The 12-39 Washington Wizards and the 17-35 Toronto Raptors face off for the fourth time this season, the Wizards winning two on their home court, one being their first win of the season and another going to overtime in early February, and the Raptors taking a Feb. 3 matchup in Canada (three days before the Wizards’ OT win). Per Michael Lee, both Trevor Booker and Nene will be out tonight, so the Wizards will have a true test — Toronto has started Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Andrea Bargnani and Aaron Gray in the past two games and beat the Denver Nuggets, lost to the Miami Heat by 12. For tonight’s 3-on-3 we have Sam Holako (@RapsFan) of the ESPN TrueHoop blog Raptors Republic, along with TAI’s Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) and Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20). The Raptors are favored by seven points; Goodbye Sunday…
#1) I’m a big-time free agent in 2012 and it’s come down to D.C. or Toronto, both franchises are offering equal money. Which team do I choose and what most influences that?
DIAMOND: Neither team is exactly poised for near-term success. A few weeks ago, ESPN’s John Hollinger and Chad Ford issued their annual “future power rankings.” According to the forecast (via ESPN Insider), the Wiz are No. 22 in the league and the Raptors are No. 26. So if I’m looking at Toronto vs. Washington, it’s not because I care about winning now — I’m drawn by peripherals. And which city offers more TV exposure? Which one has a bigger (potential) fan base? Which one has less confusing tax rules? Gotta be DC.
HOLAKO: I’d have to say Toronto. Even though both teams are on a similar trajectory in terms of talent and cap space, the Raptors have a better core of young players to build a team around. John Wall is probably the best individual player on either team, but the Raptors seem more complete as currently constructed. Also, paying Nene $13.5 million-plus for 14 points and eight rebounds isn’t a good idea; that’s just me, though.
MOBLEY: If I’m the type of free agent that Amar’e Stoudemire was in 2010, and I’m interested in going where I can be the man on the team, the man of the city, and the savior for a franchise that has fallen on hard times, I’m choosing Toronto. But if I’m the type of free agent who needs to be a part of a franchise who already has one great player, and I’m looking to be a sidekick type of player, I’m choosing the Wizards. The Wizards have the slight edge because of their chances of luring a high-profile coach.
#2) Who is the most important non-lottery pick for each team in today’s game?
DIAMOND: Ugh. This question is a perfect barometer of these two teams; there’s a reason Spurs or Pacers fans wouldn’t get asked it. (That said: Kevin Seraphin and Jose Calderon.)
HOLAKO: For the Wizards, I have to go with Jordan Crawford; over his last 10, he’s been putting-up close to 19 a game, and been looking good in the process (I’m a fan if you didn’t already guess). With DeRozan injured (should play), and Bayless out for the remainder of the season, Crawford could really cause some trouble from the two-spot. On the Raptors end of things, it would have to be Jose Calderon; who has to make John Wall work on, and off, the ball in hopes of slowing him down and forcing him to make poor decisions with the ball. I’d really like to see Wall forced into being a jump-shooter for the night.
MOBLEY: Linas Kleiza. He has scored 30 points one time this year, and that was against the Wizards on February 6. Unfortunately for Kleiza and the Raptors, John Wall scored 31 points and Nick Young scored 29 to lead the Wizards to victory. Lately the Wizards aren’t playing well offensively, and as well as they are playing on the defensive end of the floor, that is mostly on the interior. Kleiza has the potential to get irrationally hot from the field — regardless of the defense — and make life difficult for the Wizards. On the Wizards side, it is Cartier Martin, who unlike Kleiza, has the potential to get rationally hot and is actually in the midst of a hot streak. He shooting 63-percent from the field and 54.5-percent from the 3-point line since being called up on a 10-day contract.
#3) Which stat most influences the outcome and what’s your final score prediction?
DIAMOND: Offensive rebounds. With Nene and Booker out, can the Wiz keep the Raptors off the glass? I’m doubtful. Toronto by 7.
HOLAKO: It’s actually frustrating that the Raptors are winning games when they shouldn’t (tanknation) with lottery balls on the line. For much of the season, a lot of the Raptors fortunes have been pinned on Calderon and Bargnani leading the charge. There isn’t any single number that tells the tale of a Raptor win, but I’m going to say 12; the number of Wizard wins. The Raptors have had a nasty habit of playing down to their opponents (for example: they accounted for two of the Bobcats wins this season). If they approach this game like they did the Nuggets game, the Wizards will be in for a long night, but if they come out flat, and let the Wizards develop a rhythm early, on the road, it could be bad news. I’m picking the Raptors to win by 4: 104-100.
MOBLEY: Much has been made about John Wall’s inability to make the correct play at the very end of games. In the last five games, however, he is only averaging 4.8 points in the second half, which demonstrates that his inability to close is not just limited to crunch time moments. Wall breaks out of the slump, plays a complete game in both halves, and the Wizards win 90-80.