The Toronto Raptors are sitting atop the Eastern Conference at 13-3. They recently lost to the Dallas Mavericks 106-102 and in that game they lost their leading scorer DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan appeared to slip as he was driving to the basket in the third quarter. He stayed down for a while and then left the game. He will be out with a torn tendon in his left groin.
Health can change the dynamic of a team quickly. The Raptors had great health and that led to their surprising start this season. You always have to make adjustments when guys are hurt.
The Wizards, Bulls, Cavaliers, and Heat have dealt with guys missing time this season. The only player on the Bulls to start every game is Mike Dunleavy. They are constantly making adjustments due to injuries. The Wizards were without Bradley Beal to start the season and Nene has missed some games.
Although not a major piece for the Cavaliers Matthew Dellavedova has only played in three games and Dwyane Wade has missed seven games for the Heat.
In five seasons DeRozan has missed 11 total games. Who will step up for the Raptors? Lou Williams has been great off the bench averaging 14 ppg. He excels at that role for this team. Plugging him into the starting lineup hurts the bench unit.
Inserting James Johnson into the starting lineup might work. They could move Terrence Ross to the two-guard spot and have Johnson as the small forward. Ross has to step up and knock down some shots. His shot attempts should go up with DeRozan out and he has to take advantage of that opportunity. On the season he takes less than nine shots a game.
He shoots 41% from beyond the arc but that is in limited attempts. Will he be able to keep up that percentage if he takes a few more shots per game?
The Raptors score 107.6 points per game which is good enough for second in the league. Of course they will miss DeRozan. The guy can make tough shots. With Johnson in the lineup their defense should still be solid but they might need to increase the tempo.
The Raptors are a good basketball team but they have played a majority of their games at home. They went 6-1 on a recent seven game home-stand. They only played five road games. Five of their first eight games in December on are the road. This team will be tested without their leading scorer.
We will get to see if Dwane Casey can keep them around the top of the East. There will be an adjustment and slight drop-off with DeRozan out.
According to USA Today’s Sports Sam Amick, “a person with knowledge of his situation said DeRozan is hopeful that he can return in four weeks or less.”
The Raptors schedule gets tough on December 22nd when they take on the Bulls on the road. The Bulls took it to the Raptors in Toronto already. After that they have back to back games against the Clippers and Nuggets. That second game of a back-to-back in Denver can be brutal. They then face Portland, Golden State and Phoenix on the road.
That is a tough six game road trip for any team. Hopefully DeRozan returns sooner than later. Until then there will be more playing time for Lou Williams, James Johnson and Greivis Vasquez. One of those guys must raise their game while DeRozan is out.