The Toronto Raptors went 8-6, with 3 losses to start out the month before the trade of Rudy Gay.
Since the trade the Raptors are 9-3, with a victory over the Indiana Pacers last night to start off the new year.
The team has improved considerably, and both their offence and defence are performing at high levels.
The single greatest statistical change has been the increase in assist totals. With Rudy Gay at the forefront the team was prone to heavy amounts of isolation play.
Now, the ball is whipped around and timely drives are drawing defenders and making kick outs all the more prevalent.
In interviews the coach has stressed the importance of sharing the rock, and all indications are that his team has listened.
Without the talented but much maligned Gay, the team has taken on an identity more akin to General Manager Masai Ujiri’s previous Denver teams. Those Nuggets were designed to be a complementary roster, as opposed to the star driven Nuggets in the Melo years.
Dwane Casey deserves just as much, if not more credit for his ability to guide the team in the aftermath of the trade.
Incorporating four new players during a season is not simple, but Casey has made it look easy. The transition has been near seamless, most notably with Greivis Vasquez becoming a steady hand off the bench and leading the second unit.
John Salmons has provided key minutes and smart defence, and Patrick Patterson has been an offensive spark off the bench.
Yet the new players play was not of prime concern. The main goal was to allow their remaining core the opportunity to thrive, and that they are.
The entire core that is Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas have been playing incredible. The increased opportunity for Ross has seen the most significant improvements.
His seven 3-pointers against the Knicks on Saturday were a career-high and he will continue to be a threat off drive and kicks with Derozan and Lowry attacking the paint.
Valanciunas is beginning to play consistently, after tantalizing us at the summer league. His progression will be the biggest factor in how the season shakes out.
The Toronto Raptors head into the rest of January on a 4-game winning streak.