Serge Ibaka (essentially)
Delon Wright (essentially)
If you fancy yourself a contender in the East you have one goal – assemble a roster that can challenge the Cavs. While losing Cojo’s reliability and the versatility that both Pat Pat and PJ brought seems to hurt, if the team stood pat (pat), there’d be no reason to believe they could achieve said goal.
I LOVE the CJ Miles pickup. Suddenly the Raps go from a starting five with spotty three point shooting (do you realize Demarre started in the playoffs?!), to a 41 3FG% threat. The Raptors could not depend on Patterson (8-for-26) and Tucker (9-for-28) to knock down the three in the playoffs, which created another issue – the defence could pack it in on Lowry and Derozan. With Miles stepping in, the D has to stay honest.
The Raps offence has consistently ranked last among playoff teams. With the addition of Miles, along with a full season of Ibaka manning the paint (and stretching the floor), I consider the roster turnover a net gain.
That is if Delon Wright is ready.
While the backup point guard position can’t be prioritized over any part of your starting lineup, Lowry’s penchant for wearing down makes his understudy’s competence critical. Many are encouraged by Wright’s 16.5 PPG in the D-League, along with his length and 6’5 frame.
But the guy’s played 27 NBA games. In that limited sample the signs are encouraging. He’s shown a nice ability to get to the rim – 60% of his shots came from 1-10 feet, and he made 55% of those attempts . Contrast that with Joseph – only 43% came in that range, while he made 53% of those attempts. Wright has only attempted 30 threes – but he made a third of them, and Joseph only did a little better (35.6%). Their per-minute assists are also pretty similar (Wright – 4.6, Cojo – 4.8).
It seems like this Joseph / Wright swap could be a wash, but I’m not a good enough scout to extrapolate a player’s capability based on one third of a season. Can Wright lead the second unit over an 82 game grind? When Lowry is hurt, can he start for an extended stretch and not be embarrassed by superstar PGs across the league?
If your distance shooting improves, your defence gets slightly worse, and your backup point guard play stays the same – you’ve improved your chances of beating Cleveland. And that’s before factoring in Cleveland losing Kyrie.
No one’s pretending this team can contend with a fully loaded Cavs squad. But these Raptors are better suited than any prior Casey team to give it the ol’ college try.