It's pretty clear that Anthony Parker has emerged as the 10-15 minute backup point guard for the Raptors the rest of the way. And while six games is hardly the largest possible sample, he's played pretty well in the role, I would say. Even more important the added responsibility seems to have lifted his whole game.
This is good stuff, like finding and extra $20 in a pair of pants you haven't worn in a while. It makes you wonder why it took so long to find it, but that's for another day.
Why is this important?
I refer you to Chris Black of T.Jose Calderford who did some interesting work last week breaking down exactly what is different between the current edition of the Raptors -- a long shot for the playoffs - and the previous two playoff-bound seasons has been their point guard play. It's not the only reason, and I encourage you to read the entire post. As a bonus the next post is a break down of Shawn Marion's game, so it's definitely worth the visit.
But here is a relevant excerpt:
RAPTORS PG PER
08-09: 14.8 07-08: 20.4 06-07: 18.2
Remember, 15 is considered average! So even with one of the league's best in Jose Calderon, Toronto has received below-average point guard play this season.
To put it in perspective, I've looked at this year's PG PER rankings to come up with an NBA player whose rating comes closest to these numbers:
08-09: Kyle Lowry 07-08: Chauncey Billups 06-07: Andre Miller
So two years ago, we were getting a solid, if not spectacular (Andre Miller) level of play from our point guards. Last year, we were getting an MVP type of combined performance from Caldeford. This year, we're getting a journeyman performance.
THE SILVER BULLET
In economics, we learned that education was the silver bullet of development. Educate your country and it effects everything... health, wealth, human rights, etc...
Well, I believe I found the silver bullet to this Raptors team. As much as we want to slag Jamario Moon for taking an ill-advised three, or Chris Bosh for failing in the clutch, the fact is point guard play will be the reason this team goes from the playoffs to the lottery. Can you argue that shoddy point guard play hasn't at least contributed to: 4th quarter struggles Turnovers Calderon's injuries Bosh's struggles
The question now is with Calderon back and as good as ever -- seriously, who goes 15-of-19 from the floor with 18 assists and no turnovers in two games after being hurt for 11 games? -- and Parker seemingly the back-up the Raptors have been missing, can they make a run?
Wins against Jersey and Milwaukee are crucial, obviously. And somehow surviving the Orlando, Cleveland, LA, Chris Paul guantlet next week.
But after that?
Consider Scott Carefoot's take over at Raptorblog. Indeed, the Raptors have a chance to make a run. They play a lot of average team and lot's of terrible ones. Some of those they'll be battling for a playoff spot with. Let's just say the Raptors have to go say, 13-3 in their last 16 games to get that eighth seed. Well, it just so happens that the only teams that currently have winning records the Raptors will play down the stretch are Orlando, Atlanta and Philadelphia. They also play the Knicks twice; Charlotte twice and Chicago twice -- all teams the Raptor will need to catch to make the playoffs.
If you're of the view that making the playoff in such fashion would be a worthy feat, there's hope. If you you're of the view that it's lipstick on a porcine farm animal, there's that, too.
Finally, interesting take here by Adrian Wojnarowski on the setting of the Suns. Kind of Amazing: Nash is healthy, Amare is healthy, Shaq is playing his best basketball in five years; Jason Richardson is in his prime; Grant Hill is healthy; Barboso; Matt Barnes etc. and yet they can't quite get it together. To me the issue is this: When the Suns were stacked and they ran, there was enough shots for everyone. But if you slow down and give so many touches to Shaq, then everyone else goes wanting: Not enough shots. As well, lower scoring games means less of a margin of error for the Suns defensively, their traditional weakness. Some interesting quotes here from Nash.