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Monday, December 3, 2012

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for November: 28. Toronto Raptors

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of November 30th):  3-11,  fifth place Atlantic Division



22
This Month:

28
Team Statistics and League Rank (as of November 30th)

Points Scored: 96.6 (19th)
Points Allowed: 100.3 (25th)
Team FG%: .419 (27th)
Opponent’s FG%: .453 (23rd)
Rebounds per game: 41.6 (15th)
Opponents rebounds per game: 43.6 (21st)
Turnovers per game: 11.3 (3rd)
Opponents turnovers per game: 15.3 (14th)

Individual Statistical Leaders



Worst Player of the Month:  Andrea Bargnarni



Coming into this season, Raptor fans expected Andrea Bargnarni to start back where he left off last season leading the Raptors once again as their primary offensive option.  Unfortunately that has yet to happen as Andrea has struggled offensively at the start of the season shooting a rather sad .389 from the field while averaging just 17 points and under five boards per game.  It seems as if the one that was once called “Il Mago (the Magician)” has lost much of his magic and has become more of a hindrance than a help to a Raptor team looking to return to relevancy.  Unfortunately, it seems that the new additions of Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valunciunas have put Bargnarni in a sort of limbo where he has yet to find his role on the team.  He better find it soon or else Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo decides to finally swallow his pride and part ways with his number one overall draft pick of the 2006 NBA Draft.

First Player of the Month: Jonas Valanciunas



After sitting out last season to play in the Euroleague, Jonas Valunciunas has finally arrived in Toronto and he has proven to be worth the season long wait.  The fifth pick of last year’s NBA draft has thus far lived up to expectation showcasing his variety of moves in the paint, his ability and willingness to run the floor, and play hard-nosed defense.  He has already earned the respect of his coach Dwane Casey as his minutes, along with his production have increased with each passing game.  Although his statistics do not scream out “All Star” averaging just ten points and seven boards per game, he has shown glimpses of superstar potential.  If he learns how to keep out of foul trouble, Jonas Valunciunas will have a prosperous future as a Toronto Raptor and as an NBA player as well.    

Analysis:

Last season the Toronto Raptors won respect as an underdog hero with their scrappy and physical play on the defensive end improving from one of the league’s worst defensive teams to one of the league’s best.  They had only won just 23 games, but their effort spoke volumes as Toronto ranked as one of the top defensive teams in the league holding their opponents to just 94 points per game (9th in the league) and shooting .435 (8th in the league.)  Many expected the Raps to return this season with that same defensive intensity, gritty play, and effort than not only earned the endearment of their fans, but the respect of their opponents and the league as well.  Unfortunately that has not happened as this season’s Raptor squad has yet to show the same intensity and effort on the defensive end as they did last season ranking at the bottom in the league in defense to start the season.  Add the fact that their number one draft choice six years ago whom had what many would call “breakthrough” season last season started this one shooting blanks, Toronto has certainly been thus far a disappointment in the early part of this season.

Sure, eight of the Raptors’ thirteen loses this month were by  10 points or less with two overtime losses against the Utah Jazz (11/12/2012) and San Antonio Spurs (11/25/2012) that went along with a string of games where they lost by a total of seven points.  That may look good on face value, but delving deeper into the numbers one can see that the Raptors were lucky that they had not been completely blown in those game because their opponents statistically steam rolled over them outshooting and outrebounding them by rather large margins.  It was not so much that Raptors were playing good in those close losses, but more that their opponents played bad enough to keep Toronto in the game before winning.  In their first game where they lost by just two points against the Indiana Pacers (10/31/2012), Indiana should have just grounded the Raptors into dust out-shooting them .474 to .363 and out-rebounding them 46 to 42—but they only managed to beat Toronto by just two points.   The same goes for the Detroit Pistons who beat the Raptors by just one point despite torching Toronto from the field .462 to .413 and eating the glass with a +9 rebounding margin (11/23/2012).

If anything, those two examples showed how poorly the Pistons and Pacers played against Toronto rather than how well the Raptors played because by all accounts, both Indiana and Detroit should have run away with those games.  The Raptors certainly did not deserve to win those games putting up such poor offensive offerings and allowing the Pistons and Pacers to have their way with them on the defensive side on the floor.  At the same time, Detroit and Indiana had no business allowing Toronto to stay within an earshot of winning those two games, however.  In the case of that five point loss on the road against the Dallas Mavericks (11/7/2012), the only saving grace the Raptors had was that they were facing a short handed injury depleted Mavs team who were without Dirk Nowitzki.  Had they Nowitzki in the lineup, the Mavericks would have just swept Toronto aside as the Raptors allowed the Mavs to shoot .464 from the field and pound them on the boards by a nine rebound margin. 

What is even more disheartening is that had that the Raptors played with the same effort, physicality and focus on defense as they did last season, they probably would have won all those games by rather healthy margins.  To get routinely outshot and rebounded for the most of the first month of the season certainly does not bode well for both Raptors coach Dwane Casey and Toronto’s boss Bryan Colangelo especially when the team made moves that were supposed to make Toronto even better defensively. Colangelo shipped James Johnson, the team’s best defensive player who came off the bench to lead Toronto in steals and blocked shots per game, to the Sacramento Kings for nothing more than a second round pick, choosing instead to overpay Landry Fields 18$ million for the next three years to essentially do the same job that Johnson did.  That signing can be marked as a bust as Fields started the season terribly scoring just 2.8 points per game, and shooting .208 from the field in 21.8 minutes of playing time before having to shut it down due to a shoulder injury.  Thus far, the only thing good Fields has brought to Toronto that is worth talking about is his extremely HOT girlfriend who has graced many a photo in Toronto’s social scene.

Until the Raptors wake up and start playing with the same energy and focus as they did last season, then all Toronto fans will have to look forward to is another long season filled with uninspired play and blowout losses.  Instead of taking a step forward, the Raptors have started the season by taking two or three steps back resembling that haphazard poor excuse of a team that was run by former Raptor coach Jay Triano.  Fortunately it is still early in the season and head coach Dwane Casey still has time to light a fire under this underperforming Raptors squad and he had better do it soon because he and his boss Bryan Colangelo are running out of time and excuses.  Raptor fans in Toronto have been politely and quietly waiting, as Torontonians have been known for, for their team to return to relevancy after watching one disappointing season after another pass them by.  They certainly deserve more than what their home team has been giving them right now—playing as if they are simply treading through the muck of mediocrity—as it is been far too long since they have had something to cheer for.