Sunday, October 31, 2010

What Kind of Raptors Fan Are You?

With the 2010-2011 NBA season already well underway, I ask every member of Raptors Nation this: What kind of Raptors fan are you?

Going into our first season without Chris Bosh, we can still REALISTICALLY go one of two ways.

1. Overachieve and scrape by with the 7th or 8th seed.
2. Meet expectations and finish at the bottom of the league.

Most casual fans would look at the standings, see a lowly "1-4" record next to the Raptors, and feel validated in their lack of confidence within the team. But for those who have actually watched the games this year, you know the Raptors have been been in every game they've played so far.

When it comes down to it, the Raptors have been within striking distance of a win in each of their first five games (yes, even against the Jazz and Lakers). One of the other encouraging signs revolves around the intensity and effort this team has shown night in and out. Regardless of how many points we may fall behind, this year's installment of the Toronto Raptors refuse to hang their head and give up.

So with that in mind, which route would you like the Raptors to go?

There's no question the players want to make the playoffs. You don't make it to the NBA without that insane obsession of winning. These are professional athletes, all they've been used to is success.

I'll go out and say this now. If the Raps continue to play like they've been playing on this road trip, they will be within reach of one of the last two playoff spots. It's a funny thing to say, but this team is better than last year's in some aspects.

But is that what's best for the franchise long term?

If expectations and predictions come to fruition, the Raps will likely come out of this with a top 3 pick in next year's draft. Don't worry Raptors Nation, I know, the draft has hurt us plenty of times in the past. But truth be told, it'll be hard to mess this one up. And if you take into account our last two drafts, we've come away with two very nice pieces in DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis.

Imagine pairing these two up with the likes of Kyrie Irving or Harrison Barnes?

Suddenly, the Raps would actually start to look more like the "Oklahoma East" DeRozan coined us to be earlier in the season.

Establishing a winning culture? Or roll the dice for the big payoff?

The Raps will go one of two paths. Which one are you holding the sign to?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Raptors Rundown Podcast - Episode 6

That's right folks! The Raptors Rundown Podcast is back! Introducing the most amateurish yet informative podcast dedicated to your favourite NBA franchise - the Toronto Raptors.

Guest James Borbath of the Dino Nation Blog stops by to review the Raptors' preseason and what's in the store for Canada's lone NBA team's future. He also gives us some of his Raptors predictions for the upcoming 2010/2011 season.

EDIT: One thing I forgot to mention on the show, a reminder that I will continue to be doing a mailbag, so I encourage listeners and readers to continue where we left off last season and keep them coming in.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Marvel Comics: The Toronto Raptors Need Sasquatch and A Gay Superhero

Recently, the NBA teamed up with Marvel Comics to produce these playful novelty NBA-inspired comic covers. Every team got their own cover, and yes - you are looking at the Toronto Raptors cover.

If you don't know what exactly you're supposed to be looking at, allow me to break it down for you. Before you is the starting 5 for your Raptors - minus Linas Kleiza and Reggie Evans - or at least according to Marvel's adaptation.

Using our pathetic defensive performance last season as justification, Marvel has decided to generously go out of their way to help us out. At centre, we have an 8 feet tall monster (literally). Yup - that's the friggen Canadian Sasquatch. I can dig it. His freakishly 20 foot long wingspan will come in handy when providing the much needed help defense that Bargs lacks. I'm loving the headband look on him by the way, not to wipe the sweat though, but obviously to keep his ears warm from the deadly Canadian blizzards.

And to play the passing lanes, the speedy Marvel superhero Northstar - one of the first openly gay superheroes to appear in American comics. Aside from being known as one of the most controversial comic book characters to have come out of Marvel studios, Northstar is also known for his ability to travel superhuman speed. Seven seconds or less offense? Psshh. That's nothing. The fact that he somewhat resembles Kurt from Glee gives it bonus points.

As for the more famous comic book characters in the back? Well obviously, they have no clue who these guys are...But that makes sense. Peter Parker's never come off to me as a sports guy, The Thing is still trumped by the last time the Raptors bounced the Knicks from the playoffs, The Hulk is not sure what basketball even is, New York native The Human Torch is upset Lebron opted for a different kind of Heat, while Wolverine (though Canadian) is clearly one of those "Hockey Guys".

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hedo: From Toronto, With Love

The highlight of the yesterday's Raptors/Suns game (besides getting the W obviously) occurred late in the 2nd quarter with under a minute left. Even through my league pass stream, I was able to hear a very disgruntled fan voice his displeasure with the Pizza Man Hedo Turkoglu.

At first, it was kind of bugging me that the attendance was so weak - seeing an empty ACC during a Raptors game is something I find depressing - but then without such a small crowd, this beautiful moment wouldn't have been made possible.

The awkwardness of it all was enhanced by the complete silence of the moment. The only thing that would have made it any better is if a camera had been on Turk's face at the time, or if someone had thrown pizza at him.

To whoever you are dude, thanks for representing Raptors Nation. You made all of us proud. And to Mr. Turkoglu, this is only preseason, wait until the games actually mean something, we'll really bring it to the table then - unlike some people.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lace Em Up; Running With The Bulls

The problem? Our stagnant offensive sets.

The solution? Look at how Chicago did it.

If there was one thing you could count on the Bulls for last season, it was their struggles on the offensive end. Even with the dynamic Rose, Chicago often found it difficult to put points up on the board. Fortunately for them, they were always solid on the glass and on the defensive end.

So how did new coach Tom Thibodeau decide to work around it?

Well based off that one preseason game against our Raptors last night, it was through speed. The Bulls were relentless when it came to running the ball down our throats. Time after time again, our defense found themselves backpedaling and unable to get into a comfortable position to guard the basket. The Bulls coaching staff realized that fast break opportunities result in easy points; something Raptors fans are hoping Jay and Co. begin to clue on soon.

The current Raptors' offense is elementary. Pure and simple. The last two games have exposed that fact. We may have been able to get away with it against the Suns, but as soon as we ran into defensive squads like the Bulls and the Celtics, the Raps were unable to move the ball. It was like watching 90% of video gamers play NBA 2K11 for the first time.

This team has the tools to pick up the pace. DeMar and Weems more than excel in the open court. Amir, Bargs, Dorsey, and eventually Davis are all bigs fully capable of running the down the floor (Heck, Noah did it against us last night). The Raps easiest buckets last night came when Barbosa took the ball and flew like a jet down the court.

In my eyes, this has to be done. We don't have anyone on this team who can consistently create for themselves and others. On top of that, we don't have someone we can isolate or dump the ball into the post to. Ball movement is great and all, but that's usually most effective with teams who have been together for some time. Our easiest buckets will come in transition.

The next question now though is: What happens to our defensive philosophy?

The Raps have shown lately a dedication to putting pressure on the ball, even to the point where we'll apply full court pressure in the first and second quarters. If this team is going to run on the offensive end, asking them to also go full court on defense may be too much - for any team.

Monday, October 4, 2010

NBA 2K11: Where 30th Overall Happens

Take a good look at that folks. Let it soak in for a minute. We've finally accomplished something not many sport franchises get to do. We are the worst team in a basketball video game.

Remember all those unrealistic trades you pulled off? What about the even more unlikely trip to the NBA finals that took place in last year's installment of NBA 2K10 (but only because the online servers were down)? Well now you have the exciting privilege of taking the 30th overall Raptors and turning them into NBA champions. A true rags to riches story.

Ignoring the fact that a 29th defense and a 28th offense somehow equals a 30th overall, let's take a look at the entire Raptors lineup in what is expected to be one of the most bought sports games this year.

75 - Leandro Barbosa (SG)
74 - Andrea Bargnani (C)
72 - Jose Calderon (PG)
69 - Jarrett Jack (PG)
67 - Ed Davis (PF)
64 - Julian Wright (SF)
64 - DeMar DeRozan (SG)
63 - Joey Dorsey (PF)
63 - Reggie Evans (PF)
63 - Amir Johnson (PF)
62 - Marcus Banks (PG)
60 - Sonny Weems (SG)
57 - David Andersen (C)
55 - Linas Kleiza (SF)

I know. It's a bit underwhelming. And you know what? I usually don't care about ratings when it comes to sports game, because more often than not, they don't matter. DeMar DeRozan was one of the best players in NBA 2K10 because of his speed, dunk, and layup rating. Once you were able to learn how to shoot with him, he became one of the most unstoppable forces in the game.

But since you're here, allow me to point out a few things:

- Linas Kleiza - our most significant pickup this off-season - was given a rating of 55. Fifty-five? We're talking about one of the more prolific scorers at this year's FIBA World Championships. The Lithuanian averaged 19 points and 7 rebounds during the entire tournament, and was the focal point of an intense American defense in the semi finals game. Kleiza rates lower than Nuggets' Coby Karl (56), Sixers' Tony Battie (57), and is only 1 point higher than Lakers' mustache man Adam Morrison. Expect perhaps the biggest improvement out of any player in 2k history by the time the last roster update comes out. I'll predict a 76.

- Most Raptors fans are looking forward to the growth of the Young Gunz and the excitement they'll bring. Unfortunately, 2K either felt differently, didn't care, or were blind to it. DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems clocked in at a low 64 and 60 respectively. During this year's Summer League, both Raptors swingmen tore it up. By the end of their schedule, the consensus from the media was that the duo were two of the most impressive players amongst their peers. I did some digging, and here are the 2k11 ratings of the top 10 guards and swingmen in terms of scoring averages from the 2010 summer league. Yes, it's just summer league. But what else could they possibly base these stats on when you can argue this entire group are unproven in the NBA?

John Wall - 24 pts, 32 min, 38%FG (81 ovr)
Reggie Williams - 23 pts, 32 min, 41%FG (67 ovr)
DeMar DeRozan - 21 pts, 26 min, 58%FG (64 ovr)
Sam Young - 19 pts, 28 min, 54%FG (65 ovr)
Marcus Thornton - 19 pts, 32 min, 44%FG (69 ovr)
Jermaine Taylor - 18 pts, 29 min, 47%FG (62 ovr)
Nick Young - 18 pts, 28 min, 55%FG (66 ovr)
Sonny Weems - 18 pts, 27 min, 44%FG (60 ovr)
Dominque Jones - 17 pts, 32 min, 42%FG (66 ovr)
Jordan Crawford - 16 pts, 31 min, 42%FG (64 ovr)

And as for Amir Johnson - the athletic Young Gun 4 man fresh off his contract extension? A pathetic 63 overall. That's lower than Josh Powell (64) and the overweight Eddy Curry (64). On top of that, they have Amir listed with a 67 dunk...A 67? Clearly they haven't seen this:

BTW - Reggie Evans has a 68 dunk. And no offense whatsoever to Reggie, but all of Raptors Nation knows that Reggie doesn't dunk.

And what about our prized draft pick Mr. Ed Davis? A 67 isn't that bad at all, but let's compare him to the rest of his draft class.

John Wall - 81
Evan Turner - 76
Derrick Favors - 73
Wesley Johnson - 73
DeMarcus Cousins - 70
Ekpe Udoh - 68
Greg Monroe - 67
Al Farouq-Aminu - 68
Gordon Hayward - 64
Paul George - 71
Cole Aldrich - 64
Ed Davis - 67
Pattrick Patterson - 72

As you can see, the one thing Raps fans can be pleased with the most is 2K's assessment of Ed Davis. Rookies are always overrated in the game, but at least 2K had the presence of mind of clocking Ed in at where many draft experts expected him to go in the draft (7-10)

Lastly, note how the Raps' best player comes in at 75 overall - Leandro Barbosa. Toronto is one of 5 teams (along with Cleveland, LA, Detroit, Minnesota) to not have a player rated over 80. The only player with a legit shot at cracking that by the end of the year is Andrea Bargnani. I'd throw in Kleiza in there as well, but I don't see 2K Sports allowing a 26 point rating increase to happen.

And in case you guys were interested, here are the ratings of a few Ex-Raptors:

Antoine Wright - 64
Marco Belinelli - 66 (Apparently we traded away our two best swings)
Kris Humphries - 62
Chris Bosh - 87

To wrap it up, let's take a quick glimpse (courtesy of Youtube) at how the worst team in the game will play on consoles all over the world.