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3 In the Key – Toronto Raptors Game-Day Preview vs. 76ers

Same match-up, different uniforms.

Same match-up, different uniforms.

I sincerely hope that the Raptors are out to destroy Philly this year.

I mean, this team stole our thunder!

Here we had perhaps the biggest move of the off-season under our belt, and then suddenly, an Eastern Conference foe, and divisional rival to boot, goes and grabs Elton Brand!

Suddenly, all the ESPN attention goes south of the border once more, and to a team that at one point looked to be headed to the lottery for years to come.

So is this going to be the beginning of a beautiful new rivalry, one that hearkens back to the days of AI and VC dueling it out?

It could very well, and mostly because both teams’ acquisitions happen to play similar positions on the court, and will likely be going head to head quite frequently.

And really, I can’t wait for that.

I mean, we rarely saw Brand vs. Bosh, but Brand vs. Bosh and JO? Throw in Samuel Dalembert and suddenly you’ve got a very interesting frontcourt battle! Which brings us to our three things to watch:

1) Minutes – Sam, after the last game, started talking about increasing Jermaine’s minutes and we should expect to see somewhere between 20 and 25 minutes from the Raps newest addition. It’s been hard to say at this point just how healthy O’Neal is because of the limited time on the court. Has he lost a step? Is he less explosive? This could be the first step. Of course on the flip side of the coin the same questions could be asked of Elton Brand. Despite the hype the 76ers took a big risk by throwing so many dollar bills at a player coming off a devastating injury. In reality who would you rather have given the contract situations, Brand or O’Neal? We may start leaning the answer to that question shortly.

2) Roles – One of the biggest differences between the O’Neal addition and the Brand addition is that in Toronto it’s pretty clear what the role of each player is. Bosh is option 1A followed by O’Neal and Calderon. What about the 76ers? Who is their main option? Is it Brand or is Iggy still their guy? It will be interesting to see what the pecking order will be under Maurice Cheeks. There is going to be a lot of pressure on both players to elevate their games and if Philli fans don’t like what they see almost immediately the boo birds could make an early season appearance in the City of Brotherly Love.

This guy could be one of the league's best back-up PGs.

This guy could be one of the league's best back-up PGs.

3) PG Play – One of the big things the 76ers have in their favour this season is depth. They are strong at every position 1 through 12, but unlike the situation with the Raps last year their top talent really is "top talent". One of the biggest advantages the Sixers will have over the Raps this upcoming season is at the PG position. As between Andre Miller and Jose Calderon it’s a toss-up. Calderon is a better shooter but Miller played out of his mind towards the end of last season. It’s the back-up spot where the true difference lies. Coach Mitchell is still trying to determine what he has as between Ukic and Solomon while Coach Cheeks knows he has a weapon with Louis Williams.

Of course the Toronto Raptors PG situation was one that got some headlines yesterday with Steve Nash mentioning that once his contract expires that if he didn’t re-sign in Phoenix that Toronto would be likely be his next choice. By 2010 Nash will be getting up there in age and who knows what happens between then and now, but it is fun to think about.

In the meantime let’s see what Ukic and Solomon can bring to the table.