Atlantic Division Showdown: Raptors vs Boston
This slide show will be a part of a series taking a look at the Raptors division and their opponents, along with the advantages or disadvantages each teams possess. Besides looking at the players, benches, and scheduling differences, the always underrated intangibles will also be analyzed.
Toronto Raptors certainly have re-made the roster and hopefully the third time will be the charm for Canada’s only respectable sports franchise. However, the Road to an Atlantic Division title will have to go through Boston. The question remains if the Raptors can outlast the former Champs
The Boston Celtics won the NBA Championship in 2008 however it’s the '09-'10 season and things have changed with some strong additions in Marquis Daniels and Rasheed Wallace, the Celtics have attempted to remake their roster slightly still focusing on extending the small window of opportunity surrounding the ‘Big Three.’
The Raptors and Celtics will meet on Nov. 27 in Boston for their first match up, followed by games on Jan. 2 (in Boston), January 10th (in Toronto) and Apr. 7 (in Toronto).
I predict the Raptors will go 2-2 against the Celtics this year. Let’s look at how these teams match up.
Center: Andrea Bargnani Vs. Kendrick Perkins
Center: Andrea Bargnani vs. Kendrick Perkins
While Bargnani and Perkins are two different types of players, Bargnani has the edge in the offensive department, while Perkins is vastly superior defensively.
While good defense nullify good offense, both players have a history of disappearing at critical moments either with a silly foul, or a missed defensive assignment.
Bargnani will be looking to prove his new contract was worth every penny, while Perkins will be looking to solidify is reputation as a hard nosed, rebounder and defender as his opportunity for a big pay day is fast approaching as one of the few legitimate centers in the NBA.
2008 Key Numbers
Bargnani - 15.4PPG, 45% FG, 41% 3PT
Perkins – 8.1 RPG, 2.2 Offensive RPG, 57% FG, 1.97 BLK
Power Forward: Chris Bosh Vs. Kevin Garnett
Chris Bosh vs. Kevin Garnett
Bosh and Garnett are franchise leaders and set the tone for their teams with their play. Bosh historically has never really fared well against Garnett over the years with a slew of poor showings against Garnett’s defense (9 points on 3-8 FG in 40 minutes, 15 points 5-16 FG in 38 minutes, and 18 points 6-11 FG in 45 minutes) Bosh just had not been able to rise to the occasion against the Celtics and in order for the Raptors to have a chance he has to put up his regular numbers or impact the game another way.
Garnett has been used to all the heavy lifting with his years in Minnesota, however with this Celtics team he has the support he never got their and in lieu of averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds he has changed his game to reflect more of his defensive nature.
The knee injury that he suffered last year has me concerned however by the end of the year he should be back to his dominate defensive self.
2008 Key Numbers
Bosh – 22.7 PPG, 49% FG, 10 RPG
Garnett – 53% FG, 8.5 RPG, 84% FT
Small Forward: Hedo Turkoglu Vs. Paul Pierce
Hedo Turkoglu vs. Paul Pierce
Pierce has planted himself in the discussion of All-Time Boston greats with his play and leadership through some very trying times. (Anyone care to remember the Rick Pitino years?)
Pierce has risen to the occasion during some very critical moments, additionally has been very durable and proficient averaging over 22 points per game (44% FG) and 73 games played per season for his career. Turkoglu is one of the new additions.
Turkoglu can conjure up memories of Magic Johnson with his team-oriented Point-Forward Game. Turkoglu has never been a strong shooter 42 percent FG for his career, however the court vision, and length helps to hide some of his deficiencies.
Regardless his lack of defensive conscience will be exposed by Pierce as it was during last year’s playoff series. Come to think of it the fact that the Raptors are paying $50 Million for a player who is not a scorer, not quite a rebounder, and not really a passer, what did they pay for?
2008 Key Numbers
Turkoglu – 16.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.9APG, 35% 3PT FG
Pierce – 20.5 PPG, 46% FG, 39% 3PT FG, 5.6 RPG
Shooting Guard: Antoine Wright Vs. Ray Allen
Antoine Wright vs. Ray Allen
First, let me state that placing Wright as a starter is my personal opinion and nothing more. Regarding the options (Jack, DeRozan, Douby, and Weems) he makes the most sense, but that is another article in it’s self. Wright provides great on-the-ball, and man-to-man defense and likely would help nullify Allen’s proficient shooting.
Allen reminded people of his clutch shooting during the playoffs last year hitting numerous big shots against the Bulls.
Allen still has the ability to carry a team for stretches, a trait that will be needed with Garnett’s continued recovery from knee surgery, and Pierce on the downside of a brilliant career.
Wright does not bring much to the table from an offensive standpoint; however, he has displayed a deft shooters touch in College (15.4ppg with 37% 3PT FG). So there may be untapped offensive potential that may have yet to show.
Ultimately Allen is the better player however with Wright at 6’7" he’ll have a tougher time scoring than he usually does.
2008 Key Numbers
Wright – 7.3 PPG, .71 STL, .42 BLK
Allen - 18.2 PPG, 45% FG, 40% 3PT FG, 89%FT
Point Guard: Jose Calderon Vs. Rajon Rondo
Jose Calderon vs. Rajon Rondo
While Calderon is a good point guard, he has no defensive conscience to speak of which is the distinct advantage that Rondo has over him. From an offensive standpoint Rondo can’t shoot but his speed allows him dominate both ends of the floor.
Calderon simply has the court vision that most GM’s want their floor leaders to possess which Rondo doesn’t really have (this is despite the 8.2 APG he posted last year as anyone could have couldn’t that amount playing with the Big 3 no question).
This is in addition to being one of the NBA’s surest ball-handlers and an excellent efficiency rating of 18.80 according to ESPN’s John Hollinger’s matrix. Frankly the defensive aspect is major difference between these two players.
Both Calderon and Rondo can be considered amongst the elite point guards of the East.
Key 2008 Numbers
Calderon – 8.9 APG, 1.1 STL, 50% FG, 40% 3PT FG
Rondo – 8.2 APG, 1.9 STL, 50% FG, 5.2 RPG
Bench Players & Intangibles
The Raptors bench appears to be much improved and superior to the Celtics bench however with key additions Rasheed Wallace, and Marquis Daniels the gap in talent is not that much. Much like the Raptors the Celtics bench has scoring, rebounding, three-point shooting and defense.
However, unlike the Celtics the Raptors have depth behind their backups. With the recent acquisition of Amir Johnson the Raptors clearly boast the deepest roster in franchise history.
This is not determent to the Celtics as the addition of Wallace, and the resigning of Glen Davis do not make them pushovers either. The schedule will play a small role as the Raptors have a slightly tougher schedule than the Celtics. So when Toronto travels to Boston for there Nov. 27 matcup.
The Raptors will have played their schedule against mostly (projected) over .500 teams, unlike the Celtics who have a much easier opening schedule.
In fact according to basketball-reference.com the Celtics have an incredibly easier schedule, so the idea behind that train of thought that they will be ‘fresher’.
While the prediction game is always a crapshoot I will boldly state that the Celtics will win Nov. 27 matcup, followed by the Raptors, then Celtics, then Raptors.
The Celtics boast the marquee names, however one of the best facets of basketball is that five non-descript players can beat a bunch of marquee names if they work together and execute their strengths while limiting their mistakes, the Raptors do have the personnel to beat the Celtics on a somewhat consistent basis.
Can’t wait till the season starts! What's your opinion?