Looking at Toronto, You can understand what they are doing, without understanding exactly what they are doing!
On one hand, you have one of the most potent back courts in all of the NBA. While Kyle Lowry’s ranking amongst the top NBA guards is debatable, his value on the Raptors is clear. His stifling defense cements Toronto’s ” never back down” culture. And while he isn’t the greatest offensive weapon, he is a reliable 20 to 22 point scorer a night. What Lowry lacks in offense is well made up for in DeMar DeRozan.
Quite as it’s kept, Lowry has problems dodging the injury bug. The 2003-04 season was the last time he played all 82 games and his age doesn’t help either (31 years old.) More times than not, DeRozan has picked up the load when Lowry is sidelined. He is arguably a top-5 two guard in all of basketball and he is the leader of this solid Raptors team. DeRozan IS the best midrange shooter in the NBA and his smooth, highflying dunks night after night give the team energy and soul. When both Lowry and DeRozan are on the floor, the Raptors are one of the best teams in the East. And with quality role players like Serge Ibaka, Norman Powell, and Jonas Valanciunas they have every opportunity to make some noise come playoff time.
What is hard to understand however is Toronto’s refusal, or inability, to adapt to the new age of the NBA. Last season, the team was one of the worst from shooting behind the arch. With all of DeRozan’s greatness, he is both a terrible defender and an equally terrible three point shooter, and it doesn’t stop with him. Outside of Lowry and Ibaka (on certain nights), Toronto’s best three point shooter is newly acquired CJ Miles (which is not saying much.) And speaking on Ibaka, his game has changed from a “defensive player of the year” candidate to a shoot first, ask questions later “stretch four”. During this offseason, there were several shooters available such as J.J Redick, Nick Young, and Otto Porter, but Toronto struck out every time. This problem rears its’ ugly head more than ever in the playoffs. The Raptors have run into LeBron James and the Cavs the last two postseasons. On top of not having anyone who can slow down “The King,” they can never keep up with Cleveland scoring wise. NONE of these problems were addressed in free agency this year (unless they think Powell and Miles are worthy of this task, LOL.)
This offseason saw Lowry and Ibaka get huge extensions, Nike take over the league, and all the top teams get better, that is every team except Toronto.
Keeping your solid backcourt in tact is understandable, but staying with a formula that clearly hasn’t worked when it matters the most is head scratching.