Tag Archives: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Lady Luck not Really a Raptor Fan

On Wednesday night the Raptors, and their fans will be hoping and praying for some lottery luck to help expedite the turnaround of this franchise. Whether it’s a rabbit foot, a troll doll, or a purple horse shoe, fans will be bringing out their lucky charms to help send the Raptors positive energy in the hopes that one of the Raptor ping-pong balls comes out first.   

Though the team has shown glimpses of success and has a great deal of free agent money to spend, The Raptors really lack a clear franchise player. This type of player is available, but not likely if they stay where they are at the number 9 spot. 

Either Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could turn the Raptors fortune around immediately if the Raptors were to have the opportunity to select them.

The days of Vince and CB4 are gone.  Although there is little reason to doubt that Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan will turn into serviceable players, they likely are not going to become franchise players.

This NBA draft offers a couple of almost sure shot superstars in the opening round in Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.  The Toronto Raptors are currently slated to draft 9th if everything stays the same, but could move up or down depending on what happens around them.

Lady Luck needs to smile on the Raptors at this Wednesday night lottery.  I hate to say it, but it isn’t likely to happen.

Take a look at our draft lottery history. 

The Toronto Raptors have never really had great success in the draft lottery.  Even in their first season they were put in the 6th position by the NBA offices.  Something that had never happened before until Canadian expansion.  True, the Raptors went on to draft eventual rookie of the year Damon Stoudamire, but still, a lottery win could have been exciting and the team missed out on players like Rasheed Wallace, Kevin Garnett and Michael Finley all who went on to have better careers than “Mighty Mouse”.

The Raptors actually won their second ever draft, but because of league rules were forced to draft 2nd.  That turned Allen Iverson into Marcus Camby.  Don’t even mention that Isaiah Thomas missed out on Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Peja Stojakovic.  Luck just wasn’t on their side.

The Raptors have only ben able to draft in the first position once in their history and chose Andrea Bargnani. Six years later, the Raptors are still searching for their franchise player.

The Raptors did eventually strike the number one overall pick in 2006, the same year the NBA ruled that it would no longer allow underclassmen to declare for the NBA draft.  Had high school students been given that opportunity that year, Greg Oden and Kevin Durant would have been very serious possibilities to join the NBA.

Nothing against Andrea, he has turned into a very good player and probably one of the top five players from that draft, but I’d rather have Kevin Durant.  I think everyone in the history of time and space would agree with me as well. We may have actually dodged a bullet with Oden, but still, the universe has seemingly been against us. 

Lady luck just hasn’t got it done for the Raptors.  They’ve had to make the best out of their poor draft position and, for the most part, they have.  Early on the Raptors found diamonds in the rough in Tracy McGrady at number 9 in the 1997 draft, Morris Petersen at number 21 in 2000 and DeMar DeRozan at number 9 in 2009.

They were also able to create their biggest success through a draft day trade that moved Antawn Jamison to the Warriors for Vince Carter.  The rest is, of course, history.

It would seem that Bryan Colangelo, Ed Stefanski and Dwane Casey are going to have to make the best of their current draft position, but you never know.  This could be our year.  This could be the year the Raptors get to draft that highly touted “game changer” that has alluded them since the franchises inception.  I mean it is mathematically possible according to Jay Satur  but it really isn’t all that likely.

Raptor fans are better to hope that some bigger names drop for some inexplicable reason like Peterson, DeMar and Ed Davis did in their draft years. Or the Raptors will have to hope Bryan Colangelo does his homework as he appears to have done with last years surprise Jonas Valanciunas. The pick was widely panned at the time until common sense and the opportunity to see him play changed people’s minds. 

Still, at the end of the day; I’ll cheer for our 12.3% chance of landing one of the top three picks and our 3.5% of winning the whole thing.  It could happen.

I mean it’s already happened twice.

Hopefully this time it will land the franchise player the Toronto Raptors so desperately need.

And if not, well we’re going to have to trust the Raptor brain trust to make a smart move at a lower position.  Something, we know, they have been able to do over the years. 

Happy Draft Lottery Day folks!

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Kristoffer Pedlar
The Zan Tabak Herald

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Raptors Season a Step in the Right Direction

I’ve taken my time in writing a year-end review for the Raptors.  There are things that have already been said much better than I and at the end of the day I’m not really sure how I even feel about the way this season transpired.

The Raptors were not a great team.  They lost a lot of games.  Hell, they lost twice to the lowly Charlotte Bobcats (quite possibly the worst team in history).  They missed the playoffs again and did not secure a great chance at a top three pick.

Still, I’m a “glass is half full” kind of guy and I still feel the team had enough positive this season to be hopeful for the future.

While we saw problems with the club like the lack of a bona fide star, poor wing play for most of the season and a rash of injuries, we also saw marked improvement in a number of areas.  Our defense was much improved, some unexpected players stepped up to show they belong here and our coaching staff showed that they can strategize with the best in the league.

Overall it was a tough year, but one that has given the fan base reason to beleive next year is going to be better.

Zan for Three

My Captain, My Captain

It was clear early in the year that Dwane Casey was going to be the voice of this team.  He addressed the media at every turn and preached the same philosophies over and over.  He talked about “building a culture”, improving the team defence and to keep working hard.  His mantra “pound the rock” was adopted by each of his players and became a rallying cry throughout the year in the locker room, interviews and on twitter.  In wins and difficult losses his players continued to stick to the plan.

The turnaround in this team is most notable on the defensive side of the ball.  Last year the Raptors ranked near the bottom in all defensive statistics.  This year they finished 9th in points allowed, 8th in Opponents field goal percentage, and 5th in opponents three-point field goal percentage.  They were also significantly improved in their rebounding numbers, soemthing that has plagued them since Charles Oakley left town. 

A nice improvement in a number of defensive areas.  What is also a credit to the coaching staff is that these improvements materialized all with a back court that many thought was too weak on the defensive end.

Who then should be credited with the turnaround?  Look no further than the coach and his staff.

Dwane Casey had a successful first year in charge of the Raptors. His message was simple and consistent and it stuck with his players. He has successfully changed the culture in Toronto.

Casey was able to mask the defensive shortcomings of Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani (two players that everyone thought were hopeless on the defensive end) in his zone defense and turned the Raptors into a tough team to score against.

The effort Casey put forth helped make Bargnani a top-tier player during the first half of the season and helped rejuvenate the career of Jose Calderon.

Casey, for his efforts, has already had his contract extended and bigger and better things should be expected from the team with improvements to the roster.

Had Casey been on a higher profile team he might even be a candidate for coach of the year. His extended contract was a no-brainer and a bigger pay day may be coming if the team keeps heading in the direction it is currently pointed.

In this shortened Raptor season Casey has given Raptor fans a reason to be hopeful for the future.

Jekyll and Hyde

So no one knows on any given night which Andrea Bargnani or which Demar Derozan will show up.  Both had polarizing years, to say the least, and neither player could put it all together for an extended stretch of games.

Early on it looked as though Andrea Bargnani was going to bust loose on the NBA.  He was shooting the ball with confidence, driving the lane, hitting shots and playing with confidence on both ends of the floor.

For the first month and a half of the season all of the Dirk Nowitzki comparisons were beginning to finally make sense.

Then he got injured.

Andrea wasn’t the same player when he returned.  He was hesitant, lost his confidence and could not find his rhythm.  Either the injury was not fully healed or opposing defenses made adjustments.  Either way he wasn’t a dominant player in the second half.

Raptor fans are now left wondering which player was the real Andrea Bargnani and which player is going to show up next year.

While Andrea was having a great start and rough finish, Demar Derozan’s season was almost the complete and utter opposite.

Demar started the season terribly.  By the all-star break he was averaging 40% shooting and averaged 15 points a game.  He was getting to the foul line 5 times a game.  He was sputtering and everyone in the city seemed to be noticing.  Journalists, bloggers, pundits, everyone was questioning whether Demar was going to be a significant part of this teams future.

He looked like a player destined for a career off the bench.

In the second half, he spent a lot less time trying to shoot three-pointers and started focusing on getting to the foul line.  He was able to draw contact and get to the stripe a lot more. In December Derozan averaged little over 2 free throw attempts per game.  Later in the year he averaged as high as 6 attempts per game. A small but significant improvement.

Demar has begun to learn what he does well.  Casey had him attacking the rim consistently in the second half. Although he didn’t always get the call, he kept attacking, kept “pounding the rock”.

By the end of the second half Demar began to look a lot more like the player Raptor fans were expecting when he was drafted out of USC. He was more in control, wasn’t afraid of contact and eased into his role as a number one option.

Now Raptor fans have to hope that ‘First half Andrea’ and ‘Second half Derozan’ are actually who these players really are.

Many question marks may remain, but one thing is certain; the success of this team next year depends on how Andrea and Derozan play. 

Supporting Players

The Raptors may not have a bona fide superstar at the moment.  They may have to steal that star from the draft or in free agency, but what the team does have a plethora of are character players.  Guys that come to the court and leave it all on the floor.  A squad of fighters that any coach would love to have coming off the bench.

Jerryd Bayless showed himself to be a very capable point guard and 2 guard this season and is perfectly suited to a bench role next season, if he stays in town. He can shoot, drive and dish and can potentially cause matchup nightmares for opposing teams.

James Johnson can play many positions as well and does a little bit of everything.  He can block, rebound, defend and occasionally score.  He plays the 3, 4 and occasionally the 5 and has a high basketball IQ when he’s on the floor.  If he has not burned bridges with coach Casey he will be a valuable part of the team next year.

Jose Calderon had one of his best seasons as a professional basketball player in 2011/12.  He distributed the ball with ease averaging 8.6 assists good enough for 4th in the league behind only Rondo, Nash and Chris Paul.  He established himself as a team leader going forward and one that Dwane Casey is not afraid to put full trust in.  He also became a much better defensive player under Casey.  Calderon may just retire here in Toronto and the fans, who have cheered and jeered him over the years, likely have no issue with him staying after the year he has had.

Plus the foul…

The Colangelo Factor

Raptors fans were subtlety reminded of the fact that they have one heck of a GM in Bryan Colangelo. Though his star is not nearly as bright as it once was in Toronto, Colangelo has positioned his team to be a player once again in 2012/13.  The steady GM has cleared capspace for his team and has drafted a number of strong young players to build around.  He’s also got all of his players signed to team friendly contracts meaning that they are very tradeable.

This kind of flexibility has given the Raptor faithful some hope for next year especially with the arrival of highly touted 2011 first round pick Jonas Valanciunas.  Jonas made Colangelo look even better this year by having a stellar year overseas and raising eyebrows with his strong play on both ends of the court in Lithuania.

Colangelo should also be credited with his very clever scouting of the D-league.  He brought over three players (Anderson, Uzoh, Dentmon) and  in the final two months of the season all three played valuable minutes and showed they belong in the league.  That kind of success in finding D-League players is a rarity in this league. Uzoh and Anderson may actually have a shot of sticking with the club next year while Dentmon will garner an invite to someone’s training camp. 

No Raptor player, outside of maybe Bargnani, has been as often criticiszed as Jose Calderon. This season may have helped to prove all the negative voices wrong once and for all.

If that doesn’t prove to people that Colangelo has got some skill as an executive, then hopefully his off-season moves will.

Zan of the Year

Jose Calderon

A tough call, but Calderon was the Raptors most consistent player.  He learned to minimize his weaknesses on the court and played to his strengths.  There isn’t a better veteran point guard than Calderon to be handing the ball out to young players like Ed Davis, Demar Derozan and Amir Johnson.  He protects the ball,  puts it where it needs to go and genuinely seems to care about his teammates.

He is, far and away, my favourite All-time Raptor, but this year he proved his worth on the court too.  Going forward Dwane Casey knows he has a great leader in Calderon.  Someone who will lead when asked and who also isn’t afraid to step aside for a teammate.

A great comeback year for Jose.

Not Zan of the Year

Tank Nation

Yeah, so that philosophy didn’t quite work out did it? The Raptors were playing Solomon Alabi and 3 D-League-ers at the end of the year, but even they couldn’t lose.  The Raptors were a team that over achieved in many ways.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but on draft night when Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Andre Drummund will likely be heading to the Bobcats, Wizards and Cavs the Raptors will be looking on wishing they had lost a couple more games (or played the Bobcats an extra game or two).

Still, a solid season that ended on a high note.  The team has Jonas,  a first round pick , tradeable assets and host of capspace.  This is definitely a team headed in the right direction.

***

Kristoffer Pedlar
The Zan Tabak Herald

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@kpedlar

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Raptor Fans Torn by Recent Good Play

What a wonderful stretch for the Toronto Raptors. Things are looking really positive, the team is playing well, their defense looks a million percent better than last year and finally the Raptors have been able to put themselves on the right side of close games.

But is that what we want?

Forgive me for putting words in people’s mouths but I feel like Raptor fans right now aren’t sure what to do or how to feel.  Winning games can’t be a bad thing, unless losing games brings you greater opportunity at a top three pick in this years draft.

Personally I feel like I’m in a Mini Wheats commercial.  The fan in me wants my team to win at any cost, but the pragmatist in me wants losses to ensure a greater chance at a Micheal Kidd-Gilchrist or Anthony Davis.

Wednesday night against the Sixers I couldn’t help but feel excited.  I haven’t seen the Raptors play with that kind of energy in a long, long time.  The Raps took complete control of the game in the second half and blew out a formidable opponent for the first time in I don’t know how long.  More remarkably, they held their opponents to 7 points in the 4th quarter.  I don’t know if that clutch play has ever happened. Especially on the second night of a back to back.

But now the Raptors have positioned themselves much lower on the current draft rankings and are quickly playing their way out of a top flight player in this years draft.

That’s not good when you consider the future is still very much up in the air.  Derozan and Bargnani are playing well now, but maybe they won’t when the pressure is back on next year.  That would leave the Raptors, likely, in a similar position to this year.

They need a Kidd-Gilchrist.  They need an Anthony Davis.  These are game changers that could make a huge difference in the Raptors fortunes next year, especially when you consider the arrival of Jonas Valanciunas as well.

So should I stop cheering for my team? Should I not be able to enjoy a win, even if our star players play well?

I’m confused.  I’m torn and I imagine most Raptor fans are.

What makes this all especially hard for Raptor fans is the complete lack of anything else to cheer for in this city.  The Leafs are awful, TFC is all over the place, the Argos are an after thought and the Blue Jays are only now beginning their season.  If we can’t cheer for this what can we cheer for?

The Toronto sports scene is a real life tragedy. The only cheering we can do is for losing enough games to give ourselves a chance at a higher pick.

Pretty Sad.

Dwane Casey has really turned this years Toronto Raptors around. They are performing at a level no one ever expected them to. That's a good thing, right?

Certainly this is not part of Dwane Casey’s plan. He doesn’t seem to care too much about draft position or about how many games we lose.  He is a competitor through and through and the success he is having right now with our current group should be commended and should be noticed.

We want playoff basketball next year.  Colangelo needs a playoff appearance to ensure job stability and from the looks of this team, they are a couple of solid acquisitions away from that goal.

Wouldn’t a top three draft pick help expidite that playoff goal?

Casey has improved our overall defense.  We used to rank dead last in defensive efficiency under Jay Triano.  With Dwane Casey calling the shots, according to John Hollinger ,the Raptors are now 13th in the league in points allowed, 14th in rebounding and a remarkable 5th in defensive rebounding.  That’s quite the turnaround for a team that was dead last in almost every defensive category a year ago.

How can you not applaud that? Or get excited when the team works hard defensively to win a close game?  This is what Dwane Casey was brought in to do.  The fact that we are already seeing a major turnaround is a great step in the right direction.

Now it’s up to Colangelo to give Casey the tools he needs to turn the Raptors into a game no one wants to see on their schedule.

Fans should cheer when their team wins, not when they lose or just when they win some pizza.  This years version of the Raptors deserves the fans support.  If they win it is because the coach has these players playing out of their shoes.  The whole team has bought into “pounding the Rock” and the results are starting to take shape.

They’re just happening a little faster than what we ever expected.

But that’s a good thing.  Right?

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Kristoffer Pedlar
The Zan Tabak Herald

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@kpedlar

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