The next step for the Toronto Raptors

The problem with the Raptors, as constituted, isn’t with the make-up of their current team.

A top flight coaching staff could win 50+ regular season games with their team during the 2008-2009 season – given the fact that their Pythagorean Win Projection Numbers from last season indicate 49.28-50.71 W’s for next year – with a bunch of qualifiers thrown in for good measure (e.g. all key players remain relatively injury free) … using some form of the following line-up:

STARTERS
#1. PG-1 Calderon
#2. OG-1 Kapono
#3. SF-1 Moon
#4. Big-1 Bosh
#5. Big-2 O’Neal

KEY SUBS
#6. PG-2/OG-2 Parker
#7. SF-2 Graham
#8. Big-3 Bargnani (SF-3)

BENCH
#9. Big-4 Humphries
#10. PG-3 Ukic
#11. Big-5 Jawai
#12. OG-3/SF-4 TBD-? (free agent)

RESERVES
#13. ?
#14. ?
#15. ?

That’s the core of a solid NBA team, if coached and/or managed properly.

Potential Problems?

1) Is the Raptors’ personnel going to be used like that this season?

2) Does Bryan Colangelo (GM) know what a great head coach looks like?

3) Is MLSE prepared to pay the price to sign a top flight head coach to run their team, if Sam Mitchell struggles, in this regard?

4) Is MLSE prepared to pay the price to sign the players it takes to fill out roster spots #12-15 properly? (like the Boston Celtics did in 2007-2008, possibly exceeding the Luxury Tax)

5) What is going to happen if/when Calderon, Bosh or O’Neal suffers a serious injury?

=======================

The specific answers to these five questions will begin to crystalize as the summer Free Agent Signing Period kicks-off today and the Raptors’ Management Team settles on their player roster heading towards training camp in the fall.

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15 Responses to “The next step for the Toronto Raptors”

  1. fluxland Says:

    Hi Khandor!

    Nice to see you posting again. I’m glad you, like many others, are pleased and optimistic regarding the Raptors roster for next year. I, for one, am not.

    Number 05 on your list is my biggest concern. As the possibility of injury is seems high,IMO.

    Any thoughts on who would be willing to come to TO and take over for Sam? I think the deck is stacked against him even before the season starts and he will not make it past the end of the year.

  2. khandor Says:

    Flux,

    I wouldn’t use the word ‘optimistic’ in regard to what I’ve written, thus far, about the Raptors’ outlook for this season and the future.

    If I was their GM, trading for Jermaine O’Neal is not what I would have done right now.

    That said, there is still enough talent on this team, as constituted, to win a lot of games during the 2008-2009 season … should everything break right for the Raptors:

    1. Calderon is a terrific NBA PG with good size, good quickness, a top noth Bball IQ, outstanding Leadership & decision-making abilities, plus he’s becoming a very solid perimeter shooter & FT-maker … who will benefit tremendously with increased PT now that Ford is gone;
    2. Bosh is a terrific under-sized Center;
    3. O’Neal is a solid Power Forward;
    4. Parker is a terrific back-up Point Guard and solid 1st Option off the bench at the Off Guard Position;
    5 & 6. Kapono & Moon, in tandem, at the 2/3 positions are an adequate combination of 3-Pt Shooting/Defense/Rebounding/Slashing/Shot-blocking … to handle every team in the League w/o a dominant physical wing player (like LBJ & Kobe);
    7. Bargnani, as a perimeter Big, coming in off the bench for whichever one of Bosh or O’Neal who needs a break, WILL NEED TO BE UP TO THE CHALLENGE THIS OPPORTUNITY PRESENTS FOR HIM, as the 3rd Big in this very tight 3-man rotation;
    8. Humphries is more than capable of providing energy off the bench, as the team’s 5th Big, should there be foul difficulty or the need to combat a physical mis-match (e.g. vs Yao Ming) in the Front-court;
    9. Graham WILL NEED TO BE UP TO THE CHALLENGE THIS OPPORTUNITY PRESENTS FOR HIM, as the back-up SF/Defensive/Rebounding Specialist;
    10. Ukic is not as good as Calderon was in his 1st year with Toronto but, as a 3rd-string PG, will do just fine in the NBA; and,
    11. Jawai is an athletic Center with a solid upside, solid character & is usable in a way that Maceo Baston (or Hoffa for that matter) never was.

    This group of players has the makings of a solid, conventional NBA team.

    The things that concern me are:

    A) What player is going to be signed to fill out roster spot #12?

    An inexperienced young player, like Hassan Adams? … Or, a solid vet like James Posey?

    B) What players are going to be signed to fill out roster spots #13-15?

    Solid experienced players like PJ Brown & Scott Pollard? … Or, more cost efficient no-use back-ups like Maceo Baston & Pape Sow?

    C) If the Raptors fall below .500 early in the season, as they are adjusting to the SEVEN new players on their 15-man roster, will Bryan Colangelo do (again) what he did previously in Phoenix, i.e. fire the head coach (as a scapegoat) & replace him with one of his assistants for the balance of the season and then moving forward from there with this new head coach? (without ever becoming good enough to win an NBA championship)

    Or, will MLSE not be prepared to go this route and bite the bullet on the contract of the 2006-2007 COY?

    D) Does Bryan Colangelo even know what a great NBA head coach looks, sounds and acts like?

    Or, will he continue to hire inexperienced coaches like Danny Ainge, Scott Skiles, Frank Johnson, Mike D’Antoni, Sam Mitchell, etc.?

    E) Does MLSE have the know-how and commitment to winning required to leap-frog other solid outfits in the Eastern Conference like …

    i. Boston/Ainge
    ii. Detroit/Dumars
    iii. Orlando/Smith & Twardzik
    iv. Cleveland/Ferry
    v. Washington/Grunfeld

    and stay ahead of these ones

    vii. Miami/Riley
    viii. Chicago/Paxson
    ix. Indiana/Bird
    x. New Jersey/Thorn & VDW
    xi. Philadelphia/Stefanski
    xii. Milwaukee/Hammond
    xiii. Atlanta/? (Sund)
    xiv. New York/Walsh
    xv. Charlotte/Jordan

    who are also looking to improve and have similar reason for optimism.

    I wouldn’t call my take, to this point, ‘Optimistic’ … but, neither would I call it ‘Pessimistic’.

    In my opinion, Bryan Colangelo is an AVERAGE NBA GM … nothing more and nothing less … and the teams which he assembles have very little chance of ever winning a League championship.

  3. khandor Says:

    Flux,

    No insight yet on a potential replacement for Sam Mitchell … other than the obvious fact that whenever Bryan Colangelo has dismissed his head coach in the past he has replaced him with a current assist. coach, and the change – if it happens at all – will probably happen in Dec/08.

  4. fluxland Says:

    Excellent call on replacing with assistant… that is his MO. And when i wrote “end of the year” is was implying Dec 08 as well. : )

    You hold Jose in the highest regard, and believe him to be a championship caliber guard capable of bringing the LOT to the ACC. Does the fact he,IMO, play limited defense and cannot create his own shot, “worry” you in any way?

  5. fluxland Says:

    Also.. in no way do you see Jose regressing with increased PT?

  6. khandor Says:

    Flux,

    The list of lead PG’s who have taken their team to the NBA championship without being able to ‘score the ball’ from ‘creating their own shot’ – in the way that you mean, includes at least Avery Johnson, Derek Fisher, Steve Kerr, John Paxson, BJ Armstrong, Mo Cheeks & Dennis Johnson, off the top of my head.

    Lead PG’s with:

    a prolific Assist to Turnover ratio
    good quickness
    good size
    who can shoot >50% (FGA)
    who can shoot >90% (FTA)
    rebound their own position, and
    switch vs bigger players (when need be)
    double-team vs Post players (when need be)

    are extremely valuable …

    especially when they also come with outstanding Leadership & Decision-Making abilities.

    IMO … and, with all due respect, those who think that Calderon is a terrible defender in the NBA … simply do not have the type of experience it takes to know how to teach a player like Jose to maximize his individual strengths & minimize his individual weaknesses (as an elite level player), on this side of the ball, or how to employ the myriad ways a top notch NBA coach has at his disposal to allow a player with Calderon’s attributes to succeed defensively, at this level.

  7. khandor Says:

    Flux,

    As an elite level athlete … which Calderon definitely is, like Steve Nash & Allen Iverson, etc. … he will relish the opportunity to move up to 30+ MPG and his overall production will not decrease as he plays more.

    Elite level players demonstrate an increase in production as their MPG are increased; while non elite players do not (i.e. they either stay the same or regress).

    This is one of the simplistic tools a talent evaluator can use to distinguish between these two categories of athletes.

  8. fluxland Says:

    I guess that would depend on Jose being an elite athlete. IMO, his inability to create his own shot… does not put him in that category.

  9. fluxland Says:

    Sorry, missed your second last comment. The PGs you listed are/were surrounded by future HOFs and incredible talents that allowed them to simply ensure proper distribution of the ball. Jose is not in that position and will not be allowed the luxury to hide his deficiencies on this team, IMO.

    I hope you are right and his production increases. I doubt it, but as always … time will tell.

  10. khandor Says:

    Flux,

    As a quality NBA PG, what deficiencies does Jose have?

    It’s a common mistake in perception to think that a lead PG, for a high calibre team, needs to be

    * ‘super quick defensively’ to control an opponent’s small & quick PG … i.e. because, in general, other quality teams in the NBA playoffs DO NOT have these type of PG’s starting for their team

    * ‘able to create his own shot, off the dribble, especially late in the shot clock during a half-court offensive possession’ … i.e. because teams who need to rely on this means of attack, consistently, do not win the NBA championship

    NBA championship-winning teams … have WING PLAYERS who can/do this specific job for their teams, not Point Guards who only NEED to be able to take/make high percentage, open shots, on offense, make good decisions, and be a Leader, with good size/quickness/rebounding ability.

    Jose Calderon can do those things, in spades. 🙂

  11. Linkage – July 2 Says:

    […] – Khandor’s Sports Blog […]

  12. fluxland Says:

    I just a think an “elite athlete” in the NBA must posses those qualities to win championship playoffs games during the key moments where the most important games are decided.

    Jose cannot do those things.

    He is a tennis ball distributor not surrounded by the adequate talent to find himself in a Finals playoff game with the Raptors. Nash & Iverson have no rings and Iverson possess one of those deficiencies with the result of an NBA Finals appearance.

  13. khandor Says:

    Flux,

    Just because Nash & Iverson haven’t won an NBA championship doesn’t mean they are not Elite Level athletes.

    I’m speaking strictly about overall ‘production’ when a player is forced/allowed to play more MPG … i.e. an Elite Athlete increases his productivity; a non Elite Athlete does not.

    Whether or not that Elite Athlete is in turn capable of winning/leading his team to a League Championship is an entirely different discussion. 🙂

    =============

    Jose Calderon is an Elite Athlete who happens to play PG in the NBA. 🙂

  14. fluxland Says:

    Khandor,

    sorry my last sentence meant to read “Nash & Iverson, although Elite athletes,”

    Again, its what in what you consider elite level. I myself cannot place Jose in that category. And those two are elite level athletes who with their “deficiencies” couldn’t get a ring.

    I mentioned on Arse’s blog how looking at Jose’s numbers, he doesn’t appear to be that great with time avg. The counter argument in the comments was, as you seem to think, that productivity will increase. It’s funny how I thought by how much… and in the wages of win post that’s brought up! Yes, an increase will occur, but will it be what fans are expecting for the price of getting rid of TJ?

    also,

    “I just a think an “elite athlete” in the NBA must posses those qualities to win championship playoffs games during the key moments where the most important games are decided.

    Jose cannot do those things. ”

    I read today and file under EVIDENCE:

    JR HOLDEN on his 2007 Euro Basketball championship game winning shot:

    “So Spain had the ball with like 10 or so seconds to go. They were up 1 and they passed the ball in to Pao Gasol. I dropped down and stole the ball from him…….. So I passed the ball and got it right back. I drove hard right and the guy guarding me, Jose Calderon, I knew if I pumped faked and he did not go for it I would still be able to get the shot of if I fade right. However I had a step on him and he did go for the pump fake, so I just had to stay square and the ball went in.”

  15. » The next step for the Toronto Raptors 11 5: What The World Is Saying About 11 5 Says:

    […] next step for the Toronto Raptors Posted in July 1st, 2008 by in Uncategorized The next step for the Toronto Raptors #11. Big-5 Jawai #12. OG-3/SF-4 TBD-? (free agent). RESERVES #13. ? #14. ? #15. ? That’s the core […]

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