A Win That’s Not A Win (and other Raptor thoughts)

Posted on March 29, 2012 | 11 Comments

So after watching the Raptors beat a Nuggets team that looked nothing like the playoff team they apparently are (more on that later), I had a few thoughts.

At this point of a season with only 17 wins and only 15 games to go, is anyone outside of the Raptor players happy about a win like this? And if you are one that is happy about it, is it really worth it if it means the Raptors end up with the 5th worst record instead of 4th worst, giving them 31 FEWER chances to win the lottery and possibly not getting the top pick in the draft?

For those who care more about the long term prospects of the team, New Jersey won tonight, which would have moved the Raptors into the 4th spot if they had lost. Instead, the standings remained the same.

It’s taken me a while to figure out what the real problem is with DeMar DeRozan. Okay, his jumper needs work, as does his ball handling, and his defense is inconsistent, but his biggest problem is that he doesn’t seem to like physical contact. He doesn’t play well with physical play. Case in point, the play when he drove to the hoop, missed the bucket, grabbed the offensive rebound, missed and then got called for a technical because he thought a foul should have been called.

I saw the play several times in slow motion. I didn’t see a foul. What I saw was normal physical play that most other scorers would not think twice about, let alone get a technical about. And for a guy who should make his living in the lane, that’s a big problem. That’s why he doesn’t take it as hard to the hoop as he should.

When they were talking about Charles Barkley’s comment about how Kentucky could beat Toronto, it got me thinking. Would you take Kentucky’s current starting five over the Raptors’?

Obviously you take Anthony Davis over any of the Raptor big men.

I’d also easily take Michael Kidd-Gilchrist over either James Johnson or DeMar DeRozan.

And I’d be tempted by Terrence Jones over James Johnson.

I don’t take Teague over Calderon or probably even Bayless (neither Bayless nor Teagues are pure PGs, but Bayless has more potential)

Then you’ve got Doron Lamb, who is an excellent outside shooter, Darius Miller, who’s a good shooter, but a better defender than Lamb, and even Kyle Wiltjer, who many thought would make a bigger impact than he did on a stacked Kentucky team, and Barkley might not be all that far off.

Of course when you take into account that the Raptors have much more experienced players on their team, despite the apparent closeness in talent, Kentucky would be no real match for the Raptors, I’m guessing.

Still, would you trade the Raptor’s three best current players for Kentucky’s? I would.

While I’ve been pretty quiet about Andrea Bargnani, I have to say I’m sick of the excuses I’m hearing from the Raptor commentators who are bending over backwards to defend him. First of all, Jack Armstrong saying that you can’t compare Zach Randolph and Bargnani because they play two different styles. Yes, Randolph actually rebounds and Bargnani doesn’t. And it’s hard to say that Randolph is a “5 feet and in” scorer when 66% of his points come off jumpers.

Between him and Leo Rautins, who goes out of his way to defend ANY of the big men (80% of offensive fouls in the pick and roll are the fault of the guard?? Maybe the big man should learn to stop quicker when he sees the ball handler going!), I can’t help but feel that the Raptors head office has asked the commentators to lay off Bargnani this year.

Yes, Bargnani played well for 13 games this season, but even in this game, which was apparently his best since before he was injured, he got his points, but his rebounding and defense were poor, as usual (hint to Andrea, stop turning your back to the ball on defense).

Did anyone else notice the big weakness with having Bargnani camped in his favourite spot at the top of the key? What happens when there’s a fast break the other way and Bargnani is supposed to be the first man back on defense? Just to be clear, every time this happened, Bargnani was beat up the floor by the Nuggets.

That’s the problem with him loving that spot at the top of the key. Yes, he stretches out the defense, but it also makes the Raptors susceptible to fast breaks.

Was anyone else amazed at how small Denver “PF”, Kenneth Faried looked compared to Bargnani? Yes, Bargnani is a 7 footer, but Faried looked like a guard beside him. He measured 6’6 without shoes at the NBA combine, and that’s not hard to believe at all, after watching him.

As for Denver, while I thought trading away an overpaid 29 year old center, who isn’t a great rebounder and is only average defensively, was probably a good thing, I question the intelligence of Denver NUggets GM Masai Ujiri for getting back a center with possibly the lowest basketball IQ in the entire NBA. Okay, maybe an exaggeration, but I can’t believe they could do better than him. He’s a horrible defender, and that’s probably the best part of his game.

If I were the Nuggets, I’d get a veteran to basically shadow JaVale McGee and hit him upside the head every time he does something stupid on the court (like his attempted stare-down of Linus Kleiza after swatting the ball out of bounds rather than trying to keep it in play, or his boneheaded decision to salute the crowd after dunking on a guy a foot shorter than him).

And however great a deal Masai Ujiri got from New York for Carmelo Anthony, I don’t see Denver doing anything in the next decade, other than stay in great shape running on the mediocrity treadmill. They will end up being the perfect example of why you can’t try and stay competitive and rebuild at the same time. Unless they are able to miraculously trade for a franchise player, they always have a decent team with some decent talent, but nothing more.

Let’s hope the Raptors future is brighter.

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Comments

  • Sam

    Solid piece, Tim. 100% agree on the Nuggets on the treadmill

  • Stephen Waugh

    It’s funny how Charles Barkley says that Kentucky could beat the Raptors but thinks that Charlotte could have a chance. Really??? Is he talking about the same Charlotte Bobcats who are already eliminated from playoff contention and won’t reach even ten wins after playing 50 games? The same Charlotte Bobcats whose best players and/or two rookies and may not start on winning teams? The same Charlotte Bobcats that have perhaps the worst assembled roster in league history? Nah, Charles Barkley must have meant the North Carolina Tar Heels, Ohio State Buckeyes, Detroit Pistons, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, or the Atlanta Hawks when he referrenced Charlotte as possibly having a chance and Toronto not.

    Come to think of it, he could be right, if Dwane Casey were coaching the Bobcats and Jay Triano was still coaching the Raptors.

    Seriously though take a look at some of the other bad teams, notably ones who are (were) supposed to be better than Toronto.

    Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight are Detroit’s two main building blocks, but they won’t go anywhere fast until they rid themselves of Prince, Wallace, and Barlie Gordonueva.

    Sacramento’s best players are exciting to watch than just about anyone on the Raptors, but they are all black holes who have trouble complementing each other. Could be a recipe for bad-team treadmill.

    Washington has been a huge disappointment (probably the biggest league-wide). They surrounded building cornerstone John Wall with high-flying guys who were supposed to at least play exciting basketball while improving in the standings.

    New York is easily better than Toronto, but their best players make an inconsistent fit with each other. I wonder how much better they can get with that core? The only way they keep their first-round draft pick this year is if they miss the playoffs and the pick is on of the three selected in the lottery. Otherwise, it’ll be hard for them to improve through the draft.

    some posters on ESPN.com thought that New Jersey could possibly be the second best team in the Atlantic Division this year? (head scratching).

    New Jersey and New York tried to shortcut their rebuilds by adding stars through free agency and thought they could use the New York market as their main selling point. New York ended up using their coveted cap space to sign Amar’e Stoudemire to a maximum deal after Phoenix refused to do so because of his age and health and after LeBron James rejected them (The Decision took place in Greenwich, Connecticut, which is inside New York’s media market). They got Carmelo Anthony later, but would they have gotten him anyway if they didn’t have Amar’e or the team didin’t have that resurgence they had? New Jersey has Deron Williams who, like Carmelo is better than anyone on the Raptors, but they gave up Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter (albeit first-round draft pick) to get him. They then panicked and traded another first-round pick for Gerald Wallace as a poor excuse of a quick-fix. Unlike the Knicks though I expect the Nets to miss the playoffs, but they could also miss out on the entire first round of the draft and lose both Gerald Wallace and Deron Williams to free agency. This could really blow up in their face.

    Now I wonder how Kentucky would fare against any of those other teams?

  • Stephen Waugh

    Since Denver is such a deep team, I wonder if they’ll offer a package to move up in the draft?

  • Stephen Waugh

    While it’s great to have more ping-pon balls, let’s hope the 2012 Toronto Raptors don’t end up like the 2007 Boston Celtics.

  • BP

    I wouldn’t take anything a TV commentator says seriously. The commentators are part of the Raptor PR department in someway or another. That’s their job, they’re paid to have bias opinions about the Raptors so that fans are tricked into believing what they say.

    What bothers me about it though is the casual fan who will agree with that and then think a guy like Bargnani is a franchise type player. If anyone thinks Bargnani/Calderon should be the core of the franchise, they don’t know basketball. End of story.

  • j miller

    Two types of treadmill teams, losing ones (clippers)trying to find a championship through the draft which never occurs, or the winning treadmill teams which ride the treadmill until the right moment/trade exposes itself and they jump on it to get them to the next level (Dallas, Detroit, LA) Tankings for morons

  • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

    @Sam

    Thanks. There seem to be a lot of treadmill teams, now. Denver is just one of them.

    @Stephen Waugh

    I didn’t really think much about Barkley’s comment. Toronto is an easy target and I’m guessing Barkley knows how “passionate” Raptor fans are. I’m guessing one reason he didn’t blast Charlotte is it owned by his buddy.

    I think he was just trying to stir up some controversy, which he did.

    Denver certainly could put together a package, but I don’t think they have anyone good enough to move far enough up (top 2 picks) to really make a difference.

    I’ve actually thought about Boston’s circumstances in 1997 on a few occasions. At least we don’t have Rick Pitino running the team.

    @BP

    I agree, although I think you’re a little hard on Calderon. I definitely think he can be the starting PG on a winning team. I’d be fine with him for the time being.

    @j miller

    The Clippers are a horrible example. If you want to prove that bad management and bad ownership lead to losing, then fine. The Clippers have been the worst drafters of talent, considering their draft position, in the entire league.

    The fact of the matter is that without a franchise player, your team has almost no chance of being a true contender. Dallas lucked into getting Dirk and him blossoming into one. Detroit is not a model I would want to copy (I have an upcoming post about that, actually) and teams like L.A. and Miami are sought after destinations.

    Signing or trading for a franchise player is INCREDIBLY difficult and rare. And only a very small handful of teams/cities are attractive enough to lure a franchise player. Drafting one is, by far, the easiest way to acquire one. And whether you like it or not, the best way to draft a franchise player is to lose enough that you get a high lottery pick.

  • Tinman

    You wrote a long post, brought up several different topics and did not find one positive to say?
    And to begin there are at least 25 NBA teams that would trade their best three for Kentucky’s best three, and probably more. Just an unnecessary shot at the Raptors.
    It’s nobodies fault that there are several bad teams in this league, a few clearly worse of than us(but you could write a 1000 word post stating that no team is worse off than us).
    Tell me how we are to lose games. Should the players top trying? Do you really think that is gonna happen?
    We unloaded Barbosa, Calderon got hurt, Bargnani as well and now Bayless is gone for the season. Sorry we can’t lose to your satisfaction.

    Tim all this season you have had tunnel vision – you know there have been some positives this season and we might already have next years best rookie big man. You could argue, that at the same age JV has more accomplishments and upside than Anthony Davis, but of course that would mean you would be saying something positive about the team.

    And why is it that you follow this team? Why do you choose to route for a team run by such idiots!! You are better than them Tim. Find another team because this one is causing you too much hardship.

  • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

    @Tinman

    You are being a little oversensitive, don’t you think. Are there lots of bad teams? Sure. And there are plenty of teams that are worse off than the Raptors. But as a Raptor fan, I wanted to talk about the Raptors.

    And I’ve said PLENTY of positive things about the Raptors. Many times. I was one of the most vocal backers of Colangelo picking Valanciunas and have consistently talked about how bright a future he has.

    http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/2011/06/jonas-valanciunas-is-like-two-cookies-and-amir/
    http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/2011/06/2011-nba-draft-report-card/

    I have also said that a frontcourt of Valanciunas and Davis “could give the Raptors the best front court in the NBA 3-5 years from now and one that might be the most difficult to score on since Duncan teamed with David Robinson.”

    And speaking of Colangelo, I’ve consistently backed him as GM, and have felt like a minority a lot of the time.

    So, really, if you’re saying that don’t say good things about the Raptors, then you really have no idea what you’re talking about.

    And I would admit that this post was more of a rant, but since it’s my blog, I’m allowed to rant. I would like to see the Raptors get a top pick. Sue me. And, unfortunately, in the NBA the best way to get a top pick is to lose. I didn’t make the rules. I would like to see the Raptors take advantage of them, though.

    Why do I follow the Raptors? Because I’m Canadian and originally from Toronto, so I’ve got a lot of connection to the team. That doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to criticize them?

    Now, I say in my “About the blog” page…

    I take a realist approach to basketball. That means I’ll say what I see, not what I want to see. Sometimes that means being critical when I feel the need. If you just want to read posts that fawn over the players, then this blog isn’t for you.

    I appreciate your readership, but don’t complain if I feel the need to criticize. I’ve said many times I like the direction the team is going, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have anything critical to say. If you don’t want to read that type of post, I suggest you stick to Doug Smith.

  • Adrian

    “Obviously you take Anthony Davis over any of the Raptor big men.”

    Are you talking about the current Raptor big men? What about Valanciunas?

  • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

    @Adrian

    I wasn’t including Valanciunas, as he’s not on the current roster, but if push came to shove, I’d probably take Anthony over Valanciunas. I’m a huge fan of Valanciunas, but I fear people are building up his expectation, too much. I think Davis is better offensively and defensively, at this point. Quite frankly, though, I would LOVE to see the two play together in Raptor uniforms next season.

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