I hate this time of year.
Essentially because of the recession and GMs supposedly becoming more fiscal, there is only an trickling of news concerning the NBA (Leon Powe’s signing should not be the topic of the day), let alone the Raptors.
So, with that in mind, I am looking forward to training camp; with some minor issues that need to be addressed, I am interested in how these scenarios will be handled: namely, the rebounding and defense aspect.
Outlook: The Raptors have a team whose key pieces have largely been in place for some time. However, the Raptors have long since had an inability to play defense and rebound for several years running.
With the addition of Reggie Evans and continued improvement from Andrea Bargnani in that area, the hope is that there will be enough rebounding for the team to compete nightly. Additionally, with the hiring of noted defensive guru Marc Iavaroni (former assistant for the Suns and head coach of the Grizzlies) the team should play better overall defense.
Reality: Reggie Evans is only one person, and is not a starter. Bargnani still has some work to do to shed the ‘soft’ label that has plagued him, and most other international players, since his inception into the NBA.
Evans also has always played very well in when given more than 20 minutes a game.
History is certainly on Evans side, as he has typically (almost single-handedly) raised the statistical rebounding rate ranking of each team he has played for.
In his prime at 29, relatively inexpensive, and with the Raptors needing to rebound in order to win, I am hoping that the coaching staff will find a place for Evans to make an impact.
This senario is implausable, however, with the Raptors ‘franchise player’ being the starting power forward. With Evans being too slow to play small forward, and too small to play center, I’m concerned that he will not truly get the opportunity to do what he does best, which is rebound the basketball.
With Iavaroni on staff, the Raptors should be better defensively, and when I say ‘better,’ I mean there is a greater chance that they will display a much improved team defense philosophy, in lieu of a couple of lockdown defenders.
I have high hopes for the Raptors on the defensive end this year with the addition of Iavaroni and Evans. Any improvement from Bargnani from a rebounding or defensive standpoint will be an added bonus; he’s still young and can improve greatly in those areas.
The other issue I have read in various places, such as CBS Sports and other Toronto-based sports blogs, is the conversation pertaining to DeMar DeRozan’s position.
Personally, I feel that at this current time DeRozan would be better suited to play at the shooting guard position instead of small forward.
My reasons for this center around DeRozan’s summer league play, which had him playing remarkably better at the shooting guard position than he did at small forward, where he overwhelmed opponents with his size, athleticism, and skill.
The SF position, where longer, similarly athletic players dwell, has given DeRozan some problems (see summer league games against L.A. and Detroit, for reference).
At this point, getting DeRozan comfortable and confident in his NBA game is the first priority for this team, as this will pay dividends throughout the season in spurts. Based on what information I could find on DeRozan, it would appear that his learning curve maybe smaller than we may all think.