The Toronto Raptors enter the Verizon Center with many of the same players you remember seeing, but they are a very different kind of squad under new coach Dwayne Casey. Let's meet them!
Are they good in general?: They're risen to mediocrity this year, which is a pretty nice accomplishment in and of itself. They've had some major duds (loss at home to New Jersey, scoring 62 points in a road loss to the 76ers), but they've also won four games and actually resemble a professional team. They're still not very good, though.
Are they fast or slow? This is one of the biggest ways new coach Dwayne Casey has made his mark. Last year, the Raptors were 12th in the league with 95.6 possessions per game. They played fast, but loose, especially on the defensive glass. This year? Only the Celtics average fewer possessions per game than the Raptors (90.2). The Raptors have the same core players, so clearly, this is a coaching strategy.
Are they especially good at anything? Here's the especially crazy part: the Raptors are doing a great job contesting shots and rebounding. Right now, Toronto is holding teams to the sixth-lowest effective field goal percentage and are seventh-best in the league at defensive rebound rate. They still foul too much defensively and don't force turnovers, but the incredible transformation in those two areas with the same players around speaks to the job Casey has done this year. It's like Toronto is a completely different team.
Are they especially bad at anything? The Raptors foul an insane amount, and they force no turnovers. The Wizards absolutely need to get to the basket. Offensively, the Raptors shoot well, but don't force free throws and don't get offensive rebounds. At least that's the profile of this year's team.
Are there any people involved with the organization that Mike really likes? I've always been a fan of Ed Davis, but he's not getting an incredible amount of PT because Amir Johnson has been really, really good this season.
Are there any people involved with the organization that Mike really doesn't like? Leandro Barbosa is the same player he was four years ago, except the league has actually adjusted.
Are there any players poised for a breakout? We're in the middle of a fairly improbable breakout year by Andrea Bargnani, who will merit some All-Star consideration when reserves are announced. I'd say more on him, but this Raptors HQ post says it all.
Are there any players the Wizards especially need to worry about? Bargnani is going to be a tough cover. He's such a great shooter, but he's also developed one of the league's best head fakes. Given the Wizards' propensity to go for said fakes, I'm freaked out by the prospect of Bargnani facing up with a live dribble from anywhere on the court.
Is their mascot cool? This is just an excuse to post one of the greatest .gifs of all time.
Game thread at 6:30, recap right after. GO WIZARDS!