At 19-49, the Raptors haven’t lived up to even the most pessimistic of expectations. I had them pegged at about 30 wins at the start of the season, and always thought they would hit that mark; which would leave them with the 8th most ping pong balls in the draft (they are currently 5th). A couple wins here and there really matters when you are rebuilding and need high picks.

It’s great to see Reggie Evans back, but I can’t help but think that if he didn’t get injured so early in the season, that the Raptors would be floating in that 8-12th range in the standings. While he’s only played 20 games, the Raptors are 8-12 with Evans in the lineup. And while I wasn’t a big fan of his to start to the season, he is exactly the kind of player you need lined-up with Bargnani in the front line to make up for some of the things Andrea doesn’t do well. If he played a bit more defense, and was a couple of years younger, I would be a huge proponent of resigning him and starting him alongside Bargs for another year or two until Davis is ready to take over.

After dispatching the Wizards on Friday, the Raptors play 9 of their last 14 games on the road, with the potential of affecting the standings and playoff positioning along the way:

  • A game each against the Knicks and Sixers who are jockeying for 6th
  • Two games against the Bucks who are 2-games out of 8th

The last time these two played, the Raptors took down a Durant-less Thunder 111-99, by executing their offense (read Bargnani, Barbosa and Amir cleaning up one-on-one), shooting 55% from the field. Bargnani had one of his better games of the season, dropping 26pts 12rebs in 42min of play.

Injuries

Toronto
Linas Kleiza – Out
Amir Johnson – Day to day

Oklahoma City
Kendrick Perkins – Day to day

Player Report

Jose Calderon
He outplayed Westbrook the last time out, especially on the defensive end, but don’t expect the same defensive pressure with Durant in the lineup. Westbrook wont have the pressure on him to perform, and can play looser without the added pressure. Friday against the Wizards, Calderon was dangerous coming off that high screen, looking for his own offense (and sticking it to Wall & Co.). As the roll-call said, he had two guys who scored 30 points a piece, but only managed 6 assists. I’d like to see a bit more balance with his offense/play-making, but 17/6 is damn good.

DeMar DeRozan
8-9 from the line Friday against the Wizards, amazing. For me, that’s the next area of DeRozan’s game that he should work on. For a guy who is so athletic and has no fear putting the ball on the floor and attacking the paint, getting that many free looks at the rim would be huge. He’s got his hands full between checking Sefolosha and Harden. Harden, especially, has flourished with Green getting traded; he’s been a huge late pick-up for me in fantasy.

James Johnson
Love this guy, he produces across the board, and has made all of us forget about Julian Wright; yea, remember him? The best part about his inclusion in the starting unit is that he doesn’t need to shoot the ball to contribute. Much like Amir, he’s content with playing off the ball, and contributing where he can. While Johnson has become my favourite Raptor during his short tenure, I’ll be rooting for Durant since he’s the centerpiece of my fantasy team, and I’m just barely holding it down in the 1st round of my playoffs.

Reggie Evans
I’m guessing he gets the start with Amir on the bubble; even if he doesn’t, Reggie should get the lions-share of the minutes at the four. I spoke about his importance to this team a bit earlier (Raptors are 8-12 with him in the lineup), but who the hell is Trevor Booker, and how did Evans let him drop 26pts 13rebs 3ast 2stl 1blk? The membership to the “The Raptors will make you an all-star” club has been increased by 1. Ibaka will pose the same problems as Booker, but will be a bigger force on defense (dude blocks 2.5 shots a game, and has put up 6+ blocks over a bunch of different games).

Andrea Bargnani
Nothing but love for Il Mago. He should put up 27 tonight.

The Line

The gamblers have the Thunder as 13 point favourites with an over/under of 210, so expect a fast paced up and down game.

Happy New Year to all the Persians out there; one love.

  • corey

    We’ll likely get tuned this time out vs the Thunder… as long as we see some strong performances, i can live with that. i want the best pick, not meaningless wins at this point. And i agree on JJ. he contributes across the board, love his line which usually includes a couple blocks, some assists and rebounds. he takes few shots and gives us 8-10 pts a game… just wish he had a three point shot… i expect JC to struggle this time around with KD in the line-up… as for il Mago? sure, he’ll put up 27. it’ll take 25 shots, and he’ll have 2 rebounds in 35 mins…

  • Toshmon

    Demar DeRozan: NBA Most Improved Player?

    If not then who?

    • AJ

      I hope Demar wins it but I think Dorell Wright will be MIP.

  • kuzzybear

    Can’t BC find 1 of these summer camps where the instructors train AB to be a real center by working on his low post skills offensively and defensively? They are out there. it should be made mandatory for him to go to 1 where they beat the living crap out of him to toughrn him up.

    • AJ

      or hire someone like Hakeem or Kareem or Karl Malone to teach him to play the way that a C has to. I don’t know how much it might cost but if AB picks up couple things from these HOF player, it worth it. I know Kareem is ( or was) working with Bynum.

      • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

        Why do people think that Hall of Fame players are the only people who can teach a player? Pete Newell was probably the best big man coach ever and he was 6’2 and never played professional ball in his life. In fact, a lot of Hall of Fame players would make poor teachers, because teaching and playing are two completely different skills.

        Besides, Bargnani already worked with Moses Malone one summer to help him with rebounding. How’s that working out?

        • Sam Holako

          Solid point.

        • Bryan

          He knows how to rebound, he can rebound, he doesn’t want to rebound. You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

          • corey

            amen Bryan. this isnt about knowledge/teaching. it’s about effort. bargs avoids contact, at seemingly all costs. he is a finesse player. and his numbers have suffered, his three shotting in particular, because he has been asked to reb and play D.

            old school guys would say he has no heart. i might not go that far, but in todays NBA i am not sure how you can build a competitive team around a big man that doesnt get at least 10 reb per 30 min and play some D. as good as his shooting is, he is looking more and more like a role player, off the bench type (tony kukoc???). and his $8m per yr contract begins to look less and less like a bargain.

            one of the main reasons i am among those hoping the raps let BC walk is because i doubt he will ever trade a guy he drafted and has seemingly caudled for 5 years. i look over at portland, and the guy i wanted the raps to draft, lamarcus aldridge, and wonder what coulda been.

            • voy

              just because he’s on the team doesn’t mean the team is building around him. and just because he’s the best player on the team doesn’t mean he is a franchise player.

            • tonious35

              if we let BC walk and take his collars and cuff-links along with him, we are going to make Andrea the new AK47 of the league: over $10 million dollars coming off the bench.

          • Nilanka15

            Hit the nail on the head. What good is a teacher if the student has zero desire to learn?

        • Thecaptain2000

          the Malone story was a joke on RealGM, AB has been to just one summer camp in is whole NBA career, all other summers he went playing for the Italian national team

    • Buschfire

      y not send him to boot camp to get someone to kick him in his lazy ass. Its just his laziness that drives us crazy… no effort if this guy put in a solid effort on defense I’m sure he could do a better job and pull down more rebounds…

  • hateslosing

    “If he played a bit more defense, and was a couple of years younger, I would be a huge proponent of resigning him and starting him alongside Bargs for another year or two until Davis is ready to take over.”

    Joey Dorsey anyone?

  • Pjurac0175

    Hello Mr. Holako,
    for you and all of the Persians, the Spartans are here, too.

    Go Raps

    • Sam Holako

      Awesome!

  • tonious35

    I am going to throw in a double-jinx: we will lose by 30 pts just like last year in Oklahoma

  • http://twitter.com/JoeNewell66 Joe Newell 66

    Hi guys. Thunder fan here checking out the site. I love Reggie. Former Sonic as you all know; he has the heart of a lion, and once, years ago he put a real good game on us.

    I think BC hasn’t done half what I thought he might do with the Raps. Kind of surprised me that he hasn’t effected more positive change. But as an outsider looking in, I think you guys have a lot of good parts. AB is a baller, Sonny Weems can play, Calderon is definitely serviceable, and of course DeRozan and Reggie are legit. I think AB and the boys really need a change of system, which of course means a new coach. I think a more traditional approach with AB at the 4 as a stretch 4, and banger of a center would be helpful. A guy like Joel P. could be had cheaply; or an Eric Dampier type. Then let the wings light it up as long as they get back on defense.

    Make defense the calling card and big strides will come. It’s not the individuals as much as it is the system. Look what Karl is doing in Denver with a bunch of non all stars. Get the team to buy in with a defensive mindset. Force the players to buy in or sit on the bench.

    Anyway, we’ve been there. A 23 win team just 2 years ago. And tons of middling seasons all through the 2000’s. I hope you guys make the leap soon.

    • tonious35

      Your GM got lucky with Durant and the Celtics trading Jeff Green, but then in the later years he did his research and gambled smartly with Westbrook, Harden, and Ibaka. Then Presti decided to fill in the rotation with a high IQ player who can’t hit a jumper, but defended his way to 2nd Defensive ALL-TEAM of 2009-2010. He also found out PJ Carlesimo is a douche-bag that deserved to be choked and replaced him with a smart people’s person who knows the game of basketball. I can smell the analysis and scouting from your GM and his crew he assembled.

      You traded Jeff Green for Kendrick Perkins and that was a hard move for you to make as a legit playoff team, but only a smart GM can make a calculated and still-risky gamble like that, even if he has two all-Stars on his team.

  • Bendit

    That reference to “Persians” is somewhat restrictive. In the interest of clarity, accuracy and inclusiveness………

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nowruz

    • Sam Holako

      Well said sir