5 Things Toronto Raptors Must Do to Get Back into NBA Playoffs Next Season
Sixteen teams will be headed for the playoffs this May, all of which will be holding out hope of an NBA championship. Unfortunately, 14 teams will not be on the receiving end of that NBA Finals opportunity. They'll be going home with nothing but their thoughts and television remotes to keep them in touch with the 2012 NBA postseason.
It's never an easy stage to go through as your team struggles to string together victories, but that does not mean hope should be lost. Turnaround seasons are just as likely as the disappointing ones, and with a few tweaks here and there, they're never too hard to find.
Here's how the Toronto Raptors can expedite their rebuilding process and make it back to the playoffs in 2013.
5. Find a Three-Point Weapon
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The Toronto Raptors currently rank 20th in three-point field goal percentage and 21st in three-point field goals made. Considering the Raptors are just 28th in field goals made per game, it would behoove them to add a player who can stretch the floor and make the few buckets they score count for something.
Dallas' Jason Terry, who is poised to become a free agent, would be the perfect fit.
Terry has made a living playing on frontcourt-driven teams, something the Raptors are destined to be in 2012. Andrea Bargnani is one of the most versatile big men in the NBA, while Jonas Valanciunas is a low-post menace who can stretch the floor with his mid-range game.
Terry—or any three-point marksman, for that matter—could be enough to take the Raptors back into contention.
4. Sign an Up-Tempo Point Guard
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Jose Calderon remains one of the league's best facilitators and Jerryd Bayless has plenty of promise. The fact of the matter is, Bayless is constantly injured and Calderon will be 31 near the start of next season. Only one player can remain in the Raptors' game plan if they plan to make the playoffs.
The NBA has proved to have become the a point guard-driven league. More important than having a starting point guard, however, is having a reliable backup to push the pace.
Look for a player such as Goran Dragic or Raymond Felton to come in and receive starters' minutes as they do just that. Those signings, of course, would lead to the departure of Calderon and the landing of a potential draft pick.
3. Creating Balance
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Dwane Casey has done wonders for the Raptors on defense, demanding increased effort from defensively-inept players such as Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan. The fact of the matter is, the Raptors became far too focused on the defensive end of things and lost their natural rhythm as a team.
The result has been a horrific drop from a season ago.
In 2011, the Toronto Raptors averaged 99.1 points per game. In 2012, Toronto is scoring just 90.7. That's an 8.4-point-per-game drop from a year ago, despite having virtually the same roster. Quite a disappointing turn for a team that's youth was expected to make the leap this season.
In order to win in 2013, the Raptors must find the balance between a raised level of defensive effort and offensive output. If they fail to do so, it will simply lead to yet another disappointing season.
2. Draft an Elite Wing Prospect
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By any means necessary.
There are more than a handful of readers who will see this and jump to James Johnson's defense. For those plan on doing so, don't think I don't appreciate his versatility on both ends of the floor. That cannot be undervalued, as he does a little bit of everything.
The truth of the matter is, the NBA has become as small forward-driven as it has point guard-driven. The LeBron's and Melo's are the furthest thing from rare at this point, something the Raptors must acknowledge. More significant than their opponent's players, however, is the Raptors' current batch.
The Raptors are in need of a two-way 3 who can stretch the floor with his shooting and attack the basket with his power and quickness. They also need an intelligent player capable of defending multiple positions and coming up in the clutch.
Harrison Barnes would be the perfect fit, but don't expect Toronto to pass up on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist if it gets the chance to bring him in.
1. Stay True to the System
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The NBA is a win-now type of league, making it difficult for any coach to put a system in place and watch it grow. In Toronto, they must refrain from firing their third coach since 2008. The Raptors must believe in the system and display the most elusive trait in all of sports: patience.
Toronto will have a frontcourt tandem that could rival the Lakers if paper potential meets on-court production. They'll also start one of the league's best facilitators, a versatile 3 and a mind-blowing athlete at the 2. There's no reason to give up after just one year.
After all, the Raptors went from allowing 105.4 points per game in 2011 to just 94.5 in 2012. That's a jump from 26th to 10th in the NBA.
Good luck finding a better defensive turnaround than that.