Dont worry, DeMar DeRozan, Raptors fans got you

Don\t worry, DeMar DeRozan, Raptors fans got you
To Rest or Not to Rest? It May Not Matter If Raptors Stay Hot
As you read these words, the Toronto Raptors are tearing through the entire National Basketball Association with relative ease. Toronto is an astounding 15-1 in their last 16 games. That includes signature wins versus the red-hot Blazers and the Boston Celtics. To highlight the Raptors’ superiority, both of those victories were 25 and 20 point-wins, respectively. Total blowouts. Then came the absolutely scintillating Houston Rockets — the same Rockets who had their 17-game winning streak snapped at the hands of Kyle Lowry and the NBA’s top bench unit.

In these set of games, Toronto has averaged a point differential of 14.8 (let’s round it up to 15). Stop for a moment and realize just how dominant that number is. In the last 16 games — or roughly 1/5th of the entire regular season — Toronto has beaten teams by an average of 15 points. Fif-teen.

Back on the court, DeRozan has been sensational. He won the Player of the Week for the fifth time this year and will probably wind up in the top five of the MVP balloting. We know hes a great finisher at the rim, but its his jump shot that will carry the Raps far. Hes taking more three-pointers than usual, but is shooting a respectable (based on his career marks) 31.9 percent from downtown. Hes most comfortable in the midrange area and is shooting a career-high 43.4 percent on shots from 16 feet to the three-point line. Its important for players to know their limitations and build on their strengths instead of forcing things just to fit a particular paradigm. Itll be up to Allen Crabbe to slow DD down. If he can limit DeRozans free-throw attempts and drives to the rim, it will make defending him a little less challenging. On the other side, Crabbe is a few threes away from climbing into second place in team history for threes made during a season.
To Rest or Not to Rest? It May Not Matter If Raptors Stay Hot
To Rest or Not to Rest? It May Not Matter If Raptors Stay Hot

That one glaring loss in the last 16 games? A thrilling 122-119 overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Remember when Valanciunas was foule-… I mean, tied the game in the final moments with a ‘heavily-contested’ dunk. I’ll leave it at that. It’s not like it hasn’t been three weeks since that game and I should be totally over it.

With Allen dealing with an injury, we might see more of Jahlil Okafor. Big Jah has been a ghost for almost a month, but did make an appearance on Sunday night. He only played 5:48, but did make two shots. Its a stretch to assume hell play big minutes tonight, but he should have more of a role going forward as the season concludes. Brooklyns smorgasbord of big men will look to keep Jonas Valanciunas off the boards. JV is the teams leading rebounder and serves as their third scoring option in the starting lineup.

With all that being said, let’s face it: Raptors fans have been spoiled lately.

Miles has been a bit of a Nets killer throughout his career. He averages 10 points a game on 43 percent shooting from three-point range, both among the higher marks of his career against certain teams. CJ plays a big role on the best bench unit in the league. Torontos bench outscores teams by almost ten points per 100 possessions, tops in the NBA. Having a strong bench like this preserves your starters and keeps everyone healthy for the long slog that is the regular season.

Video: Jalen Rose has faith in a Toronto Raptors playoff run | NBA Countdown | ESPN

Jonas Valanciunas with the dunk to send it to OT!

Toronto Raptors: How much will their bench matter in the playoffs?

The number 16 happens to be a massively important one in Toronto. Not necessarily due to what the Raptors’ accomplishments in the last 16 games, but rather what the final 16 of the regular season entail. Dwane Casey and his team have squarely entered the drivers seat of the Eastern Conference as their star guards have taken turns toying with NBA teams, all while the self-named “Bench Mob” has wreaked havoc on opposing reserve units.

In terms of crucial games, one could argue Toronto has three remaining. The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics twice. The remaining 13 contests are littered with middle-to-lower tier Eastern and Western Conference playoff teams (Pacers twice, Heat, Pistons, Nuggets, Clippers, etc.) as well as their fair share of conference minnows (Nets twice, Mavericks, Magic etc.). An overall strength of schedule of .493 (ranked 14th in the NBA).

The prevailing question lingers: Should Dwane Casey and his staff opt to (strategically) rest the core players (Lowry, DeRozan, Ibaka, Valanciunas) throughout the final run of the season?

If things break right, we could get a National Championship rematch between Villanova and North Carolina. Ill be on time for that.

This doesn’t fundamentally require Casey to rest all core players on certain nights, or even in more dramatic (and obviously asinine) fashion — begin resting them immediately until the playoffs begin. This would mean a carefully thought-out game-specific strategy where for example, you would see Lowry and Ibaka rest one game, DeRozan another, and Valanciunas another. This would seemingly mean more minutes on the court for the bench players, but also gives opportunity to the so-far, so-good 13th and 14th roster spots occupied by Malcolm Miller and newly-acquired sharpshooter Nigel Hayes. In limited playing time, Miller has proved his worth at the back-end of the Raptors rotation, offering ‘3 & D’ ability while Hayes — who was recently plucked off the New York Knicks G-League affiliate, Westchester Knicks — shot a blistering 44% from 3PT range on 5.8 attempts per game in his dominating G-league stint. For those who went channel-surfing after Toronto took a 20-some point lead on the Knicks late in the 4th quarter, Nigel Hayes subbed in, and immediately hit two corner-threes — one being directly in front of the Knicks bench, all to whom he had some choice words and antics (at the 0:15 second mark, for those interested).

Jarrett Allen is questionable with a sore left foot. Isiaah Whitehead has been recalled for the Raptors game.

[email protected] alum @NIGEL_HAYES with back-to-back triples for his points as a member of the @Raptors!

As much as resting players may make sense for Toronto, especially considering their league-best roster depth, many believe (and rightfully so) the Raptors can start their best five while effectively resting them at the same time. Lowry and DeRozan are naturally mid-high 30 minute players, but again — in the last 16 games, they’ve averaged only 29 and 31 minutes respectively. Saving those 6-10 minutes for both players during this last chunk of the season has been as important as ever. Raptor fans aren’t used to this. They’re used to seeing their star backcourt look lethargic and exhausted by regular seasons’ end.

NBA Power Rankings Week 21: The Raptors Are Genuinely Terrifying
NBA Power Rankings Week 21: The Raptors Are Genuinely Terrifying

The Toronto Raptors seem to be writing a different story this time around.

Raptors look for win no. 9 in a row vs. the Nets: Preview, start time, and more
Raptors look for win no. 9 in a row vs. the Nets: Preview, start time, and more

Raptors Pitched DeMar DeRozan On Shooting More Three-Pointers

The Raptors are looking for their ninth win in a row tonight against a Nets team that has gone 2-13 since the beginning of February. This is how it always goes with bad teams. They believe in themselves, they try hard, but eventually the talent gap just becomes too big to overcome. Brooklyn is currently ranked 25th in offensive ranking, and 23rd on defense. The stories about Spencer Dinwiddie, or Caris LaVert, or DAngelo Russell, or whoever, have come to an end. They are not good.

But Toronto, as I said, is ripping and running right now. Look at this here from Zach Lowe: the Raptors might be real, and getting better. To which all I will add is: [man from beginning of Drakes Gods Plan video voice] Thats it! Thats it! Yeah!

Toronto – Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas

Brooklyn – DAngelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeMarre Carroll, Allen Crabbe, Jarrett Allen (questionable; so, maybe Tyler Zeller? Who cares.)

The Nets continue to be the unwilling tank-a-thon team. They give a good effort every time out, but are just not good enough. They do have some draft picks coming now, but still not those top-5 or top-10 picks theyll need to truly turn things around.

As of right now, their best player by most advanced measures is Spencer Dinwiddie; but theres nothing about his numbers that jumps off the page, and a lot of his value comes from being just a solid player with nothing remarkable around him. Nik Stauskas has continued to be a competent three-point shooter, putting in 41% since coming over in the Trevor Booker trade. But with the other aspects of his game, including lagging defensive skills, Stauskas has struggling to stay on the floor for an extended period. The Nets are also starting our old friend DeMarre Carroll, and while hes seen a resurgence of sorts, some of that can be attributed to playing a larger part in a worse offense. Carrolls FG% and EFG% have barely moved from last year, although he is making a few more of his 3s. Good for him!

This is usually around the time where someone, me, anyone, mentions that this is a prime candidate for a classic Raptors letdown game. The team is coming off a huge win against the Rockets on Friday night, an easy beatdown of the Knicks (with a 1pm start time), and then a Monday filled with plaudits galore. I mentioned the Lowe column up there, but just google the Raptors right now and youll find a bunch of stories, and collected power rankings, all touting Toronto as the best.

Its very cool. But since were also Toronto sports fans, its also when we start to get nervous. Being bad, becoming a disappointment, underachieving — these are things we understand. But winning? Being the absolute best? Becoming the favourite? This is almost unheard of, especially in the NBA.

So long story short: lets just forget all the talk about this being a trap game for the Raptors. The Nets try hard, yes, they have a couple of decent players, and sure maybe DeMarre Carroll will be extra motivated (which is adorable). But Toronto can still just play their game and win. Thats it.

Speaking of playing their game, while I dont like that OG Anunoby is still injured (pour one out for the Quote of the Week tomorrow), I do like how the Raptors are uncovering different things at the three-spot right now.

First it was Norman Powell finding himself a bit against Detroit, and proving himself a bit useful on defense against the Rockets. Then it was Malcolm Miller coming in and dropping seven quick points out of nowhere in that same Houston game, and generally carrying himself like he belongs.

And hey, look at that, Nigel Hayes! The man came in, hit two straight 3s against the Knicks on Sunday, and called it a day. If you want to stay in the NBA these days, be a smart, 68 swing man who can shoot 3s and youll be fine.

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