Many analysts (including myself) touted the Toronto Raptors as a potential playoff team. Acquiring Kyle Lowry, they said, was a nice coup. The addition of 2011 first-round draft pick Jonas Valanciunas created a formidable roster that could contend in the substantially weaker Eastern Conference.
Through 13 games, the results have been porous. The Raptors are ranked in the bottom third (or dangerously close) in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Landry Fields, who signed a three-year, $18.8 million dollar deal this offseason, has already underwent surgery on his elbow. In the five games he did play, he was criminally ineffective, posting a .237 true shooting percentage and 1.3 player efficiency rating (PER).
A 3-10 record doesn’t do this team much justice. As of now, the only team trailing them in win-loss record is the 0-11 Washington Wizards.
There are potential harbingers in hope: the aforementioned Lowry and Valanciunas, 2010 first round pick Ed Davis and DeMar DeRozan.
Lowry is still recovering from a bone bruise that sidelined him six games. The injury prevented him from building upon an encouraging first impression, in which he averaged 23.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, seven assists while shooting 57.5 percent. His averages have dipped a bit expectedly but the Raptors are indeed a better team when he’s on the floor.
Valanciunas has been as good as advertised. He can make the mid-range jumper, dive to the rim on pick-and-rolls, complementing the perimeter exploits of Andrea Bargnani, the team’s 2006 first round draft choice.
Davis has played sparingly (13.1 minutes) even though he’s been one of the most effective rebounders in the game. He is 10th in rebounding percentage, among those with at least 100 minutes played. Defensively, he has improved as an interior defender and shot blocker.
While you can argue that DeRozan didn’t deserve his lofty four-year, $42 million extension, he has shown a slightly more developed offensive game. He’s scored at least 20 points on five occasions this season and, most importantly, dialed down his mid-range attempts. As such, his field goal percentage is currently a decent but not great 44.2 percent. His at rim field goal percentage, meanwhile, has soared to an elite 69.8 percent per Hoopdata.
Overall, this Raptors team isn’t nearly as bad as their 3-10 counterparts (Detroit, Cleveland). The talent is there. Last season, the defense allowed the fifth lowest effective field goal percentage, the most important factor in an elite defense, but was belied by a league worst foul rate.
An upset victory over the Spurs is possible. Just, you know, putting that out there.
Where to watch: The game will be shown on Fox Sports Southwest (FSSW) in San Antonio, Sportsnet (SNET) in Toronto and NBA League Pass at 12:00 p.m. CST. It will also air on stations 1200 WOAI and 1350 KCOR in Spanish.
Injury report: Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps) and Stephen Jackson (fractured finger) are out.
Alan Anderson (left foot plantar fasciitis) is questionable.
Landry Fields (elbow surgery) hasn’t played since Nov. 7. There is no word on his status.