Position Competition, Drake Thoughts, Early Records

Looking at some position where competition is rife.

Drake joining the Raptors as a global ambassador. Sure, why not? Actually, there’s many reasons why not but let’s just go with the flow here in the name of Jay-Z. If it’s good enough for Russian billionaires, it’s good enough for the Toronto Raptors. I don’t follow Drake (still stuck with Cypress Hill and Tribe) but I have heard his name bandied about at All-Star games, in commercials, and sometimes I see him sitting courtside. I suppose the Raptors are banking on his appeal to attract more fans, and in turn deepen their pockets. It’s a fair strategy from a business perspective. What he can bring to the Raptors as a “consultant”, I really don’t know. If he has yay/nay decisions on what the logo, look, or whatever will be, I don’t know how I feel about that.

There was a recent re-brand of sorts done with Everton FC of the Barclay’s Premier League and the fans didn’t receive it too well so they’re going to re-do the logo with “supporter consultation” and then have a vote on the options picked. It’s an approach that I like and hope the Raptors use when talking about far-reaching things like branding. If a bigger club like Everton (compared to the Raptors, that is) can do it, there’s no reason why we can’t do the same, and we even have a precedent with the Raptors naming thingy way back in the 90s.

Of course, none of all that matters since it’s the product on the floor that counts. And on that matter let’s look ahead to some of the parameters heading into training camp, and some of the desired outcomes.

There could be as many as eight but more likely six new faces this season: Augustin, Buycks, Daye, Hansbrough, Morais, Novak, Stone, Wright. About three of them are going to be rotation players which is pretty standard across the NBA, meaning that the ever-elusive gelling should not be of concern. The starting five of Lowry, DeRozan, Gay, Johnson, and Valanciunas is intact, and the Raptors haven’t been able to stay that for some time. That could be huge in the month of November where we have been historically bad at:

Season	Record
2012-13	4-13
2011-12 7-15
2010-11 6-11
2009-10 7-11
2008-09 8-8
2007-08 9-7

So you have to go back to the 2007-08 season since the Raptors ended November with a +500 record, and in every single one of those season there was turnover which included starting positions being swapped out. This year that’s not the case and how much bearing that will have on the results remains to be seen.

In terms of competition, there’s a couple spots that are wide open. First, it’s the backup point-guard where Dwight Buycks and D.J. Augustin will go at it – Buycks looked impressive in summer league but Augustin has the NBA experience and has had success as a reserve – shot 39% from three as a starter, 35% as a reserve. Defensively, Augustin is behind Buycks and Stone, so that could play a part in selection.

The backup small forward is a spot where Landry Fields, Steve Novak, and if you want to entertain him there, Terrence Ross, have opportunities. It’s hard to see the Raptors using the 30-year old Novak as a first-choice backup over Landry Fields, despite the latter’s struggles with the game of basketball. At the same time we can’t be using the “Carmelo ruined him” excuse much longer because the evidence against him is piling up to the degree where the good part of his career is looking the anomaly, not the poor one. It’s a stretch to suggest that the competition will come from Austin Daye, and my dark horse right now is Chris Wright. Yes, a summer leaguer could be our backup small forward when the season starts (Alan Anderson anyone?)

My exposure to Chris Wright has been in summer league where I saw every possession he played and I can attest that the guy will, 1) play hard on both ends, 2) not do dumb things on purpose, and 3) score. Yes, score. That’s something Fields, Ross, and Novak struggle to do on their own, and even with help. Dwane Casey’s approach for this position should not be to cater and develop Terrence Ross, and it should be completely a matter of earning the minutes through practice play and game performance.

The position where there should be more competition but isn’t is backup center. After Jonas Valanciunas we have Aaron Gray and that’s about it. As is the case every season, Amir Johnson ends up playing a bunch of center and actually does well which causes the dilemma of playing a guy who isn’t built for the position at the position. If one of Valanciunas or Gray get hurt, Casey will have to use some pretty creative lineups to hide the soft middle. We might call it small ball when the real issue is lack of depth.

Training camp is officially underway and Dwane Casey, predictably, is preaching defense (video).  There’s also some quotes in there about tanking where he says it’s “it goes against every grain in the coach’s body”.  When asked about Andrew Wiggins, he goes, “I wouldn’t know him if he walked in the gym”.  Some fresh-faced reporter with a rather androgynous voice kept on persisting and Casey kept shutting him down.

Three guys he mentioned as having worked on their bodies and conditioning: Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry, and Austin Daye.  Gay’s been working with a strength coach all summer and Casey thinks it’ll allow him to live in the paint more instead of relying on the jumper.  Tons of videos in there including Rudy Gay.  The same reporter talks about tanking here again, this guy needs to stop.  And so should this post.

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