'30 Teams in 30 Days' 2015-2016 NBA Season Preview: #13 Toronto Raptors

By Rob Perez
Oct 9, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
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  • Odds to win the 2015-2016 NBA Championship: 75:1
  • 2014-2015 Record: 49-33 (Defeated by Washington, East Quarterfinals)
  • 2015 Draft Results:
    • Delon Wright, University of Utah (20th Overall)
  • Key Offseason Additions: DeMarre Carroll, Luis Scola, Bismack Biyombo, Cory Joseph
  • Key Offseason Losses: Amir Johnson, Greivis Vasquez, Tyler Hansbrough
  • Projected Starting Lineup:
  • Player Salaries
  • Season in Review

The Good: The entire team, as it’ been for the past couple of years, is the Raptor backcourt. Not only does Toronto have two all-star guards starting in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, they are both underpaid (DeRozan especially) versus what they’d get if they were free agents right now in this expanded salary cap market. That’s not a good thing in today’s NBA where seemingly everyone is overcompensated – it’s a great thing.

Also, we can’t go on without mentioning the breakout season of Jonas Valanciunas (on offense at least). He posted a career-high P(layer) E(fficiency) Ra(ating) of 20.6, 12 points per game, and an absolutely absurd offensive rating of 121. That means the Raptors, when Jonas is on the floor, are averaging 1.21 every possession when the total sample size is 100. You won’t find many players in the NBA who will be able to say they matched this statistic last season – even the great LeBron James. And finally: Jonas was arguably the team’s most important player, as he single-handily produced the most amount of wins for the club during last year’s campaign…

The Raptors obviously agreed with this assessment, as they inked the Lithuanian national to a 4 Year/$64 million extension with the franchise this Summer.

The Bad: DeRozan’s efficiency. Listen, he is an all-star for a reason – and not just because he scores lots of points in a top-heavy Eastern Conference. The guy has all the talent in the world to be an elite offensive player. However, don’t let his averages and all-star recognition blind you from what he truly is – a poor man’s version of Carmelo Anthony: a volume shooter who doesn’t make anyone else better. In fact, the Raptors are actually worse when he plays.

In 60 games started last season, DeMar posted a team-worst -5 Rating (104 ORTG/109 DRTG) while every other member of the starting five was at least +3. And hold on to your butts for this one: he was DEAD LAST ON THE ENTIRE ROSTER (of players who qualify) in box score plus/minus at -1.6. There is literally no way to play devil’s advocate here; when DeRozan was on the floor for the Raptors, they were worse than when he absent.

Also, remember that chart from above where I was illustrating Valanciunas’ contributions to winning last season? You know who’s not on there? DeMar DeRozan. That’s because he’s all the way down here…

I can sit here all day and tell you DeMar DeRozan is the most overrated player in the NBA, so, instead of shoving it down your throat – I’ll leave you with this little tidbit: 23% … TWENTY THREE PERCENT … of ALL field goals attempted by DeRozan last year were between 10 and 16 feet away from the basket. The closest player on the roster to this figure? Lou Williams, the bad shot GOD, at 12.4%. I guess it doesn’t matter if they go in though, right?

Well…he shot 37% from this distance.

To make matters even worse: DeMar was the usage leader on the team (28% of all Raptor play in 2014-2015 ran through him) and it wasn’t even all that close. Meaning: these mid-range jumpers he was consistently jacking up and bricking weren’t a dime-a-dozen … they were happening regularly. He still ended up getting his numbers, but, at what cost?

Until DeMar’s shot selection adjusts to what he does best: getting to the rim and finishing, this team is going absolutely nowhere in the playoffs.

The Ugly: This team’s defense is an absolute joke. Maybe it’s because their point guard is like three feet tall and couldn’t guard his own shadow, or, DeRozan’s version of defense is yelling “Help!” as his opposition blows by him within three steps, or, Jonas Valancuinas is the softest big man I have ever seen … but, honestly: it’s so bad I don’t even know how to fix it.

The Raptors’ 107.7 Defensive Rating (Points allowed by team per 100 possessions) ranked 25th out of 30 teams – which translates to allowing 100.9 total points per game, 11th worst in the league. K, fine: maybe it’s because they play fast? Nope. 92.8 Pace rating ranked as 9th slowest in the NBA.

Reminder: This was a Playoff Team.

At this point, the Raptors shouldn’t even care about the technicalities of a defensive system … play with some friggin heart first – and then we’ll talk.

  • Baseless God Wob

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: the Raptors flat out stink. They are like the Dwight Howard of franchises – you look at them and you’re like: “WOW, WHAT AN IMPRESSIVE PRESENCE!” and then you watch ‘em play and you’re like “ugh, what a waste of my time…”

Yeah, they’re going to make the playoffs … yeah, they’re stacked with talent which will probably result in three all-star nominations … yeah, they’ve got an awesome home court – I don’t really care… they’re soulless, their coach is a ‘yes’ man, and with the exception of their barely six-foot-tall point guard — they are as soft as Charmin toilet paper. As Charles Barkley would say: “The toughest guy on your team can’t be only six feet tall.”

I have nothing against the franchise personally, it just bugs me that these guys should be so much better than they truly are.

I will give them credit, however: they did go out this Summer and make a huge free agency splash in the form of DeMarre Carroll.

For all the playoff cojones that the Raptors lacked in year’s past, they quickly addressed the issue by bringing in “The Junkyard Dog” – who is arguably the “grittiest” player in the NBA. The only other candidate I’ll consider at this time for this recognition is Draymond Green or Matthew Dellavedova. Simply put: he’s one of those rare guys in the league that does everything, whether it’s recorded in the box score as a statistic … or not. In addition: he can not only guard every position on the floor, he wants to.

It’s clear that there’s a culture change going on north of the border, as Toronto traded away Greivis Vasquez – who was actually really good for the Raptors last year, but, was an atrocious defender. His place in the lineup will eventually be filled by Rookie Delon Wright, who was touted to be one of the best defensive players in the entire draft.

Masai Ujiri then declined to re-sign popular (offensive-minded) Amir Johnson, watched him walk to Boston, and then went out and used his available cap space to sign Bismack Biyombo from the Charlotte Hornets – who couldn’t throw a basketball into the ocean if he tried, but, is a legit interior defender whose presence the Raptors will undoubtedly need at some point.

And finally: the most “Yup, they’re stacking their deck with as many good defenders as they can get their hands on” indicative signing of the Summer – the San Antonio Spurs’ third-string point guard, Cory Joseph, who the Raptors gave 4 years/$22 million. You’re not going to see Cory on many YouTube mixtapes, but, there’s a reason why he’s known as “CuJo” throughout the league – as his defensive prowess earned him this ludicrous contract. (Quick side note: Is signing with the Spurs not like the best business decision ever? Every year, some bench guy from the organization (Marco Belinelli too), who played maybe 20 minutes a game, gets scooped up in free agency and is given a mammoth contract in re: to their statistical production with the Spurs.)

Please excuse all of my scorching hot takes here, but, I truly believe an infusion of a “killer mentality” will do WONDERS for the Raps. While they have their systematic issues (like pretty much everyone else), there is enough talent on this club that some occasional effort and passion will cover up a lot of their blemishes.

I’ll leave you with this:

Once, just once … I want to see Jonas Valanciunas get angry/a flagrant foul/ejected.

Once, just once … I want Coach Dwane Casey to have the balls to bench DeRozan when he’s not having a good night.

Once, just once … I want to see this Raptors team take some pride in their defense.

Once, just once … I would like a reason to not change the channel whenever I see these guys on my TV.

  • 2015-2016 Season Projection:
    • 45-37 Record
    • 6th Place in East
    • Playoff Prediction: Eastern Conference Quarterfinalists
  • Fan Mindset, as told by Hollywood:
    • Andy Dufresne, Shawshank Redemption

Escaping the first round won’t be easy, but, if the Raptors are willing to climb through a mile of shit … they have all the things in place to come out clean.

  • Baseless God Wob’s 3 Divine Questions:
  • With only two years left on his contract, should the Raptors extend DeMar DeRozan RIGHT NOW while his value is at its lowest?
  • Could the Raptors be successful by putting DeMarre Carroll at power forward and rolling with high-tempo small ball?
  • If the Raptors fail to get out of the first round again, should Dwane Casey be fired?

OTHER NBA SEASON PREVIEWS/PRESEASON RANKINGS:

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