July 8, 2016, 10:00 am
After being bounced out of the first round in back-to-back playoff appearances, the Raptors came into the season hoping to prove critics wrong about them being just a regular season team. Once again setting a franchise record for regular season wins, going 56-26, they were able to finish the season with the second seed in the East with the help of some new faces and unsung heroes. Hoop Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look at what happened up North in Toronto.
Entering the offseason, the Raptors had a solid core in Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Jones Valanciunas, only needing a few pieces during free agency to take the next step. Enter the “Junkyard Dog 2.0” DeMarre Carroll for his ability to defend and hit the three. In addition to Carroll, GM Masai Ujiri also brought in eventual fan favourite, Bismack Biyombo! His energy and defensive presence on the floor intimidated opponents and electrified the fans. Both of these players had a pivotal role on the improvement of the Raptors.
Ujiri made it clear that this team was built for a strong playoff run. For the third straight season the Raptors were able to make the playoffs while setting a franchise record for regular season wins each time. This season they were able to prove critics wrong and get the proverbial monkey off their backs by not only advancing out of the first round, but also making their way to the conference finals where they eventually lost to the NBA champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Being able to secure the second seed and having home court advantage played a huge factor during the playoffs, as they had to overcome two game sevens. Coach Dwane Casey and the Raptors were viewed by many as the underdogs in each series because of their lack of a “superstar”. Even without a superstar, Casey saw the emergence of Norman Powell and Bismack Biyombo, who were at times playing like the best players on the team. Casey has always preached defense first and that is what got the Raptors that far in the playoffs as their offense was on nights hit or miss.
DeRozan has just re-signed for another five years worth over $139 million leading to the exit of Biyombo due to cap space. The Raptors hoped to have addressed their big man issue by drafting both Jakob Poltl and Pascal Siakam in this year’s draft. Besides that, this free agency period has been a quiet one for the Raptors and they will be essentially entering as the same team. Others in the East such as the Celtics, Pacers and Knicks have all gotten better and will challenge Toronto at the top. Unless the Raptors can pull something off this offseason, it would seem as though they have lost some ground in the East.
Dwane Casey has been the head coach of the Raptors for the last five years and has gradually improved upon each season. This year Casey coached the Raptors to their best regular season and post-season in franchise history, falling two games shy of a birth in the NBA Finals. After such a season, Ujiri rewarded Casey with a three-year extension and made sure it was known that he is the coach of the future in Toronto.
The Raptors regular season was smooth sailing and Casey was never questioned for his ability to coach, until the playoffs happened. Casey’s coaching performance could only be described as inconsistent leading to a very bumpy playoff run for the Raptors. His ability to adapt from game-to-game in a series was questionable and it led to back-to-back series going seven games. The amount of isolation plays that worked during the regular season stopped working in the playoffs and the stellar defense we saw got exposed.
Despite his stiff rotations and small offensive playbook, Casey seems have a genuine connection with his players that allows him to bring the best out of them. Don’t get it twisted because Dwane Casey can coach. He is well respected throughout the league and has enough upside to continue growing with these young Raptors. It’s hard to let go of a coach who improves along with his team each year.
ADP: 32/26 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 11/13 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 9/11 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 77
In 2015-16 “Skinny” Kyle Lowry took another step forward as one of the leaders of the Raptors. Near the end of the 2014-15 season, Lowry’s production declined after having to carry his team for the majority of the season with his running mate, DeRozan, on the shelf due to injury. His stamina and endurance was in question as he ran out of gas during the end of the year, this led him to work hard on his conditioning during the off season, losing 15 pounds with just 4.3 percent body fat. The conditioning paid off as he led the Raptors to the most successful season in franchise history while having to play the most games in a season for his career.
It was clear that the Raptors go as their backcourt goes. Lowry averaged 21.2 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game, 6.4 assists per game and 2.1 steals per game, while also leading his team in 3-pointers made with 212. With the offence still running through Lowry, he also averaged 2.9 turnovers per game, which is something you can live with because of what he can bring to the team. With 2.8 3-pointers per game and 2.1 steals per game it’s hard not to consider him as a top fantasy option.
Lowry was a late bloomer and is now flourishing at the age of 30. He did have some elbow issues during the end of the season that had to be evaluated but based on his decision to play for Team USA this summer, his elbow looks to be fine and he should be 100 percent for the start of the 2016-17 season. Hopefully his 30-year-old body can handle this much playing time.
With Lowry and DeRozan at the core of the Raptors and coach Casey having a small playbook, look for him to put up similar numbers as he did this year. Lowry is a “pit-bull” and works hard on both ends of the floor. He is one of the better rebounding guards in the league and with his ability to know down the three and draw fouls, he should be a fantasy stud.
ADP: 63/60 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 31/36 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 40/48 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 78
DeRozan has been with the Raptors his entire career, through thick and thin, and has never thought about leaving this franchise. His free agency decision did not take long, agreeing to a five-year deal worth over $139 million. From year-to-year he has continuously improved on his game and has become an elite shooting guard in the NBA.
DeRozan shot 44.6 percent from the field while getting to the charity stripe at least 8.4 times per game, connecting on 85 percent of his attempts—talk about efficient. He was able to lead his team in points per game with 23.5 while contributing a solid 4.5 rebounds per game and 4 assists per game. The only thing keeping DeRozan from being a better fantasy option is his inability to hit the 3-point shot. He has been in the league for seven years and this was his most efficient year from beyond the arc, 33.8% bleh.
Looking ahead, he should still be the primary scorer for the Raptors with his isolation ball and deadly mid-range game. DeRozan should be able to provide the same efficiency and statistics as he did this year, maybe even a 3-point shot? We’ll let you know closer to the draft date if he has finally added one to his arsenal.
ADP: 54/62 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 94/75 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 65/52 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 60
The Lithuanian big man has continued to show growth and improvement under the Raptors and is the number one option in the post. Before Valanciunas missed 22 games during the regular season and also the second round of the playoffs due to injury, he was having a breakout season. He averaged a career high in points per game with 12.8, rebounds per game with 9.1, while also chipping in 1.3 blocks per game.
The Raptors want to increase his playing time and give the 24-year-old a bigger role on the team. His minutes saw a decrease this year due to his inability to stay out of foul trouble and playing in small ball situations. Having those injuries also did not help the big man as the team had to be more cautious of his playing time. He shot the ball at an efficient rate of 56.5 percent and is able to hit a good percentage of his free throws as a big man (76.1 percent).
Like his backcourt teammates, Valanciunas will be attending the Olympics and playing for his country Lithuania. Playing internationally will help him build on his game while gaining experience at the same time. He should be a walking double-double threat next season as we expect another step forward from the Lithuanian in the 2016-17 season.
ADP: 74/59 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 322/312 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 124/118 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 26
The “Junkyard Dog 2.0” was supposed to come to the Raptors and provide the defense and 3-point shooting they lacked on the wing, instead he was injury-riddled the whole season and only managed to play 26 games. He averaged 11 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game, with 1.8 3-pointers and 1 steal per game. He will be taking this offseason to recover and should be 100 percent by the start of the season. After this year, his fantasy value will be taking a significant hit, so he could be a bargain on draft day. If you drafted him this year, you played yourself.
ADP: 140 / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 126/110 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 175/157 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 82
Biyombo became a fan favourite in Toronto because of his energy off the bench and his just-have-fun mentality. Big Bizness averaged 5.5 points per game, 8 rebounds per game, and 1.6 blocks per game in a backup role. With DeRozan signing a large contract with the Raptors, Biyombo is now headed to the Orlando Magic where he agreed to a $72 million deal over four years. The fans will truly miss the shot blocking, finger-wagging big man. He will likely start with the magic and has a chance at being a top-five shot blocker and a top-10 rebounder for next season.
ADP: N/A / 135 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 163/139 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 185/156 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 73
After extending his contract with the Raptors for three more years worth over $33 million, Ross had a disappointing campaign with only 9.9 points per game and 1.8 3-pointers per game. He has become nothing more than a 3-point specialist with no other statistics being appealing. If he does not hit his 3-point shots, the Raptors have better options than him to be on the floor. Look for Ross to be used more in DFS.
ADP: 140/ 122 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 153/142 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 196/176 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 79
Patterson is one of the leaders in the Raptors locker room and does many things off the stat sheet that can’t be recorded. He averaged 6.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 3-pointers per game. He is one of the better stretch fours capable of defending other stretch fours inside and out. He should have the same role as he did this season and can only provide you with some rebounds and 3-pointers.
ADP: N/A/ 140 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 169/172 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 211/223 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 73
Cory Joseph decided to come home to Canada this offseason signing a 4-year deal with the Raptors to backup Lowry. He was able to provide solid stats off the bench with 8.5 points per game, 2.6 rebounds per game and 3.1 assists per game. His presence was clear during the playoffs, as he was arguably the most consistent player while under pressure. His fantasy value will be limited as long as Lowry is healthy.
ADP: N/A/ 136 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 180/162 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 206/194 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 76
The 36-year-old forward seems to have nothing left to give as he hits free agency. He gave the Raptors a respectable 8.7 points per game and 4.7 rebounds per game to go along with his veteran presence. It’s hard to see him having any fantasy value no matter where he goes.
After having the best season in franchise history and re-signing their number one priority in DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors should be looking to make more moves in order to stay competitive in the East. Casey can coach and he excels on the defensive side of the ball however, he must find a way to get his offensively gifted players new plays to run and new looks to try. Lowry and DeRozan, the All Star backcourt, will once again try to help the Raptors take the next step towards the NBA finals. We The North.