One of the weaknesses of the tanking defense, and one that I'm guilty of quite frequently, is the oversimplification that you need a star to be competitive, and those stars are most easily acquired through top draft picks. That it's impossible, essentially, to build a winner piece by piece, as is common in most other American sports.
This is, of course, not true, because Masai Ujiri is a witch. It was Ujiri who quietly assembled last year's Denver Nuggets, the NBA's most egalitarian title contender of the past decade, and in a year in charge of the Toronto Raptors, Ujiri has transformed one of basketball's afterthoughts into a Canadian Houston Rockets. Or a living test case on how terrible it is to have Rudy Gay on your team.
Right now, Toronto sits atop the Atlantic Division, third in the Eastern Conference, which probably doesn't make them title contenders right now, because the Eastern Conference is set up like the income distribution in a Third World dictatorship. Nevertheless, Toronto has gone from where the Sixers were--mired in 30-win-ness with apathetic ownership and shortsighted management threatening to keep them there forever, and has made a positive move toward contention.
The bad news for Sixers fans is that local favorite Kyle Lowry's status for tonight's game is uncertain, thanks to a bruised kneecap. Beyond that...I mean, the Raptors only beat Milwaukee by four points and the Sixers beat Boston on Friday and played the Nets tough on Saturday, but this isn't going to be close. We're pretty much playing out the string and making Jurassic Park jokes here.
The good news, however, is that the Sixers' high tempo and abject inability to play defense should lead to plenty of fast breaks for Toronto, and if substitute point guard Greivis Vasquez (who's everywhere, by the way. He plays for, like, five teams at once) is at all interested in pushing the tempo, Raptors wings DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross are both dunk contest veterans and could put on a show.
Also of interest is 6-foot-11 center Jonas Valanciunas. My love for lanky Eastern Europeans is well-documented, and Lithuania is actually one of the world's leading exporters of skilled NBA centers--how you doin', Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Arvydas Sabonis--and a basketball powerhouse in general, which is good news, because any reason to say Sarunas Jasikevicius is a good reason.
But more germane to Valanciunas is this video, which I discovered on the internet, but whose existence I cannot satisfactorily explain:
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