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Old 10-26-2012, 04:33 AM   #1 (permalink)
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They have already begun laying the groundwork in preseason that will come to define their defensive approach to the game. As they continue to integrate themselves with the rest of the roster, the stronger the team's defensive stopping power should get.

The results have been encouraging so far in preseason play. The team is holding opponents to .434 shooting through five games. This is exactly what they were able to hold opponents to during the regular season last year, which shows little year-over-year slippage.

Toronto is also top-ten in blocks and steals per game, which is important because both were areas of want last season, significantly impacting the club's ability to create easy opportunities in transition.

Also, for the first time in eons, the Raptors have playable defensive options at all five positions, which will give Casey considerable defensive options when constructing his rotations throughout the regular season.
Of course, if you want to make your mark on the league with your defence, you really need your best players committing to that end of the floor, and that's where Toronto's big-ticket item, Andrea Bargnani, comes in.

He shocked everyone in Raptor-land out of the gates last year with his commitment to Casey's defensive schemes, and for the first time ever the team allowed fewer points per 100 possessions with Bargnani on the court than off of it.

So far in this preseason he looks just as committed to keeping up his defensive production. He and Valanciunas have teamed up to use their length and mobility to really choke-off the basket area from their opponents, and both are doing a solid job covering on pick-and-rolls and protecting the weak side.

There are still blown assignments here and there, but for the most part the focus and precision of Bargnani's defence gives plenty of hope that he can continue to play like this well into the season.

Considering that he'll no doubt lead the team in minutes played, that's a very important factor in Toronto's bid to become and elite defensive outfit.

Now, that isn't to say there aren't still stragglers.

DeMar DeRozan remains the defensive weak-link in Toronto's starting five, and this preseason he's continued to blow rotational assignments. Meanwhile, Jose Calderon still has trouble staying in front of even the most antiquated opponents (like Pablo Prigioni on Friday in Montreal) given his lack of lateral quickness.

While the rest of the team can probably make up for their shortcomings, it will be worth keeping an eye on their minutes if their play begins to impact the team's ability to string together stops when they are on the court.

Also, one should not expect them to see much, if any, court time together because of their defensive inadequacies.
Chisholm: Can Raptors rank among NBA's elite defences?
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