When we look back at the record books, we'll be able to say the 2014-15 Toronto Raptors improved. Oh sure, I'm sure you can dig up advanced stats (or even basic stats, really) to suggest differently. The second half of the season in Toronto was not particularly kind, and the less said about the defense the better. But still, the Raptors finished 49-33, the best mark in franchise history. That's something.
In looking back, it's time to assess how each player did overall. It's the Raptors End of Season Report Card.
Kyle Lowry - A- (Mid-season: A)
It was a year of vindication for Lowry. He made the All-Star team as a starter and raged against the dying of the light as well as anyone has in Toronto for some time. Lowry's grade slides a bit here due to a gradual decline in his numbers - his assists and shooting numbers are considerably worse than last season, for example. But, as has been said, the Raptors will go as far as Lowry can take them, and he's not looking to quit just yet.
DeMar DeRozan - B+ (Mid-season: INC)
I was probably too kind to DeRozan's first half of the season. It was not demonstrative of the type of play Toronto needs from its dynamic wing player. But since coming back from injury and shaking some of the considerable rust off, DeRozan has been, largely, the player we all want him to be: scoring in a myriad of ways, getting to the free throw line, and trying to stop some of the best wing players in the game. He gets a C+ for the lost months of the season (and an A+ for keeping the Raps competitive down the stretch).
Terrence Ross - D (Mid-season: C-)
If you had a problem with Ross before the season, this year did not help. As the supposed "3 and D" guy on the team, Ross' defense has been largely lacklustre and/or inattentive, while his 3-point shooting has come and gone. Ross can still finish at the rim when he wants to, but his obvious tentativeness with the ball at times has many screaming at him in frustration. Ross is talented, but until he realizes how talented, he's graded here.
Amir Johnson - B (Mid-season: B+)
Johnson gets a pass based purely on heart alone. The typical big Amir games are largely a thing of the past now - he only had six double-doubles on the season after all. Johnson can still be counted on to do the little, heady things that can make a difference for the Raptors; it's just the big things that are sadly beginning to elude his grasp. A B-grade feels appropriate here, Amir was always slightly undervalued and underrated, but he got the job done.
Jonas Valanciunas - A- (Mid-season: B)
Your view on Jonas depends entirely on whether you think he should be more or less involved with the team. It's clear he's talented, the question is whether or not the team should cede more time to him in the post (even if his defensive and rebounding skills are sometimes questionable). From the grade it's clear which side I'm on: feed the big fella and let's see what happens.
Greivis Vasquez - D+ (Mid-season: C+)
Like Ross, this season has not been kind to Vasquez. He's been completely exposed as a defensive liability as teams have time and again put him in the pick-and-roll blender to great effect. The plus of Vasquez has and always been his tireless confidence on offense, whether as a shooter or a passer. He gets a plus here over Ross because, well, he never looks tentative.
Lou Williams - B (Mid-season: B)
Is it Lou's fault the ball always ends up in his hands at the end of quarters and games? With Williams, you love, love, love him on your team when he's hitting, and cry in agony when he's missing. As the favourite to win the Sixth Man of the Year award this season, Lou's done what's been asked of him: shoot, shoot again and, hey, shoot some more. Can't kill him for that.
Patrick Patterson - B (Mid-season: B-)
If there's a knock on Patterson it's that he never quite seems to be able to put together all of his considerable skills at once. When he's shooting fire from beyond the arc, his rebounding struggles; when his defensive prowess looms large, his points per game disappear. As perhaps the most significant Raptor off the bench (for his jack-of-all-trades skill set and IQ), you'd like to see a bit more consistency from the team's lone stretch-4.
James Johnson - A (Mid-season: A-)
There will be tomes written on the story (and treatment) of James Johnson this season. Where to begin? He's been impossible to defend in the post, a poor outside shooter (except when he hits game-winning 3s), capable of guarding anyone, a dyer of hair, a standing back-flipper, he cocks joints back to bang on'em. Plainly put, the Raptors have consistently looked better, tougher, sharper when Johnson has been on the court.
Tyler Hansbrough - B+ (Mid-season: C+)
I think we are collectively too hard on Hansbrough. I gave him a C+ for the first half of the season which in retrospect is crazy. The dude is a workhorse, does everything that is asked of him either coming off the bench or starting, badgers his opponents, hustles, rebounds. And, at an eye-popping +25, Hansbrough's got the best net rating on the team. We'll miss Tyler when he's gone.
Chuck Hayes - B (Mid-season: A-)
The Hayes highlight package comes mostly from the first half of the season - the Gasol defense in that early Memphis game, the Drummond showdown in Detroit. The Chuck Wagon has mostly settled into his role as a congenial veteran presence and for that, as always, we are thankful.
Greg Stiemsma - C (Mid-season: C)
God bless Greg Stiemsma, he continues to exist. Didn't take anything away from the season and didn't really add anything. Keep on, keeping on, Greg.
Landry Fields - C+ (Mid-season: B)
We've done it, we've reached the end of the Landry Fields era in Toronto. Our man got into 26 games this season, started nine, hit his first 3-pointer in a year and threw a behind the back pass in that same game. Then, he disappeared into anonymity once again. Not sure we'll miss Landry, but it was a hell of a ride wasn't it?
Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Noguiera - A (Mid-season: A++)
What's to add here? Both Brazilians spent time in the D-League, both didn't get much of a chance to play in the NBA, and both are feel-good stories when they do pretty much anything. Bebe spent time being injured, Bruno spent time looking overwhelmed, and we're now just one year away from being two years away. I'll remain optimistic.
Bonus Marks: Dwane Casey - C+ (Mid-season: B)
Casey is a media-savvy coach who is hard not to like. This is true. That said, as the season progressed and teams began figuring out the identity of these Raptors, he did not make enough adjustments to alter the trajectory of the team. We'll never understand exactly why James Johnson played as little as he did for stretches. We'll never completely understand the lack of trust in Valanciunas, even though he's the key to this team's future. And sure, we'll never understand why he went back again and again to Lou in end of the quarter/game situations. Casey is a good coach to have, but he may not be the great coach this team needs in the future.
So, how would you grade each Raptor?