Saturday, 29 November 2014
It's never good to see one of your players get injured. It's especially unfortunate when that player happens to be the only All-Star on your roster. DeMar DeRozan's injury came as a surprise to everyone, considering he has been one of the most durable players in the NBA over his career. As he fell to the ground kicking the floor, many fans began to expect the worst and rightfully so, as it did not look good.
Luckily for us fans, he will be back.
However, we will have to deal with at least 4 weeks, and up to 3 months according to some reports, with no DeRozan. That means losing a 20 PPG scorer who is elite at drawing fouls and a very steady ball handler. He also drew double teams in every game, leaving other players open for easy shots.
Sure, an injury to arguably the best player on the roster is never good, but it doesn't have to be all negative. Injuries are the best way to give players with a smaller role a better chance to contribute. Perhaps if we could get them going, you can build their confidence to the point that they can keep up their production, even when DeRozan comes back. If you haven't realised yet, the players I'm taking about are Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas The two third year players have yet to break out into the elite players they have the potential to become. Both players have shown glimpses, but have yet to show the aggressiveness needed to be elite. They are both too willing to let Lowry and DeRozan do all the work. However, with DeRozan out and Lowry likely to draw more double teams without him, Ross and Valanciunas are going to be forced into bigger roles. Ross will get more opportunities to shoot and be involved in the offence. Valanciunas will get plenty of post up opportunities and will need to be a much bigger force consistently on the glass and on defence. We know both of these guys can step it up at any time, but we've never needed them to step up as much as we do now.
So really, this injury could end up being a blessing in disguise if one of these guys (or both, of course) can step up and become a legit 3rd wheel for the Raptors offensively. This will also give us a much better look at what these guys can do when they are more involved, and we can get the best judge of their true potential in their 3rd year. It's up to them to keep the Raptors at the top while DeRozan recovers.
Monday, 24 November 2014
Saturday, 22 November 2014
Twelve games into the season, with a huge Eastern Conference battle tonight against the Cavaliers, the Raptors now see themselves at 10-2 and top in the East. Despite a relatively soft schedule, they have won key games against the Grizzlies and Wizards and they have taken care of the games that they needed to. This is a team that was considered a third wheel in the East behind the Bulls and the Cavs. But can the Raps keep up with this pace?
It's no secret that the Raps offense revolves around their perimeter. The backcourt of Lowry and Derozan have been very good this season, and the shooting of Terrence Ross has been critical for floor spacing. However, the Raptors have a 7 foot offensive weapon that is being relatively unused that goes by the name of Jonas Valanciunas. JV spent the summer working with Hakeem, and it has clearly showed with his offensive footwork. However, the Raptors still have not unleashed the big Lithuanian. He has improved recently, but there are matchups that should be taken advantage of that they refuse to. Overall, however, their offense has been spectacular, and certainly able to maintain their 1st place standing, however their is still room for improvement that could put them into championship contention.
Even when Dwayne Casey was a hated figure by Raptors fans, he was still regarded as a good defensive coach. The difference now is that he now has a group of players that have bought into his system, turning this team into a defensive force. Kyle Lowry is an elite defender at PG, Jonas has shown improvement as a rim protector, Amir is a defensive anchor at PF and new addition James Johnson has been the best defender on the team and a guy that can defender bigger wings, such as Joe Johnson or Lebron, something the Raps have lacked in last year's playoffs. With both the interior development of Jonas and the signing of JJ, their defense is even better than last year when the finished in the Top 10 in overall defense. This defense is legit and, as long as Casey remains coach, they will stay legit.
With the balance of an elite offense and defense, the Raptors have the potential to be a Top 5 team in both categories. This pretty much guarantees a Top 2 seed in the East. With the struggles of the Cavs this season and the health uncertainty of the Bulls, it would not be surprising to see the Raps take the top seed. Today's game against Cleveland is a great chance to put them even more in the hole, while growing their lead on the rest of the East. This team is for real, you better get used to it.