The Raptors didn't have a March full of wins.
The Toronto Raptors didn’t have a great March. The team finished with a 4-11 record, and the Raptors currently sit in the 11th spot in the Eastern Conference.
Despite acquiring small forward Rudy Gay midseason, the Raptors have yet to make a serious impact.
With the regular season coming to a close and playoff hopes pretty far-fetched for Toronto, let’s take a look at what the Raptors can do to finish this season strong.
Small forward Rudy Gay has recently faced some back problems.
According to Yahoo! Sports, Rudy Gay has experienced some back problems that caused him to sit out games and practices recently.
While he appeared to be as strong as ever during Monday’s loss to Detroit, when he scored 34 points, Gay needs to stay healthy for every game if the Raptors want to end the season on a positive note.
For the 2012-13 season, Gay is averaging 18.2 points and 6.1 rebounds in 36.3 minutes per game. His points have been even higher over the last 10 games at 20.4 per game.
Gay is arguably the most valuable scorer that the Raptors have, and they can’t afford to lose him.
The Toronto guard needs to step it up on defense.
Doug Smith of the Toronto Star recently said of guard Kyle Lowry: “He likes to sneak around after a Raptors shot goes up, gamble that he’ll get a steal or disrupt the opponent; it’s a chance he takes a handful of times a game.”
Though he may snag a rebound in this fashion once in a while, Lowry needs to put an end to this “gambling” and work on transitioning to defense faster.
Coach Dwane Casey said of Lowry's habit:
What happens is we’ve got to compensate for Kyle—that’s a habit of his, going into get the boards—we’ve got to get guys out of the corner. Once that shot goes up, the corners have to get out and start getting back to the paint.
Obviously, Toronto will not become stronger defensively if Lowry is slow to get back on defense. He needs to break this habit and become more of a team player.
DeRozan needs to edit his shooting to score more on good opportunities.
As his statistics show, shooting guard DeMar DeRozan is pretty inconsistent when it comes to scoring points. During Sunday’s 109-92 loss to the Washington Wizards, DeRozan scored 15 points in 18 shot attempts, registering a poor field-goal percentage of .333.
Only two days earlier against Detroit, DeRozan scored 21 points for a field-goal percentage of .500. Though his season average of 17.5 points per game is pretty good, his points statistic for the last 10 games is nearly two points less.
Clearly, DeRozan has been less effective in terms of shooting lately. He needs to choose his shots wisely in order to help propel his team to a decent end to the season.
Gay should take more opportunities to drive to the hoop.
Cody Williams over at Rant Sports said of the Raptors’ less-than-perfect shooting: “These guys have a tendency, particularly Gay and DeRozan, to take difficult and contested shots in isolation situations instead of getting to the rim or driving and kicking the ball out.”
Though the Raptors have decent shooting statistics as a team, they can be much more effective in the final games of the season if they take the ball right to the rim and avoid these “difficult and contested shots.”
In particular, if Gay and DeRozan can improve their shot selection and driving, Toronto will likely see more consistent point-scoring from both of them.
Casey needs to push his squad to work on communicating with one another.
No matter how effective individual players are, any team will suffer tremendously from a lack of communication.
Coach Dwane Casey recently expressed his concern for the Raptors’ inability to communicate (via The Toronto Star):
I don’t know what it is. We talk our butts off in the locker room but we get on the court and we’re like strangers. We’ve got to do a better job of communicating, pointing, talking, declaring the ball and letting everyone know where everybody is…not assuming in order to get organized in our transition.
It might not be an issue that can be fully resolved by season’s end, but the Raptors need to start talking to one another on the court. Perhaps a leader will emerge in Rudy Gay or Kyle Lowry to start the conversation, but if not, the Raptors will continue to have issues on offense and defense if they don’t communicate with one another on the court.