For today’s Game Preview I was asked by fellow FanSided family member Josh Hill of http://pippenainteasy.com/ to answer five questions on the Raptors and tonight’s Bulls/Raptors match up, Josh then answered five questions of mine. Here is what we came up with, enjoy the game.
Pippen Ain’t Easy Q&A
1. What are your general thoughts on tonight’s game? The Raptors have gave the Pacers, Mavs and Knicks troubles so far this season and have generally kept most of their games against playoff-level teams close. Do you think the Bulls will handle the Raps, or do you think the Raptors are scarier than people may think? Final Score?
Josh: I think the Raptors are a team to keep an eye on: a sleeper team I guess you could say. As far as them scaring the Bulls, they aren’t there yet. They gave those teams a scare but the only team they pulled one out against was New York and Chicago is better then that.
I’d say if the Bulls start slow again like they did against Atlanta, then they might be in trouble. Toronto isn’t terrible they’re just not going to put you away. They may make it interesting as the Bulls have allowed Minnesota, Washington and Boston all back within one after leading big, so that may be something to watch. But Chicago wins this one. It’s at home and they’re not going to have their first home loss of 2011 be against Toronto.
Bulls win 93-87
2. Who is one player on the Bulls who doesn’t get talked about enough that you think Raptors fans should pay attention to tonight?
Luol Deng seldom gets talked about outside of Chicago or outside post game reports. He’s having a real All-Star caliber year for the Bulls and it’s one reason they’re so dominant. Deng has really stepped up when Chicago has needed him, like when Derrick Rose gets hurt, and that’s huge. Deng was the scapegoat for so many years and now he’s finally past those days and people are really starting to rally an All-Star cause for him. Toronto needs to watch him on the perimeter because he’s deadly from there
Deng can also hurt you down the stretch. Many times he’s been slow in the second and third and has then exploded in the fourth to close out an opponent. When you couple that with Derrick Rose’s already natural ability to close out, you have issues if you’re in the other uniform.
3. DeMar DeRozan is having a slow start to the season, but the Raptors have kind of pegged him to be the hope of the future from a rebuilding standpoint. Whats your opinion on DeMar and do you think he will ever be a player worthy enough for a team to build around?
DeMar can be the kind of guy that develops into a big name but he needs help. I mean he’ll never be MVP, he’s not Chris Paul or Derrick Rose. But he’s got the tools to really be the leader in Toronto if the Raptors help him. If they don’t help him out he’ll become disinterested and it’s a point guard’s league today and DeMar can be taught the position. If DeMar were to want out of Toronto, every team in the NBA is looking for a young guard to lead their team.
That being said, Toronto has him and needs to utilize him. He’s a rising star and if they can build pieces around him and build his name into a name that resonates throughout the league as a serious threat, then you won’t have to worry about slow starts. It’s all about development and DeMar needs to take the reigns and develop the team like a leader. Then if that happens, all of a sudden this Raptors team that is sort of scary.
4. On the topic of young players, the Raptors have plenty of them. Who out of the Raptors young guns catches your eye as a player to watch in the next few years, if any?
The obvious name is Andrea Bargnani. He’s a guy that needs to be a Joakim Noah type where he rebounds the ball like a monster but also needs to channel some scoring as well. He’s doing a good job of that right now averaging close to 25 ppg. He can really compliment DeMar and be a big bay that give DeMar and the other guys second chance shots.
Second chance shots will sky rocket their confidence, I’ve seen it in Chicago and it can work in Toronto. DeMar needs to hit at a higher percentage and Bargnani can give him those chances.
5. Do you see the Bulls as a title contender? Do you think they can beat the Heat in a seven game series? What is your take on the Bulls season and how do you see it playing out?
The Bulls need to have a rematch against the Heat or at least make it to the Conference Finals or this year will be w wasted year. They added Rip Hamilton in the offseason and that makes a huge difference. The Bulls could catch up with the Heat because of all the talent combined with playoff experience. Both Wade and LeBron have been in the NBA Finals multiple times. The only guy on the Bulls who’s been in a Finals game was the coach, Tom Thibodeau. Now with Hamilton’s ability to share his clutch championship experience in the moment, that will really back up what Thibs knows from his days in Boston.
I see the Bulls making it the Conference Finals this year again but as I’ve said to other people, after that it gets hazy. I’ll make that prediction when it happens.
Raptors Rapture Q&A
1. The Raptors aren’t having the best season, but it never seems they have a good one. What are the chances they turn it around and make a run at the playoffs? After all they’re only a few games out of the eight spot.
Chase: At the start of this last weekend I thought the Raptors could seriously improve their playoff chances with wins before this stretch with the Pacers, Bulls and Hawks, but dismal performances in every game besides for the Wolves and Kings games have left the Raptors being a likely 4-10 after these next two games and with Bargnani hurt that is a decent hole to climb out of. However this being the Eastern Conference, where a team can sneak into the playoffs well under .500 the Raptors do have the chance of making the playoffs if they can start giving full efforts every night. With Bayless and Aaron Gray coming back to help out the second unit the Raptors should improve their consistency soon. I give them around a 25% chance of grabbing the 7th/8th seed.
2. Toronto is a bi-polar team. They demolish a pretty good Timberwolves team, then turn right around and lose to then win-less Wizards team. Friday they nearly beat a very good Pacers team, so what kind of team are the Raptors?
The Raptors are a better than advertised team in the crazy compressed schedule. I mean Andrea Bargnani is playing unbelievable basketball, Jose Calderon is improved, Amir and James Johnson are playing great defense and are hopefully going to be key parts of the Raptors rebuilding process. The Raptors are right in the discussion with all the other fringe playoff teams in my opinion, but at the moment having the loss of their second unit point guard in Jerryd Bayless and Aaron Gray has made playing on back to backs a challenge physically due to their lack of depth at the moment. If the Raptors can get healthy, they can be a playoff team. In a season where everyone was more focused on who they would pick in the top five of the draft in the preseason than on court stories, it is a good sign.
3. You’re a scout for the Bulls, who on the Raptors should Chicago be most mindful of on tonight?
With Andrea Bargnani being hurt and DeMar DeRozan struggling early the most dangerous Raptor right now has to be Jose Calderon, who is having a revival to his Sam Mitchell era days at the point under Dwane Casey. Calderon is a amazing facilitator of the ball as well being an excellent jumpshooter. He might have problems with Rose tonight, but Calderon is probably the best player on the Raptors right now.
4. Alright put your Raptors cap back on, who on the Bulls besides Derrick Rose really makes you not want to play the Bulls tonight?
The bigs. The Bulls have young, energetic hard-working post players, and even Carlos Boozer is going to give the Raptors serious problems. Amir Johnson is playing great right now, but with Bargs either out or hurt and Aaron Gray also out the Raptors have to rely on Amir and Ed Davis to handle all of those Bulls post players.
5. The Bulls aren’t as bad as the Raptors in the identity department but they have lost huge leads in games as of late and have almost lost to the Wolves and Wizards. Given how the Bulls have exposed their own weaknesses, how confident are you the Raptors can win tonight? Will they? What’s the final score?
Being that this is a home/away back to back against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference that plays great defense to give the Raptors troubles offensively I am rather confident that the Raptors will lose this game, but the Raptors defense will keep this game in the ten point range. Probably a 90-82 score or around there.