A Look Back

Posted on April 21, 2010 | 4 Comments

Well, it’s over. Sorry for not writing anything before this, but I’ve been busy with more important things. If I don’t sound heartbroken over the way the season ended, it’s because there are far more important things than basketball. Don’t get me wrong, I love it or I wouldn’t be doing this, but in the end, it’s not really all that important.

There are always questions when the season ends. I’m going to attempt to answer some of them here.

Was the season a failure?

Well, I’m not even sure what that means. It certainly wasn’t a success, so if you want to measure it that way, then you can probably say it was a failure. The Raptors failure to make the playoffs is not the only measuring stick, though…

The Last of Bosh?Will Bosh leave the Raptors?

Not even Bosh knows, I don’t think. Missing the playoffs and finishing the season like they did certainly isn’t going to help, that’s for sure. I certainly wouldn’t begrudge him leaving, that’s for sure. He’s given seven years of his life to the Raptors, and they have not been able to surround him with enough talent to be able to get out of the first round, and it’s certainly not a good sign that they haven’t made the playoffs the last two. If he’s lost confidence in the organization, it’s understandable.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he did end up re-signing, though. While there are a lot of choices for him, there is a question of how many are willing to pay the max for him, and there is also a question of whether other situations are better than Toronto.

Bosh is adamant that he doesn’t want to be anyone’s second banana, and with his experience with the Raptors, is he going to want to go to a new team that is rebuilding? I don’t think so. In my next post, I’m going to layout who I think has the best shot at getting Bosh, who Bosh should choose and who would benefit the most from him.

Should the Raptors pay him the max to stay?

This question has been bouncing around the Raptor boards a lot lately. Is Bosh a max player? It’s a good question and it’s a silly question. I mean, is any basketball player worth $20 million a season? There IS a reason it costs an arm and a leg to watch a game in person, and it’s not the cost of the person tearing your ticket. But in reality, NBA stars make what they do, so there’s no point in arguing the point.

Now, the biggest complaint about Bosh is that he can’t carry a team, so shouldn’t make max money. Dwayne Wade carried a less talented team to 47 wins and the 5th seed. Of course, the Raptors were more talented OFFENSIVELY, but on defense, I’d much rather have a frontcourt of Jermaine O’Neal and Adonis Haslem protecting the paint. And Mario Chalmers is better defensively than of the of the Raptor PGs.

There’s also the point that the Raptors fell apart without Bosh in the starting lineup. The record with and without Bosh in the lineup isn’t much different (35-35 with, 5-7 without) but they also struggled mightily after he came back from his ankle injury and wasn’t at full strength. When Bosh was playing like he did most of the season, the Raptors were simply one of the better teams in the league. No, he didn’t carry them to the playoffs, but if Bosh doesn’t get hurt (twice), it’s a pretty safe bet that the Raptors would still be playing. His value to the team should not be questioned. If he leaves, they will be a lottery team, and a poor one at that. If they win 30 games next season without Bosh, I’d be surprised. With him they could try for 45 again. Not many players are worth 15 games.

If you’re looking to only pay guys that can literally carry their teams to success, you’re looking at 3 guys. LeBron, Kobe and Wade. If you’re only going to pay those three guys the max, then you’re going to have a heck of time building a contender. You’ve got to pay to play, and players like those come to a team very rarely. If you’re worried about overpaying, every single contender is vastly overpaying at least one player on their team. You think Rashard Lewis is worth $18 million? Or Ray Allen nearly $20 million?

There’s the argument that the Raptors could get someone like David Lee at half the price. Great, but he’s not going to help you win. New York won 29 games with him as their best player and are so happy, it’s unlikely he’ll be back with them. In the NBA, the teams with the best players win. Bosh isn’t a top 5 player, but top 5 players are a little difficult to get. The Raptors have never, in their history, had one. Bosh is certainly a top 10 player, and if you don’t pay him the max, you’re setting yourself up for a future of losing.

Is Colangelo to blame?

Yes and no. I’ve read a lot of criticism of what he said in the press conference. Quite frankly, I don’t give a crap. What a person says means absolutely nothing to me. Especially in public. It’s the same reason I don’t pay attention to post game press conferences. I mean, who cares what a coach or player says? What matters is what they do. Colangelo, for all his weaknesses, is willing to correct his mistakes and learn from them. Colangelo isn’t an idiot. He knows that a team needs to be good defensively and rebound the basketball to win. This isn’t a secret recipe to success.

If Bosh doesn’t go down to injury, and people don’t come back from the All-Star break with “personal agendas”, then the Raptors end up winning around 45 games and make the playoffs. Fantastic? No. But pretty much what I expected of them. And there’d certainly be a lot fewer angry Raptor fans.

Colangelo did some things well and some things poorly. The team won 7 fewer games from his first year with the Raptors to now. That’s not exactly a good sign. Colangelo failed to capitalize on the number one pick and cap room he inherited when he took over. Some of that had to do with luck, some had to do with some poor decisions. The initial team he built that won 47 games simply did not have a very high ceiling. And injuries to key players derailed any success they did have.

Last summer, he made some great moves, and one not so great move, but it’s what he didn’t do that should haunt him. A team’s defense is anchored by it’s front line, and Colangelo failed to get the right players around Bosh. Bargnani is a nice offensive talent, but he is woefully miscast as a pairing with Bosh. For all of Bosh’s strengths, he’s not a stopper on defense, and more than anything, he needs a center who can bear the brunt of the defensive load and anchor the defense. Bargnani is not that person. Ironically, someone like Jermaine O’Neal is. I’ve argued in the past that Jermaine O’Neal was not a failure with Toronto. What was a failure was the rest of the team.

Was it a mistake to sign Turkoglu?

Well, I don’t think you need me to answer that question. Obviously it was. Turkoglu is simply not a good match for a team that lacks defense and rebounding. His playmaking was great when he used it, but any criticism of his disappointing season should be aimed solely at him. Sure, the coaches didn’t use him like he was used in Orlando, but this is a different roster. A new player needs to adjust to his new teammates, and Turkoglu not playing in preseason was the first indication that there was going to be a problem. He came to Toronto with not exactly a sterling reputation as a hard worker. Rick Adelman and Greg Popovich both struggled to get the most out of Turkgolu, and I’m sure most Raptor fans would take those coaches in a heartbeat.

My one consolation is that Turkoglu was not Colangelo’s first choice. He was not even his second. Call this one buyer’s remorse. Colangelo went to an auction, got outbid on everything he wanted, but didn’t want to come home empty handed. In the end, he got home and realized that the painting he bought didn’t go with any of his furniture and was painted by a guy who had just been charged with child molestation, meaning it’s going to be next to impossible to unload that painting now.

What’s next for Bargnani?

He had the best season of his four year career, and every year it’s become more and more apparently he is what he is: A jump shooting big man who avoids the paint, can’t rebound and is a weak link on defense. And he’s the absolutely wrong player for the Raptors. He’s not going to improve his rebounding, because it hasn’t happened in his first four years, and he’s not going to suddenly start playing inside and drawing fouls, so if Bosh goes, he’s not a replacement, no matter what he says.

He needs to be traded. Period.

I know that he has been Colangelo’s pet project but the Raptors will never be able to be a contender with him on the team, not without some drastic and complete rebuilding. Plus, I’m sick and tired of criticizing him.

I don’t know who would take him, but I’ve been assured by a number of fans that he’s got a lot of value. I hope that’s true. And now would be the time to take advantage. Another year of pretty much the same thing will only cement in other’s minds what most Raptor fans have realized. Bargnani has just about reached his potential.

Golden State is crazy enough, and Don Nelson loves guys like Bargnani. You think they’d trade Andris Biedrins for him? Maybe Chicago would like his scoring and could make up for his defensive and rebounding woes with Noah and Deng. Who would the Raptors get in return? I’d take Hinrich and a draft pick and call it a day. Sometimes the best way to improve is to subtract. Ask Phoenix.

Which point guard?

I like Jack, but surrounded by better defensive players, Calderon is going to help you win more. And Jack is eminently more tradable because of his manageable contract and all around play. It would be nice to keep both, but having two starter-quality point guards is a luxury that a 40 win team cannot really afford. if they can upgrade the roster and keep both, all the better, but chances are they are going to have to part with one to get the player(s) they need.

Who’s the shooting guard of the future?

Sonny Weems was definitely the Raptor surprise of the year, and he seemed to get better as the season wore on. Back at the beginning of January, I remarked how Weems seemed to have the whole package to become a very good NBA player. For a guy who was literally a throw in in a trade, Weems finishing the season as the Raptors starting SG was impressive. Does that mean he’s the SG of the future for the Raptors? Well, not quite. Weems has the makings of a very good player. He hits a high percentage of his shots, has a great mid range game and has all-world athleticism. He’s a good defender and rebounder, and actually is a pretty good passer. Best of all, he usually plays under control. It’s easy to get carried away and say that he might be a better prospect than the Raptors more high profile young SG, DeMar DeRozan. You’d be wrong.

Weems does have his weaknesses. His ball handling is not exactly a thing of beauty, but neither is DeRozan’s. While he has a very efficient offensive game, he rarely gets to the line. Let’s be clear here, Weems gets to the line at an absolutely horribly low rate. Less than Bargnani. In fact, his FTA/FGA ratio is the lowest on the team. For a guy with that kind athleticism and explosiveness, that’s unacceptable.

While Weems certainly hits for a higher percentage from the field and is a better defensive player, at this point, DeRozan has more offensive potential. The reason? DeRozan is excellent at getting to the line. It shows an aggressiveness that Weems seems to lack and why DeRozan, despite not shooting as high a percentage as Weems from the field, is actually a more efficient offensive player.

So while Weems seemed to have the better season, the future is still DeRozan’s. The Raptors are fortunate that both DeRozan and Weems look to have a bright future ahead of them, although at some point, one has to wonder if this is going to turn into a similar situation they the Raptors have had a PG. Two starting quality SG’s.

Of course, readers of this blog will not be surprised that I bring up Belinelli, here. He didn’t have a great season, and at one point seemed fall out of the rotation, but I’m still convinced that he also has a bright future ahead of him. He can shoot, drive, create for others, play good defense and can actually play PG and run an offense in a pinch. And he showed an aggressiveness that seemed to be lacking previously, getting to the line at a rate only a little less than DeRozan. For such a good shooter, though, he shot horribly from the field, and that’s because his shot selection often left something to be desired. It’s not that he shot at the wrong time (although he sometimes did that), but that fadeaway three is not something the coaches probably enjoyed watching. I know I didn’t.

There are some that feel that picking up Belinelli’s option was a mistake. I think, in the end, it’s going to be seen as a very good deal.

Do you still think Triano is a good coach?

I’ve defended Triano on many occasions here and on other sites. Mostly, because I felt the criticism was ether unjustified or simply just done out of ignorance. Claiming he was hired simply because he was Canadian is beyond stupid. In fact, it’s such a stupid statement, I’m not sure where to even begin to debate it, so I won’t.

Now, I don’t feel that Triano has done a great job. He’s a young, relatively inexperienced coach and he was bound to make his share of mistakes. I think he’s shown enough to continue to stay on, but also, I think that it’s incredibly difficult for fans to intelligently judge a coach. Most of his work is done behind closed doors, and since most of us are not privy to it, it’s impossible to know whether he simply not sending the right message, or the players aren’t capable of carrying it out.

It’s also hard to criticize Triano too much because, quite frankly, he was given a team that had almost no hope of being a good defensive or rebounding team. Blaming Triano for the inabilities of of guys like Bargnani and Turkoglu is a bit like blaming the builder of a house after it was hit by a meteorite. There are simply some things that are out of the coaches control. The team won 40 games and probably would have won at least 45 without the injuries to Bosh. Red Auerbach himself couldn’t have coaxed many more wins out of this club, and Triano will improve. Some fans seem to think that unlike players, coaches always stay the same. They don’t develop and can’t get better.

If I have one beef with Triano, however, it’s that he didn’t play Bosh enough with Amir Johnson. When they played together, the team excelled. Johnson didn’t pull his man out of the paint like Bargnani did, but Johnson’s man couldn’t double because he was a) so active so leaving him often meant him cutting for the basket for a dunk and b) his offensive rebounding ability made him incredibly dangerous to leave. And Bosh and Johnson were also the best defensive and rebounding frontcourt the team had. Which brings us to…

Do the Raptors overpay Amir Johnson to stay?

Well, first of all, I don’t see him being offered much more than $5 million per season on the open market, and that’s definitely a good price for Amir. Whether Bosh stays or goes, Johnson is incredibly important. If Bosh goes, he’s the starting PF. If Bosh stays, his rebounding, hustle and defense are great antidotes to Bargnani’s game should Colangelo fail to do the right thing, and find a new home for him.

Do you try and keep Wright?

If the Raptors didn’t have so many young shooting guards, keeping Wright would make sense. As it is, he’s simply in the way of the development of them.

What should Colangelo do in the offseason to improve the team?

That’s coming…

——————–

How about those Spurs? Are they the last team Dallas wanted to face in the first round? They underachieved in the regular season, but now have home court advantage over the 2nd seeded Mavericks after their win. And Richard Jefferson had one of his better games all season and looked like the player the Spurs hoped he would be when they traded for him. They are all healthy and are the most experienced playoff team in the league. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up getting to the Finals.

——————–

Is it possible to not give out an Executive of the Year award this year? San Antonio’s R.C Buford was a preseason favourite, but they won fewer games than the previous season. Colangelo was also though to be in the running, but the Raptors didn’t even make the playoffs. Sam Presti’s Oklahoma City Thunder made the biggest improvement, but that was after Presti passed on much better players in the draft and did relatively nothing else in the offseason. Phoenix’s Steve Kerr ended up trading away his failure, in Shaq, for Ben Wallace and then paying Ben Wallace not to play for them. And he passed on four good PG’s, always an area of need for the Suns, with the aging Nash not going to last forever, to grab an enigmatic underachiever.

I’ve heard Jeff Bower’s name mentioned, which I don’t understand. Yes, he drafted and acquired to of the better rookies in the draft without a pick above 21, but he also traded away Tyson Chandler for Emeka Okafor, an extremely ill fit for the Hornets. And he allowed the Hornets to go from a 56 win team two years ago, to the 37 win team it is today. Yes, Chris Paul was injured, but they were still pretty bad even with Paul in the lineup.

I think if I was forced to choose, I’d go with John Hammond. He realized Charlie Villanueva was simply not worth keeping around, and renounced his rights. Maybe Joe Dumars should have talked to him before spending all that money on him. Hammond then signed a much cheaper, and probably better, Hakim Warrick. Then he traded HIM away for John Salmons, who helped lead the Bucks back to the playoffs. Plus he drafted possible Rookie of the Year, Brandon Jennings.

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  • http://khandorssportsblog.com/wordpress khandor

    Tim,

    - a tonne of solid material in this entry

    - “if Bosh doesn’t get hurt” … is strictly a red-herring
    - how many W’s the Raptors w/could have finished with … is strictly a red-herring
    - Bosh is a far superior “defensive anchor”, at the Center position, compared to any other player the Raptors have had since the days of Antonio Davis … despite his “smallish” nature
    - there’s a good reason why the combo of Bosh/C and Johnson/PF was the Raptors’ best defensive Big Man tandem and it isn’t just because of the talents that Amir brings to the table

    - Jermaine O’Neal is no longer a starting quality Big, for a high end team in the NBA … and, in fact, is 1 of the MAIN reasons Miami was as bad as they were for long stretches of this season
    - the Heat are infinitely more productive when they use a 4-player rotation of Joel Anthony, Michael Beasley, Udonis Haslem and Jamaal Magloire as their C and PF
    - the Raptors failed with O’Neal because O’Neal is a mere “shell” of the player he was physically and skill-wise years ago with the Pacers

    - Turkoglu not being Colangelo’s 1st choice is … strictly a red-herring

    - a better coach c/would have won more games this season with the Toronto Raptors, despite the many other flaws within the organization

    - re: the Spurs … A. you’re invited to check out what I’ve had to say on my blog about the overall quality of their organization for the last few seasons [aka, R.E.S.P.E.C.T.]; and, B. they will NOT get by the Lakers this season

    - Otis Smith has been the BEST [i.e. the most effective] GM in the NBA this season

    Cheers

  • http://www.wearingfilm.com Tim W.

    Maybe I should call my blog The Red Herring!

    -While it’s true that those points are pretty much moot, it’s still something to discuss. This blog is, after all, a discussion about basketball.

    -Bosh is most definitely the best defensive anchor at center than anyone since Antonio Davis, although that says more about how poor that position has been than how good Bosh is.

    - O’Neal is definitely past his best, and probably isn’t a starting center anymore, but on defense, I’d rather have him than Bargnani. And the Raptors failed because outside of Bosh and O’Neal, no one else on the team did anything. At times, those were the only Raptors producing. By the time he got injured, the writing was on the wall, and it simply didn’t matter. That doesn’t negate the fact that what the Raptors need right now is a starting center in the mould of Jermaine O’Neal, although obviously not O’Neal himself. Not without access to a time machine.

    - A better coach would have won a few more games, but in the end, wouldn’t have made a lick of difference. The team would still be as flawed as it was with Triano.

    - I have been a fan of the Spurs for a long, long time. And if they will most likely not get by the Lakers, but it’s certainly not a certainty. When healthy and playing well, their starting five is just as talented as the Lakers.

    - Otis Smith grabbing Vince Carter pretty much negates anything good he did in the offseason. Okay, maybe that’s not true. I did forget about Smith, but I’d say the turnaround job Hammonds did in Milwaukee puts him ahead of Otis Smith.

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