This Raptors team has exceeded expectations through six games. Andrea Bargnani is playing so well that I’m scared to say anything, the defensive numbers are vastly improved, eveyone is noticing DeMar DeRozan’s three-point shot, and you probably want to build a shrine to Dwane Casey already. There’s momentum here. It would be a blow to lose to the hapless Nets.

Point Guard:
I’m not used to seeing Jose Calderon’s name near the words “triple double” and “underrated.”  His hyper-efficient start has me thinking back to the days when smart people argued that he should make the All-Star game over New Jersey’s more famous point guard. This is where I should be saying, “Hot start and Deron Williams’s sore ribs be damned, New Jersey’s more famous point guard will destroy Calderon tonight.” Nope. The Nets are such a mess that you can be excused for not knowing that D-Will has been started at shooting guard his last four times out. The Nets’ starting PG? Former Raptor Sundiata Gaines. Bayless is likely sitting out, so in terms of backups we’re talking about Anthony Carter vs. Jordan Farmar, who was probably having lots more fun with Maccabi Tel-Aviv.

Edge: Raptors

Shooting Guard:
Everybody knows DeMar DeRozan worked on his three-point shot this offseason, but THIS? NOW? Derrick Rose waited a month last season before he started consistently hitting ridiculous threes over people; DeRozan has done it right away. When DeRozan’s 3PT% inevitably regresses, will it dip below Rose’s season-ending 33.3%?

The fact that Avery Johnson’s been forced into playing Deron Williams at two-guard tells you everything you need to know about the collective scoring ability of this roster. The one guy who can create for himself is intriguing rookie Marshon Brooks, but he might be sidelined with a sprained ankle. If Brooks and his quick release are out, you can look forward to Anthony Morrow’s perfect shooting form and NBA Champion DeShawn Stevenson.

Edge: Nets

Small Forward:
Rasual Butler and James Johnson combined to shoot 1-14 against the Cavs on Wednesday. This would normally mean I’d give the edge to the opponent, but we’re talking about the 2011-2012 Nets.

Damion James has started all seven games for New Jersey at small forward, but he’s doubtful with a right foot injury. There’s no telling who the Nets would start in his absence — they could bump Anthony Morrow up, slide Shawne Williams down, or quickly re-sign Stephen Graham for all I know.

Edge: Raptors

Power Forward:
Bargnani’s improved at everything except for rebounding. I’m not sure I believe he’ll ever get better on the boards, but I’m ready to be proven wrong. Limiting Kris Humphries’ rebound total would be a start.

You heard it here: Ed Davis is due for a big game.

Edge: Raptors

Center:
Amir Johnson is shooting 15-19 at the rim this season. Mehmet Okur is shooting 3-4, but he’s a theoretically a great outside shooter. Okur shouldn’t be starting at center for an NBA team while he works his into playing shape after a back injury. The trouble is that the other option is Johan Petro.

Oh, man. Jamaal Magloire vs. Johan Petro. This is going to be hilarious.

Edge: Raptors

Line:
The Raptors are 7.5-point favorites. They just beat Cleveland by 15 and three days earlier the Nets lost to Cleveland by 16. Since this is the NBA and nothing makes sense, I’m sure the Nets will at least cover.

  • AB7.38pt.on.cb4

    Should be a Derozan +30 pt show (ft 12-14). Dunks more than 3pt.Easy

  • Ice_man

    A few notes… Gaines is the starting SG, but he defends the opposing PGs to give Deron a rest on defence. He’s also the main PG on their 2nd unit, Farmar’s nailed to the bench, and he’s only played recently when Deron was hurting. Also, Okur was playing 30mpg in Turkey during the lockout (and playing decently), so he’s actually in better shape than many others in the NBA right now. I know these things thanks to research done for fantasy basketball purposes…

    • http://twitter.com/outsidethenba James Herbert

      Okay, cool, a few things: 

      Where you want to call Deron a PG or SG when next to Gaines, he’s played wayyy more off the ball this year than normal.

      Farmar being nailed to the bench is why I said he was happier with Maccabi Tel-Aviv. 

      Well aware of Memo playing in Turkey, but I’m not sure this has adequately prepared him for being a starting NBA center again. He hasn’t looked very good yet, I think it’ll take some time.

  • CalgaryRapsFan

    This is the perfect game for Casey to instill the “never let your foot off the gas, kick your oppenent while they’re down, don’t let up until the fat lady sings and win the games you’re supposed to win” value in this young team.  These are the games teams must win as they’re learning how to win.  Something tells me Casey knows this and has been doing everything he can since the Cleveland game, to ensure this doesn’t become one of those dreaded ‘trap’ games.  If Casey’s messages resonate, this could be a blowout.

  • Nilanka15

    I think I’d prefer to see Bargnani defending Okur, and Amir defending Hump.

    Hump has too much of a motor for most adaquate defenders to handle.  I think Bargnani trying to box him out will completely exhaust Bargnani to the point that his offense suffers.  You start missing shots when your legs feel like jelly.

    • cesco

      On offense , Andrea will pull Hump out on the periphery  , Andrea passing and shooting combined with DD shooting and Jose distribution will make it a 15 points win at least . In the NY game , he was very tired at the end but still managed a crucial basket with two guys defending him , he is learning how to score even when tired .

      • p00ka

        NJ will decide who covers who at their end.

    • Bendit

      Taking it easy on AB?  :)

      I actually prefer giving AB the tougher assignment on defense especially this early in the season and in this 
      new Bargnani era (I hope). We all need to see where his true level is.

      • p00ka

        Sorry, but Casey’s making decisions not based upon what we/you feel we/you need to see. Casey’s already pushing Bargs to toughing it out with his huge minutes, even leaving him out there in garbage time last game, and I’d say his approach is producing very nice results.

      • Nilanka15

        AB freakin’ sucks!  He’s just a dumbass, spaced out, batty boy who’s as worthless as Alabi!  Just kidding.

        Bargnani deserves a lot of credit.  I’ve said it before, he’s clearly been our best player so far this season.  Do I think he’ll maintain his current level of play?  Probably not.  But for the sake of the Raptors, I hope he proves me wrong.

        As for tonight’s game, I agree with you from a learning/disciplining perspective.  Don’t let Bargnani off easy.  If he wants to be a PF, then guard opposing PFs all season no matter the matchup, and see how he handles it.

        But if winning the game is Casey’s bigger priority, I think he acknowledges that Amir is the better defensive rebounder, and doesn’t take any chances with Hump’s offensive rebounding abilities.

    • p00ka

      Totally agree. I was going to post that I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see exactly that assignment on D, even just based on match-up alone.

    • voy

      i totally agree with this specific scenario and this philosophy in general.  I think Amir and ED match up much better against guys like Hump than Bargs does.  Casey hasn’t been doing Bargs any favors by having him guard the more nimble frontcourt players on the opposing teams.  Same goes for Amir then guarding bigger players.  I would think this leaves you susceptible to picking up quick cheap fouls (ie the Dallas game).  However, we seem to be having more positive results than negative so maybe I’m missing something in the equation.

      • p00ka

        Low post vs low post, stretch big vs stretch big is what Casey’s been doing, and I’d expect that tonight.

  • c_bcm

    They could use a blow out win…like 40 points. That would be great. Has that ever happened? I know many times against us…but for us?

    • CJT

      Didn’t we blow out the VC era Nets on opening night two or three years ago by 30 or 40?  I seem to remember not being able to wipe the smile off of my face for 2 or 3 days.

  • http://twitter.com/outsidethenba James Herbert

    Turns out DeShawn Stevenson is starting in place of Damion James. OK.

  • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

    Good ride so far but tonite’s game will be a bump in the road as NJ pulls out a shocking W on the Raptors home court.

    It’ll be interesting to see how DC matches up players with NJ:

    Okur (will take Amir out to the 3 pt line & away from defensive rebounds)
    Humphries (will smash & dash on the glass against AB)
    Stevenson (may start out guarding DD)
    DWill (could end up on Butler to start game)
    SGaines (I think that he will bother Jose all game long barring foul trouble)

    I see a 93-90 NJ W.

    • terry

      Lol, keep rubbing that crystal ball.

      • p00ka

        lol,,, the one that has some of what somebody else says, doesn’t even take into consideration that Casey just may keep his approach of having AB covering the stretch big, and Amir covering the low post big, and comes up with a wild guess that, the likes of which I think he’s been wrong just about every game so far. Keep in mind that this comes from a guy who says we should get Cousins because Casey can handle him….. now look at his tag, lmao

        • Nilanka15

          BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!! has made quite a few erroneous predictions over the past year, some even coupled with guarantees.  But you gotta give the guy credit…he keeps taking a verbal beating on this site, yet comes back for more.  AND….it doesn’t deter him from making more erroneous predictions, lol.

          • p00ka

            lol, I’m still trying to get past first impressions that so much of his posts are all about baiting, but I am starting to see his perspectives a little differently now that I see some are just, shall we say, sincere ummmmmm participation. from the heart. Yes, whatever direction they’re targeted toward, incredibly determined to stay the course, regardless of what anyone says.

            • CJT

              He’s the bizarro fan.  Goes against every instinct a true fan does.  Thank Christ I don’t live in his world.  Dark.  Very Dark.

    • Truthkiller

      Are you a handicap, how in any universe are the New Jersey Nets gonna score 90 pts. This game will be over by half-time. 101-75 Raps

  • FuckTheTank

    i don’t get why amir should do a better job than bargs in boxing out humpries! i mean bargs is an horrible rebounder but he is still the one coming down with the most defensive rebounds on the team… amir works better on the offensive board!
    so when bargs is paired with the Big Cat or Davis i could agree in sweeping him on okur otherwise it’s better to have bargs on humpries

  • ad

    This makes no sense. You give the raptors the edge at pg but the nets have the edge at sg???? Jose calderon is a decent player but hes nowhere near the caliber of dwill.

    • whitekage

      if you read the post, you will see dwill is played the sg position in the Nets past four games, which is why Nets get the edge. 

      • whitekage

        has played*

  • Raps

    your crazy if you give the SG edge to NJ they suck. So what if stevenson won an nba championship DeRozan is still wayy better than him.

    • p00ka

      If you read carefully, the analysis is assuming NJ continuing with having Gaines starting at PG and DWill at SG.

  • leftovercrack

    Wow! Bargnani even getting stroked by Sports Illustrated. Here’s the blurb on him in a story called “Some Players Showing Early Progress.”
    Andrea Bargnani, F-C, Toronto RaptorsThe punchline is lighting it up, with a Player Efficiency Rating equal to that of Kevin Durant, a scorching shooting percentage on two-pointers, a small uptick in free throws and a better feel for help defense. Bargnani’s legendarily awful rebounding numbers are still pretty bad, but the Raps are sixth overall in defensive rebounding rate, thanks to a gang rebounding mentality. Bargnani won’t hit 79 percent of shots at the rim or 55 percent of his long two-pointers all season, but good things will happen if he keeps attacking, and new coach Dwane Casey has Bargnani cutting off the ball and curling around screens a bit more on offense. Keep up that kind of dynamism, and Bargnani should flourish as a scorer.

  • KJ-B

    “rejuvenated” Jose takes 13 shots to DeRozan’s 6 late into the 4th Q??? If that ain’t fool’ls gold, with a ‘quick’ start against Cleveland and the worst D in the L in NYC, I don’t know what is?! #REALLY?

    • p00ka

      you just looking at stats or did you see the game? you think stevenson may have had something to do with DeRozan’s lack of O,,,, or perhaps maybe he sat more than usual because he couldn’t defend my grandma?

      • p00ka

        fn unreal

  • Brandon

    DeRozan looked totally lost. I don’t have an explanation for it, but he’s a liability at this point. They should dump him.

  • nobody

    you guys are all funny.. hahahahah.. guess what! you didnt win..