In Depth Analysis Of Your Toronto Raptors

In Depth Analysis Of Your Toronto Raptors

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Bench Problems: How to Improve the Raptors Bench and Ensure That Lowry and DeRozan Stay Fresh

Despite the good-great play of Cory Joseph, the occasional bursts from Terrence Ross and the surprise of Lucas Nogueira in the absence of Jonas Valanciunas, it is still clear that the Raptors bench is in need of improvement. While the return of DeMarre Carroll as well as Valanciunas will without a doubt help as James Johnson and Bismack Biyombo can return to their original bench positions, blowing leads and overplaying starters has been a problem the entire season. So, as every Raptors fan has already, I began thinking of ways to help with the problem, and here are a few that I have come up with.
In-House Improvement
Definitely not the popular opinion, but one that has to be said nonetheless. One of the main reasons for the decline of the bench has been the disappearance of 2pat as well as the inconsistency of Terrence Ross. However, it wouldn't be the first time it happened if both of those guys managed to turn it around. Patterson has been a key part of our bench ever since he was acquired from Sacramento in the Rudy Gay trade, as his three point shooting has been a key to the Raptors floor spacing. However, he is shooting 30.6% from deep this year and 36.3% overall and has looked lost out there offensively. Defensively, however, he has been quietly effective and you have to think it'll only be a matter of time before his shots start dropping. Terrence, on the other hand, has put together a very good recent set of games scoring 17 in back to back games against two very good defences in Charlotte and Miami. We all know at this point that Terrence can get it going at any time, but mental roadblocks have been an issue. But let's remember that Terrence was getting the job done fairly consistently two years ago and he will keep getting open looks while he shares the court with one of Lowry or DeRozan.
If those two get going, they will give Cory Jo enough help to be able to turn the Raptors bench around.
Trading for Zach Randolph
If you aren't sold on PatPat returning to form, then this proposition is for you.
It's no secret that the Raps' weakest position is power forward, even when Patterson was himself, and acquiring Z-Bo could give them an immediate lift at that position. Randolph comes from a defence-first system in Memphis, much like Dwane Casey is developing in Toronto, and he is a 20-10 threat on a nightly basis. He has tons of playoff experience and if a consistent, solid veteran. Whether you bring him off the bench or start him and bring in Scola, either way the bench is seeing improvement. Not too sure how the salaries would match or what Memphis would want in return, but it's something to take a look at.
Bring JV off the Bench 
This has become a much more popular opinion over the past two weeks and, to be honest, it's starting to grow on me. Not saying it's what I would do, but I wouldn't be opposed to giving it a shot. Biyombo has been amazing filling in for JV, racking up 12-15 rebound night on a consistent basis while altering shots in a way JV simply cannot. He fits really well next to Scola, who makes up for Biyombo's lack of offence with his shooting and offensive game. 95% of Raptors fans have complained at one point or another about the lack of touches given to JV, so why not let him play with the bench where his scoring would be needed? Of all people on the team, Cory is the one who would make sure JV is fed, and he would get all the touches in the world if the bench players play like they have been. So why not give it a shot? It may be a win-win scenario or everyone.

Any more suggestions? Leave them in the comments.

Monday, 27 April 2015

My Take on the Raptors Disappointing End to the Season

Well, now that the season is over, it's time to look back. But for the Raptors, unlike last year, they won't be looking back at how good their year was and how much they improved, in fact it'll be quite the opposite.

The Raptors came into the season with high expectations, which only got higher after a 24-7 start to the season. Everything was clicking, they had an elite offence and a stellar defence and they were showing the look of a two-way powerhouse. Excitement among Raptors fans was at an all time high and the world looked beautiful to us.

Then the DeRozan injury. A month and a half without your All-Star is never a good thing, but the Raps had a lot of depth which helped to make up for his absence. However, with only one legit stud to go to at the end of games, that being Kyle Lowry, it put a lot of pressure on Kyle to shoulder the load while DeMar was out, and to his credit he did it admirably. This lead to him being an All-Star starter and even having his name in MVP conversations.

However, as the season went along, Kyle started to lose it. Every one of his stats went down as he clearly wasn't himself. Back injuries, hand injuries, you name it and he probably had it. Without their engine being at 100% (or even 50%) the Raps began to crumble. As good as DeMar was playing, he isn't a good enough leader to drive other people while he's on the floor, at least not like Kyle can.

And this is where the Raps went from great to pathetic real quick (or 100-0 real quick, if you will). It was common knowledge that Kyle Lowry is the engine that drove the team, and his absence and bad health led to lackluster play, especially defensively. There's only so far playing with heart can take you when you're as banged up as he is. Eventually, this led to the downward spiral that you have been painfully watching for months now. I'll spare you by not talking about the end of the season, you're welcome.

However, what I will say is that I don't think the Raps need to make any desperation moves or blow up the team like many fans are saying. With Landry Fields, Chuck Hayes, Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough all coming off the books, the team is going to have tons of cap space to work with. A backup center who can defend, a starter at the 3 and the 4 is really all that is necessary at this point. With a full offseason for Lowry to shake off the injuries, he should come back next year ready to show off why he was an All-Star starter this year.

Don't worry Raps fans, next year will be fun.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

The JJ Effect: How James Johnson Helps The Raptors on Both Sides of the Ball

Raise your hand if you thought the Raptors would win that Clippers game by 16? If your hand is raised, you're either an incredible optimist, or a liar.

Even with my optimistic approach when I watch this team, I never would've thought that they would turn it around as quickly as they did. In the first quarter, it looked like they had hit rock bottom, even lower then they have been recently. However, in the next three quarters, they easily played their best basketball that they have played since they were first in the East. And this surge came with the help of two new guys. One of those new guys was Lou Williams, but we have come to expect that from him. When he is on, he can single-handedly carry even the most stagnant offence.

However, the second was James Johnson. Thought to be in Dwane Casey's doghouse, JJ had rarely gotten into games even before his hamstring injury, prompting ridiculous conspiracy theories, serious or not, as to why he wasn't playing. But the answer was simple. With T Ross coming off the bench, there were simply so minutes left for him. But in the Raps latest drubbing of the Clippers, JJ proved why he is such a valuable piece to this team.

Of course, you can't ignore his defence. With a LeBron-esque combination of size, strength and athleticism, the black belt can defend any position, yes he an even defend some centres. But what makes him such a great defender is his willingness to defend and take on any challenge. In one game, James defended Blake Griffin, J-Crossover and CP3 and and was a positive against all of them. This defensive attitude is one that not many Raptors have, even Kyle Lowry has lost his edge recently, but is contagious when you watch a guy like Johnson do his thing.

His offensive impact is much more subtle, but still incredible. With his athleticism and warrior mentality, he can get into the paint and is an incredibly efficient finisher when he gets there. He is a safe bet to give the ball to because of this and his post-up ability, arguably the best post-up player on the team not named Jonas Valanciunas. But what really impresses me about JJ offensively is the calm he brings to the team. He never rushes, he's patient and looks for the best shot without turning the ball over, the Achilles heel of the Raps recently. When Johnson is on the floor, the number of turnovers go way down, which helps defensively because you can set up. Also, the more shots you can get up, the better because Patterson, Amir, JJ or JV are always there to get offensive rebounds if you miss.

With T Ross starting the second half with the starters, I'm hoping this means that Casey understands how little the Vasquez-starting lineup experiment has worked. With Ross starting, it brings us back to the lineup we started the year with, the incredibly efficient lineup, with JJ getting his minutes off the bench. GV can come off the bench and take his YOLO threes, and everything is back to normal. And by normal, I mean winning games.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Recapping A Strange Win For Toronto

However they come, you gotta take a win.

That was the mentality the Raps had after their 92-89 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. The high octane offence wasn't there whatsoever, as DeRozan failed to score a point and Lowry shot 8-25, but the Raptors managed to get a great effort from everyone's favorite scapegoat, Terrence Ross. The rim was sealed at both ends, as both teams missed easy oppertunities to score but hey, a win is a win, and the Raptors will take any win they can get right now.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Why the Raps Shouldn't Rush for a Ross Replacement

These past couple of weeks have not been kind to Terrence Ross, and fans have been quick to point the finger at him for the team's recent struggles. To be honest,  I can't remember the last time TRoss had a good game and, with the DeRozan injury, he had the best chance he could ask for. Instead of showcasing his incredible talent, he was nothing short of terrible, forcing Kyle Lowry to carry an incredible burden on his shoulders.

Many fans have been calling for a trade, encouraging Masai Ujiri to dump Ross while he still has value and get a piece in return. While I am 100% open to Masai listening to offers and working his magic, it's way too early to give up on a guy we were praising a couple of months ago. This is a rare guy who could win a 3pt shootout and a slam dunk contest if given the chance. This is a guy who has shown glimpses, albeit almost exclusively last year, of being an athletic wing defender who can get into passing lanes.

However, one thing we all know about Terrence is that he is unbelievably streaky. He can go two weeks looking like an all star, then two weeks looking like he belongs back in college. As of right now, he looks like a guy who isn't even ready for college yet, but that's ok. Get Ross' struggles over with now, along with the team's, but don't give up hope. The coaching staff or maybe the players just need to find a way to get through to him and get him to start being aggressive.

It's possible for the Raps to win now AND keep Ross in the starting lineup. All we need is patience, and things have a way of working themselves out.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Positives to Take From a Brutal Game

Well,  you've been hearing all game about the negatives. How everyone is in a slump, how the Raps can't compete with the Hawks right now, but I am going to do the unthinkable and actually find postives from this game and the rough patch in general that the Raps have hit.

1. DeMar is back, and boy it couldn't come soon enough. However, not only has he come back,  but he is looking better than he ever has. He is playing with an incredible calm that should help him avoid going into shooting droughts which have plagued him over his career. His presence will be key for this team,  especially in the fourth quarter when they need someone who can draw fouls.

2. The Raps had a players meeting hosted by Kyle Lowry after tonights epic nightmare, according to Eric Koreen. No info from the meeting was released,  but James Johnson claims that the players were becoming overconfident and weren't paying attention to detail. This is another exaple of what makes Kyle such a great leader (And an All-Star #NBABallot). We can only hope that the message got through, with some people more than others (I'm looking at you Terrence Ross).

3. As bad as it's been over the past week and a bit, every team goes through a rough stretch at some point in the season. As long as they can get back to the basics and be fundamentally sound, they can dig themselves out of it. It's better to get this stretch out of them now, rather than in the playoffs.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Looking at the New Look DeRozan

It's about time.

After 21 games of mediocrity and defensive ineptitude,  DeMar DeRozan has returned to bring the Raptors back to being a powerhouse in the East. In his first game back, albeit against the 76ers, DD paced the Raps with 20 EFFICIENT points,  4 rebounds and 3 assists, while that last number could've been much higher if the team was making shots. As mentioned before,  this was against the 76ers, who have about as much D as the Knicks if they all had broken legs, but you will always take a 20-4-3 game coming off of an injury and playing only 25 minutes. However, what impressed me about DeRozan's game even more than the numbers is the calmness he played with.  Everything he did seemed to be smooth and under control,  forcing absolutely none of his shots. This was a problem that has plagued DD over his career,  occasionally he would try to play hero-ball and it would lead to some inefficient games. However,  new-DeRozan was calm, poised and really promising. If this is truly how DeMar will play from now on, I have to say that maybe this injury, the adversity he faced and the extra time with the coaches was the best thing that could've happened to him. It wasn't a pretty couple of weeks,  but this experience,  not only for DeMar but also for the team will pay huge dividends in the end. The next game against the Hawks will be a great indication as to which DeRozan we will be getting from now on, or if this efficient game was just a product of playing against a bad team.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Potential Trade Targets the Raptors Should Consider

With the Grizzlies, Celtics, Cavs, Suns, Thunder and Knicks all making deals recently, we are officially in trading season in the NBA. At this point, we know alot about which teams are sellers and which are buyers. With that in mind, I began thinking of players I would like to see in a Raptors uniform and are obtainable. Heres a couple of ESPN Trade Machine accepted trades that I believe would benefit both sides.

Landry Fields, 2nd Rd Pick to Denver for Wilson Chandler
Despite having a goldmine of solid role players and a star point guard in Ty Lawson, the Denver Nuggets are a team that is clearly a seller this year. While Wilson Chandler isn't much more than a 3 and D guy, he is a clear improvement in the starting lineup over Terrence Ross and on a relatively good deal over two years. He is an unselfish player that I believe could have a huge benefit from playing in Toronto, a team quickly becoming one of the best player environments in the league. If you're Denver, you would love to get an expiring deal and a pick for Chandler, as he is simply a role player that isn't gonna push Denver over the top. Masai also has a great relationship with Denver, and could use that to persuade them into giving up Chandler.

Landry Fields, Tyler Hansbrough, 1st Rd Pick to Indiana for David West
This trade depends completely on Indiana. If they decide that they want to tank the rest of the season to get a star to get another star to put next to Paul George and Roy Hibbert, than Indiana would take this in a heartbeat. Two expiring deals and a first rounder for West would be great value and would allow them to even sign someone else in the offseason. Meanwhile for Toronto, they would get a battle-tested starting power forward over the next two years who has loads of playoff experience. He is a great mid range shooter, strong defender and a leader on the floor. He is very similar to Amir Johnson, except he is much better offensively. Amir and 2Pat would still get their minutes, mostly at center for Amir, and the Raptors would definitely improve overall. However, if Indiana refuses to tank, there is no way they give up their emotional leader.

Of course there are many other options the Raptors could explore, and I'm sure Masai is exploring right now, but these are a few options that I think would really help us. And to everyone overreacting about the recent losing streak, claiming that that Ross needs to go, Jonas needs to go, Dwane Casey can't coach and Lou Williams is terrible, you guys need to calm down. This is almost 100% the worst it's going to get over the rest of the season, and most of our issues, especially defensively, will correct themselves now that DeRozan is back. However, in order to compete, we need to add a couple more complementary pieces to fit our team needs. In the meantime, don't be mad about what we have and appreciate what is, quite possible, the best Raptors team to ever take the court.