The Scouting Report: Toronto Raptors
Projected starting line-up: Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, James Johnson, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas
Injuries: DeMar DeRozan (left adductor longus) is out indefinitely
Key additions: Lou Williams, James Johnson
Key name additions: Bruno Caboclo and Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira. BRUNO AND BEBE.
UPDATE 11:33: Portland’s Meyers Leonard has been ruled out with a left shoulder strain and LaMarcus Aldridge is probable after dealing with an upper respiratory illness.
The Toronto Raptors have exceeded expectations in the early season and all of a sudden have the best offense in the league.
Last season, the Raptors shot up the standings after trading Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings for several veteran players. The Raptors shot up to a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference and an Atlantic Division title.
The Raptors had more balance without Gay and the ball moved better. DeRozan continued to improve, earning an All-Star bid. But most agree that point guard Kyle Lowry is the engine behind their success.
But so far this season their best offensive line-up is the one they’ve been rolling with in DeRozan’s absence.
They are scoring 115.4 points per 100 possessions according to NBA.com. Their defense hasn’t been as spectacular, some of their other units play plenty of good defense.
The Raptors also use their bench effectively. They essentially have two teams of guys they can play which is huge for them considering they don’t have DeRozan.
Lou Williams has been a huge acquisition for the Raptors this season and he is finally looking like the player he was before a devastating knee injury two seasons ago. He was one of the league’s best scoring guards, capable of lighting it up at any time.
Lowry has scored more total points but Williams is leading the team in points per 100 possessions at 32.9. Without DeRozan they have needed his scoring and he has delivered several times this season. He’s fresh off scoring 31 points Sunday against the Nuggets. He also dropped 36 on the Cavaliers back in November.
Alongside Williams the Raptors bench have great veteran role players.
In fact, behind the starting line-up that started the season with DeRozan alongside Ross, Lowry, Johnson and Valanciunas, is a bench unit with Lou Williams, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, James Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough. Those line-ups have defended very well but they’re also playing their minutes against other second units.
Still, their second team has been consistently better than their opponents and you can see the difference that it makes. A lot was made about the departure of Gay but the veteran role players that they got back in the trade like Patterson and Vasquez have been key players.
This is going to be a tough game for the Blazers, especially if Aldridge doesn’t play. Kyle Lowry outplayed Chris Paul a few games ago and he’s as tough as any match-up in the league. Lillard has played just about as well as anyone in the league has as of late. This match-up should be a great one.
Portland’s bench has improved from their veteran contributions and the development of younger players. It will be interesting to see which route Terry Stotts goes with his substitutions. Patrick Patterson prevents a match-up problem with his shooting and spacing at the forward spot.
Perhaps it will be a time for Meyers Leonard or Stotts will continue to ride the athleticism and energy of Thomas Robinson. If Aldridge doesn’t play it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw Victor Claver get a little time against the Raptors bench as well.
The Raptors are a deep squad and they can score. The Blazers defense has performed exceptionally through the first 32 games. The Blazers have outscored Eastern Conference teams by 10.7 points per 100 possessions during their 14-1 start against the conference. But the Raptors clearly aren’t your run of the mill east team in 2014-15.