This post appeared on RaptorsRepublic.com
In the last 17 games, the Toronto Raptors are 4-13. The only reason they haven’t moved farther down in the standings than they have, in that time, is because nearly everyone below them has played worse. Case in point, the Detroit Pistons, who are 2-15 in their last 17 games. In fact, the three teams directly below the Raptors have all gone 1-9 in their last 10 games. And it’s not as if teams are losing intentionally for a potential franchise player, like they did last year for Anthony Davis. No, these teams are just bad.
Thankfully, someone will have to win this game. It might as well be the Raptors, right?
Of course, the big news for this game is that it marks the return of Jose Calderon for the first time since he was traded from the Raptors after spending more than 8 seasons in Toronto. Truth be told, I’ve always been a Jose Calderon fan. While his defense has never been good, I always thought his offensive game was vastly underrated by most Raptor fans who wanted a more scoring minded PG who could create more off the dribble.
Give me a pass-first PG any day of the week over a player who will look for his own shot first.
When Calderon takes the floor for the first time, I really hope Raptor fans give him a standing ovation. Whether you liked his game or not, you have to respect the professionalism and workman-like approach he brought to every game, and how he held himself on and off the court.
Throughout all the losing, you always got the idea that Calderon was one of the few Raptors who truly cared about winning. While no one would ever mistake him for a tough guy, he never backed down from a challenge, even famously getting into it with Kevin Garnett in Boston.
He and Amir Johnson were the only Raptor players who consistently had a positive effect on the court, after Bosh left, in fact the team almost always faired better when hen was on the floor throughout his career, despite his less than stellar defense.
I only wish he was traded to a better situation than the Pistons.
Not that the Pistons don’t have a lot of promise. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond might comprise one on the best front lines in the league, in the next few years, and Joe Dumars has made very good use of his second round picks, grabbing Kyle Singler and Jonas Jerebko who are good role players.
While they have promise, they still need a lot of pieces. Monroe is the only Pistons to score more than 14 ppg, and he barely does that. They have a ton of cap room this summer, but the last time Dumars had a lot of cap room, he used it to give Ben Gordon and Charlie Villaneuva outrageous contracts.
But onto tonight’s game.
With the Raptors soundly beating the Pistons in their last meeting last week, the Pistons may or may not be looking for revenge this time, depending on if they care about it anymore.
In my first pre-game analysis, I said I would look at three stats that should affect the game. Unfortunately the Pistons don’t really do ANYTHING well, either being middle of the pack or worse at just about everything. I did find a few things, though.
1. Inside Scoring
According to Hoopdata.com, the Pistons are third in the league in field goal attempts at the rim, yet are sixth worst in field goal percentage from that location. In fact, the Pistons take more shots at the rim than from anywhere else on the court. And they’re not very good at making those. No wonder they’ve got the record they do and that Calderon’s assists have gone down since being traded to Detroit.
What’s interesting about the Pistons this year, is who they’ve been able to beat. They beat Atlanta, Boston twice, Milwaukee three times, Miami and San Antonio. All teams that are better than average at defending at the rim. What does it mean? I really don’t know, but how much the Pistons score inside, and how well they shoot from there, will no doubt play a part.
2. Greg Monroe’s Scoring
Monroe is the the Pistons only consistent scoring threat, so if you can lock him down, you should have a good chance of winning. In the loss to the Raptors last week, Monroe scored just 11 points on 3-11 shooting. Amir Johnson played a big part in that and Amir staying out of foul trouble is a big key to keeping Monroe from scoring.
3. Jonas Valanciunas: Post Scorer
While how Valanciunas scores hasn’t yet had much of an impact on the success of the Raptors, I think everyone wants to watch him continue to score like he has recently. In his last ten games, Valanciunas is scoring 13.8 ppg on 68% shooting, while grabbing 8.1 rpg and blocking 1.2 shots a game. While those aren’t All Star numbers, for a 20 year old rookie, those are VERY encouraging.
Finally, in honour of Jose Calderon’s return…