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Raptors Game Day Keys to Victory?

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  • Raptors Game Day Keys to Victory?

    Raptors pregame keys to victory, October 25th vs Bulls.

    On paper the keys to the game should be simple for the Raptors. However, similar problems arose against the Wizards and the Mavericks, and the Raptors were unable to make the necessary adjustments.

    Firstly, rebounding and size. The Raptors centers are undersized this season compared to previous years when Ibaka, Gasol, and JV comfortably provided consistent rebounding and shot blocking. Achiuwa at 6"8, lacks the conventional size, yet, has managed to accumulate just over 11 rebounds per game. His only game in which he struggled with the size difference was against the Wizards Daniel Gafford; who is listed at 7 feet tall. When Achiuwa is not on the floor, Birch and Boucher have struggled to provide sufficient size and muscle. Against Boston, Al Horford patrolled the high post and three point area, thus creating less problems for the Raptors in the paint. If Vucevic plays tonight, the Raptors bigs will have to pay close attention to the Bulls center because of rebounding efficiency and three point shooting. This will likely remove Achiuwa from help side and rim protecting opportunities, forcing other Raptors to take initiative. To counter this problem, Barnes should guard DeRozan. The Bulls are a streaky three point shooting team, with DeMar being the weak link behind the arc for the Bulls. Barnes will be tasked with providing help side defence and rebounding control, as DeMar will be less of a threat along the perimeter. If the Raptors manage to prevent the Bulls from dominating the glass, this should force the Bulls to shoot more threes. Its a worthwhile gamble for the Raptors.

    Secondly, bench scoring. With Gary Trent Jr. being pushed into the starting lineup, the bench for the Raptors looks bleak. The Raptors have struggled to score in the half court this season, and primary rely on transition opportunities. It is unfair to expect this young starting line-up to consistently dominate on offence this early in the season. Players such as Dragic, Boucher, and Mykhailiuk need to start providing additional offensive support while the starters are resting. All three are more than capable of shooting the ball from the perimeter and creating their own shot. The problem for this group has been poor shot selection and lack of chemistry. Dragic struggled all preseason, potentially because of his age, a new team, and off the court problems. Boucher missed all of preseason which is an obvious factor behind his struggles. And Svi needs more time to adapt to a changing system and his role with the team. When this group is on the floor there needs to be more off-ball movement and screening to help free up higher percentage shot opportunities for this core. Boucher was one of the most consistent Raptors last season, and with time, I have no doubt he will be an integral piece off the bench this season. Today, he has to focus on shot selection and using his athleticism to his advantage.

    Lastly, OG and Freddy. Both performed well in the preseason, and have hefty expectations this season with Pascal currently sidelined. For this group to win, both need to be consistently providing scoring opportunities on offence and showing leadership on defence. It is rather obvious both have struggled with their new profound roles this season and the pressure. The key for them today is similar to Boucher; taking high percentage shots and not overthinking. OG against the Mavericks took high percentage shots and was far more aggressive in the paint. Freddy on the other hand is a shooter and aggressive driver. But far too often this season Freddy has tried to overthink his role on offence and force opportunities. He just needs to stick to his role from past seasons and provide a three point shooting threat, and look to expose lazy defences by attacking the rim and forcing teams to scramble. If OG and Freddy focus on what they excel at, the chemistry of this team will only increase.