The Toronto Raptors are back in a big way ladies and gentlemen. so we’re back with the Weekly Rap. The Raptors are in unfamiliar territory as they’re currently kings of the Eastern Conference with a 6-1 record and tied for the best record in the entire NBA. Toronto is on a four game winning streak after defeating some less than adequate opponents. It’s great that the team is experiencing success at such an early stage during the season, however they are far from playing their best basketball.
Last week the Raptors defeated the Orlando Magic, what’s left of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 26ers – far from the cream of the crop in the association.
Toronto Raptors record last week (4-0)
Toronto Raptors overall record (6-1) – 1st in the Eastern Conference/Tied for 1st in the NBA
Raptors Team Stats vs. Raptors Opponents
PTS: 1st (107.4) vs. 8th (95.9)
FG: 12th (45%) vs. 21st (46%)
FT: 9th (78.9%) vs. 1st (65.7%)
REB: 24th (39.6) vs. 18th (43.1)
AST: 25th (19.0) vs. 22nd (22.3)
TO: 3rd (11.3) vs. 18.9 TO (4th)
AST/TO: 6th (1.68)
Net Rating: 3rd (9.5)
Def Rating: 7th (99.9)
Off Rating: 3rd (109.4)
TS%: 8th (55.3%)
Team grade: B
The Toronto Raptors are first place in the Eastern Conference and currently on a four game winning streak so what gives?
A lack of focus against less than stellar opponents. Digging themselves out of unnecessary holes. Giving up 30+ points in the first quarter to both a Kevin Durant-less Thunder and the Celtics is unacceptable for a defensive minded team. The Raptors luckily were able to come away with victories so they maintain their pedestrian grade as the fun is just getting started in the NBA.
Kyle Lowry : A
For the case of Raptors leader Kyle Lowry actions speak louder than numbers. Not saying his numbers are bad or anything because Lowry’s play has been stellar. His impact extends greater than what stats can calculate. As the figurative head of the snake, Lowry has willed his team to victory after sub-par performances early in games this season. He appears to be in mid-season form, and is doing a marvellous job of protecting the rock. Lowry is again hovering around his career high averages of last season and he also helped Washington Wizards guard Andre Miller contemplate an early retirement. If the Raptors keep up this play behind Kyle Lowry, forget about All-Star considerations, he’ll be right in the mix for MVP.
DeMar DeRozan : A-
DeMar DeRozan is deserving of this A- minus grade as he’s had a couple off-nights. However when you look at the box score, it wouldn’t appear so. A tough game against the Thunder where he only shot 4-12 finishing with 16 points isn’t like the All-Star DeRozan we’ve grown so accustomed to. The 9-25 shooting performance against the Celtics gave me chilling flashbacks to the DeMar and Rudy Gay show we had to tune into night in and night out. DeRozan understands that there’s more ways to contribute to your teams success than scoring as his assist numbers are down on the season. It just sucks that he sometimes forgets and tries to shoot himself out of a mini-slump while all his team can do is watch.
Amir Johnson: B
Amir “Tall Money” Johnson is another one of those players who stats really don’t apply to. It was evident during his two game absence that the Raptors were missing his defensive presence. Serge Ibaka tore up the Raps, and Toronto could’ve really used Amir’s mobility to help slow down the Thunder’s lone wolf. Since his return we haven’t seen Amir hit the glass with his usual tenacity, but its understandable based on the fact that he’s never at 100%. Dwane Casey is doing a good job to manage his minutes early in the season because we’re going to need Amir Johnson when it’s time to compete with the real big dogs in the league.
Terrence Ross: C+
Terrence Ross once again started off the season slow, accumulating numbers you’d expect from a rookie swingman. However over these last two games he’s really found his groove from beyond the arc shooting 8-13. His confidence and ball handling have improved over the off-season, it’s just a matter of putting it all together on a consistent basis. Ross’ numbers are nearly identical to his averages last season, the only thing he really needs to start doing more of is getting to the line.
Jonas Valanciunas: B-
Jonas Valanciunas is a player who some expect to have a breakout season. After his dominant performance in the FIBA Basketball World Championships, JV looked like a player the Raptors could rely on even more this season. At times this year he looked extremely frustrated on the court. It makes sense when you get punched in the face by Sebastian Telfair, have to match up with the Polish Hammer (Marcin Gortat) or go up against a bunch of scrubs on the Sixers. There’s also been many times when Jonas has missed point blank layups at the rim, or missed a defensive rotation where he beats himself up for it. Maybe the beard is weighing him down but he just seems a bit sluggish to start the season. He’s still not getting the touches that a player of his caliber deserves, however there’s two other big dogs that need to eat first (Lowry & DeRozan). Hopefully Jonas will snap out of it, and return to form sooner than later.
Louis Williams: B
Microwave in the house! Sweet Lou is finding his rhythm in a Raptors uniform after scoring in double figures (12,11,13,16) his last four games. When Louis Williams hits the court it’s almost guaranteed that he’s gonna get buckets whether that be from beyond the arc or at the free throw line. His uncanny ability to draw fouls on his jump shot is very Jamal Crawford-esque. Williams is a player with supreme confidence when it comes to handling the rock and brings some much needed stability to the second unit.
Patrick Patterson: C+
Now you see me, now you don’t. That’s been the case with Patrick Patterson this season. He’s getting the minutes, but he’s in a slump. After posting a couple strong outings against the Thunder and Celtics out of necessity, Pat-Pat has cooled off since the roster has returned to full strength. There’s been a noticeable dip in his performance over the last two games where he’s averaged only 4.5ppg and 4rebs. Toronto believes in you Patrick, it’s just a matter of you believing in yourself.
James Johnson: B+
Probably the most slept on addition during the off-season, James Johnson has returned to the Raptors and provided nothing but professionalism. His size, effort and surprisingly his composure in 19mins per game are causing problems for the opposition on both ends of the floor. If JJ can continue to play like this, he’ll allow the Raptors to compete with just about anyone all season long. Don’t forget he did this and got all the grandma’s going wild.
Greivis Vasquez: B-
Greivis has had an up and down week, as he hasn’t been shooting all that great converting on just 12 out of 35 field goal attempts over the last four games. However Vasquez has been able to control the second unit as a leader and change the pace of a couple games during a few of the Raptors sluggish starts.
Tyler Hansbrough: B+
In the absence of both Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas, Tyler Hansbrough stepped up his game – so much that Lowry consciously dished it to him for a corner three-pointer that ended up grazing the side of the backboard. Hansbrough’s game is a mix of rebounding, setting screens, hustling and picking up fouls. Stick to it, and everything will be just fine.
Greg Stiemsma: B
For a team full of characters, Greg Stiemsma looks like a guy without personality. I’ve been impressed in the minutes that he does play. More and more he’s looks like the right fit for this team, as he’s a player with a defined role who wont try and expand it.
Chuck Hayes: C-
When he shoots, I cringe. Every time he goes up for a layup or a push shot it seems like his feet are stuck in mud. Chuck Hayes is great for situational lineups, where his low center of gravity helps him clear space, but that is all.
Landry Fields: C-
He’s alive!!! Landry Fields has played seven minutes over his last two games, scoring two points and getting a steal. Don’t call it a comeback.