In lieu of a normal preview, I exchanged emails with the managing editor of SB Nation's Toronto Raptors blog in order to get a better idea of what kind of team we will be facing off against twice in the next five nights. If you would like to see what type of questions were asked about the Cavs, as well as scrutinize my answers be sure to swing over to Raptors HQ to check it out!
Fear the Sword: Going into this season most thought the Raptors would try and bottom out in order to add to their young core. As the trade deadline has now passed by, do you think the Raptors made the right decision by keeping players like Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan rather than tearing it down and building around Ross, Jonas and a high draft pick?
Raptor's HQ: While I was completely onboard with using the latter methodology early in the season, that option was essentially removed once Rudy Gay was dealt and the team took off. If the team still wanted to take that approach, it would have likely meant sacrificing a sure thing (a top five playoff birth thanks to the general yuckiness of the East) for a SHOT at a top five pick, who MIGHT turn into an impact player.
And I think that's the other part of the equation. Early in the season people were looking at the upcoming draft as something along the lines of the 2003 class but as the season unfolded, it began to look less and less like Wiggins, Parker and co. were necessarily franchise saviours.
So again, do you throw away a sure thing for a CHANCE at something that's not 100%? The argument makes more sense if Toronto didn't have any developing youth but with DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas all continuing to develop, and Toronto still owning a first-round pick in what will likely be a deep draft, I do now think the decision to continue to build with the current cast is the correct option.
Fear the Sword: Demar Derozan has taken a step forward this season and earned an All Star appearance. While his efficiency has actually stayed about the same, he's been able to improve as a defender, passer and rebounder. What do you think his role with the team SHOULD be? Is he worth the contract? Or is he just another Rudy Gay that puts up numbers without making others better?
Raptor's HQ: I think DeRozan has finally started to show some of what made him such an enticing prospect back at USC. He's a terrific athlete with good size and intangibles for his position and a solid mid-range game. He was always able to score, but this year on top of this he's also rounded out other elements of his game. He's been a much better facilitator, better rebounder, and much more decisive on his attacks.
That being said, I'm still not sold on DeRozan being the number one option on a great team. He's no Rudy Gay, but he still struggles from long-range (30% on the season), makes poor decisions at times, especially at key moments (see end of Wednesday night's loss to the Bulls), and doesn't always play to his strengths. His contract isn't awful viewed under this season's lens, but I'm not completely sold on it being a fair value yet either. I think his performance the rest of this season and into the playoffs (his first) will go a long ways in determining the answer to that part of hte question.
Raptor's HQ: On paper this should be an easy Raptors' win but the club has fallen into this unfortunate habit of starting games in the second quarter recently. They gave up 31 first-quarter points to the Bulls on Wednesday night and while they're one of the league's best fourth quarter ball clubs, they can't keep putting themselves in big holes, expecting to turn it on for the win when needed. So to me, getting off to a good start is priority number one and after that, individual things like containing Kyrie Irving and keeping guys like Tristan Thompson from dominating the glass.
As you noted, the Cavs are short-handed so it would be a pretty disappointing situation if a club like Toronto that's expecting to lock up a top three seed in the East, loses a game like this one.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction:
Kyle Lowry has been shooting very poorly lately and it continues tonight. Kyrie Irving continues to haunt the people of Toronto and hits a dagger three late. Cavs win 93-88