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Old 12-04-2012, 10:23 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Koreen: what to fix first?

Toronto Raptors need to figure out what to fix first | NBA | Sports | National Post

• If the Raptors had to prioritize their problems, defence would probably be at the top of the list. Before Tuesday evening’s games, Toronto is 25th in points allowed per possession, a year after finishing 14th. They are 27th in opponent’s field goal percentage a year after finishing tied for seventh. They are 26th in opponent’s three-point percentage a year after finishing fifth. Last year, Dwane Casey coaxed dramatic improvements on the defensive end from the Raptors. They have fallen off in almost every area. Improving the defence would be the quickest route to increased success. However, the Raptors’ problems go far beyond that.

• The Raptors are 21st in points per possession, a year after finishing 29th. It is a modest improvement, and one that would likely be more pronounced if Kyle Lowry did not injure his ankle in the fourth game of the year — he has not been the player since. Also related to Lowry’s injury: The Raptors are just 17th in pace of play, after spending much of the pre-season talking about the necessity of running. The Raptors would be running more if they were getting more stops.

• There can be no denying that Andrea Bargnani’s prime value is on the offensive end of the floor. It is kind of inexplicable, then, how he went from taking just four field-goal attempts on Friday against Phoenix (a win) to taking 20 in the loss to Denver. Debating Bargnani’s overall value necessitates a lot more than a few sentences — actually, it might make a good topic for a Master’s thesis — but it goes without saying that if he is on the floor, he loses much of his value if he is not trying to score.

• The first three players who started on the wing next to DeMar DeRozan — Landry Fields (out of the lineup indefinitely after ulnar nerve surgery), Dominic McGuire (recently released) and Linas Kleiza — brought virtually nothing to the table on either end of the floor. The Raptors are now relying on Mickael Pietrus, who was living in France a week ago, to fix that. Meanwhile, DeRozan’s offensive improvement following his contract extension remains a reality, but he is not a better defensive player than he has been in the past (although that is significantly impacted by what is going on around him).

Now, this is not a long justification for panic, although the roster, as ever, remains fundamentally flawed. However, the notion that the Raptors are merely a few good bounces away from being a decent team is misleading. When those bounces are so different in nature, it is hard to know what to attempt to fix first.

More to the point: With the NHL lockout on, this was a chance for the Raptors to take advantage of the quiet local sports scene. Instead, they have failed to even match the results of last year’s team, one that could be defined as short on talent but gritty with a single-minded purpose: defence.

This year’s Raptors? As of this very moment, they come without a definition. They are nowhere.
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