Print By IAN HARRISON - Associated Press - Tuesday, October 10, 2017
TORONTO (AP) - The Toronto Raptors don’t want to be thought of as dinosaurs, so they’re trying to evolve their offensive style and bring it in line with the NBA ’s best teams.
The Raptors are preaching an emphasis on ball movement and 3-point shooting this year, a move away from the one-on-one game they’ve used with some success over the past few seasons.
“It’s not going to be a 180, but there’s things we’ve got to do and must do offensively to be more efficient, a style of play where teams can’t sit on sets and sit on plays,” coach Dwane Casey said.
The Raptors ranked last in the NBA with 18.5 assists per game last year, well off Golden State’s league-leading pace of 30.4. Toronto also ranked in the bottom third of the league on 3-pointers attempted and made.
Ultimately, the idea is to make the Raptors more effective for the playoffs, where their offense has been stymied and their defense exposed by LeBron James and a barrage of 3-pointers by the Cleveland Cavaliers in back-to-back postseasons.
All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry said it’s not about how much change Toronto can handle but when to apply it.
“The conversation is more so the change so that when the playoff time comes, things can be different,” Lowry said. “That’s what the whole plan is.”
Toronto spent big over the summer to retain both Lowry and forward Serge Ibaka, acquired from Orlando at last season’s trade deadline, and keep them teamed up with All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan. Lowry signed a three-year, $100 million contract and Ibaka got a three-year, $65 million deal.
Lowry, Ibaka and newcomer C.J. Miles, who signed a three-year, $25 million contract, are expected to be Toronto ’s biggest outside threats. Primarily known as a mid-range shooter, DeRozan is just as intent as developing his long-range game.
“I finally had a summer to really concentrate and lock in on myself as a player,” said DeRozan, who followed up Toronto ’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016 by winning gold with United States at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. “I think that’s going to be very beneficial.”
Here are some other things to know about the Raptors this season:
The Raptors traded away two players over the summer and saw two free agents sign elsewhere. Toronto shed salary by pairing forward DeMarre Carroll with a pair of draft picks in a trade with Brooklyn, then immediately waived center Justin Hamilton, the player they received in return. Guard Cory Joseph was traded to Indiana, forward Patrick Patterson signed with Oklahoma City and forward P.J. Tucker signed with Houston.
WILL POWELL PAY OFF?
Midway through training camp, the Raptors gave third-year guard Norman Powell a four-year, $42 million contract extension, scheduled to take effect next season. A breakout star in Toronto ’s first-round playoff series victory over Milwaukee last April, Powell led the bench in scoring 13 times during the regular season. He could either start or play as a sixth man this year. “I think we have something special here,” Powell said.
YOUNG BLOOD, PART 1
Powell, 24, is one of several Raptors younger than 25, a group that will be expected to contribute off the bench in the absence of Toronto ’s departed veterans. Forward Pascal Siakam and point guard Fred Van Vleet are 23, center Jakob Poeltl is 21 and rookie forward OG Anunoby is 20.
YOUNG BLOOD, PART 2
First-year general manager Bobby Webster, 32, is the youngest GM in the NBA . Webster was promoted from assistant GM in May after Jeff Weltman left to become president of basketball operations in Orlando. A former staffer at the NBA league office in New York, Webster joined the Raptors in 2013 and was named assistant GM in 2016. He reports to president Masai Ujiri.
After traveling to British Columbia, Canada, and Hawaii during training camp, another West Coast trip awaits the Raptors . Following two home games to start the regular season, Toronto immediately gets its longest road trip of the season - six straight on the road against Western Conference opponents. The daunting trip tips off with visits to San Antonio and defending champion Golden State.