There are a few small things I’d like to see from this edition of the Raptors, I’ve narrowed them down to 8:
1. Find an identity. Find some things that you’re good at and become great at them. Whether it be three point shooting, low-block scoring, man-defense or rebounding. You can’t be great at everything but you can focus on a few things and become very good at them. For example, Colangelo’s 2005-06 Raptors
developed an identity of an offensive juggernaut that relied on three point shooting and when they played that style they usually won. Similarly this team needs to find a way to play which is best suited to them and force that style on play on opponents. Easier said than done but that should be Sam Mitchell’s #1 priority.
2. If somebody gives you a hard foul, get mad. If you’re not going to get Ron Artest mad, at least get Rasheed Wallace mad.
3. Script the first five plays of the first and third quarters so you get movement, continuity and some rhythm coming out of the gate. We’re not a team that plays catch-up very well and getting off to good starts in the first and third quarters is half the battle.
4. Give O’Neal space to operate. We need to establish him in the post by clearing out space for him (this mean’s moving Bosh
to the other side of the court) and avoiding spacing that makes it easier for defenders to help on him. This was lacking for most of the preseason.
5. If Calderon
isn’t cutting it defensively, yank him. It sounds harsh given our backup PG situation but he needs to understand that when he gets broken down it has a domino effect on the team. PG penetration was a big problem last year and although we have improved help defense this year in the form of O’Neal, it does not mean we can repeat our performances from last year.
6. Get fast-break points. We didn’t get nearly enough last year because of our rebounding but this year with O’Neal around we can grab the rebound and throw a quick outlet to jump-start the break.
7. When playing offense/defense, favor the offense. We lost at least a dozen games last year because of a stalling fourth quarter offense. I remember Jamario Moon taking too many bad, bad shots because he was left wide open by the defense. Flip that strategy around this year even if it means you’re putting someone like Kapono in a vulnerable position. You can’t always hide your weaknesses but you can exploit all your strengths.
8. Acquire a small forward.
This is the NBA and one can make a case that you’re only as good as your talented athletic wing players of which we have none. Unless the Raptors
are tearing through the competition in the first half of the season, a silent trading deadline will surely be the wrong move.
These are all technicalities though. At the end of the day as Jack Armstrong pointed out, we need two of Jason Kapono, Andrea Bargnani
or Anthony Parker to have career years if we want to make up for the lack of depth. Sam Mitchell’s echoing the exact same sentiments here when he says that two of Kapono, Parker and Moon need to step up. If the preseason is any indication of where things lie we’re going to struggle because of all the players mentioned in this paragraph only Andrea Bargnani
looked somewhat in form. We’re all desperately hoping for a big jump in the quality of play from preseason to regular season which means that the practice sessions going on these days are paramount to getting off to a good start.