Alex Rucker is an analytics consultant with the Raptors who I just started following on Twitter. If you’re not following him already, you should do so because you probably won’t get a better view into the thinking behind the Raptors’ moves. Did the Raptors reach for Terrence Ross? Rucker says the Raptors ranked him as the seventh best prospect in the draft. What did the Raptors see in Landry Fields? Rucker describes him as an “excellent wing rebounder on both ends of the floor” and a “strong on-ball defender, good help defender, (he) can defend both wing positions, (a) perfect fit for our defensive system.” As for Lowry, Rucker is on record as calling him “a top 10 starting PG in the NBA“.

He may not be the guy pulling the trigger, but it seems like Rucker’s data probably had a strong influence on Colangelo’s moves this off-season. Considering that influence, I find the tweet at the top of this post to be rather telling. While anything’s possible, it’s probably time for all Raptors fans to come to terms with the likelihood that this roster as it’s currently constructed is essentially the group they’ll start the season with.

The calls for Colangelo to make a big splash with a blockbuster trade for Rudy Gay or Andre Iguodala began to seem like the desperate wishes of a group of tortured Raptors fans once the ink dried on the Fields contract. It simply didn’t make sense that the Raptors would pay Fields an average of over $6 million per season to be a bench player. With yesterday’s James Johnson trade, it now seems even more certain that Fields will be the Raptors’ starting small forward on opening night.

Here’s the part where the usual suspects will show up in the comments calling for Colangelo’s head, but I’m willing to wait and see how this season plays out before I make any bold proclamations about his supposed incompetence. It’s clear that Rucker and Colangelo see things in Ross and Fields that many of you don’t, so I humbly propose that we collectively ease up on acting like we know better than they do. I’m still not happy about how they let Bayless go, but I’d much rather be wrong about my belief in his star quality than hope that he develops into a legitimate top-10 point guard just so I get to say, “I TOLD YOU SO!”

Whatever you think about Colangelo’s moves this off-season, you’re wrong if you claim that he didn’t have a plan. Ross, Lowry and Fields are versatile players who are above-average defenders and rebounders and should help “cover up” the deficiencies of Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan in those areas. I think this team has the potential to be a top-10 defensive team and they’ll almost certainly grab more rebounds than their opponents.

Will they score enough to win more games than they lose? That’s the biggest question going into next season, and that should depend mostly on the health of Bargnani and the ability of DeRozan and Fields to improve their shooting. If these things fall into place, the 2012-13 Toronto Raptors have a very strong chance to be a fringe playoff team — and that’s progress for this franchise whether or not you choose to see it that way.

Comments (32)

  1. I agree with you let’s see them play 30 – 40 games before getting all worked up … they are looking more like a “team” this year although, another addition to the roster would be a bonus.

  2. “Whatever you think about Colangelo’s moves this off-season, you’re wrong if you claim that he didn’t have a plan. Ross, Lowry and Fields are versatile players who are above-average defenders and rebounders and should help “cover up” the deficiencies of Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan in those areas.”

    Yeah, this is kind of one of the problems I’m having with whatever “plan” there is.

    1) Why on earth should BC continue to try and find players to fit around DD and Bargs? I should get a twitter account so I can ask him, but what do Alex’s stats say about those two because every other advanced analysis I’ve seen says they have both been terrible (apart from Andrea’s magical 13 game run last season). Alex has talked/written about the use of finding all around players if you can’t get a guy that is elite in one aspect, but I don’t know how Andrea or especially DeMar can be considered elite scorers. How efficient are they?

    2) As far as the “plan” goes, even though BC says he was going to go after Lowry if Nash would have come here, I have a hard time believing or understanding that. Am I being unreasonable? So if Nash was Plan A, that doesn’t exactly mesh with the rebounding and defense that Lowry is going to bring, right?

    I’m not all negative. I’m very happy with Lowry, I’m excited about JV, and I like Casey. Bayless and JJ aren’t big losses to me. But we haven’t had a wing player to be excited about since the days of Vince and TMac. That is hard to swallow. Actually it’s completely depressing as a fan. We have some nice role players. Great. Talent? We now have Lowry (borderline top 10 PG) and a bunch of question marks, one of whom has been a question mark for 7 years and BC is still fitting pieces around him.

    If this is it, for now, I sure as hell hope BC has a plan to upgrade the wing talent.

  3. Umm, if I recall correctly the “plan” was to try and give Steve Nash a $36M retirement package. Since that fell over we have made two fairly minor upgrades (Lowry and Fields) and like every team in the league have a couple of rookies which may or may not pan out.

    You can’t objectively look at them trying to give a 38 year old Steve Nash that much money, and then turn around and throw off at fans who expected a ‘big splash’. They hey had the money to make a big splash, they tried to make a big splash (albeit I would argue on the wrong guy) , and they fucked it up.

    Sure, let’s see how they go, I do think they should be better than last year – another year with Casey’s mindset (including a full training camp) and hopefully at least one of the rookies coming good by mid season won’t hurt, but I think any chances of us sneaking into the backend of the playoffs (as Bryan had hinted was the goal…) seem pretty slim. It’s not like the rest of our division stood still.

    • As far as Nash backup plans go, you could do a lot worse than Lowry. I’ll admit I was excited about the Nash possibilities, but if somebody other than Jose Calderon is finally going to be this team’s starting point guard, that’s good enough for me.

  4. I don’t particularly have a beef with the moves that have been made, in isolation. I also don’t doubt that all of the guys we have picked up, be it via free agency, trades, or the draft were on the Raptor’s board *somewhere*. I’m just not convinced any of them were really at the top of it.

    Given the way Bryan was talking going to free agency the idea that anyone in the organization claimes to be happy with how it’s panned out shocks me. Is this really the 8th seed in the East? Time will tell but I’m not as optimistic as I was just a few weeks ago, especially if they are pretty much done making moves.

  5. The Ross pick shocked me, but from what I have seen in highlight films, he’s a pretty decent player to back up Derozan. Landry Fields is the true X-Factor in all of this. While he played for the Knicks, his game was not as impressive worthy enough of a ^$ million per year contract; however if it does not work out, at least BC can easily trade it away as it is not that big of a financial commitment.

  6. “If these things fall into place, the 2012-13 Toronto Raptors have a very strong chance to be a fringe playoff team — and that’s progress for this franchise whether or not you choose to see it that way.”

    Does BC not care about keeping his job anymore because I got to tell you if they open training camp with this roster no way they are winning more than 35 games and he is getting canned. They have a $10M back up pg and still no legit starting sf with all star potential. Also, why aim to be a fringe playoff team instead of a good playoff team? Whats the point of getting destroyed by Miami in the 1st round? How do fans not see this is ridiculous to aim for. Fans expect and deserve better after all the shit they’ve been through with this franchise. I think most fans will be VERY disappointed if this is it for the offseason. Its time for BC to step up and get some elite talent on the team. Trade derozan if you have to I dont care.

    Also, this rucker guy is smart im sure but he also works for the raptors so hes not going to say the offseason was poor and fields isnt that good. He wont say that. So he is just stating that he “approves” of the raptors offseason so far as a stats guy.

  7. I love reading crap from couch potatoes that think they know better than NBA GMs. “Lets get some elite talent on this team!”. I dont pretend to know more than GMs, but I sure as hell know you cant just pick an elite player on another team and say ‘Pack your bags son, you’re comin to T-dot’. There are these things called contracts, and these things called salaries, and then these human beings that may or may not want to come to Toronto. To think that BC can get whomever he(you) wants is ignorant.
    I think you would be better off as a Miami fan.

    • Actually, in trades players dont have as much freedom as you think unless its someone like dwight howard. And BC keeps on saying he has “assets”,so fucking use some of them. The raptors keep spinning their wheels in mediocrity. No significant improvement will be done until the talent is upgraded at the wings. I can see you enjoy watching the landy fields of the world so i guess you dont see my point.

  8. It’s interesting that a lot of fans are like ad. They want a championship team to simply appear over night or over an offseason.

    That’s not going to happen here. The good news is DeRozen is still VERY young in his career and development. So is Jonas, along with Ed Davis, Ross, even Fields to an extent. Bargs if he can focus on D and boards like the beginning of last season will have enough support in his lacking area’s to have it be less of a concern.

    Thing is, we gotta give these young guys time to improve. YES we do need to be an 8th seed and get our asses handed to us. It’s the growing pains of a young team, they need to learn what the playoffs are about and start earning their stripes.

    IF this team can make the 7th or 8th seed this year, with another years worth of growth next year, and something coming from Jose’s contract, they could potentially be a 4th/5th seed the following season.

    The east is a very restless conference. Outside of the Nets and Heat, after this year everything is up for grabs, especially with the Celts a year older and closer to retirement.

    • Never said overnight, but with the right moves and an upgrade at the sf they can definitely be in the 4-6 range. Thats better than fighting for 8th dont you agree?

      • I’d rather see them stick with their squad of youngsters to fight for that 7th-8th seed, and watch them grow up into a strong 1 through 5 team ala the Pacers, rather than give up a ton of assets to get a wing, then lack depth in the rotation or in the other starting wing spot… as they’d have to give up an awful lot to upgrade to a player of Iguodala or Rudy Gay’s level.

        If it was as easy as Jose, DeRozen or Ross and a pick to get an elite wing, I’m sure the trigger would’ve been pulled already.

  9. Why is everyone getting all worked up about needing another trade. I don’t understand it. BC has made enough trades this offseason (look at the roster turnover)
    In: Ross, Acy, Fields, Lowry, Valanciunas
    Out: JJ, Bayless, (am i missing anyone important)
    -Thats alot of change for 1 offseason- let them get a chance to play together and see how they all fit.

    BC has upgraded 4 of the 5 positions from last yr
    pg-check(lowry) sg-check(ross) sf-check(fields) c-check(jonas)
    And the all have POTENTIAL TO GROW (KEY WORDS)

    And obviously nothing seems available for the right price right now cause it would have been done, but things change during the offseason (injuries, teams overachieve/underachieve) and players become available (or not available if you look at it that way…lol)
    -All im saying is give these guys a chance because I think this team will make the playoffs or be very close. Why???
    because if andrea was healthy last year they get to about 30 wins (maybe more/ maybe less) which is almost .500%. And BC has made improvements so lets see how these players fit.

  10. As long as BC continues to try to build the team around Bargnani and DeRozan, they’re not really going to achieve anything of significance. This looks like another BC built team with a decent supporting staff/bench that will be limited by the inefficient chuckers it is built around.

  11. Lowry – Fields – DeRozan – Bargnani – Valanciunas is a pretty damn good starting 5, in my opinion. The Raptors’ best in years. I’m actually pretty pleased with this summer’s moves.

  12. Does this roster, heck even this roster with a couple of big signings, have the potential to win a championship?
    I dont think so, yes I really Lowry, but aside from that we have a lot of mediocre talent (maybe Jonas is better). There is no superstar potential on this team, and in today’s NBA you need a few superstars to win. I do think this is a playoff team, but in 2 years after making the 8th and 6th spot in the playoffs, and Lowry leaves, where does that leave us?

    • Do you really think any team in the East is getting past the Miami Heat within the next few years, no matter what they do? As for superstar potential, let’s see what Valanciunas can do before we make that kind of definitive statement.

      • Yeah, barring injury to Lebron, the Heat will be tough to knock off. Lebron now gets it and I think the NBA better watch out.

      • I would rather be in the slums of the East for the next couple years and hope we get a couple of diamonds in the draft…If only we had really messed up last year and finished in the top 3. And then do the same this year.

    • Winning a championship is really hard. If nothing else will satisfy you, you are likely in for a lot of disappointment as a fan.

      The Raptors have 2 players with superstar potential (emphasis on potential: I’m not saying either is guaranteed or even likely): Bargnani and Valanciunas.

      • Bargnani? Really?

        • That’s my opinion, yes. His ceiling is a Dirk Nowitski who rebounds worse but defends better.

          • Well then, when do you think Bargnani reaches his “potential” then? It’s been 6 years, and I’m still waiting.

            Bargnani will never be close to Nowitzki’s level.

          • When? Probably never, but if it’s happening, it will be in the next couple of years.

            There are only 2 other power forwards in the entire NBA with offensive skillsets comparable to Bargnani: Dirk and Kevin Love. Both are superstars. I’m sure I don’t need to rehash Bargnani’s weaknesses, but if his improved defense was not flash in the pan and he can shoot a bit more consistently, he will be a guy who can be the main piece in a championship team.

            His defense is the issue. He has always given back as much or more on defense as he gets you on the offensive end. But he has superstar offense.

      • Bargnani’s only “star” potential is that he might implode into a white dwarf.

      • Bargnani will make the 2013 All Star Game. Book it. He’s gonna score 25/game!!!

      • Wow – all-star would be a huge reach from my vantage point. Your think he’s got superstar potential?
        I guess you saw those 13 games in November.

  13. How funny is Alex Rucker’s life? Can you imagine being the ‘analytics guy’ for a team throwing 30+ minutes a game at Bargnani and DeRozan?

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