Masai Ujiri is the NBA equivalent of a mad scientist. A genius in his own way for sure but man does he have some unusual methods. In what we (the public) deemed a move to begin a full-on tank mode in Toronto, trading Rudy Gay has actually significantly improved the Raptors. Wait, how is that possible? Trade your franchise player and improve? I wonder if the Toronto Raptors winning actually annoyed Ujiri at first.
Regardless, the Gay trade spawned a new era in Toronto Raptors history. Now, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were left to carry the team on their backs………and like I mentioned above, they have. Sometimes the magic elixir is just eliminating the “me” player. Rudy Gay personifies selfish player as he always looks to shoot first and puts up extremely poor shooting percentage and assist numbers. Whatever it was, the chemistry has greatly improved. The proof is in the pudding.
In the first two months of the season, Lowry averaged 11 points in October (in one game, mind you) and 13.5 PPG in Novemeber. Rudy Gay was traded on December 8th and the trade was officially announced on December 9th. In the month of December as a whole, Lowry’s PPG went up to 18.3 and he averaged nearly two assists more per game than the previous month. Two assists more? How often do you think he’d pass the ball to Gay and it would just result in a dead end. Two per game means approximately 28 assists Rudy Gay sapped from him per month. When Gay left, the points they lost spread around instead of going to one place. Therefore, injecting chemistry into a seemingly lost cause team. Terrence Ross and Patrick Patterson are among those who have risen from the ashes to sap some of that lost production. It is now generally accepted that Lowry runs the show and everyone will see the ball at some point. Lowry, as a fantasy asset, is just fantastic. The 2.3 3PM per game, 4.1 REB, 7.4 AST and 1.7 STL show his across the board ability. Health has always been his downside and he has been able to avoid injury this season. Hence, the downside has become more and more limited. If I had to rank players as of today, Kyle Lowry would be inside my top 40. He’s a very special player and even more special fantasy commodity. His main job on the team is the distributor. When the team needs a basket, they turn to their other staple.
That man, of course, is DeMar DeRozan. Lowry fills a lot of roles, including secondary scorer, but DeRozan is the man to put the ball in the basket. Even more so recently, DeRozan has erupted in terms of scoring. In January, he is averaging a beastly 24.2 PPG. Taking the #1 scorer role to heart, DeRozan plays the part nicely. Unlike Gay, his FG% hasn’t dipped below 40% in any month this season. While you’d never confuse him for LeBron James in terms of FG%, he’s not the worst either. He is exactly what the Toronto Raptors need. Also, similarly to Lowry, the number that jumps off the page since the Gay trade is the assist spike. In November, he averaged 2.7 AST in 14 games. He cranked it up to 3.9 in 14 December games. Even more impressively, he is up to 5.3 AST in seven January games. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have turned the Toronto Raptors around. Their unselfish play, especially that of their leading scorer, has turned them into a team. The only way for them to compete is going to be to play together. They are not talented enough as a whole to do it otherwise. Masai Ujiiri has done it again.
Passing the ball: sometimes a novel concept in the NBA. Getting rid of of black holes actually increases your chances to win. This isn’t college. You can’t give the ball to one player every single time and have him go to the basket and expect to win (i.e. Carmelo Anthony). After trading Gay, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have turned the Raptors around and become their franchise players. Earlier this season, Ujiri was considering trading Lowry. Now it is not even an option. If they want to continue their ascent, they should look to sign Lowry long term. Just look at their success recently. With just another piece or two, the East is so bad that Toronto may be a long term contender. The floor is yours Masai. Let’s see more of what you can do.
Let me know what you think the new look Raptors by commenting on this article or hitting me up on twitter.
Author: Ricky Sanders, @RSandersFR