Raptors at Blazers Points Per Game: The end of the beginning, or something like that.Quick take on why the Raptors have started 4-18

- December 11th, 2012

And so it ends. The road trip and start to the season from hell, that is. The Raptors still have 60 games to play but thanks to a brutal start, already sit 7.5 games out of playoff contention. Making a run at the final spot isn’t an impossibility, but it is highly unlikely. So, that probably means there are 60 games left for the players to prove they belong as a starter, key reserve, reserve or simply in the NBA. There are 60 games for Bryan Colangelo to prove he wasn’t completely wrong about how good this team is (once all the pieces come back). There are 60 games for Dwane Casey to prove he hasn’t lost whatever coaching magic he had last year.

Or, maybe there is less time than that for Colangelo, though MLSE has given no indication he is in any danger. It’s hard to imagine that MLSE would let Colangelo make Casey walk the plank.

So, what’s wrong with the Raptors? A combination of things, in no particular order:

The schedule has been horrific. Starting with 15-of-22 on the road is nearly always a death sentence in the NBA, unless you are a very good team. The league did the Raptors no favours this year.

The refereeing has been quite spotty at times. The NBA admitted blowing a call that cost the Raptors one win. There were other major errors as well, though most teams live through screwups.

Bad luck, as in, not fouling a Utah player late leading to a miraculous Al Jefferson three + assorted other incidents.

Bad chemistry. These guys don’t seem to enjoy passing the ball to each other. It isn’t Jalen Rose, Vince Carter, Rafer Alston, they don’t hate each other on a personal level, but it’s not good. How often do you see DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani play off of each other? Kyle Lowry can get others involved, but he also likes doing it himself and makes some bad decisions when he does opt to pass (bad angles for passes, rushing passes).

Health. A huge factor. Lowry’s played hurt most of the season and seems to get more banged up, often in a new way, each time he is out there. Andrea Bargnani has had some ailments, although they’ve been minor. Landry Fields was supposed to be a glue guy but has missed most of the season. Alan Anderson was playing decently and got hurt, etc.

Bargnani. Playing the worst basketball of his career. Still a historically poor rebounder, still one of the worst help/team defenders in the NBA and now, has become a sub-40% shooter. Not good. Plus, the fact that he plays no matter what while accountability is preached to everybody else has been a soul-crushing black cloud over the franchise for years. How do you set examples and accountability when the rules are different for the “top dog” (who has no business being a top dog anywhere in the NBA)?

The coach. No question something is amiss with Dwane Casey this year. The rotations have not been good, the tremendous defence has gone back to typical Raptors defence and he has inexplicably not been riding the hot hand all season. Instead of forcing the action and doing the punching, he seems content to instead react to what opponents are doing. (Not sticking with zone. Going small, etc.) He’s a much better coach than he’s shown so far this season and letting him go would be a huge mistake.

Rookie struggles. Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross both look like good players in waiting, but they are young and make a lot of mistakes. Pairing Valanciunas, lost as a team defender at this point, with Bargnani is a recipe for disaster. The team probably will soon start Amir with Valanciunas, but starting Davis with Valanciunas, the best frontcourt of the future, makes a lot more sense. But it will never happen. Even if Bargnani would be best suited and more effective as a reserve, he has been too coddled for far too long to accept the role and a benching would lower his trade value, even if his play improves, as crazy as that sounds.

The pieces don’t fit. As mentioned, on offence, the players don’t complement each other. On defence, Lowry has struggled due to his injuries, and maybe lapses in concentration and overaggressiveness. As good as DeRozan has been on offence and on the boards, his defence has not gotten any better. It still remains slightly below average. Defence by the small forwards has been OK, Bargnani’s has been awful (except when he has been in 1-on-1 situations), Valanciunas has struggled. Add it all up, and it’s no surprise that the defence has been poor.

- As for the Amir Johnson ejection. Can’t defend him for doing that, it was out of character and you simply can’t do what he did. But, was nice to see some passion. No doubt, Amir Johnson cares.

Categories: Basketball, NBA, Toronto Raptors

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1 comment

  1. appel says:

    Talking about Amir: being a jerk / not being able to cope with frustration isn’t exactly an epitome of caring or showing passion. It’s just being a jerk.
    Then, “As good as DeRozan has been on offence”: he’s shooting with a ts% of .521, which is dreadful (it was .503 last year, .530 two years ago). To make a comparison, Bargnani – a very inefficient scorer, isn’t he? – has never went down .533, other than this season.
    Pairing Valanciunas with Amir, or Davis: Toronto vs. Portland. Just take the look at the outcome.
    Bargnani is a 10.000.000$/year player, like DeRozan. The fact that there’s no a (clearly) better player in this team is not their fault. They are what they are.

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