Raptors at Kings Points Per Game: Six million ways to lose, choose one; Again, make Bargnani the sixth man; Pietrus really is healthy

- December 6th, 2012

At this point, the Raptors have to be running out of different ways to lose, no?

Now, they didn’t lose to Sacramento because Tyreke Evans hit two three pointers for just the 23rd time in 207 career games (career 25.8% shooter) and they didn’t lose to Utah because Al Jefferson hit the second three of his career … but those miraculous shots just illustrate that the basketball gods clearly aren’t with the Raptors this season. Anything that can go wrong, any unfathomable late-game occurence pretty much has happened.

Where do they go from here? Hard to say. There is no chance the team can make the playoffs. Too big a hole has been dug and the talent simply isn’t there. Plus, the pieces don’t fit together. The schedule is going to even out and some games will be won, meaning finishing in the bottom three is probably unlikely as well. Not an impossibility though, I’m having a hard time picking an NBA team that is definitely going to finish below the Raptors. The Wizards might, depending on John Wall, but they might not. The Hornets will only be worse if both Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon miss most of the season. Davis likely is returning soon, so they’ll win a few. Sacramento probably finishes with fewer wins than Toronto, but that’s not guaranteed.Detroit and Cleveland, Orlando, Charlotte and Phoenix also, might finish with worse records than the Raptors, but it is just as likely they finish with better records.

Even if the pick stays, this is an extremely weak draft, by all accounts, loaded with centre prospects (for the first time in ages) and the Raptors already are set in the middle with top prospect Jonas Valanciunas.

Thoughts on last night:

- Might as well get it out of the way. I don’t understand why Andrea Bargnani checked in for Ed Davis and played the rest of the game. I get giving Davis a breather and seeing if Bargnani had some scoring to contribute for a couple of minutes. He even played a couple of good defensive possessions and grabbed a rebound (and took a terrible three-pointer instead of slowing things down), but after two or three minutes it was clear he didn’t have it again. So, why not go back to the guy who helped get you back in the game? Davis is one of Toronto’s top defenders, he is its best rebounder and he gets easy buckets with his quick second-jump ability and his timing. If Bargnani isn’t hitting shots, it doesn’t make sense to play him over a guy who does everything else miles better than him. I don’t believe it is a directive from Bryan Colangelo to Dwane Casey. He isn’t forcing him to play Bargnani late, it is Casey’s decision. But at what point, when the move keeps failing, game after game, do you do the obvious and play Davis more? The stats say it is a no-brainer. The eye test says it is a no-brainer. Baffling.

- Bargnani is by no means the only problem but he is by far the biggest problem. He is killing the team when he is out there. When he hits shots at a good clip he makes up for most of his failings. When he is mediocre, or worse, he handicaps the Raptors.

Like I said the other day, it is time to play him off of the bench and to start Davis. Kyle Lowry seems to be rounding back into form, but his defence hasn’t been great. DeMar DeRozan continues to be a below-average defender, possibly well below average. Mickael Pietrus has provided a lift at both ends and Valanciunas can be hit and miss on defence at this point. Which means putting a good defender in Davis with those guys should lift them all and make the team better. Playing Bargnani with Calderon and Amir, players he has teamed well with in the past, makes more sense than trying to round peg, square hole him into working with Lowry, DeRozan and Valanciunas.

- Hard to believe Sacramento is last in the NBA in assists.Early on against a disinterested group of Raptors, the team moved the ball like the Harlem Globetrotters. Eventually, they stopped moving it, but they proved they are capable of playing like a team.
- In the first half, the Raptors looked like they had no idea how to play transition defence. Sacramento ran on every miss or bad decision and one guy, at most, got back to challenge at the other end. Brutal.

- Calderon isn’t taking to life off of the bench the way he has in the past. He’s making uncharacteristic turnovers just about every night.

- Why did it take the Raptors so long to go zone? It worked, no surprise. Sacramento is one of the NBA’s top teams in the paint and one of the worst outside shooting teams.
- Lowry did enough good things to overlook some questionable decision-making and another bad turnover late. He’s not the problem.
- DeMar needs to stop complaining about every attempt inside. He’s getting fouled on some of them, but not all, yet he’s complaining about every attempt. Refs aren’t going to give him respect unless he sucks it up, even if overall, the refs have been brutal so far.
- Things that make me laugh: Amir listed at 6″9 Thomas Robinson at 6″10. Robinson’s probably two inches shorter, Amir might be two inches taller.

- Re: Bargnani-Lakers rumours. Raptors have not been shopping Bargnani and the market isn’t what it was two years ago if they now decide to. Gasol wouldn’t be a perfect trade target (who backs up Lowry if Calderon goes with Bargnani? Would you have to take on Blake’s bad deal?) but it would be better than giving away Bargnani for nothing in a panic move. Smarter thing would be to put Bargnani on bench and see if he does well against reserves and ups his value. Will that happen? I doubt it. He’s been coddled since Day 1 and would be resistant to such a move. He’s made it clear that he sees himself as the top player on the squad.

The bottom line: This is a mess.

Categories: Basketball, NBA, Toronto Raptors

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1 comment

  1. unknown guest says:

    “Playing Bargnani with Calderon and Amir, players he has teamed well with in the past, makes more sense than trying to round peg, square hole”

    Yes, please.

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