Mosi Platt of the Miami Heat Index sent me a link to a recent NBA Today podcast where (starting at around the 27th minute) Ryen Russillo talks about how to rebuild the Raptors. Mosi wanted to hear my thoughts on Russillo's comments about the Raptors, and so I sent him a quick email reply.
I've expanded on my brief thoughts below. Each of my comments is made in response to something that Ryen Russillo said on the podcast; Russillo's comments are italicized.
The Raptors have no good pieces (maybe only Cleveland is as bad). Who are the core guys? DeRozan ("improved") and Ed Davis ("better than I thought"). Bargnani ("not a good contract"). Amir Johnson ("will always be a backup - fouls a ton").
I disagree. DeRozan has not been productive, but his perceived value is high in the league, and I'm sure he could fetch the Raps something pretty. Ed Davis has had a good rookie season (as expected), and should improve going forward. Joey Dorsey is a good - and cheap - big man. Amir Johnson has played well (again, as expected), is signed to a very reasonable deal, and will be turning 24 on May 1st. If that's not the definition of a good piece, then the NBA has very few good pieces. And, of course, there is the Raptors' high first round lottery pick in this year's draft.
Raptors announcers (as are other NBA announcers) are brutal homers.
Totally, 100% agree. I can't stand listening to the games ever since Chuck Swirsky left to do radio work for the Chicago Bulls. Matt Devlin is boring, has no catchphrases, and seems like he doesn't understand basketball. Swirsky was also a homer, but at least he was an interesting homer who had personality and seemed like he cared about the team. While this may be nostalgia rearing its ugly head, I remember Jack Armstrong being less useless in the past; nowadays he seems like a Yes-man who simply parrots all of Bryan Colangelo's talking points. Sadly, it has come to the point where Leo Rautins is the most palatable Raptors' commentator. And let's not even talk about the fact that Raptors' games are spread across four channels -some of which aren't on standard cable packages. It's no wonder that some fans have had to resort to watching games online.
Not much cap space ($49 Million, not counting #4 pick). Bad contracts: Calderon and Bargnani. Raps "don't need" Calderon.
Bargnani has an indisputably bad contract, but Calderon is still valuable - overpaid, but valuable; I wouldn't just give Calderon away. Calderon's backup, Jerryd Bayless, fluctuates wildly and tends towards the suck end of the spectrum, so if Calderon is to be traded, it would be smart of the Raptors to pick up another usable PG. The team's cap situation isn't terrible, but it's not perfect either; getting rid of Barbosa (who's bound to pick up his option) and Bargnani would save the team $16.6 million.
Toronto is not a destination for NBA players.
I agree - it seems like NBA players don't want to come to Toronto. Now, other than the fact that the franchise has been a joke, why would anyone not want to play in Toronto? Toronto is the 5th largest city in North America and the only Canadian city with an NBA franchise - the marketing potential is huge. The city is a world-class city, host to many national and international events, and has tons of stuff to do. Canada is a much better country to live in than the US (even my American girlfriend agrees with that statement); the standard of living is higher, life expectancies are higher, and there's less poverty....if American players are concerned about the tax rate, they're nuts. Players don't even have to maintain their primary residence in the city if they don't want to! European players seem to have no problem with Toronto as a destination. Are American players concerned about not having "the good cable", worried about encountering Curling while channel-surfing, or having to slog through the CFL draft? Are they worried about their children learning the Canadian anthem and the metric system instead of the American equivalents? Or perhaps about the "cold weather" in Toronto? Whatever it is, I think that if the Raptors turn things around for a sustained period of time, this whole conversation will become moot, because players like to play for winners.
|For the record, I'd take Toronto over Minneapolis every single time|
Greg Oden in Toronto? No, because of cap space.
Greg Oden is exactly the type of player that Toronto has to go after during free agency. Toronto is a crappy team, most prominent players probably aren't going to want to play there, and so the Raps have to take calculated risks. Greg Oden is one such risk. He's a young player - still 23 - who's been very effective when he's been on the court. He's also a Centre, which is a very important position. Of course, the downside is that he's always injured and he might be one serious injury away from retirement (sweet deal - where can I sign up for that?). But as long as the Raptors pull a Dallas and sign a relatively dependable backup at the same, Oden has a decent chance of being a difference-maker next season (assume that there are games next season). If Toronto's crafty enough, cap space won't be a problem.
Bryan Colangelo: "he's done a good job, not a great job", "don't care either way if he's back".
No. Bryan Colangelo has not done a good job; every major move he's made has failed. While many of the minor deals he's made have been good ones, the good has not been nearly enough to make up for the bad, and there has been no semblance of a plan or a philosophy during his time with the team. It would be best for the franchise if they let Colangelo walk and find a cheaper, less-heralded GM, preferably one with a history of success. But, failing that, I'm available for a reasonable price.
Hibbert for O'Neal - "bad trade, but reasonable at the time".
Definitely a bad trade, but not one that should have seemed reasonable at the time; I was not a fan of the deal when it happened, and actually, I wouldn't have traded O'Neal straight up for Hibbert, let alone included T.J. Ford and Rasho Nesterovic in the deal. And I'm not the only one who didn't like the trade at the time.
Jay Triano "won't and shouldn't come back". Get a new coach who will "bust some skulls" - Lawrence Frank.
Jay Triano has not wowed me - his decisions on who should get playing time have been poor all season long. However, such is the case with most NBA coaches, so I really can't get too upset about it. What I can get upset about, however, is that he seems to be ignorant about "advanced" basketball statistics - and by "advanced", I mean relatively simple concepts like True Shooting percentage, which is a shooting percentage that takes into account the extra value of threes and free throws. I'm sure there are better coaches out there somewhere, but the questions are, will they be willing to coach Toronto, and how much will they cost? Triano's big plus is that he's cheap. If the team is going to hire someone who is a typical NBA coach, it might as well hire someone like Triano who doesn't cost very much. I wouldn't mind going after a guy like Jeff Van Gundy or Lawrence Frank, but only if the price is right. Given all this - despite my lack of confidence in his coaching - I don't really care if Triano's back or not.
As far as defensive-minded/offensive-minded goes, as a bad team, I think the Raptors would be better with a defensive-minded coach. On average, bad teams...are bad. This means that, as the tempo increases, the likelihood of the bad team being beaten by a better team increases due to a larger sample size (more possessions). Defensive coaches tend to slow down the tempo, and this gives crappier teams a better chance of pulling out an undeserved victory.
You can't have Bargnani playing 30mins a night - bad D guy on a bad D team - trade him? But that's hard to do, because who knows what other teams think of Bargnani. Biedrins? Lamar Odom? Zach Randolph? Elton Brand? Iguodala? Al Jefferson?
Yes, what to do with Bargnani? If I could get any of those players in a trade for Bargnani, I would (although Elton Brand is a bit iffy given his contract, so the rest of the players in the deal would be important). Bargnani must be traded. The question is, who will take him? I'd be willing to trade him away for any contract that is either less money per year, or shorter than his deal. I repeat: any contract. If I could get any useful players out of it, that would be a bonus, but really, just getting rid of him would be a victory.
Trade Bargnani and #4 pick for Steve Nash and Gortat? Ryen says Toronto should say no. But Canadians would love to have Nash on the team. "I don't know if Phoenix would do it".
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! That would be an amazing trade for Toronto, and I'd do it in a second. Gortat is a very good and relatively young Centre. Nash is old, but still really good and signed at a reasonable price; plus, he's Canadian and really, really fun to watch. I'd do this immediately. Unfortunately, there's no way in hell that Phoenix would do this trade, and I suspect that current Toronto management wouldn't do the trade either (as obsessed with "youth" and "potential" as they are). While Nash might not want to leave Phoenix either, if he's going to be on a crappy non-playoff team, perhaps he might rather be in Canada? Of course, if I was Nash, I wouldn't want to play for a crappy organization like the Raptors, so who knows.
The Bosh Trade Exception "is useless".
I disagree. It might come in handy during the summer, perhaps when some team is looking to shed a big contract. Maybe one of the team's bigger contracts (Calderon, Bargani, and Barbosa) can be combined with the $12 million left in the trade exception to nab a great player? Maybe the Hawks get tired of mediocrity and decide to cut costs - I'd take Al Horford or Josh Smith off their hands for them (but you couldn't convince me to touch the Joe Johnson stinker). What about the Mavs? Mark Cuban is going on record as saying that he'll blow the team up once he realizes that the team isn't going anywhere. After another disappointing playoffs this year, maybe he pulls the plug, and Chandler or Nowitzki are available? The Cavs might be looking to trade Varejao away - sure he's coming off an injury, but those are the types of gambles you have to make.