And now for round two...
Bayless was the toughest player for me to grade of our entire group. Like Andrea, he missed major chunks of time this season, and while he did show some major upside, it's hard to know just what to expect with Jerryd down the road.
If he's even around.
Bayless is a restricted free agent this off-season and it's anyone's guess if the Raps bring him back. The trick is that as a starter, he performed quite well and looked like he might make a nice scoring-guard option for a team. But unless he took over for Calderon in Toronto, it looks like he'd be coming off the bench (no way BC's giving up on DeMar. Whether he should or not is another story) and his "pine stats..." not so hot. Bayless himself has noted that he's a starter for a team so there's a good chance he's going to have to peddle his wares elsewhere next season.
Bottom line? I didn't give Bayless a thumbs up or down because while he didn't play enough to completely convince me that he could take over a starting spot for the Raps, he did surpass my expectations, put up some very solid numbers as a starter, and showed some tangible skillsets that this Raptors' team desperately needs, including an ability to get to the free-throw line and hit clutch shots.
Poor Amir. Essentially my favourite player from last year's team aside from Sonny Weems, Amir just didn't look like himself this season. He was still rehabbing his surgically repaired ankle to start the season, never really got into a consistent groove, and struggled with injuries and playing time all season.
Bottom line? He had his moments but it's hard to say that this year was anything but a step back for Johnson. My expectations for him weren't through the roof, but I did think he'd at least hit last year's key numbers and while he averaged the same number of rebounds per game, almost all his other totals were in decline despite playing essentially the same minutes.
If Amir gets a thumbs down, Ed definitely has to. Yep, with increased PT towards the end of the season there were moments of hope, but overall this was a disappointing campaign for the former Tar Heel, especially considering how successful his rookie campaign was.
Bottom line? Essentially Raptors' fans saw the same player this year as last and that might not be enough to keep him around for another campaign. He's a terrific rebounder, but until he starts to show some semblance of an offensive game and gets a lot stronger, it's hard to see just where his future with the team lies.
One of the other few "thumbs ups" we're doling out goes to James Johnson. Johnson gets the biggest one on the club in my books considering a) the expectations many of us had of him going into the season and b) his sizeable defensive contributions.
Bottom line? Thanks to his size, athleticism, length and instincts, the Raps may have found themselves a Shawn Marion-light for the future. He might not be a starter, but it's hard to see how someone with his abilities won't be an asset for this club down the line. Not bad for a player the team got in exchange for the 28th overall pick in last year's draft.
In many ways, DeRozan's season was a carbon-copy of his last. Early season struggles, some post All-Star break signs of hope, and continued shooting woes from long-range. The DeMar DeRozan of 2011-12 was essentially the same one as 2010-11 and the numbers indeed bear that out. It's almost uncanny in fact when you gaze at last year's stats and compare them to his previous season as they're neck-and-neck. Statistically there wasn't much you could hang your hat on in terms of growth and unfortunately there were some categories where he regressed.
Even more disappointing for me though was DeRozan's play minus Andrea Bargnani. The hope was that DD would step up, at least on offense, particularly towards the end of the season when guys like Jerryd Bayless and Leandro Barbosa were also out of the picture for a variety of reasons. I mean, there was no choice but TO run the offense through him, and yet there was hardly a nudge in productivity when you compare his scoring in games Bargs played, to games Bargs sat out:
With Andrea: 15.4 points
Without Andrea: 16.7 points
We'll do further digging into his play as the go-to option when we do our off-season player evaluations, but less than a two-point increase in points per game despite a higher usage rate, at face value, is obviously a concern.
Bottom line? The word of BC and Casey in terms of advancements in maturity and on D don't cut it. This year's version of DeMar was essentially the same as the last and we've yet to see anything resembling a starting calibre NBA shooting guard. I'ts great that he was recently named to the Team USA Select Team but without huge strides this offseason, it's hard to see how DD doesn't get another "thumbs down" next season too.
Yep, we're even adding in the D Leaguers here. Who knows, maybe they both end up with the Raptors next year and considering both Anderson and Uzoh played extensive minutes towards the season's end, well we figured we'd throw them in the mix.
Anderson is maybe the easiest "thumbs up" for me considering the expectations many had, and while I don't think anyone's going to confuse him with Kobe Bryant any time soon, his overall game made him a positive contributor to the club.
Bottom line? In all honesty it was hard for me to see much difference between Anderson and DeMar DeRozan in terms of contributions many-a-time and I'm hoping he finds a role for himself in the league next year, if not with the Raps than with another club.
While Uzoh did rattle off the Raptors' first triple-double in over a decade to end the season, I didn't see enough to go all the way with a thumbs up. I liked some of what he brought to the table, particularly in terms of defense and rebounding, but he pretty much did what I'd expect from most D Leaguers in his position.
Bottom line? Uzoh showed me enough this year to take a second look, potentially next year as a third-stringer, but he needs to make some major strides with his shot before he can get into the "thumbs up" category.
Carter was brought in to provide stability and veteran leadership at the point guard spot. Instead, he looked more like Milt Palacio in his final Raptors' days and eventually the team told him he was free to find another home.
Bottom line? Not a big thumbs down considering expectations and financial commitment, but I think fans did at least expect Carter to play the Darrick Martin role to a T.
The funny thing about this thumbs down is that while Butler was terrible, I think most of us at the HQ, readers, writers, commentators, whatever, saw this coming. I mean, sure, Rasual shot over 50 per cent from 3-point range last year with the Bulls. But that was over six games! In his previous three seasons he hit only about a third of his long-range shots and his field goal percentages during those times? Yikes.
And sure enough, Rasual, kept up his frosty touch by shooting 31 per cent of his field goals (including 27 per cent from long range) during his time with the Dinos.
Bottom line? Somehow Butler was even worse than expected and like Carter, was was let free to find himself another team in time for the post-season push. Cricket...cricket...