TORONTO – A season-long issue plagued the Raptors in Sunday’s loss to Denver and it appears Dwane Casey’s had enough of it.
The most selfish team in the league – at least statistically-speaking – desperately needs to change its ways.
Before Monday’s games, Toronto ranked last in the 30-team NBA in assists (a whopping 32 behind the next-worst team in that regard), assist-to-turnover ratio (even though point guard Kyle Lowry ranks 10th overall) and 25th in effective field goal percentage.
Too often, Toronto has moved the ball early in games, only to completely abandon that approach afterward.
It happened again Sunday, when the Raptors assisted on eight of the first 11 baskets in a stellar opening quarter, before picking up only two assists in each of the second and fourth quarters.
The common thread was that when the team involved Jonas Valanciunas – who had a season-high 16 shot attempts – in the first and third frames, the offence looked far more effective. It’s been a recurring theme so far.
Heading into the contest, Valanciunas had scored more than half of his points in opening quarters.
He’s often a spectator later on. At least on Sunday he was a focal point, attempting eight shots in the third.
Rudy Gay had a decent statistical performance (23 points on 10-of-23 shooting, with three assists and two turnovers, just the third time this year he’s had more helpers than turnovers), but he also ignored open teammates ahead of him at least once on the break and held the ball far too often.
Casey is looking for a change and not just from Gay.
“We had only 18 assists, they had 29. We’ve got to start trusting the pass, moving the ball and trusting it,” Casey said of the offensive lapses against Denver.
“We have got to make the next pass, next play, whatever the decision is. I’m not telling a guy to take a shot that he’s worked on or is in rhythm, but, again, is that the best shot for our team?
“Making the next pass. That’s where our problems have started on the offensive end. When we do that, we’ve shown we can play with people, but when we don’t, it gets ugly. Until we do that, we’ll feel this way (dejected). Guys have to decide how they want to play.”
Basketball is a pretty simple game. You move the ball around, get opponents scrambling, you generally will get far better opportunities to make baskets. Gay isn’t the only one eschewing team basketball, but he’s by far the worst offender on this roster. He makes life difficult for himself and he’s making his teammates less effective.
Asking Gay to initiate the offence far less frequently also could be a potential solution. He is a below average ball-handler and passer, so it’s not clear why he has been tasked with being Toronto’s primary ball-handler, particularly with Lowry playing well.
It’s led to poor numbers, both for Gay (17 games in a row shooting less than 47% from the field, tons of turnovers) and for the team and has limited the effectiveness of Valanciunas and Amir Johnson.
If Gay adapts, perhaps others will follow. Even so, if he alone starts passing far more frequently and lets Lowry start with the ball more frequently, everybody will be far better off for it.