With the NBA season fast approaching, I figured I'd throw my two cents in on how I see things playing out. These projections were created using Wins Produced (WP) from the Wages of Wins Journal and The NBA Geek. To gauge how rookies and incoming international players perform, I used the amazing projections of Arturo Galletti. If you haven't read any of that stuff, you should. I march on with the up-and-coming Toronto Raptors. Enjoy.
Toronto Raptors 46-36 (3rd Atlantic)
TOP NINE PRODUCTION (numbers listed are 2011-12 WP)
|PG Kyle Lowry||5.9|
|SG Terrence Ross*||3.3|
|SF DeMar DeRozan||-1.4|
|PF Andrea Bargnani||-0.2|
|C Jonas Valanciunas*||-0.2|
|G Jose Calderon||4.2|
|G/F Landry Fields||6.7|
|F Amir Johnson||6.1|
|F Ed Davis||6.4|
The Raptors certainly appear to be Wins Produced darlings. I doubt any other prognostication has them winning 46 games, especially when that same prognostication has three of the four reasons people might actually think the Raptors could surprise performing at putrid levels.
Andrea Bargnani, for all of his shortcomings on the glass and defensive end, is widely considered a pretty talented offensive player capable of being the centerpiece of a successful team's attack. Overlooked is the fact, that while it is true Bargnani is a laughably bad rebounder (Ben Uzoh rebounded at a better rate last season), and a passive defensive presence (it seems almost impossible for a 7-footer to block only 15 shots in 31 games), it is also true that the Primo Pasta spokesman is a poor shooter who unfortunately shoots more than anyone else on his team and turns the ball over at an alarming rate for a center. The fact that he has twice been the worst player in the league per Wins Produced should not be surprising.
DeMar DeRozan continues to be billed as a future star based entirely on his athleticism and size, because his production has progressively gotten worse throughout his career. Last year, DeRozan was below average in every category except FT%, FTA, scoring, and FGA, joining Bargnani as another Raptor who can't shoot but does more than the average player at his position. That is the very definition of inefficiency.
If DeRozan continues his downward trajectory, it could be exponentially damaging, since his oozing (unrealized) potential garnishes him big-time minutes that come at the expense of widely-and-wrongly-mocked free agent signing Landry Fields and rookie Terrence Ross. Fields has been dismissed as merely the cog in an ill-fated, convoluted attempt by Toronto to lure Steve Nash away from New York (who also didn't get Nash, but whatever), but--while that may indeed have been GM Bryan Colangelo's motivation for signing the former Knick--Toronto has in its possession a player who has been a top 5 shooting guard in terms of Wins Produced both seasons of his career. While he'll never wow you the way DeRozan occasionally may, Fields will make positive contributions across the board while taking nearly nothing away. Ross, meanwhile, projects as a slightly below-average player as a rookie, but slightly below-average is better than downright awful any day.
The third "key" to the Raptors' season who will fall on his face is hyped Euro big man Jonas Valanciunas. Based largely on the strength of a dominant three week stretch against under-19 players two summers ago, Valanciunas is being hailed as Toronto's savior. Bill Simmons swears the Cavs will rue the day they took Tristan Thompson over Valanciunas, and while Thompson hasn't exactly wowed yet, I highly doubt Valanciunas will outperform the former Longhorn. For one thing, I don't see Valanciunas being able to stay on the floor. Foul trouble and match-up problems will force him to the bench more often than not, and while I think the young Lithuanian does have the skill to be an effective low-block scorer, the necessity for such a player has been greatly diminished. Dominant big men are still a necessity in today's NBA, but dominance on the defensive end rules this day, and Valanciunas has a long way to go before he will even be passable on that end of the floor.
The fourth "key" to the Raptors' season, by the way, will actually be a difference-maker. I'm talking about Kyle Lowry, of course, who should team with incumbent Jose Calderon to form one of the more productive point guard rotations in the league. Lowry will also bring toughness that should fit right in with what head coach Dwane Casey is trying to establish in Toronto. Combined with Ross, Fields, and the big man bench duo of Amir Johnson and Ed Davis, Lowry and the Raptors should be able to overcome the ineffectiveness of their other three "cornerstones" and find their way back in the postseason for the first time since 2008.