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  Three Areas Of Improvement For 2011-12

April 15, 2011, 6:30 PM
Jack Armstrong

HELLO!!! ... and goodbye to the 22-60 Toronto Raptors 2010-11 season. Thank goodness for that. Rough season to say the least. Onward and upward. Time to look ahead and quickly focus on three areas that I feel the Raptors have to upgrade this offseason. They significantly improve these three aspects and they'll be in the hunt next year for a playoff spot. Enjoy the NBA Playoffs and have a wonderful offseason!

1. DEFENSE: Bottom Line, the performance in this area was sub-par and I'm being kind. Absolutely have to make big time strides in this category. Teams had way too easy a time penetrating into the lane and getting the Raptors into help/scramble mode. They were poor fundamentally in many respects and simply put, a greater level of effort, attention to fine detail and performance have to be upgraded for them to be, at the very least, respectable. Young team that made many mistakes in this area and the slippage was evident as the season progressed. Must dot the I's and cross the T's. Watch the playoffs -- the vast majority of the 16 teams alive right now make a significant commitment to do it and do it right.

2. THREE POINT SHOOTING: I'm not a fan of the over-use and/or over-reliance on the 3-ball, but you must shoot it enough and with good success to create spacing and a functional offense that can reach it's full potential. A bunched up offence commits turnovers too often and is susceptible to the zone defense. The more efficient the long ball, the better one-on-one opportunities present themselves in the post and on drives to the basket. Internal improvement from the returning players and finding a few in the offseason that can stroke it will be paramount.

3. UPGRADE TALENT LEVEL: A NO-BRAINER obviously, yet not easy to do. Gotta get lucky with the ping pong balls (third-best chance to win the lottery) and draft a stud who can make an impact by the middle of his second year. The Raptors have managed their cap space and the ability to attract a few free agents who can contribute in a top notch way will be huge. The new NBA CBA will be something difficult early on for every team to figure out as teams adapt to a new way of doing business (what that is? Your guess is as good as mine), but in time the teams that react/adjust quickly and have cap flexibility (Raptors are one of them) will be best able to strike hard and quickly at their top targets.

The Raptors need to continue to improve at the: point guard position, interior size and toughness/productivity and have to add some proven/mature veterans in the model that Raptors GM Glen Grunwald and coach Butch Carter used in the late 1990's-early 2000's to compliment the young talent with guys who can still produce and yet provide assistance to the coaching staff with the internal leadership and hold teammates to a higher standard of accountability and professionalism. Mugsy Bogues, Dell Curry, Kevin Willis, Charles Oakley and Antonio Davis brought that back in the day for Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter and the rest of that team and it's vital again that a few 'tough vets' can provide the know-how to get this thing turned around.

  Jerryd Bayless: What I Like

April 8, 2011, 5:30 PM
Jack Armstrong

HELLO!!! We're down to the final days for the season and in spite of a very frustrating year as far as wins and losses goes, there have been many developments of the young players that Bryan Colangelo has brought into Toronto and one of the most recent ones, Jerryd Bayless, has begun to open some eyes among Raptors fans.

Here are briefly three things I really like about what I'm seeing right now from Bayless. Enjoy the rest of the Regular Season!

1. DEVELOPING AS A POINT GUARD: He's doing a much better job of late recognizing how important it is to be a team leader and create opportunities for teammates. His ability to 'see' the floor and understand what is expected/needed from him is growing. He must be high percentage oriented in his approach and I see a guy who's figuring out how necessary that is.

2. ULTRA-COMPETITIVE: He's got a motor and he doesn't back down from anyone. He wears his heart on his sleeve and as long as he can control his emotions (on occasion that's gotten the best of him) I like the fact that he brings grit, toughness and immense pride to his work on a daily basis. He wants to win and wants to prove he's a player. On occasion, he'll get into a little mano-a-mano, tit for tat battles with opposing guards -- as long as he's able to maintain his focus and run the team that's what counts. Can't let the referees calls get to him either. Overall, though, I love the fact that he's a gamer and lays it on the line. Need more guys like that.

3. USING HIS SCORING PUNCH AT THE RIGHT TIMES: Earlier in the year he was 'forcing' his game and taking difficult shots and trying to hit too many home runs. A by-product of that is the fact that he was trying too hard to prove himself in limited minutes. When he gets steady minutes (Jose Calderon's injuries were a blessing for him -- he took advantage) he settles down and lets the game come to him a whole lot more and concentrates on playing the game right way and in the proper rhythm that you need from a 'lead guard'. He can drive the ball and finish thru contact due to his strength and toughness and is shooting the ball better from deep. He must get his 3-point percentage up to the high 30's/low 40's as far as percentage is concerned, in my opinion, for next season which will make him a very effective screen-and-roll point guard. He shoots his FT's well and overall he's got good change of pace and solid dribble moves.

BOTTOM LINE: Can he be a full-time starter? Not sure yet. Need to see more of him. But I like him. He's a guy that wants to win and be a significant player. I like his work ethic and his serious nature. He can be a very good player. It's up to him. Opportunity is knocking at his door. The minutes are starting to come his way, now it comes down to how hard he's willing to work in the offseason to tighten his game up and be poised for a breakthrough during the 2011-12 season. Has to be a 'gym rat' this offseason. Input = Output. I expect even better things in the future from him. Onward and Upward.