- Teams: Detroit Pistons (14-21) at Toronto Raptors (16-17)
- Date: January 7, 2014
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
The Toronto Raptors have drastically changed since trading away Rudy Gay. The group has been winning and actually looks like the third-best unit in the Eastern Conference. Indeed, Toronto looks more like a team as opposed to a collection of individuals.
I reached out to Sam Holako of Raptors Republic, the Raptors’ ESPN TrueHoop affiliate blog, and asked him whether this was in fact reality or fool’s gold. His response:
Reality; since the Gay trade, the Raptors have:
- replaced Gay with Ross in the starting lineup (less usage, more efficient, superior three point shooter)
- have a very solid bench (added Salmons, Patterson, Vasquez and Hayes) that has has provided depth, shooting, perimeter defense and a backup point guard who doesn’t suck (sorry DJ Augustin, but you sucked)
- are passing the ball 30 more times a game
- run more pick-n-rolls and less hero/iso-ball
The last two losses (Miami and Indiana) have been hard-fought games that came down to the fact that both those teams are just better. With their scheduling easing up, expect to see this team win more games than they lose, and potentially take over 3rd in the East by the all-star game.
Holako’s stance on the Raptors confirmed my suspicions and also led me to a place that I felt wasn’t getting enough attention: DeMar DeRozan’s All-Star candidacy. The Raptors Republic scribe graciously shared his opinions on the matter:
No disrespect to Dwayne Wade, but DeMar DeRozan has been more important to Raptors than the other SG who are ahead of him in votes (Dwayne Wade, Ray Allen, Lance Stephenson, and George Hill depending on how you rate him). Since the Gay trade, he’s averaged 21.2 pts 4.9rebs 4.5ast 1.3stl and has led the team to a 10-5 record over the last month (second best in the league).
Thus, Toronto is a team playing well that possesses one of the best 2-guards in the league. One can only wonder what their ceiling is. Holako offered:
This is definitely a playoff team as currently constructed given the state of the East, but I don’t see them winning a round in the playoffs unless they get Chicago AND Joakim Noah doesn’t will them to the 2nd round. I’m much less concerned with them winning a round, then getting playoff experience. This is a very young team, with only Kyle Lowry (19) and Amir Johnson (11) from the core having any playoff experience; note that neither has seen the playoffs since the ’08-’09 season.
Tonight’s tilt with the Raptors will likely say more about the Detroit Pistons than it will about the Raptors. Toronto has changed its identity and found a winning recipe whereas Detroit is still searching for theirs.
The Pistons are struggling at the moment and might need to take a few pointers from the lone Canadian franchise in the Association.