I decided not to do a full breakdown of last night's win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Raptors' third straight.
The Rapid Recap had covered the basics, and with a quick turnaround for TO, who face the Detroit Pistons tonight back home, I thought we'd go right into the preview of this evening's match.
The Dinos of course are seeking their fourth-straight win this evening, an unbelievable number when you consider the team had only four wins not too long ago. The team's been playing much better at both ends of the court, showing the defensive intensity and rotations we became accustomed to last year, and the offensive has some zip to it, the ball no longer sticking nearly as much and forcing one-on-five situations.
But it causes an interesting dilemma does it not?
With the losses piling up a week ago, all fans could do is hope the losing continued, all the way to a top three lottery pick, however slim the chances of that were.
And yet now with the current winning streak, the team finds itself crawling out of the league's basement, by no means a playoff contender, but certainly putting that 2013 draft pick squarely in the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder at the present rate.
So if you're the Raptors' GM, what do you do?
I posted a piece earlier today examining potential trade opportunities but the reality is, aside from moving Bargs just to move Bargs, anything else would likely be a knee-jerk reaction.
For instance the team needs help at the small forward position but the club just got Alan Anderson and Landry Fields back, the two off-season moves that were supposed to...ahhh...address this area of weakness.
There's probably no better time than now to move Jose Calderon and his expiring deal, especially with another potential point guard controversy looming and Jose playing out of his mind, but with Kyle Lowry out, how does everyone feel about 35 minutes a night of John Lucas III running the show? Sure, he's the most interesting man in the NBA, but unless BC is fully prepared to go #TANK then...
And that's why last night's win once again made me think about the flawed foundation Bryan Colangelo has built. Again this is a team that's caught in "no man's land" so to speak, only whereas in most years, at least "no-man's land" results in a top NCAA prospect.
This year it truly could be, "no-man."
Therefore the season to me suddenly has become a lot more intriguing as at some point very soon, Bryan Colangelo is going to have to show his hand. If he trades current talent for future prospects, we know which direction he's admitted the season is going.
If he stands pat, he either believe this club can still turn it around, or he's afraid to do more damage to his already faulty blueprint. (This could be by way of taking back pieces of little value in potential trades, as an aside, due to the market for his players.)
In that sense I envy tonight's opponent, the Detroit Pistons.
Their mandate is clear - develop the youngsters, continue collecting young assets. It's not perfect. I've never been sold on Austin Daye but as Grantland's Zach Lowe recently noted, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond have been very intriguing, Kyle Singler and Brandon Knight project to be solid future contributors, and they've got a great coach in Lawrence Frank, overseeing the rebuilding task. It may take another season or two, but Joe Dumars appears to be on the way to digging himself out of the mess he started with the drafting of Darko Milicic, and signings like those of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.
Will Bryan Colangelo change course and go in this direction?
I doubt it but another win tonight will likely play into his decision whatever it may be.
And to get that W, here are our three keys:
1) Continue Team Play. Post game last night Raptors' head coach Dwane Casey was quoted as saying "no one player tried to take over." Maybe that was a hidden shot at players like Kyle Lowry and Andrea Bargnani or maybe it was simply the truth regarding yet another win last night - it was an entire team effort.
I'll be looking to see a lot more of that tonight at both ends of the court against a frankly underwhelming Pistons' team. They rank in the bottom 10 of the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and don't stand out in too many other statistical categories. A full team effort from both the starters and the bench should put them in contention for a fourth-straight W.
2) Rebound the basketball. One of the Pistons' strengths however is their rebounding ability. Currently they sport the 13th best offensive rebounding rate in the NBA, with bigs like the aforementioned Monroe and Drummond along with Jason Maxiell being a potential nightmare tonight for the Raps. The Dinos' bigs need to be strong on the glass to prevent second-chance opportunities, something that killed Toronto last time these clubs met, and others like DeRozan, will likely have to help out too.
3) Jose Calderon. Calderon has been huge in this recent winning streak, not just because he's done a great job running Toronto's offense, but he's been much more aggressive looking to score too. When he does this, it completely changes the Dinos' offensive attack and suddenly teams can't simply key in on DeMar DeRozan. It also means a more involved Amir Johnson, who has always had great pick-n-roll chemistry with Mr. Calderon, and allows Dwane Casey to use two more defensive-oriented bigs, like Ed Davis and Johnson, together, as Jose's long-range shooting helps the team's spacing. Against a solid rebounding club like the Pistons, the Raptors may need to play Ed and Amir together a fair bit, so it will be up to Jose to ensure there's enough offensive firepower and long-range shooting on the floor at all times.