A little while ago I wondered aloud whether or not this Raptors team would rank among the best ever. [Editor’s note: Post since deleted because a) it was just a listicle of good Raptors teams and b) 2019 happened.]
Now that they have been eliminated by the Nets, I think we can say that they were clearly not the best Raptors team ever – that is still the 2001 edition – but they rank up there and I think it might be fair to call them the second greatest as they not only won their division and set the team record for regular season wins – in an admittedly weak year – they came within one shot of making the second round for only the second time in franchise history.
During the regular season, the Raps were the 10th best offensive team (by points per 100 possessions), the 10th best defensive team (not that you could tell that in the playoffs), and the 12th best team overall (by basketball-reference’s simple rating system).
As usual, the players are listed by minutes played in the regular season. Also, as usual, I am not including players who didn’t finish the season with the Raps, such as Gay.
DeMar DeRozan, 24, SG/SF: Signed through 2017 at $9.5 million.
- 38.2 MPG;
- Per 36: 21.4P, 3.7A, 1S, 4.1R, .3B;
- 18.4 PER, .532 TS%, 8.8 WS.
- 40.3 MPG;
- Per 36: 21.3P, 3.2A, 1S, 3.7R, .3B;
- 18.3 PER, .550 TS%, .8 WS.
DeMar surprised the hell out of me this year. I had about written him off as a guy who was going to score 17 PPG for the rest of his career, and most of those points would be from bad jump shots and isolation drives.
But this year he made Colangelo’s contract extension look like a stroke of genius. I’m not just talking about the above numbers, as DeRozan became a major clutch player – getting to the line way more than ever and scoring tons in the 4th. I am impressed.
And then after a terrible first game, he performed even better in the playoffs.
He has become everything we fans hoped he would be when he was drafted. I still think his ceiling is second best player on a contender, at the very very best, but he’s looking a lot more valuable now than he did a year ago.
Kyle Lowry, 27, PG/SG: Signed through this summer at $6.21 mil.
- 36.2 MPG;
- Per 36: 17.8P, 7.4A, 1.5S, 4.6R, .2B;
- 20.1 PER, .567 TS%, 11.7 WS.
- 38.7 MPG;
- Per 36: 19.7P, 4.4A, .8S, 4.4R, 0B;
- 17.6 PER, .567 TS%, .7 WS.
Lowry was the team’s MVP this year – though DeRozan played more – and really deserved a trip to the all-star game. (I’m not biased! Lots of non-Raptors fans feel the same way.)
However, he was considerably more selfish in the playoffs and that was both to the team’s benefit (when he scored 36) and to their detriment – could he have made a better decision on the final play of the series? He had a great year and he is going to get paid.
But I hope for the team’s sake that it’s not us that pays him. It’s not that I don’t like him – I do. It’s just that he’s not a max guy and some idiot is going to throw max money at him this summer. I hope it’s not our idiot.
Jonas Valanciunas, 21, C: Signed through 2016 (team option) on a rookie deal.
- 28.2 MPG;
- Per 36: 14.5P, 11.3R, 1.1B, .9A, .4S;
- 16.1 PER, .579 TS%, 6.7 WS.
- 28.6 MPG;
- Per 36: 13.7P, 12.2R, 1.3B, .4A, 0S;
- 14.8 PER, .648 TS%, .3 WS.
Well, all those “I don’t want another European centre!” folks sure look like idiots now, no? This year was Val’s coming out party, even if nobody really paid attention until the playoffs. He still has a lot to learn – especially on defense, where the Nets sometimes made him look like he had no idea what he was doing – but he is only 21 and he’s a monster.
I expect big things by age 25 or so.
Amir Johnson, 26, PF: Signed through 2015 at $7 mil.
- 28.8 MPG;
- Per 36: 13P, 8.2R, 1.4B, 1.9A, .9S;
- 15.4 PER, .592 TS%, 6.3 WS.
- 27.3 MPG;
- Per 36: 14.5P, 7.9R, .8B, 1.3A, .6S;
- 16.3 PER, .672 TS%, .5 WS.
Amir remains the Raps’ best defensive player – despite his endless foul trouble – and continues to contribute offensively.
But he is obviously not a long-term solution at the 4, unless of course the Raps are getting all-star play at the other positions. (Likely at the 1 if Lowry is retained, likely at the 2 if DeRozan gets even better, not likely anywhere else – given the current roster – at least until Val gets older and wiser.)
I love Amir and his work ethic, but I expect he will be on his way out next year if the Raptors kind find a better option anywhere.
Terrence Ross, 22, SG/SF: On a rookie deal – team option in 2016.
- 26.7 MPG;
- Per 36: 14.7P, 1.3A, 1.1S, 4.2R, .5B;
- 23 PER, .553 TS%, 4.2 WS.
- 22.6 MPG;
- Per 36: 8P, .5A, 1.4S, 3.2R, .7B;
- 1.1 PER, .356 TS%, -.3 WS.
Despite a miserable playoffs, we have to look back on Ross’ sophomore season as a massive success: playing nearly double the minutes, Ross upped his Points Per 36 (by over a point) his PER (by nearly two points) and his true shooting percentage (by over 60 points). Basically, he was way way better this year. He was given more responsibility and, except for the playoffs, he showed he deserved it.
Obviously next year will be the season the Raps really judge him on, but hopefully this upward progress continues. At least as long as Ross is reasonably paid, trying how to play both DeRozan and Ross is a good problem to have.
Greivis Vasquez, 27, PG/SG: Free agent.
- 21.5 MPG;
- Per 36: 15.9P, 6.2A, .7S, 3.8R, 1.B;
- 14.2 PER, .537 TS%, 2.6 WS.
- 27.1 MPG;
- Per 36: 13.5P, 6.8A, .8S, 4.9R, .2B;
- 14.6 PER, .522 TS%, .4 WS.
Vasquez had an excellent partial season offensively for the Raps, and in the playoffs he was actually better, despite not scoring quite as much. The Lowry-Vasquez double PG lineup was destroying Brooklyn at times during the series before the wheels fell off.
The problem is that Vasquez is a sieve. Is he Calderon bad? I don’t know – he’s a different type of defender.
I’m really torn on what they should do here. I mean, if Lowry is too expensive they kind of need to bring Vasquez back – unless there is a suitable replacement in FA – but Vaquez absolutely cannot start if the Raps hope to make the playoffs next year. I sort of think he’s reached his ceiling as he was only slightly more efficient offensively in way more minutes during his career year of 2012-13.
So if he does come back, I hope he’s affordable enough that the Raps can afford someone else who can guard opposing 1s and 2s as well as Lowry.
John Salmons, 34, SF/SG: Signed through 2015 at $7 mil.
- 21.4 MPG;
- Per 36: 8.4P, 3.3R, 2.9A, 1S, .3B;
- 7.6 PER, .472 TS%, 1.4 WS.
- 12.8 MPG;
- Per 36: 6.1P, 2.8R, 2.3A, .9S, 0B;
- 3.4 PER, .373 TS%, 0 WS.
Salmons is done. I understand he was the price we paid to unload Gay, but he is done.
He showed it even more in the playoffs than in the regular season. Watching him miss 3 after 3 was horrible.
Hopefully we can find some way of unloading him in the summer.
Patrick Patterson, 24, PF: Free agent.
- 23.3 MPG;
- Per 36: 14.1P, 7.8R, 1.1B, 2A, 1.4S;
- 16.2 PER, .559 TS%, 3.4 WS.
- 28.4 MPG;
- Per 36: 13.2P, 8.5R, .5B, 1.6A, .5S;
- 17.4 PER, .7 WS.
Patterson impressed in limited minutes, especially in the playoffs (where, at least by win shares, he was the third most valuable player on the team).
I’d have him back if he’s not able to parlay this success into too much money.
Tyler Hansbrough, 28, PF: Signed until 2015 at just over $3 mil.
- 15.3 MPG;
- Per 36: 11.5P, 10.6R, .7B, .6A, 1S;
- 14.2 PER, .562 TS%, 3 WS.
- 9.7 MPG;
- Per 36: 8.7P, 7.4R, 0B, 1.2A, 0S (in 29 minutes);
- 5.1 PER, .621 TS%, 0 WS.
Hansbrough is what he is, and he was quite effective in that role in the regular season.
Not so much in the playoffs, where some of us actually thought he would be more valuable.
He’s clearly just a space-filler / role player until the Raps can get deeper.
Chuck Hayes, 30, C/PF: Signed until 2015 at just under $6 mil.
- 12.8 MPG;
- Per 36: 6.2P, 10.2R, 6.B, 1.8A, 1.4S;
- 9.6 PER, .467 TS%, 1.1 WS.
- 7.6 MPG;
- Per 36: 5.7P, 7.6R, 0B, 1.9A, 2.8S;
- 9.1 PER, .338 TS%, 0 WS.
Hayes was the other half of the price we paid to get rid of Gay, only I like to think that he contributed more than Salmons did when it counted.
Still, there’s no reason to keep him if the Raps can unload him on someone. (By the way, I never realized how short he was until this season.)
Steve Novak, 30, SF/PF: Signed until 2016 at $3.75 mil.
- 10 MPG;
- Per 36: 11.9P, 3.9R, .9A, .8S, .3B;
- 11.1 PER, .599 TS%, 1.4 WS.
Playoffs: played only 15 minutes and did not score.
Novak was part of the price we paid to get rid of Bargs. He’s a shooter but unfortunately this was the worst year of his career in that regard – Novak had career-lows in field goal %age, 3-point %age and true shooting (duh).
He’s going to be around for a bit, so the smart money (I think) would be to see if his percentages go back to normal next season, then attempt to move him. (Unless he’s shooting the lights out, then we may want to keep him around, so at least someone on this team does.)
Landry Fields, 25, SF: Signed until 2015 at $6.25.
- 10.7 MPG;
- Per 36: 7.6P, 6.6R, 2.2A, 1.1S, 3.B;
- 8.6 PER, .443 TS%, .4 WS.
- 8.7 MPG;
- Per 36: 0P, 9.7R, 1.4A, 5.5S, 1.4B (in 26 minutes);
- 11 PER, 0 WS.
Fields continues to make Colangelo look stupid, at least on offense. It’s worth noting that he might be the team’s best (wing?) defender, if he ever played enough to warrant such acclaim. For example, he was the only guy on the team who could actually defend Joe Johnson in the playoffs, only he took two shots and missed both of them. He’s pretty much untradeable, but at least he’s good at something.
That’s all the Raptors who played at least 250 minutes during the regular season.
I think expectations are probably way too high for these guys next year – especially if Lowry does not return – but I definitely think there’s a decent young core to build around (again, pending Lowry’s decision). I for one would be reasonably happy with a Lowry – DeRozan – 3-and-D guy – 20-10 guy – Valanciunas starting line-up going forward, if Lowry can be kept for a reasonable amount and the Raps can somehow acquire a 20-10 guy with whatever cap space they have left (no reason to do that this summer).
It’s not ideal. The Raps will likely lack a Top 10 NBA player until either they suck hard enough to draft one or they pull out some kind of crazy James Harden-to-Houston type trade, and I don’t think either of these things is happening any time soon.
But at least there’s something here, and at least the team is in a way better position in terms of its future direction than it was this time last year.