I was going to try and post my thoughts on the Raptors rebuilding year, but that will have to wait. For now, I wanted to say a few words about the game tonight against the Nets.
So despite assuming it was going to be a major player on the free agent market last season and then basically striking out, and then losing out on the John Wall sweepstakes, the New Jersey Nets are on pace to nearly double their win total from last season. Of course, they only won 12 games last season, so doubling their win total would still put them near the bottom of the league.
Now the Nets seem to be launching a full court press to acquire Carmelo Anthony, but there are reports he wants nothing to do with them. It’s enough to give a Russian billionaire owner a complex. Will absolutely nothing go their way?
What might be of interest to Raptor fans is that the Nets just traded away talented, yet troubled, SG Terrence Williams, along with veteran big man, Joe Smith, for 2 first round picks. It should be of interest for several reasons. The first is that Williams might have been a Raptor, had Colangelo decided against drafting DeRozan. Williams had a little better rookie season than DeRozan, and even had a triple double late last year. This year, however, he seems to have regressed. His production has gone down and he was famously sent down to the D-League after being suspended by the team for “conduct detrimental to the team”. This type of behaviour always scares me because I’ve seen too many talented players flame out due to their own stupidity. And it usually ends up hurting the team, too.
So without Williams, and without Anthony Morrow, who is out with and injury, the Nets have a collection of SGs at their disposal that makes the Raptors wing players look like All-Stars. For once, the Raptors should actually have an advantage at this position. Hopefully this is the type of game that will give DeRozan some confidence. And he needs it. The DeRozan I’ve seen the last month, or so, is not the same guy I saw start the season. That DeRozan drove at the hoop with a vengeance and looked as though he wants to dunk it every time. After a stretch when it appeared the refs swallowed their whistle, on DeRozan’s drives to the hoop, he started to become tentative. A hamstring problem probably didn’t help, but DeRozan has to get back that tenacity he showed earlier int he season.
I don’t know if Calderon will be back, but the game against Chicago showed his importance to this team. He’s the only player on the Raptor roster that has any ability to run an offense, and despite showing promise, Jerryd Bayless has shown he should not start. At least not at this point in his career.
Devin Harris is having a good season, overall, but has struggled the last 6 games. This might be a good game for him to get his groove back.
I’m assuming Bargnani will be back for this game, and he’ll most likely be defended by former Raptor, Kris Humphries. Humphries seems to have finally figured out that he’s at his best when he’s rebounding and defending, and leaving the scoring to others. He might give Bargnani some problems because he’s athletic enough to stay in front of him, but strong enough to keep him off the block.
Of course, Bargnani will probably be defending Brook Lopez, who is putting up good numbers, but has fallen off a little. He’s shooting a lower percentage and his rebounding is almost Bargnani-like. Lopez is a handful for anyone, and it’s likely the Raptors will have to double team him with Amir or Ed Davis.
Speaking of Amir, he’s going to want to rebound from a poor performance against Chicago, and this is the perfect team to do it against. As long as he doesn’t get into foul trouble, he should get a double-double.
The most interesting matchup of the night might be the two rookies, Davis and Derrick Favors. Favors was drafted 10 spots ahead of Davis, but the two are fairly similar players. They are both very athletic PFs who are raw, but have the potential to be very good players. Favors is a smoother player, especially on offense, but Davis might be the better defensive player of the two. And their numbers this year are incredibly similar.
What makes the comparison all the more interesting is they are playing virtually the same amount of minutes per game. I’d love to see them get some minutes against one another, and considering they both come off the bench at the same position, it’s likely they will.
Overall, the Raptors are a better team than the Nets, and this should be a team they beat. Unfortunately, that often means the players will not come out hard, and might end up giving the game away.
On a side note, the Raptors have now fallen a game and a half behind the suddenly hot Philadelphia 76ers. This is the same team that the Raptors beat handily twice, including in Philadelphia. I was surprised by their slow start, as I thought they would be one of the team vying for one of the last playoff spots in the East. Now it looks like that might happen.