Defining The Toronto Raptors Roster
Surprisingly to everyone who believes they are experts in the National Basketball Association the Toronto Raptors are leading the Atlantic Division and sit in third place in the Eastern Conference. DeMar DeRozan just came off his first All-Star appearance in New Orleans and the Raptors have thirty games remaining to close out what has been a very successful season: so far.
General Manager, Basketball Operations, Masai Ujiri has continued his Executive of the Year work bringing over his excellent decision making and leadership from the Denver Nuggets. The trade deadline is approaching and his phone will be ringing off the hook until 3PM E.S.T Thursday.
Ujiri and coach Dwane Casey must be excited for the season to restart tonight in Washington against the Wizards. Usually during the All-Star break the hierarchy of the team gets together and assesses the roster what they all need to do to continue their winning ways. Imagine if you could be a fly on the wall at the Air Canada Center listening into Ujiri’s and Casey’s discussion. Here is what all Raptors fans would have wanted to hear in that boardroom about each player:
The Starting Five
There is a reason I chose to speak about you first Kyle Lowry. You are the catalyst and the stick that stirs the drink for the Raptors. You need not to be traded. You need to stay in a Raptors uniform for at least until the end of the season and hopefully a playoff run. Keep being your aggressive self, playing with a chip on your shoulder and believing you are the best point guard in the East. Take your All-Star snub and use it when you go head to head against John Wall, Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving all players you have out played. The key is that you need to stay healthy. The Raptors are a different team with you at full speed so don’t go under the basket after rebounds or trying to wrestle the ball away from big men. That is where you hurt your fingers or turn your ankles. Play every night like you are trying out for a new big dollar contract which by the way you are doing.
DeRozan, as the team All-Star, you must continue to be one of the best shooting guards in the league. You need to keep going to the basket which leads to the referees giving you the benefit of the doubt and putting you on the line. Play like you belonged in the All-Star game demanding the ball every time down the court. Don’t start settling for jump shots. Don’t believe in your own hype as you are still young and still need to improve your game. It may not hurt to play a little defence but all in all keep doing what you are doing.
Terrence it’s time for you to forget that you scored 51 points in a game and go back to doing what you were doing in January. Your playing time only increased when you became the team’s defensive stopper. Be the fourth option on offence but make your money guarding the best scorer on the opposition team. The playing time will be there if you continue to understand your role. Be consistent with his three point shot but more importantly go to the hoop with authority. A couple of rim rattling dunks always helps the home crowd get behind the team. Remember one thing, you will never score 51 again so move on.
Johnson please stay healthy. You are by far the hardest working player on the team. The fans love you and the opposing teams hate that you get every rebound or loose ball. Do yoga, stretch longer and get tons of massages. You have done a good job defending the low post and a real good job in the pick and roll on the offensive side of the game. When healthy you are the most consistent player on the Raptors. Do that and the rest of the season might go down are your and the team’s best.
Keep improving JV is the mantra you can should hear every day from Ujiri and Casey. You have become the third option on the team and it has been refreshing to see how hard you work. You need to learn how to stay out of foul trouble as the referees have been keying on your early. Keep adding new post moves to your game and make sure you understand how to get solid low post position. That will be the key in getting those easy baskets and drawing fouls from opposing centres. All in all, it has been a good season but now the fans and the Raptors are expecting more.
The Sacramento Four: Thank You Rudy Gay
Keep doing what you have been doing which has been providing offense off the bench and ending games on the court with the ball in your hands. You have been a revelation for a team that hasn’t had bench scoring in a long time. You have been smart knowing when to shoot the three or drive the lane. Don’t change anything you are doing.
As a back-up point guard your job is to get everybody involved and keep the flow going when Lowry is on the bench. For the most part that is what you have done. Continue your mastery of the pick and roll and keep coming in with that Latino attitude believing you can beat anyone. Your shot needs to improve as that has been the sole ingredient missing in your game.
Remember the name Charles Oakley, play like him and everything else will fall in place. You have used your big body to perfection and when asked put in some work down low, you have excelled. Do that and you will always have a place in the rotation. Keep working with assistant coach Jamal Magloire and learn how to finish around the basket with both hands.
Since the trade you have been the consummate veteran. You know when to score and when to be the sidekick. You have been become the go to guy when the shot clock ticks down and also the go to guy to shut down the star opposing player. Keep using your head and show the others how to play the game.
The Rest Of the Rotation
Get healthy and stay healthy for the rest of the way. There are nights where the team is down and they need your energy and, yes, dirty play to get the momentum changed. That’s all the team needs and remember there will be nights where you don’t play but then again there will be nights that you hear ‘Physho T’ being chanted at the Air Canada Centre.
You need to be ready at anytime to come in and hit that big three. You have done that your entire life so sit there until your name is called and don’t hesitate to pull that trigger. Most nights you won’t see the floor but I know you understand that and know exactly what your role is.
The Bench Warmers
Stay warm and stay healthy but don’t expect too much playing time. Your hands have failed you and sadly you will sit at the end of the bench the rest of the way. Keep working hard in practice to try to get your shooting touch back. If Novak gets hurt, then and only then will you get playing time.
You are the back-up back-up back-up point guard. That is your role. Yes you will dress for some games but you will be rooted to the end of the bench. Your job is to work hard in practice and cheer loud when something good happens on the court.
Your game didn’t flourish with the Detroit Pistons and it hasn’t in Toronto either. You won’t be dressing for very many games for the rest of the season. Look good in suits and keep working hard on off days to get some of your game back.
Much like Daye, you need to continue to improve your suit game. Be a cheer leader and use the rest of the season to learn about yourself and your game. Just be happy you haven’t been sent to the D-League yet.
Pass The Pill Contributor Shahab Khan @SchoolboyShebe