Toronto Raptors Breakdown: Have Jump Shot, Will Travel To Playoffs

Erick BlascoSenior Writer IJanuary 16, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - FEBRUARY 06:  Andrea Bargnani #7 of the Toronto Raptors makes a shot over Rasual Butler #45 of the New Orleans Hornets on February 6, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Hornets defeated the Raptors 101-92.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Defense? Nope. Creativity? Not really. Points in the paint? Don’t have much of that.

Man, though, can the Raptors shoot it.

Let’s examine their 112-104 victory over the Knicks for specifics.

Chris Bosh was outworked on the glass, had difficulty establishing post position, and was terrorized on defense by David Lee. On the other hand, when he did have his back to the basket he was able to draw double teams and usually made accurate kick out passes.

Bosh mostly operated from the high post and, whether driving with his right or left hand, covered an enormous amount of ground with his length and his long strides. It’s as if Bosh can traverse the entire length of the court with one of his left-to-right spins.

It’s those long limbs that make Bosh so effective. Not much in the power or bulk departments, Bosh’s game is totally dependant on his length and finesse spins, drives, and jump shots. Matched up with David Lee—who gives up an inch or two and isn’t very long—Bosh was able to drive and finish with appreciable success—7-10 FG, 4-6 FT, 18 PTS.

If Bosh doesn’t have the muscle might to lead a team to the second round of the postseason, he certainly has the skill to carry the Raptors to the playoffs.

Andrea Bargnani came to shoot—9-13 FG, 5-6 3FG, 1-2 FT, 12 REB, 24 PTS. The oversized small forward has unlimited range and in fact was making 28-footers effortlessly. And when the Knicks closed out too hard, he put the ball on the floor and dunked between two Knicks defenders. He also was effective hitting a pair of soft right hooks from the left box over shorter Knicks defenders.

Defensively, Bargs is a complete non-factor who was used and abused by Lee, but he was also more cognizant of boxing out and holding his box outs longer. While most of his rebounds were uncontested, he was much more effective than in years past of fighting for boards and securing them in a crowd.

Finally the young man is piecing together his offensive skills and is beginning to use them to impact games. Now if only he had a clue on the defensive end.

Aside from draining a pair of three-balls late, Hedo Turkoglu wasn’t involved in the game whatsoever. Unlike in Orlando, he was unable to turn the corner on screen/rolls because defenses don’t have to panic in their rotations to front Bosh rolling off the screen  the way they do Dwight Howard. As a result, Turkoglu is less a playmaker than a simple spot-up shooter—4-10 FG, 3-8 3FG, 5 AST, 3 TO, 13 PTS.

Falling in line with the rest of his troops, Turkoglu was awful defensively.

DeMar DeRozan turned his head, closed out poorly, and failed to anticipate screens. In other words, he played defense like a rookie. He was also willing to pressure the Knicks’ wings, moves his feet, and drew a charge. In other words, once he figures out the league, he has the talent and the toughness to be a plus defender.

He’s also an athletic slasher who can finish broken plays and create his own shot. His willingness to get to the hoop is recognized by his free throw numbers—11-14 FT for a player who the Raptors called zero plays for.

DeRozan’s a promising guard in a class filled with promising guards.

Jarrett Jack missed several shots near the basket, but he was able to get separation on screen/rolls, hit a pair of right hooks, and is the Raptors' best perimeter defender. His introduction into the starting lineup has resulted in better defensive play from the Raptors, while their offense has continued to hum.

Jose Calderon comes off the bench nowadays, but the Knicks wish he stayed on the bench. Calderon sank the Knicks with a barrage of 18-foot jump shots every time they made a mini-run to try and get back in the game.

If Calderon isn’t too creative with the ball, he’s a smart decision maker who doesn’t take unnecessary chances. He won’t defend, but his floor game will overwhelm most benches as it did the Knicks—9-14 FG, 3-3 3FG, 6 AST, 1 TO, 21 PTS.

Amir Johnson can’t handle, can’t shoot, and is turnover prone, but he’s easily the best defender the Raptors have.

Sonny Weems is a youngster who can create his own pull-up jump shots.

Antoine Wright isn’t athletic, can’t shoot, and is only average defensively. It’s a wonder as to why he gets minutes. Perhaps because Marco Belinelli may be the worst defender on the planet?

Most of Toronto’s defensive success happened when the Knicks flat out missed open looks. They went under every screen involving Chris Duhon. Since Duhon was reluctant to shoot, the Raptors turned the Knicks into an isolation team which hurt their continuity.

And sometimes, as the Raptors proved, the best defense is to shoot 12-for-22 from three-point range.

While teams that live on the outside die on the outside, the Raptors will go as far as their jumpers take them. With the sorry state of the Eastern Conference, that certainly means a playoff berth.