Atlantic Division Showdown: Raptors Vs. 76’ers
This slide show will be a part of a series taking a look at the Raptors' division and their opponents.
Besides looking at the players, benches, and scheduling differences, the always underrated intangibles will also be analyzed.
The Toronto Raptors have certainly re-made their 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 the Raptors contending with the likes of the 76’ers, a team with a history of derailing the continued upswing of Raptors basketball.
The Philadelphia 76’ers have had a terrible off-season.
They have lost point guard Andre Miller to the Trailblazers, hired Eddie Jordan as their new coach, (without the personnel to run his Princeton-style offense) and have one of their marquee players, Elton Brand, coming off of a serious knee injury. What is really going on in Philadelphia?
The Raptors first meet the 76’ers on January 8th in Philadelphia, followed by dates on February 10th (in Toronto), March 7th (in Toronto), and April 3rd (in Philadelphia).
My Prediction: If the Raptors want to be considered an elite team they should win at least three of these games. Based on the history the Raptors have with inferior opponents they are more likely to go 2-2.
Let’s take a look at how these teams match-up.
Agree? Disagree? Are you an angry Philly Fan who believes your team is better than the Raptors?
Sound off below.
Center: Andres Bargnani vs. Samuel Dalembert
Without question Bargnani, even in his somewhat inconsistent stage, is a much better player than Dalembert. Dalembert has shown flashes of a player that can dominate, with a 15 point 23 rebound showing against the Warriors in March and an 18 point 20 rebound performance against Indiana in February.
After looking at Dalembert's game logs from last year it would appear that he gives you at least one monster game per month and he appears to have great games against the Raptors.
Dalembert averaged a double-double playing Toronto last year with 12 points and 11 rebounds a game. These are not normally earth-shattering numbers but against the Raptors late last year Dalembert posted numbers of 19 points and 13 rebounds in a March match up, and 18 points and 12 rebounds in April.
These numbers are indicative of a weak Toronto front court, along with an inability to keep up with a player not known for any offensive game whatsoever.
This will hopefully be nullified by the presence of Bargnani attempting to become the best center this franchise has ever had. While Dalembert has the ability to keep up with Bargnani to a certain extent, he lacks the consistency to do so.
Bargnani is superior in every offensive category, and is gaining ground defensively. They are different players but Bargnani actually appears to want to get better, whereas Dalembert has regressed dramatically since signing that over priced contract.
2008 Key Numbers
Bargnani—15.4 PPG, 45% FG, 41% 3PT
Dalembert – 50% FG, 2.6 Offensive Rebounds per Game, 8.5 RPG
Power Forward: Chris Bosh vs. Elton Brand
Even without looking at Brand’s current injury situation Bosh still has the advantage.
Bosh’s length and ability to shoot with consistency from the outside have often given Brand trouble. Elton is no slouch, averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game against the Raptors but at 30 years of age and coming off two knee surgeries, I believe he is on the downside of his career.
This coupled with the running style of offense that new coach Eddie Jordan will install this year does not bode well for Brand’s future.
Bosh’s numbers against the 76’ers are very good with 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. The 76’ers do not have a lot of length, which plays to Bosh’s strengths, as long armed defenders like Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, and Kevin Garnett bother him greatly and are able to defend him due to possessing similar skill sets.
The only player on the 76’ers roster that likely would give Bosh some trouble in the future would be Thaddeus Young who is shorter than Bosh but possesses the length to bother him on the defensive end.
2008 Key Numbers
Bosh—22.7 PPG, 49% FG, 10 RPG
Brand—13.8 PPG, 45%FG, 8.8 RPG
Small Forward: Hedo Turkoglu vs. Andre Iguodala
I am sure this choice may open up some controversy.
I think that these two players play completely different styles and what they do similar (shoot poorly and rebound at substandard levels for their positions) they do pretty much the same, hence the tie.
Turkoglu will be looking to justify the contract the Raptors gave him. However Turkoglu’s role with the team is not to be a secondary scorer. Essentially Turk is expected to run the offense as a point-forward and assist Calderon in facilitating ball-movement and with the fast break offense of the Raptors.
As I’ve previously stated, Turkoglu is not known for his shooting in any aspect, thought his numbers against Philadelphia are very good as he averages 38 minutes, 45% FG, 46% 3PT, 18 points, six rebounds, and six assists per game.
This bodes well considering that the Raptors have a stronger overall team than the youthful 76’ers. Iguodala is a known high-flyer and showman. His game is based off of his other-worldly athleticism and evidenced by his numbers against Toronto, 40 mpg, 40% FG, 31% 3PT, 17 ppg, eight apg, six rpg.
I personally feel that despite his numbers, if he could reach league normal levels with his FG%, his dominance would be even more apparent. Iguodala believes he is, and is paid as, a franchise player; however his overall numbers are more in line with a 3rd-tier scorer, or sixth man in the NBA, in my opinion.
Each player will have aspects that they will specialize in and I feel that Turkoglu is the superior player with more success, experience, and is more integral to his teams success than Iguodala.
2008 Key Numbers
Turkoglu—16.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.9 APG, 35% 3PT FG
Iguodala—18.8 PPG, 5.3 APG, 5.7 RPG 30% 3PT FG
Shooting Guard: Marco Belinelli vs. Willie Green
Firstly let me state that for Drew Shears, who will likely comment on this slideshow, this would be the basis of his argument that neither the Raptors nor 76’ers have a chance to make the playoffs this year.
This particular match-up. I cannot recall a playoff team in recent memory that has had an extremely weak, or untested player at the SG position.
I am high on Belinelli as he is still a very young player with potential. He is, however, unproven and his small sample size is not enough to figure out what we can expect of him on a yearly basis.
Willie Green has been in the league for some time, and despite the six years he’s been kicking around, I cannot quite understand what, if anything, Willie Green does?
With unimpressive numbers (43% FG, 31% 3PT, two apg, and two rpg) last year was in line with his career numbers. While Green is apparently a great defender, even a leading defensive player like Bruce Bowen, turned himself into at least a complimentary offensive player over time. Green does not show any of that potential at this point.
Belinelli shoots very well, which is his main strength, and his all around game is something that will have to be observed in the coming year. Based on the small sample numbers so far however, he should still be better than what Green could ever offer.
Key 2008 Numbers
Belinelli—44% FG, 40% 3PT, 8.9 PPG
Green—43% FG, 31% 3PT, 8.5 PPG
Point Guard: Jose Calderon vs. Louis Williams
In one of the more one-sided matchups between these two teams, Calderon is an actual point guard whereas Lou Williams is a scoring point (and not a very good one at that).
With the departure of Andre Miller to Portland, the current status of the Philadelphia point guard position has never been in such dire straits.
For some reason the franchise is calling Williams a shooter, or at least someone who can run the team. I disagree with that assessment as his 39% FG, 29% 3PT, and five assists per 40 minutes are less than satisfactory and not indicative of someone who is capable of running an NBA offense. Some minor consolation is that he is at the 80% FT mark. Calderon on the other hand is the ideal point guard...except he has an inability to stop a door from closing.
Defense is not why Calderon is a 40 million dollar man; his exceptional shooting percentages (49%FG & 40% 3PT) and the ability to take care of the ball are great ones.
Bench Players and Intangibles
Without question the Raptors bench players are superior in overall talent and depth led by Jarrett Jack. The 76’ers counter with Thaddeus Young and Marreese Speights two very young players that eventually will become the leaders of this team at their respective positions. Jason Smith of the 76’ers provides toughness and rebounding and there is some hope for his offensive game.
I am a huge Jrue Holiday fan though I strongly believe he should have stayed in school for at least two years and let his game develop. Judging where he dropped to in the draft, at least some NBA scouts agree with me.
The Raptors boast an overall depth not seen in Canada for sometime. Some would state this is the deepest Raptor team of all time. The Raptors possess the necessary players required to make a playoff run. Toughness and rebounding (Reggie Evans and Amir Johnson), secondary scoring from the bench (Jarrett Jack and possibly Quincy Douby), and youth/athleticism (DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems).
Again, as I’ve already stated, the Toronto Raptors will likely have to sweep the season series, or win 3 of 4 in order to be taken seriously and to win games that will affect the seedings come playoff time.