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Can The Toronto Raptors Win Without DeMar DeRozan?

Toronto Raptors All-Star and leading scorer DeMar DeRozan quite literally went down on Friday at home in a game against the Mavericks and the initial prognosis was a strained left groin. Watching how DeRozan grabbed at the area in question after he slipped and how he gingerly walked off the court, the initial prognosis is almost certainly correct. As groin injuries are nothing to be trifled with and can linger for months if not allowed to heal, the burning question becomes can the Raptors win without DeRozan?

The Raptors starting shooting guard has earned a reputation as something of an iron-man in Toronto. He has only missed 11 games over his first five seasons and he has been a major contributor to the Raptors offense since his second season. The game against Dallas was the first time he had an ‘0-for’ shooting night since his rookie year.

However, recent history suggests the Raptors may not have as much to worry about as some other teams in the Association that do not sport Toronto’s depth. Since the Rudy Gay trade last December that brought in current Raptors Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes, Toronto has been on an unbelievable roll – by local standards anyway. Then President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri added to his team’s bench by acquiring James Johnson and Lou Williams in the summer. Head Coach Dwane Casey has some very good options to replace DeRozan’s productivity on the wing.

Last year the Raptors went 3-0 with DeRozan sidelined on the bench beating the Nets in Brooklyn 104-103 and Orlando at home 98-83 in January and then they took care of the Bucks 110-100 late in the season.

Casey’s initial choice to replace DeRozan was the veteran Steve Novak, but Novak went 0-5 for 0 points against Brooklyn, so Coach turned to the versatile Vasquez next. All Vasquez was able to do was score a game-high 25 points on 8-12 shooting, dish 7 dimes and play nearly 40 minutes in the win over the Magic. Against the Bucks in Toronto’s 48th win of the season, Vasquez had 6 points and 6 assists as the starting shooting guard in just under 38 minutes.

Lowry and Vasquez had shown strong chemistry all of last season, so it should come as no surprise that they were an effective pairing in the starting unit. Casey has a proven option in Vasquez if he chooses to go to it and the guard has been hot recently this season.

Speaking of who’s been hot, NBA Eastern Conference Player-of-the-Week Lou Williams gives Casey another option if the Raptors choose to go with a smaller backcourt, however, it is hard to overlook the 6’6 Vasquez when it comes to guarding the typical starting NBA shooting guard. Casey could also shift Terrence Ross to guard and go with James Johnson at small forward in a more traditional look that could be quite effective against teams with more physical play on the wing.

“It is what it is,” Lowry said. “We know (DeRozan) is going to be fine. He is going to take care of his body and we’ll see what’s going on. We don’t know anything. We know he’s not here right now, so we’ll see what happens in the next day or so.”

Toronto starts a three-game Western Conference road swing on Sunday in Los Angeles against the last place injury-depleted 3-13 Lakers before heading to Sacramento where the temporarily sick DeMarcus Cousins has helped the Kings to a 9-7 record. The trip concludes against the 5-11 Utah Jazz who the Raptors defeated 111-93 in Toronto a couple of weeks ago.

“We got to play man,” Lowry said. “Next man up, it’s a team, it’s not about one guy. It’s about every individual in here. If anyone goes down, next man has to step up.”

While DeRozan’s scoring, presence and continuity in the starting lineup will be missed, that isn’t a West coast trip that should be striking fear into the hearts of the 13-3 Raptors – with or without their All-Star.

Situation Update:

 

If Ujiri has shown the fans in Toronto anything it’s that he is a patient administrator who is not prone to rash or short term thinking. If his past is any indication, Ujiri we will see what he’s got, how the coaches and players react and what the results are before he takes any actions as a result of DeRozan’s injury.

The Raptors truly have depth this season and guards who can fill in admirably while DeRozan is out. Unless the Raptors grossly underperform expectations and/or DeRozan’s injury will keep him out a lot longer than a month or two, Ujiri really doesn’t have to do anything.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

TOR_DeRozan_DeMarRaptors DeRozan Injured In Hard Fought Mavericks 106-102 Win

The Toronto Raptors could only watch as All-Star DeMar DeRozan slipped while driving down the lane early in the third quarter and went to the court in pain that was later confirmed to be the result of a left groin strain by Raptors Media Relations.