It’s report card time

Since we’re at the halfway point of the season (or a little past it by now), I’ve got some grades for the Raptors. I was on FAN590 last week for an NBA roundtable and found out just before going on the air that I’d be giving grades. Let me tell you, I was frantically making notes on who I thought should get which grade, but was pretty scattered, since, you know, these things take time. At the very least I’d like to explain the scale I used when coming up with these grades.

I chose “C” as the grade for every player who gave me what I expected from them this season. If they exceeded what I expected, they got a higher grade. If their performance fell below my expectation, they got a lower grade. Keep in mind that a “C” is not bad or average in my books, simply what I expected from the player. Here we go:

Andrea Bargnani: C+ — I got a lot of flak for this grade on Twitter, which surprised me. Maybe people were giving their grades differently than I did, but for me, while Andrea has shown he’s a very capable scorer, even when he is the first option or focal point of the offence, he’s also shown that he disappears for huge stretches at a time and has been –for the most part– unable to piece together two halves. In addition to this, he hasn’t really improved on those things that have plagued him for years: defence, rebounding and shot-blocking.

Jose Calderon: B — Despite his defensive deficiencies and off-and-on shot, Jose’s been pretty solid for the Raptors. He’s had to deal with thinking he was going to be traded during the offseason, starting the season coming off of the bench and then moving into the starting point guard slot after the deal that sent Jarrett Jack to New Orleans. Through it all he’s been a consummate professional and team player. While he’s averaging 10.3 points per game, identical to last season, he’s upped his assist average from 5.9 to 8.5 per game. He’s changed his game to work with the athletes on this team who want to get out and run and perhaps most importantly, he helps the young guys feel comfortable and knows where they want the ball to score.

DeMar DeRozan: B — Coming into this season, one thing that was clear was that DeMar DeRozan was going to have a much bigger role offensively and a lot more of attention on him. Thus far, he’s handled things pretty well. While he’s still got to work on extending his range and getting better handles, DeMar has shown he can score in the big leagues and has almost doubled his scoring average from his rookie season and is fifth among all sophomores with 15.3 points per game. Perhaps the best thing DeMar has shown this season is that he can be that aggressive slasher to the hoop that this team wanted when they selected him in the 2009 draft.

Amir Johnson: B+ — Out of all of the Raptors, I gave Amir Johnson the highest grade. This might seem odd, if you’re just looking at his stats, but honestly, when Amir signed his deal this offseason, I thought it was a pretty horrendous contract. It’s never good when the player admits he expected to sign for millions less. Amir has worked his butt off to get the contract and continues to work hard to earn it. Hustle, effort and heart are staples of Amir’s game. Most importantly, he’s found a way to stay on the floor, at least, in Amir Johnson terms. Averaging 9.3 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 58 percent from the floor in 25 minutes of play each night. What’s more, he’s upped his free throw percentage from 64 percent last season to 82 percent this season, a result of many days working with Alex English. Factor in how he has fought through injury– and continues to fight through a back that leaves him tiptoeing across the floor barefoot the second practice ends– and I had to give him a B+ because he has exceeded my expectations.

Linas Kleiza: D — Ouch. I know. One of the biggest signings of the offseason for the Raptors after the summer he had in Turkey, expectations were high for Linas. Especially considering he would be a veteran player on a young team with lots of room for him to score. Unfortunately, despite taking over the starting spot up front from Sonny Weems, Linas has had a lackluster first half as a Toronto Raptor. Inconsistency, bad shot selection, turnovers — it hasn’t been pretty. While he is averaging 11.2 points per game –up from his 11.1 average in 07-08– his shooting percentages are down across the board. By the numbers, things don’t look so bad for Linas. His impact on the game, though, has been below my expectations for him.

Ed Davis: B+ — Talk about a pleasant surprise. After missing the start of the season rehabbing from arthroscopic surgery, rookie Ed Davis has provided some excitement since he made his debut on December 1st. In 27 games, Ed is averaging 6.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. He’s also swatting a shot every night. My single favourite thing about Ed’s game thus far, though, is that he’s fearless. Doesn’t matter who he’s playing against or what situation he finds himself in, he’s grounded, calm and focused. Wiser than his years.

Joey Dorsey: C+ — He is who we thought he was. Solid effort in his minutes.

Sonny Weems: C- — He’s been injured, so it’s tough to grade Sonny, but his shot selection has been less than stellar and he’s a better playmaker than he’s shown this season, looking for his own shot rather than the easy play.

Leandro Barbosa: C — He’s been about what was expected. A scorer off of the bench. Another guy who has been banged up for the duration of the season, Leandro has fought through pain and chose to be with his teammates when he could have opted for surgery on his wrist. His defence hasn’t really been there, but then again, whose has on this team?

Jerryd Bayless: B- — He’s tough, intense and fiery. Coming to the Raptors by way of a trade in mid-November, Jerryd has given his all and has shown flashes of why the Raptors were so pleased to get him. At just 22, and ripe with potential, the future is bright for this point guard.

Julian Wright: C+ — An enigma coming into this season, thanks to injury, Julian has been given opportunity to the tune of 15 minutes per game and has shown a little bit of everything in those minutes. Although his stats are low across the board, he’s shown off his passing ability and court vision, while playing the defence that was expected.

Reggie Evans: Incomplete– I’m not even sure how to grade Reggie because he’s played just 15 games this season. On one hand, he was phenomenal on the boards in those games. On the other hand, 15 games is less than 1/4th of a season. For the time being we’ll go with an “Incomplete” grade, but keep his hot start in mind and assume he would have been graded at least a “B” if he had been in action.

Solomon Alabi: Incomplete — Having two separate stints in the D-League and appearances in just six games this season leaves rookie Solomon with an incomplete grade,but an A for attitude and effort.

Comments (7)

  1. Those are fair, reasonable grades, Holly, especially given how you explained your criteria: based on what you (and, presumably, other reasonable people) expected from these players this year.

    I’ve been making similar arguments to people about the team itself; yes, we’re losing a ton of games, but what did people expect? Yes, in a top-heavy East there was always a chance we’d surprise and squeak into the 8th (or, if we were really lucky, 7th) spot in the playoffs, but anyone who expected more from a team with this talent pool is insane. That’s not to say there aren’t glimmers of hope for the future, and I agree that Amir, Bayless, Davis and Wright are showing that they could be useful, productive pieces alongside Andrea and DeMar, who are clearly our “stars” along with Jose. I used to be really frustrated with Jose, but I’ve come to accept that he is who he is: he wasn’t as good as people thought he was in the Forderone days, nor as bad as people thought last year. He’s adequate, runs the team well on the offensive side most nights, and while I would have loved the Charlotte trade to have worked out, here we are.

  2. I like to see a grade and explanation for Jay T.

    Otherwise, you are bang on IMO. Sonny seems a bit high as I expected him to grab a starters spot and flourish. I’d also rank DD higher than Amir. Who thought DD would have a total mind adjustment and go “off” in more games than not?

    Thanks for sharing this with us Holly.

  3. Fair grades I think also, with exception of Amir. Everything you say is true, but his continued propensity to turn the ball over in key moments and have raptor baskets wiped away due to silly, amateurish fouls knocks him down a half grade in my books.

  4. Considering the impact Kleiza was expected to have vs the fact that he can’t hit a jump shot to save his life, E is appropriate. Barbosa and Bayless’s propensity for “chucking” endlessly should take them down too. They make one shot, get happy, then blow three more in a row trying to show what brilliant scorers they are. That doesn’t seem like high “IQ” play to me.

  5. Jose has been our best player,

    Than Amir, then Ed Davis and Julian Wright. I think that Derozan is improving, but he is far from a good player at this point.

    Bargs is of course the worst overall player on the team.

  6. I agree with most of these grades except for Wright. I can’t imagine that people expected him to be playing the way he has been playing now that he has been given the opportunity. He is a solid rebounder and defender. I am a huge Weems fan, but if I’m looking for wins, I think I want Wright on the court instead of Weems. Wright seems to do all the little things. I would give him a B+ as he has exceeded my expectations.

    Good read Holly.

  7. Settons, you make a good argument about Wright. I would definitely rather have him on the court than either Kleiza or Weems.

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