The Raptors have two talented big men in Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas, but the team struggled when they shared the frontcourt. Toronto was outscored by 1.5 points per 100 possessions when the big men played together. (The margin was far worse, --9.5, in the playoffs.)
It's unclear exactly how the 25-year-old Valanciunas fits into the modern NBA. Though he's a willing defender, he's vulnerable on pick-and-rolls and almost useless against teams that consistently fire from deep. On offense, Valanciunas can post up effectively, but he offers no value as a floor spacer: In five seasons he has made one three in four attempts.
Ibaka, 28, makes more sense at center. Though his defense has declined since his heyday in Oklahoma City, Ibaka can still protect the rim, and his outside touch makes him a weapon at the other end.
In the offseason Toronto said goodbye to DeMarre Carroll, P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson. The addition of sharpshooter CJ Miles will help, but unless coach Dwane Casey embraces a smaller, spacier approach, his team's playoff struggles will continue.
COACH DWANE CASEY
(7th season with Raptors)
2016--17 RECORD 51--31
(2nd in Atlantic)
19 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]
PG KYLE LOWRY
22.4 PPG; 7.0 APG; 1.5 SPG; 46.4 FG%
36 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]
SG DEMAR DEROZAN
27.3 PPG; 5.2 RPG; 3.9 APG; 46.7 FG%
SF CJ MILES [NEW ACQUISITION]
10.7 PPG; 3.0 RPG; 43.4 FG%; 41.4 3FG%
56 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]
PF SERGE IBAKA
14.8 PPG; 6.8 RPG; 1.6 BPG; 48.0 FG%
80 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]
C JONAS VALANCIUNAS
12.0 PPG; 9.5 RPG; 0.8 BPG; 55.7 FG%
SG NORMAN POWELL
8.4 PPG; 1.1 APG; 44.9 FG%; 32.4 3FG%
PG DELON WRIGHT
5.6 PPG; 2.1 APG; 1.0 SPG; 42.2 FG%
PF PASCAL SIAKAM
4.2 PPG; 3.4 RPG; 0.8 BPG; 50.2 FG%
• THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP TORONTO
There's still a chance to win the conference with KYLE LOWRY and DEMAR DEROZAN. They've had a really good run here, and those guys are really tough and have a lot of playoff experience.... CJ MILES was a good pickup; they needed some more shooting, and he knows how to play.... With SERGE IBAKA and JONAS VALANCIUNAS, at least they have two guys who can really protect the basket. Not everyone has that. They're not going to have the advantage in every matchup, but the other team won't have that either. They've got shooting and shot blocking in Ibaka, and Valanciunas can score, and he's just so big.... I think OG ANUNOBY was a good pick where they got him [23rd overall]. They can turn him into a defensive-oriented player with his switchability and strength. He'll go through their program, which generally turns out pretty good players. They have a good understanding of what it takes to have success late in the draft, and I wouldn't put it past them to slip one by everyone with the Anunoby pick.... NORMAN POWELL could take a step forward, as long as he's in the right role where he's not asked to do too much. If they get to the playoffs, how is he used? Is he defending LeBron? Is that fair to him? Or is he defending a two guard, in a position to succeed? You can add him to the list of guys they've turned into solid NBA players.... BRUNO CABOCLO—I watched him in the D-League. If he's gonna do it, it'll be this year or it'll be time to move on. [If he fails], it's not going to be because of his physical tools, that's for sure.
TELLING -1.5 STATISTIC
Another playoff showdown with the Cavaliers seems inevitable. As does another loss.