I have had almost a full round of NBA playoff action, to let this disappointing Toronto Raptors “playoff run” marinate, and boy do I have a lot to say.
Most Raptor fans were quite happy when we ended up getting the Wizards in the first round of the NBA playoffs because we swept them in the season series, 3-0. What most fans did not look at closely, was the fact that Bradley Beal-a player who killed us in the playoff series-played only one of the three games and scored 26 points. I was not sure what to expect in this series, I just knew that the Wizards had Paul Pierce on their roster, a player who last year was the main reason why the Nets defeated the Raptors in a tough and grueling seven game series.
The most stressful part from this series, at least for me, was that Beal was able to get under Lowry’s skin from game one and he did not slow down during the entire series. I understand a veteran player like Pierce, but a third year player such as Beal is unacceptable. Lowry was shaken the whole series, and you can easily tell. If Lowry was in fact injured throughout the playoffs, I am glad he played through it because often time players are scrutinized for not playing through injury. Even though Beal shot only 38% from the field, it seemed like he always made plays for his team down the stretch, whether it was hitting a shot, or making a key defensive stop when it mattered the most. Not to be forgotten, John Wall played very well in this series, along with Otto Porter Jr, and Drew Gooden who came off the bench and really contributed both defensively (Porter) and hitting timely shots. It seemed like Gooden could not miss a three in this four game series.
Terrence Ross for the second playoff series in a row did not perform well at all, averaging only seven points, while shooting 38%. Ross was supposed to be one of Toronto’s best defenders, yet he did not do well in that department either. For next season, I think that the Raptors MUST find a starting small forward and either trade Ross, or move him to the bench permanently because it has not worked out well and he has been given plenty of opportunities to prove himself. Most importantly Terrence got to the free throw line zero times in the four game series. At some point he will have to realize that he cannot solely depend on the three to score points, he has to mix it up like some of the best players in the game.
Even though DeMar DeRozan did not shoot a particularly good percentage from the field, he was still the most consistent Raptor when it came to scoring in the series. I would still like to see DeMar get to the line more often (only averaged 4.3 trips to the line in the series).
Amir Johnson was banged up and looked out of sync, while Jonas Valanciunas seemed lost on defense, and James Johnson barely played. Lou Williams, like most, had a tough series after being named the Sixth Man of the Year, but Patrick Patterson actually had a decent four game run off the pine.
After the series came to an end, rumours started to spread that Dwane Casey and James Johnson got into an argument a couple months back. Apparently Johnson thought that Casey “babied” his superstars a bit too much and ever since that point, Johnson had seen his minutes plunge, to say the least. If this incident did indeed happen, the Raptors should have traded Johnson right away, and at least got something in return for him. I am a James Johnson supporter and I think that his old-school mentality is great for this team. He plays gritty on both sides of the ball and the Raptors really could have used his defense in this series, especially on the likes of Beal and Pierce.
First Masai Ujiri must decide what to do with current head coach, Dwane Casey. Will Casey be fired, or will Ujiri give him one more chance to prove himself. Since Ujiri is taking his time, I feel that he may fire Casey; he is just searching for his replacement. Scott Brooks’ name has come up in the last few weeks with the hopes of signing Kevin Durant, once his contract is up with the Thunder. Personally, I would like to see Tom Thibodeau coach the Raptors. Tom is a solid defensive coach, who has done wonders with a very shorthanded Bulls team the last few years.
The NBA Draft is an event that Raptor fans will be looking forward to. Toronto currently holds the 20th pick, as they will look to upgrade their team. A power forward and/or small forward is what the Raptors should look at intensely. Amir Johnson is not getting any younger and has been banged up for a few seasons now. Terrence Ross, as of right now, is not the answer at the three spot and the Raptors should look to upgrade by any means. I would not be shocked with Ujiri decided to make some trades come the NBA Draft, either to acquire some veteran players, or to move up in the draft.
Free agency opens up on July 1st and I expect Ujiri to sign players who can help the team either defensively, or by coming off the bench and contributing while the starters take a quick breather. If Ujiri does not address the power forward, or small forward needs through the draft, look for him to sign free agents to fill the void. A name that has already been linked with Toronto has been Cleveland’s Canadian power forward, Tristan Thompson. It will be interesting to see if Ujiri reaches out to Tristan.
All in all, most fans probably thought that the Raptors could at least make it out of the first round this year, but were sadly disappointed with what they actually got. Hopefully next year’s team could FINALLY take us over the hump once again.
Ogi is a graduate of Humber College’s Sport Management program. He is the founder of Blago Blogger Sports.