Thirty games into the season already, eh? Time flies. Next thing I know Christmas is going to be just around the corner.
I'm not going to flatter myself or the esteemed readership here, all seven of us, and suggest that the Raptors read From Deep. But you will note that no one got fired or traded over the past few days as we sagely preached for calm in the wake of their limp through Florida - at least until we could get a sense how they're going to manage this relatively benign spot on their schedule. So far so good, we'd have to say.
Two straight wins is a nice start on their way to an 8-4 stretch, which would have to be defined as a significant achievement for a team that was six games under water when the Month that Matters ™ got under way with the blowout of the Nets Friday and their nice, grindy win over the Hornets Sunday. The blowout mattered as it kind of gave the Raptors a baseline; handy proof so they can keep building their internal narrative: "See? We're not awful! The Nets are awful. We're just a good team going through a rough stretch."
And Sunday's win was essential because it was a win, but also because it provided more credence to the breadth of the talent on the roster. Let's not get too swept up in Sonny-mania just yet, for example, but check out some of Weems's numbers since he began getting some steady burn. Over his last seven games he's shot 30-of-50 and is averaging 9.1 points a game. Take away that one possession Sunday when he missed four straight shots and he'd really be on fire!
Perhaps more surprising is that he's made 17 assists against just seven turnovers. On the season it's 24 helpers to 12 turnovers. Also, his per 36 minutes numbers are 13-4-4, on 46-per-cent shooting. Turkoglu is 15-5-4.5 on 43-per-cent shooting, but then again he's only making $9.9-million more that Weems right now.
Anyway, to get back to my point, two wins should translate into more time for Weems and Johnson and DeRozan, not less. I think this is good.
And in keeping with the MTM theme let's see how we stand on defensive efficiency. In just two games Toronto has improved from 116.3 to 115.1 point against per game, narrowing the gap between themselves and an average NBA defensive team by 1.2 points per 100 possessions, and the gap between themselves and the Memphis Grizzlies, the 29th best defensive team in the league, from 4.6 to 3.4 points per 100 possessions.
For the purpose of this study we'll freeze both the league average and the Grizzlies' average at what they were before the MTM began which was 106.7 for the league as a whole and 111.7 for mighty Memphis who, of course, have Zach Randolph holding the fort on the defensive end, which explains everything.
And just for interest we'll note that the Raptors remain fourth in the league in offensive efficiency, scoring 111.1 points/100, or 4.4 points/100 better than the league average. That's the same position they were two games ago but I didn't record what their rating was, and to be honest, I don't know how to go back in time, Internet-wise. If there is someone out there who does and can tell me what the Raptors offensive rating was two games ago I'd be appreciative. In the meantime we'll pay attention to this: Can Toronto actually improve themselves defensively relative to the league average and maybe, just maybe, catch the Grizzlies and become the 29th best defensive team in the NBA? And can they do it without sacrificing their standing offensively. Which is to say, in this relatively benign part of their schedule - which probably won't make their season but could certainly break it if they gag it up - can they actually improve?
I'm excited about this. It's like Christmas has come early.