While the season is still in its infancy, one thing is clear; the raptors season to-date has been a mixed-bag. Unfortunately, as much as I’d love to state that there has been an even mix of good and bad, unfortunately that has not been the case. For the most part the Raptors have looked a few plays, players or coaching decisions away from a decent even-keel team.
At 6-10, the raptors seem destined for failure with a road trip against tough Western Conference opponents which began this afternoon against the Nuggets. The question for Masai and this team remains the same; is it time to work towards tanking and making a play for a top end draft pick in the lottery, or do the Raptors take advantage of a weak Eastern Conference and make a playoff push? Obviously the Raptors have chosen to go for the playoffs and currently lead the Atlantic Division.
Today the Raptors made a new change to the starting lineup by bringing in Hansbrough in favour of Amir Johnson. I think this is good for the team as it promotes a sense of urgency early in games and forces the Raptors to play hard and not get down early. After all, this team has yet to win a game when down after one quarter.
While it is clear that Demar Derozan has taken the next step in terms of leadership and development, I am not sure the same can be said about Rudy Gay. Sure, he is a top SF/PF in this league and can easily put up nearly 10 boards and 20 points per game. However his FG% is dismal and he forces the Raptors into an iso-heavy offense. In my opinion the Raptors should look to trade him while his stock is relatively high, and look to get a good draft pick and other potential young pieces in return. The future lies in the hands of Derozan and Valunciunas. I like Hansbrough’s toughness and intensity. Amir has had a down season but he is still a good hustle and energy guy off the bench.
One wild card is their PG Kyle Lowry. He has the potential to be a 15 point/10 assist/5 rebound per game player when he plays to his full potential. He has a great shot (beyond the arc and inside of it) and can facilitate great ball movement. However sometimes he gets hot for touches and jacks up shots when highly contested. If he does not show a consistent approach to getting his teammates involved and shooting when open, as he does sometimes and neglects at others, it is time for the raptors to also trade him and get a more pass first PG to fill his void.
Although Masai has sat quietly thus far, 16 games into this young season, you can only think that its just a matter of time before he needs to make some big decisions that will influence the direction of this team moving forward…