B/RToronto fans feel the Raptors are the most overlooked, disrespected, brushed-aside team in the league. They might have a point. According to information provided by Steve Lepore of SB Nation, Toronto is the best team this season without a single national TV appearance.
Just because they’re in Canada doesn't mean the Raptors aren't in the NBA.
On Dec. 9, the Raptors traded Rudy Gay and parts for Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes (i.e. an entire bench). Their second unit, which was only the 15th-best, has become the fifth-best since making the trade.
They also improved their starting rotation, adding by subtracting. Toronto's starters were 19th in offensive rating; now they are 11th, scoring 108.5 per 100 possessions.
Without Gay’s inefficient shots stymieing the team, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry were able to shine. Since the trade, the backcourt duo has been averaging 41.9 points and 12.2 assists. That’s 6.3 points and 2.9 assists more than they combined for before the trade.
The Raptors are better, but there are real red flags here too. They’re 3-7 in games decided by three points or less. They’re 18-25 against winning teams. They’re 1-6 in overtime. Those are all signs of learning to win.
USA TODAY Sports
They have a grand total of 310 minutes of playoff experience in their starting five. Dwane Casey is in the conversation for Coach of the Year, but he’s never coached a playoff game.
Teams that haven’t learned to win close games in the regular season don’t normally figure it out in the playoffs, particularly against veteran teams. It’s even less likely if the coach has never held the whiteboard in a postseason game.
The Raptors are a good young team, and they’re growing. It’s not their time yet, though. They need some playoff vetting. If the standings hold, they’re going to be pitted against the veteran Brooklyn Nets in the first round. It’s unlikely they win that series, much less beat the Heat (presumably) in the next.
This isn't a diss of the Raptors. They've had a great year and are a nice up-and-coming team, but they need a postseason trip to learn from before a true playoff run is likely. Count this as a learning opportunity, and mark the Raptors as favorites for a second-round trip next year.
Somewhere, in a dark place where nobody can see him, Kyle Singler is crying.
Notice his shoulders sag after....in the vid/gif.
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