anyone an insider? please repost this article.
Love the raps buzz lately. its a nice change from the norm.
anyone an insider? please repost this article.
Love the raps buzz lately. its a nice change from the norm.
Finally! i'm fuckin loving this
hop on ESPN
What they got to say now? Nothing they can say now. Mobbin' on the low. Winnin' on the lowThe city embraced me, made me feel at home. The only difference [between Compton and Toronto] for me is the cold. -DeMardat Atlantic division dominance
the insider is insulting
not the article.
the idea that they charge for articles.
Pretty lengthy article.Which way are the Raptors going?
Six big questions on the long-term plan for a suddenly resilient Toronto team
Originally Published: December 24, 2013
By Tom Haberstroh | ESPN Insider
AP Photo/Alonzo Adams
The Raptors are on the rise since trading Rudy Gay, but are they better off playing for the draft?
Having trouble figuring out the Toronto Raptors?
You're not alone. At 11-15, they remain one of greatest mysteries in the game. Are they any good? Do they even want to be good? Are they winning the Atlantic Division by default?
With monster wins over some Western Conference foes and a cloudy future, the Raptors are one giant question mark. Let's figure this one out together, FAQ-style.
At what point do we call it the "Rudy Gay Theory?"
Bill Simmons coined the term "Ewing Theory" years ago to describe star players who seemed to make their teams better when they didn't play. It was, of course, named after Patrick Ewing and his bizarre influence on the New York Knicks, but we might have a candidate for this generation.
Rudy Gay jumps like an All-Star, fires up shots like an All-Star and gets paid like an All-Star. But, for the third time in his career (twice in Memphis, once in Toronto), a team has improved without him.
It started in 2010-11, when the Grizzlies advanced to the Western Conference semifinals by upsetting the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs while Gay, out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery, could only watch from the sideline. Until that point, Memphis had never advanced past the first round, but the spacing provided by O.J. Mayo and Shane Battier in Gay's stead helped push a possessed Zach Randolph and friends to uncharted territory.
It happened again last season, when Gay was shipped to the Raptors before the trade deadline. After striking a deal that netted Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and Ed Davis, the Grizzlies finished the season 27-11 and powered their way to the franchise's first Western Conference finals. It should be noted that they received a little nudge from injuries to Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook, but Memphis improved well before the playoff run. In the regular season, its offensive efficiency climbed from 100.4 points per 100 possessions with Gay to 103.3 without him. That shouldn't happen.
And now the Raptors have sharpened their attack in the post-Gay era. Speaking of which…
Are the Raptors good now?
Yes. Toronto is 5-3 since shedding Gay, with impressive wins in Chicago (won by 22), in Dallas (in overtime) and in Oklahoma City (won by six). The Raptors were 0-10 against winning teams with Gay, but now, with weekend wins over the Mavs and Thunder, they've taken two of their past three against clubs above .500.
Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images
Once again, Rudy Gay's team has gotten better without him on it.
OK, we get it. The Atlantic Division is horrible and the Raptors seem to be leading the five-team pack by default. But that shortchanges the progress they've made this season. Don't pay attention to the uninspiring overall record. They've endured several brutal losses decided in the closing moments -- including one when Gay shot 11-for-37 in a double-overtime brickfest in Houston and more recently by a Kemba Walker buzzer-beater in Charlotte -- and, based on point differential (a better indicator of future performance), the Raptors now look like a playoff team, regardless of the curdled state of the Eastern Conference.
Since the trade, the Raptors are outscoring opponents by 2.7 points per 100 possessions, tossing in 104.2 points per 100 possessions on the offensive end (about a top-10 rate) and holding their opponents to 101.6 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com. Before the deal? The Raptors trailed by 1.1 points every 100 possessions. And the bounces are finally going their way of late, too.
Thanks to a No. 12 ranking in the Hollinger Power Rankings, the Playoff Odds have Toronto winning the Atlantic Division 76.4 percent of the time despite owning just a half-game lead in the standings over the Boston Celtics and 2½ games over the Knicks. Why the purple-colored optimism? It stems from the Raptors' point differential, which has been boosted since Gay went out west. Not only that but they've faced a brutal schedule lately, with five games against above-.500 Western Conference teams. After accounting for those two important factors, the Raptors have a leg up against the rest of the division.
But do they even want to be good?
This is where it gets tricky. The tanking accusations shouldn't be targeted at the players. As the esteemed Marc Stein noted Sunday, they don't want to hear any of that. Tanking typically stems from upstairs, not on the court, and, earlier this month, Toronto GM Masai Ujiri ominously announced: "We will not be caught in no-man's land." Translation: As constructed, the Raptors weren't good enough to contend for the title, nor are they bad enough to have a solid shot at the No. 1 pick. Why pay big money for mediocrity?
Three days after his comments, Ujiri seemingly began to tear it down by trading Gay and the $36 million remaining on his contract to the Sacramento Kings. Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes isn't a horrible haul for Gay, but let's be clear: The trade wasn't made for basketball reasons. It was a salary dump, pure and simple. Toronto fans know no-man's land all too well from the Bryan Colangelo era, in which the team put together only one winning campaign in eight seasons, and Ujiri has tried to distance himself from that regime as much as he can.
Since taking over the job this summer, the former Denver Nuggets GM has successfully unloaded the toxic contracts of Gay and Andrea Bargnani in just a few months' time. This is quickly becoming Ujiri's team, and, in all likelihood, the teardown has just gotten started. They've already tried to move Kyle Lowry, and there are indications that more could be on their way out. Nabbing three draft picks for Bargnani was a steal, but I'm waiting to see whether, for his next magic act, Ujiri can persuade a team to take on Landry Fields and the $6.3 million he is owed in 2014-15.
Still, the Raptors are on target to be caught in the dreaded middle. Sure, a No. 4 seed in the East might be exciting for a tortured fan base, but Toronto would wind up losing its shot at one of the prized young players in the 2014 draft. Forget Canadian Andrew Wiggins. The Raptors won't even be in the lottery.
Who's more underrated: Kyle Lowry or Amir Johnson?
Moving Lowry would be the most blatant indication that Ujiri is serious about moving down and into the lottery. Lowry's a bulldog on both ends of the floor, shooting exclusively in high-efficiency areas (think: Moreyball) while creating havoc as a willing charge-taker and gambler in passing lanes. With an 18.0 PER, Lowry is a better player than Gay, and he's paid a third of the price, providing great value for any team looking for a point guard (cough, Knicks, cough). Yes, he has butted heads with multiple coaches in his career, including his current one, but he's a feisty point guard on a great contract. He probably doesn't receive his due from fans.
But I'd still have to go with Johnson as the more underappreciated player. The 26-year-old has long been a cult favorite of the stats community, registering the 14th-highest regularized adjusted plus/minus last season, ahead of players such as Roy Hibbert, Dirk Nowitzki and Griffin. As Raptors fans have observed over the years, he's more for-real than fluke. Especially now without Gay.
Johnson has blossomed offensively the past eight games, shooting a ridiculous 67.1 percent from the floor with 16.4 points and 9.6 rebounds. The big thing? He's receiving 60.6 touches per game, according to SportVU player tracking technology, up from 46.3 touches before the Gay trade. It's about time.
What's wrong with Jonas?
The Raptors have made it clear that Jonas Valanciunas is part of the long-term plan in Toronto despite his rough start in 2013-14. With greater expectations after a dominant summer-league campaign, his PER has dropped to 14.5 this season, thanks to a regression in his shooting from the floor and at the line.
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Time to worry?
Not even close. Take a deep breath and remember that Valanciunas is 21 years old. He's still learning the nuances of being an NBA-level big man on both ends of the floor. He shows his age occasionally, but sharing the court with two of the biggest black holes in the game in DeMar DeRozan and Gay hasn't helped his development. And surprise, surprise: Valanciunas' numbers have gotten much better since Gay left the scene. His PER since the trade has jumped to 17.1.
Don't give up on the young big fella just yet. Ujiri shouldn't, either.
Should they move DeMar DeRozan?
DeRozan is enjoying something of a career season, averaging 21 points per game and 3.4 assists at shooting guard. He's finally shooting 3-pointers at a serviceable clip (31.9 percent), which was sorely needed. He has posted a career-high 16.2 PER. And his assist rate has just about doubled since his sophomore season (8.6 percent in 2010-11 to 16.1 percent this season). He's making real strides.
Only one problem: He's on the hook for $38 million until 2016-17, which works out to an annual $9.5 million. That's a high price tag for a team in rebuilding mode, especially given that Ujiri has already jettisoned two of Colangelo's swollen contracts. Although DeRozan is relatively young, he's not on a rookie contract anymore, which makes him a prime target to be moved. DeRozan's greatest skill is that he can get a shot off, but he's still a high-volume, low-efficiency scorer in the mold of Gay rather than, say, James Harden. Still, there should be suitors for a 24-year-old athlete who can score 20 points a night. The Brooklyn Nets could use a scorer now that Brook Lopez is tabled for the season, and taking on long-term money is their only option. Can Ujiri unload the DeRozan and Fields contracts for Paul Pierce's expiring deal? Because of his chucking tendencies, DeRozan probably is best suited as a scoring anchor off the bench for a team starving for just that. Some other squads that could use a Jamal Crawford type include: the Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards.
If we've learned anything from Ujiri's brief tenure in Toronto so far, it's that he isn't swayed by the points per game column.
Sorry about the copy/paste job I'm on my ipad
Espn does not hold DeRozan in high regard
Why would they trade DD to an Eastern Conference team for an expiring? Why would they make a direct competitor better for nothing? A lot of analytic guys don't like Demar, or see him as instant offense off the bench, but this article does not put his improvements into perspective. Also, if he thinks Demar is overpaid, why would any team trade for him? There is a serious lack of logic in this article.
Every journalist I read thinks that Ujiri needs to do a complete strip down to rebuild-- why? Is it impossible for Masai to make changes on the fly? Masai has a history that all of these jokers refuse to research. This reads like grasping at straws for a paycheck.
Am I happy that ESPN is finally writing articles on the Raps? Yes, it indicates that they are becoming an interesting team. Sadly, the Raps are not interesting enough to deserve research beyond a computer monitor.
This is an excellent article, btw.
The whole idea of Derozan being an inefficient black hole is bogus, and anyone that has watched the Raps this year knows that. His efficiency isn't as good as I'd like, I'll admit. But I just don't get this black hole nonsense. He moves the ball as willingly as any other Raptor.
Derozan might be a volume scorer but he's not a black hole like Rudy was
0-8ft 401 attempts .561
8-16ft 261 attempts .395
16-24 449 attempts .414
24+ 120 attempts .283
Thus far in 2013-14
0-8ft 133 attempts .594
8-16ft 106 attempts .396
16-24 159 attempts .371
24+ 99 attempts .313
37.7% of shots in 12-13 were long 2s
31.9% of shots in 13-14 are long 2s but making at less of a rate (37.1% which is good for 82nd among guards in the NBA).
I'd love to see him put up a shot chart much like Harden or Stephenson where the 0-8 and 3 attempts are 2-4x 8-16 and 16-24 attempts.
Don't get me wrong, although many will haha, he has definitely shown improvement in his game.... mainly in creating for others and getting to the foul line. However his rebounding is still average at best, he can't handle a double, his defense is shaky. Yeah, he is putting up more points but he is doing it on nearly 3 extra attempts per game. Unfortunately since Gay left he is being exposed in his efficiency and he has really cooled form 3 after a hot start. He is not a #1 scoring option. Not sure how the Raptors get one either. He's shown he is a great Robin from a scoring perspective.
Anyways, let the typical "Matt52 hates DeRozan" begin. Criticism, especially when founded, is not hate, gents.
"Championships are what we live for, now lets go win them."Tim Leiweke
Basketball has clear winners every night --except at the draft, which is all homework, politics and chance.
“The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.” - Martin Luther King
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