What has Toronto done lately?
TRADES! Oh yeah, baby! General Manager Masai Ujiri has been wheelin' and dealin'. His latest restructuring move sent Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy, and Aaron Gray to the Sacramento Kings. In return the Raptors received Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson, and Chuck Hayes. Dumping Gay's contract frees up a lot of wiggle room in the books and on the court.
In fact, since Gay's departure, the Raptors are actually playing decent basketball. The team has won three of the five games since the trade. They have been moving the ball and the offense is flowing well. No longer is Gay the black hole of ball movement for them. (Read more about it in the Q&A with Raptors HQ.)
What are the Raptors' biggest strength and weakness?
At first glance, there isn't a lot that stands out as being a strength for the Raptors. They are mediocre to bad in plenty of statistical categories. One might even be inclined to say that one of their strengths is simply being in the Eastern Conference.
However, they do have some redeeming qualities. Toronto is the seventh best free throw shooting team in the league and is able to draw a foul on 23.1 percent of the field goals they take. That is the ninth best mark in the league. They also force their opponents to turn the ball over 15.3 percent of their possessions which is the seventh best in the NBA. The Raptors also rarely turn the ball over.
They are also a pretty good offensive rebounding team. But you know what that means, right? Yup, they miss a lot of shots. Like, a bunch. Toronto is also really bad at defensive rebounding. Statistically, they are the second worst team in that category. Oh, and they are dead last in total assists. Of course, that number takes into account all the hero ball that Gay was prone to playing. Maybe that will change with him gone. Maybe.
What do the Mavs need to do to be successful against the Raptors?
Dallas needs to put a lot of defensive pressure on Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Now, the Mavs aren't the most defensive minded team but a concerted effort to slow down the Raptors' two best players would be nice.
The Mavs need to force these players, and the team as a whole to take long two-point attempts. Toronto doesn't shoot the ball well in general but they certainly do not shoot the ball well from 15 to 23 feet. This is especially true if the shot is a jump shot. The Raptors are only connecting on 31.4 percent of their jump shots this season.
However, we all know that the Mavericks give up a ton of points in the paint. It is simply ridiculous. Almost 47 percent of the Raptors' shots this season have come inside the paint. Oy Vey!
Which team stat might determine the game?
Points in the paint. Didn't see that one coming did you? Look, if the Mavericks hope to do anything remotely positive in terms of building success that could breed a deep playoff run; they need to limit teams from scoring inside on them. It is easier said than done with the current roster but it is a severe problem. Dallas rarely wins the points in the paint battle and it hasn't dramatically haunted them. Not yet, at least. But just think about how much better they would be if they kept their opponent from getting in there and scoring 40 to 50 points a game. It's embarrassing and needs to be corrected.