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3 In the Key – Toronto Raptors Game Day Preview vs. Dallas

It's pretty gloomy these days as Raptors fans.

It's pretty gloomy these days as Raptors fans.

There are three certainties in this life - death, taxes and that it’s not easy being a Raptors fan.

As it was pointed out to us yesterday the mood is pretty somber here at the HQ as it seems to be across the Raptors nation. To over simplify a complex situation, things are simply not going according to plan. That’s not news though, just ask Sam Mitchell or for that matter Bryan Colangelo who must be wondering what exactly has gone awry as this can’t exactly be the results he expected when the season started off.

These are not the results fans expected either. When the O’Neal for Ford (and parts) deal went down there was talk that the Raps were going to have a front court similar to that seen in San Antonio not that long ago. Throw in another off-season for players to develop and there was no question that terms like "deep playoff run" and "Eastern Conference elite" were being bandied about.


Not so much.

Facts are facts. The Raps are last in the Atlantic.

Yesterday Franchise took a look at what has ailed the team the past little while and as we all know the results have not been pretty. The poor play is being noticed. There are a variety of weekly power rankings that we keep our eye on and also participate in. This week in the Blogger Power Rankings the Raps are in 19th, just ahead of the likes of the Grizzlies and Bucks. Over at the Raptors are in 22nd. It’s not pretty.

Playing armchair GM, as we all like to do, I debate whether this team is just a piece or two away or whether there were some serious miscalculations made to get us to this point. You can talk all you want about Roy, Gay and Aldridge but none of that is going to fix where the team is today. Now that December 15th has come and gone deals are easier to make and I fully expect BC, subject to miraculous results on the upcoming road swing to make one in the near term.

I for one am not in favour of a blockbuster deal. I like a lot of the pieces on this team. That being said more needs to be done than simply swapping second-round picks. There are guys out there who could help this team and there are guys on this team that I wouldn’t have issues seeing moved.

In regards to the latter I would like to see the team move one (or package) the following guys:

1. Moon
2. Parker
3. Humphries
4. Solomon
5. Adams

I am sure you noticed I didn’t include Bargnani. I am probably in the minority at this point but it seems to me that if you deal him now you are selling low. The reality is his defense has been solid this season and it’s actually been his offense that as abandoned him. This is pretty unexpected considering he was drafted because of his unique offensive talents. Now that Mitchell has been fired it will be interesting to see if Triano can get the big man back on track. After three games it is impossible to judge whether the coaching change will be for the better when it comes to Il Mago and I think the team needs to figure that out before abandoning ship.

Besides, we all know it takes big men a longer period of time to develop.

Now without getting into Trade Machine analysis in any great depth (we will be doing that more in the next little while), there is one guy who has been on the mind a lot as of late who I think would be a great addition to the squad. That guy is Jason Maxiell. Here’s a guy whose minutes are down, he can’t seem to get on the same page with Coach Curry and yet per 48 minutes is eighth in the league in offensive rebounds. He could do a lot of what Hump can do, but well…better. He has a nose for the ball, can rebound and would add some much needed toughness. Just some food for thought as you are all searching for answers, much like we are.

Howland has Jason Maxiell on the brain....

Howland has Jason Maxiell on the brain....

There are a variety of players rumoured to be on the block including Tyrus Thomas, Eddy Curry, Jerry Stackhouse and others, but right now acquiring a guy like Maxiell should be priority number one.

Speaking of Jerry Stackhouse, he and his Dallas teammates are up next for the Toronto Raptors and as much as you or I may think a trade is the best answer to cure what ails the Raptors perhaps the best cure is winning. In order to steal a W from a hot Dallas Mavericks team (7 wins in their last 10 games) these are the three things to watch for.

1. Bench Play – It’s pretty clear that for the Raps to have a chance at winning the bench needs to play really well and this is particularly true against a team like the Mavs who have a gunner like Jason Terry coming off the pine. If players like Graham, Parker, Bargnani and Ukic don’t contribute then Terry could outplay them all combined. We all know if that happens you can add another loss to the record. Graham needs to continue to be efficient on the offensive end and hopefully Parker can get back on track offensively. To secure a win these guys must outplay Devean George, Brandon Bass and the aforementioned Jason Terry.

2. Continue to Defend – Lately the Raps defense has been pretty solid. Triano’s system seems to be a strong one. The issue, in particular at key moments, has been the team’s inability to hit shots. It’s inevitable that the Raps shoot their way out of this slump but until the do, and even when they do, they must continue to play defense like they did against New Jersey on Friday night. One thing the Raps cannot do it let their disappointing offense as of late be the reason why they don’t play motivated D. If there was ever a time for the Raps to play their best defense of the year that time is now.

3. More Paint – If shots are not falling early for the Raps they have to force the issue and get the ball to JO and Bosh on the blocks in hopes of getting higher percentage looks. As confidence builds from getting looks from in close inevitably the longer shots will start to fall. To get to that point however, the Raps have to ram the ball down the Mavs collective pie holes. I fully hope to see that happen.

Of course I won’t see if that does happen as I continue to be shut out from Raps games without TSN2.