In a perfect world, an offensive approach featuring an inside/outside game is the preferred mode by virtually every NBA team.
It’s a formula that often leads to sustained success during the regular season, which lends itself quite nicely for an extended run in the post-season.
These Raptors are far from perfect, which isn’t exactly news — a team that is life and death to beat even the very worst the NBA has to offer.
But for now and for the immediate future, barring the acquisition of a bona fide back-to-back basket presence, which isn’t going to happen, the Raptors have a one-two punch in Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan, two perimeter players who are at their best when quick heaves are replaced by decisive forays to the hole.
When Bargnani was unavailable during a recent stretch in the wake of a strained left calf, it was left to DeRozan, the high-flying second-year wing, to pick up the offensive load.
The offence would go through DeRozan’s hands and he took advantage of the extra touches by elevating his game.
Sunday afternoon against the visiting Sacramento Kings, who were minus their main offensive weapon in Tyreke Evans (sprained left ankle), the Bargnani-DeRozan combo helped carry the homeside to a 118-112 win.
From a basketball perspective, the afternoon was far from clinical, more an exercise in tedium than sporting tenacity pitting two teams destined for yet another lottery season.
And yet, when one strips away the sloppy defence and stretches of sub-standard play, one will find glimpses and evidence of two emerging offensive players co-existing in a non-traditional manner.
“DeMar has the ability to be aggressive even when Andrea is on the floor,’’ Raptors head coach Jay Triano would begin post-game as his team tipped off a three-game homestand with a much-needed win.
“I think they can learn to play off each other as well.”
Perhaps they can, but one will have to become more of a presence in the post because an inside game is one of many areas that has to be addressed.
Against smaller defenders, DeRozan’s athleticism allows him to operate in the paint.
The same applies to Bargnani, who can play on the block when he’s sufficiently motivated and not prone to being intimidated by bigger centres.
Against the Kings, the Bargnani-DeRozan tandem attempted 39 attempts from the field, but they made only eight trips to the charity stripe.
Bargnani doesn’t exactly look to create for others when the ball is in his hands and DeRozan, while expanding his game, doesn’t have the necessary handles at this stage in his evolution to be a consistent creator.
The warts notwithstanding, both have shown flashes and perhaps for the first time this season enough evidence was presented to suggest Bargnani and DeRozan can both be effective.
“They’re our two best offensive options,’’ Triano added. “They both found different ways to score.”
DeRozan is at his best when he’s attacking defenders and putting pressure on defences by putting the ball on the floor.
Next to Leandro Barbosa, DeRozan is the Raptors’ best finisher in transition.
Bargnani, given his seven-foot frame, is a matchup nightmare for any opponent, let alone a Kings team whose bigs aren’t exactly the most fleet of foot.
Down the stretch with the Raptors clinging to a 110-109 lead, it was a Bargnani three-ball off a pick-and-pop sequence with Jose Calderon that tipped the game in Toronto’s favour.
On Sacramento’s ensuing offensive possession, Triano made a defensive switch by putting Bargnani on DeMarcus Cousins, whose size in the post couldn’t be contained by the undersized Amir Johnson.
Outside of the pick ’n’ roll, no play is more common in basketball than the two-man game, which, for obvious reasons, requires one player to be able to handle the ball and make the appropriate pass.
With the Raptors, it’s often Calderon or Barbosa who get used in a two-man scenario with Bargnani.
Whether Bargnani and DeRozan can be effective, consistently that is, can only be answered in time.
But for now, the Raptors aren’t going to complain when Bargnani is dropping 30 points and DeRozan is netting 28.
When victories have been few and far between this season, there’s no point in complaining, either when a team makes close to 60% of its shots, which Toronto managed, and yet requires to make plays down the stretch to win.
But that’s what happens when 16 turnovers are converted into 20 points and when the visitors outscore their hosts 27-16 from the foul line.