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Greivis Vasquez laughing

Raptors Trade Greivis Vasquez For Cap Space And Picks

The Toronto Raptors have traded veteran point guard Greivis Vasquez to the Bucks for salary cap space, a future first round draft pick and a second round pick. This move can give Toronto the room to go after a max contract free agent this summer.

 

 

Vasquez averaged 9.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 24.3 minutes last season for Toronto. He started in 29 games. Vasquez is a fearless shooter who hit on 37.9 percent of his three-point attempts and is an excellent passer. He led the NBA in assists in 2012-13.

 

 

Tyler Ennis

Bucks Tyler Ennis May Miss NBA Summer League And Team Canada

The Milwaukee Bucks guard Tyler Ennis is expected to be out of action for the next eight weeks or more after unexpectedly undergoing labral repair surgery to his right shoulder on Tuesday as reported by NBA.com

Milwaukee Bucks General Manager John Hammond announced that guard Tyler Ennis underwent successful labral repair surgery to his right shoulder today. After consultation with Bucks orthopaedist Dr. Michael Gordon and Dr. David Altcheck from the Hospital for Special Surgery, the procedure was performed this morning in New York.

It was only a few days ago that Ennis was quoted as hoping to play in the NBA Summer League and for Team Canada. The Canadian Men’s National Team will be at the 2015 Pan Am games in Toronto from July 21-25 and the FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournament in Monterrey, Mexico from August 25 to September 6 where they hope to earn a trip to Rio 2016.

The Bucks rookie guard was acquired from Phoenix in a three-team deal on February 19. He had not missed any games due to this injury during the season. Ennis averaged 14.1 minutes, 4 points and 2.4 assists in 25 games with Milwaukee and appeared in one postseason contest playing 16 minutes and contributing 5 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in the Bucks Game 6 blowout loss to the Bulls.

The competition for a spot on the Team Canada roster is expected to be especially tough this summer with a record number of NBA players likely to be available. It will be very difficult for Ennis to make the final roster if he isn’t back to 100 percent by the time training camp opens.

Ennis was born in Brampton, Ontario and represented Canada at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship in Prague.

 

 

 

BKN_Kidd_Jason

Milwaukee Bucks, How The Heck Do They Keep Winning?

You got to hand it to the Milwaukee Bucks.

A team that was considered a major rebuilding project at the start of the season with a brand new coach in Jason Kidd, not much was expected from this club, but after their 82-75 win in Toronto Monday night over the Raptors, they have now racked off 4-straight wins. That’s good for a 26-22 record in the Eastern Conference and most importantly, sits them in sixth spot in the conference standings.

What is amazing is that they are doing it with a bare bones roster night after night.

Kidd only had nine players dressed Monday night. A few hours before the game he found out he would not have the services of his leading and only consistent scorer.  Point guard Brandon Knight would be out with a strained quad.

Then with just over 4-minutes left in the second quarter, the roster was trimmed to just eight healthy bodies as O.J. Mayo was given a double technical foul and ejected from the game.

When talking to Kidd and the Bucks players, they all sing from the same hymn book “one goes down another has to step up”.

In Monday’s win forward Khris Middleton was that man. He was 10-17 from the field, 3-4 from behind the arc and a perfect 2-2 from the foul line. The result was a season high 25-points and 9-rebounds.

Before the game Kidd said” I think this is a great learning process for our team to be able to handle injuries and just keep playing”.

It should be pointed out for those who don’t follow the Bucks on a daily basis the rest of the missing players, and there is some talent missing. Ersan Ilyasova groin, Damien Inglis ankle, Kendell Marshall ACL tear, Jabari Parker knee surgery, Zaza Pachulia calf strain and Larry Sanders out on a league suspension.

The real story on Monday night is the Bucks held an opponent to under 90-points for the 17th-time this year and they have not lost a game yet when they held an opponent to under-90.

The Raptors shot just 32 percent for the game, which head coach Dwayne Casey called “A stinker” after the game. Saturday night, however, the Bucks beat Portland 95-88 and held them to just 37 percent shooting.

The Bucks are not doing this against teams that could not beat the Washington Generals. They are doing this against the elite scoring teams in the league.

After the game Kidd said, “Normally when you don’t score you need to play defense. We needed to rebound and they did”.

In case you forgot, when the Bucks visited Toronto in November, the Raptors won 124-83. Monday night the 75-points scored by the Raptors was a season low.

So as this Bucks team gets healthy, watch for them in the playoffs. If you are looking for a team capable of a first round upset, this might be it.

 

 

Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

ATL_Horford_AlAtlanta Hawks Are Set To Stretch Their Lead In The East
By Frank McLean
“We have a chance to do something special this time,” Hawks star center Al Horford said. “We have to keep getting better and it’s up for us to keep playing well and (not) be satisfied. We are half way there and we got to keep going”.

 

 

TOR Ross and James Johnson

James Johnson Sits, Raptors Defeat Bucks 92-89

Head Coach Dwane Casey must be tired of losing, so he made some dramatic changes to his rotation on Monday night in Milwaukee and came away with a hard fought 92-89 win over the Bucks. Terrence Ross was replaced in the starting lineup by Greivis Vasquez and James Johnson sat as a healthy DNP-CD. The nine Raptors that played responded with one of their better defensive efforts.

It would be a challenge to lay much of the blame on James Johnson for the Raptors recent 4 win 8 loss slide. Averaging 9.5 points on 61.5 percent shooting, 5.1 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.2 blocks over the past 12 games, Johnson was a model of effort and consistency until his 0 point and 3 turnover effort in 11 minutes on Sunday. Johnson took a silly technical foul sandwiched between two turnovers early in the fourth quarter against the Pelicans and Casey subbed him out for good despite needing his defense later in the game. Casey assured everyone Johnson didn’t do anything wrong in Milwaukee.

“It had nothing to do (with James),” Casey said. “Just those three guys were playing, were doing a good job. I would love to play 15 guys. There are going to be some guys out of the rotation. Tonight those three guys did a good job. Terrence came off the bench, Lou (Williams), Greivis, and Kyle (Lowry) – it had nothing to do with James, nothing he did wrong.”

There is a history between Casey and Johnson that saw Johnson traded for a second round draft pick at the end of the 2011-2012 season in which Johnson had put up some solid stats. Hopefully history isn’t repeating itself.

Ross came off the bench a little slow with 4:51 left in the first quarter. After making a quick midrange jump shot, he missed two deep three-point attempts, turned the ball over and blew a defensive assignment. He started the second quarter with some intensity – a dunk, two made threes and three personal fouls. Ross looked alive for an extended period and earned his extra time on the court.

“Terrence responded coming off the bench and did a great job,” Casey said.

Ross had 16 points and five rebounds and scored the Raptors last two field goals including Toronto’s game-winning shot at the 26.4 second mark and a dunk with 15.9 seconds left.

Jonas Valanciunas had a 11 point 11 rebound double-double at the half, but he only played 5.5 minutes after the break and didn’t score as both Toronto and Milwaukee went small. It seemed inevitable that Valanciunas would have a short night as he had trouble hanging onto the ball and coughed it up 5 times, but Patrick Patterson picked up the rebounding effort for the Raptors with Valanciunas on the bench.

“Pat Patterson was a man on the boards,” Casey said. “His energy on the boards was the difference.”

Patterson tied his career-high of 13 rebounds with 10 in the second half as the Raptors dominated the glass by grabbing 20 offensive rebounds and out dueling the Bucks 54-43 on the boards.

The Raptors needed those offensive rebounds to escape Milwaukee with the win. They shot 40 percent from the field as a team and DeMar DeRozan legs were gone in his first back-to-back game since returning from injury. He shot 0-9 from the field for 0 points. Lowry also couldn’t find the mark, going 8-25 to score 18 points, but Lowry had his fingerprints all over this game with 5 boards, a steal, a block and charges drawn. Lowry was a force.

“DeMar gave us what he had,” Casey said. “I thought his legs were a little shot from coming back and being out for so long.”

The only real criticism of Casey’s rotation in this game was that after watching DeRozan struggle in the first quarter and looking fatigued, maybe he should have given him the rest of the night off. He did just miss a month and a half with a groin injury.

This game was even closer than the final score indicates. The Bucks missed 9 free throws, going 16-25 from the line while the Raptors bricked their way to 14-24 from the charity stripe. Toronto even managed to brick three technical foul shots and Lowry missed a pair of free throws in the dying seconds that would have put this game out of reach.

It is about time Casey started following his own advice and shortened his rotation to 8 or 9 guys. In his own words, ‘I would love to play 15 guys. (But) there are going to be some guys out of the rotation.’ He can’t play everyone and he can’t keep everyone happy with their playing time or spot in the rotation. Monday night in Milwaukee might be the start of trend – maybe.

 

 

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 Milwaukee Bucks Larry Sanders

Will Bucks Larry Sanders Walk Away From $40m?

Bucks center Larry Sanders hasn’t been playing for Milwaukee recently for personal reasons and the situation appears to be getting pretty serious – serious enough that Sanders may be prepared to walk away from the 4-year $44 million extension he signed with the Bucks that kicked in this season.

 

 

Those personal reasons are strong enough for Sanders to contemplate retirement according to Racine Journal Times Columnist Gery Woelfel.

 

 

Apparently Sanders concerns run back to the summer when Sanders was reportedly looking at options outside of basketball according to his friends.

 

 

This isn’t a straight forward situation. The Bucks signed Sanders to that extension because of his potential and they would be remiss to just let him out of his contract for personal reasons that could resolve themselves over a reasonable period of time in relation to his 4-year contract. However, the situation cannot go on indefinitely as is either – something will have to give at some point in the not too distant future.

 

 

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.

 

 

Caboclo and Nogueira

Caboclo Debuts in Raptors 124-83 Blowout Of The Bucks

The Toronto Raptors first round draft pick Bruno Caboclo had yet to see the court in a regular season game before tonight as Head Coach Dwane Casey has been focusing on piling up the wins for the 10-2 NBA Eastern Conference leader. It took injuries to both Tyler Hansbrough and James Johnson for Caboclo and fellow rookie from Brazil Lucas Nogueira to be activated, but the timing couldn’t have been better as the Milwaukee Bucks folded like a cheap suit under an avalanche of three point shots from Toronto.

The blowout started in the first quarter as the Raptors scored 37 points and only a pair of late three-pointers from Ersan Ilyasova kept Milwaukee within 10 points, but it was only going to get worse for the Bucks from there. Toronto scored 34 more points in the second quarter to take a 71-45 lead into the half and if the Raptors could keep up the pressure, Caboclo and Nogueira’s NBA debuts were assured.

The rookies had nothing to worry about as the Raptors were not about to let up in the third quarter, expanding their lead to an all-time franchise high of 45 points by the time the period ended. Caboclo started the fourth quarter and helped the Raptors set a new high water mark of 52 points as he hit his second three-pointer to make the score 116-64.

Caboclo finished with 8 points on 3-6 from the field including 2-3 from three-point range, a block and a rebound in 12 minutes. Who says this kid is two years away from being two years away?

The final score of 124-83 was 1 point shy of the franchise’s biggest winning margin set in 2008 against the HEAT.

ESPN Recap: Raptors Obliterate Bucks noted:

When Williams hit a pair of free throws in the final seconds of the third quarter, it gave Toronto a 101-56 lead. At the time, the 45-point margin represented the biggest lead in franchise history.

Toronto narrowly missed matching its largest margin of victory in franchise history, set in a 96-54 victory over Miami on March 19, 2008.

Raptors Republic: Quick Reaction: Raptors 124, Bucks 83 by Garrett Hinchey summed it up:

Yes, this is just an early-season blowout against an expected non-playoff team, but enjoy this one, Raptor fans. A huge win, a 6-1 homestand, the best record in the conference, 8 points from Bruno, and Cleveland coming up tomorrow night. This, friends, is as close to basketball nirvana as it’s gotten here in a long, long time.

Lou Williams led all scorers with 22 points off the bench in just 19 minutes, shooting 5-7 from three-point range including buzzer-beaters at the end of the first and second quarters. Kyle Lowry had 20 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Jonas Valanciunas notched a quick double-double of 18 points and 12 boards. DeMar DeRozan was held to 1-8 from the field as the Bucks packed the paint, but he did collect 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Nogueira had 2 points, 5 rebounds and a steal in his debut.

The Raptors shot 60% from deep for 15 three-pointers as the Bucks perimeter defense was hard to find. Amir Johnson was left alone at the top of the three-point line for so long that he eventually caved to the pressure and drained the most uncontested three-pointer of the NBA season. Johnson may as well have been standing in the gym by himself.

Toronto shot 52.3 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Bucks 57-30. This game was a total beat down in every aspect.

The rookie Jabari Parker led the Bucks in scoring with 15 points.

It wasn’t supposed to be this easy. The Bucks were on a 3 game winning streak and had a 7-5 record coming into the game. Their record is still better than either the HEAT or Cavaliers.

The Raptors travel to Cleveland for a Saturday night game against a Cavaliers team that just lost 91-78 to the Wizards and has a record of 5 wins and 6 loses. Toronto dismantled the Wizards 103-84 two weeks ago, but no one believes any game against LeBron James will be easy.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Caboclo getting ready to shootRaptors Bruno Caboclo: Put Me In Coach

“I want an opportunity to improve my game,” Caboclo told Pro Bball Report. “I’ve worked a lot to get one chance, but I know it’s hard. We have 13 players, but I keep working.”

 

 

Carter-Williams & Oladipo

Ranking The Bottom 5 Of The NBA Eastern Conference

It is going to be tough on teams that don’t expect to win much in the NBA Eastern Conference. There will be a lot of competition for last place and the best odds at a top lottery pick. All the teams in the bottom 5 have good reasons to focus on developing players and looking towards the future.

As usual injuries, hidden agendas and plain old fashioned luck will impact the final standings.
 

Ranking The Bottom 5

11. Indiana Pacers – Projected 33-49, last season 56-26

The Pacers took a chance by not tying up last season’s triple-double leader Lance Stephenson and letting the restricted free agent walk for a very modest contract to the Hornets, but there was no way they could have known at the time that they wouldn’t have leading scorer Paul George for the upcoming season. Of last year’s playoff teams, only Chicago and Memphis had a tougher time making baskets and without Stephenson’s playmaking and George’s ability to finish, the Pacers are missing over 36 percent of last season’s offense. They also have a gaping hole through both wing positions on defense.

It’s going to be a very uncomfortable season in Indiana and if they do the logical thing, the Pacers will be looking to trade David West, Luis Scola and/or Roy Hibbert for some young up-and-coming talent they can develop as they tank for a better draft pick.

Finishing worse than 11th in the East would represent success this season. The Pacers are in stall mode until George returns.
 

12. Milwaukee Bucks – Projected 33-49, last season 15-67

The Bucks are going to surprise a few teams. Last year injuries crushed a team’s hopes that believed they had a chance to sneak into the playoffs again. In fact the chance was real, but everything that could have gone wrong happened in Milwaukee.

New Head Coach Jason Kidd will get a clean slate and low expectations, but this roster is a lot better than that of a 15-win team. Don’t be surprised if the Knicks, Nets and Pistons can feel Milwaukee breathing down their necks in April.
 

13. Boston Celtics – Projected 29-53, last season 25-57

Boston has created maximum training camp flexibility with players on expiring contracts and non-guaranteed deals. Will Rajon Rondo be traded? How does Gerald Wallace fit on this team? With too many point guards, forwards and big men, what President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge does in October and/or during the season will determine if the Celtics win over or under 30 games.

Pegging a win total for Boston now is basically a Wild-Ass-Guess.
 

14. Orlando Magic – Projected 25-57, last season 23-59

The Magic took a significant hit to their expected win total by moving out Arron Afflalo and then got some it back by signing Channing Frye. Orlando will be a fun team to follow with lots of young potential future stars worth watching and they could be marginally better in Victor Oladipo’s sophomore season.

Player development will take precedence over winning, as it should.
 

15. Philadelphia 76ers – Projected 19-63, last season 19-63

The game plan in Philadelphia has been obvious for a while now and they would have taken last place in 2013-14 if only the Bucks could have won a few more times. It is really hard to win fewer than 20 games, but the 76ers should be able to do it again with ease.

President and General Manager Sam Hinkie is taking the long view and searching for a superstar to build around through the draft. He may have found one already in Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid or Dario Saric, but it will likely take more than a couple of years to find out.

Risks and Obstacles

 

Tanking a season, developing players and/or rebuilding through the draft are not guarantees for success, but it is one of the very few ways many teams have of getting a superstar. Each of the teams in the bottom 5 have the ability to go for a top lottery pick in next year’s draft, but it isn’t easy and sometimes your own players and coaches don’t cooperate. Nobody likes to lose.
 

Who do you think finishes last in the East? Which one of the teams in the bottom 5 will be first to overtly start tanking the season? Can any of these teams exceed expectations and make the playoffs? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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.

 

 

Irving and RoseRanking The Top Five 2014-15 NBA Eastern Conference Teams

 

 

Bosh and AnthonyRanking The Middle 5 Teams in The NBA Eastern Conference

 

 

Todd Mayo

Todd Mayo Is Not Just The Bucks OJ Mayo’s Little Brother

One thing that stands out with Todd Mayo is he is not just a younger version of his brother O.J. Mayo who has been playing in the NBA for the past six seasons. Todd is his own person and very different basketball player. As someone that didn’t start playing basketball until grade 10, Todd’s route to the professional ranks has been and will follow its own path.

The decision of the Marquette Golden Eagles guard to turn professional after his junior season despite not being an immediate NBA prospect did catch a lot of people by surprise, however, Marquette was going through their own changes by hiring new head coach of Steve Wojciechowski. Despite a tumultuous three seasons under former coach Buzz Williams, Mayo had a comfort level with the relationship and maybe it was just time to move on.

To start Todd Mayo is looking at the NBA D-League to launch his professional career while he prepares for the 2015 NBA Draft.

Todd Mayo audio:

 

“I just felt that when Buzz went as a father figure – he did a lot for me whether it was good or bad – whether it was discipline or just letting me play my game,” Mayo said. “I felt he made me grow as a man and when he left, I just wanted to approach my pro career.”

“The D-League is going to give me a different perspective. (NBA teams) will get to see my game and my personality on and off the court for a whole year. It will prepare me for when the upcoming 2015 (NBA) draft comes.”

“More NBA teams will come and see a D-League game faster than taking a flight 22 hours to go to China or wherever it may be if I was playing overseas.”

“I think I can be a one or a two just because I am so active and can score the ball and shoot. There are a lot more areas I need to improve.”

“In college I always wanted to guard the best player. With a little bit of help from the Development League, it will help me to become a better defender in the NBA. I like to watch Tony Allen sometimes because I feel by watching him you can learn certain things. I feel that I am a pretty good defender, but at the highest level I am just okay right now.”

“I need to learn a lot more. A year’s worth of learning and just understanding the game at the highest level.”

“(I want) the NBA to see a different player – this is Todd Mayo not O.J. Mayo’s little brother. I want to learn a lot more about the game. I started when I was in 10th grade so I still feel like I have a lot more to learn. For me to leave early from school, I feel there are a lot more areas I can get better in and I just want to achieve getting better and staying humble and become a better person on and off the court.”

Mayo averaged 11.3 points on 46.1 percent shooting to go with 2.7 rebounds and 2 assists in 23.8 minutes as a junior last year, so he does have a lot to learn and just maybe the NBA D-League will give him what he needs to progress as a player. The D-League has become a viable option for many young players to develop their game and by this time next year, Todd Mayo should have established that he is not just O.J. Mayo’s little brother.

Todd Mayo is represented by Daniel Hazan. Hazan has been busy lining up interest in his client for the upcoming NBA D-League Draft.

 

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.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan 1

Raptors Raise Banner And Roll Over Bucks For Win Number 48

Raptors Banner ADC 2014 webIt was Fanapolooza night at the Air Canada Centre in the Toronto Raptors final regular season home game of the 2013-14 season and DeMar DeRozan kicked the party off by raising his team’s Atlantic Division Champions banner to the rafters. A feel good game punctuated by prizes, giveaways and contests as the Raptors picked on the depleted last place Milwaukee Bucks to chalk up win number 48 of the season 110-100.

DeRozan was given the night off to rest up for the playoffs and Toronto ran out to a 32-19 first quarter lead as Greivis Vasquez took advantage of his opportunity to start by nailing 3 long range bombs. The Raptors never trailed in this game and the result was never even remotely in doubt.

“They’re a good team,” Head Coach Larry Drew said. “They’ve been playing well. They are gearing up for the playoffs. Even minus DeRozan, it just goes to show you how much talent they have on that team. We fell behind, we tried to fight back. We got it under 10, but we just couldn’t get over the hump.”

In Toronto, Drew’s comments sound like the eerily familiar voices of Raptors head coaches in seasons past and with the loss, the Bucks guaranteed themselves last place overall heading into the NBA Draft Lottery.

The Raptors could afford to rest DeRozan against the Bucks who only had 9 players available as injuries have been an unpleasant theme in Milwaukee all season, however, the rationale really was to hopefully add some ‘pep to DeRozan’s step’ in the postseason.

“Amir (Johnson) has had some time off and Kyle (Lowry) has had some time off,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “(DeRozan) is the only guy with big minutes that hasn’t had time off. I can see pep in Kyle’s step since he’s had his rest, so we’ll see how it goes and we’ll see what happens Wednesday.”

Casey leaving the door open to giving DeRozan another day off against the Knicks in New York on Wednesday in their final regular season game.

DeRozan’s replacement Vasquez hit 5 three pointers before finally missing one and led the Raptors with 25 points and 7 assists. Lowry got to play off the ball with Vasquez on the court for big minutes and scored 24 points without having to shoulder his usual heavy workload. Double-doubles went to Jonas Valanciunas with 14 points and 13 rebounds and Tyler Hansbrough off the bench for 12 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bucks were led by Ramon Sessions with 21 points, Jeff Adrien’s 19 points and Brandon Knight’s 18 points.

The Raptors are currently in third place because they hold the tie-breaker with the Bulls. If the Raptors win on Wednesday in New York or the Bulls lose in Charlotte, Toronto will finish in third place in the Eastern Conference.

Toronto set a new franchise high for wins in a season of 48 tonight with one game remaining. Previously Toronto’s best seasons were in 2000-01 and 2006-07 when the team won 47 games.

 

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

 

Check out:

Toronto Raptors Love Being Atlantic Division Champs
“We won the Division, it’s a great thing,” Salmons said. “Us four guys coming over from Sacramento from where we started, from where the Raptors started at the beginning of the season to where we are now, it’s a great thing.”

TOR DeRozan and Vasquez

Greivis Vasquez Bombs Help Set A Raptors Road Win Record

The Toronto Raptors came into Milwaukee and almost laid an egg as they were emotionally flat after a big win at home over the Pacers the night before. Fortunately, Greivis Vasquez set a career-high with 6 three-pointers and tied his season-high of 26 points to keep his sleepwalking teammates in this game until DeMar DeRozan could turn things on in the fourth quarter and allow Toronto to head home with a 102-98 victory over the last place Bucks.

Head Coach Dwane Casey was livid about his team’s effort in the first half.

“The first half, we played like crap,” Casey said. “There are no nice words you can put to it. We talked about it after half-time and after the game. We can’t approach the game that way. It is not acceptable for where we want to go and how we want to do. If we want to be average – fine – I told the guys, but to get where we want to go and be a playoff caliber team, we got to perform better than that.”

The defensive-minded Raptors allowed the Bucks to shoot 58.5 percent from the field in the first half and a 10-0 Bucks run to end the second quarter meant Toronto was down 56-47 at the half. Vasquez and John Salmons combined for 20 points before the break and Jonas Valanciunas was effective in the paint when his teammates remembered him, but this was a listless group deserving of Casey’s rage. The Bucks Khris Middleton, Ramon Sessions and John Henson all scored in double-digits before half as shots went uncontested and the driving lanes were open.

“One thing you can bring is your defensive fundamentals,” Casey said. “A stance, transition defense and all the things that are included on the defensive end. We let them shoot 58 percent in the first half and I – you can’t accept that and I am not going to accept that.”

The Raptors got Casey’s message loud and clear, starting the third quarter on a 13-2 run to get back into this game and holding the Bucks to just 41.2 percent shooting during the quarter to stay in it. As has so often been the case this season, Toronto ramped up their defense another notch in the fourth quarter to hold Milwaukee to just 33.3 percent shooting and DeMar DeRozan poured in 15 of his 23 points to help secure the win.

“We did a better job in the second half,” Casey reluctantly acknowledged. “In the second half everybody did a lot of good things. Everybody came in and contributed.”

Valanciunas scored 17 points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds. Nando De Colo had 7 points and a team-high 6 assists in 18.5 minutes.

Henson led the Bucks with 23 points and 9 boards. Middleton scored 20 points and Jeff Adrien had 19 points and 12 boards. Sessions had 13 points and 10 assists. As a team, the Bucks shot 48.1 percent from the field, outscored Toronto in the paint 64-34 and had 20 fast break points to the Raptors 3.

The Raptors edge was they nailed 12 three-pointers to just 1 for the Bucks as all to often Milwaukee didn’t get out to challenge the long ball.

In a season of on-going surprises, the Raptors claimed their 21st road win of the season to set a new franchise mark for wins away from the Air Canada Centre. This is the first season in team history with a winning record on the road.

“Our focus has been good on the road for whatever reason,” Casey said. “We keep the same routine. We try to make sure our travel is efficient so guys can get rest. The guys have focused for the most part, excluding the first half tonight. They have really focused throughout the year on the road.”

The Raptors return home to face the 76ers on Wednesday and everyone will get a couple of days without a formal practice to rest and recuperate. If Toronto can win 3 of their remaining 5 games, they will surpass the franchise record for wins in a season of 47 set in 2000-2001 and again in 2006-2007. Their remaining games are 76ers, Knicks, Pistons, Bucks and Knicks.

The Bucks play Indiana on Wednesday.

 

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

 

Check out:

Raptors Dwight Buycks, Toronto Is The Same As The States
“It is just being back home in the States is always better than being overseas,” Buycks said. “(Canada) is pretty much the same, actually I feel like I am in the States.”

BKN_Plumlee_Mason

NBA Rookie Watch Post All-Star Blues

The NBA Rookie of the Year award has been the 76ers Michael Carter–Williams to lose for most of this season and the fans in Philadelphia have reason to be concerned that their team’s head office appears to be helping him to lose it.  That was one rough trade deadline if a strong finish to Carter-Williams season was on your wish list.

Fortunately, the turmoil that goes with striving for the best lottery pick doesn’t rest solely in Philadelphia.  Most of this year’s top rookies will face similar challenges down the stretch.

Utah Jazz Media Day

1A. Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
48 GP, 12.5 points, 37.5%, 3.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 0.6 steals, 1.8 turnovers, PER 12.9

If Burke could boost his shooting percentage to something more reasonable, he would win Rookie of the Year.  As it is, the race is on and it’s undecided.

The Jazz have outperformed expectations with him in the lineup and been brutal without him.  As a young point guard, he has done a good job of leading his team, taking care of the ball and on occasion, put up some impressive scoring lines. Over the past 10 games, his team is 4-6 and the 76ers would prefer that you skip that stat.

Burke’s numbers have been improving since the All-Star break.  Over his past 8 games, he is shooting 41.5 percent and his turnovers were 1.4.  If this gets down to a decision between the top 3 young guards and Burke continues to improve over these last few weeks, the guy with the non-embarrassing turnover numbers deserves to get the nod.

PHI_Carter_Williams_Michael

1B. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
49 GP, 17 points, 39.5%, 5.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2 steals, 3.7 turnovers, PER 15.3

The 76ers are in a 15 game slide and Carter-Williams has been feeling the effects.  It’s not his fault the team traded away the guys who helped build his attractive stat line and it’s not like he still can’t produce, but this decline has been underway for a while and it’s not likely to get better.

Carter-Williams is shooting just 38.8 percent from the field since the All-Star break and only 12.5 percent from deep, worse he’s been turning the ball over 4.6 times per game.  Again, it’s hard to blame Carter-Williams, but it’s getting to the point of hoping for the sympathy vote to win Rookie of the Year.

Orlando Magic Media Day

1C. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
62 GP, 13.9 points, 41.1%, 4.3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.6 steals, 3.1 turnovers, PER 13.5

Oladipo played a ‘don’t forget about me’ game after the All-Star break when he scored 30 points, collected 9 rebounds and dished 14 dimes in a 129-121 win over the Knicks, but in the 8 games since the break, his averages haven’t really moved much from his season stats.

The Magic have beaten the 76ers twice since All-Star weekend, so the recent win totals could be considered bloated, but they are still better than Philadelphia’s – 0-15 is truly awful.  The Magic are still trying to win after offloading some talent and that alone should help Olapido’s case.

Milwaukee Bucks Media Day

4.  Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
54 GP, 7.2 points, 43.1%, 4.6 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks PER 11.8

There may not be a more impressive rookie in the NBA this season than the 19-year-old Antetokounmpo.  The kid walks onto the court looking like he belongs there and he has the size, skills and athleticism that makes one wonder how he managed to slip to 15th in the draft.

His stats will not get him to the top of the board, but this is a player worth following over the next few seasons.  Post All-Star game, 9.3 points, 45.5 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals over 7 games should catch everyone’s attention.

 

5. Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets
46 GP, 6.3 points, 63.3%, 3.5 rebounds, 0.8 blocks, PER 18.5

When Plumlee gets a chance, he doesn’t embarrass himself, in fact, on a team headed to the lottery, he might just get enough minutes to win Rookie of the Year, but that isn’t happening in Brooklyn.

Plumlee’s rise on our Rookie Watch is as much the fall or lack of progress of other rookies as it’s been his recent improvement.  With a few more minutes lately – stress few – he has been averaging 7.4 points on 64 percent shooting, 5.4 rebounds and a block in 17.3 minutes since the All-Star break.

The young center rarely seems to leave the paint, but in a league struggling to find size, the Nets have a keeper.

Just missing the cut:

Tim Hardaway Jr., New York Knicks
Lots of points lately, but his excellent shooting has deserted him.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons
Being shafted for playing time by a team hoping to win – it’s not working.

Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics
Could move up, if he could stay healthy.

Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats
Needs more minutes and an improved shooting touch.

Time is getting short, but if you think we have over looked or overrated a rookie, let us know in the comments below.

 

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.

 

Check out:

Orlando Magic Media Day
Magic Rookie Victor Oladipo: Shooting vs. Point Guard?
“I still have a lot of room for improvement,” Oladipo said.  “I just have to keep getting better, keep growing and keep believing in myself.  A big thing is to never let my confidence waiver, continue to have my teammates back and I know they believe in me too, just going out and playing hard for them.”

CHA_Zeller_Cody
Charlotte Bobcats Rookie Cody Zeller Is Having Fun
“It is definitely a learning process being a rookie in the NBA,” Zeller said. “You have a lot to learn, but everyone has been good about trying to help me out, the coaches, the vets, everyone along the way. We are winning, so everything is better when you are winning. It’s definitely fun. It could be a lot worse than playing basketball for a living.”

NBA Rookie Rising Stars Watch 01/30/2014

The NBA has lain out in no uncertain terms which rookies the league has been most impressed with by letting us know who has been invited to the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star weekend.

The Rising Stars representatives are the early Rookie of the Year favorite Michael Carter-Williams of the 76ers, the Thunder’s Steven Adams, the Hawks’ Pero Antic (who has a right ankle stress fracture), the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Knicks’ Tim Hardaway, Jr., the Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk, the Nets’ Mason Plumlee, the Magic’s Victor Oladipo, and the Utah Jazz’s Trey Burke.

Conspicuous by their absence are the Pistons’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, drafted 8th and Ben McLemore of the Sacramento Kings, drafted 7th.  Anthony Bennett, the number one overall draft pick in 2013 by Cavaliers, has neither played enough minutes nor with an enough impact to deserve a spot.  Other top 10 draft picks from 2013 not represented – for a variety of reasons – include the Wizards’ Otto Porter Jr. (3rd), the Bobcats’ Cody Zeller (4th), the Suns’ Alex Len (5th), 76ers’ Nerlens Noel (6th) and the Trail Blazers C.J. McCollum (10th).  No one said drafting was easy or a sure thing.

There is plenty to argue about with some of the NBA’s selections to the Rising Stars Challenge.  The phrase, ‘what were they thinking?’ comes to mind – seriously, some of these guys don’t have much of a resume, but this rookie crop doesn’t seem to be as deep as in previous seasons.  It isn’t easy finding 10 rookies to put on a top 10 list.

 

1A. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
35 GP, 17.2 points, 40.1%, 5.6 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 2.4 steals, PER 17.2

PHI_Carter_Williams_MichaelCarter-Williams is still the consensus favorite for Rookie of the Year.  He has the best stats.  He has true leadership potential.  His team is just 1 win and 11 losses without him and he looks like future star.  However, the 76ers have only won 40 percent of the games he has played in, so while the bandwagon is getting pretty full, the rookie can’t carry a team by himself – yet.

Carter-Williams points, assists and steals are dropping in January and the 76ers have only won 6 of his 16 games played this month, so he is leaving the door open to his competitors and at least one of them can argue the intangibles are on his side.

1B. Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
33 GP, 13.3 points, 38.6%, 3.1 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 0.7 steals, PER 14.2

Utah Jazz Media DayAll Burke has done since he returned from injury is lead the young, floundering 1-11 Jazz to 15 wins in their last 33 games.  For a team that did everything possible to tank this season, they are doing it wrong with Burke at the helm.

Burke’s shooting and scoring has been slightly off in January, but his assist rate is up and he has led the Jazz to 6 wins in 11 tries.  Slightly better stats from Carter-Williams shouldn’t offset the intangible of leading your team to significantly more victories and Burke actually has the marginally better True Shooting percentage because he is much better at hitting the long ball.  These 2 point guards are playing under comparable circumstances and one of them is definitely enjoying more success at the moment.

3. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
47 GP, 13.9 points, 41.2%, 4.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.6 steals, PER 13.2

Orlando Magic Media DayOladipo continues to slowly improve as this season moves along and it is completely possible that he becomes the best rookie in his draft class – just not yet.  He has enjoyed a strong month in January so far, averaging 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists.  His shooting continues to improve as well.

Unfortunately, the Magic have figured out how to tank effectively and have only won 2 games this month – a lot of those losses were pretty ugly too.  Oladipo is simply at risk of being overlooked.  Fortunately, this super-athletic combo guard should shine brightly in the Rising Stars Challenge and that would help keep him on everyone’s radar.

4.  Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
40 GP, 7.0 points, 44.3%, 4.7 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 0.8 blocks PER 11.6
Milwaukee Bucks Media Day
When your team is dead last in the NBA, your rookies should get to play and the Bucks problems have turned into opportunities for 19-year-old Antetokounmpo.

The young forward has started the last 21 games for the Bucks and averaged 7.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and almost a steal and a block per game.  This kid looks good on the court.  Give him a few seasons to mature and learn the game and it really looks like the Bucks have found themselves something special.

5. Tim Hardaway Jr., New York Knicks
44 GP, 8.6 points, 45.9%, PER 14.8

NYK_Hardaway_Jr_Tim

The Pistons Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a good month and is the better defender than the Knicks’ Hardaway, but Hardaway gets the nod by a nose for his 12.2 points, 52.5 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep over the past 5 games.

Just missing the cut:

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons

Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings

Might be making a move:

Pero Antic, Atlanta Hawks

Ryan Kelly, Los Angeles Lakers

There is still a long ways to go.  If you think we have over looked or overrated a rookie, let us know in the comments below.

 

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.

Raptors Big Banner

Raptors Cruise Into Third Place With Win

The Toronto Raptors quite literally cruised into third place in the Eastern Conference with a 116-94 win over the last place Bucks on Monday night at the Air Canada Centre.  With a record of 19-17, Toronto is percentage points ahead of the idle Hawks who only play 1 game this week because they are in London England for a game against the Nets on Thursday.

The game started slow as the Raptors played down to the level of the competition early in the first quarter, but when Head Coach Dwane Casey substituted in Patrick Patterson and John Salmons with 4:45 left, Toronto outscored the Bucks 21-11 and finished the quarter on an 8-0 run to take a 38-24 lead.

TOR_Casey_Dwane“(Patterson) is stepping in offensively and giving us that punch off the bench,” Casey said.  “Stretching the floor for us, defending multiple positions – 2s, 3s and 4s and possibly could guard some 5s in the league.  He has been a great addition for us.  His energy coming into the game – he and John Salmons both – has been huge.”

Milwaukee shot themselves in the foot with 9 first quarter turnovers, but they recovered somewhat in the second quarter when the Raptors struggled against their zone defense, however, this game was never in doubt.  The Raptors pushed the lead to 15 points in the third quarter and it was over.  Toronto’s biggest lead in the fourth quarter was 29 points.

“We got away from what we were doing,” Casey said.  “I thought we got away from our defense, attention to detail, away from our pressure and I don’t think we attacked their zone.  We got passive instead of penetrating and kicking like we did in the second half.”

TOR_Lowry_KyleThe Raptors scored a season high 116 points with 58 points in each half led by 23 points from Kyle Lowry who also had 4 steals and a blocked shot.  DeMar DeRozan led his team with 7 assists and also contributed 7 rebounds and 19 points. Center Jonas Valanciunas recorded the double-double with 17 points and 10 boards.

SAC_Patterson_PatrickIn what has become a theme, the Raptors bench scored 43 points led by Patterson with 18 points and backed up by John Salmons with 10 points and 5 assists. With everyone on the Raptors sharing the ball these days, even the bench had 13 assists in this game.

The Bucks Ersan Ilyasova tried to keep his team in it with 19 first half points and led all scorers with his season high of 29 points.  He also led his team with 9 boards.  Brandon Knight contributed 16 points.

Milwaukee Bucks Media Day19-year-old rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo kept up his impressive play of late with 11 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and a block.
Antetokounmpo is number 4 on our NBA Rookie Watch List

“We had our moments, but couldn’t sustain it at either end,” said Bucks Head Coach Larry Drew.  “They made shots.  They played physical which got our guys frustrated.  They played a much more physical game than we did.”

The win improved the Raptors home record to 9-8 and gave Toronto their first 5-game home winning-streak in over a year.  It’s been almost 4 years since the Raptors have been 2 games above the .500 mark and at 8-2 over their past 10 games; they are tied with Chicago and Indiana as the Eastern Conference’s hottest teams during this period.

It is worth noting that since the Rudy Gay trade, the Raptors record of 13-5 is the best in the Eastern Conference over that time.  The HEAT is 12-5 and the Pacers are 11-5.

The 7-30 Bucks are 1-9 over their past 10 games and return home on a 6-game losing-streak to face the 17-19 Grizzlies on Wednesday.

The 19-17 Raptors travel to Boston on Wednesday to face the 13-26 Celtics and then play the 18-19 Timberwolves at the Air Canada Centre on Friday and the 14-23 Lakers on Sunday.  With a win in Boston, the Raptors can take a half game lead over the Hawks for third place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Check out our Raptors Game Info page and Pregame Report.
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.

NYK_Hardaway_Jr_Tim

NBA Rookie Watch 01/13/2014

Two weeks into the New Year and the NBA rookies to watch are still Michael Carter-Williams, Victor Oladipo and Trey Burke, however, there may be some competition looming on the horizon.  As the season shakes out and teams resign themselves to their respective fates, certain rookies are going to get their chance to shine while others will see their minutes cut.  The Knicks might apologize to Tim Hardaway Jr. as he has been playing well, but winning games has meant the rookie has lost 5 minutes from his playing time in January.  Other teams, like the Bucks, really have no reasons left to hold back their rookies any longer.

1. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
26 GP, 17.5 points, 41.4%, 5.8 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.7 steals, PER 18.5

PHI_Carter_Williams_MichaelThe play of Carter-Williams for Philadelphia this season should (almost?) be enough to make their fans forget this team traded their 2013 All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday away this past summer for another rookie who is yet to play.  The 12-25 76ers are 11-15 with Carter-Williams on the court and 1-10 without him.

Carter-Williams points, assists and steals have dropped a bit in January, but he still has a comfortable lead over his rookie rivals in most statistical categories.

2. Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
26 GP, 13.3 points, 38.8%, 3.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 0.8 steals, PER 14.6

Utah Jazz Media DayBurke didn’t play a game for the Jazz until November 20 because of an injured finger and didn’t start until his third game, but with him in the starting lineup, the 12-26 Jazz are 11-13 and that is pretty impressive.

The biggest knock on Burke has been his inconsistency, but he has scored in double-digits in 8 of his last 9 games and the Jazz are 5-4 over that stretch.  The 21-year-old still has work to do on his shooting, but the Jazz have been a much better team with him in the lineup.

3. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
37 GP, 13.2 points, 40.7%, 4.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals, PER 12.8

Orlando Magic Media DayOladipo remains the best player taken in the top 10 of the 2013 NBA draft and his scoring is up in January to 14.3 points per game for the month.

Unfortunately, the Magic hasn’t won a game since before New Year’s and winning has to count for something.

4.  Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
31 GP, 6.7 points, 45.3%, 4.7 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 0.8 blocks PER 12.8

Milwaukee Bucks Media DayThe Bucks problems have turned into opportunities for their rookies and 19-year-old Antetokounmpo from Greece has been taking full advantage.

The young forward has started the last 12 games for the Bucks and averaged 7.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and almost a steal and a block per game.  It appears like the Bucks have something special in Antetokounmpo.

5. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons
36 GP, 7.3 points, 40%, 2.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals, PER 9.4

Detroit Pistons Media DayCaldwell-Pope has started 31 games for the Pistons this season and tends to be overshadowed by the team’s big free agent additions, plus Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.  However, on a roster that too often seems to have forgotten how to defend, Caldwell-Pope stands out with his effort, even if that effort isn’t always backed up by his teammates.

The rookie has also been improving each month at the offensive end and seems to have taken a huge leap in January.  This month he is averaging 10 points on 53.7 percent shooting, 3 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.6 steals.  His three-point shooting has also improved to 42.9 percent in January.  Caldwell-Pope has become a rookie to keep an eye on.

Just missing the cut:

Tim Hardaway, Jr., New York Knicks

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings

Pero Antic, Atlanta Hawks

It’s a long season that is just getting underway.  If you think we have over looked or overrated a rookie, let us know in the comments below.

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.

Milwaukee Bucks Media Day

Can Raptors Handle A Trap Game Vs The Bucks?

Make no mistake, Toronto has been on a roll since the Rudy Gay trade, but they haven’t been in a game like this one vs the Bucks.  The Raptors couldn’t take any of their opponents over the past 17 games lightly as they have faced as tough a schedule as the NBA could have arranged for them.  At 7-29 and losers of 13 of their past 15 games, Milwaukee is the softest touch Toronto has seen this season and for a team that has only just become accustomed to winning, this game has trap written all over it.

TOR_Gay_RudyThe Raptors defeated the Bucks early in the season 97-90 as Gay had 18 points and 15 rebounds on 4-14 shooting to lead all scorers.  Toronto overcoming a sub-40 percent shooting night by grabbing 60 rebounds, but Gay is gone and the Raptors style of play has completely changed.

Milwaukee has suffered through their share of injuries.  Point guards Brandon Knight and Luke Ridnour were injured at the same time early in the season.  Forward Carlos Delfino hasn’t played a game yet this year.  Center Zaza Pachulia broke his foot in December and power forward John Henson is expected to miss a few games with a high ankle sprain.  Between the losing and the injuries, new Head Coach Larry Drew has started playing his rookies, the 19-year-old forward Giannis Antetokounmpo from Greece, the 7’ Serbian center Miroslav Raduljica and second round pick Nate Wolters.

Milwaukee Bucks Media DayAntetokounmpo had a double-double against the Thunder in his last game and has been moving up on the various Rookie Watch lists.  Raduljica has been getting inconsistent minutes, but is showing promise.  The 26-year-old has a big body and averaged 9.5 points and 4 rebounds in his last 2 games.

Milwaukee Bucks Media DayThe Bucks are led by Brandon Knight at 15 points per game and O.J. Mayo with 13.6 points.  Their other rookie, Wolters, was impressive at point guard when both Knight and Ridnour were injured, but his minutes have dropped off dramatically since mid-November.

In a season Coach Drew would probably like to forget, the Bucks are 29th in scoring at 91.6 points per game while giving up an even 100.  They are at or near the bottom of the league in field goal percentage, free throw attempts, rebounds and assists.

The Raptors have been moving dramatically in the other direction after a 6-12 start with Gay and are on a 12-5 run with his replacements from the Sacramento Kings.  The addition of Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes to the Raptors’ roster came with instant chemistry and an element of toughness not usually associated with Toronto.

SAC_Salmons_John“John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and also Chuck Hayes have brought an air of – and Greivis (Vasquez) – have brought an air of toughness to add to our guys’ growth,” Casey said.

Toronto is playing the tough-minded defensive style that Coach Casey has been preaching since he arrived in 2011.  The Raptors are scoring a respectable 98.7 points per game and holding teams to an NBA third best 96.5 points.

TOR_DeRozan_DeMarDeMar DeRozan has adjusted to the post-Gay era and leads the team with 21.3 points per game.  In January, DeRozan has averaged 24.2 points and Casey is pushing his colleagues to recognize his young star with an All-Star nod.

TOR_Lowry_KylePoint guard Kyle Lowry has been playing the best basketball of his career this season and Casey has been making the case for Lowry to be at All-Star weekend as well.

If the Raptors can avoid looking past their opponent and merely play at the same level they have for the past month, the Bucks haven’t got a chance.  However, as Casey keeps reminding his players, they haven’t earned the right to take any opponent lightly.

Milwaukee is not going to lose the rest of their games this season.  The trap is to believe the Bucks will let the Raptors win and that just doesn’t happen very often at this level.

 

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.

Milwaukee Bucks Media Day

NBA Rookie Watch 12/30/2013

2013 is almost in the books and the NBA rookies to watch are still Michael Carter-Williams, Victor Oladipo and Trey Burke. Carter Williams came back from injury without missing a step to reclaim his spot on top of the leader board while his main competitors seem to have stalled in their progress. However, with over 50 games to go, there will be more surprises ahead and yet another rookie has cracked our top 5 in December.

1. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
19 GP, 17.8 points, 41.4%, 5.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 3.1 steals, PER 19.3

PHI_Carter_Williams_MichaelCarter-Williams missed 2 weeks in December with a skin infection on his knee, but the time off wasn’t apparent on his return as he immediately logged a pair of double-doubles in points and assists.

The 76ers lost 7 in a row in his absence and have split the 4 games since his return as Carter-Williams averaged 18.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 3 steals. As long as he can stay healthy, the Rookie of the Year award is becoming his to lose.

2. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
30 GP, 13.1 points, 40.2%, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.6 steals, PER 12.5

Orlando Magic Media DayOladipo continues to look like the best player taken in the top 10 of the 2013 NBA draft with only his inconsistency holding him back from making a claim on the top spot of the leader board.

Once again Oladipo has impressed over his last 2 games, averaging 15.5 points and 9.5 assists in a pair of Magic victories. He just needs to learn how to eliminate games like his 1-4 shooting performance against the Knicks before Christmas.

3. Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
21 GP, 13.4 points, 39.3%, 3.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 0.6 steals, PER 14.9

Utah Jazz Media DayBurke is settling into the starting point guard role with the Jazz and as the star rookie on a rebuilding team, the Jazz must be very pleased with their pick. The 21-year-old has found a solid level of consistency with only 2 bad games in his past 12 outings and he managed to put up a 30 point effort right in between those 2 rough nights.

In his 2 games after Christmas, Burke has averaged 13 points and 6.5 assists as the Jazz split games with the teams from Los Angeles. Utah is a much better team since Burke returned from injury and leading a team to wins counts in a rookie race.

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
25 GP, 7 points, 48.4%, 4.4 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.8 blocks PER 14.5

Milwaukee Bucks Media DayThe Bucks have been devastated by injuries, among other problems, but the Bucks issues have turned into opportunities for Antetokounmpo and the 19-year-old from Greece has been taking full advantage.

The young forward has started the last 6 games for the Bucks and averaged 10.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1 steal and 1.3 blocks in over 33 minutes per game. Antetokounmpo is generating hope in Milwaukee as reported by Steve von Horn of SB Nation Brew Hoop.

“The Bucks have something special in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The NBA’s youngest player is the brightest beacon of hope Milwaukee has seen in quite a long time.”

5. Tim Hardaway, Jr., New York Knicks
29 GP, 9.1 points, 46.2%, 1.3 rebounds, 0.5 steals, PER 15.4

NYK_Hardaway_Jr_TimHardaway is something of a one-dimensional player, but what he does, he does exceptionally well for a rookie. Forget to guard him or be a step slow on your rotations and this kid can shoot the cover off the basketball. Hardaway is averaging 42.2 percent on 3.5 three-point attempts per game.

As the Knicks season implodes around Head Coach Mike Woodson, Hardaway is getting more run and he is scoring. The young shooting guard has averaged 16 points per game in the Knicks 3 losses starting on Christmas Day. The only issue being, the longer Woodson leaves Hardaway on the court, the more defenses key in on him and the less effective he becomes.

Just missing the cut:

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings

Hollis Thompson, Philadelphia 76ers

Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats

It’s a long season that is just getting underway. If you think we have over looked or overrated a rookie, let us know in the comments below.

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.

PHI_Carter_Williams_Michael

NBA Rookie Watch 11/25/2013

Week 4 of the NBA season is in the books and Michael Carter Williams returned from injury to continue his assault on the opposition. There remains lots of room for movement in our Watch List, however, as the rookies see their opportunities arise and disappear.

1. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
11 GP, 17.3 points, 40%, 5.7 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 3 steals, PER 19.5

Since his return from injury, Carter-Williams has averaged 17 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 4 steals. He was just 2 boards shy of a triple-double in the 76ers win over the Bucks as he put up 12 points, 8 rebounds, 11 assists and 5 steals before fouling out. He followed that game up with 29 points and 7 steals against the Pacers on the road. No other rookie is even close.

Orlando Magic Media Day

2. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
13 GP, 12.3 points, 38.6%, 4.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.7 steals, PER 11

Oladipo averaged 18.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2.5 steals and a block in home-and-home series against the HEAT this past week. He has been hitting the three-ball at a reasonable clip, but still needs to improve his two-point shooting. Turnovers remain his biggest concern. He turned the ball over 9 times against Dallas a week ago Saturday and then 8 times in the first game against the HEAT. The Magic aren’t going anywhere, however, so they can indulge the price of Oladipo’s development. This rookie will continue to see big minutes.

SAC_McLemore_Ben

3. Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings
13 GP, 8.8 points, 37.4%, 2.8 rebounds, 0.5 steals PER 10.7

McLemore has been making a habit of disappearing after big games and in his 4 games this week, he sort of did it again. After dropping 19 points and 5 rebounds on the Suns in Sacramento, he had 8 points and 5 rebounds the next night in Phoenix and almost disappeared completely against the Clippers 3 days later. Then he hit 3 three-pointers against the Lakers for 15 points in a bounce-back effort in the same building the next night. In all it was a solid week for the rookie shooting guard, but some consistency would be nice. McLemore continues to shoot well from deep, but poorly overall, however, as long as the Kings aren’t playing for anything, he should continue to get lots of court time to work things out.

Boston Celtics Media Day

4. Vitor Faverani, Boston Celtics
15 GP, 5.9 points, 44.4%, 5.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, PER 14.5

Faverani has been taking a back seat to Jared Sullinger lately and his reduced minutes are beginning to take their toll. Even with Kelly Olynyk out for about the next 2 weeks, Faverani hasn’t seen any uptick in playing time. He still can be productive in short shifts as he proved against Atlanta on Saturday with 11 points, 5 rebounds and a block in 14 minutes, however, it seems Head Coach Brad Stevens would like someone else to step up and take even these opportunities away from him. It will be interesting to see what happens when Olynyk gets back.

Milwaukee Bucks Media Day

5. Nate Wolters, Milwaukee Bucks
12 GP, 7.5 points, 38.9%, 2.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 0.8 steals PER 11.9

Both Brandon Knight and Luke Ridnour returned to the lineup on Saturday and Wolters could consider himself lucky to get 9 minutes. The Bucks are 2 wins and 10 losses to start the season and while none of this is Wolters fault, it is hardly a surprise that Head Coach Larry Drew put his 2 veteran point guards back in the rotation as soon as he could. Wolters has been a steady performer who has our attention, however, baring another key injury or unforeseen circumstance, this is likely the last we will see of him in the top 5 of our watch list.

Just missing the cut:

Steve Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder

Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics

Mason Plumlee, Nets

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons

Tim Hardaway Jr., New York Knicks

Missing:

There are several top draft picks who have yet been able to leave an impression, so there is plenty of room for movement in our top 5. Look for Utah’s Trey Burke to make a push now that he is back in action.

It’s a long season that is just getting underway. If you think we have over looked or overrated a rookie, let us know in the comments below.

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 Rookie Watch 11/18/2013

The third week of the NBA season is in the books and Michael Carter-Williams continues to be the hot topic, even when he isn’t playing.  There are lots of story lines and this crop of rookies looks to be getting better each week.

1. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
8 GP, 17.4 points, 38.9%, 5.4 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 2.6 steals, PER 19.2

Williams apparently hurt his foot in Monday’s loss to the Spurs which may explain his 2-11 shooting and the star rookie has been in a walking boot since then with his return date to still to-be-determined.  The 76ers are 1 win and 2 losses in his absence which only strengthens his case as the top rookie.

2. Nate Wolters, Milwaukee Bucks
9 GP, 8.6 points, 37.2%, 3.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.0 steals PER 12.6

Wolters minutes have dropped a bit with the return of both Brandon Knight and Luke Ridnour (in spurts) to the lineup this week, but he still started all 4 games.  The Bucks would probably like to be getting more out of the starting point guard position than Wolters can give them, but he is doing a good job for a rookie and was still better than the team’s alternatives.  It’s seemed unlikely Wolters would still be on our list or starting once Knight or Ridnour could play (at all), but he’s still here.

3. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
10 GP, 11.7 points, 38.9%, 3.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.5 steals, PER 9.8

Oladipo scored in double-digits in each of his 3 games this week and had a nice line of 10 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists in the loss to Dallas.  His shooting has bounced back slightly after a terrible couple of games a week ago, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

4.  Vitor Faverani, Boston Celtics
11 GP, 6.5 points, 45.6%, 6.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, PER 15.6

For a while it looked like Kelly Olynyk was going pass Faverani as the best rookie on the Celtics, but not this week.  Faverani put up a huge game of 9 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocked shots against the big front line of the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Saturday in a solid 4 game week.

5. Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics
11 GP, 7.8 points, 41.2%, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, PER 9.2

The Celtics other big man continues to tease his followers with obvious potential and rookie inconsistency.  Olynyk has unveiled some strong showings including the 16 point, 7 rebound, 5 assist, 1 steal and 1 block performance against the Magic on Wednesday and then followed that up with a 2 point 2 rebound dud versus Portland.  The incredible upside seems obvious, once Olynyk figures things out.

Just missing the cut:

Steve Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder

Mason Plumlee, Nets

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons

Tim Hardaway Jr., New York Knicks

Missing:

There are several top draft picks who have yet been able to leave an impression, so there is plenty of room for movement in our top 5.

It’s a long season that is just getting underway.  If you think we have over looked or overrated a rookie, let us know in the comments below.

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 Rookie Watch 11/04/2013

The first week of the NBA season is in the books and a handful of rookies have made their presence felt. It is still early, but our list kicks off with some young players that will be getting the opportunity to showcase what they have this season.

1. Michael Carter Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
3 GP, 20.7 points, 46.8%, 4.7 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 4.3 steals, PER 29.3

Jrue Holiday who? The 11th overall pick Williams has kicked off the season with two 20+ points 10+ assists double-doubles and the 76ers are a ridiculous 3-0 to start the season. This rookie is hitting 47.1 percent of his 5.7 threes per game. Someone should let him know that rookies are supposed to take time to adjust – they are definitely not supposed to be the Eastern Conference Player of the Week!

2. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
4 GP, 13.8 points, 43.8%, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.8 steals, PER 14.1

The supposedly terrible Magic are 2-2 and Oladipo has been the genuine athletic freak of nature he was advertised to be. The Magic chose well with the 2nd overall pick. Seeming to get stronger each game out, Olapido laid a 19 point, 6 rebound, 4 assist game on a very veteran Nets team Sunday.

3. Vitor Faverani, Boston Celtics
3 GP, 11 points, 57.1%, 7.7 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, 1.0 steals, PER 21.1

The undrafted 25-year-old Brazilian was signed to a 3-year deal by the Celtics this summer and as the only true center on the team, he should get some run this season. An older rookie, Faverani hasn’t looked out-of-place in the starting lineup. He had a monster game of 12 points, 18 rebounds and 6 blocks against the Bucks, but Head Coach Brad Stevens limited his minutes against the bigger Pistons front court on Sunday.

4. Nate Wolters, Milwaukee Bucks
3 GP, 10 points, 36.7%, 2.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists PER 13.4

The Bucks took Wolters 38th overall and if both Brandon Knight and Luke Ridnour weren’t sidelined by nagging injuries, it’s unlikely anyone would have heard of him yet this season. However, Wolters has been playing big minutes and producing like a lottery pick for the Bucks. He dished 10 assists in his first start against Toronto on Saturday. Wolters will likely drop way down the depth chart once Knight and Ridnour return, but don’t think the Bucks haven’t noticed their unexpected find.

5. Steve Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder
3 GP, 4.0 points, 44.4%, 5.0 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, PER 14.1

The Thunder drafted Adams 12th overall and it didn’t look like there would be any minutes for the young center on this deep roster. However, Head Coach Scott Brooks has managed to find 16.7 minutes per game for Adams and it’s been the veteran Kendrick Perkins who has been thinking out loud about the need to seek greener pastures. Adams’ best game so far was an 8 point 8 rebound effort against the Timberwolves. This kid is worth paying attention to.

Just missing the cut:

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons, 8th overall pick

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings, 7th overall pick

Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics, 13th overall pick

Tim Hardaway Jr., New York Knicks, 24th overall pick

Missing:

Anthony Bennett, the Cleveland Cavaliers number 1 overall pick is only playing 13.3 minutes per game has scored 2 total points.

Otto Porter, the Washington Wizards number 3 overall pick has a strained right hip flexor and hasn’t played yet.

It’s a long season that is just getting underway. If you think we have over looked or overrated a rookie, let us know in the comments below.

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.

Raptors defeat Bucks 97-90 in Milwaukee

The Toronto Raptors were in Milwaukee Saturday night for the Bucks home opener and won for the first time against the Bucks since 2010 by a score of 97-90 to improve their early season record to 2-1.

The Bucks have been shorthanded to start the season with Carlos Delfino and Ekpe Udoh recovering from surgery plus point guards Luke Ridnour sidelined by back spasms and Brandon Knight sitting with a sore hamstring. The Raptors Steve Novak is out again with a sore back and Quincy Acy will be inactive.

The probable starting lineups in advance of tonight’s tip are Gary Neal, O.J. Mayo, Caron Butler, Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders for the Bucks and Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas for the Raptors. Before the tip Bucks Head Coach Larry Drew opted to start rookie point guard Nate Wolters in place of Mayo.

Both teams played last night. Four of the five starters for Milwaukee should be embarrassed by their efforts as it took Zaza Pachulia’s 20 points off the bench to lead the Bucks reserves to an improbable victory after being down 20 points late in the third quarter to the Celtics. DeRozan scored 31 points for the Raptors, but Rudy Gay shot 6-23 as the Raptors own comeback attempt after being down 18 points in the third quarter to the Hawks in Atlanta fell short.

Both teams entered tonight’s contest with 1-1 records.

First Quarter 27-19 (Bucks official scorer missed a bucket 25-19?)

The rookie Wolters opens the scoring for the Bucks. Valanciunas scores in the post on their first chance.

Lowry leads the Raptors with 8 points and 3 assists. Gay has 7 points and 5 rebounds. Ilyasova and Neal lead the Bucks with 4 points each.

The Raptors have out rebounded the Bucks 16-8 and are shooting better, 47.8 percent to 40.9.

Second Quarter 51-46 Raptors

No resolution on the Raptors missing first quarter bucket, but the box score went from Rudy Gay 3-7 for 7 points to 2-5 for 5 points after the quarter started. Valanciunas is complaining the scorekeeper failed to credit him with a bucket and he is probably right.

Ilyasova has gone 2-2 from deep as the Bucks are using the long ball to stay close. Gay hit his second long ball of the game and Johnson lined up a three-pointer as well to keep the Raptors in the lead.

The play of the half was a determined Gay driving out of the corner through the defense for the emphatic slam in traffic with 2 minutes to go in the half.

Half-time

Lowry leads the Raptors with 10 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Fields and Gay with 9 points each. Ilyasova leads the Bucks with 10 points.

Raptors are out rebounding the Bucks 31-21.

Third Quarter 77-65

Raptors start the third quarter shooting 2-10 to allow the Bucks to close to 57-55 and Coach Casey calls a timeout. Out of the timeout DeRozan drives and draws the foul, shooting 2 to build the lead back to 59-55. Next trip Gay is sent to the line for 2 more points and momentum swings to Toronto.

Gay leads the Raptors with 13 points on 3-12 shooting followed by DeRozan with 11 points on 3-10. Ilyasova continues to lead the Bucks with 14 points.

Raptors out rebounding the Bucks 44-29.

Fourth Quarter 97-90 Raptors final

Casey may have stayed with his reserves a couple minutes too long as Middleton steals the bad Ross pass to close the gap to 80-75. Starters plus Fields are in for the Raptors now, but momentum is still with the Bucks. Mayo nails a three-pointer to pull to within 83-82, next trip Ross back in for Gay is guarding Mayo and Mayo hits another three to tie the game at 85.

A Lowry layup and a DeRozan mid-range jumper put the Raptors up 89-85 and the Bucks keep missing around the rim and missing free throws. DeRozan misses 2-2 from the line himself but gets his own rebound and is sent back to the line for 2 points. No give in either team. It seems every rebound is falling to Gay tonight as he sets a new career high (15).

93-88 Raptors with 1 minute left and possession. Lowry drives misses, but Johnson puts it back 95-88 Raptors 40 seconds left. It is not going to be the Bucks night.

Game Stats

Rudy Gay led the Raptors tonight with 18 points and 15 rebounds. DeRozan also had a big impact with 17 points, 6 rebounds and a team high 5 assists. Lowry finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Fields came off the bench with 11 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists and looks like the player the Raptors thought they were getting last year. Raptors shot poorly tonight averaging under 40 percent from the field: Gay 4-14, Lowry 5-14, DeRozan 5-14.

Once again it was the Bucks bench that carried the load for Milwaukee. Mayo played a strong game with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists off the bench. John Henson had 13 points. Starters Ilyasova and Butler had 14 and 12 points respectively.

The Raptors carried the rebounding battle 60-38 and won at the free throw line as well, hitting 28-38 compared to 10-18 for the Bucks.

The Raptors improve to 2-1 on the season and return home to face the HEAT on Tuesday, head to Charlotte on Wednesday and play in Indiana on Friday.

The Bucks play the next two at home facing the Cavaliers on Wednesday and the Mavericks on Saturday.

Be sure to check out our Raptors Box Score and Pregame Report

Also check out what this game could have meant to Toronto here.

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.