Dec 28, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) drives to the basket against New York Knicks guard Beno Udrih (18) at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Knicks 115-100. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Raptors: The Weekly Rap Up


 

Welcome to the first installment of The Rap Up, a weekly look at the Toronto Raptors and where they stand after any given week.

I will preview games to come, keying on specific match-ups, and look at the Raptors status within the conference.

There will be a player feature, showcasing one player’s exceptional play that clearly stood out over the week.

I will also take a look at potential draft selections, focusing on players projected to fall in range of the Toronto Raptors draft picks.

And so it begins.

December 23 – December 29

Games Played: 3 Record: 2-1 Overall Record: 13-15 (1st in Atlantic, 4th seed)

Wins: NYK 95-83, NYK 115-100

Losses: SAS 112-99

(Home Games Bolded)

The Raptors came into the week with two straight road victories over Dallas and Oklahoma City.

The team has taken on a new identity after the trade of Rudy Gay. Kyle Lowry has elevated his play to another level recently, and has guided the team as it moves to incorporate four new players.

Perhaps burnished by trade rumours, the point guard has remade the Raptors team into a pass-happy offence, with open looks for the bigs coming off drives, and a plethora of corner threes.

The game against the Spurs was on the heels of an emotional victory over the Thunder just the night before. The remarkable Spurs showed why they remain one of the most respected franchises in the league.

Dec 23, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) shoots a free throw during the second half against the Toronto Raptors at AT

 

Tony Parker led the way for the Spurs. Tim Duncan was quiet offensively, but had four blocks in helping San Antonio secure the win over the Toronto Raptors.

Game leaders for the Toronto Raptors were: Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross with 23 points each, Lowry with 9 assists, and Jonas Valanciunas with 10 rebounds.

After three days off the Raptors started a home and home series with the New York Knicks, heading into Madison Square Garden fully rested after Christmas. You can find recaps for both the Knicks games here and here.

 

State of the Raptors

The Raptors are beginning to find out who they are. In the lowly East the team has a good a chance as any, especially in light of Al Horford‘s injury, to stake a claim as the third best team in the East.

The gap between the Heat and Pacers, and everyone else is enormous, but some team has to be the third best and the Toronto Raptors look better than most.

I lay out in great detail the realities of this current Raptors team in my tanking piece, where I showed that it is not whether to tank but whether the Raptors can even tank badly enough.

 

Player of the Week

Dec 28, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (7) reacts after making a three-point shot against the New York Knicks at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Knicks 115-100. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Lowry was the major force this week, and he finished strong with his best game of the season.

After trade rumours started circulated involving the Knicks, Lowry promptly buried them in back to back games.

Yet with the game against the Spurs, you saw one of the premier point guards in action. Tony Parker showed that Lowry has a long way to go if he wants to be considered an upper echelon lead guard.

Lowry has the skills and the drive, but he has not yet developed the mentality that is so needed for his position.

With that said, expect Lowry to keep playing well and to have a big week coming up.

On Tap

December 30th – January 5th

 

Number of Games: 4 Projected Record: 2-2

Dec 31st CHI, Jan 1stIND, Jan 3rd WAS, Jan 5th MIA

(Home Games Bolded)

I am predicting that they will win against Chicago and Washington, while losing to the Pacers and Heat.

The Bulls, without Derrick Rose, are a sputtering team. Their only viable option offensively is Luol Deng, who has always been better served as a number two option.

The Pacers represent a team that has all of the bases covered. Their starting five is the most dominant in the league, with dark horse MVP candidate Paul George leading the way.

Dec 20, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) celebrates with center Roy Hibbert (55) after a reverse dunk against the Houston Rockets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Houston 114-81. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

These two games will represent a true test for Jonas Valanciunas, who will have to battle with Joakim Noah one night and then contend with the monster that is Roy Hibbert the next.

Washington is a team that the Raptors will have to beat if they want to be considered legit playoff hopefuls. Led by the young back court of John Wall and sharp shooting Bradley Beal, the Wizards can put up points in a hurry.

The Raptors will need their defence to close out on shooters all the while keeping Nene and Marcin Gortat off the glass. Look for Amir Johnson to have a big game, as his athleticism cannot be combated by the Wizards front court.

Finally the week ends with a visit to Miami, where Lebron James and Co. are once again easing their way through the regular season in fine fashion.

Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan will have to put pressure on their ball handlers, and John Salmons figures to get plenty of run in defending James.

A record of 2-2 this week will leave the Raptors right where they started, but if they can steal one from either the Pacers or Heat, they can consider this week a success.

Draft Watch

This years draft has a strong narrative. It is the Year of the Frosh, but today we will feature a player that is becoming a rare breed. The four year senior.

Doug McDermott, the All-American from Creighton will likely be the first senior taken in this years draft.

Dec 22, 2013; Omaha, NE, USA; Creighton Bluejays forward Doug McDermott (3) takes a shot over California Golden Bears forward David Kravish (45) during their game at CenturyLink Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports

Possessing superior offensive skills and a NBA-ready jump shot, the coach’s son (His dad is Creighton’s Head Coach) will likely feature early on as a specialist, much like JJ Redick was coming out of college.

His basketball IQ is off the charts, and he has a knack for being in the right place, every time. The concerns over his lack of elite athleticism are fair, as the league has gone to small-ball line-ups more and more. It is hard imagining McDermott being able to keep up with the uber-athletes that line up at the 3 spot.

That being said, count me as one of his champions, as his fundamental team play will surely find a use on any roster.

The Toronto Raptors, as of today, are slotted to have pick number 16.

That’s A Rap

Thank you for joining me for this first edition of The Rap Up.

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Kyle Lowry Toronto Raptors