It's Hallowe'en here at the HQ...
Happy Hallowe'en all!
Normally we'd be in full season preview mode but thanks to the NBA lockout, Raptors' fans are still sitting on the sidelines right now.
So to spice things up a bit while we wait for millionaires and billionaires to come to common ground, a little Hallowe'en fun from the HQ courtesy of a little something we like to call, "trick or treat."
1. Trick or Treat, will there be an NBA season this year?
I'm going with treat on this one. Sure, the latest round of talks broke down again, and we're now missing a month of schedule, but both sides seem to be down to one major stumbling block in terms of reaching a deal. If that's indeed the case, I can't see either the owners or players not finding some solution in time to save at least part of the 2011-12 season.
2. Trick or Treat, will the Raptors make major upgrades to the roster via free agency?
Trick. Assuming there is a season, it doesn't seem like the team' s going to make any substantial moves. Sure they'll plug a few holes, but from Bryan Colangelo's press conference last week where the team introduced Ed Stefanski, it seemed pretty clear that the club is going to try and keep its wallet closed for the most part.
3. Trick or Treat, the Raptors will make the playoffs in a shortened season.
Trick again. A shortened season is indeed an interesting situation because a smaller sample size could lead to Toronto winning more games than perhaps they should. What I mean by this is that with less games, there are possibly less opportunities for the club to "regress to its mean," so to speak. Therefore say, a 50-some game season could present more outliers, and we could see a Raps' squad that plays better than expected.
However I think it would take a much smaller sample of games for this to occur.
The club just doesn't have the talent to make the dance in my books, even with a shrunk 2011-12 season.
4. Andrea Bargnani will take another step forward in terms of improvement.
Trick, trick, trick. Actually, not even a trick because after the past few seasons of pretty much watching the same player, I'd be stunned to think that most folks would expect Bargs to come out and average 8 or more rebounds a game, or become a dominant help-side defender.
5. DeMar makes the leap in year three.
Treat. On the other hand, I'm allowing myself to be bullish on DD. Year trois is usually the one where we see swingman really come into their own and from all accounts this off-season, DeRozan seems poised to take the next step. I've never been a huge DeMar hype believer, but I think he could be Toronto's best player next season, and open some more eyes league-wide.
6. Taffy and molasses candy make great trick or treating goodies.
Trick. Why do people still give this stuff out? It tastes awful, sticks to everything, and often the people who pass it out keep it sitting around for ages, so it's hard as a rock. I'd rather get an orange.
7. Dwane Casey has an impact on Toronto's woeful D.
Treat. I'm not expecting the team to suddenly keep opponents under 90 points a match. And I'm not expecting the second coming of Kevin O'Neill. (How would that be for Hallowe'en costume??) But I do think we'll see some slight improvements from the club, and once Casey gets some more help personnel-wise in a year or so, the team will be on its way.
8. Linas Kleiza falls victim to the amnesty clause.
Treat. First, this is assuming the lockout ends with clubs having an amnesty provision as has been long-rumoured. Second, I'm assuming the provision allows teams to outright kick a contract off the books.
I'd still prefer Bargs, but I think if a rule comes out that allows Toronto to shuttle one deal off its balance sheet, Mr Kleiza is the one to go.
9. There is a Toronto Raptor in the NBA All-Star game.
Trick. Again, assuming there IS a game first, I don't see any of the Dinos making the annual celebration. DeMar DeRozan would seem to be the best bet but he's stuck in a tough spot, up against the likes of Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Joe Johnson year after year. I'm expecting him to make a jump, but if Andre Iguodala can't seem to crack the league's Eastern list of honourees, I don't see DeRozan doing it either as of yet.
10. Thriller doesn't get played enough on Hallowe'en.
Trick. Are you kidding me? Every year it feels like the entire Hallowe'en party I'm attending is just sort of passing time until this jam comes on.
It's a guaranteed play along with Ghostbusters, Monster Mash, and bad techno.