Kyrie Irving – Solid as a rock.

Andrea Bargnani came back, so I can only assume the Raptors won both games over the weekend! Of course we didn’t. For one, there’s an appreciable adjustment period to be expected working Bargs back into the rotation, especially defensively where the units have come together pretty well of late. Additionally, the Raptors were 6-7 with him before, not exactly gangbusters. So please, don’t be quick to call his earlier 13-game performance an apparition. Tonight will be the first real test of how this team can look (again) with Bargs worked fully back into the fold, without a limit on minutes or a concern for defensive sets. One key, though, will be to get him touches early in the contest, something the team failed to do effectively on Saturday but did better with Sunday.

But enough about Bargs, let’s talk about the opponent – it’s Cleveland, baby!

Okay, so maybe not the most exciting match-up we could ask for. The Cavaliers aren’t quite star-studded or a big-ticket attraction, but there are some interesting reasons to watch, not the least of which is that the Raptors already own a victory over them from the Boxing Day season opener.

First and most obviously is Kyrie Irving. Basically, the Cavs are showing Raps Nation right now just what a franchise-changing point guard can do for a team. This was a squad that had no discernible assets entering the offseason last year, and after taking Irving at #1 and Canadian Tristan Thompson at #4, they now have a legitimate core to build around. Irving is the runaway Rookie of the Year, and has this team playing what could generously be called borderline playoff basketball. A caveat – that’s in the Eastern Conference, where sadly enough their 16-23 record has them just a half game behind the Bucks (!) for the right to be swept by Chicago or Miami. Thank you, New York Knicks’ 6-game losing streak, for making the Eastern Conference Playoff race that much tighter and more exhilerating. Must-see TV, those battles between potential playoff teams with .429 winning percentages (what is this, the NHL’s Eastern Conference? Go Leafs Go!).

Irving will be matched up against the point guard trio of Jerryd Bayless, Leandro Barbosa, and Gary Forbes, a triumvirate that is no coach’s wet dream. Jose Calderon will miss another game with his sprained ankle, leaving our commenters with ample cannon fodder for the message boards and the comment thread of this post. “This team is better without Jose! Bayless sucks! Give Forbes 48 minutes a game, let’s see what we have! Tony Wroten Jr!” etc etc. Enjoy, everyone. This actually might be Bayless’ last crack at auditioning for a major future role, so sarcasm aside, it does bear watching.

Thompson is obviously another reason to watch, if for nothing else than to harden your maple-dicks for the league’s foremost Torontonian. Thompson has played pretty well as a rookie, putting up a 12.9 PER, showing adequate defensive awareness and basketball IQ, and throwing down some very hard dunks from time to time. His numbers don’t jump off the page, but he is worth checking out.

If we’re all being honest, we want to lose this game. The Cavaliers are example 1A of how quickly a team can go from cellar-dweller to potential East playoff team in just one draft, and while the goal is to be a conference power rather than 1st round playoff fodder, I believe the term “baby steps” applies in a rebuild. The promise of Jonas’ arrival and another lottery pick to add to the mix should have us cautiously optimistic for what next year could bring. At present time, the Raptors would be slotted to pick 4th, with an 11.9% chance of the top pick. If your curious, the chances of picking in each spot rom 1-7 are as follows, based on finishing 4th last.

1st – 11.9%
2nd – 12.6%
3rd – 13.3%
4th – 9.9%
5th – 35.1%
6th – 16.0%
7th – 1.2%

4th might be the best case scenario given the distance from 3rd-last (3.5 games), and the return of Bargs, plus the team’s improved play of late (actually a positive scoring margin over the past 10 games). Who will said lottery pick be? Well, March Madness starts up on Thursday, and that gives us all a better chance to “scout” (read: get man-crushes on) potential lottery picks. Anthony Davis is going #1, no questions asked, so focus your attention on the Harrison Barnes’, Andre Drummond’s, Thomas Robinson’s, etc (note: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is super duper serious he’s staying another year, just ask him). You’ll have to look a little further down the mock drafts to find the point guards, if that’s your fancy, and then demand the Raptors trade someone for an extra 1st rounder sometime between now and Thursday (or at the draft).

Anyway, I’ve strayed so far from actually focusing on this game that I’ll just provide the chart below, let you draw your own conclusions, and predict a 95-89 Cavaliers victory, due mostly to a rather large free throw disparity favoring the home team.

Tuesday March 13
Raptors @ Cavaliers
Record 13-28 16-23
Point Diff -4.0 -3.7
Power Rating 95.56 (24th) 95.35 (26th)
PR Predict Cavaliers -3
Off Eff 26th 21st
Def Eff 16th 21st
Pace 26th 8th
Reb Rate 14th 12th
Ast Rate 9th 21st
TO Rate 24th 19th
3PM/gm 23rd 8th
FTA/gm 21st 5th
FTA Against 29th 12th

  • DC

    This team is gonna suck the longer it keeps andrea bargnani on this team trade him for a first round pick colangelo you dumbshit. It’s a heavy power forward draft this year and most likely that will be the best player available when we draft. Our is colangelo still to pussy enough to admit his mistake of keeping bargs this long and draft a different player at another position that isn’t as good. 

  • Nilanka15

    I knew a guy who drove a ’92 Cavalier.  It didn’t have a radio 😐

    Thompson had a horrible game last time out vs. the Raps (16 mins, 0-5, 1 point).  I bet he’s had this game circled on his calendar since then.

    • John

      How is that possible. I had a 89 Cavalier and it had both radio and Cassette player !! Great Car for Winters in Canada. I drove it for over 300 km and all I had to do was change the breaks, timing belt and few small things here and there.

      • Nilanka15

        The dude had strict parents.  They assumed music in the car would be a distraction, lol.  I guess a radio wasn’t a “standard feature”.

  • sleepz

     “The Cavaliers are example 1A of how quickly a team can go from cellar-dweller to potential East playoff team in just one draft”

    I agree, however I also believe it is an example of what a #1 pick can and should do for your team if you get to select a player that high in the draft. Game changers have to be drafted in that slot.

    Jamison and Varajeo’s seasons should also not be discounted in the Cav’s playing better basketball this year. Solid contributions all year from both vets.

    • Beaverboi

      True on the #1 pick – if there is a game changing pick in that draft class.

      • sleepz

        agreed

    • Bendit

      They also have a pretty decent coach.

    • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

      Fyi Varajeo has been injured for a bit this season.

  • John

     “The Cavaliers are example 1A of how quickly a team can go from
    cellar-dweller to potential East playoff team in just one draft”

    Lets face it. You can not be building purely from the draft and at some points, you need to bring in some guys to help you speed up the process. Plus, in draft, you need to be lucky and smart. So far BC has not draft anything special.

    Where is out Pekovic ?
    He is European and how come we never heard anything about him ?

    Where is our Illyosova ??

    Chris Hump.. just scored 31, 18 and 3 block !! Gooden is giving 20 and 10 to Bucks, Will Amir Johnson be able to match those numbers ??

    Ed Davis, Bayless and … This team is NOT getting the right talents.

    • Tonious35

      The major issue with why this Raptor team is so developmentally bad is that BC and the scouting team are not showing faith in drafting very late 1st rounders and 2nd Rounders and seeing how they round up.  Now that we have a qualified coach in D.Casey and a better developing coaching staff, we gotta try out the late late picks and undraftees and see if we can find diamonds in the rough that can contribute well for our bench.

      • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

        3 of DCasey’s assistant coaches (Roth, Nori, Hughes) were coaches on Jay’s staff.smdh

        Wow, get up on game buddy.

  • Theswirsky

    “the Cavs are showing Raps Nation right now just what a franchise-changing point guard can do for a team.”

    should read : the Cavs are showing Raps Nation right now just what a franchise-changing player can do for a team

    position doesn’t matter

    • Tonious35

       Jury’s out on Jonas V…I’m only gonna say that he is a franchise supporting player (another strong 2nd or 3rd Banana)

      • Nilanka15

        Whether he’s a “franchise changing” player is to be determined.  But regardless, Jonas is considered the best center prospect in years, not just my Toronto media, but by league wide scouts.

        Even if he doesn’t live up to such lofty expectations, it seems all but a certainty that both Utah and Cleveland will regret passing him up (for Kanter and Thompson respectively).

  • Tonious35

    We’re gonna lose, thx Blake Murphy….the Murphy’s Law still applies in RR… LOL

    • Arsenalist

      That’s for post-games.

      • Tonious35

         ooooohh…okay, thx for the reminder of that detail.

  • Truthkiller

    Why you all sleeping on Bayless you heard it here first, kyrie about get his first lesson as a rookie watch what happens tonight!!!!

    • Raps4Ever

      LOL, you’re funny, and do stay true to your name. Kyrie is having a great rookie year, but just to remind you about the trouble he has already had against the Raps:
      Game 1: 6 PTs on 2/12, 7 ASTs, 3 RBs,,,,, while Jose had 15 PTs on 5/9, 11 ASTs, 6 RBs…… Bayless only played 17 min.
      Game 2: 12 PTs on 3/13, 4 ASTs, 3 RBs,,,,, while Jose had 13 Pts on 6/8, 11 ASTs, 6 RBs,,,,,,, Bayless didn’t play

      • Doublesman

        Ha aha he was right, owned

  • RapthoseLeafs

    .
    In this debate about whether Cleveland has a better nucleus going forward (and a Star player as well), reality at this moment certainly reinforces that position. However, in Toronto’s situation, it has been more a case of “short term pain, for long term gain”. Where a good deal of “experts” have felt JV was a steal, including Chad Ford.

    [” Q: Valanciunas has been performing at a very high level this year in
    Europe. If he was in the 2012 NBA draft, where would he be picked?

    Chad Ford  (1:43 PM)

    I think he’d be the No. 2 pick hands down. Looks like the Raptors got a steal at No. 5 last year. “]

    http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/chat/_/id/42723

    .

    If Jonas’ potential ranks him – comparatively speaking – amongst the top 3 in this next draft, doesn’t that suggest we may have our Star player (as Irving is to Cleveland). Add a pick that’s more likely between 4th & 9th (and which should be a good pick), one can understand why NBC sports had these thoughts:

    [” Raptors (12-25, LW 27). Here is how Raptors fans need
    to look at the season — next year they get Jonas Valanciunas and whoever
    they draft this year to come in to camp. It’s like two lottery picks in
    one. “]

    http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/03/05/nba-power-rankings-bulls-grab-top-spot-by-the-horns/

    .
    Cleveland went for the now – more so then the Raptors – by drafting TT over JV. Toronto on the other hand saw this season differently. And so should those who compare the two.

    • SR

      Agreed.

    • Destro

      Except Irving is a bonified star already and will be an all star by next season,could make the argument he might be a top 5 PG by next season…Valanciunas is unproven…What he does in an inferior league against low level calibre talent is not a litmus test for what he’ll do over here…

  • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

    Solid W!!

    • Bedlam

      Not for #TankNation.