Raptors Cage

DeRozan and Lowry need help; can young players answer?

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It’s time someone turns the Lowry-DeRozan duo into a big three.

The conference is wide open now that LeBron James is headed west to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Boston Celtics are currently the conscensus favourite, but unlike the last eight years that saw LeBron torment the East, nothing is certain.

Kyrie Irving is coming off knee surgery and Gordon Hayward is returning from the gruesome leg injury that ended his season on opening night.

No one can be sure that either of them will bounce back to 100 per cent or that they’ll last the entire season. That being said, the Raptors still probably have a better chance in the post-season against a fully healthy Celtics squad than any LeBron James team.

The disapointment of last season’s ending is still felt by all, but on paper this looks like the best chance the team’s had to get to the Finals in the Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry era. Perfect timing considering this could be the first of the last two seasons the two play together, at least in Toronto.

After Fred Vanvleet‘s re-signing, a 2 year deal, it’s looking unlikely any major roster  changes will happen. If the roster is the same as last season then the development of Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Delon Wright etc, will be the biggest factor that determines the Raptors success going forward.

Lowry is near the end of his prime (14th season) and DeRozan (10th) is starting to look more like a finished product and less like a young asset with room to improve. I don’t think their best days are behind them but they’re certainly no superstar duo that can carry a team to a title like Shaq and Kobe in 2000.

For the Raptors to reach the finals one of the young guys have to take a huge leap in production similar to DeRozan’s in his second year. Following Chris Bosh’s exit, DeMar’s game improved a ton, and he went from averaging 8.6 ppg as a rookie to 17.2 ppg in his sophomore season.

Take a look at this chart. This is a list of the Raptors leading post-season scorers over the last four post-seasons, excluding Lowry and DeRozan.

2017-18            Jonas Valanciunas     14.6 PPG       CJ Miles                   9.6 PPG

2016-17            Serge Ibaka                 14.3 PPG       Norman Powell     11.7 PPG

2015-16            Jonas Valanciunas     13.8 PPG       Demarre Carrol     8.6 PPG

2014-15           Lou Williams               12.8 PPG       Amir Johnson        11.5 PPG

In the last four post-seasons none of their teammates have even scratched 15 ppg. Rudy Gay in 2013 was closest thing the Raptors had to a big three and that lasted half a season. DeRozan and Lowry have never had the benefit of a third scorer to rely on.

When it comes to teams in the Finals, over the last several years, all of them have had at least three. The last team to make the finals without a big three (other than this years Cleveland Cavaliers, who were swept), was the miraculous 2011 Dallas Mavericks.

Life might be different in Toronto if the team had a third option that could bail out the star duo on off nights, much like Klay Thompson has done for the Golden State Warriors so many times.

Remember Klay Thompson’s series saving 41-point performance in game 6 against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016?

Offensively the team has relied too much on Lowry and DeRozan to carry the load which is a legitimate reason for some of their playoff struggles.

If the front office won’t blow up the team, then the the supporting cast’s youth can’t be used as an excuse. They haven’t been dissapointing by any means, but the time is now and they do have to produce or something has to change between management and the roster. There must be a legitimate third option as a scoring threat.

Mediocrity can’t be accepted in Toronto if the city has real hopes of winning an NBA title.

The two players fans should be looking at and possibly putting pressure on are OG Anunoby and Delon Wright.

OG Anunoby

Of course, even at 5.9 points per game last season, OG is still a great piece, but becoming a dynamic scorer could be the missing piece to his game. Anunoby probably has the most potential of all the young players. Going into his second year, he has the physical tools and skill-set to develop into an all-star caliber 3-and-D wing. At 6’8 names that come to mind when thinking about his potential are Trevor Ariza, Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler. His ability to make threes without being involved much throughout the game offensively is similar Ariza and Thompson. He shot 37 per cent from three while being tied for 10th in field goal attempts per game with Jakob Poeltl at 4.7. On the defensive side he’s only scratched the surface and may be the Raptors best isolation defender already. If he bulks up and continues to develop his understanding of the game he could become an elite defender. Can he consistently put the ball in the net and assert himself as an offensive threat is the question. Anunoby averaged 5.9 ppg last season. It’s going to take something upward of 14 points a night for the Raptors to find their legitimate third scorer in OG.

Delon Wright

Wright showed a lot of potential during the playoffs. Without a doubt his shining moment was the 18 points against the Washington Wizards in game one of the first round.

This is the guy we need to see on a nightly basis. At 6’5 he’s a long guard with athleticism to match. To top it all off he’s is a good outside shooter which makes him a threat everywhere on the court. He has the perfect skills for a modern day NBA point guard. The Raptors just need Wright to be aggressive, consistent, and confident this season.

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