UPDATE: I got my wires crossed and thought I pre-game duties; sorry for the eye sore.
I was starting to get very agitated about the current Raptor state-of-affairs until I realized I’ve been asking for shit to be blown-up and rebuilt for a couple years now. It wasn’t buyers remorse, so much, but I couldn’t get it into my head that this team has no business winning many close games and competing for the playoffs. So I’ve gone back and watched a bunch of the games over, and have a few observations about the goings on here:
- Calderon’s short comings all come down to salary. If he was in the $7-$7.5mil range, no one would make a peep about him. However, it’s tough to give him close to $10mil, and not have the position locked down for 35 minutes a night. Unless they make a trade for him, he’s playing out his contract as a Raptor; amnestying him would just hurt the team
- DeMar DeRozan is an above average player, who’s trying to incorporate a jumper in his game. In his rookie season, he couldn’t even had hoped to hit the rim on a 19 footer; now he’s hitting a few. He’s also not getting the ball in his sweet spots on offense, which is messing with his mojo; can’t use that as an excuse forever. I decided I’ll temper my scolding judgement until next season, when there are a couple more pieces added and he’s had time to bring Jedi balance to his game
- Kleiza is also an above average player, but he’s streaky. Even given big minutes, he’s going to be there some games, and others offer up a poo-poo platter. He could become a much valuable player if there is a post-presence to create some space on the perimeter. Also, he’s going to help the transition of Jonas next season. That said, I like him much more this season than last year
- Bayless is frustrating. He clearly has talent, but his judgement is zero. Heat check guy’s my ass, pass the bloddy ball and create for your teammates. I don’t mind him as a back-up point guard/shooting guard to come in and be a spark off the bench. That’s all, though
- Ed and Amir have the same problem; no fire behind their eyes. They are physically gifted, and can turn it on at times, but they just can’t seem to play with any sort of consistency. Double-double players? Yea, sure, but you have to give us something. At least Davis has an excuse, it being his sophomore season and all. I think I’m talking for everyone when I say that Amir should be there by now
- Bargnani is a baller. I don’t apologize for ripping him up until this season, and to be fair it seems to be a coaching issue but I’m a believer now. Not that he’s the next Nowitzki, but that at some point, people will be comparing young prospects to him in a positive light; that’s something you can hold your head high about
- James Johnson is a keeper, but should be the 2nd forward off the bench and not be allowed to shoot the ball outside of 8 feet
- Barbosa isn’t/shouldn’t be in the teams long term plans. Trade him for a couple 2nd rounders; we need assets to make some moves
- While Smitch will always be my favourite, Dwayne Casey is the best coach the Raptors have ever had
- The rest of the team sucks and doesn’t deserve any more of my ramblings; Grey is cool though, I appreciate big guys
I didn’t intend this to come off as a rant, but I needed to get things off my chest…so there’s a game tonight; the Bucks…
I love Brandon Jennings. Uhm…he’s going to be a bit tired since he played last night, but he didn’t log heavy minutes and didn’t seem to have exerted himself when he did see the court. Still, Calderon is rested and without Bogut in the paint to rotate and intimidate, Jose should have success breaking Brandon off the dribble and forcing rotations, eventually finding an open Raptor for a bucket of some sort. That’s what I want to see; probably end up with more of a dog-fight.
The Bucks have a lot of tweeners, so expect a combination of Shaun Livingston, Stephen Jackson (if he gets any minutes) and Carlos Delfino. Except for Livingston, the Bucks have crafty guards who can cause problems if given the space to operate. We’ll probably see another high usage night for Bayless, but I’d like to see a higher percentage of his takes be in and around the paint. Yea, sure, take a few shots to keep the defense honest, but everyone has to remember, no Bogut = more space in the paint.
DeRozan has been logging more minutes here the last few games, and I don’t expect things to change much. Taking it to the rack stands for him, as well. Delfino will be a tough cover; he does so much on the court. He does, also, put up a lot of questionable shots and isn’t always present on defense; or so that’s what I remember about his Raptor days. He’s had a brutal stretch recently, so he’s due a big game, but DeMar should be able to take advantage; I hope…
Defense. Defense. Defense. If James Johnson concentrates on locking down the perimeter, crashing the boards and rotating for a couple blocks, he could be valuable for any team in the league. Mbah a Moute plays elite level defense on the wing, and wont give up scoring opportunities easily. Johnson’s going to have to work hard tonight for his, and I hope he’s working to own the paint and not the perimeter.
With Bogut out, Gooden has stepped up and is filling in admirably. My gut tells me Amir will get the call to start, but the Bucks don’t have much in terms of size, so Grey could see significant minutes. I’m not comfortable with how the Raptors match-up with Gooden. Grey is a bit too slow, and Amir has been a bit too lethargic. Obviously fatigue on the Bucks part will play a huge part tonight, with the Raptors well rested and all…I’m wigging out, sorry, have to cut this off without any resolution.
I don’t usually cover benches, but the Bucks are fairly deep, and have a few guys who need to be accounted for. Also, they can field any number of lineup’s since they are missing Bogut. Ersan Ilyasova has been a rebounding mad-man; 52 rebounds over the last five games. Stephen Jackson got burn last night after Brandon Jennings advocated for him heavily the day before, and has always feasted on the Raptors. Mike Dunleavy can make things happen on the wing. The Raptors counter with size up front with Ed and Amir. Kleiza should give the Bucks defense a run for its money, and Barbosa can provide a spark, if he isn’t already totally checked out and waiting to be shipped out.
Keys to the Game
- Attack the paint; this should be the mantra for tonight. The Bucks have next to no shot blocking without Bogut manning the middle. Should be very obvious
- Crash the boards; with the size and agility the Raptors have, and with Bogut out, this needs to be an area of domination for the Raptors tonight. No second chance shats
- Run-run-run; 2nd night of a back-to-back for the Bucks. Pretty self-explanatory here…
The Bucks are 3-point favourites tonight; at the ACC. I don’t know how I feel about this. I mean, 2nd night of a back-to-back, on the road, after a 4th quarter rally fell short…makes no sense…Raptors by 4.
Photo Credit: Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images