heat had their famous players only meeting, after starting the new Wade-LeBron-Bosh era off by going 9-8. 9-8 may sound good to Raptor fans, who haven’t see a record like that since 2007, but to the team some predicted might break the ’96 Chicago Bulls record for 72 wins, it was not a promising start.
Raptor fans delighted in the start, and it wasn’t just schadenfreude upon seeing former Raptor, Chris Bosh, struggle with his new team. The Raptors owned the Heat’s first round pick the next June, and what was assumed to be a late first round pick started to look like it might be much more valuable.
Of course, after the meeting, the Heat ran off twelve straight wins, went 21-1, over the next 22 games, finished the season with 59 wins and made it to the Finals. They followed that up by winning back-to-back Championships.
Things obviously went a little differently for the Raptors, over that period. In their first 15 games in the post-Bosh era, the Raptors went 6-9, and finished the season 22-60.
If the Raptors lose tonight against the Heat, their record will be 6-9.
Over the next two seasons, we saw the Raptors attempt, and predictably fail, to turn Andrea Bargnani into Dirk Nowitzki. We saw Bryan Colangelo swing and miss (to varying degrees) on a number of deals, including trying and failing to sign Steve Nash, a move that would have been more disastrous if successful, and included overpaying Landry Fields in order to prevent the Knicks from signing Nash. As well as giving up a lottery pick for a mercurial Kyle Lowry, and the chance to draft Steven Adams, Kelly Olynyk or Giannis Antetokounmpo, all of whom have shown plenty of promise. And lastly, trading for the overrated and overpaid Rudy Gay, who Colangelo tried to sell as the franchise player the Raptors had been looking for.
Thankfully, the Colangelo era is over, but things don’t seem to have changed all that much.
Raptor fans are still clamouring to trade an overpriced enigma, who has been built up by the franchise as something he is not, and who simply doesn’t play as well as he should. They’re still complaining that the young big man draft pick isn’t getting enough playing time to develop properly, that the coach makes poor in-game decisions and needs to be fired, and that the recent shooting guard draft pick is far too inconsistent.
The more things change in Raptorland, the more they remain the same.
So these two teams under very different circumstances meet tonight. The Heat are in second place in the East with a winning percentage that puts them on pace for a 65 win season. While it’s usually unlikely a team would be able to continue that type of success throughout the season, with so many poor teams in the East, it’s possible the Heat (and Pacers) could win in the mid-60s, this year.
The Raptors are currently a fourth seed in the East, but that’s only thanks to being on top of a historically awful Atlantic Division. There’s only a one game difference between the fourth seed and being a lottery team. Yes, it’s early, but I am having trouble getting over just how bad the Eastern Conference is this season. The Raptor’s current winning percentage would give them 35 wins, over the course of the season, and that’s enough to be on top in the Atlantic, right now.
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS ABOUT TONIGHT’S GAME:
Will Dwane Casey play into the Heat’s hand and match them when they go small?
The teams that have had the most success against the Heat, the last few seasons, have been teams with big front lines that have forced Miami to try and go big, something they simply don’t have the personnel to do as well as teams like Indiana and San Antonio.
The Heat have the best small ball team in the NBA because they have a 6’9, 250 lbs small forward who most power forwards in the league can’t contain down low and is possibly the most impressive physical specimen the league has ever seen. Go small against them is asking for trouble.
The Raptors have a legit 7 foot center who is a threat in the post and good sized front line, but Casey has always been frustratingly quick to adjust to the other team’s lineup rather than make them adjust to his. And, not surprisingly, it’s usually gotten him into trouble. Yes, the Raptors have Rudy Gay, who is one of the few small forwards in the league big and athletic enough to matchup against LeBron, but the Heat have always had trouble defending the interior, and are currently last in the league in rebounding the ball, so keeping the Raptor’s best rebounders (Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough) on the floor as much as possible will give the team the best chance to win.
In the game against the Heat last month, Casey had Gay playing a lot of power forward and the only big man to play more than 23 minutes was Valanciunas, who still just played 27 minutes.
Which Rudy Gay will show up tonight?
When Gay is passing the ball and being aggressive, the Raptors tend to play well. When he has his blinders on, chucks up a lot of contested long twos and drives the ball into crowds of defenders who strip him of it, then the team struggles. Gay averages nearly two more assists per game in wins than he does in losses.
Gay has tended to play better against better competition and played well against the Heat, last season, but in his only game against the Heat this year, he shot poorly and turned the ball over a lot in a loss.
Will Chris Bosh get booed?
Of course he will. Raptor fans are a bitter, vindictive bunch who can’t let things go.
The Heat have twice as many wins as the Raptors, and it’s not even December yet. They have three, possibly four Hall of Fame players and are currently on pace to win 30 more games than the Raptors. Do you really need a positional breakdown to tell you the Heat are a better team?
The Heat have just three losses, so far and they were against Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Boston. What do those teams have in common besides they all suck, right now? I have no clue. They all have different strengths and weaknesses, and only the Nets are really a big team.
The one thing the Raptors have going for them is the Heat will often play down to their competition and allow their opponent more of a chance to stay with them than they should.
The Raptors definitely have a chance to win, but the Heat are playing better than they were when they lost their three games earlier in the season.
Score: Heat 103 – Raptors 92
First up, make sure to check out the RR 3-on-3 tournament happening on Feb 15!
Two division leaders meet, but one is 12-3, the other 6-8. Miami has been nothing short of brilliant since overpowering Toronto in the fourth quarter at the ACC on Nov. 5. Miami has won 9-of-10 since and eight straight overall by an average of about 15 points.
To quote any more Miami stats would be too depressing, so let’s see if there are some positives we can find with the Toronto Raptors. Defying their losing record, the Raps average 1 more PPG than they surrender. DeMar DeRozan is shooting 40% from beyond the 3-point arc, by far his best number ever. Kyle Lowry has an assist to turnover ratio of 3.75, which isn’t great but is much superior to his pre-season games.`
“It’s not something I’m going to stop doing. Obviously everybody wants a shot in the paint, (I) just haven’t been making them. I will start making them, I can guarantee that,” he said. Some have posited Gay’s off-season weight gain, in an attempt to play more power forward as a reason for his decreased lift and poor finishing inside, but Gay said he couldn’t point to any one thing. “It will even out, we’re still getting wins even with my poor shooting and when it picks up, hopefully we’ll be playing better as a team.”
Neither is a good player. Waiters has more talent but Ross plays more within his game and seems to know how limited he is. Waiters is definitely the better long term prospect though. I’m not sure if there was a guy with a lower ceiling than Ross picked in the top 10 of that draft.
If they traded places, my big problem with Thompson would be that he is such a black hole on offense (and has actually regressed in this every year since his rookie year whereas DeRozan has improved). The stagnant passing on the Raptors would get even worse.
Reading and talking about the Raptors is great, but nothing beats playing some BALL! To scratch the itch of basketball in the winter, Raptors Republic is hosting its inaugural 3-on-3 basketball tournament this winter, February 15th at 10:00am to be exact, at Crescent School in Toronto, Ontario, a fantastic facility in the heart of Toronto.
Sixteen teams will be participating in the tournament and you are invited to register your team now!
Here’s what you need to know:
- Up to four players (minimum of three) can register per team (3 starters + 1 substitute)
- The cost is $100 per team
- Every participant receives a Raptors Republic Reversible Mesh Basketball Jersey
- Every team is guaranteed to play four games, and is guaranteed entry into the elimination round
- Every team is guaranteed to have a blast, meet other Raptors fans, make some good connections, and get some exercise
- The skill-level we’re getting so far is in the normal distribution. We will have group seeding which will ensure that groups are competitive. Remember this is 3-on-3 so you’re not going full-court (in case you were wondering about stamina
How do you register and reserve a spot for your team?
There are two ways of registering:
- Use Interac Money Transfer (password = raptors) to send $100 to [email protected] – make sure to include your email address
- Pay via Credit Card – there is a small service charge to this which has nothing to do with RR
That’s it! Once we have the 16 teams registered we’ll take care of the details like shirt sizing, etc.
Thanks to Pizza Pizza for providing all participants with pizza, and prizes for the winners.
Raptors Republic does not make any profit from this event. All fees go to covering rental and administrative costs. We hope to cover jersey costs through sponsorship and if you’re the generous kind and want to help, email me at [email protected].
Taking a page out of the books of Down Goes Brown, Raptors Republic has hired a spy to sneak into Toronto Raptors functions and get us the inside scoops. His or her (like we’d divulge) first assignment was to sneak into the team’s Thanksgiving get together, hosted by head coach Dwane Casey. (Should also give some credit to Gourmet Spud for the style-jacking.)
*The doorbell rings. Dwane Casey opens it wearing a messy apron. Several members of the Toronto Raptors walk through the door, exchanging pleasantries.*
Casey: Hey guys, welcome. Dinner should be ready in just a bit.
D.J. Augustin: Here coach!
*Augustin hands Casey a dish with tinfoil on it.*
Augustin: I brought turnovers for desert!
Casey: Of course you did. Come on in guys, you can put your coats in the…
*Tyler Hansbrough smashes through the front door. he looks around menacingly, then aggressively grabs everyone’s coat and trudges off.*
DeMar DeRozan: Coach, it smells delicious in here. What are we having with the turkey?
Casey: Nothing. You guys know me, nothing fancy. Just the bare essentials, nothing creative.
Quincy Acy: Don’t worry guys, I brought some stuffing.
*Acy hands over a bowl that very clearly has stray beard hairs in it. A few other players have brought dishes, too. The team heads into the dining room and sits around the table, with Casey at the head. Rudy Gay begins picking at any store-bought food, removing any price tags and calorie information.*
Casey: So, guys, I’m glad to have you all here. I want you to know I’m thankful for the opportunity to coach a team of men like you, and…
DeRozan: Hey, coach, sorry to interrupt but it smells like something’s burning.
Casey: No, no, it’s fine. Just needs a bit more time. Now, as I was saying, even though some didn’t think…
Aaron Gray: Uhh, coach, I think DeMar is right. It really smells like the turkey’s burning.
Casey: Aaron, relax. I know fowl. You gotta have patience, I’ll just wait a few more minutes for fowl, and then it’ll be ready.
*The kitchen appears to be getting smokey.*
Austin Daye: Coach, it looks like something’s on fire.
Casey: The fowl’s not ready, guys. I want us to all go around the table and say things that we’re thankful for. Terrence, why don’t we start with you.
*There are now obviously flames in the kitchen. Terrence Ross just sits, staring into the kitchen, not knowing what to do.*
Ross: The…the fowl coach…
Casey: Fine, if you guys all want the fowl so bad!
*Casey moves into the kitchen and the sound of a fire extinguisher can be heard. Shortly after, Casey comes out with a nearly-black turkey.*
Casey: I guess I should have thought of the fowl earlier.
Steve Novak: Hey Rudy, can you pass the potatoes down?
DeRozan: Can we open a window to let the smoke out?
Casey: I don’t want any animals wandering in.
DeRozan: Don’t you use any screens?
*Casey looks confused by the question.*
Novak: Hey Rudy, can you pass the potatoes?
Amir Johnson: Don’t worry about the turkey, guys. I’ve got this!
*Johnson pulls out a jar of red sauce that just has “Amir” written on masking tape. He pours it on the turkey and the players begin serving themselves.*
Kyle Lowry: Damn, Amir, this is good.
Novak: Yo, Rudy! Pass the potatoes, man.
*The players begin to put the Amir sauce on other food, too.*
Landry Fields: You know, I can’t put my finger on what this is or why it’s so good, but it literally makes everything better.
*Abruptly, Casey stands up and takes Jonas Valanciunas’ plate away from him. Valanciunas looks up, sad and confused.*
Valanciunas: But Coach…
Casey: C’mon now, Jonas, you know I only feed you in the first half.
*A clump of mashed potatoes flies across the table, hitting Novak right in the face.*
Novak: What the hell?
Gay: You asked me to pass the potatoes!
Novak: That was minutes ago!
Gay: Oh, so sometimes you want me to pass the potatoes and other times you don’t? Make up your mind, man!
*Some of the players look to a corner of the room, where Masai Ujiri stands, finger lingering over what appears to be a detonator button. He looks up and sees he’s been noticed.*
Ujiri: Just evaluating, guys. Carry on.
*Sensing the danger, our spy chose this as an opportunity to leave, unnoticed and unscathed.
There’s no getting around he fact that the Raptors let one get away on Tuesday night. Playing a Brooklyn Nets team that was down two starters, two of its key reserves and was lugging around a five-game losing streak like an anvil around their collective necks, the Nets were ripe for the picking. The critics can jump all over that last chance with 11 seconds remaining that came up short, but it never should have come down to that. The Raptors just reverted to an all-too-common approach — playing down to the level of its competition.
But what seems to be lost in all of this is that as a proven scorer in this league – never a tremendously efficient one, but never this inefficient either – and a player still very much in his prime, what other course of action would anyone realistically expect from Gay? He’s not going to stop shooting. Gay is in the league and paid the way he is because he is that fearless scorer. That guy who, when others don’t want to take that game-on-the-line shot, gladly accepts the challenge. Gay is the player he is because he has that inner confidence that when he lets go of the basketball, it will find its destination at the bottom of the net whether it’s the third minute of the first quarter of the final minute of the fourth. Obviously, that doesn’t happen every time. That would be the definition of perfect, and nobody is perfect.
his wasn’t the first time that Casey has used 5 substitutes at the same time for an extended period and it wasn’t the first time the move had hurt the Raptors chances. Toronto has overtly been trying out various players and different combinations of players at different times during games as President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri wants to see what he has. The result hasn’t always been pretty. Unlike what Casey’s good friend and fellow head coach Terry Stotts has been doing in Portland, a 9 man rotation has been the exception rather than the rule in Toronto.
Today marks 6 years of doing the Dino Nation Blog. It has been an interesting and great experience in my life. It has also been a period in which the Raptors have been hard to love and not really had any kind of real success. Last night was a night like many others over the last 6 years. The Raptors had an opportunity facing a team that was plagued with injuries and failed to take advantage. So many times the Raptors have disappointed over these 6 years it can make it hard to stay motivated to be completely honest.
In today’s NBA there are almost ZERO guards who cannot shoot or defend, Sacramento was glad to let Evans go because it’s hard to be successful when you’re guards give up a lot of points and then can’t shoot 3’s and space the floor. If derozan continues to shoot better and defend at an average rate he’ll earn that money. I think he’s a second or third option at this point, but I don’t like it when guys in that role struggle playing off the ball. I am impressed by his defense and athleticism, his ideal situation would be an off-ball PG like curry or lillard and a fast paced offense that allows him to get out in the open floor, and that’s probably better for him defensively. Interesting: there were 17 guards last year who averaged over 25 minutes a game and made below the average number of 3 point shots (using fantasy stats, can’t find league average 3 point percentage). They break down into 3 categories Passers (Parker, Rondo, Wall, Rubio, Miller, Wade, Collison), Elite Defenders (Stpehenson, Bradley, Butler, Allen) and the rest: Ridnour, Sessions, Stuckey, Evans, Henderson and DeRozan.
Moreover, the ways in which players reach their box score statistics are important for predicting their performance going forward. Fortunately for Gay, advanced statistics are starting to become available to measure even those nebulous contributions that “don’t show up on the stat sheet.” Oftentimes these metrics bolster, modify or even contradict the conclusions of box score-based conventional wisdom. Here are three players on whom advanced metrics shed particular light.
All your links is belong to me: [email protected]
This is the play that was referred to in this morning’s post by Andrew:
Rudy Gay made a nice pass in the first quarter in the pick and roll to a rolling Amir Johnson. No, seriously though. Unfortunately, Amir was just as surprised as everyone watching at home as he recoiled in astonishment as the ball bounced out of bounds. He literally had not mentally prepared himself for a Rudy pass to the roll man. Feel free to draw your own conclusions here.
Here’s the play:
That was a sweet bounce pass by Rudy, almost point-forwardish. I’m thinking of starting a petition where this exact play is run about 20 times a game. See, you have a guy who is a scoring threat (just hang with me here) and a guy who is great at going to the rim who also happens to be a good finisher.
If Johnson catches the ball and a defender comes over, guess who is going to be wide open underneath the rim? Yes, Jonas Valanciunas, another guy who loves going towards the rim. There’s also the Kyle Lowry angle here, if a guy is helping out on Rudy, as Livingston is there, Rudy is free to make an easy pass for an open three.
Chris Broussard is saying that Dion Waiters is being shopped because he “has a contentious relationship with several teammates, including star point guard Kyrie Irving” (you might recall this). This led Joe Kaiser to post Insider speculation regarding Toronto giving up Waiters for Terrence Ross:
Yes, they already have DeMar DeRozan locked up to a long-term deal and 2012 lottery pick Terrence Ross coming off the bench. A deal involving Waiters-for-Ross would make some sense, though. The quiet personality of Ross would provide more harmony in the locker room, and the Cavs could use his 3-point shooting. From the Raptors’ standpoint, Waiters would bring more versatility off the bench than that of Ross, who has been mostly a 3-point shooter and highlight-reel dunker so far in his pro career.
Terrence Ross is a neutral figure at RR, as he reminds us way too much of Chris Jefferies.
Having said that, Ross has posted some decent games of late and has shown signs of coming out of his career-long funk and actually hit some meaningful threes.
Despite their best efforts down the stretch, Brooklyn was unable to hand the Atlantic Division leading Juggernaut that is the Toronto Raptors a win last night. The Raptors vacillated back and forth between terrible and impressive play last night, until finally deciding with about three minutes left on the clock that they would actually like to win last night’s game. The Nets, content with 45 minutes of decent play and ever the gracious guests, spent those final three minutes wearing Raptors rally caps, and they came within 2 inches on an Amir Johnson 3-pointer of securing a loss and a happy home crowd. Alas, the dreams of a commanding Atlantic Division lead and a free single topping slice of Pizza Pizza from a participating Toronto Area location for fans retaining their ticket stubs was not meant to be. What follows is a list of the 10 things I took away from the game instead.
1. The TSN pre-game promo’s are out of control. They’re produced as emotionally gripping dramas with story-lines about a team that’s undergone drastic change and is now poised for greatness. It was unclear if I was about to watch a basketball game or a serialized network drama. Show me some highlights and story-lines to get me excited for the matchup and maybe learn something about recent team trends, but let’s not turn this in to the CW network please. So help me god, if Chad Michael Murray subs in off the bench, I will lose every conceivable fragment of the proverbial ‘it’.
2. Kyle Lowry is locked in to that spot midway down the left side of the 3pt arc. Like a white guy two-stepping at a wedding, it’s his home-base, and he is absolutely killing it! Lowry is very quietly having a really good season. He is embracing his role as a point guard well and shooting the lights out in spot-up opportunities. He is still freelancing too much (though his defence and two key steals were huge in the 4th) and getting caught out of place on defence , but really, wouldn’t it be rude of him not to? Its kind of Amir’s thing to be the only guy who plays positionally disciplined defense. A true leader knows not to step on his teammates toes.
3. I’ve been making the case for more Jonas Valanciunas post looks. But Jonas needs to establish position in the post first. He routinely lets smaller guys push him too far out. Jonas Valanciunas is not better than Kevin Garnett. He is MUCH stronger than the grizzled ole’ vet though, and theres no reason for Garnett to be able to bully him five feet off the block.
4. I’m really enjoying Terrence Ross getting big minutes and making big contributions to the team. He struggled to guard Joe Johnson, which is a sentence that has been applied to almost every NBA shooting guard at some point over the last 9 seasons. He knocked down shots, got to the rim and continued to look like a nicely developing player.
5. Rudy Gay made a nice pass in the first quarter in the pick and roll to a rolling Amir Johnson. No, seriously though. Unfortunately, Amir was just as surprised as everyone watching at home as he recoiled in astonishment as the ball bounced out of bounds. He literally had not mentally prepared himself for a Rudy pass to the roll man. Feel free to draw your own conclusions here.
6. DeMar DeRozan is playing with as much offensive poise and confidence as I’ve ever seen from him. When the Raptors were the 3-10 team playing against Brooklyn a season ago, DeMar looked like a player uncomfortable carrying the offensive burden of being the number one scorer on a team and uninterested in trusting his own 3pt shot. His confidence, comfort and ability to deliver have all come a long way since then.
7. It’s almost fun to ironically watch Steve Novak on defence. I feel morally obliged to mention that Steve Novak had a nice offensive game here. He isn’t a bad basketball player by any means. He’s just unquestionably a DH. Brooklyn had some extended success running the heralded ‘run a pick and roll to get Novak to switch on to the ball handler, then have that ball handler score over Steve Novak’ offence.
8. The Raptors were curiously abandoning the 3 point line on defence. If you move the ball inside, kick out and then pass once, you will get all of the open 3 pointers against this team. I don’t know if this was undisciplined individual play, a lazy zone scheme or a conscious decision to pack the paint. While the latter is a great defensive strategy against a shooting deficient team like Memphis, Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson probably aren’t he most ideal players to let set up for wide open jumpers.
9. The crowd started throwing some boos at Rudy Gay last night. What has happened to this Toronto crowd? Where did this sudden quick trigger booing come from? There are some serious unresolved anger issues with this fanbase.
Vince Carter hurt us. Our anger and vitriol was justified, and it felt good showing him. But now we boo any player who leaves. We’re better than that. We took Rafael Arajao (I know, we’re not supposed to bring up this name. I’m sorry) instead of Andre Igoudala. Then we showed patience with Andrea Bargnani. And then we showed more patience with Andrea Bargnani. And then we showed even more patience in Andrea Bargnani until finally, by the end of last year, our Primo-pasta-‘n-sauce induced rage finally boiled over. We’d been repressing our growing anger and holding our tongue when we should have spoken out for too long. It’s not healthy, and once we let it out, we couldn’t stop. I get it. I was a part of it. Even if it was an over-compensation, it needed to happen. Even if it got awkward and uncomfortable in the pre-season, it was something we had to work through. But at a certain point, we need to take some responsibility. It was our fault too for putting up with too much, but we shouldn’t over react now. That kind of knee-jerk passive aggression is unbecoming. It’s embarassing and it’s unproductive. You know what’s probably not going to boost Rudy Gay’s confidence? Booing him whenever he touches the ball when he’s having a bad night. Stomping on lemons is not how you make lemonade. If you can’t manage moral support, how about at least one season of suffering in muffled silence?
10. I loved Rudy Gay’s decision on the final play. I didn’t like the play, which was an example of the lack of creativity ‘give it to Rudy and just let him figure it out’ play that typically leads to him getting lost in the midst of a double or triple team. But when Garnett collapsed off of Johnson to Rudy for the inevitable double team, he dished out a perfect pass to Amir Johnson for an open corner three. That’s a great decision by Gay, and the best available shot on the floor in that 2 second window. It’s not always going to go in. Let’s not blame Gay for not taking the shot that everyone hounds him for taking all game though, because he made the right basketball play.
It was another reminder of a very familiar early-season theme: Nearly anything is possible in the Eastern Conference. The Nets have been a disaster, and it might not matter a bit.
Down to 11 seconds and trailing by two, the Raptors put the ball in Gay’s hands. It was his play all the way, but he didn’t like what he saw. Instead, he passed off to Amir Johnson alone in the corner. Johnson is an improving three-point shooter, but he’s still only taken 47 of them in a nine-year career. That was not statistically optimal (another thing Gay wouldn’t know, and how could he?!) He missed. The Raptors lost 102-100.
This was one of the worst coached games I’ve seen by Casey. The Raptors were coming off an extended break and looked thoroughly unprepared. The only two players that kept them in the game were DeRozan and Lowry. Who did he trot out to begin the 4th quarter when the Raptors were down 5? DJ Augustin, Landry Fields (both of whom saw the court for the first time all game), Steve Novak, Tyler Hansbrough, Terrence Ross. The Nets dominated the next 3 minutes and never relinquished the lead. The Raptors were down 1 with 23 seconds left. They let 12 seconds run off before fouling. When they got the ball back, the final play had Amir Johnson parked for a corner 3 while Steve Novak crashed the boards. You literally can’t make this stuff up.
“They were in attack mode and they made shots,” Casey said. “Against those types of teams you have to throw the first punch. You can’t wait to get hit like we did tonight and wait until the last five (actually three) minutes and then you start scrapping and playing desperate. We are no where near where we need to be to play at that level and feel our way into the game. We have to be the desperate team every time we walk on the floor.”
“They had us on our heels on both ends of the floor,” Casey said, his team outscored by 20 in the paint and allowing the Nets to shoot 51 per cent from the field. “It started on the defensive end. They had us on our heels, they were in attack mode, they made shots and we shouldn’t be surprised by that. They have Hall-of-Famers on their team and against those types of teams you’ve got to throw the first punch. You can’t wait to get hit like we did tonight.”
You think you were sick and tired of losing? So were they. All of a sudden, the Nets (4-10) are now two games back of the first-place Raptors (6-8) for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. There’s still no word on when Deron Williams (ankle), Brook Lopez (ankle), Andrei Kirilenko (back) and Jason Terry (knee) will be back. But the Nets couldn’t kick off a stretch of four games in five nights any better than this.
It was effort. Effort and execution that carried the Nets. They were active on both ends, Kidd called the proper adjustments, and the played to their individual strengths — Tysahwn Taylor (9 points, 4 assists in 19 minutes) and Mason Plumlee (9 points in 16 minutes) were fantastic in providing athleticism off the bench. You can make the case that Kidd made the wrong call in the final minutes, taking Taylor out in favor of Livingston, and after the Raptors went on an 11-0 run it certainly seemed so. But, at this point, you take the win, put it in your back pocket and head home.
Click for shenanigans
Click for more shenanigans
Here’s the play:
Dwane Casey commenting on the play:
The look was for Rudy. They did a good job of double-teaming and getting the ball out of his hands. He had options with DeMar and they left Amir there, and Rudy coulda, woulda, shoulda, had a shot, didn’t take it. He found Amir, and he had a clean look, it was straight, right on line and he works on that shot every day in practice. He had other options, but he made that decision and we got to live with it. I trust Rudy in that situation.
Please notice that in the GIF there is zero ball movement. Zero. None. The entire play is Rudy going one-on-one, making it a very easy double team for the Nets. Obviously, the Nets helped off of one of the worst three-point shooters on the floor and got the result they wanted – a long jumper by a guy who rarely shoots threes and is, you know, a power forward. This is a victory for the defense and a loss for the offense by any standards. How you can dress this up as “I trust Rudy in that situation” and “[Amir] works on that shot every day” is beyond me. The post-game comment from the coach should be “we didn’t get the shot we wanted”, that is all.
We were down two at home, not three and the age old rule goes go for the tie at home and the win on the road. Make the refs make the call, not bail out the defense that’s been on its heels for the last three minutes. The shot was also taken too late, not leaving sufficient time for offensive rebounding and, not to mention, there are ZERO offensive rebounders on the floor as the shot goes up. Where is Valanciunas? Where is Hansbrough? Why is Steve Novak the main offensive rebounder?
Shocking way to lose to an injury-ridden out-of-form Nets team.
Amir Johnson, PF 32 MIN | 2-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +2His offensive sins aside (0-2 from behind the arc including a missed game winner…why Amir is shooting the ball with the game on the line is a totally different conversation), made Blatche looked like a legit All-Star; letting him get his whenever he wanted. Rudy Gay, SF 32 MIN | 3-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 7 TO | 9 PTS | +2He only took 12 shots; for that we can be thankful. Clutch three at the end, played good enough defense on Pierce. Whatever, I’m done being a Rudy Gay apologist. That drive and kick to Amir was the right play, but he should have recognized that it was Amir, and not anyone else on the team, and taken that shot; I almost would have preferred that. Jonas Valanciunas, C 22 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-1 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | -5I don’t know how to grade him tonight. The guy played well when he got minutes, but like, not the future of this franchise well. It should be alarming how easily he goes into invisibility mode when he’s not fully engaged on offense; defense was solid though. The bottom line is he needs minutes and isn’t getting him, but also clearly not earning them. The question to Ujiri is what are we doing here? Is this a meritocracy and JV isn’t earning his playing time in practice? Is this team is trying to win games? Is Casey just developing this kid poorly? Or is Casey just a brutal coach? My guess is the last two. Kyle Lowry, PG 38 MIN | 8-15 FG | 6-6 FT | 0 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 24 PTS | +6I’d normally be harping on Lowry only out for his tonight, but he understood enough to know that if he couldn’t get the ball to DeMar, that the team was better served in letting him try to make something out of nothing. Really appreciated seeing him playing hard till the very end. DeMar DeRozan, SG 39 MIN | 9-15 FG | 5-5 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 27 PTS | +4Probably the best game DeMar has ever played. He kept the Raptors in the game in the 1st and 3rd (along with Lowry) when the Nets tried to make knock-out punches, and didn’t lose focus or aggression the whole time. It’s scary to think that this type of production is slowly becoming his norm. Tyler Hansbrough, PF 18 MIN | 2-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +1Not the player this team deserves, but is the player it needs. Mixed it up in the paint, rebounded the hell out of the offensive boards, and played within himself. Hard to knock him for a couple choice shots when he gives so much effort and does a lot of the dirty work. Landry Fields, SF 3 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -6Wasn’t fair to throw him out on the floor cold during a pivotal period, but he also managed to semi-force a shot…there was that. Steve Novak, SF 23 MIN | 3-6 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | -2Nobody floats around the perimeter hoping for a kick like our grimy, Movembered-up Stevie boy. Dwight Buycks, PG 6 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | 0Hit an important three with the Raptors trailing, and gets a C for hitting it cold. Dwane Casey
Poor lineups, minutes allocation, execution out of timeouts, execution in the half-court, play-calling, playbook, everything. With the Raptors down 5 early in the 4th, he trots out a lineup of Augustin, Fields, Hansbrough, Novak,and Ross for 3 minutes quickly pushing that deficit to 11. That lineup went -6 in 5 minutes of action, lols.
Five Things We Saw
- I don’t get this NBA schedule: you get 3 games in 4 nights one month, then a five-day stretch between games in another. Casey needs to make these guys run two-a-days next time they have a long layoff.
- DeMar and Lowry were the only Raptors who came out to play, scoring 51 of the Raptors 100 points between the two of them. Why Casey didn’t ride them for 42+ minutes when no else seemed interested in making a move, is beyond me.
- Speaking of Casey, wow, that was one of the worst coached games we’ve been subjected too in quite some time. Between his minutes allocations, suspect lineups, train-crash of a playbook, it was lost that Kidd out-coached him in this one (this is especially upsetting since Pierce called him out after the Timberwolves game). Just a thought, but maybe having Casey as coach actually IS the plan; the Raptors winning, and their late-game run to almost win it, has been in-spite of his coaching inability.
- The Nets scored 48 points in the paint. What upsets me more is that Andray Blatche went 10-16 from there; 24pts 5reb from a guy who seems like he’s more interested in wearing robes and running NBA 2K13 tournaments. Seriously, if he actually cared and worked on his conditioning and game, he’d be a legit player in the league.
- On the plus side, I appreciated how the Raptors weathered two KO attempts in the 1st and 3rd quarters by Nets, and how they made that run with 3+ minutes left in the game to cut a 16 point deficit to 2, with a chance to win it at the buzzer. All it’s problems aside, this team really plays hard and doesn’t roll over. As a fan of the game, you need to respect that.
The Toronto Raptors host a banged-up and struggling Brooklyn Nets squad on Tuesday night.
The Nets will be without point guard Deron Williams (ankle), center Brook Lopez (ankle), utilityman Andrei Kirilenko (back) and reserve guard Jason Terry (knee).
It’s difficult to evaluate this Atlantic Division foe in a macro sense given that those four players have now missed a combined 24 games, but at present it’s easy to call them a mess. The Nets are 3-10, new head coach Jason Kidd has come under fire for his
lack ofcoaching, and Kevin Garnett’s numbers look like those of Reggie Evans.
Still, this is a team with Garnett, Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson, so while they may be an old group, they aren’t without talent.
Point guard: Kyle Lowry and PG2 du jour vs. Shaun Livingston and Tyshawn Taylor
Yeah, this one should be pretty straightforward. Livingston isn’t terrible (and he seems incredibly likeable) but his lack of shooting ability really constricts what Brooklyn’s ball-dominant wings can do.
Wings: DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Landry Fields and Terrence Ross vs. Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Alan Anderson’s Sad Face
I bounced back and forth on this one, settling on a wash. It’s easy to make a case that either set of wings is better than the other. Johnson isn’t shooting poorly and you’d have to expect that Pierce is still better than his numbers currently show. DeRozan and Gay aren’t world beaters in efficiency terms, either, but they’re scoring more on a per-minute basis and will probably be difficult for the Nets pair to stay in front of. Anderson, meanwhile, is fine in a limited role but can get trigger-happy when asked to do too much (remember?). Anyway, call it a wash and make your case for ‘More Talented But Old’ vs. ‘Not What Those Guys Were But More Than They Are Now.’
Bigs: Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, Tyler Hansbrough and Steve Novak (and sure, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray so nobody gets a sad) vs. Kevin Garnett, Reggie Evans, Andray Blatche and Mason Plumlee
Sorry, but Garnett doesn’t get the Pierce/Johnson wash when Blatche is his runningmate. The Nets are 23rd in offensive rebound rate and 27th in defensive rebound rate – considering the Raptors are first and eighth, respectively, this seems like a good area to make hay. Also, Hansbrough clubbing Garnett unnecessarily is going to be hilarious.
Vegas says: Raptors -7 with 53% of action, O/U 190 with 50/50 split
“Averages” say: Raptors -5
Hollinger Rating says: Raptors -12.5
Beanie Sigel, So What You Saying: Got game, still think off s***
Blake says: I’m going with the Raptors for what should be obvious reasons, though it wouldn’t at all surprise me to see Brooklyn show up like it means something, coming off a pair of double-digit losses and on a five-game losing streak. Still, this team just doesn’t look like one with any kind of “extra gear” if things get dire (again, when healthy, sure, probably). Toronto has an edge in the starting unit and an edge with the first few players off the bench, the latter of which we won’t get to say too often. Put simply, this is exactly the kind of game the team has to win if they have designs on taking advantage of the pathetic state of the Eastern Conference.
The game tips off at the ACC at 7 p.m. on TSN. Treat us basketball folk well, TSN, we’re all you’ve got left.
Sorry for the abbreviated preview. A pregame Q&A with a Nets blogger was meant to be included but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
This week on The Doctor is In with Phdsteve, I have called in the boys from the world wide roundtable to talk ball and we have a discussion about all the action in NBA and NCAA while continually tying it back to the Raptors! Joined by my brother Mike (who knows college basketball) and Greg Mason (the brain from the south) we discuss:
- The news that D. Rose is out for the season and what that means for the Raptors as players in the East and maybe even as trade partners for the Bulls.
- A boss week for the Raptors who now sit at 6-7 and at the top of the division
- Why we MUST get our hopes up!
- Can the Raptors win the Atlantic?
- Can the Raptors be flat-track bullies?
- Who is this John Wall guy? And better yet, who predicted he was a great buy-low candidate last spring?
- Is DeRozan finally becoming the player the Raps thought they were drafting in the top 10? (he was a scoring machine back in high school) And is he the team’s top player?
- The week ahead Brooklyn, Miami, Denver
- The Grantland article on whether high volume low efficiency guys ever change and if so, how does that happen? And how does that connect to the Raptors?
- The player tracking data system for any of the listeners who aren’t familiar. It’s a lot of fun:
Found this on the Hangtime blog via the Toronto Sun:
It’s common practice that after every game each player is provided a scoresheet. The sheet breaks down the individual players’ contributions as well as team totals.
That won’t be happening anymore in Toronto. Rudy Gay has put a stop to it.
Gay sees the scoresheets as an unnecessary barrier to team unity or even a temptation to be more focussed on what is best for the individual as opposed to what is best for the team.
“We’re not playing for stats,” Gay said.
Gay said there was no incident or no moment that pushed him toward this decision but as a leader on this team, he felt it was just something that was best for the team.
“I wanted to just nip it in the bud before it became an issue,” he said. “We come in here after losses, after wins and people are staring at those stat sheets, but that’s not what we’re about. We’re a team and the stat that matters is the W.”
Gay said there were no objections from his teammates when he delivered the news.
“No, none. It was pretty easy.”
I get, in essence, what he’s trying to do, but the obvious joke to be made here is that he doesn’t want others to know how much he shoots! I haven’t ever heard such a measure being taken by the 72-win Bulls, the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, or any other past NBA champion, so I’m inclined to think that this doesn’t matter as much.
Guys will look at box scores, whether it be in the locker room, at home, or on the bus on their phone – so I really don’t get what banning them from the locker room will do.
As for Gay suggesting that nobody objected? Well, that’s because of “group think” rather than “group mind”.
All the power to the Raptors if this works!
I saw the Raptors live for the first time this season against Washington and came away with confirmation of what I had generally observed on television: this team can make the playoffs and be fun while doing it. I’ll focus on one area of the game where if the Raptors improve, they can be a dangerous proposition for a defense, and that’s double-teaming.
For the first time in a long while, the Raptors have multiple legitimate double-team threats on the roster in DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay. Gay has always attracted a second defender on account of his height and reach advantage at his position, and ability to rise over defenders so that’s no real surprise. Even when struggling from the field, the defense tends to respect him more than the average Raptors fan does. DeRozan attracting second defenders is a testament to his improvement this season as a scorer. Note that I didn’t say ‘player’ but a ‘scorer’ because as a basketball player overall, he is some ways off.
Gay and DeRozan (and to a lesser extent, Lowry) are attracting double-teams consistently but it hasn’t materialized into great offense and it’s not due to lack of personnel. Steve Novak, Kyle Lowry and the improving Terrence Ross provide decent perimeter punch, and interior players like Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas are excellent at cutting to the rim, so there isn’t a shortage of outlets for DeRozan and Gay when they are pressed.
Simply put, the Raptors haven’t been able to consistently convert double-teaming of their two best players into overall team improvement. There are three different reactions to being double-teamed that I’ve noticed of the players:
Break the double on their own for a scoring opportunity
Fair to say that this has been the default reaction which is obviously not good. A guy like DeRozan is still in his infancy when it comes to negotiating double-teams and different coverages in the NBA. It’s second nature to him as a scorer to look upon a second defender as a challenge, and try to score through it using a mid-range jumper, a split, or some other maneuver. This was happening in the Washington game as well as Webster or Wall were helping out Beal.
DeRozan’s handles, although somewhat improved, still remain an obstacle when trying to break doubles on their own because when he tries to pull-back on defenders for a drive, the move becomes slow and thus predictable. Sometimes he’ll pull-back and find the baseline for a drive, but it usually results in an undesirable sequence of basketball.
Gay, on the other hand, I expect to do better at this stage in his career. We’ve all seen the assist numbers and they are appalling. Watching him drive the lane and attract the weak-side help defender only to hoist leaners is frustrating. In my section at the ACC there were at least five different groups facetiously yelling “shoot Rudy shoot, you gotta shoot shoot shoot” every time he touched the ball.
When they score in these situations successfully, everything looks fantastic and its a highlight reel item, but the overall detrimental effect of this sort of play harms offensive continuity and promotes static play.
Panic and give the defense what it wants
This is basically what happens when you hang on the ball too long and it’s gotten to the point where you have to get rid of it or else risk a turnover. Even when DeRozan and Gay try to get out of these situations by passing it ends up being a turnover (like a backcourt violation or pick-off in a passing lane). Kyle Lowry, as well as he’s played of late, is a good example of someone who tends to be trapped a little too easily up the court.
In general, what not to do in these situations is summed up in this little piece:
When faced with double or triple teams, the natural instinct of many basketball players is to immediately protect the ball at all costs. Some begin a literal retreat, slipping backward into a corner or toward a sideline. Some pick up their dribble outright and look to keep the ball out of arm’s reach of imposing defenders. Worse yet, some do both, putting themselves in a horrible situation and giving the defense just what it wants.
I find that Gay gets into these situations more than DeRozan, and early in the season when the offense was a complete shambles, this type of turnover was being compounded by the fact that there was no movement. Whenever a guy is trapped, the responsibility falls on the rest of his teammates to present themselves as release points and that wasn’t happening. Mercifully, the Raptors have improved in such situations and Ross, Novak,and Lowry have been better at presenting themselves as options for guys trapped on the wing or baseline.
Invite the double, make the play
This is the nirvana of players who get double-teamed because they’ve gotten to the point where they want the extra defender to come at them. This is what you want DeRozan to evolve into – someone who is confident enough to invite the double, read the defense, and then have enough skill to get the ball to where it needs to go. This is where coaching lays the framework within which to operate effectively.
We saw some elements of this against Philadelphia and Washington where the beneficiaries were Novak, Ross, and even some of the big men. Situations where there was enough off-the-ball movement that the defense had to stretch to cover rather than concentrate on a particular area. I posted some GIFs from the Philly game which illustrated some of these situations and they were present against Washington as well.
Role of coaching
The NBA has always been a “matchup league” where on any given night, the individual matchups tend to dictate the way a team operates. The Raptors have two players in DeRozan and Gay that can potentially dictate on how the other team plays, but this is where coaching and instruction is critical. If the view that DeRozan and Gay are the pivots of the offense is adopted, there requires considerable improvement on the part of Dwane Casey to ensure that the rest of the team is suited to this structure of play.
For starters, the Raptors remain very easy to double-team without fear of retribution. The wing-iso has been easy to double because there isn’t a consistent cutter down the middle that can make the opposition big pay for coming over. Tyler Hansbrough has been better of late but I find that Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson tend to drift over to the weak side, which is essentially making them non-factors and easy to rotate to. If Casey can construct sequences which result in shot attempts for bigs on wing double-teams, it would help out the the Raptors offense and increase those ghastly assist numbers (dead last in league).
Currently, 24% of the Raptors shots are threes (15th in league) and they make 34% of them (25th in league). I’m comfortable with the 24%, I’m not so sure about the 34% because I feel the wrong guys are taking those threes. Novak is a career 43% shooter, Lowry is shooting 38% this season and Ross is at 39% – those are some excellent options that aren’t being used enough, and it’s because the pathway that leads to these players getting shots isn’t there. In total, they’re taking 42% of the Raptors threes. How Dwane Casey can get his three-point shooters more open looks by using the offensive threats he has at his disposal is going to be something to monitor.
The best way to handle a double is to anticipate or invite it and react before the double fully materializes. LeBron James is ridiculously awesome at this as he’s constantly driving at multiple defenders to create disruption, and making pin-point passes before the defense fully collapses. I don’t expect DeRozan or Gay to operate at that level, but there needs to be individual improvement from both players regarding how and where they attract doubles. How much coaching can play a part in this remains to be seen.
Finally, a word on Kyle Lowry. He has been one of my favorite Raptors as I have a thing for PGs (long-time readers may recall my love for T.J Ford). Lowry has learned to harness himself, be less erratic and more responsible, and is truly a team player. The myth that he’s a “shoot first” point guard is one that is wildly exaggerated. He may not average 10 assists a game but he is a solid NBA player that can be useful to any team because he has multiple strengths including defense, three-point shooting, and ball-handling,
He does have a bit of an issue when it comes to being hedged beyond the three-point line. Every time the defense traps him, as was the case against Washington, he is pushed too far out and is unable to release the ball so that the team can take advantage of the disproportion everywhere else on the court. Lowry does tend to pick up the dribble prematurely and it’s partially because there aren’t enough designed options to get him out of trouble in those situation. You might make a case that it’s up to the point guard to negotiate those situations (e.g., Tony Parker, Stephen Curry), but I’d argue that on a team like the Raptors, this is where coaching needs to kick in. The Raptors need to be able to respond to these situations, for example by a big coming out and relieving pressure, another big flashing in the post to receive the ball and wing-cutters that pose threats. I’m brainstorming here, but you get the idea – we can’t let Kyle Lowry waste away precious seconds when he’s trapped. There needs to be a plan that takes a negative situation (Lowry being trapped) into a positive outcome (advantage in numbers elsewhere on the court) and it’s on Dwane Casey to come up with it.
So yeah, that’s what I was thinking while watching the Washington game.
The Nets desperately need to get healthy. Coach Jason Kidd has had to use five different starting lineups. Joe Johnson is the only Net to have started every game. “Obviously we didn’t expect for Brook and Deron to be out together, two of our main pieces,” Johnson said. “Man, it’s definitely hurt us. But we’ve got to try to do something to get some wins before those guys get back. We can’t wait.”
“Believe me, Brooklyn’s going to be OK. They’re going to bounce back. I don’t see anything that has anything to do with coaching. It’s just injuries right now, guys learning to play with each other, it’s only 13 games into the season,” Casey said after practice Monday. “I just hope they don’t get it together (Tuesday). They’re a dangerous team, they have veterans who have won multiple championships so you can’t sneeze at that. Everyone’s overreacting and coaching is the easiest target you can throw stuff at. It’s not coaching, Jason will be OK.”
Click to listen
But lately, under the direction of point guard Kyle Lowry, the Raptors have started to show signs of a functional offence that actually shares the ball. The have had 20 or more assists in each of the last two wins, and Lowry in particular (although he would never admit it) seems to have heard the howls about his responsibility to run the team. In his last five games, he has had 43 assists with only seven turnovers, and he currently sits third in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio. There will always be questions about a coach and his rotations, but as a former bench boss once said: “A coach always has options and the only reason his options are questioned is because they don’t succeed. If the fan at home can see them, don’t you think an NBA coach can?”
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Over the last few months, I’ve become something of an unintentional advocate for the Toronto Raptors not tanking. While I’m not particularly dogmatic about it (for me it’s more about circumstance than ideology), as the season wears on I become increasingly compelled by the idea of trying to turn this team into something more potent today that won’t unduly hamper the club’s future after this season.
There are two areas of dysfunction that I believe are severely holding the Raptors back right now, and that is pick-and-roll play and Rudy Gay’s shot selection.
The former is an area that actually has significant ramifications on today and tomorrow. The Raptors simply do not run enough pick-and-roll action to get Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson involved in the team’s offensive sets, which is having a huge impact on their ability to run an efficient offence. Valanciunas is, oddly, being used exclusively in post-up situations or on pump-fake-and-drive isolations, while Johnson’s being forced to feed himself on tip-ins and long-range jump shots. These are two of the team’s most efficient offensive players when used correctly, yet right now both are being abandoned systematically in order to focus on isolation play by the club’s perimeter players.
While this is more of an irritation when talking about Johnson, it’s actually a problem when talking about Valanciunas. This guy is being pegged as the team’s future. To all of those that feel that the Raptors need to tank to get an A1 kind of star to Toronto, there are plenty within the organization that feel they already have that in Valanciunas. However, right now he is being treated like an afterthought out on the court rather than an integral cog that is key to the team’s present and future success.
That’s why bringing in a pick-and-roll point guard is so important for this team going forward. Kyle Lowry is having a perfectly fine year. He’s a bit off of his per-36 minute averages from a season ago, but his usage rate has also dropped to it’s lowest point since his rookie year, so that helps account for the drop-off in statistical production. Still, at his best Lowry is far more of a driver that looks for his own offence rather than a pick-and-roll tactician. He can run a pick-and-roll, don’t get me wrong, but you cannot base an offence around his ability to run effective and deadly pick-and-rolls dozens of times per game. That would not only be a strain on Lowry’s creativity as a playmaker, but it would also box him into a role that doesn’t exploit his greatest strengths. Plus, since the Raptors aren’t exactly making use of his entire repertoire of assets right now, anyway (look back at that low usage rate), it’s not exactly like they’d be losing an irreplaceable player if they were to decide to recast their starting point guard role.
Of course, you cannot all of a sudden bring in a new point guard and run dozens of pick-and-rolls with Valanciunas and Johnson each game if you still have Rudy Gay eating 19.4 shots per contest (most on the club and third-most in the NBA). Watching Gay on offence is like hopping into a time machine and being warped back to the NBA circa the year 2000. His refusal to work for good shots (for himself or for his teammates) is truly awe-inspiring. Worse still are his momentum-killing catches where he just stands there with the ball in his hands while the entire offensive machine comes to a halt to wait for him to make a decision. Then there is how shockingly careless he is with the ball… actually, you need a lot more than one paragraph to fully encapsulate the damage that Gay does to Toronto’s offence so let’s suffice it to say that 19.4 FGA per game set against a .467 True Shooting Percentage and 2.1 assists per game is not a workable combination for a healthy NBA offence.
To that end Ujiri has to get out from under Gay and his style of play. This isn’t even about his contract (well, it’s a little bit about his contract, but everything is when you make more than twice what your next highest paid teammate makes), this is about the Raptors designing an offense that puts the ball into the hands of their most effective players, one, and most important players for the future, two.
It’s not that Valanciunas has to receive all 19.4 of Gay’s shots, that would be preposterous. At this point, however, spreading those shots around to other players would almost instantaneously make the Raptors a more efficient offensive club, regardless of whom the team got to ultimately replace Gay at small forward.
Which brings us around to the question that most would people are probably asking at this point: okay, smart guy, who should the Raptors be chasing to make all these dreams come true?
I’m not going to play the trade machine game, here. I’ve got two names, don’t worry, and they are both ‘gettable’ and on realistic contracts, but I’m not going to go through the machinations of designing trade scenarios that could make them happen. Over the last few years I’ve been so consistently gobsmacked by the players that have been included in trades (even as cap ballasts or sweeteners) that I’m not going to bother guessing what they could be here because a) It just creates message board fodder and b) any real trade involves a greater depth of knowledge of a team’s future plans than anyone outside a team’s management has access to. So, for that reason I’m just going to throw out my names, justify them and then open myself up to a little Monday morning savaging.
The first up is Goran Dragic, Phoenix’s former point guard of the future before Eric Bledsoe arrived on the scene. Dragic is a skilled pick-and-roll point guard (partly tutored by one of the best to ever do it, Steve Nash) and it is only a matter of time before Phoenix sends him packing since the aforementioned Bledsoe has done enough early to ease any fears that he can be a real NBA starting point guard. He makes $7.5-million this year, next year and in 2015-16. Now, that’s not an onerous salary for a starting point guard (though it is for a secondary point guard, a role he plays in Phoenix), but it does limit one’s overall flexibility somewhat, and that is worth taking into account.
However, he’s just now entering his prime (he’s 27) and he plays a style that blends much better with Valanciunas, Johnson and even DeMar DeRozan if he can keep hitting that corner three. It’s a shame that his own three-point shot has disappeared from his game, and that’s a real sore point in today’s NBA, but so long as he can punish people with a pull-up in pick-and-roll situations to keep defences honest he’d be a fine asset in a revamped Raptors offence.
The other player is one that I think the Raptors should make a real push for, and that’s Luol Deng.
Deng is not a crazy exceptional player in any one regard, but he is as steady as a metronome and could really help increase the level of basketball maturity of the Raptors. He can hit open shots, play noteworthy defence, keep the ball moving on offence and act as the leader that this club still lacks on and off the court.
It’s actually that aspect that intrigues me most about Deng. Look at the credit David West is given within the Pacers organization for solidifying their recent resurgence and realize that at some point the Raptors will have to inject a similar level of maturity into their operation. That sort of dependable, veteran savvy from a guy that can still play and play at a high level (remember Deng is only 28, he has lots of basketball left in him) is something that the Raptors haven’t had since Antonio Davis was around (most will reflexively think of Charles Oakley, but Oakley was on a definite downward trend when he arrived in Toronto).
Now, exactly how gettable Deng is is debatable right now. With Derrick Rose out for the season you could argue that a one-year deal like the one possessed by Lowry might be a solid starting place for trade talks, but Deng is a Tom Thibodeau favourite and even if he’s a free agent at the end of the season that Chicago is hesitant to pay, there might be larger ramifications within the organization if he is sent packing. Plus, even though his contract is ending, his $14.3 million price tag is not the easiest to wedge into a trade.
Still, watching this Raptors team play you can see how badly they need that kind of steadying force. They need that key cog that won’t drive into double coverage and then shoot a pull-up jumper at a key moment in the game. Someone’s who’s play on the court demands a certain accountability by all of his teammates. It’s not like Deng (or someone like him) has to come in and dominate the ball club. They “simply” have to be a model of dependability, resilience and maturity, someone who shows his teammates with his preparation and play how a team achieves that next level of consistency. There is a reason Thibodeau plays Deng more minutes per game than any other player in the NBA; it’s because good things happen when he is on the court.
Yes, acquiring players like this takes the Raptors out of the running for Tankapalooza 2014. However, it doesn’t handcuff them financially in any significant way and they can use pieces like these to improve their play internally while climbing another wrung on the ladder. If you subscribe to the theory that the Raptors could actually get bad enough to have a real, serious chance at landing a top pick, then none of this can (or should) be the least bit appealing to you. If, on the other hand, you don’t see a clear path to a top pick next spring, then taking calculated steps towards being a little bit better tomorrow than the club is today makes sense – especially with the East being as putrid as it is this season. I’m not advocating that the Raptors make these moves so as not to tank, I’m just saying that I don’t think tanking is a realistic option and so here is one possible alternative to act as a stand in.
After winning against the Washington Wizards on Friday night, the Toronto Raptors sit with a 6-7 record atop the Atlantic Division. They have the sixth best record in the East and if the playoffs started today, they would be the fourth seed. Great news, right? Well, it depends on how you look at it.
Sure, there are a lot of Raptor fans that just want to enjoy the team’s success and hope for the best. But ignoring the realities of the situation is only going to lead to disappointment down the line. If you’re the type of fan that just wants happy thoughts, then read no further. You’ve been warned.
Back before the start of the season, all the writers at Raptors Republic were asked to make a bold prediction. Mine was that the Raptors would start the season 6-14. Considering they’ve already reached the 6 win mark, it’s safe to say my prediction is going to be a little off.
Making predictions is always a tricky game because there are always so many variables. And there was one variable that I completely miscalculated. And that’s just how bad the rest of the Eastern Conference was going to be.
- Currently, there are only five teams at or above .500 in the East (and one of them is Charlotte!!!), as compared to twelve in the West.
- The Bulls, who have the fourth best record in the East would just sneak into the playoffs in the West, as an 8th seed, if they were held today. And that’s just because Minnesota lost against Houston last night.
- The Raptors would have the third WORST record in the West, as opposed to having the sixth best record in the East.
The reason for this disparity would take up an entire column.
So what does all this really mean?
The East may look bad, with their poor records, but they’re actually even worse than they appear. Why? Because their records are inflated due to playing one another.
Let’s look how the all the Eastern Conference teams did against their own conference and against the West.
Record against East vs West
Indiana: 10-1 / 2-0
Miami: 8-3 / 2-0
Atlanta: 7-3 / 1-3
Toronto: 4-5 / 2-2
Chicago: 5-3 / 1-2
Charlotte: 6-4 / 0-3
Philadelphia: 5-5 / 1-4
Orlando: 2-6 / 2-2
Detroit: 3-3 / 1-5
Washington: 4-5 / 1-3
Cleveland: 3-7 / 1-4
Boston: 4-5 / 1-5
New York: 3-6 / 0-3
Brooklyn: 1-5 / 2-4
Milwaukee: 2-6 / 0-3
Totals: 67-67 / 17-41
Against their own Conference, the East teams were .500, which is basically what you should expect. Against the West, though, the East’s winning percentage is .293. Over the course of an 82 game season, that’s equivalent to just 24 wins. That’s horrible.
And, conversely, the West is feasting on the bad teams in the East. Portland is playing well, yes, but their 12-2 record is definitely helped by having played more games against Eastern teams than anyone else in the West. While their record is a very good 6-2 against their own Conference, they’ve gone 6-0 against the East.
Dallas is a .500 team against their own conference, but 5-1 against the East.
Six teams in the West have a perfect record against the East, so far. Only two in the East have a perfect record against the West. Try and guess which ones they are.
So while the Raptors have a 6-7 record, they also haven’t beaten a team that has been above .500 (Memphis went on a winning streak after losing against Toronto). In the East, though, they won’t have to face a whole lot of teams above .500. The Raptors aren’t a bad team, but they’re also not a good one, either. And they’re not even as good as their mediocre record (or their place in the Atlantic Division) might indicate.
Of course, team records aren’t everything. What is happening on the floor is more important, right?
Well, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the Raptor’s offense has been pretty poor. Much has been made about the Raptors being last in the league in assists per game (now 29th, slightly ahead of Boston). There are only three teams in the bottom 15 in assists that are above .500. And obviously, only three teams in the top 15 in assists are below .500. That kind of highlights the importance of passing.
Of course, if they weren’t such poor shooters, the team might get more assists. The Raptors are 26th in the league in effective field goal percentage. Among the bottom 15 teams in effective field goal percentage, again, only three are above .500.
And the problem with the Raptors is they seem to be equally bad from everywhere. They have the 6th worst shooting percentage within five feet (although take the 6th most shots from that range), the 11th worst from five to nine feet, the 6th worst from 10-14 feet, the 9th worst fifteen to nineteen feet and the 10th worst beyond that. Basically, they suck shooting from everywhere.
You want to know one of the only stats they actually do well in? Offensive rebounding.
So while Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan get most of the attention for their scoring, if it wasn’t for Tyler Hansbrough, Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson grabbing all the offensive boards, the Raptors wouldn’t have near the record they do.
Much has been said about DeMar DeRozan’s improvement this year, scoring a career high 21.2 points per game and being a more dangerous scorer. But, again, looking more closely gives you a bit of a different view. While DeRozan’s scoring has improved, he’s only scoring efficiently when comparing him to his teammate, Rudy Gay. He’s still taking most of his shots from the 15-19 foot range, and shooting poorly from that distance. In fact, he takes more shots from beyond 15 feet than from inside 15 feet.
The main reason DeRozan is able to score as much as he does is because he he takes the 6th most shots in the entire league (Rudy is 3rd). Yet he’s 16th in the league in scoring. Ten more players in the league score more than DeRozan while taking fewer shots.
Not only is his offense not as good as it seems, he’s also still below average rebounding and passing the ball, and his defense is still below average. Clearly, the idea that DeRozan has taken a major step towards stardom is being overstated.
To make matters worse, the player who most hoped would make the biggest developmental leap, and who many pinned the hopes for the future of the franchise on, Jonas Valanciunas, has not only not improved over last season, but actually regressed. He’s scoring at a lower rate and much less efficiently than last year. His assist percentage has declined as has his block percentage. The only area he seems to improved in is rebounding.
And Valanciunas is still struggling defensively, which is one of the reasons he’s playing as little as he is.
Even Amir Johnson is having an off year, with a career low rebounding percentage.
Too few of the high usage players on this team actually make their teammates better. And it’s hurting the development of many of the young players.
Of course, the defense, which saw so much improvement two years ago, seems to be back to acceptable levels. They have the 8th best Defensive Rating in the league, and are 7th best in Points Against.
The problem, however, is that a lot of the improvement has been caused by simply slowing the pace down to a crawl (26th in the league), instead of actually being good defensively. There have been many teams that have hidden their lack of talent by slowing games down, which limits possessions and gives the less talented teams more of a chance to win.
Most Raptor fans will remember the Kevin O’Neal days. He did the same thing.
It’s not that the Raptors are bad defensively, but they’re not as good as they appear.
While the team has been bad offensively and fairly mediocre defensively, there’s always the prospect of improvement, right? We’ve already seen signs of some improvement recently, with back-to-back wins. The team seems to be passing more and the offense doesn’t make you want to gouge your eyes out, at least part of the time.
There certainly is the possibility for improvement, but there are two problems with that.
The first is why would there be improvement in the first place. The starting five played together for half a season already (plus this season). This isn’t Brooklyn or Detroit or Cleveland or one of the many other teams around the league that has multiple new players in the starting lineup that have to get used to playing with one another.
These are the same players with the same coach as last season. There really shouldn’t be much adjustment here.
There’s also the issue of these other teams, who should also improve. There are eight teams in the Eastern Conference that have at least two new starters in the lineup, and most of those also have new coaches. The teams that tend to make the biggest improvement throughout the season are typically teams that had to become familiar with one another.
It’s not just the present that the team is not quite in as good a position as it initially appears. I’ve always felt that Rudy Gay opting out next summer is a likely scenario, despite the fact that it’s unlikely he’ll make what he’s scheduled to make next year if he doesn’t opt out. There are simply too many teams scheduled to have cap room next summer, and too few top tier free agents. They’ll be so many teams with cap room desperate to make a splash, that Gay will probably be overpaid (again) despite his inability to fulfill his potential.
What’s worse, losing Gay for nothing or re-signing him for $14 million a season, for the next five years?
But Gay not opting out might be an even worse scenario. If Gay doesn’t opt out, then that might make re-signing Lowry a difficult proposition. In a sellers market, Lowry is likely to get 8 digit offers, which, after the draft, would put the Raptors perilously close to the luxury tax, if not into it. Would ownership really want to pay the luxury tax on a team that’s as mediocre as the Raptors?
There’s also a fair chance that both Gay AND Lowry could end up leaving for nothing, next summer. Neither player was drafted by the Raptors, and neither will have been with the team for more than two years. There will likely be greener pastures elsewhere and it’s difficult to see a reason to remain loyal to a team that doesn’t appear to have a bright future (at the moment) unless they end up offering more money than anyone else.
And that’s not good for the future of the franchise.
Scheduled for post-game coverage of last night’s Raptors/Wiz clash, I wanted to do something a little different than just blasting out some analysis. Thinking through my options, there were four factors that ended up making up my mind for me:
a) the Toronto Raptors somehow led the Atlantic for the first time in SIX years (at 5 and 7, no less),
b) My roommate was out of town and I had the TV/PVR to myself,
c) I had absolutely no plans on a Friday night,
d) I didn’t have the energy nor the brainpower to think up my own unique column idea.
All of this brought about the proverbial perfect storm for a blatant rip-off of a classic Bill Simmons column gimmick: the running diary. So excuse me for a second while I channel my inner Simmons:
Will the Raps pull within a game of .500 and strengthen their division lead? Will the impressive passing and long-range shooting we saw in Philly continue? How many times will commentators say “division-leading Toronto Raptors?”
Well, if you’re reading this, you probably know the answers to the first two questions (here’s William’s quick reax and player grades from last night). But, in any case, read on for number three:
7:02 EST: TSN2’s broadcast opens with Gurdeep Ahluwalia stumbling over his “division leading Toronto Raptors” line. He sounds about as flabbergasted as Renata Ford looked on stage during Rob’s press conference (alright, got it out of my system. No more Rob Ford references. Promise). “Division leading Toronto Raptors” count is now at 1.
7:04: Matt and Jack talk about Rudy Gay’s passing. Shockingly, they have enough footage to fill a minute-long highlight reel. I kid, I kid – but one game does not a new trend make. We’ll see what happens tonight.
7:08: Side note: I love the fact that we finally have a national sports commentator named “Gurdeep.” It’s about damn time. Gurdeeps of the world, unite!
7:11: Marcin Gortat beats JV on the tip. “Division leading Toronto Raptors” count is now at 3. Solid start.
7:12: Amir Johnson starts off the Raptor O with a huge dunk off some nice passing by Rudy and DeMar. Rudy Gay: making me eat my words since… eight minutes ago.
7:14: Nene’s already hit two jumpers from the elbow. Jonas, I hope you’re taking notes. Raptors up early and the unselfish play from Wednesday seems to have continued – I’m really liking the ball movement on the offensive end.
7:16: Jonas gets his first points of the night on a pretty jump hook over Marcin Gortat. Both teams are really clicking offensively so far: it’s 11-11 after just four minutes.
7:19: A 6-0 Raptor run leads to Washington’s first timeout. I’m really impressed with the Raptor passing – the drive-and-dish game is working much better than iso ball, to the surprise of absolutely nobody who watches this team/basketball in general. Raps lead 19-14 halfway through the first and Washington’s only staying in it due to some great long-range shooting.
7:21: A Rudy Gay iso possession leads to a) no shot attempt and b) a fast-break Washington layup. Well, it was fun while it lasted.
7:24: A quick Wizards run has them up 24-21. Jack Armstrong is harping on the Raps’ D, but it seems like Washington’s just making a lot of really tough shots, for the most part.
7:25: Rudy Gay goes iso again, and is promptly subbed out for Steve Novak. Hey, maybe Dwayne Casey reads RR!
7:26: A huge weak side block by DeMar leads to a Raptor fast break, which leads to an absolutely ridiculous 360 layup attempt/offensive foul. That sequence perfectly personified the 2013/2014 Raptor motto: “one for you, one for me.”
7:29: The Raptor five of Lowry/DD/Novak/Amir/Hansbrough is torching Washington’s second unit on both ends of the floor, and the Raptors have opened up a four-point lead. I suppose when Jan Vesely’s your first player off the bench, you’ll take that most nights.
7:31: Amir Johnson gets called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim, which leads to a long discussion by Matt and Jack about whether or not LeBron would have gotten the same call. The answer, of course: nobody cares. Don’t hang on the rim.
7:34: First quarter is over, and the Raptors lead 32-27. Goofy 360 attempt aside, DeMar DeRozan was clearly the Raptor star – the stats say he thrives as the primary scoring option with Gay off the floor, and the eye test proves it. Really, really impressive. The D’s been better than the score suggests, too, besides giving up some early open looks to the Wizard guards.
7:36: The second quarter begins with Julyan Stone getting his chance to seize (actually, seize is too strong a word – let’s say “not totally obliterate”) the backup point guard spot. My Dad, who is in Toronto from Yellowknife and happens to be at the game, texts me: “Who is 77?”
7:37: Sounds like Dwight Buycks isn’t playing tonight for personal reasons – I’m assuming it has something to do with his father’s recent passing. Thoughts and prayers to the Buycks family from all of RR.
7:38: Tyler Hansbrough starts the quarter with two baskets inside off nice post-moves. My Dad, again: “Guy that is good to watch is Hansbrough. He understands what to do.” Yes. Yes he does.
7:40: Jan Vesely airballs a lay-up. The Raptor bench has pushed the lead to 11. These two things are definitely related.
7:42: Jonas, who’s re-entered the game, misses a wide open 15-footer, his second tonight. I’m happy to see him shooting those, but it’s still definitely a work in progress.
7:45: Rudy Gay’s back in the game. In the two possessions since, he’s missed a long, contested two and lost the ball in a double team. Does anyone else think #tanknation and #tradeRudy nation might be at odds with one another at this point?
7:45: My Dad: “Rudy sucks!!!” It’s not THAT simple, but I definitely understand your point, Dad.
7:47: In all seriousness, it’s shocking how different it’s been watching the Raptor second unit + Rudy and the Raptor second unit + DeMar. Part of that has to do with the opposing team’s defense sending a second guy Gay’s way, but he’s got to learn to – and want to – pass out of those double-teams to find the open man. The Raptor offence has slowed to a crawl at this point – luckily, Washington’s has too. 40-31 Toronto, halfway through the second.
7:49: Rudy, again making me eat my words, makes two gorgeous passes out of double-teams on two straight possessions – unfortunately, one leads to a missed open shot attempt by Lowry and Jonas is blocked on the other. Maybe he plays this much 1-on-1 for a reason.
7:54: The Raptors advertise a “girls only clinic with Terrence Ross.” Mothers, lock up your daughters!
7:56: Boos coming from the crowd off a missed Rudy Gay jumper. That’s never a good sign. On a side note, there’s a minute and a half left in the 2nd and the Wizards have only scored 6 points – the Raptors’ help defence has been really impressive this quarter. Washington can’t find the open looks they had in the first, and they can’t seem to generate anything one-on-one. Also, Washington really, really needs John Wall or Brad Beal on the floor to score.
8:00: Terrence Ross gets beaten on two straight defensive possessions to end the quarter – he’s definitely improving on that end, but when the other team gets a step on him, it looks BAD. The first half’s over, though, and the Raps lead by thirteen, 51-38. DeMar’s looked like a star on the offensive end, and Psycho-T and Amir Johnson have both been impressive as well. “Division leading Toronto Raptors” count is only at 5. Step it up, Jack Armstrong.
8:11: During “Fast Break,” Leo Rautins takes the Vince Carter/Dwight Howard “CryBabyGate” saga as a chance to call Vince a wimp himself. We tackle the hard issues here on TSN2.
8:13: Leo, dissecting the Knicks’ poor start: “Andrea Bargnani, is Andrea Bargnani!” He’s on a roll here. I can only assume we’re in for a Rafael Araujo diss next.
8:16: Assistant coach Jesse Mermuys lets it slip that Rudy’s feeling “a little under the weather.” Now, this is just what I’ve heard on through the grapevine, but apparently he’s come down with Jason Territis.
8:18: DeRozan starts off the third with two questionable attempts early in the shot-clock. Apparently Jason Territis is contagious.
8:20: Jonas gets blocked again off a nice hand-off by Rudy Gay. He’s really having trouble getting off offensively against the Gortat/Nene front line, even though he’s gotten his fair share of touches. It’s been said on here a lot, but adding an element of unpredictability to his offensive game will be the next big step in his development.
8:23: Washington starts the quarter on an 8-2 run and the Raptors call timeout. The whole team, save Lowry, has come out flat early in the quarter – the Wizards seem to be scoring at will on the pick and roll. Score’s now 53-46, Raps.
8:26: The Wiz have started to double-team DeMar on every possession, smartly. Rudy Gay’s current thoughts: “time to make Garrett eat his words, AGAIN.”
8:27: Coming out of the timeout, two Raptor turnovers trim the lead to just three. All of a sudden, the passing on offense looks forced instead of flowing, the turnovers are coming, and Washington is not a team you want to face in transition. It’s looking like Randy Wittman’s made some smart adjustments at halftime, and now it’s up to Casey to adjust back/bust out his magic 8-ball and ask for advice.
8:28: Even with the Raptors struggling on offence, Kyle Lowry is absolutely threading needles out there. He just hit Jonas for a dunk through a space smaller than a plate of Oliver Miller leftovers.
8:28: Speaking of leftovers, apparently the Raps talk strategy around the dinner table when they visit each other’s hometowns. How many shots do you think the team did at Rudy’s place?
8:28: OK, that last one was terrible. My apologies.
8:32: John Wall ties the game at 57 with an unbelievable reverse layup. He’s got 11 in the quarter and may or may not have just burst into flames.
8:33: Wall comes right back with an and-1 layup around Lowry to give the Wizards the lead. He’s officially in Landry Fields’ girlfriend territory.
8:34: Wall hits again. I don’t know how to explain how hot he is right now, except that it’s somehow involved in the answer to “could Jesus microwave a burrito so hot that he himself could not eat it?”
8:35: Jan Vesely gets his own rebound twice, misses thrice.
8:42: Kevin Seraphin just banked a DeMar shot attempt into his own hoop off his shoulder. Hey, you have to get the bench going somehow.
8:44: Eric Maynor gets in on the action and pushes the Washington lead to six. Takeaway from this quarter: the Wizards shoot a LOT of long two-pointers. As Raptor fans know, when you’ve got a couple guys on at the same time, or even one, like the white-hot Wall, it can sure be fun to watch. That’s certainly been a reason for the huge turnaround, but another big part of it is the Raptors’ sputtering O – it appears their strategy to the Wiz double-teaming DeMar and jumping passing lanes was to revert back to classic Raptor hero-ball. Dwayne Casey, ladies and gentlemen!
8:46: The third quarter mercifully comes to an end. Washington leads 70-66 after a quarter than can best be described as a) John Wall and b) this. The Raps shot 22.2% in the third. Yipes.
8:49: We begin the fourth with a Lowry/Ross/Novak/Gay/Johnson five for Toronto. One thing I’ll say I’m surprised about is that we haven’t seen that Lowry/DD/Novak/Amir/Hansbrough line that seemed to work so well early – I’m not saying that any of the other players are individually at fault for the team losing the lead, but when a group is clicking that well together, you might want to get them back on the floor at some point.
8:51: DJ Augustin checks in to give Lowry a blow and promptly hits a 3 – his first of the season – to give the Raptors the lead. I don’t know how to feel just now.
8:55: Amir Johnson finds a slashing Terrence Ross on the baseline for a wide-open dunk – the Raptors are now back up by 3. Gorgeous, gorgeous pass by Amir, but this Wizard bench sure is bad. The Wiz call timeout to get John Wall in quicker than your average Austin Daye sighting.
8:56: Augustin finds Jonas on a gorgeous drive and dish and the Raptors are back in control. You’ve got to hand it to him tonight – his number was called, and he’s producing. I’m shuddering to think of what John Wall might do to him on the other end, though.
8:57: RUDY GAY! He just came through with a gorgeous spin move and a massive block on what looked like a wide-open Nene layup. #KeepRudy #MrFourthQuarter #allisforgiven
8:58: And Rudy is subbed out for DeMar. What do I know.
9:00: An Augustin drive-and-kick leads to a clean Terrence Ross 3 and a ten-point Raptor lead. Did somebody tell him it was 2011? Did he find Michael’s secret stuff? What the heck is happening?
9:03: DeMar’s really been neutralized in the second half on offense after the Wizards started keying on him. That, combined with his troubles staying in front of Brad Beal, is bringing him back to Earth a bit from his huge start. I really don’t like it when he forces plays – when he’s playing well, you forget about that. But when he’s not, he does. A lot.
9:05: A couple of Wall free throws cut the lead back to four and Kyle Lowry subs back in. Word is that DJ Augustin has headed straight out of the building and is en-route to the nearest casino. What a game for him.
9:06: I should mention that there’s four minutes left in the game and Rudy Gay is still on the bench. Read into that what you will.
9:08: Steve Novak attempts to draw a charge on Brad Beal but ends up giving up the and-1 to cut the deficit to 3. I honestly can’t understand why he’s still in the game, given that he hasn’t contributed offensively and Rudy (and Amir) are still sitting on the bench. Questionable sub patterns by Casey.
9:09: And Novak comes out for Rudy. Hey, sometimes I do know what I’m talking about!
9:10: Rudy promptly hits a gorgeous turnaround jumper over a double team to stop the bleeding. I forgot to mention that one of the symptoms of Jason Territis is being unstoppable in the fourth.
9:14: With a minute and a half to go and the Raps up 6, John Wall is fouled, makes one of two, gets his own rebound, and knocks down a three. Two point game. It’s hard to type out Matt Devlin’s call, but here’s my best attempt: “Ball comes out, Wall, with a three….. GUBLUGHUGH!”
9:15: King Rudy responds with a gorgeous jumper. Has an NBA player ever been paid 19 million to just play the fourth? Should we make history?
9:17: Bradley Beal misses a 3, and with 17 seconds left and the Raptors up 6, it’s all over but the free throws. Raps improve to 6 and 7 on the season, with the Brooklyn Nets coming to town Tuesday. The only thing left to wonder about now is how much Jack and Matt can improve on the dismal “division leading Toronto Raptors” count by the end of the broadcast – they’re currently stuck at an embarrassing 5. The one night I do a running diary and I need them to be homers…
9:19: Quincy Acy looks like a slim, black Big Show in his off-day suit. In a good way. I realize how confusing that statement is.
9:24: It’s honestly incredible how quickly the ACC clears out after a game. I can’t be the only one who notices this. One commercial break is all it takes.
9:26: I just realized how ridiculous watching the post-game coverage while waiting for that sound bite is. Channel changed. Thanks for nothing, Matt and Jack.
This column’s already over 2,500 words, so I’ll keep this brief: the Raptors played three excellent quarters tonight around one awful one. For the most part, I was impressed with their passing – they ended up with 22 assists on 37 field goals – and it’s certainly a promising signal that the Philly performance was indicative of a change in philosophy and not just the team deciding to turn it up for one game. All in all, managing to come back and re-take control of the game against a superstar-calibre player in John Wall who was going OFF is certainly a good sign for the few Raptor fans who want to see this core take their best shot at the playoffs. One of the Raptors’ best efforts of the season, and we’ll see how real this apparent change in offensive philosophy is with their next few games, with Brooklyn, Miami, and Golden State on the schedule.
Raptors cough up the lead in the third, but unlikely heros fend off Wall’s absurd night to secure the victory for the Atlantic Division leading Raptors
Amir Johnson, PF 25 MIN | 7-8 FG | 0-1 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | +22Brought the energy on both ends. Caught some great passes from Lowry and slammed home a couple of alley-oops. Had to sit because of foul trouble, but when he played, he was effective. Rudy Gay, SF 31 MIN | 6-16 FG | 5-6 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 4 BLK | 3 TO | 17 PTS | +2Gay had a really tough time dealing with double-teams from the Wizards, failing to make the right pass a lot of the time, or simply making them too late, and saw his minutes slashed as a result. Hit some key shots in the fourth quarter and clinched the win for the Raptors. Had a couple of blocks that made Jack squeal “get that garbage outta here” Jonas Valanciunas, C 37 MIN | 5-14 FG | 1-2 FT | 13 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -7Struggled mightily to defend Nene, but did a nice job on Gortat (who is slower). Got blocked a bunch in tonight’s game, including twice on one possession, but he was tenacious. Worked really hard and got rewarded with lots of looks. Kyle Lowry, PG 36 MIN | 4-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 9 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 12 PTS | -2Amazing game from Lowry. Great passes, solid defense and money from deep. You really couldn’t ask for more. Don’t be fooled by Wall’s outburst; his defense was solid. the gameplan with Wall is always to force him to shoot jumpers, and Lowry did that. DeMar DeRozan, SG 37 MIN | 7-14 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 17 PTS | -7Also faced double teams from the Wizards, and he was also slow to pass out of them. Hit his usual assortment of shots. Lost Beal on defense a whole bunch. Luckily Beal just missed on a few of them, especially in the second half. Demar needs to do a better job fighting through screens. Tyler Hansbrough, PF 19 MIN | 2-5 FG | 4-6 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | -7I’m coining a new nickname for Hansbrought: Tyler HAMsbrough, because he was going haaard tonight. He has no touch around the basket, but it doesn’t really matter when he can grab all of the rebounds. Steve Novak, SF 19 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +15The Raptors really didn’t run a single play for him, which usually neutralizes Novak, but he hit a three right in Gortat’s eyes in the fourth which temporarily stopped the bleeding for Raptors. D.J. Augustin, PG 5 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | +6Good lord. If you’re ever going to remember a 5-minute stint from DJ Augustin, remember this one. He sunk a corner three, created a nice dunk for JV and did a little improvising to get Ross an open three with the shot-clock expiring. Really kept the Raptors afloat early in the fourth. He might have just won his backup point guard job back. Julyan Stone, SG 6 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +4Not great. Terrence Ross, SG 25 MIN | 4-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | +14When Ross’s shot is falling, and he’s still managing to get to the rim for highlight finishes, I am a fan. Unfortunately when the shot isn’t, he’s just a springy player who’s out of position a whole bunch on defense. He seems to have jumped over Fields for the first wing off the bench. Dwane Casey
I don’t want to rag on Casey everytime I do a quick reaction, but he made some really questionable calls in this game, and none more bone-headed than going zone with Novak at the four. Wizards dominated on the glass in the third and grabbed 5 offensive rebounds on 3 possessions with Novak in the interior. And here’s the rub; if you’re going to go small with Novak as your four, at least run a play for him. Not a great night for Casey.
Five Things We Saw
- When John Wall’s jumper is falling, he is a superstar point guard in this league. When it’s not, he’s just a whirling dervish that leaves you scampering to SportVU to check his maximum speed with the ball. His shot was falling and he single-handedly brought the Wizards back in this game.
- In a related note, after watching John Wall explode in the second half, 0% of Raptors fans who watched this game still have fingernails left.
- The Raptors’s offense fell apart in the third. They did such a nice job moving the ball in the first half (especially the first quarter), but the Wizards just doubled/trapped Gay and Demar whenever they got the ball. This blood-stained shot chart was the result.
- One more time for Kyle Lowry. His whole game was on display tonight. The nifty passes, the aggressive drives to the hoop, the three-pointer from the wing, the rebounding, the steals and the aggressive defense. Great game from Lowry.
- Gortat was 3/10 in this game with 6 points and 8 rebounds in 31 minutes played. They traded away their first round draft pick for him. Oh boy.
The Toronto Raptors host the Washington Wizards on Friday night at the Air Canada Centre. The Wizards come in at 4-7, just a hair shy of the Raptors’ 5-7 record.
Sorry, that’s your Division Leading Toronto Raptors (#DLTR), how dare I.
Blake answers Kyle’s Raptor questions
Kyle: The Raps are 5-7 and — hey, hey, hey! — currently ranked fourth in the East (because they lead the bad Atlantic Division; otherwise Toronto has the sixth best winning percentage in the East). So, what has gone right thus far, what has gone not so right?
Blake: The Raps are 5-7 and — hey, hey, hey! — currently ranked fourth in the East (because they lead the bad Atlantic Division; otherwise Toronto has the sixth best winning percentage in the East). So, what has gone right thus far, what has gone not so right?
It’s hard to say much has gone “right” at 5-7, but there are some bright spots – the Raptors have actually outscored opponents and they’ve played basically a neutral schedule, so projection systems like them. In reality, though, they’re an average offense and maybe an above-average defense, though certainly not an elite one. They’ve been excellent on the glass, which definitely helps, and have actually limited fouls to the league-average (they were the league’s most foul-prone team last year). Basically, they’ve made a lot of smaller improvements at the margins that have come at an opportune time.
As for what’s gone wrong, the ball remains very sticky on offense and it’s easy to exploit the wing defense with screen action.
Kyle:Rudy Gay Three-Parter! — Will he be dumb enough to opt out of getting paid $19 million next season? If he does, what type of market do you think exists for him (total contract dollars and years)? And do you see (/want) him as a Raptor long-term?
Blake: A) Yes, I believe he will be, but I’m in the minority. If he can get back to his ‘regular’ numbers, he’d have a four-year offer worth eight figures annually waiting. Tough to walk away from $19 million, but it’s risky to also leave $40 million and longer-term security on the table.
B) As I mentioned, it’s tough to see him not getting a four-year deal worth upwards of $40 million based on comparables.
C) No. He’s a fine player and is in the so-hated-he’s-underrated class, but his price tag at ages 28-32 wouldn’t make sense for a building team that already has one expensive wing with similar strengths and weaknesses.
Kyle: What unheralded Raptor might surprise the Wizards on Friday night? (And if you had to waive either Landry Fields or Steve Novak, who would it be?)
Blake: Terrence Ross. He struggled as a rookie and has been wildly inconsistent, but he’s starting to hit threes with regularity and it’s clear he’s learning the necessary defensive principles.
Kyle provides two hilarious Tyler Hansbrough-Jan Vesley GIFs
Main Event: Kyle answers Blake’s Wizards questions
Blake: The Wizards have a somewhat odd shot mix, in that they are among the league leaders in both midrange attempts and corner three attempts (the least and most efficient shots on the court, respectively). Are the Wizards generally a franchise that leans on analytics, or is it just a matter of this team being a heavy jump-shooting team and struggling to get into the paint?
Kyle: Head of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld is more of a traditionalist. Romanian sensibilities, New York raised, and schooled at the University of Tennessee with his buddy Bernard King, Grunfeld rests his laurels on gutting-out the see and smell test when it comes to player evaluation. Strange that, from 30,000 feet, Andray Blatche, Nick Young and JaVale McGee have provided much more value and NBA tenure than what is generally expected from their respective draft positions. But also, there are reasons why they slipped, and each helped set culture and basketball intelligence in Washington back by about three years.
That said, Grunfeld has long had stats guys on his staff (or has consulted with stats guys); the ones on the staff are getting promoted to more prominent positions, having consistently attended Sloan; and Washington was also one of the first NBA teams to install the SportVU cameras. Team owner Ted Leonsis, who took over in the summer of 2010, has brought an increased interest in statistical evaluation. But how much it currently predicates decision-making, who knows.
I think I’ve digressed from the main question. Yes, the Wizards are aiming to score tons and tons of points via the most efficient shot in the game, the corner 3 — they ranked fifth in made corner 3s last season (232), and second in percentage (45.6%) in the NBA. John Wall is one of the best at creating that shot and the Wizards have the likes of Martell Webster, Trevor Ariza (currently injured), Bradley Beal, and Al Harrington (currently injured) to knock ‘em down.
Midrange shots. Most come via Bradley Beal (93 attempts, 31.2%). Sometimes he is settling for midrange shots when he shouldn’t. Sometimes these shots can be Beal’s bread-and-butter when finding seams in the defense. Wall is next (66 attempts, 25.8%), and out of all those in the NBA who’ve taken 50 or more attempts from midrange, Wall shoots the worst by far (Alec Burks is next, 50 attempts, 30%). But, it’s a shot that defenses give Wall and sometimes he must have the confidence to take them if he’s ever going to improve. He just needs to do much better in deciding when to take them. Then you have Marcin Gortat (45 attempts, 33.3%), and Nene (39 attempts, 46.2%). Both bigs have decent touch and are certainly capable of hitting midrange shots. Gortat needs improvement, he hits them at a similar rate as DeMarcus Cousins and Toronto’s own Jonas Valanciunas. Nene hits them similar to Al Horford, Chris Kaman, and Roy Hibbert. After all the explanation, the Wizards still need to significantly cut down on attempts from midrange.
Blake: Sticking with shot location data, the Wizards give up the second highest opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area at 65.8 percent, but they’ve allowed the third fewest attempts there. Is this an early-season anomaly, or is there something specific at the root of this apparent disparity?
Kyle: The Wizards let teams paint rolling them in the early going of the season, specifically Detroit and Philadelphia in the first two games of the season–the Wiz gave up 130 points in the paint in total. Nene, Washington’s best big man defender, missing games two through four didn’t help, either. The main issue was that both John Wall and Bradley Beal, as well as most anyone off the bench in the backcourt, struggled in allowing dribble penetration. As far as the rate in which other teams finish in the paint, both Nene and Marcin Gortat are savvy veteran defenders in terms of spacing and awareness (Gortat closer to adequate), but once an opposing big man gets position close to the rim, they aren’t the best at stopping them.
Blake: We can’t stop John Wall, we can only hope to contain him. Shooting just 35.9 percent from the floor with a career-low 4.2 free throw attempts per game, how can the Raptors invite Wall into taking poor shots rather than attacking the rim?
Kyle: How to get Wall to take poor shots? Well, he’ll take some anyway without the Raptors having to do anything at all. But if Tortonto really wants to neutralize Wall, they’ll make shots and play transition like the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs, of course, rarely go for offensive rebounds, averaging the second lowest offensive rebound percentage in the NBA (20%). I see the Raptors have the second-highest offensive rebound percentage in the league at 30 percent. Which means they are going for them and going for them often. Which means doing such could really come back to claw them against Wall’s Wizards, who are averaging 19.3 fastbreak points per game, second most in the Association.
Normally I’d break this down further but this is already quite long and Kyle did a terrific job breaking down the Wizards, at both ends, in his responses.
If you caught me on a worse day, I’d say the Raptors won’t be disciplined enough to stay under screens and goad Wall into taking bad shots, or disciplined enough to stick on shooters in the corners (normally you can help from the weakside but, depending on the shooter, I’m not sure I’d do that against a team setting out for corner threes).
But it’s not a worse day, and I’ll give the troops the benefit of the doubt. Blind optimism! Homerism! Of course, most of you will say this is actually being anti-Raptors since it hurts the tank. Oh well.
Averages say: Raps by 2
Hollinger says: Raps by 7
Vegas says: Raps -4.5, 55% action on Toronto, 69% action on Over 192.5
The Rock says: It doesn’t matter
Blake says: Raptors by five, nearly coughing up a late lead.
Game time: 7 p.m. on TSN2, Air Canada Centre
The embattled point guard is fighting more than just a finger injury, he’s fighting the blind vitriol of an angry lynch mob.
I get it. I really do.
This team is 5-7, and as Zach Salzmann of RaptorsHQ pointed out, the Raptors are losing ugly. Rudy Gay and Demar Derozan are combining to use more almost 60% of Raptors possessions (and FYI, Gay is using more possessions than either Lebron or Durant), and the team has been much more successful with either, rather than both players on the court at the same time. Throw a pair of overtime losses, a gut-wrenching loss to the Bobcats (where Dwane Casey inexplicably forgot how math works), a spanking by the Bulls, and I can see why everyone is upset. I am too.
The fanbase is angry, we’re looking for someone/something to blame, and rightfully so because something is definitely wrong with this team. We’ve pointed the finger at Gay and Derozan for their high usage/low efficiency production. We’ve pointed the finger at Dwane Casey and his seemingly inept offensive system. We’ve pointed the finger at the lack of ball movement (30th in the NBA in assist/game). We’ve pointed a finger at the barren wasteland that is the Raptors’ bench.
But now a portion of the fanbase, enveloped and blinded by sheer frustration, has started to point the finger at Kyle Lowry, citing that he can’t or won’t pass, and for that they’ve gone too far.
It’s one thing to criticize Lowry because he’s far from perfect (synonym: Chris Paul). He’s not a good shooter from the outside, his reckless play-style leads to him being injury prone and he has a penchant for playing hero-ball in the clutch which usually manifests in him launching an ill-advised three-pointer in transition. If you want to criticize Lowry, there’s plenty of kindling lying around waiting for your fire to burn.
It’s also fine if you want to Ujiri to trade away Lowry. If you’re in favor of tanking, trading Lowry would be easily the most viable, and the most effective way to sink the season. Even if you’re not a proponent of tanking, there’s also some sense in trading Lowry to recoup some of the value in his expiring contract.
However, it’s another thing to fabricate criticisms of Kyle Lowry that are simply untrue – claims like “Lowry can’t/won’t pass”.
Let’s first throw out Lowry’s boxscore numbers, which is probably what’s angering the fans. At this current time of writing (right after the Philly game), Lowry is averaging an rather pedestrian 12.4 points, 6.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 35.5 minutes per game. He’s shooting 38.1%/37.3%/68.3% which translates to an ugly 51.7 TS% (still 2 percentage points higher than both Demar and Rudy). Those numbers don’t exactly jump off the page.
However there are plenty of contextual factors to consider. First, Lowry suffered a finger injury in the preseason and he’s been wearing a splint on his non-shooting hand, which is likely affecting his shooting, as evidenced by his uncharacteristically low free-throw percentage (67% this season, 80% last season, career 78%). Second, his role in the offense has been nearly marginalized. His usage rate (% of possessions used while he’s on the court) this season is 17.1%, which is the lowest it has ever been outside of his rookie season. Lastly, with only 12 games played this season, there’s always the caveat of small-sample size that needs to be heeded.
If you’d like to criticize Lowry for his shooting, be my guest. But let’s focus on his passing, of which he is (wrongfully) receiving the most criticism and derision.
By whatever assist metric you want to use – be it assists per game, assists per 36 minutes, assist% – Lowry’s assist numbers aren’t spectacular, but they’re far from awful. He’s currently averaging 6.3 assists per game which ranks 14th in the NBA. He drops to 18th in assists per 36 minutes, which is right in-line with his assist% (also 18th). However, I personally think that his assist numbers are actually a bit deflated.
Lowry is definitely moving the ball. Lowry is currently averaging 67.6 passes per game, which is the sixth highest mark in the NBA ahead of players like Damian Lillard, Mike Conley, Derrick Rose, Tony Parker etc.
So why are the assists down? Perhaps his teammates just aren’t shooting? After all, you can’t record an assist if nobody is shooting. Well that’s quite possible because despite making so many passes, Lowry’s teammates are only shooting 11.7 times per game after receiving a pass from Lowry, which ranks 19th in the NBA.
Okay, so maybe Lowry just isn’t generating good looks for his teammates and they’re opting to not shoot, an admittedly hilarious proposition given that Lowry spends the majority of the time playing with and passing to two shot-happy wing players. This could be true, but Lowry is still averaging the 14th highest assists per opportunity (number of assists per assist opportunity, ie: someone shoots after a pass from Lowry), a mark higher than guys like Jeff Teague, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook, which suggests that the chances he creates aren’t bad because when his teammates do shoot, they’re making them at a pretty decent clip.
So maybe…he’s just a different player? I doubt that too. The chart below shows a comparison of his play-type usage (from Synergy Sports) between this season, and last season. He’s playing less in isolation, and he’s shooting a tad less in the pick and roll, while shooting a little more in spot-up scenarios, but aside from these incremental differences, does he look any different to you?
But all this pandering around SportVU and Synergy Sport information is a bit like the blind-man and the elephant, and the two elephants in the room (I know I’m mixing two analogies), are undoubtedly the poor shooting by the wing players, and the Raptors’ glacial pace.
Whether by coaching design, or by choice, Lowry is making most of his passes to Demar and Rudy, who are both shooting at career worst rates. In order for Lowry to get an assist, somebody has to make a shot, and Gay and Derozan are struggling with that whole “putting the ball in the basket” thing right now (although Demar is really starting to turn that around).
And then there’s the issue with pace. A higher pace means more possessions, which means more opportunities to generate shots/assists/rebounds, whatever. Currently, the Raptors are 28th in pace, which means Lowry, and the Raptors as a whole, have less chances to put up assists. After adjusting for pace, Lowry’s pace-neutral average of 6.4 assists per game is right in line with his averages over the last three seasons (6.4, 6.5, 6.5).
So what we’re seeing is the same Kyle Lowry – a player who isn’t necessarily pass-first, but is still a very capable passer. He’ll never average double-digit assists per game, but he’s more than capable of running an offense.
Is he Jose Calderon? No he is not. He doesn’t have Calderon’s intuitive sense of timing and spacing in the pick and roll, the very same senses that allowed him to find Amir Johnson rolling down the lane for thundering dunks. But Calderon doesn’t have Lowry’s ability to attack the basket, nor his ability to disrupt the opposing offense with his dogged on-ball hounding.
And most importantly, Lowry’s passing is not, and I repeat, Lowry’s passing is NOT the problem with these hapless Toronto Raptors. He’s part of a bad situation, the orchestrator of a stagnant offense, but is he’s a willing and capable passer. Want more proof? Here’s Lowry in an actual NBA-level offense.
So keep looking and keep blaming, all you angry Raptors fans. Blame the coach, critique the wings, chastise the bench and lament the stagnant offense, but don’t fabricate problems because there are plenty of real issues with this roster that are more than deserving of your venom.
Statistical support from NBA stats, SportVU, Synergy Sports and Basketball-Reference. Photo courtesy of ESPN.
That’s right: The 5-7 Raptors are atop the Atlantic. It is the first time that has happened later than the first few days of the season since the end of the 2006-07 campaign. That year, of course, is responsible for the only Raptors-related banner hanging in the Air Canada Centre, when they won the division with 47 wins. Following that season, the Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and the Raptors have not sniffed these rarified airs since.
The Wizards broke out of a 4 game losing streak this week where they lost twice in overtime, so their record is a bit misleading. The team scores 100.2 points per game, but gives up 102.9 with the league’s second worst opponents’ field goal percentage of 47.3. The Wizards have only held an opponent under 100 points twice this season, but they have 5 players that average double-digits in scoring.
The Washington Wizards visit Toronto in the midst of trying to pull their season out of the muck early. The Wiz started 2-7 but have won their last two games, beating a strong Minnesota squad and the struggling Cavaliers. This team, like the Raps, seems to have been rebuilding since Kareem was hitting skyhooks. They are chock-full of youthful high draft picks like John Wall and Bradley Beal, both of whom are excellent, but they’ve also swung and missed – I’m looking at you, Jan Vesely.
Without the injured John Wall, the Wizards were awful early last season before finishing strong. It’s hard not to see why, as the former No. 1 pick is asserting himself as one of the best young guards in the NBA. His team may not have a great record (4-7) but Wall is second in the league in assists, averaging 9.7 per game. Chris Paul is the league leader.
When I started working on a piece about the Raptor’s offence a week ago, I was nervous. It was hard to imagine an outcome that fell outside the range of a parental ‘I’m disappointed in you’, to downright scathing. I’m happy to say that instead I’ve found reason for optimism. Now, before we get ahead of ourselves with raising the Atlantic division champions banner, let’s clarify that reason for optimism does not mean that the Raptors have a great or even good offence. The Raptors have a below average offensive efficiency, couched right in between the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings. That’s sobering company. Let’s not pretend that the Raptor’s offence isn’t in a state of disrepair. There are major problems here at a team and individual level. But there are also some things that needed to be improved coming in to the season, like Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan’s 3pt shooting, that have. There are a few glaring problems that have carried over from last year, and a few new ones as well. It’s increasingly unclear how much of the responsibility for these come from players following intentional coaching decisions, players choosing not to follow the coaches plans, or a lack of well-thought out direction from either side. The last week of the season has shown some signs of improvement on this last point from both sides.
Let’s break down the major cogs of the Raptor’s offence individually to gain a better understanding of what the strengths and weaknesses are as things stand.
Rudy Gay is the biggest part of the Raptors offence by volume. He’s taken more shots this year than anybody in the league not named Carmelo Anthony. The Rudy Gay inefficiency numbers storyline has been beaten in to the ground, and for good reason, so I won’t waste time in reiterating them now. Rest assured, they’re bad. But Rudy Gay is can be very good. And according to the numbers, he isn’t just the biggest single part of the Raptors offence; he’s also the most important. Take a look at this breakdown:
The difference in Raptors wins compared to Raptors losses is 7 shot attempts. When Rudy puts on his chucker cape and shoots with reckless abandon (22.7 attempts per game would be tops in the league by a full shot and a half), the Raptors have a 0.000 winning percentage. On the other hand, when he is more selective with his shots, putting up only 15.4 attempts, the raptors offence as a whole is much more efficient, and the team is winning. The 18 points with 40.3% shooting on 15.4 attempts is roughly comparable in efficiency to Chris Paul, Damien Lillard and Steph Curry. Compare that to Rudy’s overall averages, which match up with Gordon Hayward, Kemba Walker and Brandon Jennings. There is an ocean of difference between the two. The latter player is humorously overpaid, while the former, averaging almost 4 assists and playing solid player, is actually earning his max contract. The Rudy Gay experiment is far from a failure.
It’s an important question to ask whether Rudy Gay takes too much of the blame for his shot selection. That isn’t to say that he doesn’t take bad shots, and far too many of them. He does. What I mean is, does he take those shots despite what the coaching staff wants him to do, or because of it? The movement in the Toronto offence has been as stale as the awful Memphis one that he left. Nobody likes to play with a shoot-first ball hog. Whether it’s the NBA or YMCA, it kills the energy, and slowly, everyone else stops trying. But the sheer volume of isolation plays and the apparently flashing green light Gay approaches 2pt jump shots with indicates that he must be encouraged to play this way. The pick and roll game has been abysmal (every single ball handler on the Raptors is scoring at a below average rate out of the pick and roll, according to Synergy stats). Every elite offensive NBA team has a series of play, picks, pin downs or in-bounds sets that it runs in order to help enable their stars to get good shots. The Raptors don’t do this for Rudy. Instead, he’s expected to create everything on his own. Gay is the hands down league leader in the percentage of made 2pt FGs that are unassisted. 72.2% of all of Gay’s 2pt shots are unassisted. That’s HUGE. On the flip side, an equally disproportionate amount of Rudy’s made 3pt FGs are assisted. That number is, co-incidentally, also 72.2%, also way above the league average. The majority of Rudy’s 3-pointers are good, team generated shots, and he’s hitting them at an elite level (What up laser eye surgery!). So, when Rudy is left to create on his own, he’s good enough to get looks and put up points, but it’s not efficient basketball. On the other hand, when the team helps to generate good 3pt shots for him, he hits them at an incredibly efficient rate.
Obviously Rudy needs to take the blame for a part of his shot selection. He needs to make better choices, and to his very recent credit, he has been. I’m sure that coaching has played a big role here. But the coaching staff needs to do a better job of devising plays and schemes that get Rudy better shots, as he in turn learns to turn his bad shots into assists.
The next piece of the offence is DeMar DeRozan. Coming out of last season, DeMar was the worst 3pt shooting starting shooting guard in the league. The infatuation with mid-range fade-aways and inability to turn double-teams into assists were the other blemishes on DeMar’s game that seemed within his ability to fix. The positives that DeMar took out of last season offensively was a much improved body language and confidence after the arrival of Rudy Gay, no longer feeling the pressure of being the offensive focal point and the other teams defensive game plan, and a run of a dozen games near the end of last season that saw DeMar getting to the free throw line at a near league-leading rate.
There was a lot of talk in the off-season, from analysts and DeMar himself, about the work on his 3pt shot. It’s shown. DeMar has demonstrated a much improved 3pt shot, especially from the corners, where he is absolutely killing it with 11 of 15 shooting. Around the arc, DeMar’s numbers have resembled his woeful career percentages. But he’s at least making attempts from that range when he’s open now. DeMar had gotten to the point with his 3pt confidence where he would only take it begrudgingly or at the end of a shot clock. That lack of confidence only served to further hamper his percentages. Now DeMar is taking the 3 whenever it comes to him. He’s drilling it from the corners, and while he may never be an elite shooter from around the arc, I would be surprised if the practice and confidence doesn’t carry over there in time as well.
As for the other pieces that DeMar takes off the table on offence, the mid-range game is still abysmal, and DeMar will likely once again challenge for the crown of lowest assists-to-minutes played ratio. The former problem is a matter of discipline and design, the same as it is for Gay, and I would expect the team to try and rein that in as the season rolls around. As for the latter issue, DeMar may be able to improve, but the reality is likely that he will never be a playmaker. If he adds a reliable 3pt shot to his already reliable game as a slasher, he doesn’t need to be. DeMar’s free-throw rate isn’t at the Hardenesque level he teased us with last year, but he’s focusing so much on the 3pt shot right now, that I think it will rise as time goes on. Even still, he’s averaging what would be a career high in ft attempts already. DeMar needs some help from designed plays and needs to develop some mid-range discipline, but his offensive game is evolving nicely.
Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross have been the team’s primary spot-up shooters this season, with Steve Novak having only just recently been thawed from his frozen-in-carbonite spot on Casey’s bench. Ross and Lowry have quietly put up impressively efficient offensive seasons. Lowry is averaging 37% on 5.6 attempts a game from deep. Terrence Ross is shooting 40% from 3. He was drafted as a shooter, so the fact that he’s doing it well isn’t getting much plug. That’s not surprising. What is surprising is that Ross is shooting great from everywhere. He’s almost 60% in the paint, 40% from 3 and 50% in between. Lowry is already feasting on some wide-open spot-up looks when the defense collapses, and Ross is essentially the only player the Raptors run off-screen shots for. Rudy and DeMar kicking out on drives and an offense with more ball movement would result in more spot-up opportunities for these two (and corner 3s for DeMar) which the numbers overwhelmingly indicate to be shots the Raptors should be doing everything they can to generate.
Finally we get to the two bigs, Valanciunas and Amir Johnson. Johnson is leading the team in fg% and points per shot, which is not a surprise. However, despite my basketball-crush on Amir, it’s hard to make the argument that he should be getting more shots. Aside from the wings making better use of him as a roll man to the basket, Amir is already taking all of the shots he should be. That’s why he shoots so efficiently. He knows his lane, and he stays in it. He’s the big reason why the Raptors get the 3rd most points in the league off of put-backs. He takes wide-open jumpers and shots right beside the hoop. We don’t need to change the way Amir is used.
Valanciunas is a different story. After being completely ignored on offence for the first two thirds of last season, Valanciunas was featured in the final 6 weeks of the season after the playoffs waved bye-bye. He was great, and he clearly loved it. The fact that his rebounding went up when he was more involved is no accident. Valanciunas has been visibly upset about his complete lack of involvement in the teams offence. It has 2 negative effects. First, it results in Jonas deciding that he’s going to shoot no matter what whenever he does get the ball, which results in bad shots or turnovers. Secondly, it has a clear impact on his intensity and level of effort on both ends of the court. In 12 games so far, Valanciunas has gotten 8 or more shots in 7 games, and less than 8 in the other five. In roughly the exact same minutes played between the two, Valanciunas is grabbing 3.7 offensive rebounds (the best statistical indication of effort and hustle, and a huge number), 8.4 rebounds and 55% shooting when he gets 8 or more touches. Contrarily, when he gets less than 8 touches (and it’s usually notably less), he’s grabbing 1.4 offensive boards, 5.6 rebounds and 31% shooting. The difference between the two is enormous. Even if Valanciunas isn’t Al Jefferson in the low post, the Raptors need to be getting him his touches just to make sure he stays engaged, active on the glass and developing. 8 is not asking for a lot.
The Raptors have a slightly below average offence. But there are bright points, the coaches seem to be making an effort for improvement without being overbearing and DeMar and Gay can at least shoot from 3, if nothing else. It’s not a glowing report card, but it definitely has cause for optimism and patience to see where it goes.
Raptors 109, Sixers 98 – Box
If you were part of the legions starved for offensive continuity and team play then you got your fill last night. The Raptors, albeit against the lowly Sixers, showcased a variety of team ball that we haven’t witnessed all year. Whether this is a positive turn for Dwane Casey’s offense or a mere routing of a nominal opponent, only time will tell, but let us savour in the taste of free-flowing offense while tempering our enthusiasm as appropriate.
The story for this game can be told in two key stats and none of them are FG percentage, which the Raptors shot a pedestrian 42%. They’re assists and forced turnovers. The Raptors turned the Sixers over 20 times which led to 19 points. In conjunction with this defensive pressure which included steals, deflections, and traps, the Raptors, through proper read of double-teams and dribble penetration, created positive offensive situations which led to some easy viewing. This resulted in 24 assists with the game never being in doubt.
[Did you read the player grades? Raptors 108 vs 76ers 98]
DeMar DeRozan’s 33 points might get the headlines, but Rudy Gay’s season-high eight assists is what stuck out in the box score and we’ll see some examples in a bit. Jonas Valanciunas was unable to find his place with Spencer Hawes and Daniel Orton pulling him outside, but on this night against this opponent he wasn’t needed which is what I’m thinking explains the fourth quarter benching. Great sub-play by Terrence Ross, a terrific cameo by Steve Novak (a man shrouded in mystery of late), and some very aggressive offensive rebounding from Tyler Hansbrough, sealed the deal for the Raptors.
Let’s spend the rest of the post looking at some of the offensive plays from this game that might lead you to believe that there’s hope here. Click on the image to load the GIF.
Here’s Rudy Gay attracting a double from the weak-side, Ross doing well to present himself and Gay responding to Ross’ movement by finding him for the three.
Here’s some good spacing by the Raptors which is made even better by movement as Gay drives, and Novak shifts nicely to present Gay with a passing option – open three.
I’m not going to lie and say all was great, there were still plays like these where Gay opted to shoot when options were open on the wing – notice how open Ross is here.
Here’s Ross taking advantage of a defense that is hesitating to drive and setup Tyler Hansbrough for an And1.
Rudy Gay recognizes the shift to his left and finds Lowry, a great three-point shooter, for the open look.
Johnson sets a great screen to free up DeRozan, and Lowry’s pass is on point. Yes, the defense isn’t great but they’re also worn down by the Raptors’ team play all game long.
Here’s the Philly defense lagging and Gay stepping up to make the three – notice the Philly defender finally come in to view in the last second of this GIF.
A great drive and kick by Dwight Buycks, the pass is a bit weak but Novak is in the right place to step-in and hit the jumper. Treasure this moment as you’ll never see Novak this close to the rim again.
This is just ridiculous play by the Philly defense – they’ve given up at this point and allow Buycks to come across the court for the three.
The Raptors drew a foul on this play where a solid screen was set to flash DeRozan at the elbow, and he used Amir Johnson as a screen for the second time to drive, while Johnson rolled – the pass back resulted in the foul.
It was a good day at the office. We are 5-7 which is in line with what was predicted – we’re on pace for 43 wins.
Before the season started, Ujiri stated that he needed about 25 games or so before he could get a handle on the talent level he had in Toronto before he would be comfortable affecting change. His job would have been a lot easier if the Raptors just did what many fans really want – stink to high heaven that would line Toronto up with a better opportunity in the 2014 draft lottery to nab home-brew college phenom Andrew Wiggins. The excitement is growing in the “Riggin’ for Wiggins” sweepstakes with people watching closely which NBA teams will tank in order to have a chance at nabbing the Toronto native, who is a freshman at Kansas. But the Raptors clearly didn’t get the memo.
Up until the 4th when he became ball stopper again he was incredible. He has athleticism to pick up easy rebounds, ability to draw and create for his teammates, its just his 1 on1 ball stopping play that holds him back. When he plays in rhythm and makes an effort to create for his teammates he is a very good player. Most talented player I’ve ever seen go to waste. Analyst have raved about his potential, Smitch compared what he could do to LeBron. I don’t get why Rudy doesn’t see it. It bothers me, honestly, If Rudy stopped with that 1 on 1 crap he could easily be in that upper echelon of players, top 3 or top 4 player alongside LeBron, Durant, Kobe. This dude could drop triple doubles on the regular.
History will ultimately judge whether the Raptors or Philadelphia 76ers were right in their approach to this NBA season, whether an early teardown process works better than a modicum of patience and a bit of a wait-and-see attitude. It will be years, most likely, before the final chapters of these books are written, and only in the land of instant gratification would you put Wednesday night’s Raptor romp over the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center on some list of significant accomplishments.
The Raptors may not have a winning record, but they have themselves in first place. “We’re nowhere near where we need to be,” coach Dwane Casey said. “We’ll take it, but it’s early. We’ve got to continue to work and stay hungry.”
DeMar went for 33 tonight, after going for 29 and 37 against the Trail Blazers and Bulls respectively. He’s really picking up his offensive game all-around recently, firing a nice 50% from the field in that 3 game span. The same cannot be said for Rudy Gay; still struggling from the field. However, he did contribute with a career-high 8 assists.
From the jump, it was clear Toronto had received the message loud and clear that the team wasn’t passing enough. After considerable work in practice on moving the ball from side-to-side, Toronto was even overpassing early, leading to turnovers which kept the Sixers in the game. But the visitors eventually started executing better than at any point this season. That, coupled with deadly shooting from outside (5-for-5 in the first quarter, 5-for-9 in the third) carried the Raptors to the win.
This was a battle between the ‘best’ 2 teams in the very weak Atlantic Division with first place going to the winner. The Raptors pulled ahead in the second quarter and never let the 76ers catch back up to win 108-98 and take over first place in the division by a half game over Philadelphia.
The Raps still haven’t played an entire 48 minutes with the skill they are capable of. I hope that last night’s Q4 was more coasting than a precursor of future games. Toronto now leads the turtle derby which is the NBA’s Atlantic Division, and can maintain that position with a win at home on Friday against another team off to a slow start, the Washington Wizards.
“We don’t want to use that as an excuse with Thad being out for personal reasons,” Sixers shooting guard James Anderson said. “He’s a big part of our play. Without him, it was kind of a hole in our offense. And Mike coming back, trying to get back into his rhythm. “But like I said, we don’t want to use that as an excuse.” Even so, the Sixers were out of sync.
Again, Spencer Hawes was tremendous shooting the ball, submitting a Hardenesque efficiency of 28 points on 13 shots. Honestly, it was too bad that Hawes missed a chippy off a nice pass from Michael Carter-Williams late in the game, because it prevented himself from reaching 30. Frankly, I’m a bit surprised to be typing these words, but Hawes has clearly been the team’s best player so far this season. In addition to his shooting, Hawes is also cleaning the defensive glass at a career-high level. We’ll see if that number holds.
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Amir Johnson, PF 25 MIN | 3-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | 0I liked that he didn’t shoot threes in the 1st quarter, but put the ball on the floor and attacked the defense. Early foul trouble got him yanked in the 1st, and never let him recover. Pretty invisible tonight other than a big block on MCW on 3-2 break. Rudy Gay, SF 36 MIN | 6-16 FG | 4-5 FT | 8 REB | 8 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 4 TO | 18 PTS | +17Had as complete a game as you could possibly ask of him. Didn’t shoot the ball well, but also looked to hit the open man with the pass more than we’re used to seeing. Rebounded very well, played solid defense…will take this from him every night. Jonas Valanciunas, C 22 MIN | 1-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +2Nobody looked to get him the ball in the post, and it’s not like the Sixers had anyone down there to give him many problems. You could see how pissed off he was in the 2nd half when Ross missed him wide open under the rim. One word of advice when your big man is working hard to get position on the low blocks: GIVE HIM THE BALL FROM TIME TO TIME! Kyle Lowry, PG 38 MIN | 4-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 10 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | +15My problem with Lowry isn’t that he didn’t have a good game, because he did. My problem is that he doesn’t make the guys around him better. Weird saying that when he drops 10 dimes, but how much of that was just that the Raptors were hot from three? Think about it. DeMar DeRozan, SG 38 MIN | 10-19 FG | 10-12 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 33 PTS | +4Put on a clinic in the 1st half from the perimeter with a combination of hot shooting and smart decision making on and off the ball (curls, drives, cuts to the basket). Defense was there as well, but did very little else. Fortunately that’s all he needed to do. Way to keep the recent hot play going. Tyler Hansbrough, PF 22 MIN | 1-5 FG | 3-5 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +7Crashed the boards and made things uncomfortable for the Sixers front court. Shot the ball a few times more than you’d like him too, but when he snags 4 offensive rebounds in 22 minutes, you need to reward him with a few of those. Steve Novak, SF 16 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +6Meh Dwight Buycks, PG 10 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -6Made an impression in limited minutes; not a big impression, but his three was timely and stopped a minny run in the 4th. Terrence Ross, SG 32 MIN | 7-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 17 PTS | +10Picked up in the second half where DeRozan left off in the 1st. Crashed the boards, played excellent defense, and really made us remember that he was originally drafted for his shooting, and not his athleticism. Dwane Casey
Best game he’s coached all year by a large margin. There was a game-plan (more below), and the team stuck to it for a full 48. That’s all you can expect.
Five Things We Saw
- Heading into tonight’s match, the Raptors were dead last in assists/game in the league. Tonight? 24 assist leading to 36 field goals. We saw better shots, and less ISO plays on the perimeter. This I can get used to. This is the type of basketball we would all like to see. How much easier is it to swing the ball around until someone has a good luck than backing your band and jacking up a fade-away with a second defender running at you? A lot, that’s how much.
- Raptors really showed composer in the 3rd, making timely plays every time the Sixers mounted a mini run to cut the lead. In fact, the way the Raptors closed out the 3rd quarter was impressive: 8-3 run capped off with two wide over threes by Ross and Novak from text-book penetration and dish plays.
- The one down side was that the Raptors didn’t play good transition defense (24 fast break points), or protect the paint particularly well (40 points). Seemed like every-time a Sixer cut to the basket aggressively, he was rewarded with a pass and either turned it into a basket or a trip to the line (31 attempts). This is what kept the Sixers in the game until the end of the 3rd quarter.
- Raptors take possession of the Atlantic division for he first time since in six years. Not sure that this is a good thing or not, but I’d rather see them compete, win, and try to avoid being a treadmill team than tank and not land a top 3 pic.
- This was the first game in a very long time that my frustration didn’t show itself with a deep sigh, rolled-eyes, or a pursed-lip-disapproving-head-shake. I can really get used to this team if they can figure out a way to continue playing this brand of basketball AND getting Jonas more involved. We’ll leave them figure that part out for the next time they have two days off between games.
Alright, those of you who thought this game would be for first in the Atlantic when the season started, raise your hands. No-one? Nobody?
Now, we’re not exactly talking about two powerhouses here – both Brooklyn and the Knicks have been beyond disappointing to start the season and the Celtics are, well, the Celtics. That said, it’s an interesting indication of where the Eastern Conference is right now that tonight’s matchup between the Raptors (4-7) and 76ers (5-7) features two teams right in the thick of playoff positioning at this point in the season. With the league’s expected “tankers” (Philly as exhibit A) playing better than expected, and some of the Conference’s expected risers (Detroit, Cleveland, Brooklyn, Washington… you get the picture) starting the year off slow, what we’re seeing is a conference that, with the exceptions of the Pacers, Heat, and Bulls, is mired in a case of NFL-esque mediocrity/parity.
In either case, it brings another interesting wrinkle to what should be a fun matchup between two up-and-coming teams. Philly’s strong (read: not historically pathetic) start to the season has given their fans some real hope in the now. Michael Carter-Williams has blossomed far sooner than even the most optimistic Sixers fans could have expected, Evan Turner’s proving he might have a chance to actually realize some of the hype that surrounded him when he was first drafted second overall, and Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young and solidifying their status as underrated contributors around the league.
Carter-Williams is questionable tonight, and if he’s not around, his absence will be sorely missed – the Sixers are just 1 and 3 in the four games he’s missed with a foot injury. Tony Wroten has been starting in his place and doing a terrific job (nearly 20 points, 4.3 boards, and 6.3 assists in his three starts), but he’s not a strong defender – and without the size of Carter-Williams, expect Kyle Lowry to have a big game.
The Sixers haven’t been bad at putting the ball in the hoop this year – their O-rating isn’t great, but their high pace of play ensures they put the ball in the hoop. It’s on defence, though, where their lack of depth has really hurt them – they’re giving up over 109 points per game, a number good for last in the league. On paper, the Raptors should have the advantage in almost every area, particularly when it comes to secondary scoring – their own coach, Brett Brown, said earlier this season that they have “6 NBA players,” and so there’s no time like the present for Casey to get started with his “Rudy or DeMar, not Rudy and DeMar” offensive strategy that Blake proposed yesterday. That said, pretty much every team the Sixers have played this year has had the talent advantage on paper, so we’ll see how far that gets us. Let’s take a look at the tale of the tape.
Tale of the Tape
O-Rating: Toronto 104.61 (14th), 76ers 101.94 (23rd)
D-Rating: Toronto 104.59 (12th), 76ers 108.05 (25th)
Pace: Toronto 94.6 (27th), 76ers 102.4 (2nd)
Strength: Toronto offensive rebounding (1st in the league in O-rebounding percentage), 76ers volume offence (1st in league in field goals attempted/made)
Weakness: Toronto distribution (30th in assist rate), 76ers playing big (29th in opponent rebound rate, 30th in blocks by opponent)
Point Guards: Kyle Lowry, Dwight Buycks, DJ Augustin and Julyan Stone v. Michael Carter-Williams (maybe), Tony Wroten, and Darius Morris
Advantage: Raptors (if Carter-Williams doesn’t play)
Assuming Carter-Williams doesn’t play, Lowry is far and away the best player out of this bunch. If he does, though, you’re looking at the matchup of the game. I’m excited to see how Lowry deals with Carter-Williams’ length on the defensive end. Wroten is a dead-eye shooter who’s playing out of position at the point, and Lowry (and Buycks) should be able to pressure him into turnovers on the defensive end.
Wings: Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Terrence Ross, and Steve Novak v. James Anderson, Evan Turner, and Hollis Thompson
Big Advantage: Raptors
Evan Turner has officially made the transition from overrated to so-overrated-he’s-underrated, and his defence will prove difficult for either Gay or DeRozan to deal with at times. That said, the Sixers’ lack of depth really shows through at this position most of all – Thompson and Anderson are barely NBA players at best, though Anderson has shown some spunk from 3-point range this season.
Bigs: Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough, Quincy Acy, and Aaron Gray v. Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young, Lavoy Allen, Daniel Orton, and Brandon Davies
Young is probably still the best player out of this bunch, but the Raptors’ depth is far better than the Sixers’. Young will see heavy minutes on the floor and will put both Amir and Jonas to the test on the defensive end – hopefully, the Raptors won’t cowtow to Philly’s propensity to play small and fast, but the first time we see the Raps force the other team to match their lineups with them will be the first one.
There’s no line on this game as of writing this as Carter-Williams’ status is still up in the air, but I’m going to be bold and say that whether he plays or not, the Raptors win this one in a blowout. Raptors by 15 as our boys hilariously jump to the top of the Atlantic Division. Next stop: the Finals.
The Toronto Raptors’ offensive problem is quite simple to explain. The two players in the starting lineup who score at the least efficient rates, Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan, take the most field-goal attempts. The starting wings have combined to average 38.5 shots per game. The player who is the most efficient scorer in the group, Amir Johnson, takes the fewest shots. The solution to that problem, though, is tougher to communicate — if it exists with this roster at all. The Raptors cannot simply dump the ball into either Johnson or Jonas Valanciunas, since neither excels in those roles. The biggest reason Johnson scores so efficiently is that he confines himself to certain shots. And the Raptors cannot just start playing a different style, for a very obvious reason.
While there are no guarantees in professional sports, where surprise results pop up almost nightly, DeRozan and the Raptors have to see the next three days as a chance to make at least a minor statement about themselves. The 76ers, losers of seven of nine and a team very much built for the future rather than the present, are up Wednesday night in Philadelphia, and the somewhat disappointing Washington Wizards bring a desultory record and a slow start to Toronto on Friday. Toss in a home game next Tuesday against the aging-more-every-minute Brooklyn Nets and their rookie head coach Jason Kidd and there are three of those games that DeRozan was talking about.
Unfortunately for the Raptors, DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay are poor passers and – to put it lightly – treat high-percentage shots like the plague. Per NBA.com/stats, both are among the league leaders in midrange shots attempted per game; to rub in a little more salt, they only make about a third of those attempts. Given that Gay and DeRozan use nearly 60% of the team’s possessions when they share the floor, that’s a recipe for ugly and inefficient basketball. (“Your 2013-14 Raptors! Leaders in ugly and inefficient basketball!” Come on Raptors marketing department, get on it!). Despite the unappealing exterior, the Raptors still sport a league-average offense through the first 11 games of the season, lending some support to Ziller’s argument that offense and assist rate don’t always go hand-in-hand. Still, I suspect that ranking will drop if the team’s offensive profile continues to skew to the most inefficient option.
It has been a focus for Dwane Casey’s team early this season after spending most of training camp emphasizing defensive principles. The Raptor’s coach has shouted it from the sidelines, preached it after games and drilled it in practice but still, sharing the ball appears to be an incurable allergy for this team, as its currently constructed. “We’re 30th in the league in assists, so we’re trying to promote ball movement,” Casey acknowledged after practice Tuesday afternoon. “It’s something we’ve just got to stay on, harp on and try to do what fits our team.”
It’s still early and things can change — and they’ve begun to, since Philadelphia has dropped three straight without injured rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams — but nobody saw this team leading the division at any point this season. Equally stunning, would be what would happen should the Raptors win on Wednesday in the City of Brotherly Love. The Raptors would move into first in the Atlantic for the first time this “late” in a season (with 10 games or more having been played) since 2006-07. That was the year the Raptors caught fire in the second half and won a division title for the first time in team history.
Entering Tuesday night’s games, Toronto ranks 20th in points per game (96.9), 23rd in three-point shooting (32.6 percent), 25th in field goal percentage (41.9) and dead-last in assists (16.5 per game). So, it wouldn’t be hard to understand if the fans in Philly, Washington and Brooklyn were looking at a game against the Raptors as a chance to get ‘healthy’ as well.
Saddled with the roster as it is currently comprised, head coach Dwane Casey has relied upon Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan—the team’s resident gunners—to carry the offence. As a result, offensive flow and efficiency have suffered. In addition to those offensive struggles, this style of play has had an adverse effect on Toronto’s one budding star, a player that in a few short years could be the all-star the club needs—Valanciunas.
“(Our young guys) have really given us lifts, very big lifts a lot of times,” Novak said. “They make rookie mistakes, they make young mistakes like we all did, but I think for the most part they have come in and shown that they – when they understand their role and are clear on what they are to be out there doing – Quincy (Acy) comes out there and gives us so much energy and rebounds and gets big boards out of his area. Dwight (Buycks) comes in and he when pushes that ball, it gives us a good lift when we need it. So, we just have to continue to have them understand what their roles are and have them go out there and do it.”
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Ever since the acquisition of Rudy Gay, people have wondered if and how Gay and DeMar DeRozan could play together.
Floor spacing concerns and an offense built around two low-efficiency, high-volume players running isolations led many to believe the duo wouldn’t co-exist capably.
Of course, the Raptors’ new starting unit surprised many by being extremely effective last season, outscoring opponents by 12.9 points per 100 possessions over a 343-minute sample. The team’s offense improved slightly with this five-some, and the defense was dramatically better.
No worries, then, right?
Well, that would make for too short an article. And 343 minutes is hardly enough of a sample. There were other concerns as well, namely that the success was coming primarily on defense while the offense wasn’t necessarily going gangbusters.
In 173 minutes to start the year, the starting five is actually being outscored by 5.3 points per 100 possessions, with the team taking a step back on both ends of the floor. The starting unit is actually performing worse than the team in general, and with a sample of 516 minutes now, we’re starting to see that the starting five may be good-not-great.
The core of the issue, offensively, is the DeRozan-Gay combination.
Consider the following table, which shows the team’s O-Rating and D-Rating with certain lineup iterations (don’t cringe, anti-stats people…this is just points adjusted for pace of play, or “points per 100 possessions”):
Unit Time Min Ortg DRtg Net Starting Five 2012-13 343 105.4 92.5 12.9 Starting Five 2013-14 173 101.1 106.4 -5.3 Starting Five TOTAL 516 104 97.2 6.8 Gay-DD 2012-13 923 103.4 101.3 2.1 Gay-DD 2013-14 316 98.6 101.9 -3.3 Gay-DD TOTAL 1239 102.2 101.5 0.7 RAPTORS Since Trade 2286 101.6 102.9 -1.3 LEAGUE 13-14 Average x 101.4 101.4 0
(Stats via NBA.com/Stats)
What that’s showing us is that the Gay-DeRozan combination is roughly average offensively and defensively, which isn’t really good enough when these are supposed to be your two best offensive players. This year, in particular, the duo has struggled mightily at the offensive end.
Opening this up further, we see what happens to the team and individual when both are on the floor together, compared to just one or neither (for this season):
Unit TS% PPP 3PA/FGA FTA/FGA % FG Ast Midrange% Ortg DRtg MIN Gay+DD 49.1 0.981 22 27.8 45.6 30.7 98.6 101.9 316 Just DD 56.7 1.17 24.9 38.5 50 30.1 111.9 94.1 103 Just Gay 49.7 0.993 25.4 33.8 38.9 26.9 98.8 99.4 79 Gay OR DD 53.7 1.09 25.1 36.5 45.2 28.7 106.2 96.4 182 Neither 47.3 0.952 33.3 33.3 63 17.4 93.1 102.4 45
(Stats via NBAWowy.com)
What we see here is that the team’s offense has been better with just one of the two players on the floor, specifically with just DeRozan out there. With neither, it obviously suffers.
It’s worth noting now that these are small samples, though I think it backs up what we all a) expected and b) have witnessed.
The floor spacing improves, the team gets to the line more and cuts down on inefficient mid-range jumpers.
At the individual level, the results are a bit more surprising:
DeMar TS% USG PPP FGA/36 % FG Ast Midrange% w Gay 46 25 0.96 15.7 49.1 50.7 w/o Gay 55.2 36.2 1.15 22.7 41.4 42.9
(Stats via NBAWowy.com)
DeRozan has killed it without Gay and has shown a knack for being the primary scorer on the floor. It does appear he goes iso a little more (lower rate of assisted field goals), but we saw above that team as a whole sees better ball movement with this look.
Gay TS% USG PPP FGA/36 % FG Ast Midrange% w DeMar 47 30.9 0.97 19.1 39.7 36.9 w/o DeMar 43.9 37.9 0.87 23.7 23.8 42.3
(Stats via NBAWowy.com)
Gay, however, looks fairly lost without DeRozan. Again, it’s a small sample, and you can perhaps chalk it up to Gay’s poor start rather than some larger trend (and, in fact, the roles were reversed last season), or even the competition each may face when rolling solo. The data isn’t rich enough – and/or my management of the data capable enough – to dive in.
(On that note, it’d be very cool to see the SportVu data teams work with, to see what kind of movement, spacing and opponent defense the team sees in these different instances.)
But all of this leads us to a big ‘so what?’
Sure, the team looks better with one or the other, but not both, on the floor. We’re still dealing with a small sample, Gay has been uncharacteristically bad and, to his credit, Dwane Casey has actually staggered the playing time fairly well, such that there have been only four minutes a game, on average, where neither player was on the floor.
Step one would be to get that number closer to zero, minus garbage time. (There are still issues with his rotations, to be sure, and I’d get even more aggressive in leveraging sub patterns to make one of these guys the de facto scorer on the second unit.)
Step two would be to do what you can to get Gay going (perhaps by having him not dribble in isolation into two defenders and hoist up a jumper with a safety valve available, and then 3-point shooters a quick pass away).
It’s not like the team can make a change to the starting line-up to better stagger the presence of these two wings. You can’t very well tell DeRozan, who has been working his ass off, that he’s going to the bench, and you certainly can’t do it to Gay if you wan’t to maintain any semblance of trade value while he works things out.
I think the point here, then, is that the experiment that most thought made no sense from an Xs-and-Os standpoint, isn’t working at the offensive end.
Whether that can be remedied by the coaching staff, some creativity on offense or changes to the rotations is unclear. After all, it worked to some degree for a 30-game stretch last year.
In all likelihood, though, it’s just further proof that the experiment wasn’t a smart one to undertake (I seem to remember someone trying to save his job at the time) and yet another piece of ammunition for the “blow it all up” crowd.
This week on The Doctor is In with Phdsteve, I have called in the boys from the worldwide roundtable to talk ball. We have a discussion about all the action in NBA and NCAA while continually tying it back to the Raptors!
Joined by my brother Mike (who knows college basketball), and Greg Mason (the brain from the south), we discuss:
- The week that almost was as the Raps go 1-3
- Some positives to take from a couple tough games against good opponents
- Thoughts on the next steps for the Raptors
- The growth of DeRozan and maybe its time to see him as a value signing
- Dwayne Casey actually drew up a boss play to get a game tying shot!
- Rudy Gay = closer
- Will Steve Novak help the slowest offense in the league? If not, what can speed this up and do we want to?
- The emergence of Kyle Lowry?
- The availability of Rajon Rondo?
- Obligatory #tankforwiggins
- Super Tuesday’s super freshmen – the need to remember “they’re just kids”
Masai is keeping his cards pretty close to the vest. He’s been active on the phones according to other GMs, but he isn’t letting on whether he’s looking to blow the team up or to make a push for the playoffs. I’ve heard mixed responses from other GMs who have dealt with him. I do know he loves Wiggins and the fit in Toronto is so obvious — that seems like the right direction. But remember, the best he can get is a 25 percent chance at the No. 1 pick. There’s no guarantee he can land Wiggins and while Jabari, Exum (who Masai is also a huge fan of) or Randle would be prizes too … they might be a disappointment to Raptors fans.
If the Raptors did blow the team up, would you be disappointed with Parker, Exum or Randle?
When Amir Johnson decided to re-sign with the Raptors, back in 2010, and agreed to the 5 year, $30 million contract, many pundits and fans around the NBA quickly condemned the deal, feeling it was a massive overpayment. Although Amir had always been a productive and efficient player who worked hard on both ends of the court, he’d only played one season where he averaged more than 17 minutes per game, and foul trouble always seemed to prevent him from averaging more than 25 minutes a game.
Fast forward three-plus years, and Amir has become one of the most consistent players on the team and quite possibly the team’s most valuable player since Chris Bosh left for Miami. He’s been as productive as a starter as he has been a reserve, and his production has been, for the most part, the same as his minutes has increased.
Since he signed his current contract, he’s had the sixth highest True Shooting Percentage, the 13th highest Offensive Rebounding Percentage, and the 28th highest Win Share in the league over the last three-plus years.
Despite all this, a lot of fans still seem to think the Raptors would be better off with him coming off the bench and with a bigger offensive threat as the starting power forward.
That perplexes me.
Now, Amir Johnson is never going to make an All Star game. He’s never going to come close to be a 20-10 guy. But he makes the game easier for everyone around him. He doesn’t need the ball to be effective. He will set screens, move without the ball, dive for loose balls and grab missed shots. And he play above average defense, as well.
Mike Prada, over at SB Nation, wrote a fantastic article that looked into just how effective Amir’s screen setting is in making his teammates better.
And yet, his presence on the court makes a staggering difference for the Raptors. Last season, Toronto outscored opponents by 4.1 points per 100 possessions with Johnson in the game … and were outscored by 9.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the bench. That’s a 14-point swing. It’s also the fourth straight year where the difference of Johnson being in and out of the game was more than seven points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. This is not an anomaly.
It makes sense to me that you’d want a player like that playing with your starters as much as possible because he just makes it easier for them to score AND he’s going to help them defensively.
I recently had a discussion with someone about what Amir Johnson’s trade value would be. He suggested the Raptors should be happy getting a late first round pick for him. I thought that was ridiculously low value for a 26 year old big man who scores efficiently, plays defense, rebounds and works hard on both ends of the court.
It occurred to me that Amir is very similar to another former beloved Raptor who cost the Raptors the fifth pick in the 1999 draft.
Antonio Davis came to the Raptors as a 30 year old energy player who had played the vast majority of his games, up to that point, off the bench. In Zander Hollander’s 1997 Complete Book of Pro Basketball, Davis was described this way:
…has a decent face up jumper and is developing some post moves….Explosive leaper…Forced to split minutes at center where he’s often overmatched, but never outworked…
Sound like someone else you know?
Both players are/were 6’9 athletic big men who hustle, work hard on both ends of the court, but have/had limited offensive games. Both were second round picks originally from California who didn’t make an immediate impact in the league and had to develop their game.
Even their stats are pretty similar.
These are Antonio Davis’ stats the season before he was traded to Toronto (lockout shortened season):
Season Pos G GS MP FG FGA FG% FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK PTS 1998-99 PF 49 1 25.9 3.3 7.1 .471 .703 2.4 4.7 7.0 0.7 0.4 0.9 9.4
And these were Amir Johnson’s last season:
Season Pos G GS MP FG FGA FG% FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK PTS 2012-13 PF 81 38 28.7 4.1 7.5 .554 .727 2.8 4.7 7.5 1.5 1.0 1.4 10.0
Now, obviously these basic stats don’t tell the whole story, but it’s interesting how similar they are. If anything, Amir is slightly more productive, and definitely more efficient, offensively.
Even their advanced stats are similar:
PER TS% ORB% DRB% TRB% BLK% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48 16.7 .535 11.0 20.9 16.1 2.4 18.2 112 102 2.7 1.3 4.0 .151
PER TS% ORB% DRB% TRB% BLK% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48 17.3 .591 11.4 20.0 15.6 3.8 16.1 116 104 4.4 2.9 7.3 .151
The first table is Davis’ and the second one is Amir’s. It’s almost eerie.
Now, I’m not going to argue that Amir is worth a fifth pick in the draft. Would YOU trade a fifth pick for Amir? I certainly wouldn’t. And considering that the Raptors could have ended up with Shawn Marion1, who ironically was taken by Bryan Colangelo for Phoenix, it could definitely be argued that the trade was not a great one for the Raptors.
Davis’ addition, however, was a key to the team’s immediate success the next season (the team made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history) and their march to the second round of the playoffs the season after.
So while I don’t think Amir is untradeable, I think if you want to upgrade the roster, the starting power forward position is probably the least of your worries. Adding a scoring big man isn’t necessarily going to help your team score more, or more efficiently. In fact, the evidence supports the argument that Amir, despite his offensive limitations, already helps the team score, just not by his own doing.
And with Jonas Valanciunas needing touches and shots in order to develop his blossoming offensive game, the last thing the Raptors need is to acquire a frontcourt partner who will take shots away from Valanciunas.
Amir is the type of player that every team needs. But he’s also the type of player that doesn’t stick out of the casual fan, because he doesn’t fill up the stat sheet.
He’s the Raptor’s no-stat All Star.
1. While Indiana took Jonathan Bender with Toronto’s 5th pick, it’s doubtful the Raptors, who wanted a player who could make more of an immediate impact, would have drafted the painfully thin high school player who everyone knew would take time to develop.
You could also argue they wouldn’t have taken either Wally Szczerbiak or Richard Hamilton, who would have been duplicates on a roster that already had Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady. The Raptors could have also taken Andre Miller, who, while not an All Star, has had a VERY good career and would have helped the Raptors for much longer than the 30 year old Davis.
Shawn Marion would have probably made the most sense, as a team with Vince, McGrady and Marion at the 2,3 and 4 would have been spectacularly athletic and a force to be reckoned with for the next decade.
Raptors make a late push to send the game into overtime, but the Blazers outlast our Dinos for the 118-110 victory.
Before I go on, I have to admit that this recap won’t be very long, nor very comprehensive. In fact, the grammar and spelling probably won’t be up to snuff either. You see, at this current time of writing, it is 3:30 AM, and I have just suffered through a power outage, and then I subsequently lost a sizeable chunk of the article with an accidental slip of the mouse. I apologize in advance.
All in all, it was a pretty entertaining game. Sure, there were the usual problems – too much shooting from Gay and Derozan, questionable coaching decisions, not enough touches for Valanciunas – but the Raptors took an 7-2 Trailblazer squad to overtime. That’s got to count for something, right? Anyway, I’ve abbreviated the game recap into bullet points.
- Raptors come out HOT. They score on their first 8 field goal attempts of the game. Valanciunas has a couple of dunks, Gay had a nice take to the rim and for a moment, things in Raptorland seemed okay.
- Jonas dominates Robin “don’t confuse me for Varajao” Lopez on offense, grabbing boards and schooling him with his patented shot fake. Everything was clicking for the Raptors
- Well, except for the defense. Despite the Raptors shooting 63% in the first, the Blazers did this magical thing called shooting three-pointers, which for some odd reason gave them an extra point. I was personally fluxommed by this strategy because the Raptors never seem to cash in on such a lucrative offer. Portland leads 31-29 after one. Somehow LMA has already attempted 10 field goals.
- After seeing Gay throw up 9 shots in the first, Derozan follows suit in the second by chucking 9 shots of his own. He hit some jumpers, he missed some jumpers (including bricking a wide-open three from the corner), and he hit an incredible 360 layup. Got to the foul line 6 times as well and his 13 points, albeit not arising from perfect shot selection, kept the Raptors afloat.
- Despite going 4-5 in the first half, Valanciunas only shoots once in 7 minutes played in the second quarter. Ironically, it was a putback on a missed shot from Demar. Fun times.
- Wesley Matthews hits pair of those exotic “three-point field goals”, while Mo Williams reminds everyone that A) he still exists and B) is a very serviceable back-up point guard. It is at this point when you reach for the tissues to wipe off your tears; most teams are lucky enough to have a decent back-up point, rather than three players that all mostly suck.
- Speaking of back-up points that mostly suck, Dwight Buycks is officially the main backup, of which he entirely earned by having the most important quality of all: not being DJ Augustin
- Portland up 57-54 going into the half. Demar and Gay’s #MoreShotsThanPoints watch: 20 field goals, 23 points
- Yikes! Blazers pull away on the backs of missed jumpers from Gay and Demar (4 points on 2/12 shooting in the third). Portland uses good ball-movement and instinctive player-positioning and motion to create open looks for each other.
- Lets go back to the shooting poor shooting thing. Gay took 8 shots in the third and he made one. Let’s break them down one by one: elbow jumper with LMA challenging (miss), turnaround jumper with LMA challenging (miss), spot-up 18 footer with LMA challenging (miss), alley-oop from Lowry (make), baseline 16-footer (miss), drive to the basket on Batum (blocked, miss), drives to basket on Batum (blocked, miss), end of quarter heave (miss).
- FYI: Rudy has shot 34% on midrange shots this season.
- Blazers use a well-balanced attack to stretch the lead to 79-69 at the end of three.
- Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The Raptors bench is tasked to holding the deficit while the starters catch a breather, but they cough up the game. Landry, Buycks and Ross were highly ineffective in tonight’s game.
- Blazers lead balloons to 16 points midway through the quarter but here comes RUDY GAY HEROBALL! Gay takes 7 shots in final 6 minutes of the game.
- Don’t worry, these were good shots; a pair of dunks and a a pair of layups.
- Speaking of layups, Coach Dwane Casey put the ball in Rudy’s hands down 2 with 4 seconds left. Lowry is on the the wing while Novak is in the corner. This neutralizes two help defenders, so Gay is afforded the opportunity to drive 1-on-1 against Batum. Gay uses his strength to muscle past Batum and ties the game at the buzzer. Smart play-call by Casey and great execution by Gay.
- You know that expression “live by the sword, die by the sword”? Well the Raptors died by their favourite stunted machete last night – isolation basketball. First play of the overtime: Demar 1-on-1 in the post versus Wes Matthews (miss). A couple of missed shots by Novak. Gay hits a three. Gay isolated on the wing against Batum and misses an 18 footer. Demar tried to drive on Matthews, but is blocked. Gay drives on Batum, but he misses the layup. Kyle Lowry dribbles down the court, uses a screen from Amir Johnson and fires up a three (miss). Wayyy too much isolation/individual efforts in the OT.
- Meanwhile the Blazers also run some isolation sets, but Damien Lillard sinks a pair of tough jumpers. The Raptors (notably Demar) are caught sleeping on back-to-back possessions and Batum is able to sink two threes and the Blazers go on to lose 118-110.
- Blazers sunk 15 three-pointers last night. The Raptors sunk three. Hey, the team knows that 3-pointers are 50% m0re valuable than 2-pointers, right?
- Gay and Derozan scored 59 points on 54 shots, so they narrowly avoid the dreaded #MoreShotsThanPoints. Their shot charts may look familiar. For the record, aside from his poor stretch in the third, I was very happy with Gay’s shot selection.
- Jonas looked excellent in last night’s game. I know Robin Lopez is no Roy Hibbert, but Valanciunas really dominated him on the offensive end. He put up 19/9 on 8/11 shooting. I’m a little worried that the league will soon learn that he NEVER SHOOTS THE JUMPER, and so bigs stop respecting and falling for his shot fake + two steps + sweeping hook move of his. It seems like that’s his only reliable and repeatable post-move in Jonas’s arsenal.
The problems have changed a little, but there is always at least one glaring issue. Sometimes, the issue changes within the same game. More and more, though, the Raptors do not appear to be following any kind of cohesive plot. The Raptors’ ineptitude from beyond the three-point arc, on both ends, was the day’s biggest problem. The Blazers drilled 15 three-pointers, while the Raptors hit three, and none until their 10th attempt, which came in the fourth quarter. It was a more glaring problem on defence, as Portland was essentially taking shooting practice. In overtime, Portland guard Damian Lillard hit a 30-foot bomb to tie the game, and Nicolas Batum sealed it with two of his own.
The Blazers made 15 of 32 three-pointers, so many of them open because Raptors defenders couldn’t get out on shooters it wasn’t even funny. Batum was 5-for-8 in the game, Wesley Matthews was 4-for-7, and it wasn’t as if there was one part of Toronto’s defence that was far worse than the others. Some were open looks because Toronto defenders were slow to rotate to shooters; some were open looks in transition with defenders simply too far away from the Blazers they were supposed to be guarding.
A sense of urgency was expected from the Raptors to start the fourth quarter but that didn’t materialize until there was about four minutes left on the clock. The Dinos made their run however, with a team effort and some incredible individual plays by Rudy Gay and DeMar Derozan, cutting the club’s deficit to two with seconds remaining. And with the game on the line, Gay drove to the hoop with the clock about to expire, tying it, and the comeback was complete. Off to overtime we went. Gay gave the Raptors an early edge in overtime, but Damian Lillard’s ridiculously long three followed by a couple of Nicolas Batum’s threes sealed the Raptors fate. While the Blazers made crisp passes to get easy open looks, the Raps kept trying to go one-on-five and in the end, the comeback was for naught.
Still, pressed further, Gay admitted what has become pretty apparent. The offence needs more variety. “You’re right. That’s something we have to work on. It’s something we have to do. We have to get those other guys to pick it up. It’s us getting more comfortable. Coach even said it before: Our defence is further along than our offence. It’s something we can get better at. Teams get better during the season all of the time.” You are what you are though and these Raptors are an isolation-heavy group that doesn’t complement each other at all. Pick and rolls, the staple of most good teams, are rarely run and plays like the second half one that saw DeRozan try to shoot a fadeaway over a triple team too often embody what this group does with the ball.
Portland entered the game fifth in three-point shooting at 41 per cent and its shooters were red-hot from start to finish. Four Blazers hit three or more treys and they outscored the Raptors, who shot 3-of-17, by 36 from beyond the arc. As a result, Portland extended its lead to as many as 17 before the home team cracked down on defence and Gay took over. Gay, who scored 30 points to go along with 10 rebounds in the game, engineered a 19-6 Raptors run to close out the fourth quarter. Gay had 10 points in that stretch, including the buzzer-beating lay-up that tied the game at 102 and forced overtime. It was his sixth go-ahead or game-tying basket in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime in the past four seasons, passing Carmelo Anthony for most in the league. “It was go-time,” Gay said of the comeback that ultimately fell short in extra time. “Of course, the whole game you have to play like it’s go-time but when you’re back’s against the wall, you have to pick it up and find a way to get the win.”
What a way to spend a Sunday, huh?
In a morning game reminiscent of their meeting in 2008, the Portland Trail Blazers barely held off the Toronto Raptors in overtime to win the first two games of their four-game East Coast road trip, and sixth straight overall.
Bad play and bad luck conspired the Raptors to a season-demolishing 4-19 start to the 2012-13 campaign. Once the losses piled up, the young squad could not pull itself out of the tailspin. This season’s schedule doesn’t let up until mid-January, meaning the record might not be pretty by then. But the 2013-14 Raptors already have four wins in 10 contests and Casey believes this season’s squad will be fine. “It’s a different feel because of what we went through last year,” Casey said Saturday morning after the Raptors went through a practice in preparation for a visit by the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.
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Portland: 7-2, 110.5 O-Rating (3rd), 105.6 D-Rating (18th)
Toronto: 4-6, 103.3 O-Rating (15th), 102.6 D-Rating (9th)
1 p.m. on Sportsnet
This is basically a 10 a.m. game for the Blazers, making the Raptors two-point favorites in the eyes of oddsmakers.
When it was announced that Derrick Rose would miss Friday night’s game against the Raptors, I’m sure a lot of Raptor fans breathed a sigh of relief. You would think that Chicago’s best player being out would be good news for the Raptors, right?
Well, technically, yes.
But right now, Derrick Rose isn’t the Bulls’ best player.
Since missing basically a year and a half to injury, Rose is predictably struggling to find his rhythm and shake the rust off his game. It’s going to take a while. So while Chicago is currently above .500 and sits in third place in the East, the team might be better in the short term without their former MVP. Without him, they are forced to play the team-first ball that got them to the second round of the playoffs last year without Rose.
That’s not to say they don’t need Rose. Without him, their ceiling is the second round. If he returns to pre-injury form, the Bulls have as good a chance to get the Finals as the Heat or Pacers.
Here are some basic stats for the game:
Score: 96-80 for the Bulls
The Raptors shot just 35% from the field for the game and 26% for the first half.
Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan had a combined 37 shots and 2 assists.
The only two Raptor players who shot over 40% from the field were Gay and DeRozan.
While the Raptors were never in this game, there were some bright spots. Well, one. DeMar DeRozan continued his hot shooting ways from Memphis by tying his career high in scoring, with 37 points, 28 of which came in the second half. While he didn’t contribute in other ways, without his offensive output, the Raptors probably would have scored in the 60s and the score would have looked a whole lot worse than what it ended up being. And considering it came against Chicago’s vaunted defense, that is impressive.
But while his 37 points is certainly impressive, what’s more important is whether or not his more efficient shooting is sustainable.
What’s interesting about analytics, is that they will tell you what has happened previously, and, given enough data, tell you what is most likely to happen in the future.
Take a look at his shot chart for the game:
Now let’s look at his shot chart from his worst shooting game, against Indiana last week:
Other than more three pointers, it’s not as if it’s a big difference in where DeRozan shot the ball. In both games, the majority of his shots were in the 15-20 foot range, it just so happened he hit his shots last night and missed them against Indiana.
Both Chicago and Indiana are excellent defensive teams, so it’s not as if one game came against a poor defense that allowed more open shots.
Now obviously, players go through slumps just as they get hot, but the fact is that DeRozan didn’t score more efficiently last night because he was taking better shots. He wasn’t. In fact most of his shots were contested. He scored because he just happen to be hitting a much higher percentage than he usually hits from the same places he always shoots.
In some ways, this may seem obvious. If a guy has a career night, he’s obviously hot, right? Yes. But when a player has been shooting poorly, as DeRozan has, and then suddenly breaks out, it’s important to know WHY he’s breaking out.
I think it’s safe to say he’s most likely not going to go back to shooting 37% from the field, but he’s also not going to continue to shoot 59%. So if you’re expecting this to be a glimpse of things to come, you probably need to temper your expectations, because it’s probably not going to last. A return to the norm for DeRozan, probably around 45%, is the most likely outcome.
While the calling card of the Bulls is their defense (their Defensive Rating before last night’s game was 3rd best, and that probably went up after holding the Raptors to just 35% shooting and 80 points), their offense has struggled this season, with one of the worst offenses in the league, so far. You wouldn’t have known it last night, as the Bulls moved the ball well, found the open man, and had a fluid offense and good spacing.
Take a look at this one play:Carlos Boozer has the ball down in the post, and all four of his teammates are moving…Just a second later, you can see Jimmy Butler setting a pick for Hinrich up top, and Luol Deng moving up to the top of the key.Just three seconds later, Noah has flashed in the post, Boozer has passed the ball out to Hinrich, who is whipping it over to Deng, who is now at the top of the key and is about to throw it to Butler, who is now on the opposite wing.This is one of two threes Butler made, and it came off good spacing, constant movement and quick passing. In just seven seconds, the Bulls were able to get a wide open three point shot due to their player and ball movement. We saw this type of offense all night, from the Bulls, and if they can play this way offensively with Rose, the Bulls will be a much better team than they have been.On the other side, this is a typical play from the Raptors, last night:DeRozan comes off the Amir pick and is trapped by Boozer. Valanciunas is in the high post, Gay is at the top of the key and Lowry is on the wing.Four seconds have passed, and DeRozan is trying to isolate against Boozer, but Jimmy Butler is trapping him. Valanciunas has rolled down to the weakside, waiting for a rebound. No one else has moved more than a few feet. No passing lanes have opened up.DeRozan passed the ball to Amir, who passed it to Rudy up top. Still no one else has moved.Amir sets another pick for DeRozan, who gets a pass from Gay and takes a long two that misses. In almost nine seconds, there was little movement, and only three players touched the ball, and DeRozan ended up with an inefficient shot. And this was off a time out.Now, it’s not as if they didn’t run better plays than the one above. They had one double screen along the baseline that is a play San Antonio often runs for Tony Parker. The big problem with the Raptors is if their initial play breaks down, it’s basically chaos after that. That’s obviously on the coach, but also on the players. In the above sequence, no one was making themselves available for a pass, possibly because their best passer, Lowry, was stuck out on the wing and never touched the ball, and neither Gay or DeRozan pass the ball much.When a team has players that love to pass, their teammates will cut more and run harder to spots because they know they will probably get the ball if they’re open. On a team like the Raptors, the players know both DeRozan and Gay tend to play with blinders on, and even Lowry will too often throw up ill advised shots when he should pass.Just so you don’t get completely depressed, I’ll leave you with this rather nice highlight…
The Raptors shot 26% in the first half of a 96-80 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
Their shot selection in the first quarter didn’t help.
Bulls dominate from start to finish. Read on to find out which Raptors player DIDN’T get an F.
Amir Johnson, PF 21 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 3 BLK | 4 TO | 3 PTS | -19Almost useless. Didn’t bring his usual overdose of energy. Non-factor on the offensive end, allowed Boozer/Noah/Gibson to have their way on offense. Rudy Gay, SF 32 MIN | 7-15 FG | 5-6 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 20 PTS | -14Don’t let the scoreline deceive you. He poured in some really meaningless baskets at the end of the game when it was well out of reach. Struggled to hold on to the ball, was lazy on defense, inflated his rebounding numbers by grabbing some uncontested boards. Jonas Valanciunas, C 28 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -11Aside from a nice dunk during the third, Jonas had a horrible game. He was outmatched by the Bulls frontline and didn’t really assert himself on either end of the floor. Kyle Lowry, PG 38 MIN | 3-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -10Tried playing heroball, especially in the third, but it really didn’t work. Played solid defense, inflated his assist total by handing the ball to Demar. Not his greatest game, but considering how terrible his teammates were, he looked alright. DeMar DeRozan, SG 37 MIN | 13-22 FG | 7-10 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 37 PTS | -12Went off for 28 points in the second half. The game was well out of hand when he started getting it going, but he at least gave fans something to cheer for. Too bad this torrid performance came in a blowout. Didn’t do much on defense. Every screen took Demar completely out of the picture. Matched his career high with 37 and could have topped it had Casey not subbed him out for no reason. Tyler Hansbrough, PF 20 MIN | 1-4 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -4I say this every time. Energy, grabbed boards, played semi-decent defense. He’s going to net the Raptors a 2nd rounder at the trade deadline. #FreeHansbrough. Landry Fields, SF 6 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +4Benched for the entirety of the first half for some reason. Came in and played in the second half and alertly jumped passing lanes to grab two steals. No idea why Casey didn’t play him more. #FreeFields Quincy Acy, SF 19 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -2See Hansbrough. #FreeAcy Steve Novak, SF 5 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -4Played all of his minutes with an all-bench unit. No plays were ran for him so he was mostly useless. Dwight Buycks, PG 18 MIN | 0-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -1He might actually be worse than DJ Augustin. He picks up his dribble at the weirdest of times and his shot selection is very questionable, but I can’t really evaluate his performance in tonight’s game. I’m sure his head is heavy with the recent passing of his father. Terrence Ross, SG 16 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -10First man off the bench, but he didn’t do very much. Played with an all-bench unit in the second quarter and failed to get anything going versus the Bulls defense. Dwane Casey
Okay, I get that the starters were crapping the bed, and I even get that you want to try something out in an inevitable loss, but NEVER, EVER put in a lineup of Buycks-Ross-Novak-Hansbrough-Acy. NEVER. Also, why did you take Demar out with 1:30 left in the game? He could have beaten his career high of 37 points had you not subbed him out. Give the man some love – what do you have to lose? Can’t be good for morale (picture above shows how surly Demar was after being subbed out).
Five Things We Saw
- The Bulls defense was simply collapsing whenever the Raptors attacked the paint/post, and they were more than willing to concede long jumpers to the Raptors, so naturally the Raptors took all of the long jumpers in the first quarter. This shot chart isn’t pretty.
- Speaking of shot charts, this one is even worse. Actually, how is that even possible?
- (Captain) Kirk Hinrich played a great game tonight. Filled in admirably for Rose. Remember when the Raptors had a capable back-up point guards? Actually, remember when the Raptors ONLY had capable back-up point guards (Jack, Bayless, Calderon-ish, Ford)? Yeah, I miss that.
- No Mike James sighting tonight. C’mon Thibs! Your Bulls were blowing out the Raps, give the man some playing time. Light twitter ablaze with Dave Chappelle jokes!
- Thoughts and wishes go out to Dwight Buycks and his family for the passing of Dwight Buycks Sr.
Coming off the team’s best effort of the season, the Toronto Raptors host the Chicago Bulls at the Air Canada Centre on Friday night.
Before we get into breaking it down, I reached out to noted hair enthusiast and ligament expert Trey Kerby to answer a few Bulls-related questions for us. Trey, of course, is a member of NBA TV’s The Starters, formerly known as TBJ.
1) What are three words you would use to describe Carlos Boozer’s hair/facial hair?
Trey: Very, very inky.
2) Where does Jimmy Butler rank in your NBA hairstyles power rankings?
Trey: People are having laughs at Jimmy Butler’s hairscut, but that’s a pretty popular look nowadays. I like it. I’d say he’s a Top 10 hairscut in the league right now.
3) Derrick Rose’s comeback from a torn ACL is obviously the biggest story around the Bulls so far. What is the second most important piece of soft-tissue on the Bulls, and what is your favorite ligament?
Trey: Second most important piece of soft tissue on the Bulls is Joakim Noah’s plantar fascia, which better not get any itis happening this year if the Bulls really want to win a title.
My personal favorite ligaments are the extensor pollicis brevis and the abductor pollicis longus, which form something called the “anatomical snuff box” at the bottom of your thumb. Google it because it’s awesome.
4) The Bulls are struggling offensively despite having great offensive rebounding. Other than taking care of their own glass, what should the Raptors be focused on defensively?
Keep a body in front of Rose on the pick-and-roll. Then have another one near the rim to make things tough. He’s back athletically, but he’s still figuring out how to finish the way he used to/get foul calls. Do that and you’ve neutralized a lot of the Bulls’ offense.
That’s an insightful point by Trey about how to guard Rose off of screens, though it’s of course easier said than done. Luckily, this is one of the areas in which Amir Johnson excels, so expect to see him heavily involved with handling Rose.
You know, if Rose plays. And this is really the main story – Rose suffered what he and the team are calling a “minor” hamstring injury during Monday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It looked worse than it was, apparently, as in the moment I think most feared for the health of his knee.
Anyway, Rose hasn’t practiced all week and is questionable for Friday’s game. Rose says if it were up to him he’d be playing but the team has every reason to be cautious. In addition, the Bulls host the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, and they may prefer to have Rose available for that game, with certainty, than risk it Friday.
For whatever my opinion is worth, I think a) he will play but b) he shouldn’t – the Bulls will probably take this one regardless, and there’s little sense in risking further injury in November.
If Rose can’t go, Kirk Hinrich would get the start. While Hinrich looks like the worst created player in history (seriously, can you fit another accessory on him?), he’s still pretty solid, especially on the defensive end. Mike James – yes, the Amityville Scorer, former Raptor – and Marquis Teague are further down the point guard depth chart and could see action if Rose is hurt.
Point Guard: Bulls if Rose plays, slight Raptors edge if not.
Wings: DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Terrence Ross and Landry Fields vs. Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng and Mike Dunleavy.
Butler and Deng may be off to slow starts offensively but either one would still be the Raptors’ best wing. The Bulls only playing a three-wing rotation means two things: there are always two bigs on the floor, and the Rose-Hinrich pairing will get run if Rose plays (they’ve played 48 minutes together and the Bulls offense gets horrendous when they do).
The Deng-Butler combo is, as expected, quite good in terms of lineup data, with the Bulls allowing just 94.7 points per 100 possessions with the duo on the floor (a hair better than the team’s overall mark, which is the third best in the league). However, the offense gets far better when Dunleavy is the second wing (regardless of if he’s paired with Butler or Deng), even though Dunleavy is averaging just 7.8 points. His floor spacing is really important to the flow of the offense, it seems, with nobody else but Hinrich appearing capable of hitting threes.
For the Raptors on offense, isolation ball just won’t work against two starting wing defenders this good. Ball movement is paramount, though there’s hardly a good way to score on Chicago.
Bigs: Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas and Tyler Hansbrough (Acy/Gray/Novak) vs. Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Nazr Mohammed
This might actually be where the Raptors can carve out an advantage, believe it or not. The Bulls are a below-average team on their own glass while the Raptors are the league’s top offensive rebounding unit. The latter may not be sustainable, but the Bulls were only average on their own boards last year, too.
And extra (or extended) possessions are what the Raptors need, because you simply won’t maximize the ones you do get against this defense. Rebounds and limiting turnovers (another area the Raptors are performing admirably in, while the Bulls don’t force many, either) are even more important than usual Friday.
The Boozer-Johnson, Valanciunas-Noah and Gibson-Johnson match-ups should be a lot of fun to watch.
The game is off the board in Vegas thanks to the mystery surrounding Rose’s status, and the over-under is likewise off the board. That could be the case right up until a determination on Rose is made.
You can narrate your way to a Raptors win with some loose assumptions, but this Bulls team is just plain better. (That said, believe it or not the Raptors are ninth in Net Rating and above-average in Simple Rating thanks to performing well, statistically, on both ends of the floor in the early going.) Bulls by seven, and I’ll take somewhere in the neighborhood of 190 as the total.
The game tips at 7 p.m. on TSN and then we do it all again Sunday afternoon against Portland. Have a good weekend everyone.
11 a.m. Update: Per beat writers, Tom Thibodeau is saying Rose is “unlikely” to play tonight.
“Covering the gaps a little bit better, rotating a bit better,” Casey said, critiquing the defence. “You can always get back in transition defence better.” That could be tested on Friday. The Bulls have been one of the worst offensive teams in the league this year, but Derrick Rose always poses danger for an opposing defence. Rose, who is questionable to play because of a sore hamstring, is still trying to find himself after missing the entirety of last season because of knee surgery. His 38% accuracy from inside the restricted area is particularly off. The league, though, is just waiting for Rose to re-discover his MVP stride.
Derrick Rose is questionable to play with a date with division rival Indiana looming on Saturday. Team has dropped all three road games so far and won three at the United Center. Defence remains a pivotal strength — Tom Thibodeau is considered the league’s premier defensive coach — but the offence, even with Rose back, has been dismal (28th in points per game, 25th in offensive rating). One area where the defence hasn’t excelled is guarding long shots. Opponents shoot a league high 42.4% from three against the Bulls, but just 40.9% on two-pointers (second-lowest in the NBA).
Defense hasn’t been the issue in Toronto and in this week’s games against Houston and Memphis, the Raptors held both of their opponents to just 87 points in regulation time. In a battle between 2 teams that like to control the pace, the Bulls will be hoping Noah starts to come around and Rose can play and hopefully start to find his touch again. The Raptors will be hoping their improved shooting didn’t miss the flight home from Memphis and sticks around for the rest of the season. A high scoring affair doesn’t seem likely.
The Raps broke a century in scoring for the second time this season against Memphis (doing it in Houston doesn’t count, as it was OT), and won’t make it three against a tough defensive squad like the Bulls. I think this game will go according to script, with the Raps running enough to wear down the Bulls. Toronto will emerge with a 94-91 victory.
There are many reasons why a Lowry trade would be easier to pull off than anything involving Gay or DeRozan. Lowry has a relatively cheap ($6.2 million) expiring contract, making potential trades easier to construct. Most importantly, he could actually help some teams. He doesn’t seem like the easiest guy to play with, but a contending team or a team desperate to make the playoffs could use him. Here’s a possible trade scenario, with the caveat that more options will open up after December 15, when most players signed this summer will become trade-eligible.
TYLER HANSBROUGH (Raptors): He’s been exactly what I expected as the Raps’ third big man. He plays all out all the time and is someone you can count on every night to give you all the effort plays. He’s a terror on the offensive glass and smartly only takes shots (56 per cent) he can make. Does a terrific job drawing fouls and for a big man he’s an exceptional free throw shooter (84 per cent) which is rare. He is what he is, yet I like that – you always know what you’re getting vs. the roller-coaster ride that you get with other players.
Send me your links: [email protected]
Rockets center Omer Asik has requested a trade, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle. Asik played just four minutes in the team’s loss to the 76ers on Wednesday. While the Rockets aren’t looking to deal Asik at the moment, multiple sources said the Raptors are one team that’s already highly interested.
Asik didn’t play in Houston’s win against New York, although it isn’t clear whether it was because of his trade request.
The Raptors would be an odd choice to be interested in Asik, since they already have Valanciunas. It would create a similar situation for Asik as he has right now in Houston and neither Asik or Valanciunas have the quickness to step out and defend most of the face-up power forwards around the league.
Plus, Casey can barely find enough time for Valanciunas, so I’m not sure how he would be able to find time for both Valanciunas AND Asik, especially with his penchant for going small. And while the Raptors could use a backup center, I’m not sure what the Raptors would have that Houston would want.
There’s no way they would take back Lowry, after his contentious history there, and they would have no need for Gay or DeRozan with James Harden and Chandler Parsons on the roster (plus I can’t see their famously advanced stats driven GM, Daryl Morey, as viewing them as very valuable).
The only possible asset the Raptors have that I can see Houston wanting is Amir Johnson, and I’m not sure I see the sense in trading the Raptors’ starting power forward and his very affordable salary, for a center that will likely be unhappy in reserve role, as he currently is in Houston.
It could be the Raptors have some sort of a multi-team deal in the works. Free agents signed over the summer aren’t available to trade for another month, which may be why Houston is willing to wait to trade Asik.
We’ll all have to wait and see, it seems.
After Tuesday night’s college basketball games, the basketball world’s focus on tanking seems to have somehow increased. Fans have now seen, firsthand, the highly-touted prospects some teams are intentionally losing to get their hands on.
They’re really good.
Of course, we don’t have nearly enough information yet to judge them accurately, choose between them or project what they’ll become as professional players. The former two items are fluid in even the most expert of minds, while the latter is largely impossible to nail down consistently.
However, those games were played, the articles were written, and anchors on players, fits and pro- or anti-tanking stances dug in.
You’re now very likely a member of one of the following:
Riggin’ for Wiggins
Tank Safari/Hari Kari for Jabari
Scandal for Randle
Smrt for Smart
Or possibly even ‘Become a Corpse to get Exum’d’
And fine, go for it. You’re not alone. Many people have been beating the tanking drum in recent days, including prominent national writers Bruce Arthur and Cathal Kelly (and Eric Koreen has made note of the option several times, too). The virtues of tanking have no doubt been preached to you, the willing and eager Tank Nation Congregation.
Now, having said that, I’m on record as having been against tanking before the season, a stance I’ve softened on a bit in recent months. I still have some concerns, and I feel like those are concerns all pro-tanking people should be aware of.
So, here are a few reminders about the realities of tanking:
Put away the Trade Machine.
Seriously, I’ve already seen some ridiculous trade proposals involving the Raptors. This is true of all fan bases, and it makes me believe that, while fun, the Trade Machine is a net-negative for basketball.
There is a 99 percent chance any trade scenario you concoct for the Raptors is one the other team’s fan base would scoff at. You can make almost anything happen with the Trade Machine, that doesn’t mean it’s reasonable:
“Raptors could also throw in the 2016 first from the Knicks to one team and a second to the other teams.”
Seriously, none are this bad, but you should probably run any wild trade ideas by a non-Raptors fan as a sanity check first.
The Raptors aren’t acquiring another lottery pick.
In other words, no trade can push the team’s odds of getting the number one pick higher than 25 percent (the chances the league’s worst team has at the top pick).
The reasons here are simple:
*A team with a lottery pick likely sees enormous value in that lottery pick.
*The Raptors don’t have many assets worth a first round pick.
*Any team acquiring Raptors are likely to be good and thus, not lottery teams.
The Charlotte Bobcats may have made a splash by signing Al Jefferson, but it’s still pretty unlikely they would deal their first (which they technically can’t trade until after the draft, anyway,) or Detroit’s first (top-eight protected). Likewise, Cleveland probably isn’t trading theirs or Sacramento’s (top-12 protected).
In short, nobody on the Raptors is worth a lottery pick in this loaded draft class (and one that comes with a controlled salary for four years, don’t forget). Other teams are also aware that this is a pretty good draft, and other teams are also aware of what the Raptors assets are worth (give or take).
Thus, any trade of capable players only improves the “tank” by making the team worse, and possibly adding a lower-tier prospect. It’s not nothing, but you’re not getting a second pick in this lottery.
The Raptors were probably the high-bidder for Rudy Gay last year.
That means you can set your upper limit for any Gay trade at what the Raptors gave up (Ed Davis, Jose Calderon and a 2nd) or, alternatively, what Memphis received (Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis and a 2nd). If teams had a higher willingness to pay for Gay, then Memphis would have taken their offers.
Of course, two things have happened since Gay came to Toronto:
*A year came off his contract, making him a potentially-expiring contract (and at the most, a two-year commitment).
*Gay has been hammered in the media, both at the time of the trade and with his poor start to the season.
Whether those things balance out, or in concert with a changing league landscape they’ve somehow changed his value, a reasonable return expectation for Gay is a non-elite prospect, an expiring contract and a second round pick. Any more, and it’s Masai Ujiri magic, any less and, well, it’s the cost of a failed move, I suppose.
The Raptors probably won’t take on long-term salary.
Why would you, unless it’s for a player of value? Some have mentioned Derrick Williams in some trade iterations (he’s due $6M next year), but Ujiri is likely to be careful with how he allocates future payroll, especially if Gay is dealt.
Consider that if Gay is dealt and only Amir Johnson has his non-guaranteed salary picked up, the Raptors have just $33M in salary committed for 2014-15. That provides a lot of flexibility moving forward.
In short, there has to be a really compelling case for taking on future commitments. It’s not impossible, but it seems unlikely unless it’s a home run deal or it’s just a player’s final year on his rookie contract (like Davis and, yes, Williams).
Tanking guarantees nothing.
This is the main reason I’ve been anti-tanking in the past (though again, I’ve softened a bit).
*The worst team in the league has a 25 percent chance at the top pick and a 64 percent chance at a top-three pick. Those are favorable odds but not a guarantee. This draft is deep, though, so you can be hopeful beyond the top pick.
*The Raptors probably won’t be the worst team. While tanking teams have started off stronger than expected, there’s going to be a lot of competition at the bottom of the standings. Say the Raptors finish fifth-last – that gives them an 8.8 percent chance at the top pick, a 29.2 percent chance at a top-three pick and a 55.3 percent chance of a top-five pick. The eighth worst record (Terrence Ross!), just a 2.8 percent chance at top pick and a 10 percent chance at top-three (and top-five).
*One good draft pick probably doesn’t turn the franchise around on his own. The Raptors had a really high pick in a really stacked draft class before, too, and while good, Chris Bosh didn’t lead to any consistent or appreciable success for the Raptors. In fact, the vaunted 2003 draft class had four huge stars in it, and only one (Dwyane Wade, paired with Shaquille O’Neal) won a ring for the team that picked him.
The so-called “Thunder model” requires multiple years of being bad, smart cap management, a little luck in the draft (both to have players slide and to select the right players) and still guarantees nothing.
Yes, adding a superstar draft pick would make the team much more watchable and probably better, but the argument of “tanking is the only way to eventually win a championship” is overly simplified.
Compare Utah and Indiana, for example.
Utah has a pair of number three picks (Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter), two number nine picks (Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke, whom we can’t judge yet) and another lottery pick in Alec Burks. And they’re now tanking for a star to go with all those good players because a few high picks probably isn’t enough unless you absolutely nail them.
Indiana, meanwhile, is led by Paul George (10th) and Roy Hibbert (17th, acquired via Toronto, hooray!), while supplemented by Lance Stephenson (second round), George Hill (acquired for the 15th pick), David West (free agent) and eventually, Danny Granger (17th). George is the only lottery pick on the entire roster, and Indiana finished with the leagues’ 10th-worst record that year.
And of course, the Heat used one lottery pick (Wade) to attract two more in free agency (Bosh, LeBron James), and have failed lottery picks on the periphery (Michael Beasley, Greg Oden).
Now, that’s not to say Utah can’t be good or Indiana’s player development system is replicable or Toronto could ever attract multiple stars, but it shows that a) a lot of high draft picks don’t guarantee anything, and b) it’s not the only path to success.
It’s going to make for a really long year.
This is another of my main anti-tanking points, in that I don’t want to watch and cover terrible basketball for an entire year again. It felt that way in 2010-11 and 2011-12 and bore no fruit, and I’m not looking forward to writing weekly Tank Rank and “Odds of Certain Lottery Odds” posts.
You might be able to stomach it for a non-certain chance at being better (granted, it’s also a non-zero chance, which is what the team has in its current incarnation), and good for you. I’ll grin and bear it, if it comes to that.
But please, while you abjectly root for the team you cheer for to lose, keep these things in mind.
It’s an awful lot easier to win basketball games when your shots are going in. It’s even easier still when the other team is just plain bad. Those two stars aligned for the Raptors last night against the suddenly and shockingly terrible Memphis Grizzlies. The Raptors demonstrated some key improvement in a number of area’s that had been wanting so far this season in the process.
- Consistent effort on the defensive side of the floor from all five players on the court. Particular praise on this point goes to Terrence Ross and Rudy Gay. Ross played his second consecutive game of active and engaged defence. With his length and athleticism, it should be very difficult for players to get clean shots against him, and last night it was. Gay played defence as if he was the only player on the court from last season’s Memphis Grizzlies team. Gay picked off 5 steals and turned most of those in to points, getting back to what could be a huge weapon for the Raps.
- The Fastbreak. I predicted that the Raptors would make a jump from the bottom 10 last season to the top 10 this season in fastbreak points per game. At 24th in the league with 10.6 points per game so far, not so much. But last night they got back to utilizing the potential that this young, long and fast lineup has there. The Raptors made turnovers (though Tony Allen was kind enough to simply give them several, as is his want) through defensive effort, and turned them in to points, almost doubling their season average in fastbreak points. Ross, DeRozan and Gay have the potential to be fastbreak scoring beasts, and it would be a tremendous boon to an offence that struggles to find creativity and efficiency.
- Kyle Lowry really seems to be settling in to his role with the team. He seems to have accepted that he will not be a ball dominant point guard on this team (even if a little more of that might be a good thing). His effort level and body language are much more positive than they were last year when Lowry was visibly displeased with this role. He’s quietly starting to lead the offence; directing play, calling out screens and pointing out open space for teammates to move in to when he doesn’t have the ball. Most strikingly so far, Lowry has figured out where the spacing of this offence will create open spot-up shots for him. Lowry is getting 2-3 wide-open looks from 3 around the mid-way point of the arc and he continues to knock down over 40% of them.
- Rudy Gay, passer of the ball. Gay was by means Chris Paul with the ball. But what he did do, especially in the first half of the game, was demonstrate what looked like a concerted effort to try and find his teammates in the flow of the offence. Hopefully, the fact that more of those passes than not turned in to points will mean that this effort continues. Passing is still something that you can tell Gay has to make an effort to remember in order to do. While he may never see the floor like a point guard, if he can put up a consistent 4 or 5 assists like this, I think we’ll all be happy to take it.
What didn’t work:
- The Memphis Grizzlies. Yuck. This is a slow and sloppy team. Marc Gasol looks exhausted, Z-Bo looks like Z-Bo, Tayshaun Prince is auditioning for the AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ and Tony Allen’s defence is not making up for how bad his offence is when the rest of the team is giving up buckets.
- Passes in to the post. Jonas was all but completely forgotten about on the offensive side of the ball last night. While it’s easy to say that it’s because Marc Gasol, reigning defensive player of the year was guarding him, that wasn’t really the cause. Gasol did not have a good game, and he wasn’t making a habit of bullying Valanciunas out of position either. The passes simply weren’t going down there. This has become a trend now. Casey seems to make a clear game-plan of dedicating a couple of the teams first 2 or 3 possessions every game to going to Jonas on the block. In hindsight, this is probably an effort just to make sure that he gets them at all. Jonas has a lot of work to do on his post game still, particularly in establishing his position closer to the basket, but he is a capable scorer from there and there is a lot of good offence to be found inside-out if he can make the defence collapse. This is being ignored by the ball-stopping perimeter play. What’s even more of a problem here though is that Valanciunas was visibly frustrated by this last night. Considering how much of an effort this team is relying on Jonas to run the floor, play tough defence, set screens and fight for rebounds, you do not want your heavy minutes big man and future of the franchise to resent his role or teammates. Worse still, it’s created a scenario where he’s likely to shoot it whether it’s a good look or not whenever he finally does get a post look, not knowing when he’ll get another chance.
- As primary ball-handlers, Rudy and DeMar running in to a double-team results in a “MUST SHOOT NOW!” mentality. They NEED to learn to consider that the double team you see means that one of your teammates is wide open right now, and it’s almost always Jonas or Amir rolling to the basket or presenting for a pass.
- The Raptors freelancing on defence is an issue. Yes, it was a much better defensive game, but some players are deciding to leave their man to double team on occasion, and not because of a system that calls for it. Lowry was the problem-maker with this last season, but so far has been much more disciplined. The guilty parties last night were Hansbrough and, as a repeat offender, DeMar, who has been abandoning his cover for disadvantageous double teams that leave his man wide open for easy perimeter shots. I like the idea of being enthusiastic on defence, but this actually does a lot more harm than help.
OK, let’s have a brief and rational conversation about Rudy Gay. This is possible, I swear. The Rudy Gay hate/humour dominated NBA twitter Tuesday night. Last night, the overreaction holy war swung completely the other way. It’s getting increasingly difficult to have a conversation about Rudy that is at once fair, honest and conclusive. I think that these past two Jekyl-and-Hyde games only go to perpetuate those story lines. But yelling that he’s amazing and clutch, or terrible and needs to be run out of town is neither helpful nor accurate for either side. It’s REALLY important to understand that the relentlessness and weight of the criticism of Rudy Gay is because he can and should be a Superstar. Not because he’s terrible or garbage or whatever else you might read on twitter. He’s REALLY good, and capable of being great. He has all the tools. But he just so rarely puts them all together, which is frustrating. Especially when so much of what he needs to fix seems like simply choices he needs to make, rather than skills that he doesn’t have. So he’s graded on a completely different curve than everyone else. Maybe that’s unfair. But that’s how it goes. It’s not because of the contract for me; it’s because of the capabilities.
Amir Johnson, PF 30 MIN | 4-8 FG | 6-6 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | +15
Was dared to shoot his mid-range jumper by Randolph early and nailed ‘em both. Battled foul trouble while checking Gasol and Randolph, and put in a workman like shift. Ignore the rebounding numbers, this was a team-rebounding effort and Johnson did his part of bothering the Memphis bigs enough. The missed three is forgiven as well.
Rudy Gay, SF 42 MIN | 8-18 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 5 STL | 2 BLK | 4 TO | 23 PTS | +12
Even when he’s shooting 2-57 or whatever it was, he’s bringing the effort on the boards and on defense (steals are evidence). Same was the case here, and he even peppered it with some great assists to DeRozan to start the game. Hit the majority of his open jumpers and the high-screen drive-and-pull-up was going in, even after Memphis switched Tony Allen on him. Good game from Gay who gets a win on his return to Memphis.
Jonas Valanciunas, C 30 MIN | 1-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -3
Struggled against the size of Gasol which I had anticipated before dropping him from my fantasy team for the night. Was matched up with Randolph for brief periods as well but did nothing to stand out. It helps when he has his defensive game going before he can get his offense fired up, and the night never quite got started for him. He did use his size well to pull in some rebounds when Gasol was parked at the elbow.
Kyle Lowry, PG 35 MIN | 6-10 FG | 6-8 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 21 PTS | +7
This guy isn’t a ballhog, is a great three-point shooter, looks to distribute whenever possible, and I honestly can’t find much wrong with his game other than that he’s not as quick as drive-and-dish PG. That’s part of the reason Ujiri got in Buycks and Augustin, both are supposed to complement Lowry. As for this game, solid all around game including some stifling defense which forced turnovers to get that lead, and a great drive with 3 minutes left to extend the lead to 14. Yes, Conley had a big game but I’d take that over Conley driving past Lowry and creating for everyone else.
DeMar DeRozan, SG 33 MIN | 7-13 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 18 PTS | +14
Using the screens much better especially to start the game and was key to the Raptors hot start. He set the tone and quieted the crowd and Tony Allen early. Defensively, he was switched on, fought through screens well and made over/under decisions in high-screen situations very well.
Tyler Hansbrough, PF 23 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | +16
This guy worked haaaard, man. The rebounding numbers aren’t great and neither is the FG%, but he was a factor on defense and bothered the Memphis bigs into frustration. There’s no stat for wearing the opposition down but if it was, he’d be leading both teams.
Landry Fields, SF 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +1
Came in late to spell Rudy.
Quincy Acy, SF 5 MIN | 0-0 FG | 4-6 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | 0
Brought the intensity along with Ross in that second quarter which got the Raptors going after a dip. He drove off the dribble effectively and got some fouls, but more importantly, he provided the same spark as in Houston. I’m surprised he didn’t get more run.
Aaron Gray, C 7 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 1 PTS | +2
After riding the pine against Houston, Casey remembered that there’s a lumbering 7-footer on the roster that he can make use of against expansive bigs. So it make sense that Gray got the call, albeit briefly, to spell the ineffective Valanciunas. Delivered on his rebounding responsibilities and didn’t look out of place.
Dwight Buycks, PG 12 MIN | 0-1 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +8
Meet your official backup PG. Quick off the dribble, looking to drive instead of settle, and digs in defensively. Even if Augustin was fully available Buycks would’ve been the man to go with. He doesn’t have the feel for the NBA game yet so you’ll see him make a pass that gets easily deflected which surprises him. That part will come.
D.J. Augustin, PG 1 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +1
Came in late for some reason.
Terrence Ross, SG 20 MIN | 3-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +5
Finally decided to pitch in on defense for two games in a row and it shows in the minutes he got. It’s no surprise his jumper looked more confident; once you feel part of the team by contribute (on defense in this case), confidence flows and natural talent comes to the forefront. Technically, Ross is a good shooter, he just never seems to get long enough of a confidence run for the shooting to showcase itself.
Did well to mix-and-match his lineups, we didn’t see the entire bench play at the same time. Picked the minutes for Ross very well, and got Acy in at the right time too.
Five Things We Saw
- The only dip in the Raptors defense happened to start the second when Memphis started on a 9-2 run and the Raptors looked switched off. Other than that stretch which they recovered form quickly, the perimeter defense was solid and every time the ball got dumped to a big down low, those pesky guards were there ready to swipe at it. Bothered MEM a lot.
- Quincy Acy and Terrence Ross did a fantastic job of upping the intensity in the second quarter. Memphis went to the bench in hopes of one-upping the Raptors but these two, along with Buycks, disrupted Memphis and forced turnovers.
- The Raptors won three out of four quarters and every time Memphis clawed back, the Raptors counter-punched through Gay, DeRozan or Lowwry. Basically, when we were against the ropes, our big guns delivered.
- A complete team rebounding effort – the Raptors were -3 against the huge Memphis frontline but made up for it by everybody pitching in. Credit to Rudy Gay as well for tracking back on defense to help out the under-pressure Valanciunas and Hansbrough.
- Rudy Gay delivered in the clutch. Memphis’ game plan seemed to be to concede the jumper to Gay as long as it was contested or from far out, and he made them regret that strategy.