Raptors vs. 76ers: Are You Sure One Of Us Has To Win?

The Atlantic division is a bit of paradox, as these two teams whose front offices are actively trying to be as close to last place as possible find themselves vying for the Atlantic division lead.

The Vasquez, Salmons, Hayes and Patterson era is set to start in Toronto tonight. Casey should have a full bench tonight, though I would be surprised to see more than a handful of minutes for any of the new faces as they continue to learn the defence. Toronto has been able to lose 4 of it’s last 5 games, but the 76ers are going to make it tough for the Raptors to make it 5 out of 6.

After an unfortunate string of early season wins, the 76ers have finally been finding ways to lose consistently. The best thing they’ve done in this pursuit is having promising rookie Michael Carter Williams sit out of the lineup with a sore knee caused by a skin infection (Gross!). In his absence, the 76ers offence has looked exactly like how an offence centred around Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner and Tony Wroten should look (Gross!).

The key match-ups of the game may not be names on the recently released all-star voting leaderboards, but they’re all among the league leaders in attempted ESPN NBA Trade Machine fake trades so far this season:

DeMar DeRozan vs. Evan Turner – As an NBA general manager, your spidey sense should be tingling whenever an opposing team is enthusiastically shopping their young, leading scorer. Both of these teams would be happy to sell high on their entertaining though inefficient scorers. If only Brooklyn and the Knicks had more first round draft picks to trade. Both Turner and DeRozan are averaging career highs in Usage, attempts and turnovers. While those stats are valuable to a team that is vying for the lottery, it makes it tough to get good value back in a trade. If only this were a league where fringe contenders mortgaged their future for playoff scoring help, GMs made panic trades to try and save their jobs and teams consistently overvalued ‘potential’…

Spencer Hawes vs. Jonas Valanciunas – Can we please not talk about how Spencer Hawes is having a much, much better season than Jonas Valanciunas? I would instead prefer to live in the hypothetical future, 4 years from now, where Jonas is a dominant two-way franchise centre with no foot-back-knee problems (the unholy trinity of big men beginning of the end chronic injuries) and Spencer Hawes has moved on to the over-paid, oft-traded and rarely played portion of his career known as “The Raef LaFrentz years.”

Thaddeus Young vs. Amir Johnson – Neither of these players are the stars or best players on their teams. While both players are largely appreciated in NBA circles, few would think it that big of a deal if either were to be traded. However, the fan bases of both these teams would lose their collective ish if they were to read about either player being dealt on twitter. The list of players that Raptors fans would be ok with trading Amir Johnson for is more or less the all-star game roster. That trade isn’t happening. Therefore, the Raptors fanbase responding rationally to an Amir Johnson trade also isn’t happening. I include myself in this diagnosis.

Kyle Lowry vs. The New York Knicks salary cap constraints and lack of 1st round draft picks – This matchup is likely to get as much talk throughout tonight’s game as any of the actual on-court ones, and it’s a tough one. I don’t doubt that the rumours are true, but the math and required number of additional teams is tough on this one. Is anybody in the league giving up 2013-2014 1st round picks? Well, aside from the dozen or so teams that have already traded them. Things that aren’t that fun: watching your team in full tank mode play against an even worse team whose best/most interesting player is out who is also in full tank mode. Things that are fun: fake Kyle Lowry trades. -plus Raptors get Detroit’s 1st round pick. -Raps get pick from Cavs, Cavs get pick from Lakers.

Barring John Salmons being given Rudy Gay’s minutes and isolations, the Raptors are unfortunately poised to jump another game ahead of the 76ers in the standings. Now is the part of the season where we await trades, watch development in Ross, Valanciunas, DeRozan’s 3 pointer, start developing a short-lived infatuation with Vasquez-Johnson pick and rolls and enjoy the final days of what has been some very stellar play from the soon to be departed Kyle Lowry. Tanking is NBA purgatory, but we get in to heaven afterwards, right…

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