NBA

Chisholm: Answering your Twitter questions on the Raptors

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Tim Chisholm
3/10/2013 2:58:49 PM
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In this week's Tweet Bag, we take a look at Dwane Casey's playing rotations, the financial wall that the club has hit since acquiring Rudy Gay and how DeMar DeRozan fits into the club's future. As always, tweet me @timpchisholm if you have any questions that you want me to answer.

@Steebo
would you say Casey's rotations this year have been the most frustrating thing about what he's done with this team?

@Jedidah_R
this #Raptors rotation is huuuggggeeee!! Too many guys are getting run.. IMO..

Yes, Casey's huge and inconsistent rotations have been a sticking point all season, and considering the fact that rotations are one of the most visible parts of coaching, you could argue that they have been the most frustrating part of his season if you wanted.

First it was Ed Davis who couldn't crack the regular rotation. That didn't reflect well on Casey after Davis became one of his best players with regular minutes. Now that Davis is gone, it's Terrence Ross that has been glued to the bench, despite representing a huge part of the team's future.

Then there's Landry Fields, the big off-season expenditure and one of the few Raptors who knows how to move without the ball and make plays for teammates, but he's stuck picking up scraps as a small-ball power forward. Ditto Sebastian Telfair, who brings the kind of playmaking the club needs but is stuck behind the one-dimentional John Lucas and his intimidating three-point shooting percentage.

It's Valanciunas, though, that is the real sticking point these days. Since returning from injury, he's averaged just 18.6 minutes per game, which is less than the 21.5 minutes he was averaging to start the season. That would be fine if he wasn't playing well, but he's been playing his best basketball since returning to the lineup last month. Against the Lakers, he had 12 and 6 but got only 17 minutes, and couldn't get back in the game, even after Amir Johnson fouled out and Aaron Gray proved too immobile for the team's defensive rotations. The game dictated that he should have been out there.

Casey is "old school", a coach who prefers to lean on veterans rather than youngsters. He wants wins and conventional logic means leaning on the more experienced players when given the choice. However, with the playoffs out of reach, he's going to have to start entrusting his youngsters with more responsibilities because the front office needs to see them in key situations in order to evaluate them before the offseason.

Does that mean Casey should stop trying to win? No, of course not, but guys like Ross, Valanciunas and Landry Fields need more minutes because they are a part of the team's future while Alan Anderson and John Lucas are not.

@BrunetDaren
do you think Raps will go hard for Millsap this offseason?

This is where we arrive at the crushing reality of the DeRozan extension/Gay acquisition - the Raptors are capped-out. Even if they amnesty Linas Kleiza this summer (as expected) and trade Bargnani (as expected), they still won't have any money to go after bigger name free agents.

When people started piling on Colangelo for the Rudy Gay trade, it wasn't because Gay isn't a good player. He is. People were piling on because now the Raptors are up against the wall financially and still don't have a team that can guarantee a playoff berth in the East. How are they supposed to improve?

Would Millsap be a great addition to this club? Of course he would, but the Raptors have no way of acquiring him. There are a handful of teams with gobs of cap space this summer, and several of them have a far richer history of winning than Toronto does. Free agents go after money and wins, and Toronto can offer neither.

@JCTango
with rudy being 1st option on scoring and ross looking to reach his potential, where will Demar fit into the team's future?

The future of DeRozan in Toronto is a big question going forward for this club. He looked to be a fixture after landing a four-year, $38-million contract extension on opening night, but the Gay acquisition has thrown a wrench into those plans. Both of those players are so similar (both are athletic specimens that like to settle for long-twos, neither one consistently makes plays for others and neither one can shoot the three) that it makes it hard to run an efficient offence with both logging 35-plus minutes every night.

DeRozan's future really depends a lot on who is running the show going forward. If Bryan Colangelo gets his contract option picked up this spring, then DeRozan will stay where he is in the pecking order and the front office will attempt to shape the roster around him, Gay, Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry. If Colangelo is not retained, however, all bets are off as there will be no sentimental attachment to keeping him around.

Ross is the X-Factor here. His shooting and defensive potential make him a great theoretical sidekick for Gay on the wings, but he has to demonstrate a lot more consistency than he's shown in his rookie year to displace DeRozan. DeMar has improved in a lot of areas this season, unfortunately none make him a better partner for Gay. This Raptors roster is visibly imbalanced, and how the front office goes about tweaking that imbalance will be something to watch this off-season.

DeMar DeRozan (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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