Raptors Demonstrate That Continuity Can WorkAdded - Jan. 28, 2015 - Comments
So many NBA teams make bold moves in the off-season as a way of upgrading their roster. There was certainly room for that with the Toronto Raptors, even though the team finished third in the Eastern Conference standings last season before getting upset in the playoffs by the Brooklyn Nets. There are some who would argue that they don't have all the pieces in place to win an NBA championship. But they are undertaking to prove that wrong, and so far they are not doing a bad job of it.
It was the strategy of team management to be rather quiet in the off-season, and in fact they did not make any significant personnel moves, other than perhaps adding Tyler Hansbrough, a "rock'em-sock'em robot" kind of player who has always been seen as someone who knows his role and provides a lot of energy. Certainly the Raptors have more than their share of role players like that, and while they don't get a lot of headlines, they are essential components for any NBA team that hopes to win on a consistent basis.
When teams make their own bold personnel maneuvers, it often results in a period of adjustment, which is understandable, since these players don't often perform together as a unit during the pre-season. A glaring example of that this season has been the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have struggled after adding LeBron James and Kevin Love to their lineup. Since basketball is a team game, it requires chemistry, and the introduction of new elements can upset that chemistry.
It was Toronto's notion to keep that to a bare minimum, opting for continuity instead. And the results have been outstanding, as the Raptors won 15 of their first 19 game to race out to a lead in the East. When it comes to playoff time, having the home court advantage is meaningful; NBA bettors don't need to be educated about that. And this team has managed to get the jump on everybody else in that pursuit.
This is not the kind of place where superstars are coddled. In fact, the only real All-Star the Raptors have in their lineup is DeMar DeRozan, the big guard who is the most talented scorer on the squad but who is currently out with a torn muscle in his left leg. But others pick up the slack, as it was on Tuesday night, as the Raptors got 27 points from steady guard Kyle Lowry and James Johnson came off the bench to score 19. Lowry is the guy who "quarterbacks" this offense for head coach Dwane Casey, and he is the principal reason why Toronto has committed fewer turnovers than any other team in the NBA. Those are the kinds of things you've got to do to win, and they have a lot to do with chemistry and continuity. The Raptors will be well worth watching.