NBA PM: What’s Wrong with the Raptors?

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Toronto Raptors All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry is beginning to worry about his team’s recent struggles. Based on how the Raptors have performed over the course of the past month, his concerns seem valid.

Since winning their fourth game in a row on January 17 against the Brooklyn Nets, the Raptors have posted the league’s fourth-worst record at 4-10. During that time frame, the Raptors have the 23rd-ranked offense and the 16th-ranked defense in the league.

Perhaps even more frustrating for the Raptors is the types of losses they have suffered during this recent slump. They have dropped games to some of the worst teams in the league, including the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic (twice) and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“I’m starting to get worried, yeah,” Lowry said. “It’s not going the way we’re supposed to be going and things aren’t changing, so yeah, I’m starting to get worried.”

What has caused the recent struggles?

“I have an idea but I’m going to keep my mouth shut,” Lowry said. “[I’m] going to keep it very professional.”

An obvious problem for the Raptors has come on the offensive end of the court. Although they’re still ranked second in the league in offensive efficiency this season, they have struggled on the offensive end since January 18. At one point, the team was on pace to have the best offensive rating in NBA history. Now, that offensive firepower is starting to dissipate.

On December 19, the team was scoring an estimated 118.97 points per 100 possessions. During their current slump, the Raptors are scoring 105 points per 100 possessions. It obviously would have proved difficult to continue scoring at that level but to see their scoring dip by nearly 14 points per 100 possessions has to be concerning for this group.

The breaking point for Lowry and the Raptors came last night at the hands of the Detroit Pistons. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Raptors held a 16-point lead and appeared as though they were on their way to picking up their 33rd win of the season. Instead, the Pistons outscored the Raptors 36-19 in the final period, capped by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s game-winning three-pointer with 13.2 seconds left. 

“We’re going to go in tomorrow and see the mistakes we had and what we could have done better and how we can apply that to the next time we’re in that situation,” DeMar DeRozan said. “We’re going to be in that situation 27 more times or however many games we have left. We got to be ready for it. We got to figure out a way to put 48 minutes together.”

If there is any team in the NBA that is looking forward to the All-Star break, it’s the Raptors. After enduring such a rough stretch over the past month, they’ll surely hope some time off will provide the team with a chance to get back on the right track.

As things stand today, they’re currently fourth in the Eastern Conference, just half of a game ahead of the fifth-placed Atlanta Hawks. While all teams go through slumps during the course of the season, the Raptors are hoping they’ll be able to turn things around rather quickly.

“It’s got to be quick,” DeRozan said. “Twenty-seven games [is] going to fly by. We ain’t got much time when it comes to practice time. We got to be able to take things on the go and run with it.”

With the trade deadline next Thursday, the Raptors have surfaced in trade rumors and appear to have Magic forward Serge Ibaka on their radar. The Raptors appear to be in need of some help at the power forward position and many believe Ibaka would be a good fit.

Ibaka would be able to spread the floor and give the team another three-point scoring option. In 55 games this season for the Magic, Ibaka is averaging 15.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game while shooting a career-high 38.5 percent from three-point range.

In addition to the Raptors, the Miami HEAT have also reportedly expressed interest in Ibaka as well. It remains to be seen what the Magic would be seeking in a potential deal but it would likely include a combination of either young players or draft picks. The Raptors appear to have the edge with an extra first-round draft pick in this year’s draft and a number of young players on the roster.

“Help is always beneficial,” DeRozan said. “I’ve never looked at help as a negative thing at all so if help is an option, why not?”

While it may not be time to panic just yet, it’s never a good sign when players begin to question if their team needs additional help.

As teams begin to look ahead to the All-Star break, the Raptors have two games left to try to gain some momentum. They’re faced with several road games following the All-Star break and things could begin to turn south quickly if they can’t get back on the right track.