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Posted on December 2, 2009 | 8 Comments
In the first part, I looked at (mostly) what could be done internally to help the Raptors. I came to conclusion that lineup and coaching changes don’t really fix was is fundamentally wrong with the Raptors and wouldn’t really have much of an effect, at least positively. Today, I looked at trades.
He’s obviously been a weak link defensively, and on a team that is as bad defensively as the Raptors are, he’s an obvious target. If Calderon were on a better defensive team, his defensive deficiencies wouldn’t be such a problem but on the Raptors, he’s fully exposed. Teams can, and have, won with PG’s are are average, at best, defensively. Calderon can be a very good offensive player, and is a better PG than many Raptor fans seem to understand, but when opposing PG’s keep circling dates against the Raptors because they know they’ll play well, it’s a problem.
Unfortunately, there’s a difference between wanting to trade a player and being able to. Scott Carefoot, over at Raptorsblog, recently ran a contest of sorts. He, himself, couldn’t figure out a half decent trade involving Calderon, so he enlisted his readers. The best they apparently came up with was a very mediocre deal involving Detroit that I don’t think improves the Raptors much, if at all. I’m not willing to trade Calderon away for spare parts when improving the defense of the team around him would help more.
With the season going down the toilet, the chance of re-signing Bosh seems to be getting slimmer and slimmer. Well, I might agree if it were later in the season, but since we’re barely into December, I’m not willing to lower the lifeboats just yet on the season. If the Raptors are still playing this way come February, then we can discuss trading Bosh.
While teams can, and have, won with mediocre to below average defenders at PG, they rarely win with poor defenders in the middle, especially if the other front court player isn’t a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Boston has Garnett (and Perkins and Wallace), Orlando has Howard, Atlanta has Josh Smith, the Laker have Gasol and Bynum and Denver has Nene and Martin. While Bosh isn’t an elite defender, he’s been better this year, but it’s his scoring and rebounding that make him so invaluable. If he’s not a stopper, he’s at least keeping opposing teams off the boards because he’s grabbing them himself. The same cannot be said of Bargnani.
Going into the season, Bargnani was thought by many to be the strongest link defensively. He seemed to play pretty well last season, at least guarding his man, and was the team’s leading shot blocker. Well, watching him play this season, I have to say that of all the offenders on the defensive end, Bargnani may very well be the worst. While Calderon doesn’t have the footspeed to stay with quicker guards, he seems to put in effort, at the very least. Bargnani, for much of the time, seems completely disinterested in playing defense at all. His rotations are beyond horrible and he doesn’t seem to understand the simple principle of boxing his own man out (this after spending the summer with Moses Malone). In the game against Boston, Triano ended up benching Bargnani for much of the fourth quarter because he was so ineffective and probably should have done the same against Phoenix.
To me, the player most in need of being traded, and the player that will have the most positive effect on the team by being traded, is Bargnani. A blasphemous thought to many Raptor fans, it’s becoming more and more apparent that he’s not the player many hoped he would be and is an ill fit on a team so lacking on defense. It’s not that I don’t think he can be successful. I think he could prosper on a team like Chicago or Houston, that is already strong defensively, especially in the front court. On the Raptors, however, his lack of rebounding and defense consistently hurt the team.
So, as I stated with Calderon, there’s a difference between wanting to trade a player and actually finding a deal. Well, thanks to RealGM Trade Checker and ESPN’s Trade Machine, I’ve found a few possibilities. Now, I have no idea whether the other team would pull the trigger, but I think they’re good deals for both teams.
As I stated, I think Bargnani could fit in well in Chicago, because they are a good defensive and rebounding team, and would be able to mask his weaknesses well. They are, however, a horrible offensive team, especially from beyond the arc, and could desperately use Bargnani’s shooting. He’d be a favourite target on kickouts from Rose.
Luol Deng, despite being several inches shorter, is a better rebounder than Bargnani and a solid defender. He is a very good scorer, but not a great outside shooter. His rebounding would allow Turkoglu to move to PF and not have the rebounding suffer. While it wouldn’t give the Raptors a great defensive big man, it shores up the wing defense and the Raptors don’t lose any scoring.
The big problem with this trade is that Deng has been scoring in the 20′s lately, and Chicago would probably not be all that anxious to deal him right now. The only thing working in the Raptors favour is the Bulls record, which is not very good, so far.
DEAL # 2
Kelenna Azubuike or Brandan Wright
If anyone can use Bargnani, it’s Don Nelson. Nelson LOVES players like Bargnani and I’m guessing would go for this trade. Taking on Banks and his contract might be a bit of an issue, but there’s not really any other way to make this trade work.
While the Raptors would miss Bargnani’s scoring and ability to spread the floor with his outside shooting, Biedrins, who’s been underused under Don Nelson, is a very good rebounder and shotblocker who would bring a lot more energy to the center position. He takes high percentage shots and runs the court very well. He’s certainly not as talented offensively as Bargnani, but he knows how to play the other end of the court a lot better. He’s kind of like a Latvian version of Amir Johnson, but a little bigger.
If the Raptors could get Azubuike in the deal, it would go a long way to shoring up the wing position and would probably play the bulk of his minutes behind Turkoglu. Brandan Wright is injured and would be insurance in case Bosh end s up going.
DEAL # 3
Of all the teams that might be attracted by getting Bargnani, New York is near the top of the list. D’Antoni was a big Bargnani fan when he was drafted and should be amenable to taking him on. There is a big question with this trade with the Knicks not wanting to take on extra salary this summer, and with Bargnani’s extension kicking in I’m not sure whether the Knicks would be willing. Still, if they are, it gives the Knicks more scoring punch, which they lack right now.
While the trade doesn’t get back a big man in return, Wilson is a very good rebounder and defender. In fact, Wilson, in many ways, is very much like a (slightly) younger Trevor Ariza. If Wilson started at small forward, the Raptors could shift Turkoglu to PF and Bosh to Center. Wilson would immediately become the Raptors best defender, guarding the opposing teams’ top wing players and Turkoglu is big enough to guard most fours in the league. It would create just as many matchup problems as with Bargnani at center.
Jefferies is not a bad throw in who can play both PF and SF and is a good defender, although a below average rebounder.
Now, again, I have no idea whether Houston would do this, but I think they certainly get something good out of this. They are a good, scrappy, defensive team that lacks good scorers (their best scorer is Ariza, who’s shooting an anemic 38%) and are below average from the field and from beyond the arc. They could use Bargnani, especially if Yao has trouble coming back or plays limited minutes upon his return.
I’ve always been a fan of Battier, who is the player that stats don’t tell the whole story about. He just knows how to play. With both he and Ariza, Houston’s two best players are small forwards and while Battier has been playing out of position at SG, with Tracy McGrady’s expected return soon, Battier will be the odd man out.
Battier could start at either SG (with either Johnson or Hayes stepping in at C/PF) or SF (moving Turkoglu to PF) and immediately give the Raptors a boost defensively. Hayes doesn’t have much offensive talent but is a banger who hard worker who is the type of player the Raptors lack.
The only issue I have with this trade is Battier’s age. He’s 31 and has already played the best ball of his career. Still, it’s not as if he relies on athleticism and has such a high IQ he should be able to adjust to age well.
However much I’d love to trade Bargnani for Joakim Noah, I just don’t see Chicago pulling the trigger on that one. Noah would give the Raptors exactly what they need (interior defense and rebounding) and while he’s not a good scorer, he’s a good passer with a high basketball IQ.
And while all the trades would benefit the Raptors in some way, none of the four are great and flawed in some way (either the Raptors don’t get an interior defender back or they lose scoring). Besides, I’m not sure whether Colangelo is ready to trade Bargnani just yet, and I might tend to agree.
November and December are usually bad times to try and make a trade. Teams playing badly aren’t quite ready to panic or give up on the season, and better teams still want to wait and see how good they’ll be.
If the Raptors do make a move, January or February is the time to make it. By that time, Colangelo will really know whether this team is working or not.
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