The Toronto Raptors have hit the all-star break. They sit in tenth place with only twenty-two wins and are seven games out of a playoff spot. The beginning of the year was a disaster but going into the break the team is riding a four game winning streak and the mood has changed with the arrival of Rudy Gay. It’s time to evaluate the roster, see how each player has done so far and what they will do the rest of the way.
Quincy Acy has had a sensible rookie year. He hasn’t contributed very much after being sent down and then brought up from the Developmental league. He is an energy player but will continue to show that energy cheering his team on from the bench.
Alan Anderson has been a revelation. His solid play, on both sides of the ball, have made him the go to guy on the second unit. After enduring a bad couple of games, he goes into the break scoring twenty six points helping the team beat the New York Knicks. His play will continue to earn him valuable minutes at crunch time.
Andrea Bargnani has had a horrible season playing only in twenty five games due to injuries and sicknesses. His game has deteriorated as fast as trade rumors have stared. He is officially a bench player, getting booed every time he enters the game at the Air Canada Centre. His confidence is shot and he will be traded before the deadline.
He signed his nine and a half million per year contract extension ten seconds before the opening tip-off and DeMar DeRozan has been earning all of it most nights. He started out as a jump shooter but now he attacks the rim with abandon and is always close to the top in the NBA in free throws attempted. As he isn’t facing double teams his scoring will continue to flourish. If DeRozan continues his play more wins will come.
Landry Fields has been a bust. He missed games with a hand injury and hasn’t found his way into a regular spot in the rotation. He has been starting lately but usually doesn’t figure much at crunch time. He will become the role player that he was with the Knicks but will never come close to justifying his salary.
Rudy Gay has been Rudy Gay ever since the trade. Only because of him will the Raptors have a shot at the playoffs and that’s all I need to say.
Aaron Gray has had a serviceable season. Starting or coming off the bench, he uses his abilities to their fullest and gobbles up minutes and rebounds. Gray will flourish using his veteran brain as a good back-up.
Hamed Haddadi arrived in the Gay trade. Is he on the team or off the team? Who knows and really who cares?
Up until the arrival of Gay, Amir Johnson was the most valuable player on the Raptors. His athleticism, quickness and work effort are shown every night. He never seems to have a bad game and always goes up against the opposition’s big man. Johnson will be the unsung hero in the teams push for the playoffs.
Linas Kleiza and is four and a half million dollar salary will be bought out amnesty style. What else can I say?
Point guard Kyle Lowry has had an up and down season. In Raptors losses he shoots way too much. In Raptors wins he usually gets everyone involved. He definitely has underachieved this season. He needs to keep his head in the game, lead his team and just be a pass first point guard.
His back-up John Lucas III has had a solid season and with the departure of Jose Calderon has cemented his place on the roster. He is the leader on the second unit but has also filled the stat sheet. It will be a bonus if he continues to score the way he has been lately but all he needs to do is keep the game close and the second unit running.
Mickael Pietrus was brought in when injuries were hurting the team. Now he is constantly injured and his season will be spent at the end of the bench.
Rookies Terrence Ross and Jonus Valanciunas have had solid season each contributing in their own way. Valanciunas now understand what it means to be a pro and his heart and work effort is undeniable. He needs to stay out of foul trouble. Ross is flat out a scorer and high-flyer but needs to be more consistent with his outside shot. He will be taking his talents to the dunk contest. Both rookies need to keep their development going and keep contributing the way they are.
The players are only one half of the equation and I will be looking at the coaching staff in an upcoming column.
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