I said yesterday that the Raptors would have momentum coming off their win in Boston and boy was that in evidence today. The Hawks kept it close for the first half, but the Raptors got into a groove and never looked back, winning by a huge margin.
DeRozan is a guy I've never been quite sure about, sometimes he looks like a franchise player, sometimes he's just an athlete. Today it was the former, as he was stroking it from the mid-range, driving aggressively, and working hard to get free. Dwayne Casey has done a great job improving DD's defensive attitude, he didn't get dominated by Johnson, Williams or whoever else he was matched up with, and he had a couple of great double teams which lead to turnovers. The obvious progression is to improve his outside shooting and continue to hone his handles, but he's getting a lot better as a catch and shoot guy and can score running of screens in the mid-range. I think his problem is a tendency to defer when Bargnani is in the lineup, as he always tends to play better when Bargs is out.
Ed Davis showed flashes, using a couple of nifty hook shots in the post to get buckets and hitting a mid-range jumper, but he desperately needs to bulk up as he was getting abused in the post whenever Josh Smith decided to go there. Toronto has a knack for finding great D-League players, as Ben Uzoh and Alan Anderson are both keepers. Uzoh is steady, doesn't force it and is a great backup point to have. Anderson is a veteran player at the 2/3 who knows when to shoot, how to move off the ball and can stroke it from outside, which is exactly what the Raptors needs. Hopefully they'll sign him for next season, because he's a great mentor to have for whichever rookie they bring in to address their outside shooting problems next season.
Hawks were awful, Josh Smith was living and dying with his jump shot, which rarely goes in because he doesn't shoot with his legs and always fades away slightly. Johnson made his case for most overpaid player in the NBA with an appalling night, he didn't even look like a starter, let alone a max contract player. They are looking at a first round exit this season without Horford, and it looks like they know it.
Raptors are still searching for their identity as a team because they have so many players missing huge chunks of the season, hopefully with a more relaxed schedule and an extended training camp Dwayne Casey can keep guys healthy and forge a real identity for this team. In the draft they should target Jeremy Lamb, his ability to play off the ball is exactly what they need, DeRozan has shown the ability to create off the dribble, and both guys can play the 2 or 3. Defensively Casey has worked wonders, they are like night and day from last season, and adding Valanciunas is going to be the icing on the cake. They have a great future up in Toronto, but it'll be at least two seasons before they take the leap into the playoffs.
Sorry this one is so short, but I'm late for an appointment with my physiotherapist and didn't want to do it after for the sake of my US readers.
Tomorrow I've got Heat vs Nets, will be great to see how Gerald Green goes against Lebron.