For our Sunday matinée feature, the Toronto Raptors host an awful Sacramento Kings club. However, with no such thing as an easy win lately, Vicious D asks if the Raptors can at least prove they're better than the worst of the league.
With only eight wins under their belt and some turmoil being generated by Samuel Dalembert, the best Kings fans can look forward to is that their team is mostly "healthy" now. Sure, they just came off a win against the Nuggets, but now they're off on an East Coast swing.
Then again, if you're one of the hometown faithful, there's not a heck of a lot to be happy about either.
Yes, the Raptors are currently plagued with the injury bug but in the end, it's going to be wins and losses that ultimately matter. We've also talked a lot about moral victories over the course of the season and there has been progress in the development of some of our players. Our bigs such as Ed Davis and Joey Dorsey seem to be showing some promise on this team, while guys like Jerryd Bayless have shown some offensive firepower from the guard position. Toss in this year's surprise hit in Julian Wright and Raptors fans have lots of players to point to for the "development" argument.
Nevertheless, I'm now firmly planted in a "wait-and-see" mode as I'm itching to see what kind of trades Bryan Colangelo will put through by the deadline.
Why, you ask?
I just don't see this team finding themselves again this year. In November, we all talked about how the Raptors were developing an identity and how we liked the makeup of the team. If there's any trace of that identity now, it's up and left with the departure of Jarrett Jack and the injury to Reggie Evans.
Don't get me wrong. My expectations for the trade made earlier this year were not for the immediate future of the Raptors. The goal to me was always to get Peja Stojakavic's expiring contract so that the Raptors would be able to either save money in the case of a lockout, or to move it for useful pieces or draft picks. And with the Raptors now sitting dead last in the NBA in 3-point shooting and 26th in defensive rebounding, there are plenty of needs on this roster.
With the trade deadline now only a month away, I think a lot of fans are eager to see what Colangelo has in store as well.
However, there is a game on today, so let's take a look at the keys for the game.
1) Pick the Wright man for the job - Julian Wright was a Raptor who I had pegged a while back as a guy that the Raptors would need to find space for in their rotation. As one of the few tempo-changers to come off of the bench, Wright has been a thorn in the side of many teams. Yes, he's still very "raw" on the offensive side, but the good work he does on the defensive end is something that none of the Raptors other wings can do.
2) Move the ball - It's pretty simple for the Raptors. They've had the most success and best flow in their offense when they try and involve multiple people. When the Raptors get the ball, share it, move it quickly up the floor, they do well. When the Raptors end up standing around, waiting for the ball handler to initiate the offense, they're easy to predict.
It's on both Jose Calderon and Leandro Barbosa's shoulders to make sure the Raptors stick to the game plan. There cannot be star plays from players like Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan. The veteran leaders/point guards have to be the floor generals throughout the game.
3) Don't let a bad team get rollin' - The Raptors managed to beat the Cavaliers despite allowing the Cavs to get traction at the beginning of their game. In the end, the Raptors wrestled control away and managed to build a sizable lead. With the Kings now back to full strength, the Raptors cannot allow a repeat of their performance earlier this year against the Kings. To get the win, it's going to come down to tempo and control and the Raptors have to find a way to dictate both. Rebounding, challenging shooters, pushing the ball ahead, establishing the post... These are areas that the Raptors have to establish and maintain from the beginning of the game.
If the Raptors allow the Kings to get out and run and shoot the lights out, it may be a very long night. It's going to come down to effort on the transition defense and paying attention to the details.
And even if the Raptors do get stops on the defensive end, they cannot rest on their laurels. The Kings are second in the league in offensive rebounds. Carl Landry and DeMarcus Cousins both have established themselves as premier offensive rebounders in the league and the Raptors cannot allow either to run free today.