The Toronto Raptors have been playing awful basketball since coming out of the all star break. They’ve lost 8 of their past 9 and 8 of 10 since the all-star break, dropping them down to 4th in the eastern conference with a record of 38-25. Sitting half a game back of Chicago, the Raptors have suffered embarrassing losses, not only to the beatable Charlotte Bobcats, but even the lowly New York Knicks, who have only won 12 games all year and sit last in the cellar of the East.
A few thoughts come to mind when trying to understand what’s caused this drought…
Kyle Lowry’s Carried the Team too Long
The Raptors have been relying on Lowry to spark their entire offense throughout the season. The Raptors all-star’s numbers before the all star break were superb: 18.6 points, 7.2 assists, 4.8 rebounds, along with 1.6 steals, per NBA.com. As the season has progressed though, I’ve noticed Lowry doesn’t have the same pep in his step that he did for the first two-three months of the season. While fatigue and nagging injuries surely are bugging him, Lowry has been forced to play a huge role in the team’s offense each and every night, since the Raps really don’t have anyone else that can involve their teammates. Furthermore, Lowry, aside from DeRozan, is the only player on the team that can create his own shot. Lowry’s already rested two games since the all-star break, since returning though he hasn’t looked to be in all-star form.
DeRozan’s Been Playing “Hero Ball”
At the end of close games, it seems DeRozan is always taking a difficult midrange pull-up jump-shot to try and be the ‘hero’ for his team. This trend is especially apparent when the Raps are trailing in a close game. Take last night for example: in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter, DeRozan took four jump shots, making only one of them. Instead of resorting to the jump shot, DeRozan should look to utilize his underrated passing ability and continue getting his teammates involved, rather than continue looking Rudy Gay-like (isolation-heavy). The extra pass, when initiated, was working wonders last night for the Raptors (the first half showed that).
Potential Solution: Get Jonas Involved!
Aside from a required improvement on the defensive end of the floor, the continued development of big man Jonas Valanciunas is crucial if the Raptors want to achieve future success. The third-year Lithuanian centre is slowly getting himself involved in the Raptors late-game rotations, which is certainly a good sign. As long as Valanciunas can make the most of his post-up opportunities and exert himself as a defensive presence, while staying out of foul trouble, the Raptors should see their fortunes of late improve. Of course Valanciunas is a work in progress, but the Raptors need solutions to solve their woes of late. His increased usage would be a good solution to explore in the coming games.