- What Makes A Great Scorer?
- Top 10 Myths About Andrea Bargnani
- Jonas Valanciunas Is Like Two Cookies (and Amir)
- Is The Big Man Era Over In The NBA?
- What Would Einstein Say About the Raptors Trading for Rudy Gay?
- Seeing Through Colangelo's Reality Distortion Field (Part 1)
- Can The Raptors Contend Without Tanking?
- The Case Against Signing Steve Nash
- An Open Letter to Bryan Colangelo
- 5 Stupid Reasons NOT To Trade Bargnani
- The Gospel According to Allen Iverson
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Posted on May 2, 2012 | 14 Comments
With the season mercifully over for the Raptors, it’s a good time to take stock and give the Raptors their final report card. This time, I’m including a grade for the franchise as a whole, which you’ll understand when you read it at the end. This part takes us from Alabi to DeRozan, and includes Colangelo and Casey.
Bryan Colangelo: Approaching Expectations
Colangelo did a lot of things right, including not trying to rush the rebuild along, signing Aaron Gray, trading Leandro Barbosa and finding Alan Anderson and even Ben Uzoh. Even Jamaal Magloire was a good pickup, not for what he did on the court, but for what he brought to the lockerroom.
On the other hand, he waited too long to “tank” the season, which means that the Raptors have very little chance of getting a top pick, which they so desperately need. Injuries to both Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon prevented him moving them at the trade deadline, but I think there could have been things I should have tried.
He gets a lot of flack from fans, some deserving, some not, but he did a pretty decent job this season.
Needs To Work On: His desire to field a competitive team, no matter what the circumstances. He’s not the type of guy that like to take it slow, which is what the team needs.
Scott Carefoot, of Raptorblog recently went on a rant where he said that Colangelo needs to, at least, make the playoffs next year in order to keep his job. I disagree. I’d rather see the Raptors miss the playoffs, but solidify their future, than speed up the rebuilding process for the sole purpose of being competitive. That’s how mediocre teams are built, by GMs scared for their job who know that making the playoffs will allow them to keep it a little while longer.
When Colangelo took over the Raptors, he went out and made some moves to make the team competitive, but one that ultimately had a low ceiling. Making the playoffs is easy (relatively). Actually building a contender is the hard thing. Colangelo has to control himself on the free agent market this summer, and not sign a bunch of veterans that will make the team competitive, but, like the 2006 team, not built to contend.
Recommendation: Keep (for now). A lot hinges on what he does this summer. He needs to hit a home run in order to prevent the team from hopping back onto the mediocrity treadmill. They need a franchise player to become a contender and it’s up to Colangelo to get one.
If the Raptors don’t get the top pick, I’d like to see Colangelo gamble than play it safe.
Dwane Casey : Exceeds Expectations
I don’t think anyone could foresee the improvement Casey would have on the team’s defense, especially considering he was stuck with mostly the same roster that was the worst in the league on defense last year. This year they are in the top half. For that, I think he should at least be in the conversation for Coach of the Year, despite the poor record for the team.
He wasn’t perfect, though. The Raptors offense was pretty bad for most of the season, and not totally due to the absence of Bargnani. A lot is due to Casey simply not focusing much on that end, which is understandable.
I have bigger criticisms of him, though. The main one being the lack of playing time that both Ed Davis and Solomon Alabi received. Davis certainly struggled with consistency, and a lot of that is his own fault, but even when Davis played well, he didn’t get the playing time. What made this all the more egregious is that Casey doled out the playing time to Bargnani even when he was playing poorly and without passion. There was one game (I can’t remember which one) when Bargnani played horribly on defense and got yanked after five minutes. Great, except that he still came back to play 39 minutes that game.
And while Alabi might still be a project, waiting until the last few games to give him minutes makes it very difficult to gauge his progress.
Even with these criticisms, coaching, for the first time in a long, long time, seems to be the least of the Raptors worries, at this point.
Needs To Work On: Developing his younger players. He’s a guy who likes to win, which is good, but that means he likes playing veterans over young players. On this team, the young players need to be developed more.
Recommendation: Definitely keep. I’d even give him an extension.
Solomon Alabi: Incomplete
Alabi played at least ten minutes a game only three times this year, of the 14 times he did play. On the plus side, in two of those games, he grabbed double digit rebounds, including 19 in the last game against the Nets, which was not surprising considered he played well in the D-League, and that game had more in common with a D-League game than an NBA game.
In two seasons in the league, he’s played fewer games (26) than in two of his three seasons at Florida State (sophomore- 35, junior- 32). That’s not a good sign.
Needs To Work On: Playing.
Reommendation: Trade or cut loose. After two seasons, the Raptors still don’t know what they have with Alabi, but it doesn’t appear he’s going to be the player they were hoping for, otherwise he would have appeared in more games. With Jonas Valanciunas on the roster next season, and a frontcourt getting more crowded, there is simply no space for him. You don’t really want him as your backup or even third center, with Valanciunas on the team, and I don’t think the Raptors have the luxury of having four centers.
Alan Anderson: Exceeds Expectations
For a guy who was out of the league for so long, Anderson impressed. He showed an ability to hit the three (39% even after a slump at the end of the season), score and defend. He showed a poise and veteran savvy, which is not surprising considering he’s 29 years old in some of the best leagues around the world.
He’s not a game changer, or even a guy you’d want starting, on a good team, but I think he’s definitely showed he’s got a place in the league.
On the downside, though, he shoots worse from inside the arc than outside, shooting below 40%, although a lot of that has to do with his last four games, when he went 18 for 59 and was expected to be a scorer, rather than a role player, with Bargnani, Calderon, Bayless and DeRozan out.
He’s also not a very good rebounder.
Needs To Work On: At 29 years old, there’s not really much he would be able do to make any big improvements and has pretty good skills for a role player, anyway.
Recommendation: It doesn’t matter. I’d have no problem at all if he was on the roster next season, but he’s simply not good enough and not young enough to make much of a difference to the team now or in the future.
Andrea Bargnani: Needs Improvement
Yes, for the first 13 games of the season, Bargnani played like he never has before. His defense was much improved and offensively he was among the better scorers in the league. A lot of people went a little overboard, though, in their praise for Bargnani. While his defense improved, he was still a weak link on that end of the court and his rebounding his still horrible.
He rebounded slightly better than last season but it was middle of the pack for his career, in terms of rebounding percentage and rebounds per minute. And his rebounding wasn’t any better during his 13 game heyday.
And for all the talk about his improved play this year, he averaged fewer points per game than last season, shot the third worst percentage of his career, from the floor, and second worst from three.
And the excuse that he took a while to recover from injury simply doesn’t hold water. No one should take a month to get their conditioning and rhythm back when their playing 30+ minutes a game. Not when they’ve only missed a month.
One of the biggest concerns, though, is that this is the second year in a row that Bargnani has failed to remain healthy. The fact that he only lasted 13 games playing at the level of intensity he did makes you wonder whether his body will put up with it. After not exactly being the hardest working player on the court for so many years, it’s possible that his body simply can’t take the kind of punishment that that level of play will give it.
It certainly wasn’t all bad for Bargnani, though. Bargnani got to the line at a career high rate- a FTA/FGA ratio of .357, which is a vast improvement and into the realm of the great scorers. Such an improvement is incredibly rare and gives one a lot of optimism about his future as a scorer.
He also finally showed the ability to pass the ball that his fans have been saying he’s had for years. He still tends to hold the ball longer than he should, and he’s not nearly the consistent passer he should be, but he’s not the black hole he used to be.
Needs To Work On: As usual, defense and rebounding, neither of which you can really work on. After 6 years in the league, it’s pretty obvious he’s never going to be even an average rebounder or defender.
Recommendation: Trade. When the next regular season starts, Bargnani will be 27 years old and 7 years older than Jonas Valanciunas. In 6 years in the league, he’s basically played 13 games at an acceptable level (and even that’s arguable). It has to have become obvious to even his firmest backers that he will never become the player many hoped when he was drafted.
The reason he should be traded, though, is simply because he’s a is a big man who’s a poor rebounder and below average defender, and it’s incredibly difficult to win with that, no matter what he does on the offensive end. He’ll be making $10, $11 and $12 million over the next three years and now there should be legitimate concerns about whether he can stay healthy.
Still, he should have plenty of trade value because he’s a 7 footer with near elite scoring ability. I can see a lot of teams thinking they can cover up his poor rebounding and defense.
The danger of keeping him is that his salary keeps getting higher and his trade value will most likely only decline.
Jerryd Bayless: Approaching Expectations
Bayless’ is a curious case. When he’s started the last two seasons, he’s put up decent numbers (17.8 ppg, on 45% shooting and 43% from three, and 5.3 apg this season and 18.1 ppg on 47% shooting and 6.7 apg last season). He’s everything Calderon is not. He’s aggressive on offense and defense, can create his own shot and get into the lane, and has the physical tools to be a good defender.
Unfortunately, being everything Calderon is not is not all good. He’s not a pure point guard and often ignores his teammates on offense and often makes poor decisions, especially in close games when he tends to have blinders on. Interestingly, he shoots worse early in the clock than in the last ten seconds.
His confidence is his biggest asset and biggest weakness. He believes he an do anything he wants on the court, but he can’t. He still hasn’t learned when to shoot and when not to shoot.
The majority of his assists seem to come on drive and kicks, when he doesn’t have a shot. Derrick Rose can get away with doing that, but not Jerryd Bayless. And Rose knows how to run an offense, Bayless doesn’t.
The other problem with Bayless is that he has constantly struggled with injuries. It may be due to his style of play (somewhat reckless), but it’s definitely something one needs to take into consideration. He missed over half the games this season, which means that this was almost a lost year for him.
Needs To Work On: Running an offense and his decision making. He’s got the potential to be a very good player, but unless he is able to improve on his passing, he’ll never be anything more than a combo guard off the bench.
Recommendation: It’s really too bad he missed so much time because it’s hard to make a decision on him. He never really had much of a chance to develop this season, so unless the Raptors draft or trade for a better young point guard, I’d like to see him return to see whether he’ll develop into a starter.
That said, he hasn’t shown himself to be indispensable and if the right deal came along, he might have some value.
Jose Calderon: Meets Expectations
I’ve been a long time supporter of Calderon. I’ve never felt he’s been given his fair due by the majority of Raptor fans. He’s a pass-first point guard in a league more and more bereft of them. He’s one of only a handful of players in the league who understand how to run an offense and he has consistently had one of the best assist to turnover ratios in the league. Believe it or not, that’s not an empty stat. Fans, at one time or another, have pined for far less efficient PGs like Devin Harris, Rodney Stuckey and Darren Collison, guys who are flashier, shoot more, but don’t actually make their teammates better like Calderon. Efficiency on offense is a staple of most NBA Champions. Unfortunately, though, so is defense, and that’s one of Calderon’s biggest weaknesses.
While Calderon improved on defense, he’s still below average, on that end of the floor. So why do I give more of a pass to Calderon’s poor defense and Bargnani’s? Because you can get away with a poor defensive PG far more than a poor defensive big man. More than a few below average defensive PGs have rings, but poor defensive big men with rings are like good Adam Sandler movies. Yes, one or two exist, but that’s more a fluke than anything.
Another problem with Calderon is that he’s only had one season where he played every game. I don’t think he’s as injury prone as some seem to think, and he actually stayed healthy this season, unless you count having his eye bashed in twice in a week a sign of being injury prone.
Needs To Work On: At 30 years old, you pretty much know what you’re going to get with Jose, and I’m fine with it. He was healthy this season and his defense improved, but he’s not going to ever be a great defender simply because he doesn’t have the physical skills.
Recommendation: Keep, if possible. Calderon is a team first guy who is a good type of veteran to have on the team. He’s one of the few Raptors that actually makes a positive impact on the court, is a great pick and roll player which would benefit Jonas Valanciunas next season.
I don’t see him being the long term answer to the PG situation for the Raptors (he’ll be 31 by the time next season starts) but he’s a good guy to have running your offense until someone better comes along.
Of course, if the right deal comes along that would help the team, you have to take it.
Ed Davis: Needs Improvement
A lot was expected of Davis this season. He didn’t blow anyone away last season, but he showed enough to think he had the makings of a very good NBA player and a potential cornerstone of the team. With an actual training camp this season (he was injured to start the season last year), most felt that Davis was ready to make a big jump in his development. Fast forward to the end of the season, and Davis had career lows in just about every category and was a major disappointment to the team. Like others on the team, he finished the season much better, giving hope for the future, but to see not only stagnation, but such regression in Davis’ development is incredibly worrisome. It could have been the lockout, which prevented him from working with the team in the offseason, but it’s not as if he was on his own. His father is a former NBA player, so you’d think he would have done more in the offseason.
It’s not uncommon for players to have a sophomore slump that ends up simply being a bump in the road (Bargnani had a much worse sophomore season than Davis did) so there is no reason to write him off, just yet.
Needs To Work On: GETTING STRONGER, as well as his offense. Davis has the makings of a very good defensive player, but until every PF in the league stops being able to push him around, that won’t happen. In fact, added strength will help him in just about every aspect. He’ll be able to score more inside and grab more rebounds (I can’t tell you how many times I saw stronger players grab a rebound out of Davis’ hands).
Recommendation: Keep, unless the Raptors draft another power forward. As I said, it’s way too early to give up on him and he still has the makings of a first rate power forward. This summer is EXTREMELY important for Davis’ development. He needs to make a big improvement next season, which is going to judge whether or not he’s ever going to live up to his potential.
Now if the Raptors draft another power forward (Like Anthony Davis??), then I’d see what kind of trade value he has and try and ship him out. I don’t think he’s the type of player who would be happy in a reserve role for too long and needs minutes to be productive consistently.
If he’s not starting by the middle of next season, then he should probably be moved.
DeMar DeRozan: Needs Improvement
A lot was expected of DeRozan this season, who averaged 20 ppg over the last two months of last season. He looked to be poised for, if not stardom, then at least success.
Like Bargnani, he started off the season well, even going 10-16 from three, which was amazing considering he only hit 5 threes last season and had the worst percentage (9.6%) of any player who took more than 50 threes.
Unfortunately it didn’t last. He shot 37% from the field for the entire month of January and struggled in pretty much all aspects of his game. And he never hit the boards very well, especially for a guy with his size and athletic ability. He did end the season well, at least from a scoring standpoint, so there is optimism there.
Now, there has been a lot of discussion about his defense, and despite the criticism, he did improve a fair bit this season. But while his defense improved, it was still below average and most were expecting more of him, especially in his third year. He has the physical tools to be a standout defender, but after three seasons, it’s becoming apparent that he never will be.
Needs To Work On: Getting stronger, defense, ball handling, jumper, rebounding, in that order. One of DeRozan’s biggest problems this season was that he simply wasn’t strong enough to compete inside, either on offense or defense. I think that’s why he struggled so much, at the beginning, and why he is such an inconsistent scorer. Too many times he drove only to either have the ball knocked away or had his shot blocked. In fact, DeRozan had 14% of his close shots blocked and 15% of his dunk attempts blocked. So nearly one out of every six shot attempts in the paint were blocked. That’s not a good percentage, especially for a 6’7 player with his athleticism.
Getting stronger will also help his defense, and possibly his rebounding.
Lastly, I really think playing in those Pro-Am and summer leagues hurt DeRozan’s development and gave him a false sense of where his game is. The things he needs to work on are not going to be improved by playing in games where they play little defense and he can dominate.
Recommendation: On the fence. He’s an incredibly hard worker and desperately wants to be great. That’s a huge plus for any player. And he’s only 22, so he’s still got a lot of room (and time) for improvement. Plus, he’s got the physical skills.
On the other hand, the only real skill he currently has is scoring, and he’s never shown the consistency to be a really good one.
Therein lies the big problem with DeRozan. What is his future role? He hasn’t shown the scoring consistency to make you believe he can be a 1st or 2nd option on a contender, but he doesn’t have any role playing skills to be anything BUT a scorer. My fear is that he’ll always be that player who spends most of his career as a scorer on bad teams, because that’s all he can do. In a lot of ways, he’s similar to his good buddy and former Raptor, Sonny Weems. Weems has the tools to be a good player, but his insistence on focusing on scoring might keep him out of the league. He’s simply not good enough to be a #1, 2 or 3 option on a good team, but he’s never developed the other skills that would make him a good role player.
I don’t want to rush to any conclusions on DeRozan, since he is so young and such a hard worker, but if an offer comes that helps the team, I wouldn’t think twice about trading him. But I wouldn’t mind seeing how he starts next season before I’d be ready to ship him out for the sake of shipping him out.
Part two I’ll discuss Amir to Jonas (yes, I will talk about his year) and give the franchise, as a whole, a grade. I’m hoping to have that for Friday, but more likely it will be next week.
And I’ve also got a post coming entitled, “The Championship Exception” that will discuss winning a Championship without a franchise player, and then an open letter to Bryan Colangelo that you’re not going to want to miss. And my early draft preview is still coming.
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