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Chisholm: Grading the Raptors at the halfway point

Tim Chisholm

2/21/2012 7:46:29 PM

Wednesday marks the halfway point for the Toronto Raptors in this lockout-shortened season, and so it's time to take a look at how Bryan Colangelo's boys have been faring. As you can imagine from their 9-23 record, it's not very good.

While there have been some bright spots, it's mostly been a lot of mediocrity and 'I thought they'd be better'. Obviously expectations, talent and improvement play a huge role in these grades (you can't really grade Jose Calderon on the same level as you'd grade Anthony Carter) but suffice it to say that on the whole, there is a lot of room for improvement with this club.

Andrea Bargnani

The sample size is so small that one feels like an incomplete grade would be more appropriate here. Bargnani was stellar out of the gate, scoring a career-high 23.5 ppg on a career-high .476 shooting clip while also playing noteworthy defence and marginally improving on his rebounding. However, after only 13 games, no one knows for sure if any of these things will last. The Raptors don't need to know what Bargnani can do in bursts, they need to know what he can do over a full season, year-after-year, and that is something that they still don't know. Nonetheless, he exceeded expectations when healthy and that has to count for something. - Grade: A

Jose Calderon

Calderon remains one of the league's most efficient players, going for 11.2 ppg and 8.8 apg on solid percentages, and he's done yeoman's work this season logging major minutes at his position because of injuries to Jerryd Bayless. Considering all that we know about Calderon, it's hard to find fault in much that he has done this year. His lateral movement will always make him a liability against quick, penetrating guards, but outside of that flaw, he's been the team's most dependable player all season long. - Grade: A-

James Johnson

No player has shown more growth and maturity in their game this year than Johnson has. His perimeter defence is much more cerebral and less chaotic, he's been aggressive taking his offence towards the basket and his overall energy on the court has been undeniable all season long. He's still got some refining to do but he looks like a keeper as a reserve combo forward for the club. - Grade: B

Linas Kleiza

Kleiza is having a serious bounce-back year after a disastrous start to his Raptors career last season. He's posting a career-high in PER (15.4) based heavily on solid rebounding and three-point shooting numbers. His pitbull mentality on the court has been a great asset off of the bench, and while turnovers remain a problem, his year-over-year growth has been a rare bright spot this season. - Grade: B-

Amir Johnson

Johnson is always a tough one to measure out. For the last two seasons, he's been asked to start and play a role that is way above his available skill set, and while he doesn't excel at it, he doesn't embarrass himself, either. The fact remains, though, that his effort has been inconsistent this year, his focus on defence comes and goes, and outside of his rebounding, most of his per-minute numbers have fallen off from a season ago. Johnson is what he is and when he's dialed in, he's a solid contributor but that doesn't happen all of the time and at this point, it looks like what Johnson is today is what he will be going forward. That's not all bad, not at all, but it's always bittersweet to see a player finally hit their ceiling. - Grade: B-

Aaron Gray

Gray grades out well purely because so little was expected of him and he's provided a solid return on the team's investment in him. He's become more or less the nightly starter at centre, he mixes it up down low, sets good screens and actually has the best rebound percentage on the team by a mile (22.1). He's taken over the low-mistake quasi-starter role that Rasho Nesterovic played so well in 2006-07, and it would be wise to keep him around next season to start while the team brings Jonas Valanciunas around slowly. - Grade: B-

Leandro Barbosa

In one sense, Barbosa is what he is and does what he does and you can like it or lump it. However, in another sense, Barbosa's act as bench gunner has grown a little stale. His percentages are below even last year's mediocre averages (he's registering a career-low .498 true shooting percentage) and he's fallen off tremendously from a solid start to the season. In fairness, I can't imagine playing for the Raptors gets his competitive juices flowing, so that could help explain his drop-off, so suffice it to say that his greatest value to the team remains his trade value over the next 30 days. - Grade: C+

Ed Davis

Davis is a hard one to measure this year because I don't think anyone believes that they have a strong feel for him as an NBAer yet. His numbers are down across the board this season and his offence looks just as stilted and forced as it did a year ago. He's begun impressing the coaches in recent games, but he hasn't done anything to separate himself from the pack at power forward. His strong rebounding instincts will ensure he has a role, but if he wants more (and the team certainly wants more from him), he'll need to make tremendous gains in the second half of the season and beyond. - Grade: C-

Jerryd Bayless

It's just about time that we start facing certain realities about Bayless. First, he's not a point guard. He has no instinct for playmaking or running a healthy offence. Second, he's not the second coming of Leandro Barbosa. He's shooting below 40%, he doesn't have anything close to Barbosa's first step and he doesn't finish around the basket nearly as well. After four years, people are going to have to realize that he's more Randy Foye than Mo Williams and adjust their projections for his future, accordingly. Also, while you can't fault a player for being hurt, Bayless has been hurt a lot this year. - Grade: C-

Jamaal Magloire

Magloire is another tough one to rate. Everyone knew coming in that his best days were behind him, so grading him down would seem unfair. He's brought the toughness and leadership that he was brought in to provide and so in that sense, his signing was a win. That said, you can only give so much rope to a player like that. - Grade: C-

Anthony Carter

Much like Jamaal Magloire, Carter is giving just about what you'd expect Carter to give, considering he's a 36-year-old point guard in a speedster's game. However, he knows where to be on defence and he hasn't embarrassed himself out there when he's been forced into action. He's never played fewer minutes per game and there is a reason why, but like Magloire, you can only penalize a player so much for being exactly what the team thought he'd be when he was brought in. - Grade: C-

DeMar DeRozan

No doubt many will see DeRozan falling behind Magloire and Carter as galling or unjust, but the fact remains that, relative to his talent and the expectations he set by playing so well for four months last season, he's failing. He's sporting a career-worst PER (11.3), which ranks him 52nd amongst NBA shooting guards. He only just recently pulled his shooting percentage above 40%, but is still shooting worse than he ever has by a wide margin. The only area that DeRozan seems to be posting consistently higher numbers in is turnovers. Right now, the only reason he's getting the kind of minutes and touches that he is is because of the organization's investment in him and his production last season. Very few other teams in the NBA would continue to feature him, considering the production that he has posted this year. - Grade: D+

Rasual Butler

Butler knew where to be on defence to start the year. That got him minutes and a starting role. He parlayed that opportunity into an excuse to take isolation plays all to himself and shoot just about as poorly as a player can shoot (.308) and still consider himself a shooter. Let's also remember that in two separate games, he's made mistakes inbounding the ball in the final seconds. There is no question why his minutes have all but evaporated in recent weeks. - Grade: D

Gary Forbes

I was going to grade Forbes as an incomplete, until I realized that he's played in 11 more games than Andrea Bargnani and yet has barely registered as a member of this team. His stint as a backup point guard did not last and he's about as deep in Dwane Casey's doghouse as any player on the roster. He's also 26 with not a lot of room to grow as an NBA player. I'm not sure Denver is sweating losing out on him this off-season. - Grade: D

Solomon Alabi

New season, same result. Alabi is a project in the truest sense of the word. While he showed some flashes in the D-League, he can't do anything to get himself onto an NBA court. I'd be impressed if he makes it the rest of the season with the club and I'd be shocked if he's with them next year. - Grade: Inc.