To be a diehard Toronto Raptors fan, you need patience. You need to breathe deep when they give up big leads or miss their assignment on defence. It could take you awhile to see everyone clicking on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.
But not this year. Second in the East. Third in the NBA in offensive rating. Best bench in the league. Fourth in the league in assists, a surprising stat considering how often the Raps play isolation basketball with superstar DeMar DeRozan slaying it with his mid-range game.
Coach Casey wanted to see a new look from this year's Raps, so they're swinging the ball, not just leaving DeRozan on an island, and everyone is getting involved, from newcomer three-point ace C.J. Miles to veteran Serge Ibaka to rookie Jakob "Soft Hands" Poeltl.
What fans are getting with this refreshed Raps lineup is one heckuva entertaining game, practically every time the guys take the court. They communicate well on D, getting tons of steals and deflections and turnovers from their hapless opponent.
One of the most jaw-dropping stats is how The Raptors are still somehow 10.1 points per 100 possessions better with DeRozan off the court. That would've been unconceivable last year, but then again last season we had the hapless DeMarre Carroll and the inconsistent Patrick Patterson. Now with Miles knocking down 3s and OG Anunoby winning court time with his wet shots, these role players make up the best bench the Raps have ever seen. No exaggeration.
And don't get me started on backup PG Fred VanVleet. OK, I've already started: Dude is so reliable as a backup to Lowry I can picture many NBA GMs salivating when they watch Raptors games, wondering how Fred could fit in their schemes. He always looks calm, confident, unflappable.
No wonder he boasts an offensive rating of 114.1 and a defensive rating of 95.2, giving him a net rating of 18.9, the best in the league among qualified players. To compare, Steph Curry is sitting at 16.6. James Harden is at 13.2.
Watch him dominate when he's on the floor against the Suns in a recent December game:
Fun basketball is up-tempo basketball. Smooth basketball. Limited turnovers from the Raps means they control the pace and execute with ease. It's what makes Golden State ball so entertaining to watch, as well.
I could keep going, but you get the idea, even if you're not a basketball nut like I am. The Raptors learned from last year's mistakes (too much iso ball with DD, not enough tenacious defence, weak bench) and they remedied their sorest spots. And for the average fan, they're making Toronto basketball so much fun to watch.
Keep it up, fellas.
About David's Blog
I write about journalism, freelancing, the arts, Toronto, technology, sports and why egg nog is under-rated.