Armstrong: Thoughts on the Deng trade, Raptors and more

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Jack Armstrong
1/8/2014 1:09:57 PM
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FIVE QUICK NBA THOUGHTS

1. TORONTO RAPTORS: They lose on the road by five to Miami and by seven at Indiana. It just has a different feel to it. Even though they lost, I'm impressed with their improvement and the way they're playing right now. Good role definition and team play are evident. Have they arrived? No, far from it, but they are headed in the proper direction. It's a lot more difficult to play when folks have expectations for you and how you handle them on a daily basis. If they can become consistent in their production then they'll be fine. Greivis Vasquez has to start playing a lot better and with consistency off the bench for them. He's the guy that can make a difference for them with the second unit if he can pick it up a few notches.

2. ROY HIBBERT (Pacers): We talk so much about his defence, shot blocking and rebounding that at times we lose sight of how much he's improved. He's always been a nifty passer back to his days at Georgetown but the thing that's really impressed me has been his steady growth as a post player. His footwork is exceptional and he can score with either hand in the lane and is fluid with his skills. He gets great position in the lane and his confidence as an offensive player is at an all-time high.

3. LUOL DENG TRADE: I like this trade for the Bulls. They're not going anywhere with the loss of Derrick Rose and had to move on from this group. Deng was a terrific player for them yet was going to cost too much for them in the free-agent sweepstakes. They save close to $20 million with this transaction and it was time to move on and begin the process of a new look in Chicago. This is the business side of sports that isn't pleasant when you see a wonderful guy who was a very good player get moved for economics yet in this cold-hearted business, it was the right thing to do long term for them.

4. KEVIN DURANT (Thunder): I know his team lost on Tuesday night to the Jazz and that isn't a pleasant thing but how can you not be impressed with the fact that he drops 48 points in the game? It's been challenging for him and his team without Russell Westbrook yet we get to see just how special Durant is when he has to do even more. He's truly the second-best player in the game today and his offensive skill set is off the charts. Truly a joy to watch. Great competitor and a winner.

5. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: They're on a roll with 10 wins in a row and I'm thrilled for their loyal/rabid fan base. If I could put a finger on it the one guy who makes such a huge difference on their team is Andre Iguodala. He gives them a perimeter defensive stopper, he's an unselfish player who gladly gives the ball up to teammates and has wonderful versatility in his game. He plays the game the right way and has really allowed the other aspects of this roster to settle into their roles. Coach Mark Jackson has a guy that he can trust to do all the little things that win games for you and do it at a high level. I guess the word 'Glue Guy' comes to mind when I watch their team. Any way you want to say it - he's made a huge difference in their team.

Luol Deng (Photo: Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
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