Sitting comfortably at the top of the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors are 21-5 and coming off of a statement win over Joel Embiid’s Philadelphia 76ers. The Raptors are 3.5 games ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks and thus have a very comfortable lead in the Eastern Conference should they hit a snag along the way.
So far this season, the Toronto Raptors have taken advantage of two nationally broadcast games. The Raptors have beaten both the Golden State Warriors on TNT and the Philadephia 76ers on ESPN. It’s said that Raptors fans have an inferiority complex within western media. Don’t look now, but Americans may finally be getting an idea of how dangerous the threat from the North truly is.
The Brooklyn Nets are currently ranked twelfth (12th) in the Eastern Conference and don’t look primed to compete for a playoff spot at any time soon. The Nets are obviously a rebuilding team. Despite an 8-game losing streak, strong performances from the likes of D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Allen Crabbe has some thinking the Nets may be on the right track.
The Brooklyn Nets have a very interesting young core. With D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jarrett Allen the Nets boast youthful and dynamic talent in the frontcourt and backcourt. While their depth is lacking, don’t be surprised if the young Nets can make a game of it against the dominant Toronto Raptors.
What’s at Stake?
The Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets are two of the younger franchises in the NBA. These two teams have met a total of 89 times in the regular season (including matches where Brooklyn was known as the New Jersey Nets) and the Toronto Raptors lead the all-time series 50-39.
Should the Brooklyn Nets win this match it would take them above their state counterparts the New York Knicks. It would be double the victory considering the Raptors rank in the NBA and it would show the true promise of the Brooklyn Nets.
If the Toronto Raptors win this match they would go 4.5 games ahead of second place in the East. Their depth of talent should be too much for the Nets to handle. Look for the Raptors to go all the way to the end of the bench to spell their stars.
Questions to Answer
Will the Toronto Raptors give some of their stars a break?
Do the Nets have outlets for their passing?
Is the Nets tank already on?
We’re going to compare the Nets and the Raptors in an attempt to answer those questions.
The Brooklyn Nets are 21st in AST%
Kenny Atkinson has been tasked with an incredibly difficult job with the Brooklyn Nets. In Sean Marks’ bid to accumulate assets, the roster has seen significant turnover in the two years Atkinson has been in charge.
That lack of familiarity may be a huge contributor to the Nets’ poor assist ratio. D’Angelo Russell leads the team with 5.7 APG followed by Spencer Dinwiddie who averages 4.8 APG. It’s clear that the guards run the team and while six players average at least one assist per game outside of that, the Nets are lacking the options inside and outside to take advantage of Atkinson’s movement based offence.
Kawhi Leonard has Averaged 36+ Minutes in the Last Six Matches
Leonard is no stranger to playing significant minutes, but coming off a season in which he played only nine games it has been his toughest stretch to date. Leonard has played well, of the last six matches he has lead the team in scoring in five of them and of those six five have also been wins.
Against the Brooklyn Nets the Toronto Raptors should be well in control. If the Raptors want to sustain against some runs from teams gunning for their number one spot, wins against lower-tier teams will help tip the scales in their favour. While no win is assured in the NBA, the Toronto Raptors are likely to lean on their bench talent in order to rest their stars.
Toronto Raptors Roster Notes
The Toronto Raptors’ G Malachi Richardson was sidelined with a toe injury on December 5th. He is currently listed as day-to-day and will be a game-time decision.
The Toronto Raptors’ G-F Norman Powell was sidelined with a shoulder injury on November 5th. He is currently listed as day-today and will be evaluated further.
Brooklyn Nets Roster Notes
G Caris LeVert is sidelined with a foot injury sustained on November 11th. The Nets are targeting February as a return date for LeVert.
G-F Treveon Graham has been sidelined with a hamstring injury since October 19th. He is out indefinitely.
Pascal Siakam is a Playmaker
Siakam has been an absolute revelation for the Toronto Raptors. It’s a wonder that the San Antonio Spurs didn’t take more than Jakob Poeltl in addition to Demar Derozan in the Leonard trade. Siakam’s current season is showing why the Raptors were hesitant to let him go.
While he’s nearly doubled his scoring output from his previous season, Pascal Siakam has proven himself to be dangerous as a distributor. Only averaging 2.7 assists on the season, in the last three matches Siakam has logged 6, 7, and 5 assists in each. Siakam is a threat on the break and a talented big-to-big passer that the Nets will have to contain.
Joe Harris is Shooting the Lights Out
In 23 games this season Joe Harris is averaging a career high in points, rebounds, three-point percentage, and three-point attempts. He’s also posted double-digit scoring numbers in fifteen games so far this season.
With Harris’ increased minutes he has become increasingly productive. Not a talented playmaker on his own, with the talents of Russell and Dinwiddie in the backcourt he has benefitted as their first option from beyond the arc. The Raptors struggle to contain strong shooters coming of screens so look for Harris to take advantage of the Raptors smaller guards.
Head-to-Head: Jonas Valanciunas vs Jarrett Allen
In 19.2 minutes per game, Jonas Valanciunas has tied his career-high points average of 12.8. Comparatively Valanciunas averaged 26 minutes per game the last time he met the 12.8 PPG mark. Valanciunas is being more productive and, now coming off the bench, is taking advantage of teams weaker bench units on the inside.
Jarrett Allen has been very promising for the young Nets team. Averaging 12.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, Allen has proved himself to be the Nets primary center of the future. He’s mobile, smart, and probably has the best afro in the NBA.
In this matchup we see a classic low-post star in Valanciunas facing off against a modern defensive center in Jarrett Allen. If Valanciunas can get into Allen’s body, the strong Lithuanian may have his way with the youngster. However given Allen’s tremendous length and awareness, Allen may give the Raptors problems inside as both the primary and the help defender.
Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets Predictions and Odds
The odds makers have the Toronto Raptors favoured over the Brooklyn Nets by 8.5, with an over/under of 110.