Who Are These Raptors?

Posted on October 18, 2010 | 6 Comments

So with only two preseason games left, I figured it was time to give my thoughts about what I’ve seen so far regarding the Raptors. I don’t like judging teams too quickly during the preseason, or really at all. Preseason is a time when coaches experiment, players get back in game shape and no one really cares all that much about the results. Too many fans seem to focus on each individual game. They’ve played poorly in some games, well in others.

Still, after six games, there are some things I thought worthy of discussing.

ANDREA BARGNANI

I thought I might as well start this off with a bang.

He’s probably the Raptor player fans are watching the closest, myself included. With Bosh gone, he’s the guy many expect to step up and become the main guy on the team. My opinion of Bargnani’s game is well known to anyone who reads this blog. I don’t think Bargnani has the type of game that is conducive to being the 1st option. And everything I’ve seen so far backs up that opinion.

Now, I didn’t care much at all about Bargnani’s early shooting slump. It was the topic of a lot of discussion among Raptor fans, but anyone who knows Bargnani knows it’s not going to last very long. If nothing else, the guy can shoot.

The last couple of games he’s been able to break out of that slump, and shot 7 for 12 in the last game against Phoenix. One of my biggest criticisms of Bargnani offensively is that he’s unable to create for himself, and nothing I’ve seen changes my mind about that. Of his seven field goals, five were assisted. He still needs his teammates to create for him. When he does try to create for himself, it’s usually a pumpfake to try and get his man in the air. Unfortunately, the scouting report is out on Bargnani and defenders aren’t biting on the fake. That may change as he starts to shoot better, but he doesn’t have very many counter moves. Once he tries to do something, if it’s not there, he’s got nothing else. He’ll usually just pass the ball back out.

Of course, offense is not what I’ve been concentrating on while watching Bargnani. And, unfortunately, I’ve seen more of what I’ve seen the previous four years. Just as we’ve seen before, Bargnani has had flourishes of good play, but they’ve been inconsistent. In the last three games, Bargnani has had a few shorts bursts where he looked like he he finally learned how to rebound. But then he fades back into the woodwork. Bargnani grabbed a mediocre 5 rebounds in 25 minutes against Phoenix, but he grabbed 3 of them in the first quarter and then mostly left the rebounding to others. Need I remind everyone of the 17 rebound night Bargnani had last season. Bargnani knows how to rebound. He just has never, ever been able to do it on a consistent basis.

Defense isn’t much better. Teams seem to be focusing on driving at Bargnani knowing he’s the weak link. I noticed it especially in the Boston games. I think the overall team defense is better, so he isn’t getting as exposed as he was last season, but he still doesn’t seem to have a clue what he’s supposed to be doing on that end of the court. I’ve even noticed his teammates yelling at him on occasion for missing a rotation or being late.

DEMAR DEROZAN

DeRozan has been a mixed bag this preseason. He’s a little better defensively, although he’s still getting burned too much. There is improvement, though, which is encouraging.

It’s his offense which I have the most to talk about. DeRozan is in a completely different mindset from this time last year. Last season, DeRozan rarely forced the action and was content to play off others. Not so this year. On the positive side, he’s been aggressive, is getting the the line at a high rate and has shown a knack for scoring under pressure. On the negative side, DeRozan needs to learn a good shot from a bad, and let the game come to him a little more.

One of the positives about having a team with little playoff hopes and no main guy is that a guy like DeRozan can be given a long leash. In the first six preseason games, DeRozan has averaged more than 10 shots per game. Last season, in the first three MONTHS, DeMar only took 10 or more shots 7 times. He’s obviously got a different mentality this season, and he should. Of course, he’s shooting slightly above 40%, so he’ll obviously need to improve on that if he wants to continue shooting so much.

SONNY WEEMS

Speaking of shooting a lot, we come to Sonny Weems. Apparently hoping to prove the end of last season wasn’t a fluke, Weems has also come into preseason with a different mentality. Weems is currently shooting more shots per minute than any Raptor, including Bargnani. At least Weems is shooting a much higher percentage than DeRozan and Bargnani, though, but the big problem is he’s doing little else other than shoot. His rebounding numbers are down and he’s struggled defensively.

LINUS KLEIZA

Kleiza has pretty much been everything Raptor fans hoped and expected. He’s shown a ruggedness at the SF position that they never saw last year with Turkoglu, and should be a big improvement over him. He’s shot well, rebounded well and shown a willingness to mix it up underneath. On the downside, he’s fit right in with the other players defensively, which isn’t great. He’s not bad, but at this point he hasn’t been overly impressive, either.

LEANDRO BARBOSA

My bet as the guy Colangelo will trade at midseason. Why? Because I can see lots of playoff teams salivating over having a guy like that coming off their bench. Barbosa seems to be healthy and has regained his shooting stroke (the last game against Phoenix notwithstanding). He’s lightening quick, can get to the basket better than any Raptor since, well, who knows, and is better than expected defensively, fitting right in with the pressure the Raptors have been playing.

I think Barbosa is a luxury for a young lottery team like the Raptors and if Colangelo can package him to get a nice, young prospect or a high draft pick, I think it will be worth it.

JOSE CALDERON

I’ve actually been fairly impressed by Calderon. He hasn’t played particularly well, but his defense seems to have improved quite a bit. He’s still getting beat on the pick and rolls too much, and is being exposed by the quicker guards, but, for the most part, Calderon has been able to keep his man in front of him and hasn’t been a big liability on that end of the floor. Offensively, he’s not looking great, but as the team has been running more plays, he’s been looking better.

JARRETT JACK

This is the Jarrett Jack I was looking for last year at this time. He’s shot well from inside and out, and even rebounded the ball well. Defensively he’s been hot and cold, but that’s been the case with most of the Raptors.

AMIR JOHNSON

It’s taken him a while, but he seems to be getting into the groove. The game against Phoenix shows what he is capable of, although he still doesn’t seem to have learned how to stay out of foul trouble. That wasn’t a big problem last year when he played behind Bosh and Bargnani, but this year he needs to learn to curb that.

REGGIE EVANS

He looks SOOOO much better than he did last year, although he really didn’t look good last year at all, so it’s all relative. He seems to have stopped believing that he has to go back up with the ball after every offensive rebound, which was probably his most frustrating weakness. He’s also been putting the ball on the floor to get to the basket with a fair bit of success.

DAVID ANDERSEN

A bit of a surprise. I never got a chance to watch him in Houston, and figured he would be an end of the bench guy, but he’s shown some toughness and been a better rebounder than advertised. He’s not been entirely consistent, but I think he’ll do fine in the 10 to 15 minutes a game he’ll probably end up playing.

That seems to be the rotation, which means Julian Wright, who I though might have a chance to get some playing time, is on the outside looking in. Dorsey is possibly in danger of being cut, which would be too bad considering the rebounding he brings.

Tomorrow I’ll look at the offense and defense, as well as give my thoughts on the starting lineup.

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  • JoePanini

    I got to say. I like this Raptor team. It will be inconsistent, because ALL our players apart from maybe Jack and Kleiza seem to be on and off every game. But it’s quite exciting to think that almost all our players could go for a 20 point game as we have no one that can actually have the responsibility or skill to do so. The only guy who seems to want to shoot is Weems and that is more bad than it is good. I loved Weems last year, came off the bench and got into hot streaks and either brought the game back or at least let us fans watch something entertaining for once. But this year he is getting big minutes, more than big, they will be important minutes and he’ll have to do a lot more than chucking mid range jumpers.

    Honestly, I’m really happy with the team, I just hope that when our players play well, which they all can as they are all pretty skilled, I hope they do so at the same time as it would most probably result in a win or at least a good game on our side. There is no point to Bargnani going for 25 and 15 when the rest of the team is going 30/90 from the field, and there’s no point of Amir playing a full 36 minutes grabbing 20 rebounds when everyone else isn’t playing defense and following the offensive schemes. I hope our team can really play as a unit, it’s the only way.

    But I’m optimistic about our upcoming season, I think we can surprise a lot of people (many think that we will be 15th in the East which I think is impossible). I really think we could go for 35 wins this year. I really do.

  • Al

    JoePanini said: “But it’s quite exciting to think that almost all our players could go for a 20 point game as we have no one that can actually have the responsibility or skill to do so.”

    Thats our strength and our weakness IMO, maybe we’ll need to play very well as a team to win, but defenses cannot focus only in a guy due to the variety of choices in our attack.

    I’m also optimist, I think these guys can change the bad inertia the team had those last 2 seasons and put some fight.

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  • http://khandorssportsblog.com/wordpress khandor

    Tim,

    re: Who are these Raptors?

    FYI.

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