COMMENTARY | Heading into this season hopes were relatively high for the Toronto Raptors making a push for the playoffs, but a rough start to the season combined with injuries and trades torpedoed Toronto's chances of making the playoffs.
For the fifth straight season, the Raptors found themselves cleaning out their lockers after the final day of the regular season. The result is Bryan Colangelo and Dwane Casey will spend the next few weeks sweating out if they will remain with the team.
Here's a look at five things that went wrong for the Raptors this season.
Lowry showed up to his introductory press conference being heralded as Toronto's new starting point guard. Unfortunately, things went downhill from there. He missed big parts of training camp due to an injury, showed flashes of his potential in November, got injured again, clashed with his head coach and looked lost for most of the season.
Colangelo tried to force Casey's hand into playing him more by trading Jose Calderon but by then Lowry was out of playing shape - or at least not capable of playing more than 30 minutes per game - and the team needed to rely on backups to soak up the remaining minutes.
Lowry is a free agent next summer and this upcoming season will be huge if he wants to ink an extension here in Toronto or try to secure a starting job elsewhere.
Growing Pains For Three Rookies
Toronto has a relatively young roster (26.1 and 14th youngest in the NBA) and they had three rookies play in their rotation at different points this season. Throw into the mix that a rookie centre got a bunch of starts and it was clear from the onset of this season that were was bound to be some growing pains with their younger players.
Casey recently admitted that playing Jonas Valanciunas extended minutes during the start of the season helped contribute to Toronto's sluggish start to the season. However, the growing pains might have been worth is as Valanciunas averaged 14.9 points and 5.9 rebounds in April. He looks like a key part of Toronto's future.
Terrence Ross showed flashes this season, but it looks like the highlight of his year will be winning the dunk contest during All-Star weekend. He needs to put in a lot of work this summer if he hopes to crack the rotation next season.
Quincy Acy quickly became a fan favourite in Toronto but he's at best the fourth of fifth big in Toronto's rotation next season.
Abysmal 4-19 Start To Season
Ahh, the miserable start which doomed this season.
During Toronto's first 22 games they lost six games by less than five points, played two overtime games and had 15 of those games on the road. When you throw in injuries and playing young guys it's understandable why the team got off to a horrible start.
Understandable, but not acceptable.
Up And Down Season From DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan showed flashes at the end of this season when he averaged 22.9 points in April while shooting 54% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. However, his season was a complete roller coaster. January was the low point as he averaged 15.7 points while shooting 43% from the field and only 15% from beyond the arc. He also struggled adapting to playing with Rudy Gay as he averaged 16.0 points in March while shooting 41% from the field and 14% from beyond the arc. It was that kind of Jekyll and Hyde season from him which really hurt the team.
For the past few seasons DeRozan has been heralded for his work ethic and drive. However, until he's able to play with consistency on the offensive end and showing a willingness to get at it on the defensive end, the team won't be able to move forward and become a playoff team.
Adjusting To Trades, Injuries
Yes, I realize that trades and injuries are part of the NBA. However, losing a key point guard in Jose Calderon really changed what Casey wanted to do on the offensive end. It was a great move adding a talent like Gay, but that required his new teammates to get used to less touches and become accustomed to sharing the floor with him.
The team was also slowed by injuries. Andrea Bargnani - someone who has started most of the games he has played in the past few seasons - was limited to 35 games, Kyle Lowry to 68 games and under 30 minutes per game, opening night small forward Landry Field only played in 51 games while averaging 20 minutes per game and talented rookie Jonas Valanciunas only played 62 games due to an assortment of injuries.
When you combine that kind of roster change with the mass amount of injuries it would slow down any NBA team.
Ryan McNeill lives in Toronto and has been covering the Raptors with media passes since the 2007-08 season.
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