North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Raptors rotations are rotating them out of contention

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Things have pretty much bottomed out for the Toronto Raptors.

After a brief period of looking good in the immediate Rudy Gay era and a five-game winning streak, the Raptors have come back down: they’ve lost five in row, including some to teams they’re supposed to be better than: Washington and Cleveland. And losing to Milwaukee was bad too: it set them back a ways in the postseason race. Over at Club Sport Stats, their playoff chances are at 0.4 per cent. That seems maybe a tad charitable to me. 

It’s not a heartening time to be a Raptors fan. Not because the team is losing and not even because this season has kind of fallen apart, but it sucks because of the way everything is turning out right now.  It’s a mess of bad contracts, bad situations and questionable rotations.

It’s been a hell of a season for Andrea Bargnani, not in a good way. He’s been hurt, he’s been openly shopped to other teams, he’s quarreled with his teammates and he’s done whatever this is (maybe a blown layup, or he lost control of the ball?). He probably doesn’t have a future in Toronto, not that I blame him. I’d want to get the hell out of the city too if I’d been vilified as much as he has.

But somehow he wasn’t traded before the deadline. He’s stuck here for the foreseeable future. And even as Toronto slides out of the playoff picture, somehow Bargnani keeps getting major minutes. He’s played over 32 minutes in the past three games. This comes even as his production falls into the toilet: since the All-Star break, Bargnani’s scoring, rebounding and assist averages have dropped.  His scoring – usually the only thing he’s ever been able to do with any consistency – has dropped to nearly half of its pre-All Star game average.

While it’s a little understandable in theory that Bargnani would get more minutes when Amir Johnson gets into foul trouble (as he often does), the GameFlow charts at Popcorn Machine show a different story. Take Monday night at Golden State: for most of the second half, Bargnani and Johnson were on the floor. The same goes for Saturday’s game against Milwaukee.

Maybe if the Raptors were still contending and winning games, Andrea spending 30+ minutes on the floor and not producing wouldn’t be a big deal. But they’re not. This season is basically a lost cause. And as Bargnani spends time on the floor, Toronto’s two rookies are sitting on the bench.

Let’s go back to the Golden State game: Terrence Ross played all of eight minutes, all in the first half. His time on and off nearly perfectly fits with Rudy Gay’s. And Jonas Valanciunas played just 16 minutes and not at all in the fourth. Instead, we got to see Bargnani go 0-5 as Toronto’s lead trickled away.

Even though Ross is one of the most exciting rookies Toronto’s had in some time, especially with regards to dunking, he’s languishing away on the bench. In the past ten games, he’s played more than ten minutes in four games. He’s had two games where he played less than four minutes. Now’s the perfect time to start giving him some on-court experience! At least Valanciunas is getting some minutes and occasionally even starting games.

It’s a strange situation: the Raptors have faded quickly from postseason contention and are still playing like they’re in contention for the eighth seed. A part of me wonders if this is yet another example of Bryan Colangelo trying to save his job. The Rudy Gay trade probably helped a little bit, as did the win streak, but as things keep going wrong and Toronto loses games to teams in the NBA’s cellar, Colangelo’s got to be on the hot seat right?

And I haven’t gotten to what’s he got tied up in Toronto’s salary cap: they’re already committed to $65 in salary next season, the bulk of tied up in DeRozan, Gay and Bargnani. And the year after, for the 2014/15 season, they’ve already got the bulk of their salaries locked up: Bargnani’s on the hook for $12 million and Gay has a player option for $19 million, not to mention deals with Johnson, DeRozan and Landry Fields.

Like I said, it’s quickly becoming a lost season, in more ways than one. At least the Leafs playoff odds are up somewhere around 90 per cent and the Jays are playing spring ball.

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Written by M.

March 5, 2013 at 10:19 pm

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