Jay Triano: Sam Mitchell was fired when the Raptors were 8-9, Triano’s record with the team is 15-27. If Colangelo in his heart of hearts still believes that this is the best Raptor team he has ever assembled then the decision come off-season should be straightforward. Even though Triano didn’t have the luxury of having a training camp, he has had 42 games and three months to work with and if you’re not going to instill your system in that kind of time, then chances are you’re lacking a system or its just not very good or your players are plain bad. Regardless of what the problem might be, there aren’t many GMs in this league who will delve into analysis of why a team did bad but are far more comfortable in replacing the perceived problem – the coach.

In a perfect world the coach would always be tied to the GM, if you fire a coach, then the GM’s quality should be up for debate too since he made the hire. Colangelo’s decision to re-sign Mitchell at the time was either plain pressure or just bad management. There was no need to extend a contract offer to a coach that was clearly lacking in many disciplines of the game, not the least of which included a defensive philosophy and an offensive methodology. Colangelo’s choice of coach should’ve been hired at that time saving us an extra year of agony under Mitchell, the mess that was this season and an outgoing paycheque for the next two years. But what’s done is done, the only thing we have to make sure of is to not repeat the mistakes of the past – signing on a coach that isn’t your first choice.

Replacing Triano isn’t even a question of X’s and O’s but of changing the attitude and culture around the club while bringing in an air of seriousness. Triano’s been around since the Lenny days and he’s like the employee at your company that’s just too comfortable with his job and isn’t going to make an attempt at change because he’s just too cozy in his role. This club needs a 180 degree switch when it comes to mental toughness, on-court discipline, consistency in effort and basketball IQ, I’m not sure Triano brings that given his experience which consists mostly of serving under mediocrity.

I’ll just mention the Raptors league ranks in passing:

  • 27th in the league in rebounding – 39.16 RPG.
  • 25th in the league in rebounding differential – -2.84 RPG.
  • 22nd in the league in scoring – 97.16 PPG
  • 14th in the league in points allowed – 100.27 PPG.

Keep in mind that the rebounding numbers are actually worse under Triano. These statistics don’t draw a clear picture of anything but they do tell us that this team is neither good at rebounding nor great at scoring. I was hoping that he’d be able to provide the Raptors with an identity and a style of play but clearly we’re still the “no defense, good-offense-except-the-4th-quarter team that we were under Mitchell. The only differences is that the defensive holes have shifted from paint scoring to wide open perimeter shots, both of course resulting from the same problem – dribble penetration.

Get rid of Triano, hire an experienced NBA coach which commands the immediate respect of the players and we’ll at least get the right attitude in the club house. Since we don’t have an on-court leader or a locker-room leader, a coach with a strong and intelligent personality should be able to provide sufficient remedy.

Marion: The most enjoyable aspect of Marion’s game so far has been his intelligence. He’s brought a sense of hard-work and mental toughness that is devoid on this team. You can tell in his interviews that he means what he says and intends to carry out his words instead of just reflecting on them. On the court, he’s given Jose Calderon a consistent option to look ahead to and almost forces Jose to give up the ball in the back-court which under normal circumstance, he would’ve dribbled up. Marion’s gotten burned defensively by Mike Miller and even Al Harrington but overall he’s playing by-the-book defense. Some of the fronting he did against Cleveland was the best I’ve seen from a Raptor all season. In a set offense he’s got a knack of cutting to the right 8-12 foot range and shooting a high-percentage jumper or passing it out if the defense is tight. If he sees a player that shouldn’t be guarding him, he will use pure quickness to take him off the dribble and to the rim, this is something that was sorely lacking with Jamario Moon who was getting shutdown by PGs.

Having said all that, it’s still too early to tell whether we should re-sign him. It depends entirely on the style we want to play, who our coach is next year and who Colangelo plans to sign in the offseason. If we’re planning on offering Marion a contract then we better be prepared to play a genuine up-tempo style since anything other than that will be fitting a square peg in a round hole. It didn’t work in Miami and it wouldn’t work in Toronto. Personally, I hate the run ‘n gun because it goes against my core basketball belief that the game starts on the defensive side and that’s the end any legitimate playoff contender needs to secure. Last night they interviewed Doug Moe on NBA TV and Eric Snow asked him the same question – can a team win the title playing run ‘n gun? His answer was absolutely. So who am I to disagree?

Ukic: My colleague AltRaps wants to send him to the D-League along with Nathan Jawai. I think he’s right. It’s either that or we somehow find him some minutes at SG because there’s no way he’ll be playing 25 minutes at PG which is what he needs to speed up his development. Those D-League teams see an NBAer and go hard at him, it’s like going to a maximum-security prison and you’re the hairless virgin. If we give Roko 25 games with the Idaho Stampede and mandate 25+ minutes of PT, he’ll come back with better dribbling skills, greater aggressiveness, and will understand how to handle defensive pressure. His ugly shot won’t be fixed but that’s a long-term problem which only the off-season can solve.

As for Nathan, he could be cut tomorrow and I wouldn’t care. I can’t help but think there are countless other players in the D-League, NCAA or even Europe that can do what he can and do it better. He hasn’t showed that he’s anything special or worth hanging on to, we should buy him a one-way ticket to Idaho and see if he’s worthy of returning.

Update: Can you believe it?

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