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.