It's the holiday season and whatever traditions you choose to celebrate or not celebrate, one thing we can all agree on is that we want the best for the Toronto Raptors. We want them to be healthy, happy and successful. We want them to be a better team.
If you don't feel the same, well, then in the spirit of the holiday season, why don't you hit the bricks?
You heard me.
Beat it! Scram!
Now that that's taken care of, I thought we'd see if we can't help our boys out by sending some good wishes into the ether, to whatever non-denominational snow wizard you choose to demand presents from at this juncture of the calendar. The Raptors themselves are far too busy to worry about such trivial things, but here at HQ, we thought we'd put together your Raptors Holiday Wish List.
Let's start with our younglings, Norman Powell, Brunco Caboclo and Delon Wright. These guys just want to develop. And it's hard to develop on the bench. Powell and Caboclo were just sent down for a stint with the Raptors 905 team, and this makes a ton of sense. These guys weren't seeing any floor time with the Raptors, and the entire point of having your own D-League team is to develop young talent.
Personally, I'd love it if Wright could get back down there too, so these three guys could get some game time together. I get that this would leave the big team pretty under-staffed, particularly with DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas still injured, but maybe when 10-day contracts become a thing, we might see these all these young guys back together in the 905.
Anthony could fit into the previous group, but he's in his third NBA season, and with the pedigree of being a former 1st overall NBA pick, he's not looking to develop in the D-League at this point. He just wishes he could get some playing time. He got a shot last night against Dallas, as Patrick Patterson and James Johnson were both out. He responded by posting a team worst -12 in just under 10 minutes of floor time. Not ideal, Anthony! For a guy with the physical tools he seems to possess, you'd like to see him get some run, even if it's just in short spurts, or at the end of games. Otherwise, why is he on the roster at all?
Bebe would like 20 pounds of muscle immediately, but that's really more of a long term wish. He's already flashed quick feet and a deft touch around the basket and looks like he's setting himself up to be a front-court contributor for this Raptors team in both the short and long-term. However, even with the new NBA mentality of having mobile big men who can shoot, weighing 220 lbs when you're 7 feet tall is pretty darn slender. If he can add even a bit more strength, he's going to be a force to be reckoned with.
T-Ross would like some gosh darn consistency. Whether it's his mental approach, his practice time or his physical conditioning, nobody is really sure. He's been shooting much better this month and had another solid game against Dallas last night, but as all Raptor fans know, we've seen these flashes before. And even when his shot is falling, his defense has still been sporadic. T-Ross has all the tools to be a solid 3 and D NBA wing. He just needs to bring it every night.
The man they call 2Pat would like his three point shot back. Detailed wonderfully by our own Daniel Hackett, Postman Pat has been a very effective contributor this month, even if it's not showing up in a traditional box score. However, he'd become absolutely game-changing if his could nail the long ball more consistently. While it's hard to criticize a bench guy for being streaky from deep, we're dealing in wishes here!
It would be fantastic if Patterson could find his career 36% rate, or better yet, go on one of his patented white hot streaks, like after the trade from the Kings, where he shot 41%. It would also be great if this streak came while he was in the starting line-up, but one wish at a time!
This year, as he has asked for many times before, JJ wants a defined role. He doesn't care what it is, whether it's the back-up three, whether it's the eighth or ninth man off the bench, whether it's someone who plays bigger minutes in good match-ups. That's not important. He just wants to know what the hell is going on from game to game.
We here at HQ (or at least myself), want him to stop getting in his own way. Whenever he puts together a good stretch of play, he seems to dribble a ball of his foot on an ill-advised drive, commit a stupid foul or blow an easy defensive assignment. These glaring errors are far outweighed by his positive impact on the court, but unfortunately, the glaring errors stand out. Our wish is that Coach Casey find a spot for JJ and give him just a little bit more rope.
CoJo had a simple wish and he made it awhile ago. He couldn't wait for the holidays. He wanted some assistance. Like, any kind of help. With T-Ross and Patterson being a bit more effective off the bench, and Bebe showing signs of life, it looks like his wish is beginning to come true. And it's about time. For a long stretch there, Joseph was the only consistent performer off the bench for this Raptors team. How good was he? Well, even now, he appears in 11 of the top 12 Raptors five-man lineups, in terms of plus/minus. He's the kind of glue guy the Raptors have long lacked. Give the man what he wants!
Luis would like a time machine. For the savvy vet to have added a corner three to his game at this juncture of his career, is kind of like putting really nice tires on a car with 300,000 KM on it. If Scola were five years younger and could hit that corner three? He'd be a wonderful starting four next to Jonas Valanciunas. As it is now, he excels in certain match-ups and gets barbecued in others, mainly due to his slowing foot speed. He'd look a heck of a lot better in smaller doses (hint, hint Dwane).
Many Raptors fans have gotten their own wish with the way Biyombo's been playing recently. In his last five games, Bismack has put up 13, 18, 13, 15 and 20 rebounds, respectively. He's done a better job filling in for Jonas Valanciunas than we ever could have expected. However, Bismack still has a wish this year and that's for the gift of hands. We're not talking Hakeem Olajuwon hands, but maybe just like, Kevin Willis hands.
Toronto's guards have done a better job at putting him in a position to succeed of late, but that's come from their recognizing BB's limitations on offense. For a guy with his skill set to be shooting only 46%, particularly when he has just seven total assists on the season, really limits his effectiveness. The ability to consistently catch the ball in traffic and/or make a pass to a teammate would really push Biyombo to the next level as an NBA player.
DeMarre would like a new plantar fascia. Better yet, make that two.
JV-Nasty would like some luck. Another broken finger? The same one, but on the other hand? Come on! No, Kobe signing the cast didn't make it better!
Kyle would like a fourth gear. Even as he posted a fantastic 17-10-7 bounce back game against Dallas last night, you could clearly see that Lowry needs some rest. One key to this might be playing him less minutes of course, but the way Toronto plays, this often isn't possible. So our wish for Kyle, is for him to find that fourth gear, that speed that the elite point guards all seem to have. They can cruise along, playing at a high level and then really kick it up a notch when their team needs them. Kyle doesn't seem to have found any gear but fifth at this point in his career, and while that's admirable, it's not sustainable, as we witnessed in his second half last season.
DD would like continued stamina. Even if you include the 22 games he missed last season, DeRozan has been remarkably healthy throughout his NBA career, missing only 32 games in 7 seasons so far. He's played 82 games twice previously and hasn't averaged less than 34.8 minutes per game since his rookie year. His recent stretch of more efficient and creative play has even his more vocal doubters starting to take notice and this Raptors team is leaning heavily on him right now. He's currently averaging nearly identical counting stats to his All-Star season, but doing it in about 1.5 minutes less per night. He's achieving that by scoring more effectively from the field, but also by averaging a career high 8.4 trips to line, coupled with a career high .842% FT percentage. It appears the NBA's tortoise has taken another slow step forward. Here's hoping he can keep it going.
So there you have it! Our Raptors Holiday Wish List. If even half these things come true, this Raptors team has the potential to make some noise in the Eastern Conference playoffs this season.
From all of us here at HQ, we're wishing you and yours a delightful holiday season.