1) The Toronto Raptors, like the Brooklyn Nets have been one of the better storylines recently in the NBA with their respective production of late. The Raptors have gone 10-5 in the past month since Rudy Gay was traded to the Sacramento Kings. Numbers are numbers, so tell us how the feeling around the locker room and spirit surrounding the team has been. What don't we see when we look at 10-5?
This is a tough one because by all accounts, and from first hand views, Rudy Gay was a good guy, and a great teammate locker-room wise. The problem was on the court where he simply didn't make his teammates better. In fact, as we've indeed seen, the club has been better on both sides of the ball with him in a Sacramento Kings jersey, instead of a Toronto Raptors' one.
Raptors HQ Previews Nets-Raptors
Raptors HQ Previews Nets-Raptors
2) Sure, Gay is gone, but how sad are you that Quincy Acy had to pack his bags along with him? I know that Kings fans are loving Acy and that blue collar-like style of play he brings. So, who's the new guy that Raptors fans are loving, even though he may not be the best player on the floor when he's on it? That "tangibles" guy if you will?
It's never easy to lose a player of Acy's ilk because of his style of play, and the passion so evident in his on-the-floor performance. However truth be told, I was never sold on Acy being much more than a fringe player in the league so I wasn't as upset as most perhaps in terms of seeing him traded.
3) DeMar DeRozan is averaging career-highs in points (21.2), rebounds (3.7), assists (3.5), steals (1.2), USG%(27.3) and PER (17.0). This finally looks like his year when he meets the high expectations many had for him coming into the league. The Nets should be believers since DeRozan dropped 27 points on them in the teams' first meeting at Barclays Center. But, will the voters for the NBA All-Star game, fans or coaches? What do you think his chances are?
Truth be told, I was never a big believer in DeMar DeRozan. Not that he didn't work extremely hard to try to improve his game, but even based on his play at USC in college, I always thought he was too inefficient and one-dimensional to be an impact player in the NBA. However I'm thrilled to be wrong on this one as this season, we're starting to see the player Bryan Colangelo may have thought he was drafting back in 2009. We're now seeing a player who is much more efficient as a scorer, does a better job creating for teammates (especially post-Rudy Gay), and who contributes in other areas rather than simply scoring, each night. He's still got a ways to go on D, and needs to continue to improve his long-range shooting, but he's certainly an All-Star possibility this season, something I would have said was a ridiculous thought, prior to this campaign. I'm not sure the Raptors get two players, and I think Kyle Lowry is more deserving, but looking at the dreadful East and the competition for his potential spot, after you pass the Georges, Wades and LeBrons, there aren't many names other than DeRozan's that jump out.
4) What do you see the Raptors doing for next season regarding the point guard position. Kyle Lowry and D.J. Augustin's respective contracts are done after this season and Grievis Vasquez becomes a restricted free agent (qualifying offer) and Dwight Buycks is only a rookie this season. There were rumors of trading Lowry, but considering how well the Raptors have played of late, there's no way they mess it up and trade Lowry, right? Or do they by next month's trade deadline? There's going to be a market for Lowry if the Raptors do.
Back in early December I would have said that Lowry wouldn't make it through the season as a member of the Toronto Raptors, but with the team playing inspired ball post-Rudy, and Lowry looking like a top 10 point guard in the league, I think the club will do almost everything they can to re-sign him, and either draft a back-up option, or try to keep Vasquez around.
I say ALMOST everything because unlike his predecessor, I think Masai Ujiri is an opportunist and will evaluate the landscape before committing to any player on this squad, long-term. So if the right trade comes along later this season, or if this Lowry's salary demands this offseason are too high, we could very well see Ujiri go in another direction at point guard. That being said, right now it looks like this will be Lowry's team to run for the next few years at least.
5) What are three to five other things that Nets fans should know about the Raptors heading into their match-up tonight and give us a final score!
Final score, Raptors 95, Nets 88. I think the Raptors' D wins out in this one. Both clubs are pretty evenly matched in terms of offensive metrics, but I think the Dinos gut out the W thanks to their defensive play.
DV's Prediction: Toronto Raptors 92, Brooklyn Nets 100. Just like heading north of the border, the win streak goes up as well!