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?

The record - 6 - 10
The record at this point is exactly what I expected ( With correctly predicting 14 of 16 games (with the two incorrect cancelling each other out), I'd have to say this team's W/L is expected, but the standing is certainly not. Yes, we knew that the division was going to have bad teams in Philly and Boston, but New York and Brooklyn were supposed to pace the division to 40-50 wins (50 seems high, but when you play a lot against Philly, Boston and the Raptors it is much more attainable). The Raptors were never expected to be leading the division in any manner. Their 22nd rank in total NBA is much more indicative of where this team stands.

Pleasant Surprises Beyond Expectation
Demar's 3PT shot
DD shot 28.3% from deep last year. This year he is hitting at 38.3%. That is a huge difference. Even the boldest of DD supporters wouldn't have breached 35%, and while DD is likely to come down a bit, his attention to using the corner 3 more this year has been a success thus far. Demar struggled after a great pre-season, and who knows how the rest of the season will play out, but so far, his recent play puts him as the most positive production thus far. Demar is averaging a career best in PPG, 3P%, FTA, RPG, APG, SPG, Usage% and a low in Fouls per game. There are still some things to improve on (which have been widely discussed) but overall, he's playing the best of his career.

Terrence Ross
I've never subscribed to the thought that Ross was a complete dud, but many people on here were very critical of Ross going into the regular season. Ross has managed to play efficiently and been affective on both ends of the court. He's still learning and growing, but the production thus far, while playing on an inconsistent bench with rotating PG's running the unit, has been promising.

Many knew that Hansbrough was going to be a big boost to our front line in terms of rebounding, hustle, toughness and FTAs, but I'm still surprised of the volume of production in the minutes he's gotten. Playing less than 21 MPG, Hansbrough has managed to set a new career high in RPG, FTA, and ORPG. His per36 numbers translate into a double-double per for the first time in his career. His PPG is down, but he's averaging just 4.2 FGA per game (first time below 5 in his career) and still shooting better than his career average. His WS/48 is at a career best, despite the lowest usage% of his career (15%, never below 20% before). His OffRtg is an amazing 121 (career 109) and his D is holding steady at his career avg of 104. A Rtg differential of +17.

We've seen the best and worst of Lowry since acquiring him from Houston, and I don't think many people knew what to expect for KL this year (although as I type this I hear Matt's repeated "fear the contract year" mantra echoing). Lowry isn't the ball dominating PG that excelled in years past, but considering the role he's been given and the expectations applied to a ball dominant PG playing off-ball more, I think he's done better than expected. Consistency is still an issue, but with Gay and Demar getting most of the touches, Lowry producing with a low Usage (18.2%) is nice to see. Lowry's assist to turnover ratio is one of the best, even though team assists are almost unheard-of with this team. Lowry is still averaging 6.4 APG, which isn't terrible when you consider how much Gay controls the ball. Lowry's DRtg is tied for his career best at 104 and his WS/48 is just shy of his career best (.153, .156). His 113 OffRtg is tops amoungst the starters.

Production as Expected
A lot has been said on JV lately, and people are starting to get on the young center, but based on realistic expectations, JV is producing at an expected level for the 21 yr old sophomore. His per36 numbers are 12.2PPG and 10.2RPG (points down 1.3 but rebounds up 1.2). Again, factor in this team's offence and the fact that JV is maintaining his scoring rate is impressive. His per game numbers are up in scoring and rebounds. JV's defence has improved but still struggles against stronger opponents (who wouldn't?) and rotations are still a work in progress. With inconsistent minutes to start the season, JV is finally starting to get regular burn befitting his standing on this team. His lack of touches are a concern, but JV has shown he can produce when given the right opportunities. The team's complete ignorance towards the roll man on the PnR is making it significantly harder for JV and Amir to score efficiently, so any production he's gotten within the confines of this team is good.

Team Rebounding
As I said in this post on Oct 11th, the #1 strength of this team would be rebounding. We were 24th last year in O-Boards, but I expected an uptick and we are currently 7th best at crashing the O-glass and have the 2nd best ORb%. The addition of Hansbrough to this existing group has benefitted us in that regard.


Back-Up PG play
No one expected this group to really produce much and we've gotten exactly that. The minute distribution has been inconsistent, as none of the three has been able to secure the gig. DJ and Buycks have appeared in 10 games, while Stone has been in 8. When playing, Buycks leads in MPG at 10.2, with DJ 8.2 and Stone 5.6. The uncertainty just adds to the roster instability and makes it harder for 2nd unit guys (Ross, Hansbrough) to get any sort of chemistry going with any of the three. If you need any further proof that the key to a top pick is trading Lowry, check out the stats for these 3 and imagine them running the point for 48 minutes.

Team Defence
I debated where to put team defence, but in the end I think it's as expected. We are 8th best in OppPPG but we allow opponents to shot .461% from the field against us (21st in the NBA). Our pace (24th of 30) does skew some of our numbers, but our team DRtg is 103.6 (10th best). Since this is both a good (Rtg, OppPPG) and bad (OppFG%), expectations met. Improving our defensive execution and rotations is important for the long term development of our players.

Rudy Gay
I'd like to say that we are running out of ways to say how bad Rudy Gay is playing right now, but I fear that's likely wrong. Rudy has been awful. Historically awful. Rudy is on par for his career in APG (amazingly), SPG but his shooting decisions and %s are atrocious. He's a #1 scorer who's posting a negative Offensive Win Share. His TrueShooting% is a career low, as is his eFG% and OffRtg.

Since our #1 guy has been awful, it's no surprise that our offence has been awful, but I don't anyone expected the ball movement to be this bad. The Raps are last in team assists (by a wide margin). We're 27th in FG% and the "hero ball" on the perimeter is completely ignoring teammates down low or on the roll. Our PPG is 21st with 96.9 PPG (0.5 less than we give up per game). We've all seen it, we all know the problems, but I don't think anyone saw this level of awfulness coming.

I love what Amir brings to this team and think he is great for this franchise, but he has been disappointing this year. He is dealing with some personal issues and the bought of flu didn't help but Amir's numbers are down. PPG, RPG, FG%, SPG, FT% are all down from last year, despite only playing 1 minute less. Hopefully Amir can get his swagger back and play like he did last year, but for now, he has to be put down as a disappointment.

Other notable notes:

Quincy Acy has been very good in limited minutes. With Rtgs of 118/96, he's one of the team's best at both ends of the court. His per36 avgs of 11.2PPG and 8.9RPG are nice to see as well. He leads the team with a PER of 18.0

Austin Daye has contributed nothing after a decent preseason. 2 points scored this season with just 4 games of action. The DNP-CD was expected when he was signed, but there looked like signs of life for a stretch there before the real games began. He has a negative PER (-2.2).

Julyan Stone has a OffRtg of 142. Attempting 0.8 FG per game certainly helps skew his numbers.

Aaron Gray has a turnover % of 50.8. Literally, half of the times he touches the ball result in turnovers. Possibly more amazing, his Usage% of 17.6 is 7th on the team, ahead of (in order) JV, Ross, Hansbrough, Novak, Amir, Acy, Fields and Stone.

The Raps have zero wins against teams at or above .500

The Raps are 8th in league attendance, up from 16th last year. No stat on the % of fans planning to boo Rudy Gay next game.