As I did last year for the 2011-2012 NBA season, here are my thoughts on the 2012-2013 season as it is set to conclude.
All in all, it was a pretty disappointing year for the Raptors. I was pretty optimistic that with the team’s offseason moves that they could finally make a push for the playoffs. Not that I agreed with that direction, or that it was the right decision to begin with, but I did feel as though the team had improved enough to potentially get there this season.
However, those playoff aspirations were all but over after an unexpected 4-19 start to the season. Although, for what it’s worth, there still looks to be some bright spots for the team’s future, one of them being Jonas Valanciunas.
My 5 Likes for the 2012-2013 Raptors season:
1. Jonas Valanciunas. I admit, I was critical of Valanciunas when he was drafted because I felt the team was better off with a point guard. However, I’ll gladly eat my words with this one.
Right off the bat, Jonas became the starting center for the Raptors and looked very impressive for a rookie. Often times, it was Jonas who actually looked like the best player on the court for the Raptors. Which is why it’s still a mystery to many, including myself, as to why coach Casey didn’t play the rookie during the fourth quarter of games when he clearly should have.
Even when Jonas wasn’t in foul trouble, Casey opted for a front court lineup of Bargnani and Johnson to close out games versus Johnson and Valanciunas. However, that should change soon as he gains trust from the coaching staff moving forward.
While we won’t really know who the best player to pick from the 2011 draft will be for at least a few more years, Jonas is proving to be a really nice pick. He’s still learning, but the potential, and work ethic is clearly there to become a special player.
2. Owed pick to Oklahoma City is now out of the way. Well, technically it’s not official just yet, as we’ve yet to see the draft lottery results. But, given that the Raptors currently sit at the 12th pick going into the lottery, it’s very unlikely that they end up moving all the way up to the top three.
So, with that said, at least the Raptors can blow up the team and go all-in for an Andrew Wiggins tank next season. If they decide to do that, which I sure hope they do.
3. Improved defense? Well, according to a report, the Raptors starting five is amongst the top in the league defensively. This definitely came as a surprise to me. Aside from Amir Johnson and Kyle Lowry, the Raptors don’t have that many players in the starting lineup who excel on the defensive end.
One thing I might add though is that I can only imagine how much better the starting unit would be defensively if Landry Fields was starting in place of DeMar DeRozan. In my opinion, it would work for a couple of reasons. One being that the defense would improve since Fields is a much better defender and rebounder than DeRozan. Secondly, I think that DeRozan has the ability to become a very good player in a sixth man type role which in turn would help out the second unit.
4. Ed Davis. Finally got his chance to start. It was clear during his short stint as a starter (to me at least) that he is more than capable of being an everyday starter in this league. The Bargnani injury finally gave Davis the opportunity to not only prove that he deserved that spot all along, but also proved how much of a better fit he was at the position than the guy who he had lost that spot to for his entire career, Andrea Bargnani.
However, obviously it doesn’t matter much now anyways. Unfortunately the Raptors Colangelo traded him away for to get “his guy” Rudy Gay. Whenever Davis does get his chance again to start, whether it’s in Memphis or on another team, I think he will continue to prove that. Simply put, I don’t think that trading him away was a good idea.
5. Colangelo is demoted. After much speculation surrounding Tim Leiweke and Phil Jackson, it is official that the Colangelo era is finally over. Now, it’s pretty clear that Phil Jackson won’t be joining the Raptors front office; however, it’s good that MLSE has finally decided that a front office change is needed.
After all we’ve been through (seven years of mediocrity, and really nothing close to what he did with the Suns in Phoenix), it’s probably best for the team to move on from Colangelo, and try something new.
Now, I will admit, the Suns were one of the more exciting teams to watch way back then, but it was obvious they were never going to win a championship playing the run and gun style. I’d always rather watch a boring team that has a chance of winning, rather than an exciting one that looks good losing.
My 5 Dislikes for the 2012-2013 Raptors season:
1. Dwane Casey’s coaching strategies and rotations. After his first season as head coach, and the impact he had on the team, it looked like Dwane Casey was the Raptors saviour.
However, I am starting to question his coaching abilities this season. He often seemed to be out-couched by the opposing team, often matching them as opposed to making opponents pay with mismatches in their favour. These situations became clear in games where the Raptors simply could not hold leads in the fourth quarter because of matching instead of using advantages.
Another unusual situation in my opinion was when he would constantly sit rookie Jonas Valanciunas in the fourth quarter of games, despite playing great, and rarely utilizing Ross for the wing defense and perimeter shooting which he was supposed to bring in right away.
Another key to note about the team was that they really were nothing close to the level of intensity or defense of the previous season. I’m not sure if it’s simply a new strategy, or if the 29 other teams simply came into 2012-2013 more prepared than the Raptors.
But here’s another theory about that. Maybe the Raptors looked so good defensively because Andrea played less than half of last season…coincidence? Probably not, but that brings me to my next point.
2. Andrea Bargnani. Surprise!(not). Came nowhere close to his now famous “13-game stretch” of last season. Whatever Andrea did last season, he clearly did not do coming into this year.
Although it really shouldn’t surprise anyone as to why he played so poorly. If you remember from the pre season, Andrea was out of shape from taking the entire summer off. Looking at him struggle this season, not just with shooting consistency but simply lack of effort, you have to agree by now that Andrea has overstayed his welcome in Toronto. So, for the sake of every Raptor fan left, let’s get rid of him now, please.
So, yes Andrea’s performance this season was a huge disappointment. But what I find equally disappointing is the reluctance to trade him, despite apparent opportunities to do so at the trade deadline.
3. Andre Drummond. Take a look at how he’s impacting the Detroit Pistons. It still bothers me that the team took positional need over potential. All questions surrounding Drummond look to be answered as of now, and, there is little speculation, if any that Drummond looks like a legitimate NBA center.
I had wanted Drummond since I saw him at UConn. However, because of the team getting too many wins, which consequently led to getting a lower pick, I just didn’t think that it was possible. I never expected that he would fall all the way to us at 8th, given that he had been the second pick, next to only Anthony Davis for quite a long time.
With Drummond, Valanciunas and a high pick next season in the 2014 draft, the Raptors would have had a very promising future to build around.
4. No first round pick this season. It’s not official just yet, but there is a pretty good chance that the Raptors give their first round pick to the Thunder (via Rockets trade) this year.
Now, I said at the beginning of the year that the Raptors giving up a late lottery pick for Kyle Lowry was a good move. I also thought that the Raptors would be a borderline playoff team. However, make no mistake about it, the Raptors trying to make the playoffs was a bad move. Now, as a non-playoff team, not having a lottery pick to look forward to this offseason is definitely not a good feeling.
As I mentioned previously, it’s definitely a good thing that the pick is given up this season, versus next season or beyond.
5. Confusion. With Colangelo being demoted to a non-basketball role, which guarantees a new person will take charge of the Raptors, it still remains a question as to what direction Mr. Leieke will take with the team.
Given the very little flexibility of the Raptors in its present state, it’s tough to say how or even where they even start clean up the mess left by Colangelo.
If there is a positive in this though, it’s that here are some pieces that can be moved, and some that may even bring back first round picks. However, I have no idea if this will be a quick rebuild, or simply tear it down and start over. I’m really hoping for the latter.
But, does MLSE have the patience to go through another rebuild, even though that’s clearly the best option for this team moving forward?