Toronto Raptors: 5 Ways To Improve Their Defense Next Season

Justin BoninAnalyst IJune 20, 2011

Toronto Raptors: 5 Ways To Improve Their Defense Next Season

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    TORONTO, CAN - FEBRUARY 16:  Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat plays a block against Ed Davis #32 of the Toronto Raptors in a game on February 16, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Heat defeated the Raptors 103-95. (Photo by Claus Anders
    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    This past season the Raptors were ranked 26th in points allowed per game and were one of the worst defensive teams in the league. I firmly believe that defense wins championships and that means the Toronto Raptors have a lot of work to do if they ever want to be the champs.

    The Raptors will not be able to fix their defensive shortcomings right away but they can certainly get the process started.

    Here are five suggestions that would go along way in improving Toronto’s overall team defense:

5. Play Ed Davis, James Johnson and Amir Johnson More

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 21:  Kenyon Martin #4 of the Denver Nuggets lays up a shot against Ed Davis #32 of the Toronto Raptors at the Pepsi Center on March 21, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Raptors 123-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackn
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Raptors are not overrun with good defenders but are lucky enough to have three young players with the potential to become good, perhaps even great defenders…they just need to play them more and find them the right coach.

    Ed Davis

    Ed Davis is a long PF who can rebound, block shots and who shows a willingness to stay active and engaged on the defensive end of the ball, which is great to see in a young big man.

    Raptors fans should be very happy with what they saw from Davis in his rookie season, and over the next couple of seasons he will look to add strength and become a better overall defender, in addition to already being a good shot blocker. With the right people working with him and if given adequate playing time Ed Davis should develop into both a good post defender and a good—even very good—rebounder.

    James Johnson and Amir Johnson:

    Both James and Amir Johnson have the potential to become good defenders but they must both find a way to play defense without committing a ton of fouls. 

    They are both good shot blockers but with improvements in both discipline and defensive awareness, they could play good defense without fouling and improve their defense on and off the ball. The potential is there, they just need to tap into it. Do not worry, though, I have a suggestions for how they can do that later on in the slideshow.

4. Trade Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon

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    ATLANTA - DECEMBER 02:  Andrea Bargnani #7 of the Toronto Raptors against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 2, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph,
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    If the Raptors really want to become a better defensive team, they must first rid themselves of their defensive deadweight—aka Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon.

    Defense is a team effort, but when two of your five starters are poor defenders, it brings the entire team down defensively. 

    Trade them both in return for players who can defend and score or simply just trade them for some defensive-minded players.  

3. Sign or Trade for Defensive-Minded Players

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    ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 24:  Tayshaun Prince #22 of the Detroit Pistons attempts to block the pass of Gilbert Arenas #1 of the Orlando Magic during the game at Amway Arena on January 24, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges a
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    As was the case in the previous slide, this offseason, the Raptors must target players who can play both sides of the ball. 

    They need more than just a scorer and in addition, if they are looking to get someone through free agency, then I think they can also do better then getting a uniquely defensive oriented player.  If they take the free agency route then they must look to acquire players with a balanced game on both sides of the ball, primarily at center and small forward, which are currently their two biggest holes.

2. Hire Dwane Casey or Lawrence Frank as Head Coach

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    DENVER - NOVEMBER 3:  Head coach Dwane Casey of the Minnesota Timberwolves calls a play from the sidelines during the game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on November 3, 2006 in Denver, Colorado.  The Timberwolves won 112-109.   NOTE TO USER: U
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Raptors have reportedly narrowed their search for a new head coach down to Dwane Casey and Lawrence, according to Marc Stein of ESPN Dwane Casey is reported to be the favourite.

    Both Casey and Frank are defensive oriented coaches and as Marc Stein pointed out, Toronto is likely drawn to Casey’s recent defensive successes as the defensive coordinator for the NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks

    Both of these coaches have what it takes to bring defense to the forefront in Toronto and will make my next suggestions—the most important one of all—a reality.

1. Make Defense a Priority

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    Once the Raptors rid themselves of their Achilles heels on defense, acquire some better defensive players and hire a defensive-minded coach, they will finally be in the position to make defense a priority.

    Coming into last season, the Raptors were supposed to be an exciting fast past team on offense with highflying dunks that would keep the fans excited despite an inevitably terrible rebuilding season. 

    This is not far from what happened, the Raptors were exciting at times but in the end, they finished with the third-worst record and the fifth overall pick.

    That being said the Raptors can certainly keep—and enhance—their fast pace style of basketball by improving their defense. If they can get those extra stops on defense and those much-coveted blocks and steals, they will be rewarded with fast break buckets and easy points off turnovers. 

    However, until they make defense a priority and work to improve not only their individual man to man defense, but also and perhaps more importantly, their help and overall team defense, they will continue to struggle and come up short on both sides of the ball as well as in the win column.