1/22/14

Raptors Falling Back To Pack In The East

The Toronto Raptors had their typical performance against the Charlotte Bobcats. While the Raptors have been having their issues of late some of the Eastern Conference has been getting their act together most notably the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets have climbed just two games behind the Raptors on the strength of winning 7 of their last 8 basketball games with the lone loss to the Raptors.

If the Nets were to catch the Raptors things get worse as both Chicago and Washington hold the same 20-20 record as the Raptors and the Hawks have moved past them in the standings. The Raptors hold the fourth seed currently based on being the division leaders but aside from that are in three way tie for fourth. So should the Nets pass them in the standing the pack as whole has made up ground in the East.

Many will focus on how the Raptors almost pulled one out of the fire storming back from 30 down at one point to be a Kyle Lowry free throw away from getting this game tied in the late stages. In my opinion while you can admire that fight to come back all you want the focus should be how on earth you got down to any team let alone the Bobcats by 30.

Charlotte has won 7 straight on their home floor against Toronto and swept the season series 3-0. It is something that is to say the least a little baffling how the Raptors have struggled with one of the worst teams in the NBA for years now. 

The Raptors look to do some sweeping of their own as the Dallas Mavericks pay a visit to Toronto. This means the annual visit of Vince Carter back to Toronto. I have grown so tired of the topic of Vince at this point. My position has always been the same and likely will never change. I am not here to tell you to forgive Vince or to encourage you to boo the man. I am not stupid enough to think I have any power like that.

We all have are own personal feeling about Vince and because they are that I doubt that many if any can be swayed from those.

There is a lesson in Vince Carter’s time here that relates to the current version of the Raptors. Lately we have heard about how now that the Raptors are having some success it might impact on their ability to draw interest in free agents as well as keep their own talent.

If Vince Carter could not draw players to play along side him do DeMar DeRozan and this group honestly have a chance? Does having a top named rapper being tied to the organization do anything change that. My guess is no.

What could change that is a willingness to spend money to levels this franchise has never really gone. As much as we all may love are country and love Toronto there is no way you can make someone feel that same passion without experiencing it first. This makes the reality that the Raptors might have to overpay to attract top free agents likely still the case.

As far as keeping talent some players will fall in love with the city like an Amir Johnson has or in the past players like Jerome Williams and others.  That does not mean everyone will and some players just would rather play in the country they call home as far as American players are concerned.

You only need to look back on some of the answers given when the Raptors travelled to London to take on the Nets a few seasons back. When the topic of having an NBA Franchise in London was brought up players were less than thrilled with the idea of a team being there and playing for that team.

It is hard to convince players to come play in Canada and you can just ask Vince or others like Chris Bosh about that.

Masai Ujiri has a tough job in front of him as far as all of this goes. He however was well aware of these issues before he signed on for a lot of money to come and take on the challenge.

In the short term the Raptors have fallen into a flat out regression and have struggled to get back to their ball movement on the offensive end and have been highly ineffective on the defensive side of the ball. Credit goes out to @DocNaismith for this next stat I am going to reference. Post Rudy Gay trade the Raptors record when DeRozan takes 20+ shots is 2-5 and 19 and below they are 11-3. Don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure this out right. Now sometimes being the number one option you are forced into taking some shots with the clock about to expire. However that aside DeRozan especially in late game situations as he did in Charlotte is forcing shots and his offence in general.

Regardless of if the Raptors get out of this slump they are in or not I have come to one simple conclusion. This team needs to get better in their half court offence and defence or they will get humbled in the post season. The Raptors can not avoid this as when the post season comes defensively teams tighten up. In addition teams get to see you for more than just one game and make adjustments. If the Raptors do not do this even making the post season at least for me that might be all for Dwane Casey.

Aside from just picking on DeRozan the Raptors bigs have been just terrible. Tyler Hansbrough has entered the witness protection program while Amir and Jonas have been out played by new comers Patrick Patterson and Chucky Hayes. Now Patterson is one thing as he is a solid young player with upside but Hayes is quite another. Jonas has looked frustrated and is constantly getting into foul trouble. Something that I expressed as the one major concern I had for him before he ever played for the Raptors.

Safe to say the Raptors’ Post Rudy Gay trade honeymoon has come to an end. Now is the time will see if this team can handle some adversity as the Eastern Conference is starting to show signs of life. 

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