The draft lottery takes place on May 18 with the Raptors having the thinnest of chances (six lottery balls among the available 1,000) of moving up from their current slot at No. 13. The New Jersey Nets have the best odds of winning the lottery and the opportunity to select John Wall, who is considered the best available prospect, at least at this moment.
Wall is one of five Kentucky underclassmen to declare for the draft.
DeMarcus Cousins may go as high as third overall, which Daniel Orton and Patrick Patterson are projected as lottery picks. The only Wildcat underclassman not projected to go among the first 14 picks is Eric Bledsoe.
With so much time before the draft, so much can happen with the Raptors, who remain open to any available scenario.
Certainly, the presence of quality underclassmen does present a chance to acquire an asset. What the Raptors do with it remains to be seen.
The highest-ranked international prospect to declare is Donatus Motiejunas of Lithuania. The seven-footer plays for Benetton Treviso in Italy.
After watching the happy-go-lucky manner in which the Raptors greeted their elimination from the playoffs on the final night of the regular season – all but having a sing-along and spraying champagne around the locker room – it is impossible to argue with James. But it’s one thing when a corn-fed, white, middle-aged, overweight sportswriter can say he’s never seen a team accept choking so readily, and quite another when a guy whose opinion holds sway muses about it, especially after an opinion column in the Toronto Star suggests the Raptors partied their way out of the playoffs, a charge that has not been sufficiently riposted.
It speaks of a group of athletes with a remarkable lack of self-respect and a management team that for some reason let it go unchecked. Montreal Expos manager Felipe Alou used to worry about his team being perceived as a “small team” – small not in stature or even within the game’s economy but small in the sense of getting the 50-50 calls to go their way during a game. There’s no zone rating or statistical measure for that. But there are teams that leave that type of an impression, and this year’s Raptors were like that.
Know what? It was kind of cool in a Canadian inferiority complex sort of way when Toronto received some love as a destination for NBA players’ high-end parties, like millionaire American athletes letting their hair down is a mark of a city’s cultural importance. But what good is it if Toronto is a good place to play off the court only? The NBA is a social club, and if you are prepared to buy the management line that his peers could get Bosh to shut it down over champagne during the all-star break, it also stands to reason that James’s remarkable candour about the Raptors wasn’t a revelation to those same members of Murmurer’s Row who were in Bosh’s ear. Turns out the Raptors can fool sportswriters, fans and maybe even management. But not their peers.
If the Raptors and Bosh reach the expected conclusion that it’s time for an amicable divorce, Houston has amassed an enticing cache of sign-and-trade assets. One source, offering one small example, says that the Raptors are intrigued by young forward Jordan Hill, whom the Rockets extracted from the Knicks in the Tracy McGrady three-way deal in February.
As a (reasonably) big-market team — with low-key cornerstones like Martin and Aaron Brooks, and a franchise player in Yao Ming who might not be a franchise player any more after being forced to sit out an entire season — Houston can also offer the stage and go-to guy spotlight Bosh covets.
Yet it’s believed that the Raptors, if Bosh indeed proves willing to join the Rockets via sign-and-trade, will try to foist Hedo Turkoglu on Houston as part of the deal. Would the Rockets be willing to take on Turkoglu’s contract ($43.8 million over the next four years) and surrender, say, Trevor Ariza in return to clinch Bosh’s arrival? The cost of adding Bosh along with Turkoglu would likely be prohibitive for the Rockets, but Toronto certainly figures to try.
This is obviously all speculation at this point. But it is intriguing speculation. Imagine a Yao/Bosh frontcourt if Yao is healthy next season. Bosh can move without the ball, make open jumpers, and get to the rim easily if the defense isn’t loading up on him, which will make double-teaming Yao in the post much more difficult. When Bosh initiates the offense by taking his man off the dribble, Yao’s excellent mid-range touch can keep the floor spaced for him. And remember, Kevin Martin is going to start quarters off by crashing into people and getting the Rockets in the bonus. Assuming Martin is healthy.
The Rockets are a well-coached team that got the most out of their roster on their way to a 42-40 record. What they need is more firepower. Bosh would certainly provide that. Trying to keep up with all the rumors, speculation, and possible player movements this summer will be maddening. Imagining what teams could look like after all these potentially franchise-altering moves, however, can be a lot of fun.
It would be pretty ironic if the Rockets acquired Bosh using Jordan Hill. I still think Bosh will end up in New York, but a lot of teams are going to jump in, and in the case of a sign and trade, which seems the most likely at this point, the Knicks may be at a disadvantage. The Raptors will want talent, not expiring contracts back, so teams like the Bulls and Knicks might not have the best shot.
Yuck. Parting ways with Ariza wouldn’t disturb me as much as taking on Hedo’s contract, because I really don’t want the Rockets to be stuck in a Turkish Prison. That said, aside from the financial issue, what would become of our defense for the next five years if the Rockets were to take on Turkoglu? How ugly is Bosh/Hedo/Brooks/Budinger on the defensive end? In that respect, Ariza is worth trying to hold on to.
I don’t think the Rockets will have to include Turkoglu in a deal, because I doubt the Raptors will get a better offer regardless. Keep your eyes open for more updates on the issue, although we really won’t see anything concrete until free agency begins.
9. DeMar DeRozan, Raptors — Little Brother Rookie of the Year. DeRozan wasn’t very productive as a rookie. If you ignore that, he’s basically Chris Bosh 2.0. Remember that Vince Carter bid his way out of town when Bosh arrived, a moment which had signaled a new era in Toronto basektball. DeRozan surely hasn’t "arrived," but Bosh appears to have treated DeMar’s arrival with the same dissatisfaction Carter showed. As in, what good is a 20-year-old to me? I suppose in six years DeRozan will prepare his southern flight by rejecting the presence of the next top-10 Raptors pick.
Before becoming Andrea Bargnani “Il Mago,” what aspirations did you have?
“As a child I wanted to be a gas pump attendant because they looked like important people (to me). I would see them with all that money and I thought that was the easiest way to get rich. Later I wanted to be a water salesperson because I had the idea everyone has to drink and I’d make a fortune.”
What is your favourite dish?
“I have very traditional tastes. A plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce cooked well is always tops. It seems something simple to cook but in fact it’s quite difficult. You notice especially when it’s done poorly, it can be quite distasteful.”
Have you found anyone here in Toronto who prepares it well?
“Here, thanks to the presence of so many Italians, I’ve found cooks I trust. I’m all set – I certainly can’t complain.”
I can’t get over the fact that Mr. high school millionaire is telling the world that he thinks the Toronto Raptors don’t want to win. So I guess all the Raptors management, coaching staff, players and fans were all being misled and thank goodness LeBron came around to let us all know.
Oh, and spouting crap, LeBron, while wearing you white “LB” sweater, you may have set the Raptors franchise back a couple years but putting doubt in the heads of potential free-agents. Someone has to listen to you, so why not other under-educated millionaires?!?
LeBron James. I watch you play basketball on TV because that is what you are good at. Sure you made some funny commercials, but you play sports for a living. I don’t care what opinion you have on politics, the economy, evolution or the existence of G-d. I really don’t care to hear what you think about another pro franchise. Your opinion on the Toronto Raptors is thoughtless and irresponsible.