It’s early days of the 2014-15 NBA season, the Toronto Raptors are sitting at the top of the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, and we’re excited for basketball.
So to help me kick off the new season, here’s Allegra to answer some of my hardest hitting, and most random questions pertaining to the new season on the hardwood.
1. I teased you that I was going to put this question in here, so why not start with it… Rank your top 5 Spanish players in the NBA.
Allegra: I still think this is an unfair question and it hurts my heart to have to even think about it. I guess I measure this by how devastated I am when they get injured (they are so delicate, Josh!)
1) Jose Calderon (forever a Raptor in my heart at least) – I road-tripped to Montreal to see him play in the preseason as a Knick and he injured himself earlier that week.
2) Pau Gasol (whom I can now OPENLY cheer because he’s no longer a Laker) – He is basically a perfect enormous man. Between advocating education for young girls in refugee camps, his Sesame Street stint, and his interest in pursuing medicine after he retires? I’ve been looking past the purple and gold for years.
3) Ricky Rubio (the Spanish Zach Efron) – He followed me on Twitter for three seconds by accident. As if I didn’t already love him enough! I got super upset when I heard he’s out for two months after the Wolves game in Orlando. Hopefully this means the return of his #staypositive recovery videos and tweets!
4) Victor Claver – I’ve never been especially excited by Portland as a team but their bench has this dude! He doesn’t get many minutes anymore (though he started for them a few seasons back while Batum was injured). He’s always seemed innocuous to me, even in his dunks and missed threes.
5) A sack of wheat dressed in Team Spain’s Eurobasket uniform – Because I have a completely irrational dislike of Marc Gasol and didn’t want to include him. Eff that dude. I don’t even care how many tea parties he has with terminally ill children.
Josh: I have nothing to add here. Always liked Jose, have a soft spot for Ricky… and I would rank the Gasols in the same order Allegra did.
2. On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are the Toronto Raptors to repeat as Atlantic Division Champs… and why?
A: I think there’s a really strong possibility! Not only are the Raps the best they’ve ever been (and they have a VERY impressive record so far and they seem to only be getting more cohesive) but also the competition isn’t especially fierce. Let’s disregard Philly and the Knicks entirely (sorry Jose! This isn’t your fault!) and focus on Brooklyn (boo!) and Boston (meh). Brooklyn tried to buy a championship team last season by signing big names to expensive short-term contracts and it bombed when they had to face Miami in the second round. Now they’ve got the bare-bones team (Joe Johnson and Deron Williams being the only players they have who can shoot outside the paint) that MAY make the finals again but in a lower tier… again. Boston? Welp. They’re SOMEONE’s problem, but not ours.
J: I’m all in on a division repeat this season! I don’t think that any of the teams in the division have a chance to win on a consistent basis like Toronto can. And I don’t think that any of them have to depth to match the Raptors either.
Bring on another banner!
3. Last season I asked who you thought the Raptors MVP would be at the end of the season – let’s ask the same question for this year!
A: Lowry or DeRozan are the obvious answers. DeMar is about five minutes or play away from smashing Bargnani’s record for most franchise points scored; he is SO CONSISTENTLY SOLID and Lowry is just gonna turn into a triple-double machine now that he’s broken through that barrier.
J: Can’t go wrong with either of those choices – and I don’t think there’s anyone else to pick. This team will go as far as DeMar and Kyle takes it, 1 of them will be team MVP.
4. And what about the entire NBA, who’s going to be MVP?
A: DeMar or Kyle, of course!
J: Haha. I’m going to be a little more practical here. With KD hurt it looks like the MVP is LeBron’s to lose. It’s going to take something really special from someone else to come in and swipe it. But if anyone is going to do it, I hope it’s DeMar!
5. Hot or Not: The Raptors 20th anniversary jerseys?
A: SO HOT. Everybody in the world looks good in dark purple. I love the cheesiness of the older logo. I love watching the team play in them looking so proud to be a part of it.
J: 100% agree! I know there was a time when we all hated on the purple and the silly dinosaur logo, but now that’s it’s back and we can look back on the early days of the franchise I’m happy to see it.
6. Sad question time… scale of 1 to 10, how much does it suck for Steve Nash’s career to (potentially) end with his current back injury?
A: 6, but only because he can retire with dignity, albeit as a Laker. I understand a stubborn love of one’s career, I really do… but it’s been a long time since Nash’s body has been more than a broken clump of knotted rope.
J: For me it’s more of a 9. Nash is a two-time MVP and one of the greatest non-hockey professional athlete’s that Canada has ever produced. I’m sad to see him go out like this… maybe he should have hung up his sneakers instead of signing in LA.
7. Be honest: Is Kobe still a top 10 player in the league?
A: Blehh. Maybe top 10 in the west. It’s hard for him to shine while playing on the sloppiest, tanking-est team in the league right now.
J: The Lakers are so bad that Kobe has a chance to put up top 10 numbers this season… but they’ll be artificial because who else is supposed to score in bunches every night for that awful team?
8. The West is Best – we all know it, so who do you think is going to win the Western Conference?
A: With OKC essentially sidelined with injuries and the Spurs showing their age a little, it’s anybody’s title. Most of the teams to have a postseason last year look really good. Will it be the Clippers? They do better every year and the unfortunate ownership issues have been resolved. Houston is on FIRE so far and even Memphis went undefeated for an unreasonably long time. It’s silly to judge this kind of thing from the standings so early, but they’re all playing with a cohesiveness that goes beyond individually talented players.
J: With the Thunder struggling and the Spurs aging (and committed to resting players during the season) I’m going to have to say the Clippers on this one. At least in the regular season. Memphis is intriguing, but I don’t know if they have the stamina to be the best over 82 games, same with Golden State.
9. And who is going to be worst team in the league at the end of the season?
A: Oh, I am giving this to LOLAL. I am a notorious Lakers hater, and their downward spiral is bringing me serious schadenfreude. The 76ers are going to give them a run for their money, though. And while they’ll never be the bottom team, Indiana’s fall has been like a train derailment! Who would have thought that Paul George was THAT important?!
J: My vote goes to Philly. They want to be bad. They don’t care. The Lakers are going to lose a lot of games too… but Kobe will win some on his own if he’s able to drag the team with him.
10. You don’t drink coffee, but I do – and I want to know which NBA head coach you would want us to sit down with for a hot beverage and basketball talk.
A: We have the most emotional investment in talking to Dwane Casey, of course, and he seems like he’d be an excellent conversationalist. I’d buy Jason Kidd a coffee just to spit in it.
J: Coach Casey would be my #1 pick purely for homer reasons… I’d love to talk to him about the team and what he would like to see them accomplish. My 2nd choice would be Gregg Popovich. Pop seems like he has a ton of personality to let loose in the right setting, and I’d love to see it firsthand.
11. Last question: What are your expectations for this 2014-15 Toronto Raptors team?
A: I want better defence than in previous seasons, and I think they’ve really been working on that. I want us to use our assets a little better. I want to see our rookies clock more minutes. I want Terence Ross to get his confidence back. I don’t think I’ll be at all disappointed. I think that we’ll be smarter about fouling. You can see how badly they want these wins. It’s beautiful. I’d be shocked if we didn’t make it to the second round of the postseason at least.
J: I’m looking for consistency from this team. The defensive effort needs to be there every night – and the team can’t rely on a big 2nd half to win games every night. If they can do that and players like Terrence Ross and Jonas can grow while DeMar, Kyle & Amir do their thing and the bench chips in, these Raptors could be a round 2 playoff team.
There you have it. NBA predictions from Allegra and I.
If you’ve got different answers, or you like ours so much that you feel a need to tell us – do it in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.
Enjoy the season.