Winners of four straight, the 47-32 Brooklyn Nets look to make it five against the 31-48 Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The Raptors are long out of the Eastern Conference playoff hunt, but you wouldn’t know it by their recent success — they’ve won four of their past five games, including two straight against the Chicago Bulls — the team most Nets fans seem terrified to potentially see in the playoffs.
Joining me to talk about the Toronto Raptors is Raptorologist and publisher of ESPN TrueHoop affiliate Toronto Raptors blog Raptors Republic, Sam Holako. Give him a follow @RapsFan.
Devin: Are the Raptors tanking?
Sam Holako: Only if you consider starting the year 4-19. This team is not very good, so it’s not a reach that they’ve won 31 games. On a side note, Hollinger predicted 33 wins for his team, and took a lot of flack from people in Toronto (Raptors forward DeMar DeRozan included) who interpreted it as Toronto bashing rather than any sort of statistical modeling; this was before the season and before the Gay trade. Anyways, the point I’m trying to make is that this team doesn’t need to tank — even with a top 20ish talent on the team, they suck plenty.
Devin: The Raptors traded Ed Davis and Jose Calderon in a three-team deal that landed them Rudy Gay at the end of January. How has that trade worked out so far for Toronto?
Sam Holako: It’s worked out really well. We sold high on Ed Davis (I would not have been comfortable paying him $8 million+ per year on his next contract, with Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and possibly Andrea Bargnani on the payroll), and actually got something of value for Jose’s expiring contract. Gay shoots a bit too much, and is an inefficient scorer (although he’s pulled his socks up the last month or so), but there is no denying the Raptors got an elite-ish (I said ish!) player who can create his own scoring opportunities, and take those tough shots in the clutch.
I’d make that trade 10 times out of 10 knowing what I know. Gay commands a lot of attention when he’s on the floor, and one of the recipients has been DeRozan who’s been playing much more aggressively with the extra space he’s been handed by defense concentrating a bit more on Gay.
Devin: What are your hopes for the Raptors heading into the draft, free agency, and the upcoming seasons?
Sam Holako: The Raptors need new leadership, and while Colangelo has made good on a few moves, he’s batting .500 at best during his tenure here. Aside from his bipolar attitude towards what type of team he’s building, and how he’s going to build it (it’s not a rebuild when you trade for Rudy Gay!), he needs to juggle a tight CBA which is something he hasn’t shown he ability to do thus far. OKC owns our lottery pick this year (top 3 protected; I’ll let you think about what happens if the Raptors finish top 3 and give the Thunder a chance at Wiggins next draft), so unless we land a lottery pick in the much-anticipated Bargnani trade, there’s nothing happening on that front.
There is a lot of speculation that Carl Landry is an offseason target, which I whole-heartedly support. If that doesn’t pan out, the Raptors need to get a legit power forward in the fold who can give this team a real low post presence. There are a lot of interesting guys (Paul Millsap, JJ Hickson, etc) who could be available, but I wont be holding my breath hoping something good happens; I know better…