I have to admit I’m happy we’re back to the noon time tipoff on Sundays; 6pm starts kill my whole day since I like to get the game out of the way, so I can spend the rest of the day yapping about it. The Raptors have two games left before the All-Star break, both are at home, and both are winnable.

First up we have the Kings. I’ll be honest, apart from their Über rookie Tyerke Evans, Kevin Martin and Jason Thompson, I know nothing about this team. So I decided to check in with one of the best NBA bloggers out there, Zach Harper from Talk Hoops, Cowbell Kingdom and Hardwood Paroxysm, if you haven’t been following him, now is time…do it:

The Kings started the season on a tear of sorts, what slowed them down?
Reality didn’t help them keep their early season pace, that’s for sure. With the Kings, everything was so new and Jason Thompson was playing extremely well to begin the year. In fact, you could have even made the case for JT to challenge for the All-Star game after the first month in just his second year. But ever since they choked away back to back games against the Cavs and Lakers in late December, the team has been on a free fall. The defense has been nonexistent (just four opponents held under 100 in the last 22 games) and they’re getting nothing inside in terms of consistent offensive production. Their best post defender the past month has been Jon Brockman, who is 6’7″ with lifts in his shoes. Combine all of that with the fact that they can’t win on the road and their inability to close out games and it’s amazing they’ve held up this well as of late.

Looks like you have a player in Tyreke Evans; how good is he? What’s his ceiling? ROY?
The Kings franchise hasn’t had a young player this good with this high of a ceiling since Oscar Robertson and that’s not an exaggeration. Tyreke Evans is going to be a star in this league. He can dominate the game by driving to the basket and playing defense. And oh boy, his defense. He’s a really good defender and not just for a rookie. He can defend three positions. Now, if he learns how to knock down the three then we’re approaching dangerous territory. Rookie of the Year has all but been wrapped up for him for about a month now. He’s the only one putting together a full season so far. Jennings faded and Curry took too long to come on strong. Assuming he stays healthy, he should be unanimous for the ROY awartd.

Kevin Martin looks to be on the outs with Sac, and also a rumoured target of the Raptors, what happens to him in the next two weeks?
I doubt he’s going anywhere in the next two weeks. Kings want to see what they have with him and Tyreke in the backcourt. I think they can work perfectly together but they can’t freeze out the rest of the team while playing together (which has unfortunately happened since his return). They’ll give Martin at least the end of the season to see what they have with him and Evans. And if they can prove to be a 50-point backcourt that helps bring wins then there’s no way he goes anywhere.

Will Kenny Thomas finally prove to be useful for the Kings and bring someone back, or does he walk at the end of the year?
K9 had a couple of productive games sometime in late November or early December. And since then he’s disappeared. That might be because he sits behind Sean May and we can’t see him now because of it. I’m not sure. I don’t think the Kings will make any moves at the trade deadline. Martin would be traded for someone like Al Jefferson but that’s not going to happen. The Kings are better off doing a trade around the draft than this trade deadline. They’ll let K9 expire and unless a contender wants to take Nocioni, Garcia or Beno for cap relief, I doubt Sacramento does anything this season.

Anything you want to add?
I’m not sure what Chris Bosh’s career high is but against this Kings interior defense, I can almost guarantee he’ll break it. From what I’ve heard, Omri Casspi should have a big fan base at the arena on Sunday. I recommend watching him play. He’s very competitive, fiery and finds a way to contribute without ever getting a play called for him. He’s very fun to watch and easy to root for.

A lot of nice pieces on this Sacramento team. Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes have been heaven-sent for me in two of my leagues, Tyreke Evans is the reason I’m in second in one of my drafts, and I picked up Martin a week before he returned from injury, and am starting to reap the rewards (those 30 point games really help me keep distance with the folks behind me). Now all that needs to happen for me is for these guys to perform well, give me my points, but for the Raptors to win.

Jack and DeRozan will have their hands full with Evans and Martin, although they will be able to return the favour on defense. Udrih is their version of Banks, and as the first point guard of the bench…well, I laugh at that – HAH! I always liked Francisco Garcia, but he will be facing the three headed 2-by-committee who have been playing pretty good over the last few games.

What has me excited is that if the Kings have no one to cover Bosh, that also means they have no one to cover Bargnani; it will be up to them to take advantage and capitalize. I’m guessing in the vicinity of 50pts and 23reb between the two…that seems reasonable.

What worries me is that the Raptors haven’t played since Wednesday, and they usually come lethargic and sloppy in these situations. A young, athletic team like the Kings can get up and down if you sleep on them, and with the Raptors history of playing down…I just don’t want to go through one of those games where the Raptors spot a 10 point lead, and claw their way back to eventually win by 7 or 8.

Turkoglu may or may not go, and either way, I think we can expect the same production form him – just saying…

The gamblers have the Raptors as 8.5 point favourites with an over/under of 215.5.

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