Raptors HQ, the official Toronto Raptors blog on the SB Nation network, took some time to answer out questions about tonight's game agains the Boston Celtics at 7:00 p.m. EDT at the Air Canada Centre. Questions in bold, answers below.
Toronto and Boston aren't exactly two teams on similar tracks. The Celtics have been rolling as of late, winning nine of their last 11 games. Meanwhile, the Raptors have only won one game out of five in the month of February and are fourth in the Atlantic Division. What exactly has led to the Raptors' struggles this season, and is there any hope for fans this season of a recovery?
RHQ: There's really one reason the Raptors have struggled so far this season; lack of talent. On nearly any given night, the Raptors simply aren't fielding as talented a group of players as their opponents, and over a large sample size, that becomes apparent. Of course compounding things is the absence of Andrea. He was dynamite early on and the argument could be made that with him, the Raps would be floating around the 8th spot in the East. But unfortunately that's more of an indictment of how bad the lower tiers of the East are, rather than a validation of Toronto's upside.
Is there any hope? Let's hope not. While I'm not a proponent of out and out tanking, the bottom line is that this team needs a lot more blue chip talent, and the best way to get it is via the draft. So while a sprinkling of hard-fought, quality wins would be great, I think the bulk of the fanbase is dreaming of a June in which the team has its pick of the Anthony Davis and Harrison Barneses.
Andrea Bargnani's absence is obviously a major setback for Toronto. What's the status on Bargnani, how soon may he return and how effective do you expect him to be?
RHQ: Yesterday the news came out that he won't be back until after the All-Star break. Minus the break we might have seen him sooner but this just makes sense. In a season that's really about incremental improvements from individuals, and not a team trying to compete for a playoff spot, no sense rushing him back.
As for his effectiveness upon his return? I have no idea. Seriously. This "All-Star Bargnani" that we saw pre-injury is completely mind-boggling considering he had essentially not improved his game in his first five years. It's VERY rare to see an NBA player, even a "big man," to develop this much this late, so we'll see if he regresses to his inefficient, jump-shooting, non-rebounding, defensively inept previous self or if he maintains his 2011-12 season play.
Dwane Casey said that Bargnani is an All-Star in his book. Had he remained healthy, he may have been an NBA All-Star, too. Do you think Bargnani would have been selected to the All-Star game this season based on what you saw before the injury, and is he a bona fide star in this league?
RHQ: See previous answer as again ha ha...I have no idea. I do think he was playing at near an All-Star level, but I'd need a bigger sample size to say he was a lock. After five years of frustration, I'm admittedly leery to say that he's a future star in the league, and lock for future All-Star games based on 13 games.
But that shouldn't take away from the level he was playing on during those 13 games as yes, he was a revelation and match-up nightmare. The key now is to see him play like that over an entire season.
Ed Davis is a player that has always piqued my interest. He appears to be an effective option in the post. Outside of Bargnani, do you believe that Davis has the most potential to be an impact player down the road?
RHQ: I do. As most of our readers know, I've never been bullish on DeRozan, but I do think Ed could be a stud in the league. He's got a tremendous basketball IQ, has a nose for the ball, and is a terrific offensive rebounder and shot blocker. However he's got a ways to go in terms of putting it all together. You can tell at times that his natural instincts have him in the right place at the right time, but he doesn't always know what to do after that, so hopefully with more playing time and instruction, that part will come.
He also needs some work on his shot. Anything outside of about...oh...4 feet. 46% shooting (his current FG%) ain't so good for a big man.
Prediction time. Can the Raptors take advantage of their rest and the Celtics' back-to-back struggles to steal a win tonight?
RHQ: No. Ok, that might be a bit harsh but we all remember what happened last time these clubs met. Without Andrea the Raptors really struggle to score against solid defensive teams as they're essentially a team of jump shooters who can't hit jump shots.
No, not a good combination.
If Jerryd Bayless can't go (ankle injury) things look even more bleak so unless DeMar DeRozan decides to morph into the player management compared him to last year, Kobe Bryant!!, this is going to be another L for the Raps.
Friday, Feb 10, 2012, 7:00 PM EST
Air Canada Centre