Gameday: Raptors vs. Nets – Jan. 6/12

Raps vs. Russian Oil Money.

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

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

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.

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