Note: None of the new Raptors are scheduled to play against the Spurs. They all need to pass their physicals first.

I don’t know if there are two more different franchises than the Spurs and the Raptors.

Since the Spurs organization entered the NBA (after the ABA folded) 39 years ago, they have missed the playoffs exactly four times. Yes. Four times in 39 years.

The Raptors have missed the playoffs more in the last five years.

To make matters worse, of the four times they have missed the playoffs, they have lucked into getting the number one pick two of those times, and those happened to fall on draft years that had franchise big men that would go on to win at least one MVP award. They have had a top 5 pick 3 times, and the worst player they chose was Sean Elliott who ended up being a two-time All-Star.

Just in the last 18 years, since the Raptors joined the league, the Spurs have made the playoffs 17 times, been to the second round six times, the Conference Finals three times, the Finals five times and won the Championship 4 times.

To say the Spurs have been a successful organization is an understatement.

I don’t think we need to go into the Raptors history to highlight the differences between the two clubs.

The Spurs are actually my second favourite team, next to the Raptors. That’s kind of like being married to Roseanne Barr but having Charlize Theron as a mistress1.

Charlize-Theron-7

Sure, it’s nice my mistress is Charlize Theron, but I’m pretty much stuck with Roseanne Barr2 and what I really want is for her to be more like Charlize Theron.

But I think I’m kind of going off the rails a bit here. I believe they’re playing a game against one another tonight. The Spurs and Raptors, not Charlize Theron and Roseanne Barr.

The Spurs are currently sitting with the second best record in the Western Conference, and have won 7 of their last 10 games. They have the largest point differential of anyone in the league, the 10th best Offensive Rating (down from last year), but have the second highest team field goal percentage, as well as the 2nd best Defensive Rating.

The Raptors have the ninth worst record in the league, have lost 7 of their last 10, have the 14th best Defensive Rating and the 17th best Offensive Rating.

Players on the Spurs roster have 21 All Star appearances, one Sixth Man of the Year award, one Rookie of the Year award, four Finals MVP awards and two MVP awards, not to mention many more All NBA team appearances as well as All Defensive team appearances.

Los Angeles Clippers v San Antonio Spurs - Game One

Players on the Raptors’ roster have one All Rookie second team appearance.

Just about every team in the league uses the Spurs organization as a role model of how to build a franchise. Executives and coaches from their organization are scattered throughout the league as other teams try and pilfer their bench and front office to try and capture a bit of the Spurs magic.

Only one former Raptor head coach even has a job on the bench of another NBA team, and the only former Raptor GM currently working in the NBA is Rob Babcock, ironic since many consider him to be the worst Raptor GM ever.

I don’t think I can highlight any more the differences between these two franchises.

There are similarities, besides just the fact that they are next to one another if you look them up alphabetically.

Both teams are not prime destination teams, so have to be a little more creative in finding and acquiring talent.

The Raptors being the only non-US based team in the league, has often relied heavily on foreign players, much to the distain of many Raptor fans who see international basketball players as lesser alternatives to American players. Right now, the Spurs roster contains TEN players who were not born in the United States. That’s ten of fourteen players.

raptors1

ESPN ran an interesting article last June about why the Spurs have so many international players on their roster, and it’s something that the Raptors hopefully are taking note of. Especially in light of the Raptors’ recent struggles playing as a team and doing things like, you know, passing the ball.

THREE BURNING QUESTIONS

Will the Raptors offense continue to click?

In the game against the Lakers, the Raptors’ offense looked as good as it has all season long. Obviously, many people were pointing to the fact that the league’s most egregious ball-stopper, Rudy Gay, was no longer trying to pound the ball into submission.

And I’m guessing that’s partly true.

But I think you also have to look at the fact that the Lakers have one of the worse defenses in the entire league and most teams would look good offensively against them. The Spurs have one of the best defensive teams in the league and excel at frustrating teams on that end of the court.

The Spurs front line is also a tad better than the Lakers front line, and Amir Johnson had a field day against Pau Gasol’s shadow and other players who shouldn’t be rotation players. And when Steve Blake, Nick Young and Jodie Meeks together play 95 minutes, is it any wonder that DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry scored 49 points between them?

How is DeMar DeRozan going to react to having more of an offensive burden placed on him?

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With Rudy Gay gone, DeRozan is now the Raptors’ number one option. He’s scored well so far this year, but he’s should never be a number one option and it will be interesting to see how he reacts.

Expect to see a lot more double teams on DeRozan and collapsing on him when he drives the ball. He’s never been great reacting to double teams (although he has improved) and he’ll probably get a lot fewer open looks.

According to MySynergySports.com, DeRozan is most productive spotting up, on hand offs and cuts, but he’ll see fewer of these as the primary scorer. Teams will now focus their defenses on DeRozan.

Of course, if Valanciunas starts scoring like many hoped he would, then it will take some of the pressure off DeRozan.

Keep in ming that DeRozan will be facing Danny Green, tonight, one of the best perimeter defenders in the league.

Was Rudy Gay’s play detrimental to Amir Johnson?

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Amir Johnson is having one of his worst statistical seasons of his career. While he hasn’t played poorly, his play hasn’t exactly been Amir-like, for most of the season. Like on cue, the first game without Gay dominating the ball and gumming up the offense, Amir breaks out with a career high scoring effort.

So was Gay the problem all along?

Amir has always been a high energy player who requires his teammates to get him the ball. He’s a fantastic cutter and pick and role player, which requires good passing and willing teammates. Amir is the type of player who plays better with better teammates because he relies on them so much.

While Gay is not a bad player, he hasn’t been a good teammate, and that has hurt Amir.

Of course, with Amir going up against the Spurs tonight, don’t expect a game similar to the one against the Lakers

BREAKDOWN

Instead of going position by position, which doesn’t really make sense when players play so many different roles, I thought I would do things a little differently.

STARTERS

The Spurs have one of the best, most balanced starting five in the league. They aren’t the most TALENTED starting five, but they all fit together perfectly. Tony Parker isn’t putting up the gaudy stats he did last year, but he’s doing what he needs to do.

A lot of people didn’t like where I ranked Danny Green in my shooting guard rankings, but he brings exactly what the team needs: Shooting and defense. He struggled mightily early in the season, but has played much better recently.

Kawhi Leonard has disappointed some because he hasn’t broken out like many expected, but he’s still a dangerous defender and can score when needed.

Duncan is having his worst statistical year of his career, but he still has enough to have become the oldest player ever to have a 20-20 game this year. At 37, his level of play is amazing.

Tiago Splitter scores efficiently, defends and rebounds, which is exactly what he’s asked to do.

The Raptors’ starting lineup simply doesn’t matchup well against the Spurs. The Raptors play well against smaller teams that aren’t great defensively and have a smaller backcourt. That does not describe the Spurs.

Lowry will have his hands full trying to keep up with the plays they run for Tony Parker, and DeRozan will likely struggle against Green. The Raptors front line will also likely have a long night.

Edge: Spurs

BENCH

The Raptors’ bench wasn’t very good to begin with, but now it’s even worse without Tyler Hansbrough and with Fields now in the starting lineup.

The biggest problem the Raptors have is that they literally have no power forwards or centers that can come off the bench against the Spurs. That means Steve Novak and Austin Daye will have to play minutes at those positions, which might very well be a sign of the apocalypse.

Edge: Spurs

COACHING

Gregg Popovich is one of the best coaches of all time. Dwane Casey might be one of the worst head coaches in the league right now.

Edge: Spurs

PREDICTION

Teams often play well after a big trade, as players get a renewed energy and there is a desire to prove themselves. We saw that against the Lakers. We’re not likely to see it against the Spurs.

Score: Spurs 103 – Raptors 87

  1. Insert your favourite hot female or male celebrity here in place of Charlize Theron. But leave Roseanne, because it works no matter what.
  2. In this analogy, either I’m not allowed to get a divorce (perhaps in some sort of crazy deal where I’ll lose my billion dollar inheritance, or something like that that, only happens in movies), or love my wife despite the fact that she’s Roseanne Barr. It’s possible my analogy falls apart at this point. It’s also possible this is the most apt analogy anyone could come up with for being a Raptor fan.

  • Andrey

    This Roseanne analogy surprisingly hurts. Damn you Tim

  • 2damkule

    i’m confused, and also an idiot, but…how is it that the trade is ‘official’ if players have yet to pass their physicals?

    also…DD’s been pretty damn good this year when not sharing the floor with Gay. it’s a relatively SSS, and it’s likely not realistic to assume that it will continue to be thus over the long term (either over the course of a game/multiple games, or a season), but still, i’m guessing that there won’t be as big a drop-off in DD’s effectiveness now.

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

      I’m not entirely sure the trade is official, yet, but the league could have approved it pending physicals.

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

      And one of the reasons Gay might play better when Gay has not been on the floor is because DeRozan is probably facing bench players.

    • StrikerAI

      I think there will be, with Gay gone, more teams will put their defensive attention on Derozan and he is going to have guys like Kawhi Leonard guarding him, especially since Fields is starting at SF and has been pretty bad at shooting the ball. With the better defenders of the opposing teams guarding Derozan, his effectiveness will drop off. He is at his highest point, I say trade him before it drops.

    • thegloveinrapsuniform

      I think the league does not care whether the player is injured, passes his physical or not. some players have been traded while injured. The league only cares about the salary match, as far as i know.

      The passing of physicals is pretty much an agreement between the two teams. I think some teams have actually gone through trades eventhough a player did not pass a physical, i mean considering the injury was only minor.

      • lino

        Correct me if I am wrong, but I think Alvin Williams failed his physical early on in his career and then returned and flourished in Toronto. or something like that… does anyone recall this situation?

        • Puzzles

          I don’t know about the Williams thing, but I do know that back when Tyson Chandler was with the Hornets, he failed his physical in a trade that would have sent him to OKC (yes, with KD and RW). So yes, the league does care about physicals. Or maybe they just didnt want championships to go to OKC.

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

            The league didn’t care about Chandler’s injury. Oklahoma was the one that was allowed to back out of the deal because Chandler didn’t pass the physical. It was up to Oklahoma whether or not to waive the physical or back out of the trade and they backed out of the trade. Something they probably regret doing, now.

  • Ashwin

    Unfortunately, your Roseanne analogy is perfect. Good lord, I need a divorce…

  • Bendit

    Blasphemy and sweet ode, vinegar and chianti, vomit and nectar, hell and heaven and yes, Roseanne and Charlize.

  • thegloveinrapsuniform

    I think its funny Tim that you only respond to my comments when its agains what you say, but when i agree, you brush it off. im hurt. hahaha

    nevertheless, i shall agree once again.

    We saw in the early part of last year when Bargnani went down and Demar was the primary scorer. He struggled against above .500 teams, who were throwing double teams at him.

    Im curious to see how Demar has “improved” this season, and the Spurs tonight will be a good test for him.

  • sleepz

    The worst GM in Raptors history imho is Bryan Colangelo, not Babcock.

    • DDayLewis

      Aaron & Eric Williams vs Bargnani & Turk. Tough call.

      • sleepz

        If I sat and listed all of BC’s moves, you would wonder how the hell he managed to be paid $3-4 million dollars a year as the GM of the Toronto Raptors for 7 years.
        The mess Ujiri is trying to dig himself out of right now is ALL Bryan Colangelo.

    • Thomas

      Rafael Araujo. Nuff said

      • sleepz

        I just addressed that above. There’s ‘much more’ to say to that if you were following the Raptors back then.

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

      Colangelo is probably the most hated right now because the pain is fresher and his tenure was longer, but just imagine what Babcock did stretched over a 7 year period….

      • sleepz

        Babcock wasn’t there long enough, so I can’t just assume he would be as poor as BC was.
        Just to lay it out there, i also don’t feel as hard towards Babcock as most of the fans do. What are his 2 most egregious errors? Trading VC for very little and drafting Arajuo.
        Go back to those times and look at those situations. Yes, he should have got a much bigger windfall for VC, but Carter was also dogging it at the time of a trade. There are very few bigger cancerous situations then when a player (and a star one at that) decides to blatantly stop playing. He wasn’t even ‘checked out”…he had basically stopped playing and watching him on the court made me angry. I don’t knock the GM for getting rid of a player that goes to those lengths to communicate their displeasure. He should have gotten more back no doubt, but he made a statement that he wasn’t going to tolerate that type of play regardless of who the player was.
        The Arajuo drafting is much more complex. Yes, it was the wrong pick to take, but anyone want to go back and look at the centers they had on the roster at the time?lol. Nate Huffman was the only legit 5 they had on the roster. You should never draft for need but if I was a new GM and Huffman was my 5, I might have tried desperate measures myself. Not excusing these moves, but they have been far more understandable from my end then:
        Acquiring Rudy Gay
        Sign and trade for Hedo
        Jermaine O’Neal trade
        Fliiping O’neal for Marion (Riles will always thank him for helping bring the big 3 to town)
        Trading first round pick for Lowry
        Drafting T.Ross at #8
        Firing Sam Mitchell at 8-9 and replace him with Triano (Babcock hired Mitchell btw).
        The list can go on, but to me, BC has done way more bad than Babcock ever could.

        • Tee

          That Vice Carter trade and Arrajuo draft f*cked the Raptors up bad, for years.

          Eric williams Arron Williams Arrajuo and Joey Graham don’t even play in the NBA anymore.

          Thats f#cking bad dude.

          & Babcock should have never let that situation with Vince get so destructive. You have to be able to talk to people as a GM.

          • sleepz

            What did drafting Bargnani and then forcing him down the throat of Raps fans for 7 years do to the franchise?

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

          The problem I have with the Carter trade was not what he got back for him, but that he waited until the worst time to trade him. I was calling for him to trade Carter immediately, but he waited and waited until Carter forced him to act.

          And drafting Araujo instead of Iguodala was also unforgivable. I still remember I was listening to the draft over the internet and when they announced Araujo’s name, for a split second, I thought they meant Iguodala (two foreign sounding names, I guess).

          I also thought he completely screwed up the next year’s draft, grabbing two players I wanted nothing to do with.

          Colangelo didn’t do a good job, to be sure, but most of the moves were also understandable, even if you disagreed with them. He also made a few good moves, as well.

  • Reed

    There are coaches that might be worse than Casey in the league? I cant think of any.

    • DDayLewis

      Ty Corbin is pretty bad, but it’s close.

    • Ampkguy

      Um, see Kidd, Jason.

  • jorvay

    Best thing about the Spurs coming to town is getting cheap tickets to see top-shelf ball. It’s actually rather sad that people will pay way more to see celebrity than to see one of the best teams of all time.

    • jorvay

      Should also mention that there are still cheap tickets available for this game from raptorman.ca (I have no affiliation with raptorman other than I’ve been buying my tickets from him for years). Seriously though, $18 for 4th row corner balcony? Against the Spurs?

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

      It’s a shame that the Spurs aren’t one of the biggest draws in the league. I find them the most entertaining team to watch. The sets they run on offense are incredible, and watching their strategies on defense against the better teams is fascinating.

  • Juan Manuel Ramos

    I am content with closed until the final match. And I do not like to see DeRozan misses a lot of shots. I wish only that

  • rapierraptor

    I hope that Derozan doesn’t feel like he needs to be “the Man” all of a sudden. Then we’ll just have a one step forward, two steps back situation on our hands.

  • desktom

    I have been a fan of sports for a long time , I have played a lot of sports. To try and tell me that tanking is a good thing is beyond my scope of thought. I would rather watch a team that is competing for the play offs and trying to win every game , then a team that is tanking. Tanking goes against every molecule in my body. You arnt a real honest in your heart sports fan if you can cheer for your team to lose. I get that their are good players in the draft , but find a way to get high draft picks without losing. I understand it might be impossible but that is the way to do it . Tanking creates far more problems then it can solve. We have got a lot of pay back to dish out and I for one want it to start now. KILL EVERY TEAM YOU PLAY RAPTORS. F TANKING

    • Andrey

      This is not about morality of sports and what it means to be a fan. There’s a system currently constructed that punishes teams that are in a middle of a pack. Everybody hates tanking its bad for league. But until this system is fixed we don’t have much fo a choice. I’m not cheering for losses bI’m cheering for our young guys to do well. See them develop. I want to see a team that can contend. I think we need to take that risk.

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

      When I play basketball and when I watch it I have two completely different mindsets. When I’m watching, I have a much more detached mindset that allows me to be much more analytical and view the big picture far more than when I’m playing.

      It’s like the view as a soldier and as a general. As a soldier you’re on the floor and your primary allegiance is to your teammates, making them better and win the game. As a general, you have to be willing to sacrifice in order to win the war.

      Tanking is a necessary evil in the league for many teams who aren’t in positions where they can simply lure the great players to play for them.

      You may not LIKE the idea of tanking, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a legitimate means to an end. And the end is to draft an elite player, of which you need to contend in the league today.

      • desktom

        I get it , I understand it, but I don’t agree with it. Tanking is not the way to go , no how no way. I can understand trading any player on the roster , I can understand giving up a lot but never ever can you general manage for your team to lose. Some people can but I couldn’t sleep at night if I was handing the fans garbage. Go Raptors.

        • nyStef

          It’s all how close-to-the-ground you’re looking at it from.

          If you’re thinking YOU GOTTA WIN NOW HURRY UP!!! … well, maybe sit further away for a moment and consider how you might like to see your team WIN. Not just the game today. Or a better seed in the playoffs (that you know won’t go anywhere except a quick exit).

          But WIN the whole enchilada. The NBA Championship.

          Ask yourself – as if you were the GM – what would it take to get the team all the way *there*?

          Here’s a scenario, consider.

          Your not-close-to-contending team trades for a young player who’s not all the way there yet but shows a *lot* of promise (you believe). In return, your team gives up a good but aging talent. So basically, your team is making themselves worse now, to be better later.

          Most fans wouldn’t have a problem with that situation.

          So … very similarly, imagine that your team is making trades or moves that are strategically endeavoring to get itself to a place where better prospects will more likely be available, in the future. Is there really all that much of a difference?

          If you’re the GM, it’s your job to compete hard within the rules that are there. To hopefully, (the team’s fan-base is anxiously thinking) win a championship. Anything less is simply not doing the job that you’re being well-paid to do.

          So … how far down the road would you look if you were the GM? Put another way, how good of a job would you be doing? Would you be thinking only about winning only some extra games today? Or would you be thinking winning the Championship, which would have to be – if all goes well – sometime tomorrow?

          Contrary to what some believe, there’s nothing nefarious or underhanded about whatever it is, if it’s within the rules.

          Personally speaking, I’m a fan, I pay for tickets to go to games and I can tell you, from my perspective, I would sincerely hope that you (if you were the GM) were doing your job properly, looking far enough down the road to do whatever it would take to get us to – at least – the later rounds of the playoffs.

          Whatever it takes.

          • desktom

            Im not saying its underhanded , Im saying trade, hold your picks, do what, ever it takes, but to me this team isn’t that far away from doing really well. The coach has brain farted 5 games , we could easily be 11-8. Rudy gone this team could go on a tear and its tough wanting your team to win and reading tank. 5 years brother we need to win some games . If Popovich was coaching this team , what do you think the record would be right now?

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

              This roster is not very good. Period. No matter who is coaching. The best you could hope for is a mediocre team, which has been what the Raptors have always peaked out as, so why repeat the past?

              Remember that the current record is actually helped by playing in the Eastern Conference. If they played in the Western Conference, their record would be even worse.

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

          The Raptors have been handing the fans garbage for most of their 18 years, whether intentionally or not. By tanking, at least you’re handing them garbage with the hope it will turn into something much better.

    • lewro

      “I would rather watch a team that is competing for the play offs and trying to win every game”

      They did and their record was 6-12, 9th in the east and they were paying rudy 17 million for it. did you get paid that to play ball? this is a business, it’s not rec ball at the Y.

    • Puzzles

      I’m going to be mean just because everyone else was so logical and nice to you.
      It hurts me just as much as you, being a basketball fan (and only a basketball fan, as I know nothing about any other sport), to see the Raptors lose and know so well that the roster is going to be overhauled. I have to remind myself after each loss and roster change that it is for the future.
      My answer to you, go watch hockey or something for the next few months and come back :)
      Euphemistically put, tanking is synonymous to building through the draft. I think as the sole team across the border, and thus foreign to some players, Toronto may not be a very attractive place to spend years playing and living in. I know this may be an exaggerated statement, but some below-average-intelligence-possessing stars may think we ride sled-dogs to our igloo offices everyday. Compared to that, there are places like Miami where you get to show off the amazing body of an athlete at the beach all year, and Los Angeles where Jack Nicholson is rootin’ for you every game.
      No one is cheering for our team to lose — we are fed up of endless years of mediocrity as we witness teams like OKC go from a terrible terrible team to championship contender. We understand that after the storm awaits sunshine and rainbows and unicorns and flower petals and a high draft pick.
      Plus, its not like the players are intentionally losing, they’re playing their hearts out, they just can’t win against better teams.
      So if you can’t stand it, go watch hockey or lacrosse.
      I’m off to sing the national anthem because i feel guilty after making that igloo joke/comment.

      O…Canada……

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