During Monday’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at home, we haplessly kept looking at the box score to see if there was something that stuck out about this game for the Toronto Raptors. What we saw in the game was the usual: maximum shots for our two most wanted, Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan, and the general undervaluing of our two most needed, Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson. It was another loss; one where they matched their NBA league low for assists with 17 and made less than 30 percent of their 3s, which is becoming a disturbing trend. We wondered what could really change with this team or if that was even possible with the personnel that they have.
In previous columns we vacillated on whether you could suddenly make volume shooters like Gay and DeRozan into something they have never been. We said that is why Gay, while good, was always on the trading block: He was good enough to help a team and fetch an asset, but nowhere near good enough to be the best player on a relevant franchise. Even though we were skeptical that both Gay and DeRozan could morph into facilitators and active players without the ball, we felt that they would buy into whatever coach Dwane Casey was selling and would make something work. It would be a work in progress, but a semblance of success would breed evolution. That’s what we thought. It appears that the Raptors, sporting a 4-7 mark, are not evolving, and it leaves us wondering if change is possible with the current roster.
Number of possessions
As we were pondering this last night, a fantastic articleWhy Toronto Raptors’ offence is unlikely to change was published in the National Post echoing our original sentiments. While they address a lot of the concerns that we have analyzed in previous columns, they also talk about pace of play. According to the article, the Raptors have the third fewest possessions in the league at 93.9. One of the most interesting quotes from the article is that Casey claims that they do not have “natural runners” and that he is not caught up in pace of play. Is that right? No one is going to convince us that Gay, DeRozan and a center in Valanciunas that is anything but plodding cannot get up and down the court and create more assists. Perhaps he is concerned that Valanciunas would get lost in a more up-tempo style and they could not feed him like they originally wanted to. Of course we would argue that none of this is happening anyway. Valanciunas actually had double digit attempts from the field for only the second time this season last game. The second time! And what did he do with those, you ask? Eight of 11, 19 points, like we figured he would do if he got the ball enough.
Simply put, this is worth a shot. The alternative is low possession isolation basketball with others not sure of their role.
How long do you go?
If it is true that there is no way to teach these dogs new tricks, then we, with egg smeared all over our faces, has to wonder how long you go with such an inefficient and unsuccessful charade. That, of course, is up to GM Masai Ujiri, and he is apparently still in the “evaluation” process. We would like to know if he had any interest in trading for Rudy Gay when he was the head man in Denver. We would like to know what his scouting report was then and what it is now. We presume that he knows what he has and has reached a similar conclusion. Again, questions of what to sell and when to sell are merely speculative at this point, but it won’t be for long. If he is listening to Dwane Casey, then he knows he has bad passers who are not equipped to run. Is that an endorsement? Good luck making the best of that, sir.