We’ve been looking for an obvious chance to touch on the Toronto Raptors’ defensive woes. Archie Goodwin gave us the perfect opportunity. Late in his team’s blowout of Toronto yesterday, watch the Phoenix Suns reserve go right through Jonas Valanciunas for an epic facial jam.
The Suns shot nearly 54 percent from the field and racked up a whopping 62 bench points in their 125-109 beat-down of the Raptors. Goodwin, a hyper-athletic sophomore out of Kentucky, notched a season-high 12 points in mostly garbage time minutes.
Lost amid Toronto’s start to 2014-2015 has been its performance on the defensive end. The Raptors slipped to No. 22 in defense and a 105.0 overall efficiency after Sunday’s debacle, and they’ve been even worse than that since losing DeMar DeRozan to a groin injury in late November – third-to-last in the league for a porous 108.6 defensive rating.
The good news is that DeRozan is expected to return to the lineup later this week. The bad news is that he won’t single-handedly fix Dwayne Casey’s ailing defense.
Toronto has been better on that side of the ball with Valanciunas on the bench. Kyle Lowry’s defensive impact has faded as he’s so ably shouldered more offensive responsibility. Terrence Ross is prone to mistakes of all young players. And the team’s most effective defensive units are comprised of multiple bench players.
The Raptors allow a lot of corner three-pointers. They don’t force many turnovers. Teams feast on them from mid-range. And they’re a weak defensive rebounding outfit.
With DeRozan back in tow, can Toronto regain its solid defensive standing of the early season? Perhaps. But what’s more likely is that the Raptors’ will top out as average on that side of the ball, and perhaps even settle in just below that humbling assessment. Their offense is dominant enough that it might not matter in the first round of the playoffs – the lower half of the East is weak, and Toronto is a scoring machine.
But the Raptors’ hopes of a conference crown and Finals appearance are shakier than their 24-10 record suggests. The truly elite teams play both sides of the ball at high levels, and Toronto simply doesn’t – and seems ill-equipped to do so for consistent stretches this season.
*Statistical support for this post provided by nba.com/stats.
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