Forecast: improving

I had occasion recently to offer an opinion about the Raptors’ prospects for next season to a group of knowledgeable basketball cronies.   My prediction of  a 42-40 record, and the #8 seed in the East, produced a number of compelling inquiries about my use of recreational soporifics (“What pipe are you smoking ?” & “Are you on drugs?”) and my mental health (“Are you f****n’ crazy?” & “Have you lost what little mind you had?”).  Such congenial comments have spurred me to list why I am taking a Pollyanna-ish outlook on what most commentators are expecting to be another lost season, and a trip to the draft lottery.

The Raps will claim the record I predict, IF all or most of the following expectations are met:

  • Jonas V is a rookie-of-the-year candidate, and is almost immediately the best defensive centre the Raps have ever had.  Yes, I know he’s never played a second of NBA ball, but he’s been a pro player in Europe for several years.  He should win a pushover battle in training camp to be the opening-game starter (if he can’t beat out Aaron Gray & Magloire for the gig, we’re sunk).   I expect him to respond well to Dwane Casey’s defensive exhortations to protect the rim, and on offense contribute passes, put-backs and alley-oops.
  • The team stays healthy.  Last year’s foolish schedule decimated many squads, including Our Heroes.
  • Andrea Bargnani’s calf injury is not chronic, and he produces offensively all season the way he did at the beginning of last one.  Hopefully having a matching Eurotower in JV will help him.  Andrea also showed signs of leadership last year; we need that again.
  • Our #8 pick forces his way into the rotation, by dint of strong play.
  • Our cap flexibility allows us to add a veteran who contributes, rather than doing a crash-&-burn like Turkoglu.
  • DeMar DeRozan finds another element to his game, like a consistent 3-point shot.  He’s got to be better than 26%, which was an improvement over the previous year’s 9% (gag).  I’m not in love with his shooting form, but it’s not dreadful.  He’s entering his fourth season, and full physical maturity.  For him to average over 16 points with so little contributions from downtown indicates he’s talented enough; he’s fearless at attacking the hoop.
  • Either Ed Davis or Amir Johnson take a step forward.  Davis seems to have more upside.  He has better hops, and a nose for the ball, but his shooting has been poor, and he hasn’t developed an ability to create his shot.  Amir needs to pick it up – he won’t be a Rap much longer averaging 7 PPG.  However, he has shown flashes in the past of more talent than most muckers offer – that needs to re-emerge.
  • Jerryd Bayless stays healthy, and coachable.   Jerryd is undersized, and suffers from the delusion that he’s a point guard in waiting, but can provide some offensive punch off the bench at the 2-guard spot..  He shot better than 40% from distance last year.
  • My dark horse IF is an intriguing fellow named James Johnson.  JJ has developed a reputation as a relentless worker.  If he can use that determination to develop a reliable mid-range jumper, he could be the surprise starter at SF.  His defense is certainly NBA grade.
We don’t need all of this good stuff to happen to get to 42 wins, just most of it.   We don’t need an ugly duckling to turn into a swan.  I’d rather be in our position than some other teams, like the Celtics, who are poised for a major tumble next season due to age.   I called the Raps to be 22-44 last season, and they were 23-43, which proves I’m not a homer, and I’m not crazy.

 

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  • http://adsfadsndoodads.blogspot.com/ jtshoopsblog

    I think you underestimate Jerryd Bayless because he has proven to be a rather good option at the PG spot–good enough to give him a shot at the starting PG and parting ways with Jose Calderon.  Remember that eight game stretch that Bayless started while JC was injured–he averages 20 ppg, 8,ppg and had a 2 to 1 assist to turnover ratio.   I’m sure Casey and Colangelo will certainly consider him a viable option for the Raptors’ PG of the future.

  • BrianBoake

     @jtshoopsblog I’d be happy to be wrong about Bayless, but I’m one of those who thinks PGs are born, not made.  I don’t think he has the mindset, which doesn’t mean I want him on the first bus out of town.  The kid is gutsy, plays hard, and wants to be in T.O.  I think he can make a major contribution, as the backup 2-guard.  I’ll be watching in pre-season to see if Coach gives him a shot running the offense.

  • camanda

    While JV allegedly has the potential to be our best big man I have not seen the rim attacking prowess of DeRozan. I HAVE seen him look impressive when he has little opposition on the way to the hoop, or an angle/advantage on his defender. His lack of success in traffic or upon contact is troubling. I am hoping for the physical maturity you mention.
    Spot on with your take on Bayless, Bargnani, JJ and the PFs, with my biggest fear being Bargs calf not being chronic. I thought that exact thing when he went down for the second time last season. The team had not rushed him back and he looked 100% after the first week of his return.
    I would not be disappointed if the team contended for the last playoff spot but came up short, as I think it would give us signs of improvement and a late lottery pick to add a another prospect. This rebuild is on track and should not be rushed.

  • BrianBoake

     @camanda I think DD’s early season shooting slump forced him to start attacking the basket, which turned out well (he had to do something – his jumper was non-existent).  If the Raps’ offense shows more balance this season, I can see DD doing really well.  As you note, he scores when there’s little opposition en route to the hoop, but what’s important is that he’s good at recognizing those situations.
    I’ll be doing a pre-season Atlantic Division prediction, in which I’ll do the math in such a way that the Raps will just slip in to the #8 spot.  The books won’t need to be cooked for me to do that, since I think that’s precisely what will happen, which should make for an exciting season.

  • http://adsfadsndoodads.blogspot.com/ jtshoopsblog

     @BrianBoake Again, the number will show that he did and the numbers will also show you that he is far better when he start than when he comes off the bench  If 20ppg, 8apg, 2:1 Assist to turnover ratio does not make him a viable option at the point, I’d like to see what does.

  • BrianBoake

     @jtshoopsblog I’m all over the idea of a training camp battle for starting PG & every other spot.  Should Jose show he’s lost a step, particularly on D, Bayless may be “right man, right time”.  I like Jerryd a lot more than Forbes.
    I’ll be at the draft night party at the ACC, where I suspect there will be some surprises.  I’ll be blogging after that night, for sure.

  • http://adsfadsndoodads.blogspot.com/ jtshoopsblog

     @BrianBoake Me too.  One question: how can point guard’s can be born and not made?  What, a baby imeadeatley comes out of the womb and is blessed with running a team?  I don’t think so.

  • camanda

     @jtshoopsblog I’m pretty sure that Brian means that players either have PG skills or they don’t. They can’t be taught an innate ability to see the floor; anticipate defensive rotations; have a feel for managing the game; display passing ability in transition as well as on pick-and-rolls; and know where the players on his team like to get the ball. There are average PGs who have been drilled to execute an offensive set, and maybe Bayless is that guy. And then there are great PGs who have all of the above traits naturally.
     
    Bayless can score, and with seasoning he may develop a sense for all of the other things that would make he and the team take a quantum leap forward. That would be great to see during camp this year!

  • BrianBoake

    /// @camanda  @jtshoopsblog Camanda, your thoughts are indeed very close to what I was trying to say about PGs being born, not made.  I can only add that it’s a rare player who shows a pass-first mentality (in addition to those skills you mention), and that’s the guy who’s the PG on my team.  Note there’s nothing wrong with being a scorer; someone’s got to put the ball in the hole.  
    All this interesting chatter has me thinking about a subject for my next post.  Please check in over the weekend.

  • BrianBoake

     @jtshoopsblog LOL

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