It’s not quite the mid-season folks, but with the holidays here and gone, it’s a good time to review the Raptors’ season so far. Jeff Wong and Kinnon Yee of HoopsAddict.com take a look at several pressing issues.
Q: How do you explain the underwhelming 16-15 record, and should we really be disappointed?
Kinnon: On one hand, I wouldn’t say that the team is off to a slow start as they’ve had a fairly tough schedule so far. For one thing, they’re doing better than they were last year, and that’s with fairly significant injuries to many important pieces. Let’s look at that: Bosh out five games, Rasho out six games, TJ Ford out eight games and counting, Bargnani out four games, and Garbajosa out indefinitely. Each injury occurred in succession, and each injury has kept the Raptors from coming up with a proper, stable lineup. At the other end, Calderon’s been playing out of his mind, and Jamario Moon along with Delfino have been quite good. Personally, I thought they’d tie up more home games, and they’ve let a few close games slip through their fingers, unlike last year, where it was impossible to wrestle control of the game from the Raptors.
Jeff: I agree — injuries have taken a toll on the Raptors’ record. Their “Big Three” (Bosh, Ford and Bargnani) was out, as were four key bigs (the Rasho, Garbo, er, Bosho and Bargno). That left the Raps’ attack with little more than a perimeter game.
Another problem is that Bargnani is adjusting to the 5 spot, a pretty big change considering that he’s been a perimeter-oriented 3/4 prior to this year. He’s a key guy from last year who’s not producing right now.
But like you said, there are the positives: Calderon (let’s call him “The Ocho“) proving last year wasn’t a fluke, Jamario and Delfino coming out of nowhere, and now Kris Humphries playing well, too. Even the much-maligned D-Mart is playing some productive minutes. (Did I just say that?)
Q: Who’s the most outstanding Raptor up to this point?
Jeff: Gotta give it to The Ocho for stepping up big-time in TJ’s absence and proving himself a bona-fide starting PG. And looking at his career stats, it’s pretty amazing to see that his turnovers have gone down while his minutes went up.
Kinnon: On a night-by-night consistency basis, I’d have to say Calderon as well, but to me, a couple guys that have stood out a lot more as far as coming out with a better season to this point are Delfino and Humphries. Delfino has been a more consistent defender than AP in this early going, and he’s also shown scoring and rebounding ability at times. He’s gotta work on his free throws, but he’s a guy that I think the Raptors will need to use while they have him.
What more can you say about Kris, as he’s kept the middle a busy place and has come in and just taken away the ball from opposing players. He still tries to score a little too much and doesn’t have the court vision or presence of mind to reset a play, but the guy can light it up and has single-handedly kept the Raptors in it in several games.
Q: What do we need to do to make sure the rest of the season is a success?
Jeff: Uh, keep watching the games and keep cheering?
Seriously, “stay healthy” is the first phrase that comes to mind. Also, “stick to the game plan”: pass to the open man (a la Phoenix Suns) and keep the defence tight. Getting more players to go into the paint would be on the list, too.
Kinnon: I think Bryan Colangelo’s gonna have to look to make a trade, maybe a three-for-one (Graham, Baston, and Delfino) to get a player to come over who might be more consistent. With Delfino opting out of his contract, it’s doubtful that we’ll be able to re-sign him and Calderon.
Q: What does Bargnani have to do to get out of his funk?
Jeff: Keep healthy and keep playing. While taking care of his knees and whatever else may be distracting him, he’s got to find his shooting stroke, regain his confidence, and play decent D at the 5.
Kinnon: Yeah, Bargs just gotta keep at it. I’ve said it many times before: Bargnani and Nowitzki have had similar paths, so guys shouldn’t give up on Andrea so early. He’s in a funk, but so was Dirk for a lot of his rookie year, and Bargnani’s only recently been asked to change his game. I’m liking the recent aggression and look to drive hard to the hoop as well as his more consistent passing. Oh yeah: When he flashes to the post, pass him the ball for crying out loud.
Q: Finally, what do you think the Raptors received under their Christmas tree?
Kinnon: I hope that Joey Graham and Maceo Baston got some nice suits, because they’re going to be nailed to the bench like no one’s business. For Darrick Martin, a few extra dollars so he can buy a clue, and hopefully TJ Ford got a private jet with all the specialists he’s been visiting.
Jeff: I hope that my favorite basketball Parker, Anthony, found his groove and will remove any doubts at the 2 spot. I also hope the team got a jumbo gift pack of offence and defence to use every game the rest of the season.