The Washington Wizards will play their fifth preseason game against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night. Here is everything you need to know in preparation for the game.
When and Where Will the Game Be: It's at 7 PM EST in Toronto. Unfortunately, the game won't be televised, so fans will need to stream the radio broadcast in order to follow the action.
Why You Should Care: If Washington is going to contend for the eighth seed in the East, they're going to need to be able to beat teams like the Raptors on a regular basis. Toronto also has some interesting young players, most notably Jonas Valanciunas, who could be the franchise's center of the future. Dominic McGuire signed with them, too, and he still has a lot of fans in DC.
Are They Any Good: Not really. Toronto finished 23 and 43 last year and didn't add any particularly noteworthy players other than Kyle Lowry. They should eventually be decent, though, since they now have a few good young players and Dwane Casey is a very good coach, especially on the defensive end.
What Happened the Last Time We Saw Them: Toronto won 99-92, largely on the strength of their offensive rebounding. Kevin Seraphin in particular played well, easily scoring on Andrea Bargnani in the post. Unfortunately, he'll likely be guarded by Valanciunas tonight.
What They Do Well: Remember the Chris Bosh era when even the worst teams could look like the Nash/Amare Suns any time they played in Toronto? Those days are over. Primarily due to Casey taking over as coach, the Raptors were actually a very solid defensive team last year, finishing 14th in the league in defensive efficiency despite their lack of a true center or anything to play for. The additions of Valanciunas, the basketball IQ of Landry Fields, and Lowry's defensive chops (when committed, Lowry is one of the game's best defensive point guards) should make them even better this year.
What They Do Poorly: Score and hack. The Raptors had the NBA's 29th best offensive rating last year, largely due to turnovers as well as their overall poor shooting from the floor. They also gave up a league-leading 27.2 free throw attempts per game, something that tends to happen when teams have a lot of young big men.
How the Wizards Match Up With Them: Surprisingly well, especially when John Wall is healthy. Shelvin Mack, Jannero Pargo and AJ Price should have a much easier time staying in front of Lowry than they did battling Deron Williams in the post. Bargnani is a very difficult match up for most of the NBA, although the length of Jan Vesely should bother his outside shot, assuming the Air Wolf doesn't wind up in foul trouble as a result of biting on Il Mago's pump fakes and jab steps.
Who's Worth Watching: The franchise is counting on Ross and Valanciunas to become stars, but for my money, Bargnani is the guy worth keeping an eye on tonight, if only because he plays so unconventionally. DeMar DeRozan is fun to watch, too, and is usually good for one or two SportsCenter-caliber dunks per game.
Are There Any Players Poised for a Breakout: Not really. Lowry has been underrated for ages, but his defense fell off a bit last year and quick, undersized guards like him tend to peak early. Other than that, the young core is made up primarily players of who are solid but nothing unlikely to develop into stars (Ed Davis, Amir Johnson, Fields). Valanciunas and Ross should be good, but they're unlikely to contribute too much as rookies.