Sometimes I Don’t Like Being Right

Posted on November 10, 2009 | 10 Comments

If you’re missing you’re two top scorers, and you still have Manu Ginobili and Richard Jefferson on the floor, it’s probably an indication that you’re a pretty good team. For a team built on defense, they sure have some impressive offensive firepower. And it’s why they’ll end up probably playing the best basketball of anyone, come March and April, and `suddenly’ become favourites to get to the Finals.

I predicted Ginobili would have a breakout game, and he did. It wasn’t hard to predict. He’d been playing poorly so far, but the guy is simply too good to keep playing that way, and with Parker out, he would have to do a lot more ball handling and scoring. How better than to get back in rhythm than to be given the ball. I hope Belinelli was watching closely, because Ginobili is who he should pattern his game after.  As I previously said, they have a lot of similarities in their games.

Jefferson had his best game as a Spur, and showed why he was probably the best offseason acquisition (they traded Bruce Bowen, Fabricio Oberto and Kurt Thomas for this guy??), but it was Ginobili that killed the Raptors. There was no one that either could, or seemed to want to, guard him on the Raptors.

Even Matt Bonner broke out of his shooting slump against his old team, killing them with his three point shooting, and showing again why Bargnani can never, ever defend shooters like himself and why he can never, ever play small forward again.

Speaking of Bargnani, he didn’t play horribly, but he was as non-existent as a guy who scores 17 points can be. After two good rebounding games in a row, Bargnani reverted to being pushed around in the paint and grabbed only 4 tonight. Unacceptable, especially against a good rebounding team, like the Spurs.

Bosh was Bosh, scoring 32 and 10, but he was certainly as guilty as everyone else on the defensive end.

Calderon now sees to have settled into his groove on the offensive end, while on the defensive end, he still has some work to do, as do the rest of his teammates. George Hill scored one off his career high by driving relentlessly to the hoop, which was as much a team defensive breakdown as the fault of Calderon.

I know that Raptors fans are going to be griping about this loss, and that defense most definitely has to be improved, but the one thing the Raptors have shown in this short season, is that they can score. They have played some very good defensive teams and have never scored less than 101 points. They are currently scoring more than 10 ppg more than last season, when they often struggled to find the hoop. Of course, there’s the other side of the court.

The Raptors are currently undefeated when keeping an opponent under 100 points. The problem is that they’ve only done it three times. You can look at it one of two ways. One is that when the Raptors play defense, they win. The other way to look at it is that when they play an opponent that doesn’t score much, they have a better chance of winning because they won’t HAVE to play much defense. The three teams the Raptors have won against are in the bottom ten in scoring in the league. Cleveland, New Orleans and Detroit all average less than 98 ppg. The good news is that Chicago, their next opponent, hasn’t even cracked 100 points yet, this season, and is 3rd last in points per game. The bad news is that the next four opponents (Clippers, Phoenix, Denver and Utah) all average over 100 points per game.

Still, if the Raptors beat Chicago, Indiana, Charlotte and Washington, who all average less than 98 ppg and who, except for Charlotte, the Raptors all play at home, then they will end up with a 7-13 record. No, that’s not going to get them into the playoffs, but a 7-13 record is exactly what they started with 3 years ago when they ended up winning 47 games. Both this team and that team were completely overhauled and needed time to gell. A reason to be optimistic, if nothing else.

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  • Sam

    I’ve been lurking on your blog as Raptors Republic gets overrun. Would a trade improve the Raptors’ obvious and glaring defensive problems? Unlike last year they’ve got some offensive assets that might be convertible into a perimeter defender. The question is who?

    Keep up the interesting work

  • Matt

    Do you think Reggie Evans will make much of an impact when he returns? Hopefully, at least his intensity will rub off on the other guys on the defensive end.

  • http://www.wearingfilm.com Tim W.

    Sam,

    Thanks for reading. I think a trade would definitely improve the Raptors, but is that something you really want to do right now, when the season is so new?

    I would give the team at least a month to figure itself out, and if there’s still a big problem, then you might want to explore a trade.

    The problem is who. Some might say the obvious choice is Calderon because of his defense, but that doesn’t improve the rebounding or interior defense, which are probably the biggest problems. Yes, the perimeter defense isn’t good, but much of that is due to players sagging off to either not get beat (knowing that they can get to the hoop if they’re beaten) or help on the inside because the interior defense is so poor.

    Trading Bosh would be pointless because you’re not going to get as good a player in return and I couldn’t imagine the Raptors without his consistent scoring.

    Trading Turkoglu is a possibility, but he’s got a pretty big contract for a 30 year old and what type of message does that send to free agents? He’s the Raptors biggest free agent signing and he’s traded a few months later?

    Bargnani would be my choice, but because he signed an extension, it’s pretty much impossible to trade him until this summer.

    The other problem with a trade is that it means more adjustment for the team. And I think what this team needs the most is consistency, not more change.

    I think this is probably the team that will finish the season, good or bad. If the team is floundering badly at the trade deadline, then I can see a trade of Bosh, teams aren’t going to be giving up much for a player that might end up leaving in a few months.

    Matt,

    I think Evans will help, most definitely, but how many minutes is he going to play? His effort and intensity might give them a boost. And, as I said before, a lot of the problems on the perimeter have to do with poor interior defense.

  • Sam

    My pet trade would be Calderon (& Amir, I guess) for Baron Davis (& a 2nd round pick) – a capable defender when he’s motivated. Would he be motivated to play in Toronto? I don’t know. He’d also be a better fit as an uptempo PG than Jose. I wouldn’t make that deal now but if, after 15 games or so, the Raptors aren’t making strides defensively, then pull the trigger if you can. If they have any hope of advancing in the playoffs, surely they have to get near the middle of the pack in defensive efficiency.

  • http://khandorssportsblog.com/wordpress khandor

    IMO …

    1. The collection of players and coaches on this year’s Raptors team is NOT similar to the group from the 2006-2007 season and is unlikely to develop in a similar way as the season progresses.

    2. Although Reggie Evans is a good rebounder and a high energy player he is NOT a good defender.

    3. The correct trade for the Raptors to have made would have been this past summer and would have involved Andrea Bargnani … prior to giving him that contract extension.

    At this point, this season, with the roster as is … the improvements will only be minor and primarily will come from within.

    The only current Raptor who is a solid all-around player is Chris Bosh.

    As I’ve said for a long time now, those who thought that there was a substantial upgrade in overall talent on this year’s squad were simply sold a bill of goods.

    4. The Clippers would NOT be willing to trade Baron Davis for Jose Calderon.

  • Leon

    Hey Tim great entry. I love how you broke down there are two ways you can look at when we win against teams that dont score much. Pretty spot on. I think the refs pretty much gave that win to San Antonio although the raptors poor defense was inexcusable most of the night. I am nowhere near as pessimistic as so many fair weather raptor fans are. I still believe this team can be great. Just a few more games just a little more experience and we’ll get on a roll.

  • Ragu

    @ khandor:

    Although I agree with you on most things, I still stubbornly believe that this team can still work well once they get more comfortable playing together.

    I still think that we may be a 2nd tier team in the East.

    Will it be as good or better than the 06-07 roster? Maybe not, as I still think we don’t have an x-factor kind of guy that can fire up and command the team ala A.D. and/or Oak.

    As good as CB4 is, I don’t know if he is at that point yet (or will ever be).

    As you know, I have never been a Bargs fan, but if he continues to steadily improve, his contract might be a steal.

  • http://khandorssportsblog.com/wordpress khandor

    Ragu,

    Offensively, Bargnani has always been an effective role player.

    In terms of Defense and Rebounding, however, whatever team he plays for is going to struggle to reach elite status, as long as he is getting major minutes.

    Fortunately for a player like him, the vast majority of people who watch the NBA are concerned with what a player does on offense, first and foremost.

    Unfortunately for the Raptors, the best opponents’ coaches in the NBA know exactly how to take advantage of his many short-comings in the other two areas of the game.

    Those who seek out high scoring entertaining games don’t really care if the team ever has a legit shot at winning a league championship in their lifetime.

  • http://www.wearingfilm.com Tim W.

    Sam,

    No way I trade Calderon for Davis. Have you seen him play lately? He was awful last year and isn’t looking any better this year. He’s a career .409 shooter and is turning 31 this year. And his defense might be worse than Calderon’s. No way.

    khandor,

    I think this years talent IS an upgrade over last season. Easily. The problem is that they have holes that last years team (after the Marion deal) didn’t. I think most people would have preferred Marion, but he didn’t want to re-sign.

    Leon,

    Thanks. I don’t know if this team can be great (not without upgrades), but I do think this team can be very good.

    I think this team may not be as good as the 06-07 team, but they have more room for growth than that team. That was my only quibble about that team. That team was about as good as it was going to get. With this team, there’s more youth and more potential.

  • http://khandorssportsblog.com/wordpress khandor

    Tim,

    Is the talent level really that much better on this year’s team, compared to last season?

    Yes, it is … but, perhaps, not as much as you’ve been led to believe by the Raptors’ brass, when considering all 3 main phases of the game, i.e. Offense, Defense and Rebounding, as opposed to Offense only.

    Time will tell if this collection of players and coaches is little more than a middle of the pack team in the improved Eastern Conference, or something more than that.

    I suspect, however, that the team is still perilously close to being in Treadmill Mode, despite the almost total roster overhaul which took place this past summer.

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