When I left for Las Vegas about five days ago, Rudy Gay was bricking contested jumpers right and left.
It was therefore a joy to see that upon my return to Toronto last night, Gay was not only doing more of the same, but his inefficient ways had spread to his teammates as well.
Yes, I'm obviously talking about last night's Raptors - Rockets double-overtime match-up which marked an NBA record for futility. The Dinos hit only 33 per cent of their shots, but more importantly, took over a 100 in the loss, and had ONLY 10 ASSISTS ALL GAME.
And yes, again, that was over four normal quarters of play as well as two overtime periods.
Think about that stat for a second.
Over 100 shots (114 in fact), and only 10 assists. How is that even possible?
It appears the answer lies in the current construction of this team which features two high-volume wings who aren't such efficient offensive options, nor who are exactly big facilitators. On the season, Rudy Gay is shooting 36 per cent from the field and his back-court compatriot DeMar DeRozan is shooting a nearly identical mark. Both players are also averaging under three assists, and Gay is in fact averaging more turnovers per contest than assists.
Considering the vast majority of the Raptors' offence is running through this duo (they took 62 of the 114 shots last night), this is not exactly a good thing. Unless this duo either begins hitting shots at a much higher clip, or other players start to carry more of the offensive load, we're likely in for a repeat of this movie night after night.
And yet it's hard to imagine things changing very much.
Neither player has ever been a big-time facilitator or high-efficiency player, and both have a tendency to work in isolation, even when set plays are drawn up. A perfect example of this was last night at the end of the fourth quarter. The Raptors had the ball and a chance to win the game, only Rudy Gay after receiving the inbounds pass, elected to dribble the ball into the floor for the bulk of the clock before settling for contested step-back, long-range, two-pointer. It was classic Rudy Gay as nary a teammate touched the ball, and Houston's defence didn't need to move an inch. The Toronto Sun's Ryan Wolstat reported today that Head Coach Dwane Casey had designed a play, but for whatever reason, Gay elected to go one-on-five.
(As an aside Casey's obviously not beyond fault in this offensive mess - what the hell happened in Charlotte while I was away??? - but it's pretty hard to throw him completely under the bus when things like this happen. Hell, Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach could be co-coaches drawing up sets and we'd still see possessions like this.)
Now I realize I'm preaching to the choir a bit. Most of our RaptorsHQ readership viewed last season's Rudy Gay acquisition with at least an ounce or two of skepticism and indeed, what we're seeing right now shouldn't be much of a surprise. Gay and DeRozan were always viewed as a rough fit unless one of the two found a way to remodel their games, and the club since last season, hasn't built any different around them. As The National Post's Eric Koreen recently noted, this is still Bryan Colangelo's mess and as the losses pile up, Masai Ujiri is going to have to make some tough decisions.
The obvious point though is that the present cast isn't working, and never will - at least not to the point of serious playoff contention. The club has enough talent to beat the dregs of the league, the Boston's and Milwaukee's, and on the odd night when both DeMar and Rudy are firing on all cylinders, they'll steal one or two from some of the NBA's best.
But that's about it. We're eight games into the 2013-14 season and it's already "Welcome back to Mediocreville."
The ironic thing is, much of the talk during pre-season was whether or not the Raptors should be looking to trade away key players in effort to tank, and at the current pace, they may not even need to do that. Call it #organictank, as some of mentioned on Twitter, or simply fate based on the way the club was constructed, but the Dinos could be headed back to the lottery even without a major makeover. They've even snagged a spot on ESPN's Tank Rank, coming in at number seven, and that was prior to last night's debacle.
It'll be up to Masai Ujiri and his team to decide how far they want to fall (or rise) on rankings such as these, but whichever direction they decide to go, let's just hope they get the voyage underway sooner rather than later. I'm not sure I can take another season of what we're currently seeing on the court.