May 1, 2010

The Toronto Raptors: An Interesting Offseason

“Honestly, we wanted to play Chicago more than Toronto in this first round, because we knew we were going to get pushed a little bit more. That's not taking away anything from Toronto. But with Bosh being out for the rest of the season, and all those injuries, it just didn't seem like they wanted to make the playoffs at the end of the season. Especially when you see the game between Chicago and Toronto in Toronto, you can tell they didn't really want to make the playoffs. When Chicago made the eighth seed, we was excited about that, because we knew we had to be in tune every possession, every game, because that team plays hard no matter the score and no matter the time, and no matter what the series is.”

Lebron made this statement after beating the Bulls in the first round. First of all, come one Lebron, it's "we were excited," not, "we was excited." Second, I was at that game between the Raps and the Bulls, and I could not agree more. My buddy and I left in the middle of the fourth quarter - something I rarely do - in principle and disgust. The raptors checked out. For weeks prior I had been saying that missing the playoffs was the practical move. We would have undoubtedly been swept in the first round by the Lebrons. By missing the playoffs we secure our first round pick, giving away our second to Miami (if we had made it, Miami owned that first rounder), giving us a shot - 0.6% of a shot to be exact, lol - at John Wall. But when it came down to the wire, as a fan, I wanted to see them in the postseason, even if it meant complete embarrassment at the hands of Lebron James and co.

Raptors fans are now in a weird limbo. Our star player can bolt this off-season, something we are very familiar with. But this time around, the star has agreed to be a professional and work with the organization to return value. That is, of course, if he decides to leave. For a number of years now this has been a hotly debated issue, and it seemed that most in the American media believed that it was a no brainer that Bosh would bolt. Following this situation closely, I do not believe that to be the case. Bosh has maintained that he is undecided. On friday night Bosh offered a glimpse into his heart via twitter. And for a moment it appeared as if he had spilled the beans, "Been waiting to ask. Where should I go next season and why?" For a star of Bosh's magnitude, wording on twitter counts big time. So for twenty minutes, it appeared that Bosh was gone. Then he tweeted this, "Ok... Let me rephrase the question. Should I stay or should I go?" ...And the saga continues.

Naturally, for a dude of Bosh's talent, he wants to win, and that is his primary motivator. For what it's worth I believe that Bryan Colangelo has done a decent job in trying to bring in talent to compete, but for whatever reason: coaching, partying, perhaps even a lack of leadership on Bosh's part, the raps just can't get it done. 

If Bosh does decide to stay, the status quo will not do. Improvement from Demar, Sonny, Amir, and even better coaching will not make this team a championship contender. So what does BC do this off-season to right the ship. There are really only a few scenarios that come to mind.

Firstly, Calderon has to go. Look, I love Calderon's offensive game, he's a true facilitator, not the greatest shooter, but knows his role. However, he is a huge liability on defense: the raptors worst one-on-one defender, always looking for help, which brings other players out of position. Jack on the other hand was noted as a defensive leader throughout the season, and this is exactly what the raptors need. Moreover, Calderon has value around the league. 

Look at the Pistons for example. Dumars has made his intentions about this off-season fairly clear. This team is a collection of talent that does not mesh, they need a remake. It appears that Rip and maybe even Prince are out. And weirdly, they will be looking for a point guard too. They see Stuckey as more of a scorer, so bringing in a facilitator like Calderon is probably there best option. A trade scenario with the Pistons seems like a perfect fit. We could package Calderon with the expiring deals of Reggie Evans or Marcus Banks for Rip and Will Bynum, for example. Who knows, maybe we even convince them to take on Turkoglu in exchange for Prince. While I would jump at the any of these scenarios, I believe that if we get rid of Calderon, Turkoglu's value on the team increases. Sure Turk underperformed this past season, but maybe that was a motivation/team role situation. With Jack at the helm, the 'ball' will be back in his hands more often, like in Orlando, and maybe he goes back to form. Imagine a front nine players of Bargnani, Bosh, Turkoglu/Prince, Rip, Jack, Amir, Demar, Wright, Sonny and the story begins to look pretty good.

Other scenarios, while less likely, might play out as well. Perhaps we shake O.J. Mayo away from the Grizzlies. They will be hard pressed to pay him once his contract expires, as Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph will be re-upping this summer for big deals. They need a point, Conley just wont cut it. And already tried to deal him at the deadline for Monta Ellis. Who might be another - even less likely, and not somebody I even want on the raps - player we go after this summer.

All of this assumes that Bosh stays, a 50-50 proposition right now. If he goes there are tones of scenarios that have the Raps becoming contenders in the near future. Stay tuned for those scenarios in an upcoming post.


  1. Not that I disagree about Jose's defense, but;

    "Jack on the other hand was noted as a defensive leader throughout the season"

    and yet the Raps D was no better with Jack starting. The Raps D was no better when Bargs was out or when Bosh was out. The Raps D was no better when DD sat and Weems started. Simple fact is there isn't one person responsible for the Raptors D being bad, it was a function of (almost) every single player not being good defensively, some poor defensive schemes and, to some degree, inexperience (Weems and DD).

    Moving Jose does not mean this D is all of a sudden good. If this team wants to improve its D one of Bargs or Bosh has to go, replaced with a true C. Bring in a long athletic wing whos main duty is to cover the best player on the opposing team. (Wright had the attitude and effort, but was simply lacking in size and athleticism)

    People need to get this 'if we have a good defensive PG we will suddenly be a good defensive team' out of their head. It is a complete red herring. Defense starts with the big men and then a guy able to defend the scorer on the perimeter.

  2. @anonymous,

    I tend to agree that moving Calderon is not the be all and end all in fixing the raptors team D. Defense is a function of coaching, leadership, will and athleticism. A starting five with Turk, Bargs and Calderon will not cut it in this league. Bringing in Jack as the starter is a step in the right direction: for the will and leadership side of team D.

    Remember Bosh at the Beijing Olympics. He studded it up defensively. Maybe he needs that push to be a good defender.

    I loved Wright's D this past season, probably the best defender on the team.

    If you recall the period right before the all-star break, the raps were the third best team by record for those 25 or so games, beating teams like the magic, spurs, mavs, and lakers. This was when Jack was the starter. No, Jack will never win defensive player of the year, but if he pushes the rest of the team to defend properly we can bang with the best of them.

  3. Anonymous's comments simply are not true. You can see the different on/off defensive ratings of different players here:

    The relevant column is the one entitled "1 Year Unadjusted Def Rating." Certain players (Amir, Wright, and Weems) appeared to have a positive impact on the defense. Others did not..

  4. Assume that Bosh is gone ... now what happens next??

  5. If the Raps are able to resign Bosh (somehow) and also Amir Johnson (a must), then I think that if BC could pull off this trade then they would be in a great position moving forward.

    Prince is a solid SF with playoff experience, plays defense, runs the floor, posts up, hits the three, is a competitor and does not dominate the ball. He's one of those guys that every good team should have.

    Foster is a great big man role player that plays D, rebounds and gets under peoples skin. Sure he's older now but he also gets his nose into the action and would be a decent spot starter if heaven Bosh or Bargs went down. By no means is he the answer up front, but he is a decent experience big that would further address the rebounding and hustle deficiency.

    Price is a young PG who has shown potential this season. Had there not be so many amazing rookie PG performances this year, he would have gotten more pub for his solid play, and I think he projects to be a potential starter. I would feel confident going into next season with Jack (a fierce competitor) as the starter and Price working under him, with the possibility of being a starter moving forward.

    I can also see why Detroit and Indy would make these trades. Indy would get a solid (if not under achieving PG) who could start, and can either draft or sign another one via free agency, and they would get instant offense and scoring from Gordon (Detroit def does not need to be paying $22 mil/per combined at the SG position with Hamilton and Gordon together so they shouldn't feel like they couldn't trade him).

    As bad as Turk played this year, he does still have value league wide due to his body of work, and I could see Detroit wanting to take a chance on him knowing that Stuckey is not the best creator at the PG. Getting Turk would allow them to run offense through him, and Stuck could focus on doing what he does best (slashing, driving to the bucket, breaking down defenses with penetration). Ford, would be a decent insurance PG who would have more value to the Pistons than Ben Gordon since this still have Rip.

    This trade would be a great start for the Raps. After that just draft a a back up SF and maybe work one last minor trade and the team would be good. Tell me I'm wrong....

  6. @lukecage22,

    Love it for the Raps. Prince would be a perfect fit, and we get rid of Turk and Jose.

    Love it for the Pacers, they would be nasty with Jose and Gordon in the backcourt.

    Only thing is from the Pistons side. I'm not sure they would give up Gordon and Prince for Turk and Ford. I don't think Dumars is done with Gordon, his prized offseason signing from a year ago. But you never know with Dumars, he is one crazy son of a bitch.

    Try this tweak on for size:

  7. @anonymous,

    If Bosh bolts there are a million different scenarios. Bosh is a huge asset, and nothing short of trading for Wade, Lebron or Kobe is off the table. I am working on that post now. I have to bounce for a golf game with my father, but I will have it for you later tonight. Stay tuned!

  8. What happens if Bosh bails on the Raptors:

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