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Sunday, January 27, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for December: 24. Toronto Raptors

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of December 31st): 11-20,  fifth place Atlantic Division



28
This Month:

24
Team Statistics and League Rank (as of December 31st):
  • Points Scored: 96.7 (16th)
  • Points Allowed: 99.8 (23rd)
  • Team FG%: .434 (23rd)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .457 (23rd)
  • Rebounds per game: 40.0 (26th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 43.6 (24th)
  • Turnovers per game: 12.0 (3rd)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 14.5 (18th)


Individual Statistical Leaders (as of December 31st):

Scoring (ppg): Demar Derozan (18.2)
Rebounds per game:  Ed Davis (6.0)
Minutes per game: Demar Derozan (37.4)
Assists per game: Jose Calderon(7.6)
Field Goal Percentage: Ed Davis (.550)
Steals per game: Kyle Lowry (1.5)
Blocked Shots per game: Jonas Valunciunas (1.1)


Worst Player of the Month: Kyle Lowry


While fans and the media applaud his play, Kyle Lowry has been anything but the hero or savior that the denizens of Toronto proclaim him to be.  For starters, while playing, the Raptors have been just 4-14 when he has play, and when Lowry has not played, the Raptors have been 7-6.  Add the fact that in December, the Raptors started losing five in a row while he was starting at the point guard spot, but once he fell to injury, the Raptors won seven of their last nine games including five in a row.  It almost seems as if the Raptors are out of sync when he is on the court as he tends to focus on getting his own offense rather than getting his teammates involved and he does not have as high of a basketball IQ either if he has always been cast aside as many times he has had in his career.  It seems as of this trend will continue in Toronto as the Raptors find themselves performing far better with him coming off the bench rather than in starting five.
  

First Player of the Month: Jose Calderon


For years, Raptors fans and analysts have always put down or disregarded Jose Calderon saying that he is not an elite point guard despite his putting up elite numbers as a point guard. Now the same naysayers are now choking on a whole lot of crow as they see the same man that they have constantly critiqued leading the Raptors on their longest win streak in what can be seen as almost forever.  Since starting over their proclaimed savior to be Kyle Lowry, the Raptors have played much better once Calderon  took the reins leading Toronto to it best run of not only the season, but also in the last two or three years.  It is just too bad that Calderon does not receive the recognition or the respect he deserves because he plays for a fan base with the greatest douche-bag per capita ratio than any city in North America.  Hopefully Toronto fans will see the error in their ways once Calderon finally bids farewell to that God-forsaken city and play on a REAL NBA team.

Analysis:

After a rather regrettable November, it looked as if things would get worse for a reeling Toronto Raptors team.  After finishing the November with a 4-13 record, the Raptors started the month of December losing six straight games.  To make matters worse the Raptors would lose their leading scorer Andrea Bagnarni, their much touted 2011 draft pick Jonas Valunciunas, and their crowned franchise point guard, Kyle Lowry to injuries leaving Toronto with a skeleton crew roster of second stringers and spare parts.  Raptors fans were preparing themselves for the worst until something magical happened--something that would shock not only them, but shake the foundation of the league.  Instead of descending further into the abyss as many anticipated, the Raptors, with its rather thin roster, started winning and became the hottest team in the league winning seven of their last eight games leading to one of the biggest rebounds in team history.

It all started with a surprise blowout win against the Dallas Mavericks (12/14/2012) at home, followed by knocking out another Texas Titan in the Houston Rockets (12/16/2012) and it continued to barrel on from the there.  Save for the one speed bump against the San Antonio Spurs (12/26/2012), the Toronto Raptors not only beat their opponents, but simply dominated.  They clamped down on them defensively holding the teams they beat to just under 91 points per contest and .433 while beating them by an average margin of 13.3 points.  Never has there been such a dominating Raptors performance ever in its entire history--even in the "golden age" of the late 1990s where the Raptors has a short stint as playoff contenders.  For the first time in over five years, Raptors fans had finally something to cheer for and could finally hang their head in pride as their years of disappointment had finally come to an end.

What was even more surreal about this experience was not the fact that the Raptors were winning, but who were ones whom were the catalysts that sparked the Toronto rampage.  One was a player that has been always unfairly criticized and looked down upon by fans and media and the other was a player that many observers had given up as a lost cause.  Despite leading the Raptors in assists for almost every year he has played there and averaging near double-doubles in points and assists, Jose Calderon has never gotten his just due in Toronto.  In his career as a Raptor, he was virtually cast aside by management in favor of much more well established names only to take over as the starting floor general once his would-be replacements did not live up to expectations.  Ed Davis, after regressing his second season following a solid rookie campaign, fell out of favor with the coaching staff and team management with many anticipating him not even to make the rotation, let alone contribute on the court.

That all changed, however, as both Davis and Calderon went from being portrayed as team parriahs to becoming fan favorites and the catalysts for the Raptors' impressive run.  After sitting on the sidelines watching his would-be replacement Kyle Lowry ruin a once efficient offense with his ball hogging style of play, Jose Calderon finally returned where he belongs as the Raptors' floor general while Kyle Lowry went on the injured list and has done a much better job than Lowry has ever done.  Since taking over the starting point guard spot on the 12th of December, the Raptors were 7-2 with Calderon putting up stellar numbers as he averaged 12.1 points and 10 assists per game.  The same went for Ed Davis, who seemed to have woke up from hibernation to post a career highs in scoring (11.6ppg) and becoming the Raptors primary option in the paint since taking over the duties of injured starter, Andrea Bargnarni.

Together with the help of their unheralded role players, the Raptors have accomplished the impossible climbing out of the near reaches of oblivion and return to a point of respectability that they have never experienced in half a decade.  Although it is still early in the season and a lot can happen, one thing remains for certain--that Jose Calderon and Ed Davis will both remain permanent fixtures in the Raptors' starting rotation.  Although coach Dwane Casey crowned Kyle Lowry at the start of the season as the team's lead point man, he has realized the error of his ways and return Jose Calderon to his rightful place as the team's primary facilitator.  Ed Davis will certainly be given a greater role on the team and might remain as the starter despite Andrea Bargnarni and Jonas Valunciunas from the injured list making it a very precarious situation for Bargnarni seeing that the Raptors have proven that they can win without him.  So as they head into 2013, there will be more questions and uncertainty as the Raptors look to build on their improvement over the next few months and return to respectability.