Tag: Jonas Valanciunas

Toronto Raptors v Indiana Pacers

Patrick Patterson: Raptors starting power forward my job to lose


The Raptors essentially have four locks in their starting lineup:

  • Point guard: Kyle Lowry
  • Shooting guard: DeMar DeRozan
  • Small forward: DeMarre Carroll
  • Center: Jonas Valanciunas

What about power forward, where Amir Johnson started before signing with the Celtics?

Patrick Patterson, via Morgan Campbell of the Toronto Star:

“I see it as it’s mine to lose . . . But it’s all about what coach (Dwane) Casey wants, what (general manager) Masai (Ujiri) sees, and who works hard and who earns it.”

Patterson will have competition, primarily from Luis Scola. Terrence Ross and James Johnson could also push their way into the starting lineup if Toronto goes small.

But I agree with Patterson: He’s the favorite for the position.

Patterson has developed into a solid stretch four, and he’ll space the floor for Jonas Valanciunas’ post-ups. The key will be Patterson defending well enough, especially with the Raptors recommitting to that end. But he has shown an ability to handle Casey’s defensive system, and it’s not as if Scola can use defense to steal the starting job.

Raptors’ GM Masai Ujiri sees Bismack Biyombo as key part of roster transformation

Detroit Pistons v Charlotte Hornets

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri spent this summer transforming the Raptors roster — he went out and got some defense. That starts with adding DeMarre Carroll, who brings a needed lock-down guy on the perimeter to Toronto. But there were other moves, such as adding Corey Joseph, drafting Delon Wright, while letting guys like Lou Williams walk.

Then they added a big man and rim protector Bismack Biyombo to the roster. He will back up Jonas Valanciunas, but Biyombo gives coach Dwane Casey a guy who thinks defense and rebounding first.

Ujiri knew who he wanted and targeted Biyambo early in free agency.

“My agent let me know the teams that would be calling me and right after 12, it was like 12:03, I got a phone call from Masai,” Biyombo recalled on a conference call on Thursday touting the NBA exhibition game in Africa Saturday. “So I was asking myself if he was going to talk to me about the summer camps (in Africa) and stuff, or if it was just going to be about basketball. We talked about how my family was doing more than we talked about basketball.”

But they did get around to hoops and how Biyombo could help Toronto. Ujiri wants energy and for Biyombo to come in and be physical inside.

“He’s trying to figure it out in many ways, what his niche and his specialty can be in the NBA,” Ujiri said on the same conference call. “But what he does well now is offensive rebounding. He’s elite, blocking shots, offensive rebounding he’s elite.

“Defensive rebounding I think he’s going to get better and then as a defensive player, he’s really a solid defender. We needed more physicality with our team, a screen-setter, a roller, somebody that will always challenge, put a body on guys and that’s what Biyombo does.”

He wants Biyombo to be the counterbalance to the offensive-minded Valanciunas.

Biyombo said he agreed pretty quickly to a two-year, $5.8 million deal with the Raptors in part because of his relationship with Ujiri. He also recognized the opportunity. While in Africa Biyombo said he has worked with Hakeem Olajuwon (also over for the exhibition game) on his post moves and his free throw shooting. The more offense he can provide to go with that defense, the more run Biyombo likely gets.

He’s been in the league four years, but Biyombo is just 22 — there is still a lot of room for him to grow his game. But if he can bring some defense in the paint to a Raptors team that fell to bottom 10 in the NBA in defense last season — and was torched by the Wizards in the first round — then he will get time on the court to show that offensive improvement off.

Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey says expect more small ball from the Raptors this year

Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards - Game Four
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Dwane Casey didn’t follow the small ball trend much last season. Leaning on Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson as his starting front line and guys like Patrick Patterson behind them, Casey didn’t experiment with putting the athletic DeMar DeRozan at the four much last season (not enough to draw any real conclusions).

That could change this coming season, especially with the addition of DeMarre Carroll.

Casey still prefers to go big. But considering that Johnson now in Boston and Carroll replaces him, plus surveying the landscape of the East, expect to see the Raptors go smaller next season at times, Casey told the Toronto Sun.

“I think the trend now is smaller basketball but I’ve always said as long as the goal is 10 foot high, size matters,” Casey said during an appearance at the team’s summer camp at Humber College on Monday. “But DeMarre (Carroll) can play the four, the three. He can guard the four position with LeBron James at the four, Carmelo Anthony at the four, Paul George back and at the four. He helps us in that respect.

“You can play Kyle (Lowry) and Cory (Joseph) at the same time, you can play Kyle, Cory and DeMar (DeRozan) at the same time. We’ve got a lot of flexibility as far as our roster is concerned.”

A lineup with Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, DeRozan, Carroll and Valanciunas would be interesting. It should be explored at the very least.

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri revamped the Raptors roster this summer into something that will be more defensive oriented. That’s where Carroll comes in, and that will be the biggest adjustment for Toronto this season. They had been a Top 10 defense just a couple of years ago, the goal is to get back to that being a calling card.

But to me, making that work — and making the offense work with those lineups — will come back to Valanciunas. For the Raptors to take a real step forward, he is going to have to make leaps forward, and that has to start with rim protection on defense. It’s not been his forte, he needs to become more of a force that way.

Also, Valanciunas shoots a high percentage with his touches in the paint and close to the basket. Will a smaller lineup with some shooters around him (Carroll at the four, he shot 39.4 percent from three) open up space inside for him to operate?

Toronto is still going to win enough games to win the Atlantic division this season. They have some talent and will put up points. But there is going to need to be success with both small ball and more Valanciunas to take a leap back up with teams in the second tier in the conference such as Chicago, Atlanta, Washington and Miami.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey talks about shift to more defensive team in Toronto

DeMarre Carroll

It’s easy to forget because of the drama around the Rudy Gay trade and emergence of Kyle Lowry, but the Toronto Raptors were a top-10 defensive team in the 2013-14 season.

Last season, not so much. The Raptors finished 23rd in the NBA giving up 104.8 points per 100 possessions. They were 26th in opponent field goal percentage, 20th in opponent offensive rebounds allowed, and 19th in opponent assists allowed.

GM Massi Ujiri spent the summer trying to remake the Toronto roster into something better defensively — that started with landing free agent DeMarre Carroll, who gives them a quality perimeter defender (something Toronto lacked).

Raptors Coach Dwane Casey talked with John Schuhmann at NBA.com about the transition to more of a defensive-focused roster, starting with the pitch the team made to win Carroll over.

“We need you. You’re a defensive guy. We want to be a defensive team. We had been until last year. We moved from 30th [in defensive efficiency in 2010-11, the season before Casey was hired] to top 10, and then took a step back unwillingly. He’s a big part of us taking that next step. That was the pitch.”

How does Carroll change things?

“It’s going to help us, with the fact that DeMarre Carroll can guard his position. We’ve been getting by with Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan, who are really twos, playing the three and physically trying to go against bigger threes. Whether it’s been on the boards or guarding them, it’s been a challenge for those guys. I thought they did an admirable job two years ago, but it took a toll on us this past year, offensively and defensively. DeMarre gives us some size and physicality at that position.”

The Raptors, after a couple good regular seasons the last two years, have gotten slapped around in the playoffs. Carroll and the other roster changes — letting Lou Williams go, adding Bismack Biyombo — is an effort to put together a team that is better built for the playoffs.

Carroll is at the heart of that.

At the end of games, the trend is to go smaller. Threes are fours, fours are fives, and your roster has to fit that. Adding DeMarre gives us that flexibility. He can play some at the four, with Luis Scola or Patrick Patterson at the five. We’re better equipped to play that way now than we were a year ago.

The Raptors are going to win the Atlantic Division again, although looking at the roster it can bit a bit of a hollow victory. To take a significant step forward when it matters the Raptors will need a lot out of Lowry, and a lot more out of Jonas Valanciunas and the bench. Casey is a smart coach, with a season to figure it all out.

Coach Dwane Casey’s fate undecided as Raptors head into turbulent offseason

Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards - Game Four

Change is coming to Toronto. A lot of change.

If you recall, going into the 2013-14 season the Raptors were a franchise and a roster GM Masai Ujiri was looking to reshape from top to bottom. Then he traded Rudy Gay to Sacramento and the Raptors took off and won the Atlantic Division behind Kyle Lowry’s brilliance. Rebuilding through the draft was on hold, the timetable got moved up. This past season (2014-15) the Raptors won the Atlantic Division again, but a sweep at the hands of the Wizards in the first round showed just how far this roster and franchise still needs to go.

Meaning there will be plenty of roster change this summer.

Will that start with coach Dwane Casey? The coach with a reputation for defense couldn’t get this team out of the bottom 10 on that end of the floor (23rd, allowing 104.8 points per 100 possessions). He’s a coach Ujiri inherited from the previous GM, but one Ujiri gave an extension to. Will Casey be back next season?

Ujiri said he didn’t even know. From Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun.

Well, that’s vague. But it sounds like he’s leaning toward keeping Casey. Which is what Marc Stein of ESPN said he had heard.

Initial indications, though, suggest that Casey will indeed be back next season, according to the latest whispers on the Toronto grapevine….

The Raptors, for all their undeniable financial resources, also happen to be investing in a new practice facility, as well as their own D-League franchise, and presumably would not love the idea of absorbing the remaining money on the coach’s contract if there was a sudden clamor to make a change.

Expect to see a lot of roster turnover in Toronto.

If they are going to play Lowry and DeMar DeRozan together — especially with Jonas Valanciunas — then they need some rim protection at the four, plus a good “3&D” guy for the wing. They need depth. I doubt anyone on that roster is safe if the right deal comes along.

With that new roster, Casey will start the season with his seat already a little warm.