It seems that we here at RaptorsHQ are not the only ones following March Madness closely. Raptors' coach Sam Mitchell has also been following the tourney and apparently two of its participants in particular; Adam Morrison and JJ Redick. While we're not quite sure how either would fit into Mitchell's offense or defensive scheme, (more on this later in the week) both do possess the work ethic and competitiveness that Mitchell loves to see in his players.
Another player who could be of interest to the Raptors come draft time is the GTA's own Denham Brown, a senior currently starring with the NCAA Tournament-favourite UConn Huskies. Brown has had an up-and-down season due to injuries but has come on strong as of late, displaying the scoring ability that made him such an intriguing prospect out of high school here in Toronto. While Brown has been left off most mock draft boards this season, his play as of late is getting him lots of attention and if he continues on this pace it would help land him not only with an NBA team next fall, but also perhaps land his Huskies in the NCAA finals.
However, even with an eye on future prospects, Sam Mitchell is focussed on the season's 16 final games. It's been suggested by some (including us here at the HQ) that Mitchell give his youngsters many more minutes in the season's final segment to try and aid in their development. However it appears that Mitchell wishes to stay the course with his current roster and try to keep instilling a winning attitude in this young club. Besides - Mitchell correctly points out that the trio of Charlie Villanueva, Jose Calderon and Joey Graham has already played more minutes than any other rookie trio in the league.
To further this point, the Raptors current injury situation will probably give the rookies more run anyways. From the sounds of things, there's a good chance now that Antonio Davis won't play again for the Raptors this season. Davis unavailibility is probably a good thing in the long run for this club as it means increased minutes for Loren Woods, Pape Sow and Rafael Araujo, all of whom new GM Bryan Colangelo will have to make a decision on this offseason.
Likewise, the injury to Jose Calderon which is keeping him out of the lineup has been a good opportunity to watch former Seton Hall star Andre Barrett in a Raps uni. Barrett has looked quite good in spurts and if Calderon's injury keeps him out of action for a while we may see Barrett finish the season with the team.
For now Mike James will still log the majority of minutes at the point position. James will undoubtedly test the free agent waters this summer and has offered some insight (of sort) into how he will be making his decisions this offseason. Um parasailing Mike? So that explains some of those wild drives to the basket...
Finally, as predicted in our last media watch, the Raps recent play did garner them a two spot jump on ESPN.com's power rankings. However based on the drop the Pistons took after their loss to the Knicks last week, a loss to that same team from New York tonight for Toronto could also drop the Raptors right to the bottom of the rankings.
Aaah yes, Raps in New York tonight to take on the Knicks. Tonight's game will be another good test for the Raptors to see how this team is developing. Even with their recent win over the Pistons, the Knicks have been a miserable team this season both on and off the court where head coach Larry Brown continues to bicker in public with star point guard Stephon Marbury and Isiah Thomas continues to somehow be employed after creating this whole mess.
The Raptors should be able to win this game, provided they play defence like they did against the Bucks in the fourth quarter of last Friday's win, and a key factor for the club will be rebounding. With Jerome James, Eddy Curry, David Lee, Malik Rose and other big bodies the Raptors will have to do a good job in keeping the Knicks opportunities to a minimum by boxing out and containing New York's front-line. Larry Brown's rotations have been so sporadic that Toronto should be able to take advantange of this and dictate the flow of the game. The Knicks defense has been especially porous and on the Raptors' side, to win this game they will have to aggressively attack the Knicks on each possession.
A win at MSG tonight would be a great confidence booster going to face the Celtics tomorrow night who are playing their best ball of the season behind Paul Pierce right now. It would also show this club's continued improvement and that the team really is learning from its past mistakes.