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A Tuppence of Advice for the Toronto Raptors…

April 25, 2011 1 comment

Yesterday I looked at the Cleveland Cavaliers, today I turn to the second worst team in the East: the Toronto Raptors.  Their season began with them losing Chris Bosh and while I thought they might benefit from a little Ewing theory post-Bosh bounce, I was wrong.  The Raptors were 26th in points against and dead last in defensive efficiency.  That would be bad if the Raps were the offensive powerhouse they were supposed to be building, but… instead they were 17th in points for and 20th in offensive efficiency, hardly an offensive juggernaut…

Add all those numbers together and do you know what you get?  A 22 win team.

Toronto Raptors (22-60):

If you listen to ESPN’s NBA Today podcast, then you know that Ryen Russillo has been saying all season long that the Raptors have the worst collection of talent in the NBA.  Frankly, I think Charlotte’s worse, Detroit doesn’t do much for me, and Cleveland’s pretty baron, but basically I’ve jumped them from 30th to 27th… Whop dee do!  When Bryan Collangelo was hired by the Raptors, it seemed like a time for genuine excitement.  The man who’d been the architect of those exciting Suns teams was bringing his talents to the T-Dot.

Yet, Colangelo’s history is checkered.  He drafted Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire, but then he also drafted Andrea Bargnani with the first pick… He made the franchise altering play for Steve Nash, but he also gave Hedo Turkoglu a 53 million five year deal that seemed dumb about eight milliseconds after it was announced.  Look, even the best GMs make mistakes, but when everybody with blood traveling to their brain knew that the Turk deal was going to be a disaster, well…

So, the Raptors enter the offseason with tough organizational questions: Do they re-sign Colangelo?  Do they retain coach Jay Triano?  Frankly, as much as I hate it when fans call for a coach’s job, I think that Toronto’s utter inability to play defense has to come back to the coach.  Of course, when the coach has a roster as sieve ladden as the Raptors, maybe it’s unfair to blame the coach?  Could Pat Riley turn Jose Claderon and Bargnani into an elite defensive unit?  I don’t think so.  Which brings us back to Colangelo.  I don’t think there is any way to sugar coat this, after an auspicious start, Colangelo’s tenure in TO has been an absolute abhorrent run of ineptitude.

His worst missteps:

  • June 2006: drafted Bargnani 1st overall – granted this was a shitty draft, but LaMarcus Aldridge (2nd), Brandon Roy (6th), and Rudy Gay (8th) were all considered prospective top picks in 2006 and while each has flaws (took 5 seasons to develop into a potential all star, has no knees, something of a ball stopper, respectively), each probably has the Raptors in the playoffs with Bosh the past couple seasons.
  • July 2008: Traded T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, and the draft rights to Roy Hibbert to Indiana for the steaming remains of Jermaine O’Neal.  I can see how this deal was tempting, vintage O’Neal would have been a perfect defensive presence beside Chris Bosh, and Ford had lost his starting job to Jose Calderon, but vintage O’Neal was pretty clearly a thing of the past.  Jermaine had not played in more than 70 games since the season before the Malice at the Palace (’03-’04) and since that franchise altering season, O’Neal’s points per game had declined 24.3 to 20.1 to 19.4 to 13.6.  That’s not a one season aberration.  That’s four years of evidence that he cannot stay healthy and that his skills are declining.  O’Neal’s points per game has not exceeded 13.6 since then and he was traded after only 41 games as a Raptor.
  • July 2008: Re-signed Jose Calderon to a five year 45 million deal.  There’s a lot to like about Calderon.  He’s a decent shooter, he’s a good floor marshal, and he rarely turns the ball over.  Of course, his D makes Steve Nash look like Gary Payton, so… yeah.
  • July 2009: Signed Hedo to that dubious deal…
  • July 2009: Re-upped Bargnani for 50 million over five years.  I don’t want to pick on Bargnani, but if he is your best player, you are in serious trouble.  He’s been compared to Dirk Nowitzki, but that’s like comparing Hillary Clinton to Sarah Palin, because they are both white, female, politicians from the U.S.  Dirk is a better shooter, he’s more aggressive offensively, he’s a smarter basketball player, he’s a better rebounder, and he’s a better defender, which doesn’t say much, since Bargnani defends about as well as the chair in Yi Jianlian’s famous workout…

Colangelo has done a decent job of slipping out of some of his most egregious mistakes, like swapping O’Neal for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks – which didn’t help the product much, but did help the bottom line – but there’s no way to sugar coat the fact that this year his most common starting lineup was: Bargnani, Amir Johnson, Sonny Weems, DeMar DeRozan, and Calderon.  As Big Cuz so astutely pointed out in my comments last week, “who the heck is Sonny Weems?”

And that’s the Raptors’ problem.  For all of Colangelo’s maneuvering, he has built a team that doesn’t have a single player who would start for a championship squad.  Maybe Ed Davis develops into a legitimate starter, but other than him the only pieces on the Raptors that I like are DeRozan and Jerryd Bayless, who should be your first two guards off the bench, not starters.  You can argue that he was blindsided by Bosh leaving, but… should he have been?  Unlike Cleveland who legitimately didn’t know what LeBron was doing until he uttered the most famous sporting sentence of the last decade, the Raptors should have known that Bosh was gone.  Before the 2010 trade deadline, the Raptors should have sent him to Houston, who surely would have anted up a brilliant package to acquire the gangly forward.

I guess what I’m saying, is that to improve the Raptors, ownership needs to clean house.  Colangelo is capable of being a great GM and he may well go on to success somewhere else, but his tenure in Toronto has not been successful and it’s time for the Raptors and him to part company.

Does anyone have Kevin Pritchard’s phone number?

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The Curious Case of Chris Bosh…

November 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Last year when I wrote about the possibility of Chris Bosh leaving Toronto, Raptor fans flooded me with emails about how the willowy big man was massively overrated and how his departure would acutally help the team long term.  At first I scoffed at this absurd notion, but their response was so resounding that I actually came to believe that the Raptors might acutally be in line for soemthing of a Ewing Theory season.  Trust I don’t mean that they’re going to challenge the East’s powers for the Conference Championship or anything, more that they’d win 35 games or so, which given the pieces of their roster would seem like 15 more than their expected total.  Seven games in to the post-Bosh era, it’s tough to see that coming true, but more and more it’s looking like the Raptor fans might have been on to something with Bosh.

Nine games in to the Miami Heat season, the sky is falling in South Beach.  The most hyped team in NBA history, the team some fanatics thought would challenge Michael Jordan’s 1996 Bulls for the single season wins record is 5-4.  Five and FOUR, with two losses to the Boston Celtics.  It’s probably not the end of the world, but it certainly might seem so to some observers.  What the Heat’s record doesn’t tell us, is anything about what will happen in May and June.  Even those losses to the Celtics don’t really mean much.  The Celtics won on opening night in their home building with the Heat playing together for essentially the first time.  Last night, the Celtics won in Miami playing what amounted to a near perfect game, while Dwayne Wade had his second worst night of the year.  As everyone keeps pointing out, the Celtics are already an established, fully functioning machine, but they’ve only won these two games by a combined 13 points.  So, what happens if by June the Heat have become a choesive team?  Suddenly two losses in November don’t matter.

Anyhow, what interests me about the Heat thus far, is Chris Bosh.  From Ric Bucher’s chat today:

Logan (Maryland)
Do you think Miami could be a championship contender if Bosh played like he did in Toronto

Ric Bucher (1:09 PM)
Bosh is playing the way he did in Toronto. That’s the problem.

Ouch.

In reality, Bosh isn’t playing the same way, his rebounds are down significantly and his usage rate has been wrecked by playing with two ball dominating guards. The former probably will pick up as the season moves along and the usage rate will shake out a little as the Miami offense finds itself, but it is indicative of how much the move to Miami has hurt his stock that Bucher makes such a comment. Bosh has gone from being considered one of basketball’s top talents – not in the LeBron-Wade echelon, but in that second tier – to being a national punch-line.

Form the Tony Kornheiser show today,

“Chris Bosh stinks… he stinks, he’s like an average player isn’t he?”
– Mr Tony
“Yes, he is.”
– Eric Kelliher

Double ouch!

Last year Bosh was viewed as a player worthy of a 120 million contract. This year, Bosh received a 120 million contract (give or take). Now, he’s an average player. Does this strike anyone else as strange? Did Bosh change; did our expectations of him change? Or did nothing change and everyone’s just overreacting to a few games?

Maybe Bosh was overrated in the first place and maybe he’ll live to regret going to Miami where his warts are being viewed in a way they never were in Toronto. Of course, maybe the Heat figure their offense out, win a title and everyone forgets all the anti-Bosh hysteria.

The NBAs Losers Part 1…

May 2, 2010 1 comment

Well, we’re two weeks into the NBAs interminable, never ending, winter of my discontent, playoffs. We’ve got another Spurs-Suns series to look forward too; another Sloan-Jackson coaching clinic; and the LeBron’s looking to put the knife in the ageing Celtics. So, naturally, Sports on the Brain is busy focusing his attention on… the NBAs losers.

That’s right, who cares about the teams in the playoffs, their rosters are set, their fates are sealed, their future will be what it will be. It makes no difference if I make a lousy prediction and tell you that the Suns will win in 7, the Lakers in 6, the Cavs in 6, and Orlando will beat the Hawks in 5. I’ll probably be right about two and wrong about two. Big deal. What’s far more interesting, is… what are the teams that couldn’t get to the playoffs thinking. What are they planning, or, better yet, what should they be planning?

That sounds like something I can really sink my teeth into. So, armed with ESPNs trade machine, Chad Ford’s draft predictor, and HoopsHype’s salary page (plus of course the ever useful Basketball Reference), lets try and get into the heads of the losers (careful, it’s a strange and spooky place…). Today we start with the East, after which we will move on to the West and then the 1st round losers. Warning, what follows is almost entirely drunken conjecture, but that doesn’t mean it’s not also totally awesome.

(PS – just another warning, this is really freaking long. Seriously, I mean print it off and take it in to the bathroom long. And if you get to the bottom, uhmmm… dude, it’s spring, get your ass off the can and go outside).

Toronto Raptors (40-42):

There is no other way to describe this season for the Raps, other than to say it was an unmitigated disaster. Years of poor drafting, doomed this franchise to middling status and forced GM Bryan Colangelo to put all his chips in the middle for Hedo “I chose Toronto over a better team in Portland because of the crazy Turkish nightlife” Turkoglu… Yeah! Turk-O-Glue turned out not to be the glue for a winning Toronto season. His numbers declined across the board from last season, he was benched for celebrating losses in nightclubs, and without Dwight Howard protecting the rim behind him, his defensive indifference was as obvious as his penchant for smoking three packs a day. Of course, his “ole” style D fit right in on a team that gave up 105.9 points per game and had the worst defensive efficiency in the league (110.2).

Now, even bad defenders can be hidden in good defensive schemes, so much of the Raps defensive shortcomings can actually be seen as coaching shortcomings and thus as much as it pains me to clamor for a Canadian’s job, I think the first step for the Raptors this summer is firing Jay “If I stand with my hands on my head, maybe they’ll try defending” Triano. The second step is… Chris “What should I eat for breakfast, better ask my twitter followers” Bosh.

If Bosh wants to leave, well then there’s not much you can do about it, but make damn sure he leaves in a sign and trade rather than of his own recognizance. It’s in Bosh’s best interest to take the Sign and Trade, because it ensures a higher annual salary and an extra year, so if the writing’s on the wall that he’s leaving, Colangelo better ensure that he squirms his fingers in there and gets his prints all over this deal. The worst move would be the rumored trade that sends Bosh to New York for David “Defense means standing near the rim for a rebound, right?” Lee. Ughhh… a Lee-Bargnani frontline might give up 132 points a night.

Chicago will offer Luol Deng, who’s fine, but makes pretty decent coin for a player who’s missed 64 games over the last three years. Personally, if I ran the Raptors, I’d be looking to make a deal with Oklahoma and I’d be asking for Serge Ibaka, and either James Harden or Jeff Green (plus some picks and whatever filler was necessary), I don’t know what Oklahoma would do with that, but it’d be an interesting negotiation.

On the other hand, if Bosh’s twitter account tells him ‘magic eight ball’ style to come back to TO, well then fine. Bring him back, try to find someone who wants Turkoglu, shoot Jose Calderon in the knee (which wont get rid of his contract, but at least saves you the insurance money), and draft Kentucky point guard Eric Bledsoe. The important part is to overhaul the team with tougher players, guys who wont shy away from contact, play defense, and will protect Bosh’s shortcomings.

If, for instance, the Raps could work out a trade with New Orleans that sent Turk and his 44 million remaining to New Orleans for Emeka Okafor and his 52 million contract, then it’s a move which helps both clubs. Okafor never developed an offensive game, and his defense has declined over the last couple seasons, but he still provides a mobile big body to put next to Bosh. For the Hornets, the trade saves them two million this year and six over the life of the contract. If that’s not enough savings for the insolvent Hornets, then the two teams could add to the deal, with the Raps sending Marcus Banks’ expiring 4.75 million deal for James Posey’s two year 13.5 contract. That saves the Hornets 4.5 million this coming year, getting them clear of the luxury tax, and it saves the financially troubled franchise 16.8 million all told.

I’d then make an offer to Josh Childress. Remember him? Well, two years ago, Childress was a restricted free agent with the Hawks, when, fearful of the Hawks matching, no teams stepped forward with an enticing offer. With no other offers to compete with, the Hawks low balled Childress, who in turn took a better payday overseas and left for Europe. Childress has an out clause in his three year contract with Olympiacos Piraeus, and has intimated he’d like to return to the NBA.

I’d make him an offer of the midlevel exception at 12:01 on Free agency’s first day. The Hawks at this point are such a mess that they might not match, and making the offer immediately means that Hawks’ management will still be trying to sort out star Joe Johnson’s free agency. It might not work, but it might…

Finally, I’d hire Avery “Mr Squeak” Johnson. I know that his philosophy of hard nosed defense and controlled offence is anathema to Colangelo, but… at this point Colangelo’s system has been shown to have a few shortcomings (unless of course you have Nash and Stoudemire running it…)

All of that, gives a top eight of:

C- E. Okafor
PF – C. Bosh
SF – J. Childress
SG – D. DeRozan
PG – E. Bledsoe

6th – A. Bargnani
7th – J. Jack
8th – R. Evans

How good they are would depend on the development of DeRozan and Bledsoe and how well sieves like Bosh and Bargnani take to Johnson’s system, but the long term outlook is better than anything this year’s squad offers.

Indiana Pacers (32-50):

On March 6th, the Pacers were a horrendous 20-43 and in line for a top five pick in the draft, but then Jim O’Brien got his team rolling and they strung together a decent 12-7 streak to finish the season. That run dropped the Pacers to the 10th pick in this year’s draft. In a draft with five marquee guys, that’s unfortunate.

Indiana is basically doing what the Knicks are doing, only without the fanfare and a year later. After next year, they could have a 17 million in payroll with only three players on the roster; this year’s pick, Dahntay “I’ve never met a turnover I didn’t like” Jones, and Danny “Why in the world did I sign that extension” Granger. It’s likely that they pick up the team options on youngsters Roy Hibert, Brandon Rush, and Tyler Hansbrough which would increase their cap number to 23 million, but that will still leave 30 plus million to lavish on free agents.

Now Indiana isn’t exactly an attractive option for young black men. It’s not the Big Apple, it doesn’t have the glamour of LA, or the nightlife of Miami, and, as Spike Lee once famously pointed out, it does have some unfortunate historical links to the clan, but it also has a rabid basketball savvy fan base, and it has a history of great hoops. Unfortunately for the Pacers, while this year’s free agent market features unrestricted game changers like LeBron and Wade, 2011’s best free agents, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Marc Gasol, and Thaddeus Young (I don’t list Kevin Durant, because, well, it just isn’t happening…) are all restricted. The only two unrestricted free agents of note are Carmelo Anthony (also not happening) and David West, both of whom have ETOs.

Of course, cap space isn’t only about free agents, the Pacers could also use that space to extract talent from financially floundering franchises. For instance, to use a team from above, if the Pacers offered the Hornets the expiring contracts of Troy Murphy and Jeff Foster, and the 10th pick, and took back James Posey, Peja Stojakovic, and Darren Collison, the Hornets would reduce this year’s payroll by an all important 3.79 this year, which probably gets them out of the luxury tax. The deal also saves them a shade over 11 million on the life of the contract.

For the Pacers, this gives them the young point guard that they’ve been looking for since Jamaal Tinsely went tits up. With a couple other moves, the Pacers still would have a little over 20 million to use in 2011. At which point, I’d dip back into the Hornets reservoir and make David West a 10 million a year offer. Given the general cheapness of Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley, I’d also make a front loaded, slightly inflated offer to restricted free agent Marc Gasol. Heisley and Memphis GM Chris “I still cannot believe I wasn’t invited to Bill Simmons’ Atrocious GM Summit” Wallace can almost certainly be bullied into letting Gasol walk. Finally, I’d take a low cost flier on Milwaukee free agent Micahel Redd. Knee injuries have robbed Redd of the last couple seasons, but he still has one of the sweetest strokes in basketball and thus is worth a flier. Those moves give the Pacers a 2011 roster of (they also will have a lottery pick for the ’11 draft, but speculating where and whom in 2011 is just too much for this bloated scribe):

PG – D. Collison, A. Price
SG – M. Redd, D. Jones
SF – D. Granger, B. Rush, J. Posey
PF – D. West, T. Hansbrough
C – P. Gasol, R. Hibbert

So, you see the key for the Pacers this off season will be to hold serve, not hand out any dumb deals (like, uhmm… say giving a shooting guard with a PER of 9.07 a four year 11 million deal), and maintain their flexibility for next year. Getting a coach who understands the importance of tanking for lottery position probably wouldn’t hurt either, but you didn’t hear that from me…

New York Knicks (29-53):

New York, New York it’s my kind of town… After a decade of ineptitude (the last two years of which were intentional) this is the summer that Knicks fans have been waiting for. I can only imagine that the wait has been excruciating. The NBA’s most intense, knowledgeable fans have been subjected to the Scott Layden era (trades for the obnoxious contracts of Howard Eisley and Shandon Anderson, really starting the bloated spending that became the Knickerbockers trademark), the Isaiah “nothing’s ever my fault” Thomas era (Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry, Steve Francis, Jamal Crawford, Jerome James, Eddy Curry, Malik Rose, Jalen Rose, Penny Hardaway, Jerome Williams, Maurice Taylor, Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry and of course Anucha Browne Sanders and Eddy Curry… need I elaborate?), and the Donnie “First we show up with a lot of money, then we see who signs” Walsh era (61-103 two year record).

They deserve something better, someone better, a King to lead them back to the promised land. Will they get him? I don’t know, but I just dropped 1600 words breaking down the Pacers and Raptors, which means if I tackle the Knicks here, this post will come in at a Simmons-esque 45,349 words. And since I have neither his panache for timely celebrity references, nor his ‘keep the reader engaged’ humor I’ll have to make the Knicks their own column…

Detroit Pistons (27-55):

Wow, how the mighty have fallen, and please somebody get Lifecall on the line, because I don’t think the Pistons can get up. Here we have a shinning beacon of what not to do with cap space. For all those teams that come in to this offseason expecting to reel in the big haul, they should study the Pistons.

Detroit GM Joe “Hey, I drafted Darko, gave Rip Hamilton a franchise killing three year extension, and traded our best player, but I’m a nice guy, so people still think I’m a great GM” Dumars traded team leader Chauncey “Not so Big Shot” Billups last season for Allen Iverson’s expiring contract. It freed up 18 million in cap room for the Pistons, which they wisely used on… Ben “Just not quite starter material” Gordon and Charlie “hairless cookie monster” Villaneuva… What? Them? Really? I mean, any time you can add two players who didn’t start for losing teams and it only costs you ten years and 95.7 million, it’s a no brainer, right?

It was one of those moves that had you scratching your head, I mean, even if it worked perfectly what did the Pistons have? A 42 win team? 45? 47? Surely not 50, not with a frontline of Villaneuva, Ben “I died four years ago, but nobody noticed” Wallace, and Kwame “Michael Jordan f***ed me up worse than Lindsay Lohan” Brown. When the injury bug hit and Rodney Stuckey proved not to be a younger Billups, well, the Pistons spiraled straight down the toilet to a 27 win season. Whooo… the NBA “where ex-players with no formal business training negotiate deals with seasoned litigators” happens!

Philadelphia 76ers (27-55):

Sometimes the worst thing you can do for your franchise is nothing. That would seem to be what happened to the 76ers this season. At the deadline the sharks were swimming around the 76ers bleeding body, looking to scavenge some part of Andre Igoudala. What the Sixers needed to do was cut him off like their right arm, tie him to the bloody foot (Samuel Dalembert) that’s floating alongside and save the rest of the body.

Look I love Iggy, I wish the Suns had drafted him in ’04 instead of trading the 7th pick to Chicago. But the reality is that Iggy’s probably the third best player on a championship squad and because of the mess that is the Sixers, he’s come to be their best player. This poses two problems, first Iggy’s paid as their best player, and second, he believes that he should be a team’s best player. I’ll let you decide which is the bigger problem.

The Sixers have good young pieces, but they also have a lot of deadwood bogging them down. What they need to do, is tie Iggy to one of those pieces (either Elton Brand or Dalembert) and free themselves of those contracts. Fortunately for them, this is the perfect summer to do that. There are a lot of teams with big money to spend, but really there are only a few marquee guys (LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Johnson, Amare, maybe Boozer, maybe Gay) some team is going to get left out in the cold.

Say the Knicks get their wet dream scenario and sign James and Bosh. Then assume that the Bulls move quickly to add Johnson and Boozer, and the Suns, buoyed by their (fingers crossed) run to the finals, re-sign Amare. Suddenly, Miami’s looking at the prospect of losing Wade if they don’t do something, so would they use their space on Iggy and Brand (whom Riley tried to sign way back in 2003) and send Michael Beasley back to Philly?

I know, I know, Beasley’s a massive bust, but he’s still young and that deal clears 107 million off Philly’s cap. Given the massive amount of money owed to Brand, it’s possible that the Heat would insist on Dalembert over Brand, since the Haitian center only has 12 million left on his deal. That’s fine you make that move too, but you’d want some more compensation as a result. Iggy’s a good player, but the deal the team has given him actually makes him a bad player for the Sixers.

Make that trade, figure out a way to get in the top four to select Derrick Favours and suddenly you have a young eight man core of:

PG – J. Holliday
SG – J Meeks (ouch, definitely need an upgrade here)
SF – T. Young
PF – D. Favours
C – Brand/Dalembert

6th – M. Beasley
7th – M Speights
8th – L. Williams

That team wont be good next year, but in Holliday, Young, and Favours, you have a lot of upside and if Beasley rehabilitates the future truly looks rosy. It’s a process, but then when you lose 55 games, you need to think about baby steps and long term improvement.

Washington Wizards (26-56):

Well, that was a fun season wasn’t it? Death of an owner, poop in a shoe, guns in the locker room, and a stripped down roster… add it all up and you’ve got a 26 win season. On the bright side for Wizard fans, the purchase of the team by Ted Leonsis should soon be official. Leonsis, who did a remarkable job rebuilding DC’s hockey team – this week aside of course, should make his first move giving Ernie “Wait you missed all but eight games last season with a knee injury, hhmmm, ok, I guess I’d better make it 111 million” Grunfeld the pink slip.

It may be that Flip Saunders follows him out the door, but this team isn’t going to be competitive for a couple years, so there’s no real harm in keeping Saunders around to be the fall guy in a year or two. Grunfeld’s insistence that the Wizards just needed to be healthy to be a contender show that the game has passed him by. If I’m Leonsis, I start texting sweet nothings to Portland GM Kevin Pritchard who seems to be losing a power struggle in Portland. Pritchard overhauled the Blazers, bringing them back from the dead after the Jail Blazers era. He is the perfect man to understand the delicate balance of rebuilding with draft picks, kids, and cap space management.

The Wizards only have a 10.3% chance of winning the lottery, so whomever Leonsis hires to replace Grunfeld will probably have to do it without John Wall or Evan Turner. Further complicating the new GMs job, will be the old gunslinger himself, Agent Zero. As I mentioned a couple months ago, Arenas will be hard, but not impossible to move. Like the scenario above involving Miami and the Sixers, Washington may find a taker for Glbert once the free agent musical chairs have stopped.

Round and round the free agents go, where they stop nobody knows… oops, no one chooses to sign with the Knicks and Donnie Walsh, desperate to have somebody to show for all this waiting, trades Eddy Curry’s expiring contract for Arenas. If you can’t see that happening, well you’ve never paid attention to the fun things NBA GMs do when the pressure’s on. If the Wizards can get Arenas off their roster, then they will truly have a clean slate with which to rebuild. After that, it’s about making some smart draft choices and filling in the cracks. If the Wiz have Pritchard, I think they’re back in the playoffs in three years.

New Jersey Nets (12-70):

Yowza… twelve wins. That’s one heck of a season. At least we know one thing, you can cross the Nets right off the LeBron list. The two time MVP isn’t going to a franchise that could barely avoid being the NBA’s worst team ever.

Much like the Wizards, the upside for the Nets is a new owner. The Russian Mark Cuban seems like he’s going to be just the man to bring the Nets out of the Swampland and into the limelight of Brooklyn. The Nets have a couple of good young bodies in point guard Devin Harris and center Brook Lopez, and they have more cap space than Meg Ryan has botox, but ughh… 12 wins. Yikes.

That’s too much work for me, plus it’s late, and I hear wolves. Sorry Nets fan(s?), some problems are too big even for a man armed with Sports on the Brain and ESPNs trade machine. You’re on your own…

Look out Next Week for the Western Also-rans and then the 1st round losers.

Is Chris Bosh more Batman or Robin…

March 25, 2010 3 comments

How good should a great basketball player make his team? This was the question posed to, and about, Chris Bosh last week when the Raptors’ pathetic play had them sitting below .500. Nobody questions whether Bosh is a great player, perhaps even one of the ten best in basketball, but they are increasingly asking whether or not he’s capable of being the leader of a championship squad.

This talk exists, because despite their horrendous play, the Raptors are basically being ceded the eighth seed in the East by Chicago’s medical staff. Of course, nobody has these questions for Dwayne Wade, whose Heat are a whopping two wins better than the Raptors, but that’s because Wade already has the shinny bling on his finger. On the other hand, Bosh has never led the Raptors past the first round.

Now, before we all get too worked up, I’d like to remind everyone that these questions once existed for Kevin Garnett. When KG was teamed with Wally Szczerbiak and Troy Hudson he lost in the first round. When he was teamed with Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell he went to the conference championship, and when he was teamed with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, he won the big enchilada. What’s my point you ask?

Well, what if the Raptors had selected Andre Igoudala over Rafael Aroujo in 2004. What if the next year they’d picked Danny Granger when he inexplicably fell. And finally, what if in 2006 when they lucked into the first pick, well, what if they’d been bold enough to select a smart basketball kid, who maybe didn’t have the top flight athleticism scouts normally get wet over? What if they’d taken Brandon Roy? Obviously, you can look back on almost any draft and say, if so and so had taken that guy, but usually these are aided with hindsight. In the case of the Raptors, their picks were all, correctly, lampooned at the time. We knew Aroujo was going to be bad, we knew that Granger was better than Joey Graham, and while Andrea Bargnani was always intriguing, he was also only considered a lock for the top spot by Bryan Colangelo.

If the Raptors had instead made the fashionable choice, then you’re looking at a team with a crunch time five of Jose Calderon (or Jarret Jack), Igoudala, Granger, Roy and Bosh. Think that team isn’t going past round one? Is Roy or Bosh the leader of that team? I don’t know, but it’s probably irrelevant. Any way you look at it, with Roy, Iggy, and Granger as his running mates, nobody is now questioning Bosh’s chops.

Thus, ultimately, this is sort of like arguing who’s an ace in baseball, it only really matters in an academic sense. Or, it matters to NBA owners and GMs who have to figure out Bosh’s worth, but not to me, who just has to judge his play from the comfort of my sofa. Having said all of that, is Bosh better suited to being a number two?

It’s sort of like Pau Gasol. Pau led some solid squads in Memphis, but he was criticized because none of those teams breached the second round. He was too soft, too gangly, too indifferent to defense (sound familiar?), too foreign… But when he was traded to the Lakers, all those criticisms were washed away, as he became the perfect compliment to Kobe Bryant. The NBAs best sidekick.

There’s nothing wrong with being the perfect Robin. Scottie Pippen parlayed that into six NBA titles and top twenty-five all time status. Is it better to be Charles Barkley who was always his team’s best player, is considered one of the all time top twenty, and never won a title, or Scottie? Personally, I’d rather the six titles. Everybody grows up wanting to be Batman, but at season’s end, I’d rather be Robin sipping champagne, than the Green Latern watching on TV.

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