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NBA Toronto Raptors Dwane Casey

Casey And The Raptors Slowly Gaining Respect

For some fans and “experts” being the winningest coach in Raptors history and the only coach to ever lead Toronto to the Eastern Conference Finals isn’t enough to acknowledge the team with the best record in the East with only 25 games left this season should be considered the best team in the East, but slowly, grudgingly, this team and head coach Dwane Casey are gaining respect. And they deserve it.

As of the All-Star break ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight calculates that the Raptors are the only team in the East with a puncher’s chance (20%) at winning the NBA Championship and have a better than 50 percent chance of getting there.

 

ESPN’s NBA BPI Playoff Odds gives the Raptors an Eastern Conference best chance at a championship (26%). The Celtics are at dismal 3.6 percent and the Cavs at just 0.3 percent. Although the Cavs have started to reverse their downward slide with a trade deadline roster re-make.

These days the Raptors head coach is getting regular high praise from the opposition’s game callers as Toronto at 41-16 has built a two-game lead over the Boston Celtics and a 6.5 game bulge over the Cavs, but this wasn’t the way the “experts” thought this season would go. The preseason prognosticators had the Raptors as low as sixth place in the East and now Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports  has Casey on his short list for Coach Of The Year.

This season, he is among the small group of coach of the year candidates. It’s not just because of the Raptors’ record

Casey changed the way the Raptors play.

Casey implemented offensive changes. They shoot more three-pointers and run fewer predetermined sets, making them less predictable.

Defensively, they switch more, a sign of versatility on a deep roster.

Ujiri took a chance with this season’s roster. With a mantra of let the young guys play, he handed Casey a roster with few veterans, but lots of rookies and unproven players still on their rookie deals, and told him to see what he’s got. Apparently this was the right call and Casey deserves a lot of the credit for making it work.

“One of the hardest things to do in any sport is win and develop at the same time,” Casey said. “Our guys have worked hard and gotten better.”

But Casey is making it work. DeRozan is turning in an MVP-caliber season, and Lowry is an All-Star for the fourth consecutive season.

Rookie forward OG Anunoby, who is in the starting lineup, center Jacob Poeltl, forward Pascal Siakam, guard Fred VanVleet – all in their second seasons – and third-year guards Norman Powell and Delon Wright form a promising and productive youth movement.

Casey didn’t need to say it – again, as he says it every year he’s been in Toronto, but….

“We’re still not a finished product”

If coach Casey can lead this young roster to a first place finish in the East, he deserves to win Coach of the Year.

As Rob Mahoney says in Sports Illustrated,

None of this would be possible without Casey, whose seven years of equity in Toronto allowed for the Raptors to change shape. The NBA has seen its share of smart, well-intentioned coaches promise their team a more modern style. But there is always some star to cater to, some veteran to indulge. What made Toronto’s conceptual exercise into reality was the trust that Casey and his staff had built.

Continuity is often an undervalued asset in the NBA where coaches are seen to be hired to be fired, but it’s been the All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry’s trust in Casey and Ujiri’s willingness to give young players a chance to show what they got and his head coach a chance to show he can grow with his roster that has created this year’s version of the Raptors.

Casey’s success this season was finally thrust into the spotlight when he was announced as a head coach at the NBA All-Star Game, an honor reserved for the first place team in each conference (subject to certain restrictions). It wasn’t enough that he is coaching a Raptors team that set a franchise record for wins at the halfway point in the season and has real chance at surpassing the team’s previous best of 56 wins from two seasons ago. It took an All-Star appearance to get noticed.

This core has never been better. This franchise has never been better. For that, the Raptors can thank Casey, their third representative at this weekend’s All-Star festivities.

Maybe those talking heads on the ESPN and Fox talk shows should stop drooling over LeBron James in the hopes of yet another Cavs/Dubs Finals re-match and acknowledge there are other teams making noise in the NBA this season.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry and Boston Celtics Kyrie Irving

Celtics Vs Raptors Battle For Best In The East

With the Cavaliers in utter turmoil the two best teams in the Eastern Conference are the Boston Celtics (39-15) and the Toronto Raptors (36-16) and they headline a week in the NBA that could establish who will claim the top spot in the East this season when they face off in Toronto on Tuesday.

An ESPN panel ranks Boston 3rd overall in the NBA and the Raptors in 4th while the Cavs have slipped to 11th. In ESPN’s math based NBA Basketball Power Index those rankings are reversed with Toronto in 3rd (BPI 6.0) and the Celtics in 4th (BPI 4.5). The Cavs have slipped to an irrelevant 15th (BPI 0.4).

John Schuhmann’s NBA Power Rankings provide more detail and have the Raptors (3rd) ranked just ahead of the Celtics (4th). He has the Cavs in 13th.

3. Toronto Raptors
Record: 36-16 
Pace: 100.5 (11) OffRtg: 110.1 (4) DefRtg: 103.1 (3) NetRtg: +7.0 (3)
Though the Raptors have been a little inconsistent themselves over the last few weeks, the Warriors’ defensive slippage has left Toronto as the only team that ranks in the top five on both ends of the floor. The offense (118 points scored per 100 possessions) has been better than the defense as they’ve won four of their last five games. The only game in that stretch that they lost in the one (at Washington on Thursday) that they played without Fred VanVleet, who has averaged 16 points off the bench in the other four. With the Cavs continuing to flounder, the two best teams in the East will meet (for the first time since early November) in Toronto on Tuesday, though it’s not clear if Kyrie Irving (bruised quad) will be available for the Celtics.
Week 17: vs. BOS, vs. NYK, @ CHA
4. Boston Celtics
Record: 39-15
Pace: 98.2 (22) OffRtg: 104.8 (17) DefRtg: 99.9 (1) NetRtg: +5.0 (4)
Al Horford assisted on Jaylen Brown’s game winner in Denver on Monday and hit the game-winner himself as the Celtics pulled off another comeback from a double-digit deficit on Sunday. But the middle of the week belonged to Terry Rozier. In his first two career starts, Rozier recorded a triple-double against New York on Wednesday and dropped a career-high 31 points on the Hawks on Friday, helping the Celtics enjoy some rare offensive success without Kyrie Irving. Daniel Theis has given them some good minutes as they’ve won five of their last six games (with the only loss coming by four points at Golden State), but may be replaced in the rotation by Greg Monroe.
Week 17: @ TOR, @ WAS, vs. IND, vs. CLE

Both teams rely on top-ranked defenses and guard the three-point line better than anyone else. The Raptors are ranked first for the fewest opponent three-point shots made per game (8.8). The Celtics ranked first for opponent’s three-point field goal percentage (33.3%).

The differences come with the Celtics slow pace (22nd) and league average scoring (13th) versus much faster than previous seasons Raptors pace (11th ranked) and an ability to put up an Eastern Conference best 111.4 points per game.

In their first meeting Boston did what they’ve been doing all season, steal a game at the end as their opponent missed shots that normally would have dropped and the Celtics won in Boston 95-94 over the Raptors.

Those wins look like luck, but Boston has the most wins in the NBA (9) in games decided by three points or less this year and grinding out low scoring affairs is how they do it. The Raptors on the other hand regularly put up 120 points plus and are an Eastern Conference best 20-3 in games decided by 10 or more points.

It’s to Boston’s advantage to hold Toronto under a 100 points while the Raptors will be trying to ramp up the pace. The contrast in styles should make for a great game.

For some unknown reason TNT has chosen not to show the battle for first in the East on Tuesday night and have opted for the fourth place Wizards (30-22) versus the eighth place 76ers (25-25).
 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James

Cavs Suck

It hasn’t been a fun season for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers and it’s only gotten worse since the Christmas Day loss in Golden State. To put it bluntly, with a record of 6 wins and 12 losses since the end of an 18-1 streak against the NBA’s also-rans, the Cavs suck.

It’s become the norm to see James hide his face in his hands after passing the ball to one of the Cavs brick-layers. He can’t hide his frustration and he’s stopped trying to. It’s affected his own play as well. Since when has it been normal for LeBron to get stripped or dribble the ball into the hands of an opponent?

Cleveland is not by any means out of contention. At 30-21 they are still seventh overall in the NBA and the only real risk they face is ending up in the unthinkable position of not having home court in the first round of the playoffs.

As bad as things look, and they look bad, the teams Cleveland is most likely to face in an opening playoff series aren’t giving them much trouble – except the Pacers who’ve taken three of four from the Cavs. Cleveland doesn’t want anything to do with Lance Stephenson (half joking) and the over-achieving Pacers in a first round match-up.

It’s the second round level of talent that’s concerning.

Since the 99-92 loss to the Dubs on December 25th, the Cavs have lost to:

  • @Celtics 102-88
  • @Raptors 133-99
  • Warriors 118-108
  • OKC 148-128
  • @Spurs 114-102
  • Rockets 120-88

The Cavs aren’t just losing to the better teams in the NBA, they aren’t even competing. This season, in games decided by 10 points or more, Cleveland has a losing 8-13 record and are the only team in the league’s top 11 teams with a losing record in games decided by double-digits.

It’s bad enough getting blown out on the road in Toronto by over 30 points, but losing by over 20 points in front of the now booing home crowd has to be especially disheartening.

Obviously something has to change and the easiest and usually cheapest way to give an under-achieving team a kick in the butt is to fire the coach. At this point, it couldn’t hurt.

The alternative is to trade away a rotation player or two, but with the way the Cavs have been playing, the guys they’d like to trade couldn’t have a lower value and no one should blame the organization for wanting to hang on to both of their first round draft picks. Unless James is willing to pick up his player option for next season, trading away draft picks would be border-line insanity.

With an estimated luxury tax bill of over $40 million, no team has committed more dollars to this season than the Cavs, so something has to give. The Cavs suck just isn’t acceptable.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Norman Powell

Raptors Norman Powell Finds His Stride

Maybe it was the pressure of signing a big dollar extension in the off season, but the Toronto Raptors young wing Norman Powell has had trouble finding his stride or even just holding onto a spot in head coach Dwane Casey’s rotation this year.

While not every appearance has been a dud, Powell has struggled with his shot, his judgement and even his usually reliable defense, but maybe, just maybe, he’s back on track?

With C.J. Miles out with a sore knee, Powell is earning another shot at a regular spot in Casey’s rotation. Over his last three games Powell hasn’t disappointed, averaging 9 points, 61.1 percent shooting from the field and hitting on 5 of 9 three-point attempts.

“Not playing too much recently, going thru some ups and downs during the season, but I think it felt good just going out there and just play,” Powell said. “I am confident in my game and what I do, make or miss. I feel I am one of the hardest working guys out there. I am always in the gym working on my game, trying to improve.

“Eventually it’s going to turn around. I just work too hard.”

A starting wing spot was Powell’s to lose at the start of the season and he lost it after 12 starts to rookie OG Anunoby when he injured his hip in Boston. However, shooting 40.9 percent the field and 30.8 percent from three in those 12 games meant it was going to be easy for Anunoby to show he deserved to keep the starting job after Powell got back and Casey wasn’t about to take veteran three-point shooter Miles out of the rotation, so Powell didn’t have many minutes to go after on his return if he wasn’t playing at a high level.

Fans in Toronto should be used to Casey using an 11 or even 12 man rotation as this team continues to be focused on player development even with expectations of another 50+ win season and the possibility of finishing first in the East out there for the taking. So, Powell getting garbage minutes to stay involved and regular rotation minutes as soon as anyone in a guard or wing spot goes down isn’t a surprise.

This time, however, Powell has looked more like the player everyone was expecting to show up in October. Maybe, just maybe, he can hang onto a spot in the rotation and someone else will see their minutes cut?

If the playoff version of Powell that got him the big extension is on the court, it’s hard to sit him down.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

Consistent Raptors Get DeRozan Player Of The Month Honors

Sometimes it requires taking a deep breath and looking back over the past month to determine what really went down and with yet another consistently good month under their belts, the Toronto Raptors were able to get All-Star DeMar DeRozan NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors for January.

It wasn’t pretty, but the Raptors went 10-5 in January while the first place Celtics stumbled to a 7-5 record and the third place Cavaliers were an embarrassing 6-8. While fourth place Miami also managed to go 10-5, the Heat have no one putting up numbers comparable to DeRozan.

DeRozan averaged a team-high 25.3 points (second in East), 5.9 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 15 games during the month of January and was the Raptors’ leading scorer seven times. He shot .447 (135-302) from the field, .333 (21-for-63) from three-point range and .846 (88-104) at the free throw line. He put up a career-best 52 points on January 1st in an overtime win over Milwaukee.

This was the third time in his career that DeRozan has been named Eastern Conference Player of the Month.

 

 

 

NBA Los Angeles Clippers Blake Griffin

Can The Blake Griffin Trade Save The Pistons?

A blockbuster deal just landed in Detroit as Stan Van Gundy makes his move to save the imploding Pistons season by acquiring Blake Griffin from the Clippers.

On the face of it, this is a good deal for Detroit. They get a bona fide max player with four more years on his deal in Griffin for the expiring contract of Avery Bradley, a productive combo forward with just one more year left on his deal in Tobias Harris, a center no one will miss in Boban Marjanovic and a couple of drafts picks that the Pistons would have probably swung and missed on anyway.

In what can only be described as a guard-driven league, Gundy has re-created the Pelicans experiment with two big men sucking up nearly all of his cap room. At least the Pelicans managed to stay in the playoff race with their two big stars (while they were healthy). At this point Gundy would be happy with that.

It’s going to be tough in L.A. to sell this trade as anything but the start of a rebuild and it would make sense to see what other assets they can grab for DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams.

But as things sit, the Clippers can argue they are still better than the Pistons post trade, not that being better than the Pistons will guarantee the Clippers a playoff spot in the West.

However, at the very least, the Pistons have generated some excitement and given themselves a chance to turn things around. It’ll be fun to see what happens.

Griffin is averaging 22.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists this season and is still on the right side of 30 years old. If the team that gets the best player wins the trade, the Pistons can claim victory.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Masai Ujiri kisses Dwane Casey

Raptors Get A Third All-Star

With the win over the Lakers on Sunday night the Toronto Raptors secured the team’s third representative at the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, head coach Dwane Casey.

The Raptors came close in the previous two 50+ win seasons and it took a franchise record setting first half for the team to land the honor for their coach this year. 

“It’s been three years in a row we’ve had a chance to do it and we finally did it,” exclaimed Raptors four-time All-Star Kyle Lowry. “It’s pretty special for a guy that’s come from where he’s come from and worked so hard. A team that was supposed to blow it up a couple of years ago and now we’re here.”

Casey, ever focused on “the program” and player development deflected the praise to management, ownership and the players, but he should be proud of how far he’s brought a team of predominately young players so far so fast.

“To put a light on our program and (let everyone) see what we are doing is the most important thing,” Casey said. “It’s also for the players. They have done something to this point (in the season.) It’s an honor for the program.”

The Raptors will be in no lower than second place in the East when the decision about who will coach in the All-Star Game is made. Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens (currently one game ahead of the Raptors) coached the All-Star Game last year and is ineligible this season.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Cleveland Cavaliers Tyronn Lue

Will The Cavaliers Make A January Panic Move?

The slip-sliding Bucks have panicked and fired head coach Jason Kidd. The Hornets are trying to trade everybody in an attempt to dump bad deals. Are the Cavaliers next to make a January panic move?

The Cavs have lost 10 of their last 13 games. That they don’t defend was only emphasized by giving up an incredible 148 points to the Thunder in front of their home crowd at The Q. So is firing head coach Tyronn Lue the solution to waking up this group of highly talented but bickering and aging veterans? Or is a big trade on the horizon?

The Cavs have issues.

  • Lue doesn’t have much rebounding and his team is a net -2.5 boards per game.
  • Starter J.R. Smith is shooting 37.3 percent from the field and the Cavs are no longer dominating from the three-point line.
  • Isaiah Thomas is just getting back from injury, is rusty on offense (they hope) and never was a good defender

It’d be nice to get someone that could rebound and defend the rim plus maybe a guard that could score and isn’t a huge liability on defense.

But even accepting the Cavs have issues, this team is significantly under performing at 27-19. It’s hard to believe they won’t start playing better by the All-Star break if they can just stay the course. There is just too much talent here.

Fire the coach? Better check in with LeBron James first as everyone believes the King is the one that really determines what happens on the court. His own pleas to the contrary notwithstanding.

There are some good players being dangled in the trade market, but every GM can see what’s happening in Cleveland. The Cavs will be bargaining from a position of weakness and the players they are likely to be wanting to off load have questionable trade value at the moment to say the least.

So what do the Cavs have to trade?

The Brooklyn Nets unprotected 2018 first round draft pick has significant value. They also have their own first round pick, but can’t package them together as they traded their 2019 pick (top-10 protected) to the Hawks.

A couple of players on somewhat valuable expiring contracts:

  • Channing Frye $7.4 million, who barely plays anymore
  • Isaiah Thomas $6.3 million, do you really believe his leg is healed 100 percent and is he even the right fit on the defenseless Cavs?

Players they’d love to dump off themselves, but will undoubtedly have to include a draft pick just to start the conversation:

  • A slumping J.R. Smith $13.8 million, + 1 more year guaranteed +1 non-guaranteed
  • An injured Iman Shumpert $10.3 million + player option remaining

A couple of rookies that should attract some interest:

  • Cedi Osman $2.6 million
  • Ante Zizc $1.6 million

Reality is, anyone not named LeBron James could be available if the move has the potential to stop the bleeding.

A James’ favorite, Tristan Thompson $16.4 million + 2 more years, might have to go.

Even Kevin Love $22.6 million +1 more year + a player option is an unlikely possibility.

There may be no better target than the Charlotte Hornets who will part with Kemba Walker and he’s really good. Unfortunately the price will be taking on a player with a big contract few teams will be able to stomach.

As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski points out:

Overloaded with bad contracts and untradable assets, the Charlotte Hornets have made All-Star point guard Kemba Walker available in trade discussions

The Hornets had already made available Nicolas Batum (four years, $100 million), Dwight Howard (two years, $47 million), Marvin Williams (three years, $42 million) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (three years, $39 million), league sources said, but those players and their contracts are largely unattractive in the marketplace.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has gone deep into luxury tax territory and even deeper into the red from a financial standpoint to get LeBron James into the NBA Finals for three straight years and if he wants to have any hope of keeping the King around past this season, he’ll have to commit to keep losing money and getting back to the Finals year-after-year.

The opportunity to land a player like Walker should look like a godsend.

Walker is earning  a bargain $12 million salary with another year left on his deal, but the Hornets will be pushing the Cavs would take on the nearly $100 million still owing to the under performing Nicolas Batum.

Batum hasn’t lived up to his promise, so he’s a big gamble, but Gilbert hasn’t exactly been afraid to gamble. However, Batum isn’t going to solve the Cavs rebounding woes and there is another player the Hornets would consider packaging with Walker.

The oft maligned Dwight Howard ($23.5 million + 1 year remaining) is  averaging a double-double with 15.5 points and a top five 12.6 rebounds. He’s also in the top 10 for blocks at 1.6. Maybe he’s “soft” but Howard is a true center and at the moment, he’s a big missing piece in the Cavs roster.

The Cavs should be working hard to land Walker before some other team snaps him up. A healthy 2017 All-Star point guard averaging over 20 points, 5 assists, 3 boards and shooting 35 percent from three isn’t that easy to find.

The Cavs have also been linked to the Clippers Lou Williams and DeAndre Jordan. That pair could make a huge difference in Cleveland. The only issue being, unlike the Hornets, the Clips are just a half game out of a playoff spot. They shouldn’t be all that interested in tanking for what the Cavs can send back.

The rumor mill has suggested George Hill ($20 million + 1 year + 1 year not guaranteed) could help Cleveland and he’d be a solid veteran add, especially if the Kings will take back some of Cleveland’s junk. To be determined.

As much as the Cavaliers, and a lot of other NBA teams, go through a January funk and feel pushed into to doing something, anything to get out of it, the question in Cleveland really is, will they make a panic move?

Gilbert could be losing money and not getting to the NBA Finals for years if he gambles. If he doesn’t gamble, he could lose LeBron James.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Raptors Inch Closer To First As Celtics Slump

The Raptors made up ground on the front running Celtics without picking up a ball on Tuesday night as Boston extended their slump to four losses in a row by losing to the Lakers 108-107. Toronto also benefited by a Spurs beat down of a Cavs team in disarray 114-102.

After tonight, standings in the East are:

  1. Celtics     34-14     – – –
  2. Raptors   31-14   -1.5
  3. Cavaliers 27-19    -6
  4. Heat          27-20   -6.5

It doesn’t get any easier for the Celtics in the short term. They still have three more games on this Western Conference road trip and will face the Clippers on the back-to-back, then a trip to Golden State and finish off in mile-high Denver.

The Cavs had a team meeting before the game that apparently had no impact on anybody. Losers of 10 of their last 13 games, things are looking bad for Cleveland right about now.

It was already a good night in Toronto before the conclusion of these two games. The Raptors Kyle Lowry was announced as an NBA All-Star for the fourth consecutive season. He will be joining fellow four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan at Staples Center February 16-18 in the 67th edition of the NBA All-Star Game.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Bucks coach Jason Kidd

Bucks Fire Head Coach Jason Kidd

Half way thru his fourth season as the Bucks head coach, Jason Kidd has been fired. After 291 games in Milwaukee Kidd was six games under 500 and with the currently 8th place team grossly under performing some rather lofty and unrealistic expectations, it was the coach getting the blame.

As much as any other reason, Kidd is getting the axe because the Bucks have the hottest young player in the NBA scoring over 28 points per game, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and still don’t look like anything more than a .500 club just hoping to sneak into one of the final playoff spots in the East.

Put those “frayed relationships” to the side. If the Bucks were in fourth place, Kidd would still have a job.

But are the Bucks woes really on the coach?

Milwaukee is nearly dead last in the NBA at taking and making three-point shots and their best three-point shooter this season, Mirza Teletovic has missed all but 10 games. The team’s most prolific three-point shooters, Kris Middleton (5.6 3FGA) and Eric Bledsoe (5.0 3FGA) are shooting under 34 percent from three.

In today’s NBA, if your team can’t make its share of three-pointers, it’s going to be rough.

When your team isn’t taking and making three-pointers, they had better be good at defending them and getting on glass. Unfortunately, the Bucks are dead last in rebounding and opposing teams shoot an NBA third softest 38.2 percent from three.

It’s bad, but at least some of the issues are management related. Kidd could’ve used some better role players. This team needs to rethink its roster. Changing the coach isn’t going to fix their inability to rebound or shoot the three-ball.

More than likely with hindsight, the Bucks will be wishing they’d waited until May to make a coaching decision.

 

 
 

NBA Toronto Raptors Delon Wright

Raptors Delon Wright Is Blocking Shots Like He’s Kevin Durant

Toronto Raptors backup point guard Delon Wright made his presence felt on the defensive end of the court against Detroit on Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre with his fifth multiple block game of the season as the Raptors 20th pick of the 2015 draft has been rediscovering his impressive college defense. Over his past 13 games, he’s been swatting away layup attempts and jump shots at the same rate as Kevin Durant.

“I’ve always been a guy that going to block shots,” Wright told Pro Bball Report. “Even when I was younger, it was just something that I was able to do.

“If you look at my college stats I’ve been blocking shots since my junior year.”

He was 5th overall in the Pac-12 with 43 blocked shots as a junior and blocked 77 shots in 68 games during his two seasons with Utah. Not bad for a 6’5 guard. So, this really isn’t anything new for Wright, from his perspective.

Returning from a shoulder strain in mid-December, Wright has been on a roll and he’s been averaging 10.7 points while shooting 50 percent from three, 4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks in just 23 minutes since December 23rd. He should be forcing head coach Dwane Casey to find him even more minutes, if only the Raptors weren’t trying to develop so many young players this season.

As impressive as his offensive contributions have been recently with two 20 point games over the past month, it’s those blocks that have been most unexpected and invigorating to the players on the bench. Perhaps it’s time to just expect them, but like a big man playing on the weak side, those blocks just seem to come out of nowhere at just the right time.

“I like to use my timing to get those weak side blocks,” Wright said. “Whatever I can do to get a stop, that’s what I try to do.

“Sometimes guards will try to bump into their man and as they are hanging in the air I try to see if I can get a finger on it.”

And Wright has been getting a finger on the ball a lot lately. Over these past 13 games, Wright been blocking shots at the highest rate per minute of any guard in the association, just ahead of rookie of the year candidate 6’10 Ben Simmons, but perhaps more impressive is he’s been ahead of big centers like Steve Adams and Gorgui Deng.

Apparently, blocking shots isn’t anything outside of his skill-set and in his third NBA season, Wright has got this thing figured out.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas and Detroit Pistons Andre Drummond

Raptors Put Pistons In Their Place

Detroit is one of the NBA’s top three-point shooting teams with one of the league’s top rebounders in Andre Drummond, but that didn’t matter when the Pistons rolled into Toronto to face the Eastern Conference’s second place Raptors and center Jonas Valanciunas. The Raptors are one of the best at defending the three-point line and they put the hot shooting Pistons in their place 96-91.

Toronto opened with a 31-18 first quarter as Drummond looked lost and the Pistons couldn’t shoot straight. But, the Pistons fought back only to lose the game to a Raptors 12-2 fourth quarter run that erased a one-point Pistons lead and put the game out of reach.

“Andre put up good good numbers, but,” Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy said. “In that middle 30 minutes, second, third quarter into the fourth, I thought he was good defensively, but he didn’t start the game with a defensive mentality and then he didn’t get up on the two pick-and-rolls late. It’s unfortunate because we had fought really hard to get back in that game and to have two plays like that where you just got to be up and you’re not.

“It’s unfortunate because obviously 25 (points) and 17 (rebounds) is a helluva night against a really good player (Valanciunas) and a really good team.”

Valanciunas had 17 points and 16 rebounds playing 10 fewer minutes than Drummond.

With the centers essentially cancelling each other out on the glass, the Raptors won the battle of the boards 49-42 thanks in part to Toronto’s second best rebounder,  6′ point guard Kyle Lowry, digging out 9 rebounds.

Unfortunately for Detroit, even with Drummond, getting out rebounded is nothing new. Their rebounding differential was a -1.7 heading into the game. The Raptors are a +1.1 rebounds.

However, the most obvious issue for Detroit on this night was shooting 35.7 percent from three to make 10 on 28 attempts.

The Pistons are shooting an NBA third best 38.4 percent from three and feature six players hitting 39.5 percent or better, but not on this night.

The Raptors are holding opponents to the NBA’s fewest number of made threes per game (9.0) at the fifth lowest percentage (34.8). They average 11.2 threes shooting 35.1 percent and hit their averages going 11-31 against the Pistons.

Again, unfortunately, this is nothing new for the Pistons. As well as they shoot the three, they can’t defend it and on the season they are just a +0.4 net on made threes per game.

As if to add insult to injury, even Valanciunas made an uncontested three-pointer for Toronto on this night, improving to 7-20 from three on the season.

The loss leaves the Pistons with a 22-21 record and just a half game from falling to ninth place. There is hope the return of injured players will strengthen the team’s rotation, but as The Detroit News Rod Beard writes, Pistons torn between dealing, riding out storm

Pistons general manager Jeff Bower sat in the stands at Air Canada Centre during Wednesday morning’s shootaround, using his phone.

There’s no time for Words With Friends; he was doing some online shopping — perusing possible deals and making and taking calls about other roster possibilities.

Detroit has what a lot of teams are looking for, good three-point shooters. Maybe Bower can find a play-maker who could up his team’s bottom 10 assist numbers and create more opportunities for all those shot makers he’s accumulated?

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam

Raptors Pascal Siakam Will Keep Shooting 3s No Matter What

It’s hard not to notice, but opposing teams are leaving Pascal Siakam wide open on the three-point line and daring him to shoot and the Raptors young power forward has kept on firing away whether they are going down or not.

“I think that’s the confidence the team gives me,” Siakam told Pro Bball Report. “They see my work and know I’m working on (my three-point shot), so they trust that I put the work in and to shoot it when I’m open.”

They must be going down in practice for his coaches and teammates to have confidence in his three-point shot because Siakam is shooting just 12-81 (14.8%) on the season, went on a 0-25 streak from three a month ago and in his last 10 games is just 3-18 from the land beyond.

However, Siakam shooting threes isn’t out of context from what the Raptors are trying to do this season and despite the clunks and air balls, he still has a green light from head coach Dwane Casey.

“If you’re open shoot the ball,” Siakam explained. “I think the offense is free and everyone is playing off each other. When you are open, you shoot.

“I think that is most important in this offense. There is a lot of drive and kicks and that’s the way this offense is and you have to be able to shoot that (three).”

Confidence comes from necessity and working on his three-point shooting everyday and if Siakam can find an even modestly reliable long range jump shot by the end of the season, he’ll make the Raptors second unit nearly impossible to guard.

“I work on it everyday,” Siakam said. “I make it in practice. So I got to keep working on it and I got to keep doing it.”

Siakam has earned his minutes this season with his defense plus his ability to run the floor and score in the paint. His jump shot may be cringe-worthy at the moment, but he’s just doing what he’s told and trying to fit into a style of play that demands players shoot from distance.

Don’t expect Siakam to change. He’ll keep working on those three-balls in practice and in games whether they are going in or not.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas

Raptors And Bucks Should Make This Trade

The Toronto has what the Bucks need and although there is some debate about whether or not the Raptors should just stand pat heading into the NBA trade deadline, if they could pry the right player out of Milwaukee, most people would up their chances of making it to their first NBA Finals.

The premise is simple. The Bucks are dead last in rebounding and going no where this postseason, if they can even hang onto a playoff spot sitting just a game and a half out of ninth in mid-January, and the Raptors have been shopping one of the league’s perennial top 10 rebounders (on a percentage of available boards) since last summer.

The Bucks have been linked to high priced potentially available centers like DeAndre Jordan, but it’s hard to imagine how they can come up with enough assets to match a $22 million salary without decimating their roster. At $15.5 million, the Raptors Jonas Valanciunas is at least a possibility.

In Toronto the Raptors have depth at center and power forward and with the emergence of second year center Jakob Poeltl, the continuing move to play more small ball and the stated desire by Serge Ibaka to play more minutes at the five spot, Valanciunas has become a luxury that head coach Dwane Casey struggles to find minutes for.

As the starting center Valanciunas is playing just over 20 minutes per game despite averaging a team second best 19.3 points per 36 minutes and cleaning the glass at a team best rate of 13.7 boards. He is the player the Bucks lineup is missing.

Also, Valanciunas has played like a man among boys versus Milwaukee in two games this season, averaging 13 points and 9 boards in just 16.9 minutes.

In a case of its going to cost you to get what you want, the Bucks player that can help the Raptors is small forward Kris Middleton.

The contracts of the two players are close enough in salary and duration for a straight one-for-one swap and although Middleton is putting up a career best 19.9 points per game, he’s doing it taking a a career-high 15.8 shots as his three-point shooting has fallen off a cliff to 34 percent.

The Raptors would want the Middleton of the past four seasons that averaged 14.5 points and shot 40.8 percent from three and playing on a team with more offensive talent, they can probably be convinced that is the player they’d be getting.

The trade should begin and end here, but if the Bucks want to add a two-way player with the potential to replace what Middleton provided, Toronto can probably be convinced to send another piece that Casey is having trouble finding minutes for in the Raptors deep roster.

In the playoffs last April Milwaukee had Toronto on the ropes until Casey brought Norman Powell from a DNP-CD in Game Two into an increased role over the next four games. Powell averaged 14.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 28.5 minutes while shooting 90 percent from three in those games and helped turn the series around. That isn’t something a coach or GM can easily forget.

This year Powell has lost his spot in the rotation to rookie OG Anunoby (a swing and a miss by the Bucks who drafted the 6’10 D.J. Wilson six spots ahead of him) and is pretty much just finding minutes as an injury-reserve, but the potential as an over-achieving tough defender and offensive threat is still there.

The Raptors signed the second round pick Powell to a four-year $42 million extension this past summer and under the current circumstances, could undoubtedly be convinced to move him for another prospect, say Wilson, who the Raptors could develop in their G League franchise.

Moving Powell doesn’t help the Raptors and would be a risk if Casey needs a reliable player to cover injuries or even just foul trouble, but to make a deal for Middleton, president Masai Ujiri would have to consider it. The Bucks would probably want Anunoby, but that demand would instantly kill discussions.

As the calendar quickly moves towards the NBA trade deadline on February 8th, the Bucks will increasingly feel the pressure to do something meaningful about their inability to rebound the ball and signing two-way centers like Marshall Plumlee only smacks of desperation. They can either take a chance or accept the fact that, even with Giannis Antetokounmpo, they are still a one-and-done team in April at best.

The Raptors on a franchise record setting pace of 29-12 at the halfway point in the season are probably feeling pretty good about where they are, but the shadow of the King in Cleveland still looms and even with the Cavs current slide, Ujiri won’t be fooling himself into thinking the Raptors would be favored in a playoff series against LeBron James by standing pat.

It isn’t easy trading meaningful players with a potential playoff rival, but this is a deal the Raptors and Bucks should make happen.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Lorenzo Brown

Raptors Two-Way Lorenzo Brown Should Be An NBA Player

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri landed himself a gem when he signed Lorenzo Brown to an NBA two-way contract this season. The big point guard has been tearing up the G League with three 30 point games since the start of December and, in the process, has tied the 905 franchise record for assists (15) and points (36, tied with Norman Powell).

“I believe I’m an NBA guy right now,” Brown told Pro Bball Report and it’s a statement that’s getting hard to argue with.

In the 905’s opening G League Showcase game on Thursday, Brown put up a double-double 24 points and 12 assists in 35 minutes at noon. Then he sprinted down to the Air Canada Centre to play 19 minutes in the Raptors rout of the Cavaliers recording 6 points and 5 assists.

Brown has been playing like an All-Star at the G League level, but it’s been his impact with the Raptors in the NBA that deserves another look.

As a third string injury replacement point guard with the Raptors, Brown is filling a very different role at the NBA level, but whenever he gets more than a couple of minutes, he makes an impact.

“I have a role to play,” Brown said. “I have a role to play up there and I have a role to play here. I feel I am more aggressive down here and when the time comes to be more aggressive up there I’ll take that approach.”

With the big club, Brown’s approach is conservative. He plays defense and looks to limit mistakes and it’s working. He’s been a “plus” +/- player in each of the five games where he’s got more than a couple of minutes, a +38 in 69 minutes of action.

He may not be getting noticed by the causal fan, but the Raptors lead grows with him on the court. His focus on defense has been effective.

“That’s been my focus to tell you the truth,” Brown said. “I am a great defender when I put my mind to it. (But) when that time comes for me to be aggressive at the offensive end, I’ll show it. Right now my goal is to bring energy to the team and defend.

“(My role is) to be a great teammate.”

It’s hard for his teammates on the big club to incorporate him into the offense. They just don’t have the opportunity to play with him that much and practice minutes with guys not in the regular rotation is really hard to find.

However, even with the lack of familiarity sliding this solid scorer to the fifth option on offense, head coach Dwane Casey can leave him on the court for extended minutes because he fits on defense.

“I’m just waiting on my opportunity man,” Brown said.

That opportunity is going to come. If the Raptors make a move to trade one of their guards, Brown has shown he can be effective as a third string guard with the Raptors right now and there are always NBA teams looking for a big guard that can play defense and has the potential to be a big time scorer if given the chance.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Raptors Serge Ibaka and Cavaliers Isaiah Thomas

The NBA Shows Its Disrespect For Toronto Yet Again

So the Toronto Raptors Serge Ibaka gets a one game suspension for almost fighting and the Cleveland Cavaliers repeat offender Isaiah Thomas just gets fined for actually decking Andrew Wiggins with a vicious hit to the throat. But no one should actually be surprised. That’s just the usual lack of respect the NBA shows for its only team not in the USA and the overt favoritism towards certain other clubs.

Both Serge Ibaka and James Johnson got suspended for one game each after being ejected for nearly fighting in a game at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night. Both players threw what could be viewed as “hostile” elbows in a heated pushing match that, as usual in the NBA, never actually evolved into a fight.

While almost fighting in the NBA is risking a suspension and the punishment isn’t all that usual, Ibaka’s been in fake fights before,  but it’s hard to ignore the kid gloves treatment the league office chose to use in Thomas’ case.

This isn’t the first time Thomas lost his temper and tried to take the head off his unsuspecting opponent. As reported by A. Sherrod Blakely in NBC Sports Boston in April 2016, he’s done this before.

The Celtics got a bit of good news on Saturday with the NBA deciding to not suspend Isaiah Thomas for his first quarter run-in with Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder in Boston’s 111-103 Game 3 win on Friday night.

“I knew what I did,” said Thomas who added that he had not spoken with any league officials regarding the incident. “A slower version would like I looked at him and tried to hit him. If I tried to hit somebody I would have hit them.”

Replays showed Thomas connecting with Schroder’s head while running up the court.

After the play, Thomas had to be restrained by teammate Jared Sullinger.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Shame on the NBA for buying into Thomas hitting an unsuspecting opponent in the head with what should be called a punch an accident for a second time.

Ejected for the fourth time in his career, Thomas showed no remorse and denied doing anything wrong. Tell it to the video!

Thomas said after the game that it was inadvertent and that he was going for a steal. – ESPN

No one in Toronto really wants to believe the NBA uses a double standard when it comes to Toronto, but the examples just keep on coming.

On Thursday when the Cavaliers visit Toronto for the teams first tilt of the season, Thomas will be in the lineup and Ibaka will be in street clothes and the NBA doesn’t see anything wrong with that.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet

Raptors Counting On Delon Wright And Fred VanVleet

There’s a reason why teams like to carry three point guards that they aren’t afraid to play and with the Toronto Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry out with a bruised tailbone, they’ll be counting on Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet to pick up the slack.

Head coach Dwane Casey hasn’t been shy about playing the third year Wright and the second year VanVleet significant minutes this season and the real sticking point may come when he’d like to be running out his three point guard lineup that’s produced some interesting results. However, in the process, he’s gotten these two young guards as ready as possible to cover in Lowry’s absence.

The season-to-date stats for Wright and VanVleet are as encouraging as they are misleading.

Wright has averaged 21.2 minutes over 26 games having missed a stretch do to a shoulder injury and he’s averaged 8.8 points on 50.9 percent from the field, 2.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.6 blocks. He’s as comfortable running the point as playing off the ball and has even soaked up minutes as a small forward. Versatile should be his middle name and he is really at his best when he looks to score, although he prefers to facilitate.

VanVleet has appeared in all 38 games averaging 17.9 minutes, 6.3 points on 39.4 percent shooting, 2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 0.8 steals. He sees a surprising amount of time in fourth quarters and isn’t afraid of the big moments.

Both players have been getting significantly better as the season has progressed and during the team’s current five game winning streak:

Wright has averaged 13 points on 59.1 percent shooting from the field and 54.5 percent from three, 5.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.0 blocks in 25.4 minutes.

VanVleet has averaged 9 points on 44.7 percent shooting from the field and 46.2 percent from three, 1.8 rebounds, 2 assists and 0.6 steals in 18.9 minutes.

The Raptors are hoping the trend continues as both players will be expected to carry a heavier offensive load until Lowry gets back.

The Raptors can’t expect to replace an All-Star with a couple of young guards no matter how well they’ve been playing lately and there is no way to know if they can play as well for extended minutes without Lowry’s veteran presence. There can be no question both Wright and VanVleet have looked better playing with Lowry on the court beside them.

Next man up, opportunity knocks and a whole other list of clichés. The Raptors have no choice but to count on their two young point guards. All those minutes Casey has been been giving them this season is looking like it was a pretty good idea right about now.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Raptors Kyle Lowry Could Be Out For A Week

It looked bad, but the scary injury Kyle Lowry sustained in overtime when the Nets Quincy Acy undercut his legs as the Raptors All-Star point guard was snagging a key rebound has been listed as day-to-day.

 

 

Rotoworld reports:

Today’s update, including the fact that Lowry’s X-rays came back negative, certainly qualifies as good news.

Lowry is considered day-to-day and could be back in the lineup by the end of this week.

In what seems to be a recurring theme this season when it comes to big games, the timing of this injury couldn’t be worse for NBA fans.

This week the 28-10 Raptors are scheduled to face the 26-14 Cavaliers on Thursday and the 33-8 Warriors on Saturday. So much for trying to get a better read on where the NBA Eastern Conference’s second place team fits among the league’s elite.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan Is NBA East’s Player Of The Week For The 3rd Time

The NBA announced on Monday that DeMar DeRozan has been selected as the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the third time this season. He has now been the East’s Player of the Week for games played Nov. 13-18, Dec. 18-24 and Jan. 1-7. This marks the eighth time DeRozan has earned the honor during his nine seasons in Toronto.

DeRozan averaged an NBA-high 35.7 points, 6.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds during three games last week. He shot .557 (34-for-61) from the field, .550 (11-for-20) from three-point range and .933 (28-for-30) at the free throw line. DeRozan was the leading scorer in two of Toronto’s three victories this past week.

Highlighting DeRozan’s week was a franchise-record 52-point performance Jan. 1 vs. Milwaukee in a 131-127 overtime win. He became the third player in team history to record a 50-point game, joining Vince Carter (Feb. 27, 2000 vs. Phoenix) and Terrence Ross (Jan. 25, 2014 vs. L.A. Clippers). DeRozan also matched a career-high with 17 field goals, including five three-pointers, against the Bucks and shot a perfect 13-for-13 at the free throw line. Two nights later, DeRozan scored 18 of his game-high 35 points in the third quarter to help Toronto pull away in a 124-115 victory Jan. 3 at Chicago.  He capped off the week by scoring 20 points during Toronto’s 129-110 win Jan. 5 at Milwaukee.

DeRozan, a native of Compton, California, currently ranks seventh in the NBA averaging 25.0 points through 37 games.

The three-time NBA All-Star was selected ninth overall by Toronto in the 2009 NBA Draft and is the franchise’s all-time leader in career points (12,381), field goals made (4,390), free throws (3,322) made and games played (632).

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

Raptors DeMar DeRozan Has Been A Superstar For 3 Weeks

To notice that a three-time All-Star has elevated his game to another level takes some doing, but for the past three weeks, the Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan has been playing like a bona fide superstar.

The East’s second leading scorer in each of the past two seasons, DeRozan was plugging along at 23.7 points per game and the Raptors were a respectable 18-8, then things changed. The Raptors went on a 9-2 run as one of the NBA’s best mid-range players unexpectedly found the range from beyond the arc and in the process set two new personal bests for points in a game and set a new franchise record with 52 points against the (now rival) Bucks.

Now DeRozan’s jump shot was never broken and he wasn’t having a bad year, winning Eastern Conference player of the week on November 20th. It’s just that in his first eight NBA seasons he only took 9.2 percent of his shots from three and he only hit on 28.1 percent of them. Up until mid-December of this year nothing had changed. He was shooting 24.6 percent from three and had gone oh-for (0-15) in the nine immediately prior games.

Then, against Brooklyn, on December 15th, DeRozan hit a three. No big deal, but five nights later in Charlotte he goes 3-4 from deep and on the back-to-back in Philadelphia DeRozan sets a new personal best with 6 three-balls on 9 attempts as he scored a new personal best 45 points.

For the week, DeRozan shot 13-20 from three and averaged 34 points. Not surprisingly, DeRozan was the NBA Eastern Conference player of the week for the second time this season.

After a couple of post-Christmas turkeys in Dallas and OKC, DeRozan hit 5 three-balls twice. Over his last 11 games games DeRozan has been averaging 50.7 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from three-point range.

In the process, Toronto took all four games in home and away sets from the more popular 76ers and Bucks with DeRozan averaging 36.5 points. A quiet in your face ESPN, who rather overtly, would like to see Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo be the story.

DeRozan remains an early favorite to be voted back to the All-Star Game this season, but just representing a much maligned East in NBA’s big mid-season showcase isn’t enough anymore. The player who has increased his scoring by 3+ points in each of the past two seasons wants to show he can do more and his team needs it if they are to start getting respect as the Eastern Conference Finals contender that they were two seasons ago and should be this year again.

The Raptors need a superstar. A player that demands attention from ESPN, TNT, NBA TV and other points south of the border as only that level of player will command the respect of the NBA (and their on court officials) come playoff time.

DeRozan is showing signs his game commands that level of respect. In Toronto’s blow out win over the Bucks in Milwaukee, DeRozan grabbed a long offensive rebound in the corner, turned and fired a three knowing he’d hit nothing but net. He believes his new found three-point range is here to stay and if it is, how do you you stop him now?

The question is, can he keep it up? Not ordinary All-Star level respect, superstar level respect.

Over the next 30 days the Raptors will face the Cavaliers, Warriors, Spurs and Celtics at the Air Canada Centre. By rights he shouldn’t have to, but DeRozan probably has to lead his team to some wins against this group if he’s going to get anything more than polite courtesy (another, yes you’re right, we missed that call at the end of the game that cost you the win) from the NBA and it’s entrenched box score watching media.

(Another 50+ win season and second best scorer in the East isn’t likely to do it.)

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson