Before we get into this, I want to say: Sorry Memphis, but it is a crime that Vancouver’s franchise was allowed to rot, relocate and leave Toronto as Canada’s only NBA outpost of professional basketball — if only because it allows us fewer opportunities to reflect on Canada’s excellent independent music scene.
(Apologies all around, as I’ve scattered evidence throughout.)
Former Wolves coach Dwane Casey has transitioned a horrendous Toronto Raptors team to respectable in just one year with his stubborn commitment to defense. Casey made even former #1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani less of a liability last season before calf issues forced him to shut it down. The Raptors lost in Brooklyn last night, dropping them to 0-2 to start the season.
The Raptors potential starting lineup:
PG Kyle Lowry
SG Landry Fields
SF DeMar DeRozan
PF Andrea Bargnani
C Jonas Valanciunas
Lowry averaged nearly 15 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds a game for Houston before succumbing to a bacterial infection that led to Goran Dragic’s emergence and both of their departures as free agents at the end of the lockout season. He has averaged nearly a triple-double over his first two games. Fellow free agent, Fields was a nice defensive piece for the Knicks last season and could help spread the floor as he shot nearly 40% from 3 last year. As much as Bargnani has improved defensively, it’s ridiculous for a 7-footer this side of Brook Lopez to average less than 5 rebounds for his 6-year career. Casey is pinning his hopes to Valanciunas being tough enough as a rookie to make up for the rebounding deficiencies and help balance out this lineup.
The Wolves potential starting lineup is:
PG Luke Ridnour
SG Brandon Roy
SF Andrei Kirilenko
PF Derrick Williams
C Nikola Pekovic
Defensive match-ups for the Wolves tonight should be interesting with Fields, DeRozan and Bargnani all being fairly perimeter-oriented. The preference to put Kirilenko on #1 offensive option, Bargnani, would be tempered by Williams being forced to attempt to cover either Fields or DeRozan, both of which would be a challenge for this season’s slimmed-down version of Williams. Roy’s challenge, actually everybody else’s challenge, will be to pick up the slack undoubtedly left by Ridnour’s turnstile impression against Lowry. Regardless, Williams should have the most interesting cover of the night as he is too small to affect Bargnani’s outside shot, nor skilled enough to cover the fleet-of-foot (and recently ridiculously overpaid) DeRozan.
The shooting woes that plagued the Wolves season-opening win over Sacramento Friday night were most severely inflicted by Roy and Chase Budinger’s missing of wide-open jump shots and only slightly less by Williams and Pekovic repeated point-blank misses at the rim. Though his were — most encouragingly — the most aggressively attempted, here’s betting Williams is the only one who will fail to break that 1-game trend. Pek should feast against Williams’s draft classmate, Valanciunas, though not before Wolves fans wonder what-might-have-been.
Barea has another chance to shine against super-sieve Jose Calderon (although John Lucas III is waiting in the wings).
Aaron Gray, Amir Johnson and Ed Davis all shall be called upon to do battle with Pek, as the double and triple teams most surely will come to the aid of rookie Valanciunas.
Dominic McGuire shall show why he should have been on the Wolves offseason radar as a post-Batum option.
Last, but not least, Dwane Casey was scapegoated after coaching a Wolves squad crumbling around an angry Kevin Garnett to .500. He deserves to crush Glen Taylor-owned, Kevin McHale-associated clubs wherever they meet for this injustice. It’ll be tough rooting against him tonight and he deserves better than Andrea Bargnani as his starting power forward.