Fo’ with the Foes: Toronto Raptors

raptorsdancepakThis edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” – Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews key upcoming 76ers games – features tonight’s opponent, the Toronto Raptors who after trading Rudy Gay are a much different looking team than the one the Sixers faced last month.

After the jump, I’ll look a Fo’ key items for tonight’s game.  Additionally, we’ll get a little more insight into this Toronto team the Sixers face tonight from our colleague Sam Halako at, as Sam will answer Fo’ questions on his Raptors from us here at Philadunkia.


Here are Fo’ key items I will be watching for tonight from the Sixers end…

1)  Evan Turner:  The other night vs. the Wolves marked the worst game of the season for Evan and I am curious to see how the highly emotional Turner responds tonight.  If he reverts back his “The Enigma” days, IMO that means all the losing has gotten to him and ET is just doing his own thing until he gets traded.  If tonight in Toronto he returns to 2013-14 form, than for me it means he is still buying in to what Brett Brown is selling.

2)  Keep DeMar DeRozan in Check:  Can the Sixers keep the red-hot DeRozan under 30 points?  The last time the two teams squared off (Nov. 20th at WFC), DeRozan went off  for 33 points in a 108-98 Toronto victory.  I have no idea which defensively suspect member of the 76ers is capable of guarding DeRozan, but someone needs to step up.  IMO coach Brown should give Hollis Thompson or Thad a shot at guarding DeRozan.  We already know that Turner and Wroten cannot handle the task.

3)  Value the Basketball:  Against Minnesota on Wednesday night, the 7-6 totaled a season high-tying 26 turnovers.  The Sixers committed 20 turnovers in that November meeting with Toronto, and their average of 18.0 per run is among the worst in the NBA.  I know it will be hard with MCW out again tonight, but I am begging the Sixers to take better care of the rock.  I mean anything under 20 TOs would be an improvement.

4)  Play Some D:  Yeah, I know I sound like a broken record, but I’d like to see something resembling NBA defense played tonight by the Sixers.  This Toronto roster (outside of DeRozan) is one the Sixers should be able to guard.  Additionally, there is a fire sale going on in Toronto, so the players who have been in Toronto since the start of the 2013-14 season will now be looking to “get theirs”.  That typically means less ball movement and thus makes a team much easier to defend.  They also will have several new players who don’t know the offense very well making their Raptor debuts.  Finally, the Raptors average 98 ppg., which is 11 less points than the Sixers are currently giving up per night (109.3).  It’s like Toronto’s offense is facing the NBA’s version of a “perfect storm” tonight.  I just hope the 7-6’s defense can capitalize on the above and make a stand.


Q&A with Sam Halako at Raptors Republic:

Philadunkia:  The Raptors traded “the most polarizing advanced stats guy in the League” (your quote from last time we emailed) to the Kings.  What are your thoughts on the Rudy Gay deal?

Sam Halako at Raptors Republic:  I’m a Rudy Gay apologist, so I was going to hate any trade that didn’t net us a 2014 1st round pick, but the deal was a good one.  This team needs young players to build around, which means we need to draft them, which means we need to lose games, which means we need picks in one of the best drafts ever, which means Lowry is next (more below).

Philadunkia:  The rumor mill also has/had Philly native Kyle Lowry being traded to the Knicks.  Do you/did you like the proposed deal or do you think the Raps can do better?

Sam Halako at Raptors Republic:  Any deal that returns Felton Spencer, who’s currently injured no less, is a bad one. Period. I don’t care what else is thrown in, the guy is on the books for two more seasons after this one. However, if the Knicks had a 2014 first rounder, I could see the deal going down. Fortunately for us, Dolan has called it off because he doesn’t want to get fleeced my Ujiri, again. The Nets and Warriors, and probably half the league, has interest in Lowry, and it would be surprising to see him finish the year out as a Raptor, especially since he’s expiring and will walk in the summer.

Philadunkia: I really like Greivis Vasquez.  He simply killed Jrue Holiday last January (23 & 9 while with NOH) and I thought he was misused in Sacto.  Is there any chance Masai Ujiri likes Vasquez as well, is using 2013-14 as a tryout (of sorts) for the Venezuelan point man and that Vasquez could be part of the Raps future?

Sam Halako at Raptors Republic:  When Lowry gets traded, Vasquez will be the starting point guard.  He reminds me of Calderon without the shooting touch, but you can work on that.  I think the guy has a future with this team, and it will be nice to see a few more pick-n-rolls a game.  His defense needs some work, but Raptor fans are used to Spanish speaking point guards who can’t defend.

Philadunkia: The Raptors are expected to have their four new additions available Friday night. Any insights/predictions on what lineups combos and type of play we might see from Toronto tonight?

Sam Halako at Raptors Republic:  The starting lineup will probably be Lowry/Ross/DeRozan/Johnson/Valanciunas.  Without Gay in the lineup, the team has been swinging the ball around quite a bit, which opens up the court for easier shots.  I expect to see Vasquez, Patterson and Salmons be the first guys off the bench, so Casey can get a sense of what he has with them.  When Vasquez checks in for Lowry, you will see a lot more pick-n-rolls between him and Amir/Jonas; everyone in Toronto wants to see Valanciunas get more involved on the offensvie end, and if Vasquez can facilitate that, he will instantly be a fan favorite.


Thanks to Sam for his time and answers.

You can follow us on Twitter @philadunkia.

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