Final Regular-Season Grades for Every Toronto Raptors Player
A No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, home-court advantage in the NBA playoffs and a franchise-record 48 victories caps off what has been the most surprising regular season the Toronto Raptors have ever had.
After beginning the year 6-12, general manager Masai Ujiri shook things up by sending Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy to the Sacramento Kings for Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez, Chuck Hayes and John Salmons. The team went 42-22 after the deal, which was the best record in the East and fourth-best in the NBA in that span. They were also the only team in the conference to finish in the top 10 in both offensive (106.0) and defensive (102.4) ratings, per ESPN.com.
All of this is almost too good to be true. Canadian prospect Andrew Wiggins was on everyone's radar as the Raptors were expected to "tank" games for a high draft pick this summer. 2013-14 was meant to be a rebuilding year under the tutelage of new management and a head coach in Dwane Casey who was fighting to keep his job.
The players had other plans, especially DeMar DeRozan, who had yet to see the bright lights of the postseason, per SB Nation's James Herbert:
I'm tired of going home early, watching everybody else play, watching my friends play. It's sickening to me. I get tired of it. Me personally, I work my ass off so we can play in that moment, be a team in that eight, seven, six, whatever spot it is to have an opportunity to play. That's my goal and I'm sure everybody on this team feels the same way.
The Raptors don't have a megastar who you can credit for a majority of the team's success. This has been a collective effort by a group of guys who are more concerned with establishing the name on the front of their jerseys than they are with the name on the back.
Statistics, development, individual success and importance to the team will all be factored in as I hand out my final regular-season grades for each Raptor player.
2013-14 statistics: 21 games, 5.7 minutes, 0.9 points, 41.2 percent from the field, 1.0 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.1 steals, 0.2 turnovers, 6.6 PER
Julyan Stone has seen just 15 seconds of action since Feb. 13.
His most memorable outing of the year came on Nov. 9, when he scored seven points and grabbed two rebounds in a 24-point win over the Utah Jazz.
When general manager Masai Ujiri traded Austin Daye for Nando De Colo on Feb. 20, Stone fell further down the rotation.
A fourth-string point guard on a team with a stacked backcourt was never going to see much playing time.
Final Grade: N/A
2013-14 statistics: 13 games, 9.5 minutes, 3.2 points, 34.1 percent from the field, 1.5 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 turnovers, 10.3 PER
Dwight Buycks suffered from the same problems Julyan Stone did, as there was never enough minutes to go around for him to be a viable contributor.
He had two short stints with the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA D-League, averaging 15.4 points and 3.5 assists in eight games.
Had Ujiri not acquired De Colo and Vasquez in their respective deals, perhaps Buycks could have developed into a solid backup point guard for the Raptors.
It may be a while before we see the 25-year-old become a mainstay in Casey's rotation. Looking at the talent ahead of him on the depth chart, it's going to be quite the uphill battle.
Final Grade: N/A
2013-14 statistics: 30 games, 10.7 minutes, 2.3 points, 40.3 percent from the field, 2.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.1 blocks, 0.4 turnovers, 8.6 PER
Casey always tells his players that when their names are called, they need to be ready to step in and get the job done.
Landry Fields warmed the bench for a majority of the season, but being the consummate professional he is, the fourth-year pro out of Stanford University kept his cool and put up solid outings when given the opportunity.
On March 2 against the Golden State Warriors, Fields scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds in 25 minutes with Terrence Ross out of the lineup. The Raptors defeated Golden State for the first time in eight attempts during the Stephen Curry era, 104-98.
Fields has had moments of greatness sprinkled here and there, but for the most part his tenure in Toronto has been hugely disappointing. His three-year, $20 million deal will be looked back on as one of the lousier investments in franchise history.
2013-14 statistics: 53 games, 10.0 minutes, 3.3 points, 43.3 percent from three-point range, 1.0 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.1 blocks, 0.1 turnovers, 11.0 PER
It's hardly surprising that Steve Novak did one thing particularly well while suffering in all other aspects of his game.
His 43.3 shooting percentage (which is also what he averages for his career) from behind the arc was tops on the team. Novak helped spread the floor with his long-range shooting in short spurts for the second unit, but his inability to defend or rebound made him too much of a liability.
If the Raptors needed a basket with the shot clock winding down or near the end of regulation, Casey would put Novak on the floor because he'd, at the very least, keep the defense honest. He wouldn't always get the ball, but there had to be a man on him at all times, so it created more breathing room for his teammates in late-game situations.
You can't fault the man for being a specialist, but with other players on the team bringing more to the table at small forward, Novak's minutes will continue to be sparse.
Nando De Colo
2013-14 statistics: 20 games, 8.4 minutes, 2.7 points, 35.4 percent from the field, 1.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.2 blocks, 0.6 turnovers, 13.1 PER
The legend of "RUN NDC" has taken over the Air Canada Centre.
Ujiri turned the seldom-used De Colo into a skilled combo guard who's already paying dividends for the Raptors.
De Colo played his way into the good graces of his head coach by being a strong facilitator with the basketball, per Paul Jones of Sportsnet:
His court vision is uncanny. It’s why I don’t hesitate to put him in there to change the game. He reads the defense well, threading the needle with crisp, on the mark passes.
His shooting was a huge red flag, though. De Colo took plenty of bad shots for someone who can't shoot over 40 percent from the field or three-point range (33.3). He was more effective getting to the basket with dribble penetration than he was settling for jumpers. If he sticks to those kinds of plays, he'll be fine.
Grade: C +
2013-14 statistics: 44 games, 12.8 minutes, 2.3 points, 42.9 percent from the field, 3.7 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.2 blocks, 0.5 turnovers, 10.0 PER
You can't find the true value Chuck Hayes brought to the Raptors by simply looking at his numbers. His impact was felt more so behind closed doors.
The average age of the team is 26.5, with Hayes being one of only three players (Novak and John Salmons) older than 30. His veteran leadership in the locker room was more important than some fans realize, especially considering how young the core of the roster is.
On the floor, Hayes was an anchor on defense, playing spot minutes whenever the Raptors were getting pulverized in the paint. He's undersized (6'6") for the 5-spot, but Hayes knew how to use his frame to stand his ground, box out for rebounds and defend the low block.
He was extremely limited on offense, but he made up for it by being useful in other facets of the game.
2013-14 statistics: 60 games, 21.4 minutes, 5.0 points, 36.8 percent from the field, 38.8 percent from three-point range, 2.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, 0.7 turnovers, 7.6 PER
It wasn't always pretty for Salmons. In fact, things occasionally got downright ugly.
His 3-for-21 shooting slump entering that game didn't help maters. Salmons had just two double-figure scoring games from Feb. 5 until the end of the season.
Thank goodness for his above-average defense. It saved him from what could have been quite the nasty backlash. That explains why Casey continued to play him, even though his shooting numbers were mediocre at best.
Salmons will probably see some decent minutes in the playoffs because he's a veteran who can defend multiple decisions, but if his shooting touch carries over there could be a problem.
Grade: D +
2013-14 statistics: 63 games, 15.1 minutes, 4.9 points, 47.3 percent from the field, 4.4 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.3 blocks, 0.7 turnovers, 14.1 PER
I've made multiple references on my Twitter page about why Tyler Hansbrough should consider a career in professional wrestling once his days as a basketball player are up.
Tyler Hansbrough will steal your lunch money, powerbomb you through a table, then pick up your lifeless corpse and do it again. #RTZ— Christopher Walder (@WalderSports) February 20, 2014
He was an enforcer for the Toronto Raptors. The way I saw things, a game never started until Hansbrough fell to the ground. Whether it was fighting for loose balls or battling for position, he never had a problem getting overly physical.
Hansbrough's 180 free-throw attempts were more than that of two full-time starters (Johnson and Ross). He didn't connect on many (68.3 percent), but he hit enough to where it mattered.
He has 35 games of postseason experience under his belt as a former Indiana Pacer. That's 11 more than the entire starting lineup (24). That should come in handy when the Raptors do battle with a Nets squad that has just four players without playoff experience on their entire roster.
2013-14 statistics: 47 games, 23.3 minutes, 9.1 points, 47.8 percent from the field, 41.7 percent from three-point range, 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.7 blocks, 1.0 turnovers, 16.2 PER
Patman is the hero Toronto deserves, but not the one it needs. Patterson embracing his new persona on Twitter makes using Batman lines a lot easier to do.
When Patterson missed 13 games from March 9 to March 30 with a right ulnar collateral sprain (per Rotoworld), fans realized how much of a hero (nice segue) he was for the second unit. The team struggled to replace the scoring and rebounding lost by their sixth man's absence.
He scored 10 or more points 20 times for Toronto, leading the bench in scoring 17 times. Nearly one-third of its points (26.2, 28th in NBA) came from Patterson, per HoopsStats.com.
Novak may have the esteemed reputation for being a menacing shooter, but Patterson may be the best all-around shooter on the team. He was the only player to finish better than 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range.
It's crazy looking back at the Gay trade and originally thinking of Patterson as an afterthought. He's become such an integral piece to the puzzle that Ujiri will undoubtedly extend him a qualifying offer of $4.3 million in 2015, per Basketball Insiders.
Final Grade: B+
2013-14 statistics: 60 games, 21.5 minutes, 9.5 points, 41.5 percent from the field, 38.6 percent from three-point range, 2.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.1 blocks, 1.7 turnovers, 14.0 PER
No one on the corner has swagger like Vasquez. At least Lowry thinks so, per Ananth Pandian of Hardwood Paroxysm: "We get our swagger from Greivis because he has the best swagger on the team. He's definitely swagged out."
You can have tons of swagger and not be a complete fool. Vasquez takes that inner confidence and converts it into positive results.
He led the Raptors' bench in scoring a team-high 25 times. In five starts, Vasquez averaged 16.4 points and 5.6 assists. Although it's believed internally that Lowry will re-sign, Vasquez gives Toronto an insurance policy in case the worst-case scenario plays itself out.
Casey loved playing Vasquez and Lowry together because not only could each player run the offense, each played well off the ball.
Vasquez was a deadeye marksman from the perimeter from March 31 to April 14, as he drained 26 three-pointers in eight games. He knew how to maintain hot streaks, but had trouble shooting himself out of cold spells in December and January.
2013-14 statistics: 80 games, 26.7 minutes, 10.9 points, 42.4 percent from the field, 39.7 percent from three-point range, 3.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.3 blocks, 1.1 turnovers, 12.2 PER
The Toronto Raptors are the only team in the NBA playoffs with two sophomores in their starting lineup. It's a testament to how quickly Terrence Ross has turned things around after a subpar rookie year.
To the common fan, Ross' season will be remembered for three things: his 51-point outing against the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 25, his performance in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest over All-Star weekend and his monster jam over Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried on Jan. 31.
Highlight-reel plays get you on SportsCentre, but nights like the one Ross had against Los Angeles are what get you respect.
He can throw one down with the best of them, but as Ross proved in 2013-14, he can also contribute where it matters most: on the scoreboard.
The Raptors were 29-12 when Ross reached double-figure scoring. He reached the 20-point mark eight times while leading the team in scoring on six occasions.
His three-point shooting was on an upswing as he raised his percentage from long range from 33.2 to 39.7.
Consistency is the key. Ross had a tendency to go stretches of games where he was a nonfactor. If his shots aren't falling, he can put more of his attention on being a nuisance on the defensive end in the future.
Final Grade: B
2013-14 statistics: 76 games, 28.9 minutes, 10.5 points, 56.3 percent from the field, 6.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.2 blocks, 1.6 turnovers, 15.5 PER
Can you feel the love tonight? Now I'm not going to serenade you with a ballad from The Lion King, but what I will do is help paint a picture of just how popular Johnson has become with his teammates and the people of Toronto.
Per Holly Mackenzie of Sports on Earth, DeRozan sums up the type of hard-nosed player Johnson is and how grateful he is for being able to experience the Raptors' first playoff berth in six years with one of his closest friends:
It means a great deal because the person Amir is on the court and off the court to the whole city [of Toronto] and country of Canada is big. He lays his heart on the line every time he steps out there. No matter if he's hurt, or if he barely can walk. He feels like he's obligated to always be out there with his teammates and give it all he's got. You've got to appreciate a guy like that. I really respect that because he could have every excuse in the world, but he will never bring it up. Ever.
Johnson doesn't have an off switch. He was hurt for a majority of the season, but only missed games due to the coaches discretion or because his body wouldn't allow it. You can call it being stubborn, but fans of the team saw it as a tremendous sacrifice from a player who was always willing to leave it all on the court.
On March 25 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Johnson passed Vince Carter for second on the team's all-time blocks list with his 416th rejection. His 10.5 points were a career high and his 56.3 field goal percentage was fifth-best in the NBA.
Passionate, dedicated and endearing are just a few adjectives you could use to describe Johnson, yet you'd still fall short of diving into the essence of who he is. The man shows up and does his job no matter how much pain he's in. How could you not love the guy for it?
Grade: B +
2013-14 statistics: 80 games, 28.3 minutes, 11.4 points, 53.0 percent from the field, 8.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.9 blocks, 1.7 turnovers, 16.1 PER
Valanciunas is a work in progress, but at the rate he's developing, the 21-year-old out of Lithuania could become one of the top centers in the Eastern Conference in just a few short years.
It's been a while since the Raptors have had a player they could trust to work the ball in the post to create scoring opportunities. Andrea Bargnani was never that guy. Johnson is a workhorse, but he's not a back-to-the-basket power forward.
From March 26 to April 14, Valanciunas scored in double figures 11 straight games, accumulating six double-doubles in the process. His 25 double-doubles led the team.
His defense is still a ways away from being where it needs to be, though. Valanciunas isn't much of a rim protector, as he struggled to block shots with his 7'0" frame and 7'6" wingspan. A man of his size should at least be averaging a block a night.
It was nice to see his confidence grow as the season went on. The trust between him and Casey became more apparent as Valanciunas began seeing the floor more and more late in games. Being a big man who could knock down free throws (76.2 percent) helped his cause.
His DUI charges, per The Toronto Star, are a dark mark on what was otherwise a solid second year in the league. Here's hoping Valanciunas can learn from this experience and keep himself away from situations where something like that could happen again.
Final Grade: B+
2013-14 statistics: 78 games, 36.4 minutes, 17.9 points, 42.2 percent from the field, 38.0 percent from three-point range, 4.7 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.2 blocks, 2.4 turnovers, 20.1 PER
Dismissing Lowry's success as nothing more than a young player pushing for a little extra dough in a contract year would be a huge mistake.
The most important thing he did all season was repair his image. No longer was he the disgruntled guard with a scowl who would eat right through you. Lowry had a period of self-reflection that resulted in him learning from his past mistakes, per Cathal Kelly of The Globe and Mail: "Sometimes, you have to admit to yourself that maybe you’re the one who needs to change."
Lowry evolved into a player Raptor fans could be proud of. He was a leader both on and off the floor, taking some of the younger guys like Jonas Valanciunas under his wing in a mentor role.
He put up career highs across the board, barely missing out on the first All-Star nod of his career, per SI.com. His 187 three-pointers broke a franchise record for most in a season. The record was previously held by Morris Peterson (177) in 2005-06.
He'll be commanding somewhere in the ballpark of $36 million to 40 million over three to four years this summer, which is a fair price when you reflect on the year he's had.
Redemption is sweet.
2013-14 statistics: 78 games, 38.4 minutes, 22.8 points, 42.9 percent from the field, 4.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.1 steals, 0,4 blocks, 2.2 turnovers, 18.4 PER
You couldn't have written up a better 2013-14 season for DeRozan. His overall improvement in a little over a year has been nothing short of extraordinary.
A great deal of his motivation comes from the years of losing he endured dating back to when he was drafted by the team in 2009. Several of his teammates, including Novak, appreciate how hard DeRozan has worked to get to this point and how much losing pushes him even further, per SB Nation's James Herbert:
He's a guy that I think loses sleep at night over losing games and loses sleep over what direction we're going. I don't think everybody's like that. I think he's a guy that people don't really understand how important winning is and how much Toronto, the Raptors, mean to him. That's something he's expressed very clearly to the team is that he wants to be successful, he wants to be successful here.
The rest of the NBA took notice of DeRozan's play when he was selected to his first NBA All-Star Game in February. He emerged as more than just a glorified scorer as his perimeter defense and passing both got considerably better.
DeRozan also put more of an emphasis on getting to the charity stripe, finishing seventh in the NBA with 8.0 free throw attempts, per NBA.com. His 519 made free throws were fourth behind Kevin Durant (703), James Harden (576) and Kevin Love (520).
Some hardware may be in store for DeRozan, as he's a strong candidate for the NBA's Most Improved Player award. I'm sure he'd take a successful run in the postseason over an individual honor such as that any day of the week, though.