It would be a nightmare season if one of the starters go down and we miss the playoffs and a top 5 pick.
An all-star appearance for Lowry, followed by a trade for future assets (ie: prospects and/or picks), and this team is headed for a top-10 draft pick. Brooklyn has come to life and is gunning for the Atlantic crown. Rebuild/retool to take the proverbial one step back, to take two steps forward, is still a viable (but wildly unpopular) option for MU to take at this point.
i really hope i dont have to change my avatar again.
The way we play at home, I'm actually fine giving Brooklyn the 3 seed, finishing 5th, and taking on one of the Chicago-Washington-Atlanta group. Lets be honest though - this team is sub .500 without Lowry.
My confidence wasn't shaken, but it is now. The success of this team depends on a few important factors:
1) defence - it all starts here. This is why this team has been able to win games, consistent and strong defense. Our offense isn't the greatest, definitely not good enough for the team to lean on in close games, the losses to Boston and LA are good examples of this. Our defense gave us a chance to win the Boston game, and our lack of defense ultimately turned on us in the LA game. We depend on making stops down the stretch moreso than making baskets, and I would imagine it takes a significant mental commitment to play hard D game in and game out. Can these guys sustain that level of commitment?
2) Lowry and Demar playing like all-stars - if these guys aren't playing well, we are in trouble. Lowry has been remarkably consistent since the Gay trade, but Demar still has his ups and downs. If Demar is in attack mode, we tend to do better, but if he settles for a plethora of jump shots (which is what the defense wants) then we are in trouble. He has an uncanny ability to get to the line, I really don't know why he doesn't utilize this skill more often. Every time he catches a ball off a screen he should put it on the floor and head towards the key. If he has space then he should drive. If not, he can pull up for an in game FT attempt. If the D collapses (which it surely would after a few plays) then dish it to Amir, Lowry, Ross, Salmons, Patterson, whoever for an open shot. Over the past few weeks we have seen Demar make some decent plays to get his teammates involved. He's had some good chemistry with Patterson I have noticed. He should be LOOKING for this more often. Too often he is just passing because he doesn't have the shot and this is the wrong mentality IMO. He needs to use his athleticism to create opportunities to pass the ball for easy shots. He can't do this in ISO, because he doesn't demand double teams, outside of the occasional post-up. He has to put the ball on the floor more often coming off of screens. 1 PPS type stuff just isn't gonna work. Demar has the tools to average around that 20PPG mark while only attempting 10-15 FGA, but he has got to make it happen by getting to the line. Furthermore, because he is the best at getting to the line, he should feel the responsibility to do so, because it helps get the opposition into foul trouble and in the penalty, which can greatly impact any given game.
3) Big man involvement - this comes back to Lowry and Demar as well, because they are the guys that will more often than not have to make the pass to get these guys involved. It's clear to me that if neither Amir or JV are gonna get some touches in the paint, then they aren't gonna play great D either. They need to be more involved in the offense other than setting screens, and boy, do they set a lot of screens. Way too many screens IMO. And this goes back to our perimeter heavy offense, and although we don't have a reliable big man post option, we have to utilize these guys in the paint anyways IMO. Amir should take 2-3 FGA's out of the post every game. JV should take more. I don't care who is guarding them, because lets face it, a missed shot from JV or Amir from 5 ft or so, is just as good as a missed jumper from 20 ft, isn't it? Not only should they be utilized in the post more, but also in the PnR. Isn't it obvious that these guys are getting fed up with just being a wall for our guards and wings? Why do you think Amir took all those long jumpers against the Lakers? He wants to be involved offensively as well, we are just lucky he isn't a high usage guy, but he still needs some touches. As for JV, his offensive game isn't very good, but it ain't getting better setting screens. He usually gets the first shot of the game in the post, and is likely to not get in that position again until the next game. He needs greater involvement.
4) The bench - since the Gay trade the bench has just been fantastic. I really have nothing bad to say about them. But we certainly need them to play at or above the level they do in order for us to win ball games. Our bench was good against LA, our starters kinda sucked. Look what Hayes brought to the table yesterday. While Pau schooled JV, he did little against the stronger but undersized Hayes. How is it that JV handles Pekovic pretty well but got backed down easily by Pau? I don't know, but again, if he becomes a bigger part of the offense, I think we see less shitty defensive games from JV.
Anyways, there is a very fine line that the team walks with regards to these four factors. No D almost certainly means a loss. If Lowry isn't playing well, it's hard to make up for. If Demar is relying on the jump shot, then it better be falling. The bigs need some love offensively. And, the bench has to play well.
When you continue that analysis even deeper, it really speaks to the concern some people have regarding the sustainability of the Raptors' post-trade success, especially given the overall weakness of the EC this season.
Keys to Success:
- Lowry & DeRozan playing at all-star level
- Amir playing at a top-15 PF level at both ends of the court
- Valanciunas & Ross taking significant steps forward in terms of contribution and consistency, at both ends of the court
- Salmons playing like the Salmons of 5-7 years ago, back when God told him not to sign with Toronto
- Patterson playing like a legit starting PF, carrying the scoring load for the 2nd unit, shooting at a 50%+ clip from beyond the arc
- Vasquez running the 2nd unit, chipping in with timely scoring
- top-5 team defense
- doing all the above consistently
- DC avoiding the questionable coaching decisions (ie: rotations, playing time, timeouts, play-calling, etc...) that seemed to plague him prior to the Gay trade
- avoid injuries; the Hansborough & Salmons injuries have started to take their toll, as seen through the decreased production in several players, due to increased playing time and tighter rotations
Basically, every player in the rotation has to play the best ball of their careers consistently.
It should have come as no surprise that the team - players and coaches - would rally after seeing their primary player traded in a deal widely viewed as a **** trade. Players had something to prove, whether it was the remaining Raptors or the new players from Sacramento, so they came together as a team and played as a group to prove the 'experts' wrong. The rumors surrounding Lowry were bound to motivate him even more.
The Raptors were fortunate to face several bad, injury ravaged and ****ing teams following the trade, allowing them to rack up the wins and gain confidence. They played some exceptional games against a few top-tier teams, who likely took the Raptors a little too lightly (Raps deserve full credit for wins against Dallas, OKC and Indiana).
What we're seeing lately could very well be a combination of the Raptors losing the post-trade momentum and the opposition adjusting their game-planning against Toronto (and definitely not taking them for granted anymore). It will be interesting to see how the Raptors adapt going forward, while playing a lot of games that are viewed as 'should win'; the losses to Boston & LAL were definitely humbling and eye-opening. We're also seeing some EC teams make improvements via trade (ie: Cleveland) or simply getting healthy (ie: Brooklyn & NY).
A 3rd/4th place finish and home-court advantage in the first round, would be the winning side of avoiding "no man's land". Should Toronto fail to maintain their success and be overtaken by Brooklyn, dropping to the low end of the EC playoff bracket (or barely miss the playoffs entirely), I think that would be the worst possible outcome for this season, falling squarely into the dreaded "no man's land".
The upcoming stretch of games, before and during their upcoming road trip, will be very telling. Not only will it help determine just how sustainable the Raptors' 'keys to Success' are, but it may help MU determine his course of action for avoiding "no man's land" (not just for this season, but beyond as well).
It's time for complacency, here comes Raps!
I don't know that these two bad losses change much of anything.
demar just isn't an all star. this stretch of inconsistent games from him shooting lower than 30-35% in a lot of the matches is just begging for more losses to come. whenever these games happen, everyone else has to step up even more to make up for it and thats just asking too much of his teammates.
i know its not fair that hes been thrown into the primary scoring role again, but hes the one whos constantly said hes trying to act like a decoy for everyone else. clearly this isnt the case for end of games when he starts mid-range shooting the team into the ground.
Anyone with a ćank avatar should never have changed it. What's wrong with having a stance even if it's no longer possible? You want to be remembered down the road as having been on that side (the correct side).
Though I suppose there's no one stopping you from changing it back at any time. I better take some screenshots to keep in the record books..
Forget shaken confidence. We've now lost 3 of the last 4 to shitty competition.
Confidence is non-existent.
Yeah... it's still shaken.
You come at the King, you best not miss.
Look at the next ten games. We'll be lucky to go 5-5, probably 3-7 more accurate. This team will be blown up. Our easiest schedule in the NBA is really the last month or so when we'll be tanking anyways
Well it seems that everything is back to normal. Raptors are shitting the bed against DLeague teams. It was fun while it lasted, but it was obvious that they weren't going to play at that level for the whole season.
It actually doesnt matter whether the Raps win the division - the only thing that matters is that they get into the 4-5 first round match up against either Chicago, Atlanta, or most preferably Washington. Anything below 5 and its a waste of time - Brooklyn would beat them in 4 or 5 games, and even Leo Rautins would probably admit getting one game off Miami or Indiana would be a minor miracle.
Problem is does Lowry commit to a team that finishes 5th as he continues to watch Demar stink it up in crunch time - he's no Rudy Gay that's for sure.
The only goal for this franchise is to get playoff experience this season and peak in 2-3 years once the Heat dynasty is over, the Knicks and Nets are a mess, and Indiana is the only contender. But the playoffs arent worth it unless they can get into the 4 or 5 spot.
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