Finding new and interesting things to say about this team is becoming a real chore.
Following their epic but somewhat predictable collapse against the Warriors, this Raptors team is teetering on the edge. There is a sense that change is inevitable and on the way, but nothing is likely to happen until at least Dec. 15, when players signed over the summer will become trade-eligible.
Between now and then is nothing but a barren wasteland. Sure, there are games to be played, previews and recaps to be written, but it all seems a bit insignificant with the threat of a complete roster overhaul looming. Still, there is a game tonight so let's break it down with three important/relevant questions.
How long will the Tyler Hansbrough experiment last?
Hansbrough has started the last two games, both losses. That's not on him, of course, but it's fair to wonder how much longer Dwane Casey will go with Psycho T in the starting five. Amir Johnson played more minutes than Hansbrough against the Warriors and had his best game of the season (16 points, 10 rebounds).
This move never made a ton of sense to me in the first place. We have several years of data, along with two eyeballs, that agree on one thing: Amir Johnson is a much better player than Tyler Hansbrough. If Casey intended to send Johnson a message by demoting him, that's one thing. If he honestly thinks starting Hansbrough will help the team win basketball games, then he's sabotaging the team's chances to win. Not that there's anything wrong with that (Copyright: Seinfeld).
Johnson should be back in the starting lineup soon, but Casey has never been one to make quick decisions. I expect Hansbrough could be starting for at least a few more games.
What to do with DeMar DeRozan?
This doesn't relate specifically to tonight's game, but bear with me. I think this is the biggest question facing Ujiri as he gets set to jump into the trade market. DeRozan is a relatively young player who could draw interest on the open market, yet his youth is a problem as well: What good is a tank job if you're trading away your best young assets in the hopes of then acquiring better young assets through the draft? It's a tricky balancing act and it will be fascinating to see if Ujiri decides to make DeRozan available.
His contract isn't great, but it's not terrible, and there are surely lots of teams who would like to have a young, athletic swingman who works hard and can score from almost anywhere on the court. I imagine Ujiri will try to move Lowry and Gay first, but the question is this: Would moving DeRozan help or hinder the team's long-term development? The answer depends almost entirely on what the team would get back in any potential trade.
How 'bout them Suns?
Widely expected to be one of the worst teams in the league, the Suns are hovering around .500 in the brutal Western Conference thanks to the devastating backcourt tandem of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. They are in the middle of the pack in both offensive and defensive efficiency even after trading away their starting center in Marcin Gortat.
But wait, it gets better.
They could have as many as four first round picks in the 2014 draft and will have plenty of cap space in the offseason, even factoring in a max-level deal for Bledsoe that could start at about $14.5 million. It's an embarrassment of riches that should make every Raptors fan feel sad that Toronto has almost nothing in comparison.
Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough and rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek both deserve major credit for putting together a roster that is flexible, sustainable and loaded with potential. Their asset management has been brilliant. Don't think so? Never forget that they got Bledsoe for Jared Dudley. That's the exact opposite of almost any Raptors trade.
Overall, the Suns have transitioned beautifully from the Nash-D'Antoni era and seem poised to return to the playoffs sooner rather than later. The Suns' brilliance should be especially painful to Raptors fans who have suffered through years of mediocrity and listless management.
If they can do it, why can't we? Let's make that this year's motto. There's not much else to do, anyways.