D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards at Raptors, Game 12
The Wizards begin another back-to-back set tonight, north of the border. They will face the Raptors in Toronto on Friday evening before returning to the District to face the reeling New York Knickerbockers on Saturday evening. The 3-8 Knicks lost in overtime to the Pacers on Wednesday after building a 13-0 lead in the first quarter and will have two days off to stew before taking on the Wiz. But we’re here to talk about the 5-7 Raptors first. Joining us today to preview the game is Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) of the ESPN TrueHoop Network blog Raptors Republic.
Teams: Wizards at Raptors
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON
Television: the dreaded CSN+
Radio: WFED-AM 1500
Spread: Raptors by 4.5 points
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: The Raps are 5-7 and—hey, hey, hey!—currently ranked fourth in the East (because they lead the bad Atlantic Division; otherwise Toronto has the sixth best winning percentage in the East). So, what has gone right thus far, what has gone not so right?
@BlakeMurphyODC: It’s hard to say much has gone “right” at 5-7, but there are some bright spots—the Raptors have actually outscored opponents and they’ve played basically a neutral schedule, so projection systems like them. In reality, though, they’re an average offense and maybe an above-average defense, though certainly not an elite one. They’ve been excellent on the glass, which definitely helps, and have actually limited fouls to the league-average (they were the league’s most foul-prone team last year). Basically, they’ve made a lot of smaller improvements at the margins that have come at an opportune time.
As for what’s gone wrong, the ball remains very sticky on offense and it’s easy to exploit the wing defense with screen action.
Q #2: Rudy Gay Three-Parter! Will he be dumb enough to opt out of getting paid $19 million next season? If he does, what type of market do you think exists for him (total contract dollars and years)? And do you see (or want) him as a Raptor long-term?
A) Yes, I believe he will be, but I’m in the minority. If he can get back to his ‘regular’ numbers, he’d have a four-year offer worth eight figures annually waiting. Tough to walk away from $19 million, but it’s risky to also leave $40 million and longer-term security on the table.
B) As I mentioned, it’s tough to see him not getting a four-year deal worth upwards of $40 million based on comparables.
C) No. He’s a fine player and is in the so-hated-he’s-underrated class, but his price tag at ages 28-32 wouldn’t make sense for a building team that already has one expensive wing (DeMar DeRozan) with similar strengths and weaknesses.
Q #3: What unheralded Raptor might surprise the Wizards on Friday night? (And if you had to waive either Landry Fields or Steve Novak, who would it be?)
@BlakeMurphyODC: Terrence Ross. He struggled as a rookie and has been wildly inconsistent, but he’s starting to hit 3s with regularity and it’s clear he’s learning the necessary defensive principles.
Does the salary come off the books? If so, Landry Fields—he’s been much better this year but that’s still a big salary.
Q #4: What to do and by who?
@Truth_About_It: Nene can pass and, unlike his free-wheeling Nuggets of the past, the Wizards are giving him the freedom to do so. He’s averaging a career-high 3.0 assists per game, third on the team after Wall and Beal and a notch above his previous career-high of 2.9 with the Wizards last season. Nene’s career average assists per game: 1.9.
Sixty-one of Bradley Beal’s 87 made field goals have been assisted. John Wall leads with 28, Nene follows him with 10. Nene is just as important to the Wizards’ effectiveness on offense as Wall. And as evidenced in the almost-comeback of the Cavaliers on Wednesday, it will sometimes be incumbent for the Wizards to run offense through Nene (especially in late-game, playoff-like situations). Randy Wittman probably realizes this, hopefully Wall increasingly realizes it as well.
What about #MaynorTime?
Wittman completely benched Eric Maynor for Washington’s first game after the Spurs debacle, an OT loss to Cleveland in D.C. Maynor has been allowed to return to the court during the previous two contests but has had his time chopped and doled out to Garrett Temple. Only around 30 seconds of Maynor’s 11.5 minutes over the last two games have been spent without Temple next to him on the court. The most-used, Maynor-led 5-man unit—Maynor, Temple, Beal, Booker, and Vesely—has finished minus-8 in five minutes of play. Temple has played around 35 minutes over the last two games. Without Maynor, or Wall, next to him, the best Temple-led 5-man unit—Temple, Beal, Webster, Booker, and Vesely—has been plus-3 over four minutes. The small sample-size conclusion: #MaynorTime still ain’t ticking.
2,567 - Number of times that some snarky Wizards fan (or snarkster otherwise) will mention both Rob Ford and Marion Barry on Twitter leading up to and during the game.
@BlakeMurphyODC: Way over, but under the number of times Raptors fans mention Wale.
16.5 - Number of team assists for the Raptors (they average a league-worst 17.1 per game).
@BlakeMurphyODC: Over. The ball movement was great against Philly on Wednesday (it’s Philly, though), and that kind of success should motivate players to stick with that strategy, at least in the short-term.
3.5 - Number of times “Psycho-T” will go psycho, especially if on the court with Jan Vesely.
@BlakeMurphyODC: Under, but just barely. I’ll have the GIF maker ready.
Jan Vesely vs. Psycho-T, the GIFs: