Gameday: Raptors vs Wizards – Feb. 6/12

Raptors look to thump the Wizards, again, on the 2nd night of a back-to-back.

After a heroic comeback last night against the Heat that fell short, the Raptors roll into DC to play the Wizards; a team they thumped on Friday 106-89. The Raptors pulled down a staggering 61 rebounds (23 offensive rebounds) which translated into 28 second chance attempts, which translated into a 17 point (it wasn’t even that close).

Kyle Weidie, from Truth About It, was good enough to answer a few of my questions about the Wizards (I returned the favour, check Truth About It last today for their pre-game):

The Wizards are clearly rebuilding, so why hasn’t Rashard Lewis been amnestied? His 8.5pts 4rebs could easily be replaced for a quarter of cost; confuse me?

The deal with Lewis is that the Wizards certainly weren’t ready to take part in the scramble for free-agency prior to this lockout-shortened season, and that it was a better decision to keep Lewis on the books, for now. Although, amnestied salaries, it seems, still count toward the salary cap floor. I think Washington’s strategy in keeping him was, rather, thinking that they might need Lewis’ veteran, supposedly able to shoot presence instead of throwing a 3-year contract at someone else to do the same. And with Lewis’ $22.7 million salary for 2012-13 only partially guaranteed (just under $14 million I hear), the Wizards might just end up buying him out so they can use their amnesty option on someone like Andray Blatche. Either way, you’re right, Lewis is playing no where near the level of what he’s getting paid… Guess Washington’s just glad to pay a tax for getting rid of Gilbert Arenas.

How is it that Flip Saunders got fired? I mean, this is a young team with limited talent. What were the expectations heading into the season?

Flip Saunders got fired because the player development system and roster construction under team president Ernie Grunfeld failed the coach and the franchise. Not to say Saunders wasn’t at fault, because the players really did tune him out, but he was just mere fractions of the problem and the easiest, most cost-effective move the team could make to induce a much needed shake-up. The problem is that after the shaking stops, the Wizards still are who they are: a team with some mentally inept players and some horrible roster inefficiencies.

Jan Vesely hasn’t had a great deal of early success given he was a high lottery pick. Raptor fans are interested in his development, we drafted Jonas Valanciunas a spot ahead in the draft, who is in a similar situation. Any words of encouragement here?

Vesely, it’s easy to see, has very nice basketball instinct groomed by his European professional development in the Czech Republic and Serbia, but he has a long way to go before he gains NBA strength and even further to go before he’s an offensive threat in any regard. It’s tough to tell if he was the right pick or not for the Wizards — in a weak draft should they have taken someone more ready? I don’t know, but his skill set certainly fits in the planned build for players around John Wall. I think NBA decision-makers are now more cautious, perform more due diligence when it comes to Euro talent, so wouldn’t expect Vesely nor Valanciunas to go the way of a Nikoloz Tskitishvili, for example.

I’m only going to be watching for a couple things tonight, and most of them have to do with DeRozan. Last time I ripped him, he was coming off a 27 point performance against the Nets where he got to the line 16 times. Yes, it was a nice showing, but he did almost nothing after (or even before) to show a level of consistency the team could build on. It’s feast or famine with him; last 10 games:

Portland – 22
LA Clippers – 15
Phoenix – 4
Utah – 17
Denver – 8
New Jersey – 27
Atlanta – 9
Boston – 8
Washington – 11
Miami – 25

Raise your hands if you’d rather him drop 14-16 a night instead of the swings. Give me 14-16 points a night, 5-7 trips to the line, 0 3FGA, and we’re good…this is all I’m asking for. I’d also like to see DeMar curl around some screens, and keep going. The Wizards are weak in the paint, and can be taken advantage of. Having them run some sort of helter-skelter defense where McGee is forced to rotate and swat everything, will get guys to the line and open up the game a bit more…I could be wrong.

The Wizards are 4.5 point favourites. Considering The Raptors are on the 2nd night of a back-to-back, and still missing Bargnani, and they THUMPED the Wizard on Friday, expect a dog fight. I’m calling the Raptors by 3.

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