Raptors Free Agents: Serge Ibaka, Patrick Patterson, P.J. Tucker
2016-17 Raptors Weaknesses: 30th: Assists, Power Forward Points. 29th: Frontcourt Scoring, Points in the Paint. 26th: Bench Points. 24th: Pace. 23rd: Defensive Rebounding.
2016-17 Raptors Strengths: 2nd: Shooting Guard Points. 4th: Steals, Backcourt Scoring, Non-Paint Points. 6th: Free Throw Attempts, Offensive Rating, Field Goal Percentage (Defense) 8th: Free Throw Percentage, Starters Scoring, Opponent Points. 10th: Points.
Largest (3) Raptors Contracts: DeMar DeRozan $27,739,975. Jonas Valuciunas $15,460,675. DeMarre Carroll $14.800,000
Player Option(s): Kyle Lowry, $12,000,000
If all you needed was a 20-point scorer to get to the NBA Finals then the Toronto Raptors would be a perennial visitor to the June showcase. But the problem with the Raptors is they have a 20-point scorer/athlete who can beat you off the dribble, catch and shoot, finish at the rim and be a spectacular highlight player. But playing against the best defenses in the playoffs, DeMar DeRozan can be guarded. He doesn’t have a versatile skill set because he doesn’t make threes. In the playoffs, this hurt the Raptors, the catastrophe of DeRozan’s long ball, .067%. The iso game DeRozan modeled after his hero Kobe Bryant is a vague strategy for greatness. Teams know how to defend an iso scorer. The Raptors, who depend on DeRozan for offense, in the postseason, find themselves searching for an answer.
DeRozan’s partner in crime is Kyle Lowry. Lowry wants a ring and he wants it now which makes sense. It is hard to fault him for that. He has paid his NBA dues and is 31 years old. Lowry has faced brutal playoff defeats, partly because of Lowry himself who gets smaller and smaller as the playoffs wind through the months of April and May. Lowry is planning to opt-out his deal. The last time Lowry had to make a business decision he trusted Masai Ujiri but nothing has changed. Ujiri has done a poor job building a bench and the money he threw DeMarre Carroll’s way was a bust. This time Lowry will think about Lowry and he is talking about going west. It could be a leverage move, to get more money, or Lowry may have come to the decision no one is beating LeBron James, and the Raptors are DeRozan’s team now.
After DeMar DeRozan, (and Kyle Lowry), the roster takes a nose dive, which is not to say the Raptors don’t have good individual players. They do. But the collective output regresses to the mean which puts the Raptors in no-man’s land which is what happened in the playoffs. Good enough to get to the playoffs every year but not good enough to play for the title is the recurring them. As witnessed in the brutal four game slaughter, the Raptors have no one who can match LeBron James and no one who can defend LeBron James.
This is the moment to let Lowry walk and rebuild the team with front court scoring and a tough defender who isn’t scared.
LeBron isn’t the only Raptors problem. They were 30th in assists (dead last) with no ball movement forthcoming. Predictable when you have players that hold the ball. The Raptors were 23rd in defensive rebounding; they were worse than they were in 2015-16 when they were 18th.
They were 24th in pace, a recipe for disaster. A slow team with the ball sticking. These are the numbers that will keep the Raptors from any kind of ascension.
The Raptors missed Bismack Biyombo. Serge Ibaka added a little but is no longer an impact player.
The Raptors don’t have a power forward who dominates his position and spaces the floor. Patrick Patterson shot 27% in the playoffs, he was a disaster. Why keep him?
The familiar story about getting into the playoffs only to lose is the Raptors legacy because they don’t have rebounders and their offense isn’t predicated on ball movement and they don’t have a power forward that can dominate in the paint. I love DeRozan but he’s an isolation player. I love Lowry but his 7 assists per game is as good as it gets and in the playoffs Lowry has been a disappointment so let him walk.
The fact is the Raptors don’t have anyone that the Cavs fear. Kyrie Irving is a more versatile scorer than Kyle Lowry, and shows up in big moments. Iman Shumpert can stop DeMar DeRozan on the perimeter. DeRozan and Lowry are the best the Raptors have to offer while the Cavs have LeBron James and Kevin Love. Jonas Valanciunas is nice but he is the third option. The Raptors are swimming upstream.
Dwane Casey has outlived his usefulness. Time for him to go too. The Raptors need a new voice, a new bench and some three point shooters. They were annihilated from the perimeter. The Cavs made 34 more threes; that’s 102 more points. Naturally they lost given the three point gap. Add to that, the slow pace they play and you see the defeat a mile away. Get Jeff Teague or Jrue Holiday or Derrick Rose to replace Lowry, speed up the pace, and get a power forward who can do things in the paint.
Sounds easy. But isn’t that why they pay Masai Ujiri? To do the hard things that are uncomfortable but necessary?
photo via llananba