Raptors Reasonablists: Volume 1, Part III. The one where we try to find things to worry about

Title: Raptors Reasonablists: Volume 1, Part III. The one where we try to find things to worry about
Date:December 21, 2016
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: Eric Koreen and I will be doing a semi-regular email exchange column about the Raptors, dubbing ourselves The Reasonablists. The latest edition finds us stretching for something – anything – to worry about.

Welcome to another edition of Raptors Reasonablists with Eric Koreen and Blake Murphy. Throughout the year, lead NBA writer Koreen and regular contributor Murphy discuss hot-button issues surrounding the Raptors, but with an even-keeled approach in pursuit of finding reasonable, middle ground. If we have faith in anything, it is that reasonable middle grounds lead to: a) workable long-term solutions; b) increased empathy and understanding for others; and c) more wins — at least more wins when they truly matter — probably. We hold these truths to be self-evident, and we hold these truths to be good truths.

Koreen: A happy non-denominational holiday season to you, my fellow Reasonablist. I’m worried. Perhaps we are too powerful. And with great power comes great responsibility, and I can barely pick out clothes to wear these days.

What I mean to say is: We’re Reasonablizing™, and then, poof, things are improving for the ol’ ‘Topes. In the first edition of this grand (well, not grand at all, really) experiment, we worried about Kyle Lowry’s minutes. After averaging 38 minutes per game in November, he is down to 35 Reasonable minutes per game in December, thanks to Dwane Casey looking to rest him for an extra minute here or there, plus an excess of blowout wins. In our second outing, we worried about Jonas Valanciunas. I don’t want to suggest some of the legitimate concerns about his game have vanished but since then the Raptors are a combined plus-41 when he has been on the floor in the last seven games since the nightmare against Cleveland, a span which has included five double-doubles from Valanciunas, and he has taken a 55-45 minutes split with Lucas Nogueira. After Tuesday’s blowout win over Brooklyn, when a reporter asked Kyle Lowry what has improved about the offence this year versus last, he mentioned the screening. Who do you think gets credit for that? In large part, Valanciunas. So, in a larger part, us.

The Raptors have played their last home game of 2016 now (final home record in the calendar year, including the playoffs: 41-12), and face a somewhat daunting six-game road trip (on the one hand, Jazz, Warriors, Spurs; but on the other hand, Suns and Lakers; on an inexplicably weird third hand: Trail Blazers) to bridge together the old and new years. They have the best offensive rating in the league, and while I don’t think that is sustainable, it probably is going to be very good for the rest of the year (or at least until mid-April, am i right?) Their net rating is second-best in the league, behind only the Warriors. According to Team Rankings, they have done this while playing the 10th-toughest schedule in the league, which is adjusted for quality of opponents and margins of victory. They are generally beating the teams they should beat, with a few exceptions, and are getting the blowout wins (they have eight double-digit victories in their last 14 games) that they generally failed to record last year.

Lowry is playing great. DeMar DeRozan is playing great. Patrick Patterson fits like a glove. Delon Wright is getting healthier, and Jared Sullinger does not need a scooter to navigate the Biosteel Centre anymore (which does not mean that he does not want one).

This all leads me to ask a question I have never asked before, pard’ner, and it is a question I have never asked in any context before (and let’s try not to make this about us, although that will be difficult): What should I be worrying about?

Continue reading at The Athletic.

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