Raptors vs Grizzlies - Gameday Preview: Raps in Memphis as Dreams of Wiggins/Parker Abound

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Spor

The Raptors may be playing in Memphis tonight against the Grizzlies for a win, but last night's performances by a slew of top NCAA studs may soon have the club looking to rack up the opposite...

Your move Mr. Ujiri, your move.

I tweeted this last night after the epic Kentucky-Michigan State, Duke-Kansas duet of NCAA basketball games that featured likely three of the top five picks in the 2014 NBA Draft.  Scouts, fans, GM's and media alike were left salivating after seeing the impressive displays put on by Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker, in addition to a slew of other potential top picks.

If last night's performances weren't enough to make your NBA team's General Manager think about pulling out all the stops to land in the top of next year's draft, well then...here's to hoping your club looks like an NBA Championship contender.

It's pretty clear what side of the fence I'm on in terms of the Raptors and their potential pursuit of players like Wiggins and Parker.  I haven't exactly been a fan of the roster Bryan Colangelo constructed and this remains to be the case eight games into the 2013-14 season.  (Although I'm obviously pleased not to have to discuss Andrea Bargnani anymore.) The difference this year is that it seems a lot more fans are joining me at the "blow things up" party, especially after the start to this season.  The club isn't winless, but the defence has barely improved, the offense is a mess, and it's looking pretty clear that as I noted in yesterday's game recap, "things ain't working."

Some stats from NBA.com's Stats section to help illustrate the point:

  1. The Raptors rank 25th in the league currently in effectively field goal percentage.
  2. The Raptors rank 18th in the league currently in opponent field goal percentage.
  3. The Raptors rank 23rd in the league currently in opponent free three attempts.

So to sum things up.  The team can't hit a shot to save their lives, isn't great at making opponents miss, and is fouling at one of the higher rates in the league, allowing teams to get freebies from the stripe.

Pretty much a recipe for a championship no?

We could dig into some other metrics as well but we'll leave it at this for now.

It's also not all bad as the Dinos are doing a pretty solid job taking care of the basketball, and are leading the league in offensive rebounding percentage.  They might not be hitting shots, but thanks to the rebounding skills of players like Amir Johnson and Rudy Gay, are hanging around in games thanks to this key factor, something that will be crucial tonight against the Grizz.  But it's admittedly tough to go into a ton of detail on "how to win tonight's game," when really, this club in my books should be hoping for as many losses as possible.  We'll roll out our three keys for the W, but I'm betting that many a Raptors' fan is secretly hoping that when the buzzer sounds at the end of the fourth quarter tonight, the Raptors will be sitting at 3 and 6, not 4 and 5.

Three Keys:

1)  Points in the Paint: The Grizz haven't exactly been the "Grind and Grit Grizz" from last year so far this season, but Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol represent a big challenge for the Raptors' big men.  Both players are bigger and stronger than Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas so if the Raps want to win this one, they need to push back inside, protect the paint, and grab those rebounds.  The Grizz aren't a great offensive team either, so the Raps need to limit easy put-backs and second-chance opportunities.

2)  Bench Play: Tied into the first point is the play of the Raps' bench.  Against Houston we saw some nice minutes from Dwight Buycks, and Terrence Ross threw some solid defense at James Harden, and the club will need more of that tonight.  Expect heavy minutes for Tyler Hansbrough too who may have to sub in for Johnson or Valanciunas.  The Grizz bench can be very inconsistent so again, if the Raps are looking for the W here, they need their subs to step it up.

3)  Rudy and DeMar: This duo has obviously been the focal point of fans' disdain so far this season and for good reason. While DeMar started off strong, he's been in a horrific shooting slump over the past four games and Rudy, rebounding aside, has been at a career-worst level in most other categories.  These two have to play a lot better and a lot better at the same time too.  Considering the bulk of the Raptors' offence flows through them, it's imperative that they do a much better job with shot selection and when they're not shooting, moving the ball to facilitate for teammates.

Of course as noted above, if they don't and continue to fire up over 60 shots a game and hit only about a third of them, that might be fine too...

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