Toronto Raptors Chat On The Fan 590

487134025_31753217-e1398725148281

I joined Roger Lajoie on The Fan 590 to talk about Toronto re-signing Kyle Lowry and Patrick Patterson, how Masai Ujiri has set the Raptors for short-term and long-term success and I daydreamed about a big shakeup in South Beach.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Click here to download the MP3 of this radio hit.

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.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Click here to download this MP3.

Raptors Podcap: Toronto 92 – Chicago 94

i

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

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Click here to download the MP3.

Toronto’s Junk Is Chicago’s Treasure

Augustin-DJ

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

i

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.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Click here to download the MP3.

Toronto Raptors Showing Signs Of Slippage On Defensive End

Dwane-Casey

Dwane Casey has made the defensive end a focus this season, but during Toronto’s recent road trip where the team went 2-3, there were noticeable signs of slippage.

Toronto has held opponents to 97.1 points per game this season (tied for third in the NBA with Charlotte), but during their recent five game road trip, they only held Denver (90 points) and Utah (79) below those averages.

It’s also not a coincidence that those two games marked their only wins on their road trip.

In losses to Portland (106 points), Sacramento (109) and Los Angeles (118), their defense showed signs of slippage.

Toronto’s slow start on both ends of the court have allowed teams to run out to large leads to start games. Portland raced out to a 31-19 advantage, Sacramento held a 67-52 lead going into halftime and Toronto found themselves down 18 to Los Angeles in the second half which forced Casey to employ a “Hack-a-Jordan” strategy.

During the television broadcast of the Los Angeles Clippers game, Jack Armstrong made an astute observation and then asked Casey during halftime how the lack of practice time since January 1 has hurt Toronto.

“It’s really huge,” Casey told Armstrong. “Because right now as far as rotations, the habits of boxing out, our big-big rotation, transition defense, communication, those little fundamentals are hurting us right now and we’ve gotta’ get through it. It’s not like it’s due to a lack of effort. It’s a lack of timing and a lack of togetherness on the defensive end.”

Casey was predictable in gathering his team for a walk through and quick practice before Toronto’s home game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

That combined with a practice on Sunday had Casey feeling confident that some of the kinks had been worked out.

“It was huge,” Casey admitted. “I don’t know if it will cure all of our problems or issues, but again, the speed of the game, I think that is what you lose when you don’t have a full, hard, tape it up practice. We had one and it was the first one we had had in a while because we’ve had so many games. It has been brutal. Just game after game with just one day off we couldn’t put too much energy into practice. We had an extra day and we wanted to utilize that.
“Then after the (all-star) break we have some days penciled in as far as good days to practice. We’ve gotta’ get out timing, our rhythm (back) defensively as well as offensively.”

Things looked great in the first quarter last night as Toronto opened up a 31-20 advantage and looked great doing it. They only turned the ball over three times and they held New Orleans to 40% from the field while shooting an impressive 63.2.

But the second quarter saw a regression to what has become the norm during their west coast road trip. Toronto was a step slow on their defensive rotations the entire quarter which allowed New Orleans to outscore them 23-12 to begin the quarter and coast to a 29-18 advantage through the entire quarter.

Toronto allowed New Orleans to score nine second chance points and 14 points in the paint in the second quarter; two problems Casey had hoped he had cleaned up this week but evidently hadn’t.

On top of that, Toronto allowed New Orleans to get a lot of good looks and the Pelicans capitalized by going 11-21 from the field.

The rest of the game was a see-saw title which saw Toronto tighten things up in the third only to have the bench nearly throw things away again in the fourth. Part of the issue was Patrick Patterson being moved from the bench to the starting unit due to Amir Johnson being out with an injury, but the normally strong play from Toronto’s guards coming off the bench wasn’t there.

The fact Tyreke Evans was able to come off the bench to score 23 points and dish out 12 dimes the day after being benched against Brooklyn won’t sit well with Casey and his coaching staff.

Regardless of the reason or excuse, there’s no way Casey is going to be happy going into all-star weekend with countless signs of slippage on the defensive end. Look for Casey to sneak in another practice or two before the break and then for him and his coaching staff to continue to work on fixing the issues hurting the team on the defensive end when the team reconvenes following all-star weekend.

Toronto Raptors Shouldn’t Rush To Offer Kyle Lowry An Extension

kyle-lowry-houston-rockets-toronto-raptors

Kyle Lowry is putting up all-star caliber numbers this season and he has been the best player on the Toronto Raptors all season, but why rush to sign him to a contract extension after a couple of good months?

Last year was a rocky year to say the least for Lowry as he butted heads with head coach Dwane Casey and suffered through injury issues. He was anointed the savior of the team when Bryan Colangelo traded for him two summers ago only average 11.6 points while shooting 40% from the field last season while being limited to playing in only 68 games.

Sure, there was a meeting of the minds at the beginning of the season that gave Lowry a fresh new perspective, but there’s also the chance that this is a typical career year from a player in a contract year.

While fans and some members of the media are currently urging the front office to give Lowry an extension, there’s something to be said for waiting to see what the market dictates this summer.

The fact that few general managers were willing to offer up fair value for Lowry when Masai Ujiri floated him as being available is a sign that Lowry may not fetch the kind of contract he expects this summer.

The other warning flag for Lowry is that coaches around the NBA have labeled him as bristly as shown by their lack of votes for the all-star game. Granted, he still almost nudged out Joe Johnson, but it should have been Lowry’s spot if it was based just on performance.

Another thing to consider is Toronto will be flush with cash this summer if they don’t pick up the qualifying offers for Greivis Vasques and Patrick Patterson while paying John Salmons close to $1 million to not pick up his option next summer. If that happens the team will have under $35 million locked into salaries next season and they can make a move for a free agent point guard like Eric Bledsoe, Lance Stephenson, or Mario Chalmers.

Or, if they can’t sign a point guard, they will have the ability to trade for one, which will probably be their best option if they can’t retain Lowry.

Regardless, signing Lowry to a contract extension right now isn’t prudent. The Raptors would be best served by seeing how the next few months shake out on the court and then letting the market dictate how much he’s worth this summer.

Mental Lapses Have Been Costly For Toronto

jonas-valanciunas

The Toronto Raptors’ Achilles heel so far this season has been their inability to play consistently for 48 minutes.

Toronto was an impressive 11-6 in January but their schedule is littered with examples of the team not playing consistently for four quarters.

Against the Brooklyn Nets they nearly choked away a nine point lead late in the fourth quarter after letting the Nets go on a 12-2 run. It took a last second steal and bucket by Patrick Patterson to steal a win back from the clutches of the Nets.

Another big collapse came against Los Angeles last weekend when they raced out to a 50-31 lead only to see it evaporate and the game end in a tough loss.

There were games against Dallas (15 points) and Charlotte (11 points) where anemic first quarters created huge deficits that were too tough to climb out of. They were lucky to steal a win against Dallas but the hole they dug against Charlotte was too large to overcome.

If that trend continues it will result in the team enduring some painful growing pains and probably a quick and embarrassing ouster from the playoffs.

“It’s difficult because the only way you learn is through experience,” Casey admitted to me before the game against Orlando. “I can threaten them but I can’t hit them. Guys just need to learn through experience.

“Again, we are doing much better. Our starts have been fantastic. I thought our start against Brooklyn was fantastic and the couple of starts before that game had been good. We’ve had that focus so we just don’t want to let it creep up again.”

Toronto started the game against Orlando perfectly as they raced to a 19-9 lead before Orlando called timeout. They were swinging the ball to open teammates, hitting open looks and forcing Orlando into bad shots. The only time they let up was in the third quarter when Orlando crept to within eight points at 61-53. Toronto was quick to squash that rally and coast to an easy win.

In the first half against Denver this weekend neither team wanted to play defense and it resulted in a high scoring first half. Toronto came out inspired in the third quarter and applied defensive pressure which resulted in a 26-17 advantage in the quarter.

The fourth quarter started out strong only to see Toronto unable to make a field goal for six minutes and barely put the ball in the basket over the last seven minutes of play. They limped to the end of the game – fatigue from playing in Denver? – and only scored 14 points in the fourth quarter.

Playing against a talented Portland Trail Blazers squad this weekend they dug themselves into too deep of a hole so that a fun fourth quarter rally couldn’t help them steal a road win.

Toronto shouldn’t think they are good enough to east into a road game (Portland jumped out to a 35-19 advantage) and then steal a road win against one of the top teams in the NBA.

Tired legs from a game in Denver the night before isn’t a valid excuse either.

Against playoff caliber teams Toronto can’t coast for a quarter or start games slowly. If they do, they will be quickly ushered out of the playoffs in April.

Hardest Job Rebuilding Raptors Lies Ahead

Welcome to Toronto Masai

Last night while watching ESPN’s pre-game show before the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets game Doug Collins shared some great wisdom on gutting and rebuilding an NBA team.

“I’ve been in this for 40 years or whatever, and general managers always fall in love with the NBA Draft,” Collins vented after Bill Simmons got him worked up over the 2014 NBA Draft looking like fool’s gold. “Coaches try to win games and for general managers it’s a nice five year deal that allows them to fall in love with the draft and build. It’s easy to tear something down, but then you’ve got to try and rebuild it.”

Collins is right that it’s easy to tear something down but it’s a lot harder to build something the right way.

Fans of the Toronto Raptors just need to look at Bryan Colangelo as proof of this. When he arrived in Toronto he was quickly hailed as the god of basketball in Canada because he was able to take a floundering team and get them to the playoffs his first full season with Colangelo running the franchise.

During his first year at the helm of the Raptors, Colangelo was named Executive of the Year, Sam Mitchell was named Coach of the Year and Toronto was the Atlantic Division.

Turns out it was all fool’s gold and not a sustainable way to build a team.

Ujiri has quickly won over fans in Toronto because he traded away Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay while getting sold returns for bad parts.

On top of that, Toronto now sits atop of the Atlantic Division and is looking at home court in the first round of the playoffs.

Is this a case of history repeating itself? According to Collins, it is. Ujiri now finds himself in a tough spot as he has to decide if he’s going to stay the course this season with the current group of players or continue to rip things apart by trading DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and whoever else has interest from other NBA teams.

While Ujiri has been able to work his magic so far in gutting Toronto of bad contracts, where he will earn his pay is based on if he is successfully able to build a roster that has sustainable growth.

If the remains of his work in Denver is any example, his abilities to turn over a roster and have sustainable success is now up for debate.

Granted, George Karl is no longer in the picture and Ujiri is now running a team in another country, but the team he earned praise for just last season now looks in complete disarray.

It just goes to show Collins is right about how easy it easy to rip apart a franchise but how equally hard it is to properly build a franchise.

P.J. Tucker’s Long Journey Back To The NBA

profile_tucker_800x450

A few hours before the Phoenix Suns took on the Toronto Raptors this weekend, Michael Beasley was transfixed with the blister that was festering on the toe of P.J. Tucker.

Before Tucker could escape to the trainer’s table to get his blister popped, Beasley joked, “Man, I want to see him pop that thing!”

It has taken six long years, but, unlike his blister, Tucker’s dream of playing in the NBA won’t be popped anytime soon.

Back in 2006, Tucker was drafted by the Toronto Raptors in the second round of the NBA Draft with the 35th pick. Tucker’s time in Toronto was nothing more than a blip in the team’s history as he only played 17 games before being waived by Toronto on March 24, 2007.

“Man, it seems like such a long time ago,” Tucker admitted. “So much has changed since I was here last.”

It hasn’t just been the city of Toronto or the Air Canada Centre that has changed. Tucker came into the NBA as a power forward trapped in a guard’s body. He was comfortable banging under the basket and cleaning the glass, however, at only 6’5”, he was at a severe height disadvantage every night.

While Tucker was able to get away with this style of play in college at Texas, it became clear in a hurry that his game would need to change and evolve if he wanted to stick around in the NBA.

Sure, there were nights when he scored in double-figures against Phoenix on December 19, 2006, where he scored 12 points and corralled nine rebounds, but those were few and far between.

For the most part he languished on the Raptors bench his rookie season while averaging 7.1 points, 1.9 rebounds in 12.9 minutes per game.

Since leaving the Raptors, Tucker has played in Puerto Rico (Quebradillas), Italy (Fabi Shoes MGR), Greece (Aris), Ukraine (BC Donetsk), Israel (Bnei Hasharon), and most recently in Germany (Brose Baskets).

Tucker averaged 16.2 points and 7.1 rebounds in 44 games last season in Germany and was named the MVP of the German League Finals.

“Things were different because I was getting 15-17 shots each game being the main guy on the team,” Tucker said about playing in Germany. “When I come here (to Phoenix) I needed to play a specific role. For me, it’s about seeing both sides of it. It’s about growing and maturing on and off the court seeing how I can affect the game not only with scoring. It’s about grabbing rebounds and doing all of the little things to help my team win.”

Even though Tucker had a successful season in Germany by all accounts – he was named an All-Star, Import Player of the Year, Forward of the Year and First Team Selection, all while winning the 2012 German Bundesliga Cup – it’s clear playing overseas had it’s share of challenges.

“It’s different because you’re not in America but the game of basketball was different, too,” Tucker explained. “It’s a lot harder to get plays run in the paint because there aren’t as many defensive fouls, there are no three seconds and you can knock the ball off the rim. Its a lot different (than the NBA) because the game is slowed down. It’s a lot more compact because the court is smaller and the three-point line is in closer than it is here in the NBA. You also have to get used to the way that they play, too.”

While playing overseas was an adjustment, it was an experience that helped him grow and evolve as a player. Now, instead of just being a gritty rebounder, he’s shown this season he can stick an open jumper and he has become a pesky defender that can guard multiple positions.

“I think this is exactly what we expected from him,” Alvin Gentry boasted. ”We were lucky enough to have him on our Summer League team and this style of play is what he brought to the team in the summer. Toughness. Very good defender. Relentless worker. He gives us a huge energy boost off of the bench.”

While being heralded as a bench player isn’t what most players dream of, just having the chance to play in the NBA this season is something that Tucker relishes and doesn’t take it for-granted.

“Oh, man, it makes being back in the NBA a million times sweeter,” admitted Tucker while cracking an ear-to-ear grin. “Coming back here to Toronto has put me back in the mindset of being a rookie. For me to be able to come back here now after all of these years is amazing to me.”

After traveling around the globe playing basketball dreaming of returning to the NBA, having the chance to play in front of friends and family once again is something Tucker appreciates.

No wonder a pesky blister wasn’t able to slow Tucker down from playing 12 minutes off the bench in his return to the city where his NBA career started six long years ago.

All Eyes Are On DeRozan

For the better part of three seasons, DeMar DeRozan has been a little bit of everything. He’s been a dependable defensive presence, an important offensive weapon, a go-to scorer and a team leader.

He’s also had his fair share of disappointment.

He has drawbacks to his game. He has, over the season he’s been here shied away from contact, hasn’t been able to shoot the three consistently and hasn’t not shown he can be the predominant offensive weapon on a team.

He remains a puzzle.

This is the year Raptor fans finally find out what they have in DeRozan. Is he a solid piece of the puzzle, a superstar in waiting, or just another serviceable swingman? Or, if you want to look at it more seriously; is he a part of this core going forward?

DeRozan needs to prove to the raptors and the entire NBA that he is more than just a “flashy dunker” and that he can get to the free throw line consistently.

Since he arrived in Toronto as the number nine pick out of USC in 2009, there have been expectations, perhaps unfairly assigned. Fans wanted to see a high flyer, a guy who could score in buckets, an heir apparent to Vince Carter, and a possible superstar in waiting. Suffice it to say, a lot was expected.

So far DeRozan has been a little bit of everything, but hasn’t quite lived up to the hype of the fans. He’s shown strong defensive effort since his rookie season, enough that he was able to win a starting role on a team fighting for the playoffs in his first year.

He is a great target for our point guards when coming off of a cut and he can throw it down with some of the best in the league. If not for Blake Griffin’s infamous car jumping dunk, DeRozan would have won the dunk contest in 2011.

For stretches of time last year DeRozan seemed to be putting it all together. Runs of high scoring nights and frequent trips to the stripe but then steps backward where he would disappear on offense crack under the pressure of being the number one or falter when guarded by a premier perimeter defender. Without Andrea Bargnani to share the offensive duties, DeRozan was smothered by other teams’ defenses and was not as effective as he was with stronger support.

Coming into each of the last three seasons DeRozan hasn’t had to worry about his status as a starting wing. And make no mistake about it; DeRozan will be the starting shooting guard for the Raptors once again on Oct. 31st. But he’s got some competition on the bench waiting for their opportunity.

This competition will hopefully push DeRozan a little more than he has been over the last few years. DeRozan has had it pretty easy so far in Toronto. A guaranteed spot, very little internal competition and the benefit of the doubt when playing with an injury plagued roster.

This is the year raptor fans need to see DeRozan step up and fulfill the promise he showed when he was drafted three years ago.

There is now a wealth of options on Toronto’s bench this year that could spell DeRozan at the 2 guard for stretches during the year. Landry Fields is more comfortable playing the two and is an excellent perimeter defender. Alan Anderson has earned the respect of the coaching staff with his strong work ethic and attention to defense and he could see some minutes at the 2.

Also, with three strong point guards on the roster there will likely be times when Jose Calderon or John Lucas III find themselves sharing the back court with Kyle Lowry as both posses strong shooting ability, a skill DeRozan hasn’t shown to be a strength.

The biggest threat to DeRozan this year, however, might just be rookie shooting guard Terrence Ross, albeit likely over the long-term. Ross is a strong defender and possesses a deadly long-range shot. He is a great compliment to Kyle Lowry who pushes the ball up the floor and often kicks the ball out to the perimeter. Ross is even more deadly off of a kick out because of how quickly he can release a shot. It is that deadly shot and accuracy that make Ross such an attractive option at this position.

This season will be a make or break year for DeRozan in Toronto. He is due for an extension and his agent will likely be looking for a large payday. If the Raptors don’t make the playoffs and DeRozan struggles, if he doesn’t find that magic chemistry with Lowry and the rest of the team, he may find himself wearing a new uniform this time next year.

DeRozan is going to have to prove to fans and management that he can be the player that he was thought to be back when he was drafted. DeRozan needs to be more than an average defender and a flashy dunker. He needs to take that next step and cement his place in the Raptors future.

Shooting guards who produce the numbers DeRozan has over the last three years (14.1pts, 3.4 reb, 1.5 ast, 45.7 FG% and 20.6% 3-pt %) are not terribly difficult to find around the league for a much lower price than DeRozan is likely looking for. If his stats last year (16.7 pts, 3.3 reb, 2.0 ast, 42.2 FG%, 26.1 3pt%) are an indication of what kind of player he will be this year, then he could see his last year playing north of the border. What the Raptors need is for DeMar to show he can be a three-point threat this year and score consistently in the paint.

Without that added aspect to his game, he will eventually sit in favour of better shooters or will ultimately be replaced by a cheaper option.

He has been working hard over the summer to strengthen his game. Dwane Casey offered, when asked about DeRozan: “He did a great job this summer of really putting on strength and right now he’s doing a great job of hitting the guys first, creating contact, not being afraid of getting into the paint, and it’s going to pay big dividends for him.”

This year we will finally find out what DeMar DeRozan is made of.

DeRozan has the ability and skills to be a superstar in this league, but needs to put it together soon or the Raptors will quickly run out of patience.

It’s time we all find out what exactly Toronto has in DeRozan. One thing is for certain, however, he will be the architect of his own destiny.

This could be the start of a beautiful relationship.

Or not.

Toronto Steals Lowry From Houston

It took Bryan Colangelo less than 24 hours to regroup from losing Steve Nash.

In a move that won’t have the same flash or sizzle of adding Nash, Colangelo made a bold move by stealing Kyle Lowry from the Houston Rockets for a heavily protected first round pick.

It may not be the sexy move, but it was probably a better move than adding Nash.

Lowry finished last season averaging 14.3 points, 6.6 assist and 4.5 rebounds. Keep in mind for a stretch of the season Lowry flirted with 20 points and 10 assists per game. During the month of January he averaged 15.0 points, 7.1 assists and 6.7 rebounds while playing gritty defense.

It’s not like Lowry is the only possible target for Colangelo. There was talk leading up to the NBA Draft that Andre Igoudala and Rudy Gay might be headed to Toronto. While new management in Memphis has quieted the rumours of Gay being dealt, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see Igoudala dealt this summer.

Igoudala only averaged 12.9 points and 5.7 rebounds while having a player efficiency of 13.77. Hardly the stuff to excite fans in Toronto. But, due to the playing style of Doug Collins, the Sixers’ leading scorer last season was sixth man Lou Williams.

There are a lot of people in the NBA who feel that if Igoudala was playing in a system where he was featured it would allow him to average close to 18 points like he averaged a couple seasons back.

Plus, a huge bonus for Toronto is that Igoudala is a small forward known for being a gritty defender.

Here’s to hoping that Philly would be willing to take on some young pieces like Ed Davis or DeMar DeRozan while taking some expiring contracts like Linas Kleiza or Jose Calderon in the process.

While none of these moves have the luster of inking Nash trading for a valuable piece or two may turn out better.

Toronto Attempts To Steal Fields

Bryan Colangelo made a shrewd move by signing Landry Fields to a three-year offer sheet worth $20 million.

Who cares if twitter and the rest of the internet doubts this offer sheet? This move gives Toronto a smart wing who can play either shooting guard or small forward. Granted, his stats aren’t flashy – 7.2 points and 3.0 rebounds last season –  but he was one of the top wings on the market and to secure him for under $7 million per season is a nice move.

Besides, it’s easy to chalk up his dip in stats last season due to having to fight Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire for touches.

Raptors fans can complain about spending this much money on Fields, but what other wing would you want to spend this kind of money on? There’s no way Toronto was going to get Nicolas Batum for that kind of money when Minnesota was going to offer him at least $10 million a season for four years.

For comparison sake, Gerald Wallace averaged 13.8 points last season and is on the tail end of his career, yet he inked a four-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets for north of $40 million.

There’s no way Toronto wanted to add a knucklehead like Michael Beasley into the mix for the next few season.

The reality is Colangelo needed to spend money on a wing and Fields is a solid get for this kind of money.

Now, lets see if Steve Nash joins the mix. If he does, then Toronto will be looking at a revamped starting five next year of Jonas Valanciunas, Andrea Bargnani, Fields, DeMar DeRozan and Nash. Plus the team will have Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, Linas Kleiza and Terrence Ross coming off of the bench. Not a bad mix for Dwane Casey to work with next season.

If Casey was able to work magic with his roster last year, imagine what Casey and Nash could do with that starting five?