The Raptors Charged Up Their Defense
*Photo via vhio
The Toronto Raptors are off to a solid start this season with a record of 6-3. One reason for their early season sucess is their improved defense.
Through the first nine games of this NBA season the Raptors rank 8th in opponents points allowed, which is a major improvement from last year’s team. This past summer, General Manager Masai Ujiri had one major goal; to improve the team’s defense. He did this by bringing in players like DeMarre Carroll, Bismack Biyombo and Corey Joseph. So far this season all have been fairly impressive on the offensive end, but especially on defense.
The Raptors big offseason acquisition, DeMarre Carroll, whom they have agreed to pay $60 million over four years, has been very impressive. His ability to stretch the floor, play tough defense and make excellent cuts off the ball has led to a strong start for this team. He is proving that he was no fluke last year in Atlanta and every bit worth the big contract the Raptors signed him to.
*Photo via Getty Images
Nine games in Carroll is averaging 12.3 points per game to go along with 4.8 rebounds per game. However these stats may seem to be fairly low for a player making the money Carroll is making, but it is the little things he does both on offense and defense, things that don’t show up in the stats sheet that make him so important and vital to the success of this Raptors team.
Another key acquisition by Ujiri this summer was Toronto-native Cory Joseph. Out of all of the Raptors players this season, he may be the most impressive. He earned a four-year contract with the team as a backup point guard, but so far he has provided much more than that. He has been playing crunch time minutes alongside starting point guard Kyle Lowry in a two-guard set and he has provided the team with shockingly impressive play. Defensively he has shown that he can be very serviceable against the top point guards in the East.
So far this season, Joseph is averaging 8.8 points per game while shooting 55.6 percent from the field. He has been able to lead the Raptors second unit and increase the defensive intensity. Joseph, being from Toronto, is also a fan favorite and takes pride in playing for his hometown, which has translated in his play so far.
*Photo via USA Today
Ujiri made one more big acquisition this summer in order to try and improve this Raptors squad especially from a defensive standpoint. He was able to sign fourth year center Bismack Biyombo to a very reasonable $5.7 million over 2 years. Biyombo was acquired for the sole purpose of defense, and he has shown it very much so far in this young season. He is averaging 6.4 rebounds per game to go along with 1.2 blocks per game.
His presence on the defensive end is extremely important for the Raptors second unit. He has proven that with his length and athletic ability that he is both a good one-on-one and help defender. If he is able to continue his early season success on the defensive end, this Raptors team will continue to make some noise in a stronger than normal Eastern Conference.
With the defensive acquisitions made this summer, the Raptors are hoping to again be a top ten defensive team like they were during the 2013-2014 season. If they can improve their defense from last years all while maintain their strong offense, the Raptors could be a sleeper threat in this Eastern Conference.