Starters fall short in the 4th

Almost, but not quite.

Dwane Casey isn’t Jay Triano. It’s safe to say this much without any real argument. There is structure in the defense, the effort is markedly better and as a result team rarely gets blown out like it used to. In fact, against better teams like Memphis, the Raps are able to trade blows and even take the lead for stretches of the game.

But in a sport where majority of games are actually decided in the final quarter, the last 5 – 6 minutes in fact, there seems to be an ironic level of predictability in determining who will come out on top. Generally, as we have seen all season with Toronto, it will be the more talented team. Not necessarily the deeper team with decent talent from player 1 to 12, but the team with the more high-end talent. Usually that talent is an offensive star, and they have the ball in their hands at the end of games.

We don’t have that guy, and he won’t unless we trade or draft for him. We know what Jose is. Someone who is elite when he balances his passing tendencies with looking for his own shot. But even then, he’s not a guy you can rely on to make that play when everything is on the line.

And it’s not DeMar DeRozan. It’s a little easy to go after a guy who just scored 4 points off 8 shots, 2 rebounds, 0 assists in 34 minutes. This is not about that. It’s about realizing that he may be a good, serviceable scorer off an NBA bench for a good team perhaps but not much more than that. You need at least one excellent guard player to compete for a championship. What defines these kind of players isn’t necessarily the games they have, but the kind of games they don’t have. Go look up the third years of any superstar-calibre player in his third year. You will be hard pressed to find more than 2, 3 games like the one DeMar had last night for the entire year.

What this indicates is that DeMar does not possess that elite ability to dictate offense. Kind of like “This is what I’m about to do and I’m so good you’re not going to be able to do much about it.” He’s more of an opportunistic scorer. On a night like this, the opportunities were less and DeMar couldn’t dictate his own offense. You hear rumblings about his effort level, and that’s unfair. He cares and he works hard from all accounts. His dedication has probably gotten him further than most with his level of talent, not the other way around.

So all together now, a good piece to have, but if him being the starting shooting guard of this team is part of the blueprint of future successes, good luck to you Mr. Colangelo.

Coming back to last night’s game, it was obvious that Jerry Bayless and Leandro Barbosa were more effective at playing the 2 than DD but Coach Casey decided to stick with his starters for the final few minutes. To clarify, don’t ever call Bayless anything other than a shooting guard because he’s not. When it was so obvious that the team was playing better with these guys, why didn’t Casey pull DeMar? Most likely this was a “lose today for wins later on” philosophy. Perhaps it’s a case of Colangelo feeling vindicated with Il Mago’s positive step in his career, and his insistence that DeMar will have eventually have a similar epiphany. The hope is that he’s worth this developmental approach, because it’s costing the team games like it did last night.

A sidenote: Bargnani did what he did for 13 games. 13 games. As fans, we all hope it continues once he’s back and healthy.

So we wait and see in this year of low expectations and minimal pressure, how much of our core we already have. Jonas Valunciunas seems to be one. Perhaps he would have answered the call when Memphis rode Marc Gasol to get back into this game. But the reality is, he still won’t be the offensive answer in the final tense moments, not anytime soon anyway. Other than a 7-point mini-explosion where Linas Kleiza looked like a Lithuanian Jordan, there was no go-to guy.

That’s a troubling void that’s not easy to fill, which is where the draft will hopefully come in handy. Of course, things could be worse, they could be that other team that plays in the ACC. DeMar might want to tweet some thanks to Brian Burke for stealing the spotlight away for just this one night.

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