Raptors' mid-season report card

Toronto Raptors' Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, and Linas Kleiza battle for the ball with Detroit...

Toronto Raptors' Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, and Linas Kleiza battle for the ball with Detroit Pistons' Austin Daye. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:41 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS — For a team that is 13-27, stellar grades are not to be expected, nor will they be found here. But keeping the grading in perspective with regard to the expectations for this club, failing grades are also absent. Whether you had this team pegged for a 25-win season or a 35-win season, the reality is injuries have had a huge impact on this club as it reaches the official half way point of the season Monday. Of late, the prospect of a two or three-man bench to go with whatever five somewhat healthy starters can be found is this team’s daily way of life. Even when they were healthy, this team was playing short-handed with Reggie Evans providing little, if any, offence.

As it stands now, the team is on pace to win somewhere between 26 and 27 games.

Here’s a player-by-player look at how each individual has fared in addition to grades for both head coach Jay Triano and GM Bryan Colangelo.

Andrea Bargnani (5th NBA year) B

In a year where little is expected from a wins standpoint, the best gauge of progress is how your future key components fare. For Bargnani, who, barring a sudden change is now and will be for the foreseeable future this teams No. 1 option on offence, there has been progress. Bargnani is averaging 22.0 points a game, up from the 17.2 he averaged last year as the No. 2 option behind Chris Bosh. The hope was he would take a similar leap on the defensive end, but that has not happened. Just as bad, if not worse is the fact that his rebounding numbers, which should go up without Bosh in the lineup, have dipped from 6.2 a game to 5.8. As a scorer Bargnani is taking the necessary steps and as the only player on this team that the opposition game plans for, his top mark on the club is warranted.

Jose Calderon (sixth NBA year) B -

It has been a strange half season for Calderon, who has had to come to grips with the fact that the Raptors traded him in the off-season only to have the trade fall through. For a man like Calderon who values loyalty and “the team” above all else there’s no way that didn’t sting. He started the year slow playing behind Jarrett Jack, but has picked up his play considerably since. Even a nagging foot injury has not held him back significantly. His 10.6 points a game are just a shade higher than last year’s (10.3) but the assists are up considerably, averaging 8.3 this year to the 5.9 a year ago. Turnovers, though, are also up, going from 1.46 a game to 1.90. The good news for Raptors fans is twofold: Right now he’s playing some of the best basketball of his life and he’s no where close to 100% healthwise, which suggests room for improvement still.

DeMar DeRozan (second NBA year) B-

Outside of Bargnani, no one is being watched closer by the organization for signs of progress than the USC product. DeRozan flourished in the absence of Bargnani for six games. He was the dynamic, take-over-the-game scorer GM Bryan Colangelo must have envisioned when he drafted him ninth overall two and a half years ago. When Bargnani returned to the lineup after a four-game absence just after Christmas, DeRozan initially kept up his scoring. Things have fallen off a bit in that regard of late but the hope is the two can co-exist and become a dominant 1-2 scoring punch for years to come. DeRozan is showing intermittent signs of that. His defence remains very much a work in progress. What management has to keep reminding itself is that DeRozan is still a 21-year-old kid. He’s averaging 14.4 points a game, second on the team to Bargnani and up considerably from the 8.6 he scored a game last season.

Amir Johnson (sixth NBA year) B-

Johnson came into this season with higher expectations based on the five-year $34-million US contract he signed in the off-season. He began the season coming off the bench, but Reggie Evans’ foot injury opened up a spot for Johnson in the starting lineup and Johnson has taken advantage. He leads the team in rebounding averaging 6.2 a game including 2.6 offensive boards a game which is 12th in the NBA. Johnson has been slowed by back problems that continue to hamper him. An MRI on Thursday before he left Toronto was encouraging and Johnson said the back is getting better each game. He has developed a decent chemistry with Calderon, resulting in some easy baskets for the Raptors. His fouling problems remain a work in progress, although it has been significantly better the past month than it was when he first joined the starting five.

Leandro Barbosa (8th NBA year) C+

No member of the Raptors has dealt with more injuries and played through them this year than Barbosa. The Brazilian Blur injured his wrist in the final pre-season game and at some point will require surgery to repair it. There have also been shoulder problems, hamstring problems, and knee problems to deal with. The wrist injury has forced Barbosa to adjust his shot so it has been a little inconsistent for a good part of the year, but his speed remains his top weapon. Coming exclusively off the bench, Barbosa is averaging 13.4 points a night. More importantly, his veteran presence in the locker room has been a huge advantage for a team desperately short in that area. If there is a complaint about his game, it is that he doesn’t look for teammates as much as he possibly could, but then when you’re moving at the speed he normally is, who has time to even think to pass?

Linas Kleiza (6th NBA year) D

Brought in to provide some veteran experience and a scoring touch, Kleiza has been a disappointment. He has started 22 of the 38 games he has played but has not brought much in the way of consistency or leadership to a team in need of both. Kleiza is averaging 11.4 points a night, behind Sonny Weems, who has played roughly 2/3 of the minutes Kleiza has. A strong small forward, Kleiza was also expected to take some of the rebounding load but his 4.6 a night is only marginally ahead of what DeMar DeRozan is giving the Raptors. Like just about everyone else on this team, Kleiza has played through injuries — his Achilles has given him problems at times — but the hope was that Kleiza would take more of the load from the departing Chris Bosh. At times he appears frustrated with playing time, even though is 26.33 minutes a night is right in line with everyone on the team not named Bargnani or DeRozan.

Ed Davis (Rookie) C

Ed — don’t call me Eddie — Davis began the season in the worst possible of circumstances. A knee injury suffered in a pick-up game cost him the first five weeks of the season. Davis though did not waste the time away. Watching and working out, he learned it’s not just about what goes on the court that makes you a good professional, but what you do away from it. Since getting on the court, Davis has shown an advanced approach to the game for his 21 years doing the dirty work without complaint and cleaning up around the basket with tip- ins and put-backs. His rebounding — 5.5 a game, which is third on the team behind Bargnani and Johnson — has been his calling card. His coaches would like to see him extend his offensive game away from the basket and that is improving slowly. Limited minutes and the injury have tempered his production, but Davis has done nothing to suggest his selection at 13 overall was not a good one.

Jerryd Bayless (3rd NBA year) C

Bayless’ burning desire to win at all costs has been both help and hindrance. He is a decent distributor but often gets locked into a score-at-all-costs mode and his teammates become spectators. Bayless, like many on this team, deserves credit for trying to play through injuries — a severe ankle sprain has been his cross to bear — but that has limited his effectiveness. Presently he is struggling with the nightly decision of play or let the ankle heal properly, but is leaning towards the latter. In 22 games with the Raptors, all but six coming off the bench, he is averaging just over 21 minutes a night with 10 points and four assists. There is clearly more to his game than he has been able to show in his short time in Toronto.

Sonny Weems (3rd NBA year) C-

Weems began the season coming off the bench, soon worked way into the starting lineup before back problems put him on the shelf. Weems has not played since Dec. 15. In 18 games as a starter Weems was averaging 11.2 points a night and 3.2 rebounds in just under 30 minutes. His injury re-opened a door for Kleiza who has started at small forward since Weems was injured.

Each time it looks like Weems is ready to get back in the lineup, his back problems flare up again. Probably a better player coming off the bench, than starting, Weems stock appears to have dropped in Toronto. Whether that is strictly a result of the injury or other factors, only the coaching staff and management know.

Peja Stojakovic (13th NBA year) Inc

Stojakovic came over with Bayless in the Jarrett Jack deal and has been a mystery ever since. A swollen right knee has kept him out of action for all but two games. It’s looking very much like the scenario the Raptors were in when Rob Babcock traded Vince Carter to New Jersey. Veteran centre Alonzo Mourning came along in the trade and never surfaced in Toronto eventually being bought out two months later. At least Stojakovic is with the team. He could be a very attractive piece for a contending team that is shy in three-point shooters.

Joey Dorsey (3rd NBA year) C

Dorsey has given the Raptors exactly what they have asked of him this season. A big body and a rebounding presence who doesn’t mind going to war with the biggest of bigs, Dorsey has delivered when called upon. With a three-man big-man rotation of Bargnani, Amir Johnson, and Ed Davis now in place, Dorsey’s opportunities are limited more than ever. He is extremely limited offensively but never fails to give the coaching staff what he is capable of giving them.

Reggie Evans (9th NBA year) Inc

Evans biggest contribution to this organization going forward may ultimately be what he brings in return. A one-dimensional — albeit very a very strong one dimension — player, Evans was becoming the defensive conscience of this team when he broke a bone in his foot in late November in Boston. Evans was gobbling up rebounds at a rate of 12.1 a game when he went down. Even offensive boards were unselfishly kicked out to teammates for second chance opportunities. Having played in less than half the games this season, he gets an incomplete. What he can bring in return at the February trade deadline given his long-term injury this season and last is anyone’s guess.

Julian Wright (4th NBA year) C

Yet another one-dimensional player with very little offence to speak of in his game, Wright has, on the few occasions called upon, given the Raptors some life with his Energeizer-Bunny defence. Ju-ju, as he is called by his teammates, should probably have the Reggie Evans rule imposed on him where unless he’s getting put-backs or tap-ins is not allowed to shoot the ball. He is however a relentless defender and a solid role player.

Sundiata Gaines (2nd NBA year) Inc

Gaines arrived probably about two weeks later than the Raps needed him. With Bayless, Calderon and Barbosa all dealing with various injuries, an earlier arrival may have allowed one or two to rest injuries instead of going out and re-aggravating them. Gaines has only played in one game as a Raptor and showed well. The way injuries have followed this team, his 10-day contract may turn out to be a lot longer than that.

Solomon Alabi (Rookie) Inc

Two stints in the D-League have given Alabi some much-needed playing time, but no where near enough for this coachable but extremely raw first-year player. The Raptors would be better served sending him to the D-League for the duration of the season where he can work on improving his game. Right now he’s no more than a practice body with the parent team.

Jay Triano C+

With a limited arsenal sorely lacking in experience, Triano is getting as much out of this roster as possible. On very few occasions has effort been a problem, and that being the largest measuring stick, Triano gets a better than passing grade for his efforts. He and his staff have brought Bargnani and DeRozan along with each player showing improvement. Rookie Ed Davis has progressed. Outside of a few publicly uttered curses, Triano has kept his composure throughout this injury-riddled season and done what’s best for the team’s future. Defensively, his team continues to leak oil, but that too is much more a case of the personnel at his disposal than it is an indictment of his coaching abilities.

Bryan Colangelo C-

Colangelo’s in-season moves to date has consisted of trading Jarrett Jack, David Andersen and Marcus Banks to New Orleans for Jerryd Bayless and Peja Stojakovic. Moving Jack was a good move for the Raptors as it finally established a firm pecking order in the point guard rotation. In Bayless, Colangelo has acquired a player with a definite upside and a potential successor to Calderon. Bringing in Linas Kleiza has not paid the kind of dividends expected, although that is more than offset with unloading Hedo Turkoglu for Leandro Barbosa. The to-do list though remains a long one for the Raptors GM. Among the cards he has yet to play are a rebounding phenom in Reggie Evans and a slick, veteran three-point shooting threat in Peja Stojakovic, not to mention about $12-million remaining on that trade exception from the Chris Bosh team to facilitate those moves. How much he accomplishes with those assets will swing the grade pretty drastically one way or the other before the season is over.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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