Between All Star weekend festivities and trade deadline madness, it's easy to forget that normal old regular season basketball games will be played tonight. When you really think of it, too, there aren't too many games that are more ordinary than tonight's Washington Wizards versus Toronto Raptors contest. The two teams aren't in the same division, don't have much history together, are rarely on national television in America and feature no A-list players. Boston-LA this is not.
That said, it's still a basketball and it's still the Wizards, so it'll be worth watching. And hey, with all of the trades that will likely go down this week, this could be your last chance to see the team as it's currently constructed.
Where and when? Tip off is at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center.
Who's out? Washington will be missing Cartier Martin, while the Raptors will be without Linas Kleiza and Mickael Pietrus.
Are they good? Not really. Toronto is 21-32 on the year, with the NBA's 11th-best offense and fourth-worst defense. Coach Dwayne Casey has a reputation as a defense-first coach, but with Toronto's less than ideal defensive personnel, the team has been forced to attempt to win with its offense. That said, they're 5-2 since trading for Rudy Gay, so they might be better than their record.
1.Terrence Ross is a pretty good dunker. Will he ever be a pretty good player? What should Wizards fans know about him going into tonight's game?
Ross is definitely a good dunker and I think most of the NBA fan base now knows that, but he's actually already a pretty good player. He is a bit of streaky shooter, which at times forces Casey to keep him in the game, or give him the quick hook. He is also a pretty solid defender, and has all of the tools necessary to become a great defender somewhere down the road.
Since the acquisition of Rudy Gay, Ross has seen his minutes decrease, but earlier on in the season when the Raptors were ravaged by injury, Ross found himself in the rotation on a regular basis. He has scored in double figures on 14 separate occasions this season -- his highest output was 26 points against Sacramento -- which is a testament to how easy it is for him to get points when his shot is going.
Wizards' fans should just know that whenever he is in the game, he doesn't cheat himself, as Casey would say. He is going to get his shots up and he is going to try and dunk on someone.
2. How is the Rudy Gay thing working out? Is there a way of looking at it that might not have been picked up by the mainstream NBA media?
Well it's difficult to look at the acquisition in a way that hasn't been written about because his trade and subsequent fall out have been subject to constant media scrutiny. Having said that, this how I see the situation:
Financials aside, acquiring Gay has given the Raptors a legitimate scorer that can create his own shot, which has been huge as it has opened up the floor for others like DeMar DeRozan to be effective offensively without seeing double-teams or being the defensive focus of opposing teams. Gay is also a player that Casey can turn to at the end of games to make baskets in the clutch -- Gay has already made two game-winning shots in his brief time in Toronto.
On the flip side, statistically Gay has not been great. He has shot poorly in his seven games with the team -- 38 percent from the floor and 18 percent from beyond the arc -- and his shot selection has been more than questionable. At this point in time it's difficult to quantify his impact on the team, as they are 5-2 since his arrival, yet his individual statistics seem to indicate that he is hurting them. This situation will be interesting to watch unfold.
3. The trade deadline is almost here and you guys have a couple of people (coughFieldsandDeRozancough) who might be on their way out due to their contracts and the presence of the Gay-Valanciunas-Lowry core. Can they co-exist with their more well-known teammates, and what do you realistically think you would be able to get for them?
There has been a great deal of speculation about the team potentially moving Fields or DeRozan, but I honestly don't see it happening. DeRozan is a guy that the franchise just committed to long term and based on what I have seen from Bryan Colangleo during his tenure here, I don't think DeMar is going anywhere. Fields could potentially be a trade chip down the road, but again, his contract makes him difficult to move.
The player that I don't think fits into the Raptors' long-term plans and will almost definitely be dealt at some point is Andrea Bargnani. Bargnani has worn out his welcome in the city and could desperately use a change of scenery.
4. What's Toronto's short-term and long-term ceiling?
Short-term, this is a team that should be competitive during the second half of the season and finish either ninth or 10th in the Eastern Conference. Long term depends a great deal on the development of Jonas Valanciunas and Ross, whether Kyle Lowry can sustain a high level of play for a significant period of time and what kind of moves Colangleo - or whoever the new general manager may be -- can make with the Raptors' total salaries already almost reaching the luxury tax level. Obviously, that is a great deal that is left up in the air. Without knowing how any of that is going to play out, the short answer is that this team should have enough talent to be a playoff team for the next few years.
5. Jonas Valanciunas came to the league with a lot of hype, but since he's on the Raptors, Wizards fans will only get a handful of chances to see him this year. How satisfied are you with his performance so far?
Valanciunas has been great. He has all of the physical tools to be a great player in this league and he also possesses the drive and work ethic that should help him reach that point.
This year is very much a transitional year for the young Lithuanian as he has had to adjust to not just the culture and the language but also the style of play and the size of players he has had to play against. That is a lot to deal with for someone who is only 20 years old and when you consider all of those factors, he was done extremely well. He has shown flashes of being an impact player, especially since his return from a wrist injury.