The season is young, but the Toronto Raptors remain a tough assignment to crack for the Wizards as long as they have All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan in the backcourt.
They open at home tonight. While the Wizards (0-2) look drastically different and easily could be undefeated, the Raptors (2-1) look very similar and as offensively potent as ever.
- Almost everything offensively involves a pick-and-roll action. Jonas Valanciunas’ first two baskets came off screen-rolls with Lowry. Easily 90%+ of their plays in the first quarter of their win Monday vs. the Denver Nuggets, even if it didn't begin with a screen set by Valanciunas, ended with one.
- Can’t play too soft on the pick-and-roll with DeRozan because he’s not a deep threat to shoot. The book on covering him is to go under the screen, but that doesn't mean the big on the switch should sag deep. Allow DeRozan momentum by playing too soft where he can get a few dribbles into the lane for the pull up, and it’s basically a layup. His rhythm has to be disrupted by the big leveling him off coming off that screen. Get his momentum going away from the basket. Not towards it.
- Valanciunas screens early and often for DeRozan, be it on ball or off-ball. Double-team DeRozan with anyone other than a big and he can still get off the shot.
- When Cory Joseph is on the floor with Lowry, the starting point guard, the former will run a lot of the offense. Lowry is a 20 percent three-point shooter but that number will come up. He's much better than that. He's not to be left unmarked.
- When Terrence Ross enters, the offense is more prone to taking quick, low-percentage shots. He's still dangerous off the catch on corner 3s, and can be very good or bad for them. He feasts on spot ups.
- On side out-of-bounds plays, if DeRozan makes the thrown in, rest assured Valanciunas will try to set a backscreen on his defender to free him to get to the ball so he can isolate on the weakside of the floor and go to work. There's nothing but open space and the defender is on an island with DeRozan.
- When the Raptors have four up and one down (DeRozan), they’ll send a screener to the ball up top but the purpose of this is to bring the attention to the strongside of the floor, stack the weakside with two bigs and free up DeRozan to get the ball on the reversal. If the shot isn't there, then flow into a pick-and-roll.
- Valanciunas rarely goes straight up with his jump shot. He almost always will pump fake first (a la Dwyane Wade). This is where Marcin Gortat has to show discipline and not bite.
- DeRozan will be used as a decoy with Lowry handling the ball, running to the weakside in front of the high-post bigs in a horns set. Valanciunas will set the screen and dive to the basket while the other big in horns, Patrick Patterson, pops to the arc for the three.