The Toronto Raptors and their fans are enjoying quite a season. In short order, the Raptors have gone from lottery-lock to playoff bound, all within the span of two months.
The main reason was the trade of Rudy Gay, the second time in as many seasons Gay has been jettisoned. Now there is no doubt he is a talented player, but it seems that if he has to be the alpha, he just can’t cut it.
Now, instead of Gay, there are four quality rotation players, who have helped to mold the Toronto Raptors into a tough-minded team.
The young core has also benefited, as the increased opportunity and responsibility has only allowed them to blossom.
The grading will commence with the highest graded, all the way down to the bottom of the class.
Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan: A+
These are both easy calls. They have both elevated their games this season, and have both matured to the point of being dependable on a nightly basis.
Lowry has shown he has the talent to compete with any point guard in the league, and his play is very much deserving of an All-Star spot.
The same could be said for Derozan, who has upped every major scoring category this year, and he is the 2nd leading scorer at the 2-spot, trailing only James Harden.
Together they have led the Raptors to their remarkable resurgence. Although Lowry was involved in trade rumours, he didn’t let that phase him, and he continued on trucking.
They are a potent one-two punch, with Lowry’s ability to get into the paint and open up passing lanes, and Derozan recklessly attacking the rim. While each could do better in certain parts, the sum of what they have accomplished so far makes them deserving of top marks.
I will say this. If Arron Afflalo makes the All-Star team and Derozan doesn’t, well, that would just be stupid.
Terrence Ross: A-
No player has seen his value skyrocket quite like Ross with the departure of Gay. He has stepped into the starting line-up and gives the Raptors a deadly perimeter threat when he lurks beyond the 3-point line.
He also has incredible hops, and if he chose to do so, he could get to the line at will, but he seems quite content with his long range act at the moment.
His A- might seem high, but I am giving him that because he had to step into Rudy’s shoes, and that would be tough for any player. Thankfully, he hasn’t tried to play like him.
This also comes on the heels of his 51 point outburst, so that may be skewing things a bit.
Jonas Valaniunas, Pattrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes: B
This trio of big man each bring a different look to the floor for the Toronto Raptors.
With Valanciunas, we are seeing one of the best young centers in the league, and only 21, he has so much more room to grow.
Patterson and Hayes who both came over from the Kings, were able to step right in and contribute where they could. Patterson has had some explosive offensive outputs off the bench, while Hayes has been a very reliable 4th big man, who often is pressed into more playing time due to others’ foul trouble.
While Valanciunas is tantalizing, he has not yet been able to put together a string of five games in which he was a large factor. As someone who owned him in a fantasy league until last month, I am quite familiar with his up and downs.
That said, he does possess an incredible skill-set, and unlike Andrea Bargnani, who was traded before the season, he really seems to be passionate about the game.
Greivis Vasquez: B-
I am giving Vasquez a B- because I expected much more from him at the outset. He was the most notable addition to the team and as the team was in the throes of trade rumours surrounding Kyle Lowry, I assumed he might be the starting guard at some point.
That has now gone by the wayside, but Vasquez has not yet shown that he is either capable, or mentally ready to come off the bench and lead a second unit.
With that said, he seems to be coming around after a slow start, and my hopes for a relentless pick-and-roll attack may soon come to fruition.
Other than that Vasquez has been just okay, as his shot hasn’t been great and his distribution was lacking at times.
Next Up: The Bottom of the Class