So here we are, again, looking for positive avenues to report with the Toronto Raptors. After a couple of wins against marginal competition to push them within one game of .500, they have lost their last two in games that, once again, fail to inspire much confidence moving forward. One of the losses, at home to the Nets, seems even worse given that the next night the Nets needed an elaborate drink-spilling plan to try and steal a game from a mediocre Lakers team. While we applaud Jason Kidd for trying to switch the narrative from being overmatched as a coach to having “player-like” savvy, neither he nor his troupe of over-the-hill stars should be winning games. But they beat the Raptors in Toronto and that fuels our need to think of drastic moves for this team, even if we have to acknowledge its divisional pseudo-success.
We truly believe that the Raptors cannot continue to do what they are doing and have sustainable success: inefficient isolation offense with Rudy Gay and, to a lesser extent, DeMar DeRozan, with the two usually combining for about 45 shots a game. Make no mistake, Gay has been the bigger culprit and DeRozan has been good, often carrying the team as its only effective scorer, but it has not translated into our expected win total. Now Gay is saying all the right things about hard work and improving and making sure that things get corrected. He is a good player and there is no reason to believe that such struggles around the basket–almost 20 percent decline in field goal percentage on shots in the restricted area compared to his career averages–will continue at that rate. We feel he will get things turned around somewhat. But for now, here are some of our bold suggestions for some opposite offensive philosophy that we think would really change up the flow of the games.
Big men are worth using
Toronto’s last game against the Miami Heat is a good example of coach Dwane Casey’s stubborn insistence on a wing-oriented attack at times that can be painful to watch. He will go long stretches without Jonas Valanciunas or Amir Johnson. In that game, Johnson played 16 minutes and Valanciunas played 18. And Miami is a team where you can exploit their lack of size and strength. The game was hardly a track meet, with a 90-83 final score. We suggest this: Let Johnson and Valanciunas play 35-40 minutes a game. Establish them low and tell them to shoot. We have enough confidence in both that we are certain they would draw attention and make things easier for the wing players. Even more specifically, we want to see an 18 shot game from Valanciunas and a 15 shot game from Johnson. In that same game we want no more than 15 shots from either Gay, DeRozan, or Lowry. With the need to pick and choose instead of just assuming the shots will always be there, we think they would be more judicious and the efficiency would be obvious. Whether these suggestions are laughable or not, games like Miami make no sense and cannot, in our view, be justified.
Unleash Steve Novak
“Unleash” is very relative here, but it is an aggressive term when we are going for an aggressive tone. His numbers so far are dismal, but he has established such a sterling reputation as a three point sniper that he has to be accounted for at all times. If spacing is the issue, he is a solution. It shows when he is out there; he needs to be out there more. While we just said that the big men have to be out there, one could say that limits Novak’s opportunities with the need for max minutes from Gay and DeRozan. We say that Novak could be the backup at the two and three and break up some of the time Gay and DeRozan are on the court together. Would it be possible for Novak to be the first off the bench for point guard with DeRozan sliding over there when Lowry comes out? We told you we wanted to see something different!
We have more. Maybe they are not as bold as asking Steve Novak to act as Kyle Lowry’s backup, which may be a dubious suggestion. But it echoes our sentiment. Being in first place in a horrific division cannot cloud their judgment or expectations. It cannot act as a shiny box for a sorry toy. Maybe the opposite is not the answer, but the Raptors ideal is closer to opposite than the current.