The Toronto Raptors have not had a ton to cheer about this season. They currently have a 1-6 record and have lost their last four games. Sitting in last place in their division and third to last in the conference, the Raptors are in need of multiple guys to step up in the absence of a few of their core players. The call has been answered from DeMar DeRozan, third year player out of USC. Wins are not being recorded on the schedule, but DeRozan has kept this team competitive.
So far the Raptors have only lost one game by a margin of more than ten points and that was to the defending Western Conference Champions, the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were able to get the win by 20 points at home. Toronto opened their season at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, resulting in a loss by seven to a team with high expectations for the season. They then put together a 19 point win over the Minnesota Timberwolves before losing to the Thunder. DeRozan started off the season quite well, putting together 25 points in Brooklyn and 22 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals in their win against Minnesota.
The last three games for DeRozan and the Raptors started with a 104-109 loss to the Mavs in Dallas; then two home games: first an 83-93 loss to the Sixers and on Monday night a triple-overtime loss to the Utah Jazz 133-140. DeRozan saw his minutes increase quite a bit these last three games due to a depleted Toronto roster. In Dallas he saw 40 minutes and responded by scoring 24 points, a season high 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and only 1 turnover. DeMar slowed down against Phili, but still managed 19 points and 6 rebounds.
The last game for the Raptors was just about as exciting as a loss can get. Three overtimes meant 63 total minutes of basketball on the court. DeRozan played all but 3 minutes of the game and made the most of his minutes. DeRozan tied his career high with 37 points, a season high 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. He is now averaging over 20 points a game and 5 rebounds. When DeMar gets his offense going by scoring the ball and creating looks for other players he is a very good player. This Toronto team needs him to continue to be aggressive and provide a bulk of the scoring to go along with Kyle Lowry when he returns.
The Raptors do not appear that they are going to make a run at the playoffs this year, but we can see that the pieces are starting to come together, albeit slowly. They have a core group of young players headlined by Lowry and DeRozan in the backcourt, with Andrea Bargnani and twenty year old rookie center Jonas Valanciunas up front. Jose’ Calderon is a very good backup point guard-among the best reserve guards in the league- and a now healthy veteran Linas Kleiza will add valuable bench points to this young and unproven team. Kleiza played in his second game of the season Monday night and scored 20 points and 7 rebounds off the bench.
The Raptors are struggling, but are a young ball club with plenty of time to develop. When they get this team healthy and are able to add one or two more key players to their rotation this team will start winning games. How soon that will be is not clear. But each night this team looks to get better. The Raptors will play the Indiana Pacers in their second game of a back-to-back in search of their second win this season.