Raptors Report Week 13: Raptors Looking Serious, Take Down Lakers

January 27, 2010

by Sachin Arora… I have a feeling that this article is going to have a lot of hater comments about the Raptors. But people, face the facts: the Raptors have it rolling. After losing to the Cavs in Cleveland in a game which they should have taken, and losing one on the road to the Bucks, the Raptors responded by taking down the Bucks and Lakers at home.

This team has shown grit, toughness, and is finally looking like an elite team. Imagine what will happen when Turkoglu actually starts performing.

Record: 2-2

Performance on a scale of 1-10: 8.5


Marco Belinelli has been stroking off of the bench, and the Raptors are finally showing some inside presence. The Raptors have stayed with the top teams in the NBA, and have beaten the No. 1 team in the league, the LA Lakers. Everyone is finally playing as a team and the Raps have finally found a formula for success.


Hedo Turkoglu still isn’t playing well. Sure, he hit two big free throws against the Lakers, but he’s still shooting a low percentage and isn’t playing well at all.

Overall, the Raptors had a great week. They have shown that they can compete with any team, even the league’s best.

I really think that Jose Calderon needs to get back into the starting lineup. To me, Jarret Jack is a great player, but he doesn’t create offense for others. He’s quick and can score, but doesn’t run the offense like Calderon.

Let’s hope that this type of play can continue and the Raptors can secure the fifth spot in the East.


Raptors-Lakers: How Do You Like Toronto Now?

January 27, 2010

by Stephen Brotherston… On an early Sunday evening, a crowd of over 20,000 people watched the Toronto Raptors gut out a hard-fought win over the Western Conference’s first place team and last season’s NBA champion L.A. Lakers.

The game was easily the most exciting and intense of the Raptors season to date: A game won by the Raptors in the final 1:26 by scoring the final five points and defending Kobe Bryant into three missed jump shots.

It was Andrea Bargnani, who scored 12 of the Raptors 24 points in the fourth quarter, driving to the basket and finishing a reverse lay-up plus the foul with 1:16 left to bring the Raptors within one point.

And it was Hedo Turkoglu, who Jay Triano trusted with 11 seconds left in the game, driving to the hoop and getting fouled at least twice as three Lakers converged to stop the lay-up attempt. Turkoglu calmly drained both free throws to put the Raptors up by one with 1.2 seconds left.

And, as Matt Devlin should have said, “How do you like me now!”

Earlier in the season, Raptors TV personalities actually asked Bargnani how he could help Bosh get his game back on track. On two occasions, Triano actually sat Bargnani on the bench and watched winnable games slip away as the Raptors were unable to score.

But now, how do we like Bargnani? Even his biggest detractors have to admit Bargnani has been making huge contributions at both ends of the floor for some time now.

Bargnani’s amazing driving lay-ups and dunks have become a part of every Raptors game this season. Multiple block nights are commonplace.

And in this game, Bargnani dueled with two of the league’s premier big men and held his own at both ends of the floor. He matched the Lakers young center Andrew Bynum (21 points, nine rebounds, two blocks) with 22 points, eight boards, and a block of his own.

But it was Bargnani outscoring Bynum when it mattered, 12-2 in the fourth!

Bargnani’s reverse dunk in the first quarter was something special. And in the fourth quarter, he answered his critics questions about his ability to be the go to guy when it mattered. With Bosh held to just two points over the final 17 minutes, the Raptors went to Bargnani for scoring.

For the month of January, the much maligned Hedo Turkoglu has struggled with his shot. And some fans and media seem to be only able look at the stat sheets to evaluate his performance—they should really get out to a few games!

So how do we like Turkoglu now? Hitting the game winning free throws against the Lakers has to count for something!

Like in the Raptors last win against Milwaukee, Turkoglu contributed a lot more than showed up on the stat sheet.

Turkoglu made the Lakers’ Ron Artest the invisible man. Artest was held to just five points on 2-8 shooting, with one rebound and three assists. And when the Lakers took out Artest to go smaller, Turkoglu guarded Kobe and did a good job on the league’s best player as well.

Turkoglu did shoot poorly in this game, going 1-6, but he was 6-6 from the free throw line, had five assists and a block. Like in the last game against Milwaukee, Turkoglu helped make the Raptors more effective than their opposition in the fourth quarter.

Anyone complaining about Turkoglu’s hard-fought performances over the past couple of games just hasn’t been paying attention.

Other players who have felt the fans wrath lately include Jose Calderon and Antoine Wright.

Calderon played in only 15 minutes as it took two stitches to close a gash over his eye after being hit collecting a rebound in the third quarter. But Jose did manage a team high five assists, three of which came in five minutes of the fourth quarter.

Wright played only 10 minutes and collected just one rebound. But he played good defense and was Triano’s choice to guard Kobe in the final 15 seconds of the game.

And how do we like them now? We should! They did what was required when it was needed and helped the Raptors win this game. It is hard to know if media and fans appreciate just how much they contributed in limited minutes.

The Toronto Raptors did get off to a poor start this season and it took all of December to make up for it. Only recently has the ACC been filling up again for Raptors games.

But for the second time in January, the Raptors have fought their way back to a better than .500 record by beating the best teams from the Western Conference.

So how do we like the Raptors now? In January, the Raptors have beaten the San Antonio Spurs, Orlando Magic, Dallas Mavericks, and L.A. Lakers.

The Raptors are 7-5 so far this month, only losing games that have been part of difficult back-to-backs, each of which started with either Boston or Cleveland.

While there still seems to be some lingering doubt about just how good this Raptors team can be, it is now well past time to show the hometown Raptors some love.
Brothersteve’s Green & Red Raptor Blog

Should the Raptors Consider Acquiring the Kings’ Andres Nocioni?

January 24, 2010

by Stephen Brotherston… Real GM has published yet another story that the Sacramento Kings‘ Andres Nocioni is available. The Kings have a glut of small forwards and are focusing on the future. The 30-year old veteran is only getting in the way of their younger players.

The rumour that the Kings would like to move Nocioni and are looking for a serviceable a big man is nothing new.

But this year, one of the Raptors “holes” is a decent backup small forward. With no disrespect to Antoine Wright, his skill set is limited.

Nocioni is overpaid at $7.5 million, but he has been a very serviceable SF who can still put up 10 PTS and 4 REB in less than 24 minutes, play decent defense, and start if needed.

Raptors fans may remember Nocioni from his five seasons in Chicago where he was always a steady performer. He is a tough guy who this Raptors squad would benefit from having on the floor.

Nocioni’s contract runs three years, declining each season to $6.6 million in 2011-12 with a team option for a fourth year.

A Reggie Evans or Marcus Banks plus Wright for Nocioni trade works (with minor luxury tax concerns that should be able to be overcome).

The Kings are not going to be expecting much for him. He is no longer needed and there is that November DUI issue hanging out there.  Plus Reggie Evans may just fit their future needs.

Or an Evans plus Banks for Nocioni plus Sergio Rodriguez deal also works.

A deal for Nocioni represents the kind of minor in-season roster tweaking Bryan Colangelo likes to do.

Something that will not upset player rotations but provides a upgrade at a key position with a team-oriented guy.

Nothing in the wind about this potential trade as of yet, but Raptors fans should be paying attention.

Toronto Raptors Player Updates After 40 Games

January 20, 2010

by Stephen Brotherston… The Toronto Raptors are getting better as expected. The emergence of Andrea Bargnani as a defensive force, Jarrett Jack proving he can start when called upon, and the emergence of the Raptors “young guns” as a force to be reckoned with (at times), have propelled the team a .500 record overall.

And at the 40 game mark, the Toronto Raptors players have put together their best 10-game stretch of the season thus far.

Jose Calderon

In the 22nd game of the season versus Chicago, Calderon injured his hip and was unexpectedly sidelined for most of the next 13 games.

But since returning to the lineup five games ago, Calderon has re-established his role as Toronto’s best point guard, averaging 11.4 points and 5.2 assists in just 24.6 minutes off the bench.

In his last game against the Knicks, Calderon tied his season high in points, with 21 in just 26 minutes of action.

On the season Jose is averaging 11.6 points and 6.0 assists in 29.9 minutes, a significant drop from his 12.8 points and 8.9 assists last season. But with Turkoglu and Jack averaging 4.5 assists or better, it will be difficult for Calderon to hit last season’s numbers.

Since his return, Calderon has significantly elevated his level of play and is beginning to look more like the 2007-08 player who captured the hearts of Toronto fans.

DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan has started every game for the Raptors this season, but what has captured the media’s attention is the first ever “dunk-in” contest against Eric Gordon for an invitation to the NBA All-Star slam dunk competition.

After 40 starts in 40 games, DeRozan is averaging 8.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in just over 20 minutes per game. He is shooting 46.8 percent from the field, and his 0.6 blocks and 0.4 steals illustrate that he is active on defense.

In the past 10 games, his scoring has increased to 9.1 points on 56 percent shooting.

The Raptors have drafted a player!

Hedo Turkoglu

Toronto’s big free agent acquisition has taken some heat as of late for not living up to his big contract. But a more objective view might be that Turkoglu’s play has been wildly inconsistent and the recent complaints are resulting from his slow start in 2010.

By averaging 13.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 4.5 assists this season, Turkoglu has disappointed fans and media alike. That’s because last season in Orlando, Turkoglu averaged 16.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.9 assists.

But Turkoglu appears to have been nursing a sore back this season, and most of the drop-off in production can be found on the second night of back-to-back games.

With a more favorable schedule going forward, Turkoglu should be able to return to form in the second half of the season.

Perhaps the bad press has been just a little overstated.

Chris Bosh

Is there any doubt CB4 will be selected as an All-Star for his fifth consecutive season?

With 2009-10 as his best statistical season ever, Chris Bosh is averaging career highs in points and rebounds. After 40 games, CB4 has: 23.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in 35.3 minutes per game.

Bosh continues to average his lowest number of minutes played per game since his rookie year, and Bosh is playing 2.7 minutes less than last season. Hopefully, the new lighter load will keep Bosh on the floor for all 82 games this season.

Until the game in New York, Bosh had a streak of five games where he averaged over three assists per game, including a six assist game in the two-point win over the 76ers.

As a career 2.1 assist per game player, finding open teammates is perhaps the last offensive hole in Bosh’s arsenal.

Andrea Bargnani

Andrea Bargnani has finally broken out and put together a streak of games that shows just how dominant a center he can become in the NBA.

In the past 10 games, Bargnani has averaged 20.1 points on 49 percent shooting to go with 7.4 rebounds and, 2.0 blocks in 38 minutes per game.

And in the past five games, Andrea has averaged 9.6 rebounds, including a career high 17 against Indiana.

The Big B is on track for his best season in the NBA. So far, Bargnani is averaging career highs in points at 17.2, rebounds at 6.5, blocks at 1.4, and shooting percentage at 47.2.

It seems almost everyone has noticed the big improvement in Bargnani’s defense and rebounding as the season has moved along.

Why all the surprise?

Jarrett Jack

Jarrett Jack continues to start for the Toronto Raptors, and with the success the team has experienced, why mess with a good thing.

In the five games since Calderon has returned, Jack has averaged 11 points, 3.2 boards, and, 4.2 assists in 28.8 minutes. Combined with Calderon, those represent very impressive numbers from the point guard spot.

In his 18 games as a starter, Jack has averaged 12.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 5.6 assists in 32 minutes. While Jack may continue to start, his minutes could drop to his pre-starter’s role minutes of 24 to 26 or less.

The signing of Jarrett Jack continues to make Bryan Colangelo look like a very wise GM.

Marco Belinelli

Belinelli has bounced back from his awful previous 10-game stretch of shooting just 31 percent from the field and averaging just 5.3 points to return to his season averages of about 8 points on 39 percent shooting in his past 10 games.

To be fair, we were warned! Belinelli is a player who is usually either very hot or very cold.

But Belinelli has been heating up lately. In his last four games, he has averaged 9.8 points on 50 percent shooting.

Amir Johnson

Amir Johnson has struggled recently.

As Andrea Bargnani’s play has improved and his minutes increased by about five per game, Johnson’s play has suffered and his minutes have dropped.

Over the first 30 games Johnson averaged 5.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 0.6 steals, and 0.7 blocks in 17.2 minutes.

In the past 10 games with Johnson averaging 15.3 minutes, and his production has slid to 2.9 points and 3.4 boards.

Plus, Johnson’s usually high shooting percentages have been dropping: from 66 percent in November, to 49 percent in December, to 38.5 percent in January.

The only good news comes from a jump in blocks to 1.1 per game over the past 10 games.

Johnson is just 22 years young, and he is still showing the heart, hustle, and potential that has been evident all season. But it would nice to see the young man show some progress on the offensive end of the floor.

Sonny Weems

Sonny Weems has found a spot in the Raptors’ rotation, albeit not as big a spot as he initially received when he first sent Antoine Wright to the bench after the Atlanta debacle.

Over the past 10 games, Weems has averaged 5.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.4 steals, and 0.5 blocks while shooting 42.9 percent in 15.9 minutes per game.

His recent contributions were likely more representative of Weems’ current ability than his initial five games in the rotation when he averaged 8.4 points on 50 percent shooting.

Sonny continues to be effective since being inserted into the rotation and does provide a significantly more athletic back-up wing player than Antoine Wright.

Antoine Wright

The Raptors’ defensive specialist made a re-appearance over the past 10 games. In 13 minutes Wright averaged 3.4 points on 45 percent shooting, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.0 assists. But these numbers were grossly inflated by the 35 minutes Wright played against San Antonio.

The past five games are more representative of Wright’s current place in the Raptors rotation, with averages of 2.8 points, 1.0 rebounds, and 0.8 assists in 9.4 minutes.

And Wright’s 35.7 percent shooting over this period is unfortunately also more representative of his ability.

Marcus Banks

The return of Jose Calderon to the rotation meant the return of Marcus Banks to the bench.

The Raptors should be thankful for his contributions while Calderon was unavailable and be thankful that they are not presently required.

Stay ready Marcus. The Raptors may need you again.

The Rest of the Raptors

Rasho Nesterovic continues to get spot duty and remains surprisingly effective when called upon. Playing in just 21 games and averaging just 9.2 minutes, Nesterovic has put up 4.1 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.

The Raptors are fortunate to have a reserve big man who has put up four double-digit scoring efforts while never knowing if he’ll even play that night.

Reggie Evans remains out with a foot injury. His return date is still shrouded in mystery. Maybe next month?

Patrick O’Bryant continues to style from the sidelines in a suit most nights.

Pops Mensah Bonsu played in 16 games for the Raptors before finally getting his release in January. There just wasn’t any reason to keep another big man project on the roster.

Toronto Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo: Deal Maker

January 18, 2010

by Stephen Brotherston…  As many have said before, the silly season is upon us and despite some misgivings from those who prefer news over rumor, trade speculation will run rampant until the trade deadline is past.

And why not!  Midseason trade speculation is the hope of every teams fan base that their team will acquire the missing pieces to contend  for a title or even just make the playoffs.  Even those fans who just want to blow it all up and start over again have something to hope for.

In Toronto, the Raptors GM has already blown up a substantial part of two teams and rebuilt them in only his fourth season at the helm.

Bryan Colangelo has made at least 15 trades since coming to Toronto and signed numerous free agents.  And since his teams have been to the playoffs in two of three attempts, his rebuilding history isn’t too shabby.

Bryan Colangelo joined the Raptors on February 28, 2006 just after Wayne Embry had completed some much-needed salary dumps courtesy of the New York Nicks.

By the time next season started, Colangelo had nine new faces on his team, putting his stamp on the Raptors and giving Toronto their first NBA division title.

June 2006 trades:

Rafael Araujo > Kris Humphries
Matt Bonner > Rasho Nesterovic
Charlie Villanueva> TJ Ford

Key free agent additions:

Anthony Parker
Jorge Garbajosa
Fred Jones

Bryan Colangelo established early on that he was not afraid to take chances and make deals.

After early success, Bryan Colangelo proved that he was willing to take the big gamble and go for it all when he sent TJ Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Maceo Baston, and a first round pick to Indiana for big man and former all-star Jermaine O’Neal.

And the risk was as big as O’Neal’s $20 million contract.  After several years of knee problems, it was hoped that O’Neal had recovered enough to regain some of his all-star form and lead the Raptors deep into the playoffs.

No sooner had the experiment with O’Neal been deemed a failure, Bryan Colangelo was on the phones trying to move his recent acquisition.  Shawn Marion’s expiring deal was acquired to remove the financial limitations of O’Neal’s contract.

No one can say that Colangelo is hesitant to pull the trigger on a deal that he believes will help his club.

This season, like in 2006, Bryan Colangelo cleaned house yet again by bringing in nine new faces.

Summer 2009 trades:

Jason Kapono > Reggie Evans
Roko Ukic + Carlos Delfino > Sonny Weems + Amir Johnson
Shawn Marion + Kris Humphries > Antoine Wright + Devean George + Hedo Turkoglu
Devean George > Marco Belinelli

Key Free agents:

Jarrett Jack
Rasho Nesterovic

And the result of all this movement is the team at 21-20 is just ahead of the Atlantic Division Champion 2006-07 Raptors who were 18-21 after 39 games.

Way to go Colangelo!

But this season is different from 2006-07.

In 2006-07, the Atlantic Division did not have many obstacles for the Raptors to over come in their pursuit of first place.  This time, a proven veteran Celtics team will not permit a 47 win up-start to claim the title.

This season, the Raptors face a potential point guard controversy similar to the TJ Ford/Jose Calderon problems of 2007-08.  A controversy that cost the Raptors games down the stretch and saw that team significantly under-achieve.

And this version of the Raptors is better than the 2006-07 team.

Key players like Bosh, Bargnani, and Calderon are more experienced.

Key free agent additions are stronger than their counterparts in 06-07.  Specifically Jack > TJ Ford and Turkoglu > Garbajosa.

The 2009-10 Toronto Raptors may only be one or two additions away from truly contending in the Eastern Conference.

But is often noted by realists with a mind to contend, acquiring the necessary talent to put around Bosh will take the Raptors into luxury tax territory.

And MLSE  has permitted the Raptors to be a luxury tax payer when they have had a chance at becoming a perennial playoff team.  As recently as 2004, the Raptors paid $4 million in luxury tax.

The opportunities will likely exist for Bryan Colangelo to make the big deal before the NBA trade deadline that could vault the Raptors from a fifth to eighth seed and an early first round playoff exit to a team with legitimate aspirations of contending for the Eastern Conference finals.

MLSE has permitted the Raptors to spend to succeed in the past.

Is there any chance that a deal maker like Colangelo lets this opportunity pass his team by?

Let the rampant speculation begin!
(Oops too late.)

Raptors Report Week Twelve: Raptors Playing Like a Contender

January 18, 2010

by Sachin Arora… That’s right, I said it. The Raptors are playing like one of the best teams in the NBA. Really. And with a healthy Reggie Evans and a performing Hedo Turkoglu, this team could be a serious contender. The Raptors are just killing opponents, one after another, picking defenses apart, and actually playing some good defense.

The Raps are tied with the Heat for fifth in the East, and while Atlanta may seem out of reach, if this type of play continues you never know.

The Raptors had a good week, other than a late collapse in Indiana. They have looked dominant in every game and are playing like they can beat any team.

Record: 2-1

Performance on a scale of 1-10: 8

Positives: The Raptors have looked simply dominant, coming up with a huge win at home vs. Dallas, one of the best teams in the league. The defense has been good, offense great, and Jose Calderon has provided a great spark off the bench. The killer B’s (Bosh, Bargnani) have really been spectacular and have sparked our offense.

Negatives: That collapse in Indiana shows some concern, blowing a 23-point lead can’t happen. Hedo Turkoglu still hasn’t been able to get it going and Jay Triano must do something to get himself going. Bench him!

Overall, this team has been doing great things and I am hoping this type of play can be continued.

The Raptors once again have that one-two point guard punch, and it is working great.


Livin’ large

January 13, 2010

by Jeremy Visser… I’m pretty sure it’s the dream of every basketball fan with an annual income under $250,000 to sit courtside at an NBA game just once in their life. Well, at least it was mine. On Sunday, I had that dream come true when the fine people at Gatorade and High Road Communications had me experience a new contest they’re unveiling in the next couple weeks — one in which they give away dope seats to sporting events across the world. So, there I was, just a normal kid sitting courtside for the Raps and Celtics.

I won’t talk about the actual game as much as the experience, but I’ll start off by saying Toronto lost, as usual, to the bad boy Celtics. Are we ever gonna make a stand against these guys? Without KG, Boston jumped to an early 10-0 lead and never trailed in a 114-107 win. A little excitement at the end with a late Raptor push, but nothing to show for it. Oh well, it didn’t do too much to dampen the mood.

Anyway, probably the best part of sitting that close was witnessing Rasheed Wallace swearing at the refs first-hand. There’s actually a lot more to ‘Sheed than what you see on TV, though — the guy doesn’t just periodically blow up at these guys, he’s having a constant conversation with them all game, lobbying for calls and letting them know just what’s his. Sweet kid. Anyway, this sets up the highlight of the day for me: Early in the third quarter, Wallace caught a pass right in front of me and fired a three with me yelling in his ear. Of course, the shot dropped, and ‘Sheed did a little turnaround and glare. Never thought I’d be the guy getting glared at by an NBA player after he nails a three, and it actually felt pretty, pretty, pretty sweet.

Another guy with a mouth on him (and this comes as no surprise): Celtics tough guy Kendrick Perkins. The funniest moment of the game came when Perk was fouled in close and yelled at a couple teenagers sitting behind the net to “eat a d—!” The big boy proceeded to miss a pair of free throws that gave the Raps a shot to pull closer, but a couple late turnovers sealed our heroes’ fate.

All in all, a crazy afternoon (can you believe Rasheed glared at me?!) and one that I’ll be talking about for about 27 years, or at least until Gatorade and High Road randomly choose me to sit courtside and run up a tab on their credit cards again. Seriously though, it was incredible — an experience I won’t soon forget.

Raptors Report Week 11: Toronto Closing in on Fifth Seed

January 11, 2010

by Sachin Arora… To me, this week was great for the Raptors considering the opponents that they have faced. They came away with two road wins, where they have struggled—one against the reigning Eastern Conference champs and one against a struggling Philadelphia team who managed to put up a good fight and make it close.

This team has showed incredible toughness and finally has everything working.

Jose Calderon has returned from injury has looked great off the bench.

Only a game back from the fifth seed, the Raptors are looking better than ever. The loss against the Celtics to end the week sort of put a damper on things, but the Raps have won eight out of 10 and are playing some good basketball. To start the game, the Celtics ran over the Raptors with a 10-0 run, but in a game that had the looks of a blowout, the Raptors made it close.

Record: 2-1

Performance on a scale of 1-10: eight

Positives: The Raptors defense is quickly getting rid of that “worst in the league” tag and going to “mediocre.” With the offense of this team, I think that we’ll take that happily. Offense certainly hasn’t been a problem, and Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani have been spectacular, pouring in the points.

Negatives: Hedo Turkoglu has been looking more and more like a bust. He has been nothing but mediocre this whole season. Imagine the things this team could do if he was actually playing to his potential. If the Raps could play tough throughout the whole game and be a little more consistent, that could push them over the top.

Overall, this team has been playing some great basketball. If they get the win vs. Boston, their weekly rank goes from eight to nine or even 10.

Jarrett Jack remains the starting point guard, but it hasn’t seemed to affect Jose Calderon. He’s been great off the bench, but it would be nice to see Jose back as a starter.

Jack is great off the bench because of his versatility.

If the Raps keep playing this way the rest of the season, they should have the 5th seed.


Will Jose Calderon Be Traded By the Toronto Raptors?

January 11, 2010

by Stephen Brotherston… With the NBA trade deadline less than 42 days away and several teams significantly under-performing expectations, some in outright disarray, trade speculation is ramping up to take over the “news” wires.

Since game 20 of this NBA season, the Toronto Raptors have gone 11-5 to bring their record back to .500 and slow the speculation that Chris Bosh’s departure is inevitable.

Not that several media sources have ceased to speculate about (dream) of a trade or free agent acquisition of the Raptors All-Star.

But with the Raptors improved play of late, thoughts have turned to what are the missing pieces or tweaks that could turn this year’s Raptors from first round playoff fodder into legitimate playoff (second round?) contenders.

Meanwhile, some will argue that the Raptors should just let things stand, develop the young guns, and look to the future. Not to mention the fact that many fans believe Jose Calderon is the Raptors best point guard. If the opportunity to dramatically improve the Raptors fortunes presents itself, shouldn’t they take advantage of it?

The obvious holes in the current Raptors line-up are at:

  1. Starting shooting guard where the Raptors are relying on the rookie DeMar DeRozan with options to use the inexperienced Marco Belinelli or the limited Antoine Wright.
  2. Back-up small forward where the Raptors have been utilizing players like Wright, Sonny Weems, and DeRozan, who are all better suited at shooting guard.
  3. An experienced shot blocking, defensive big man. A very young Amir Johnson has provided energy off the bench but is over-matched in size and strength at times. Reggie Evans, who doesn’t block shots, has yet to play a game, and Rasho Nesterovic watches from the bench.

As Andrea Bargnani continues to develop and play more minutes, the need for a back up big man with superior talents to Johnson is diminished.

The Raptors have been able to hide their weakness at back-up small forward recently by using Wright for defense and Weems for athleticism.

DeMar DeRozan is showing signs that he will develop into a shooting guard of Andre Iguodala’s status in time. But as it has been discussed in several forums, the biggest leap the Raptors could make this season would be to acquire a veteran starting shooting guard.

ESPN’s Chad Ford ,

“Unless the Raptors are legit contenders, I don’t see Bosh sticking around. The Raptors are another team I think will be very active at the trade deadline. I think they’ll try to see if they can swap Calderon for a starting two guard.”

And acquiring a high quality starting shooting guard could take the Raptors from pretenders to contenders in this year’s playoff race.

The list of team’s under duress this season due to monetary or performance pressures includes (for now): Chicago, Washington, Detroit, Indiana, Philadelphia, Utah, New Orleans, and Golden State.

Some will be willing to make trades now while others will want to see how the season progresses. But there are teams that will be looking to make trades that they didn’t envision at the start of the season.

Some possible trading partners:

Washington Wizards, for obvious reasons, are reportedly willing to trade anybody on their roster and if this is true, they’ll be looking for expiring contracts, young players, picks, and luxury tax relief/cap space.

Caron Bulter is a veteran star wing with a manageable contract. But the Wizards should be demanding a premium young player in return. Would (should) the Raptors be willing to part with a Belinelli or DeRozan in addition to expiring contracts to get him?

The Philadelphia 76ers are 10-24 and miss Andre Miller more than they ever expected. They’d probably like to unload Elton Brand’s $80 million contract or Samuel Dalembert’s huge deal. But with Brand under-performing and Sammy’s 15% trade kicker, this seems unlikely.

The other piece getting mentioned is Andre Iguodala and his $12 million per year.

The 76ers need a pass first point guard to resurrect Brand’s career and the Raptors need a starting shooting guard. Is an Iguodala and Jrue Holiday for Calderon and DeRozan (plus parts) deal possible?

Could things have started out any worse for the Detroit Pistons? Every move they have made in the past two seasons has turned against them. At 11-23, they have to be thinking deal.

Not sure what the Pistons believe they need to fix their problems. But since Chauncey Billups left, they’ve needed a point guard who will pass the ball! Calderon for Ben Gordon?

New Orleans has gone from contender to out of the playoffs in one swift season. They are over the luxury tax cap and are reportedly looking to dump salary.

The Hornets have no interest in acquiring a point guard. But, would a Morris Peterson for Reggie Evans shore up the Raptors backup small forward position?

Would the Hornets consider a bigger salary dump of Emeka Okafor for Evans and Johnson?

One interesting trade possibility that shouldn’t be expected until the offseason would involve the LA Lakers’ need to replace the aging Derek Fisher with a younger point guard. Jose Calderon providing the obvious chemistry with Pau Gasol.

This is one trade that would provide such obvious long-term benefits to the Lakers that the Raptors could hold out for top flight help in return. I’d settle for nothing less than Lamar Odom, there being little else that might be available worth taking off the Lakers’ roster.

In the coming days and weeks there should be enough rumours, suggestions, speculations, and even opportunities to keep everyone’s interest until trade deadline day.

Everyone (except possibly Raptors fans?) will over-estimate their team’s players value and downplay the value of other teams’ guys. But trades are done to meet team needs, not necessarily to acquire the best player.

There should be true distress situations among several NBA teams this year. The Raptors are well-financed and profitable. Shouldn’t they be one of the teams looking to take advantage?

Chris Bosh’s decision this offseason may well depend on Bryan Colangelo’s moves over the next 30+ days.

Brothersteve’s Green & Red Raptor Blog

See ya, Gilbert

January 10, 2010

by Jeremy Visser… Gilbert Arenas’ latest little flap: Not too great for him, but very, very good for the Washington Bullets Wizards. In the wake of his little locker room standoff with no-name teammate Javaris Crittenton a couple weeks ago, NBA commissioner David Stern announced today Arenas is suspended indefinitely and a further penalty may be looming. The good news for Arenas’ team, of course, is they’ll likely get a shot to void the horrible six-year, $111 million contract they gave him a couple years ago.

I haven’t had a chance to weigh in on this since it broke about a week ago, which is surprising because I usually jump at every opportunity to take shots (no pun intended) at good old Gilbert. In case you missed it, Arenas and Crittenton apparently argued on a team flight on Dec. 21 about a gambling debt, and after a day off, continued their feud in the Wizards’ locker room on Dec. 23. According to reports, Arenas placed three guns on a stool by Crittenton’s locker and asked him to choose one, to which Crittenton flipped and claimed he had his own piece (how’s that for lingo?). Since then, there’s been various reports that the whole thing was a joke gone bad. Regardless, Stern didn’t really think it was funny, and I get the feeling the District of Columbia isn’t about to laugh this one off either. If I’m Arenas, I’m preparing for the Plaxico Burress treatment. Oh well, it’s not like he was doing anything on the basketball court anyway, other than scoring a handful of points for a bad team that’s better off without him. Arenas getting locked up may also free up some more time for his fiance to spend with Shaq, too.

Back to the Wizards, though: Assuming they wash their hands of Arenas, as they’ll likely do given the opportunity, they’re suddenly a major player next summer. Sure, LeBron and Dwyane Wade aren’t going anywhere, but with money to blow they could be in on the Joe Johnson or Chris Bosh sweepstakes. If you ask me, Arenas’ stupidity is the best thing that could’ve happened to the Wizards, even if it took seven years to develop.

That’s what I’m saying, guy…

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