History May Be Repeating Itself For The Toronto Raptors

DeMar DeRozan confidence

Right now the Toronto Raptors sit atop the Atlantic Division and appear ready to coast into the playoffs with home court advantage in the first round.

DeMar DeRozan was Toronto’s first All-Star since Chris Bosh left for Miami and Jonas Valanciunas was invited to take part in the Rising Stars game in New Orleans.

A lot of smart basketball have argued that Kyle Lowry should have joined DeRozan as an all-star in New Orleans.

Terrence Ross has shown great growth this season which was highlighted by scoring 51 points against the Los Angeles Clippers and cementing himself as Toronto’s starting small forward since Rudy Gay was traded to the Sacramento Kings.

The present and future look great in Toronto but it might be fool’s gold.

This current Raptors’ team is far too similar to the team that caught fire during the 2006-07 season during Bryan Colangelo’s first full season running the Raptors. Adding Jorge Garbajosa and Anthony Parker from Europe while trading for T..J Ford resulted in the team having great chemistry and Bosh enjoyed one of his best seasons in the NBA.

In a year where the Atlantic Division earned the nickname the Titanic Division the Raptors were able to limp to the division crown before getting ousted in the first round.

The problem Colangelo had was that due to some immediate success – he was named Executive of the Year and Sam Mitchell was named Coach of the Year – his hands were tied in regards to getting the coach he wanted to run the team and he couldn’t turn over the roster like he truly wanted.

Because of one season where the team had moderate success, Colangelo was always trying to stop the leak in a dam and he was never truly able to construct a roster that he wanted.

When Bosh bolted for South Beach the dam burst and Colengelo was removed from his position within a few seasons.

The irony is that despite a great start remaking the Raptors, Ujiri now finds himself in a similar situation to Colangelo.

Dwane Casey is entering the final year of his contract and was viewed as a lame duck coach heading into this season. But now, due to Toronto rising to one of the top defensive teams in the NBA combined with the team sitting atop their division, it would be tough to not give Casey a contract extension. But is Casey truly the coach Ujiri wants moving forward? The jury is still out.

The current coaching situation in Toronto is a lot like what Colangelo went through with Mitchell in that it may not being the ideal pairing but shifting things now on the fly will cause ripples with fans, media, and, most importantly, with the players currently on the roster.

Lowry is in the final year of his contract and he’s positing career numbers of 16.8 points per game and 7.6 assists. On top of that, he has lost the chip on his shoulder that has caused him to butt heads with coaches throughout his NBA career.

Fans and the media have caught a case of amnesia in forgetting how rough things were for Lowry in Toronto last season. He was slowed by injuries and his problems with Casey were well documented.

This season may have been improved over last season due to an important chat Lowry had with Raptors chairman Larry Tanenbaum, team president Tim Leiweke, Ujiri and his senior advisor, Wayne Embry, a Hall of Famer on the cusp of this season. Since that meeting Lowry has been a more confident player and once Gay was traded this became Lowry’s team and he has been even more of a vocal leader on and off the court.

But, as great as Lowry has been playing, what player on Toronto’s roster could you see starting on a team playing in the NBA Finals? Maybe Lowry? Valanciunas might get there, but he’s no lock.

With that being said, there should be no untouchables on Toronto’s roster as they head into the trade deadline this Thursday and even moving forward this summer. If a player like Kevin Love is made available by the Minnesota Timberwolves it makes sense to offer Valanciunas, DeRozan and a first round pick.

Or, if Boston is genuine about moving Rajon Rondo, why not offer up a first round pick, Terrence Ross and some other pieces?

The idea of blowing up the roster to have Rondo and Love playing together next season – even if it’s only for one season – would have to be tantalizing for Ujiri.

As fun as this season has been for fans, it’s clear Ujiri still has his work cut out for him over the next few months. While he has been praised for moving the cumbersome contracts of Andrea Bargnani and Gay, it’s clear his toughest job of molding the Raptors into a legit contended for an NBA Championship still lies ahead of him.

Part of what will make the necessary moves tricky is that he will need to convince the fans and media that the moves he makes – like trading fan favourites Amir Johnson or DeRozan – will help the team move towards that goal.

It will be interesting to see if Ujiri plays it easy and keeps the status quo – something that doomed Colangelo – or if he’s willing to see this season is fool’s gold and that more big moves are needed.

Dwane Casey Doesn’t Want Masai Ujiri To Make Any Trades

Dwane-Casey

Dwane Casey talked with the media tonight about being happy with the roster he currently has and about not wanting Masai Ujiri to make any trades this week.

He also denied that the Brooklyn Nets making moves put pressure on him or his team.

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Raptors Podcap: Toronto 92 – Chicago 94

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Dwane Casey, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas chatted with the media after Toronto’s loss to Chicago.

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Toronto’s Junk Is Chicago’s Treasure

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D.J. Augustin was never able to find a role on the Toronto Raptors this season. He was signed during the summer to be Toronto’s back-up point guard, but he struggled through 10 games this season averaging 2.1 points and only 8.2 minutes per game.

Toronto decided to cut their losses when they obtained Greivis Vasquez and cut Augustin.

Toronto’s junk turned out to be Chicago’s treasure.

On December 13, 2013, he signed with the Chicago Bulls and he had season high in assists with 12 assists against the Charlotte Bobcats.

On January 22, 2014, Augustin scored a season high 27 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Heading into the game against Toronto tonight, Augustin was second on the Bulls in scoring (13.7 points) among active players. Luol Deng (19.0) is no longer with the team while Derrick Rose (15.9) is out for the remainder of the season due to an injury.

Dwane Casey was quick to attribute Augustin’s production due to an increase in playing time.

“He needs minutes to get in and get a rhythm the way he wants to play,” Casey explained. “He’s getting that in Chicago, while here, knock on wood, unless something happened to Kyle (Lowry) he wasn’t going to get that opportunity here to play that many minutes because Kyle was going to play big minutes.”

For Thom Thibodeau, adding Augustin filled a need for the Bulls while it helped give the young point guard another chance that he needed after things didn’t work out particularly well for him in Indiana or Toronto.

“We had a great need because we weren’t shooting the ball particularly well,” Thibodeau admitted. “I think part of it is they made the trade here (in Toronto) and they had more bodies and that created an opportunity for us where they had to cut somebody. It was good fortunate on our part and it also worked out pretty well for them. Obviously since the trade they have taken off so sometimes things work out for everyone.

“The one thing about DJ is he had already done it before in the NBA so we knew it was in him. Sometimes a player can get into a situation where they play a lot early on in their career and he hadn’t played as much recently because he got stuck in a back-up role. He had some good games for Indiana but he wasn’t playing a lot here (in Toronto). But, to his credit, he stayed ready and he took advantage of the opportunity (here in Chicago). I love him for us.”

When Sam Mitchell was coaching the Toronto Raptors he used to joke with the media that playing time is like oxygen for NBA players. It doesn’t matter how much your current contract is worth, it’s all about proving yourself right now so that you can ink another deal.

Well, for Augustin, he’s getting plenty of oxygen in Chicago and it’s working out well for him and the Bulls.

Toronto Raptors Chat On The Fan 590

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I was able to join Ben Ennis tonight on The Fan 590 to chat about Dwane Casey’s future with the Toronto Raptors, if the team should trade Kyle Lowry, what appears to be a relatively easy stretch of games coming up for the Raptors and if Patrick Patterson should continue to start once Amir Johnson is healthy enough to return to the court.

I was also able to chat about the strong play of Tyler Ennis and the Steve Nash documentary on Grantland.

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