Not going to re-hash the Bryan Colangelo press conference which I live-blogged yesterday, just giving a take.
“Likely” not using Bosh trade exception
First reaction to hearing this was that the Bosh trade was for nothing, which it was, the only return seems to be our pick from Miami and the trades for Barbosa and James Johnson et al. Surely, we could have gotten more for Bosh during the season? Well, if you want to take Colangelo at his word, Bosh had little trade value and the latter didn’t give any indication that he wouldn’t give Toronto a snowflake’s shot in hell in the summer. I always felt Bosh was not honest with the franchise and didn’t give the Raptors a chance to get a decent return on him. Colangelo should’ve realized that but I’ll give him a break there, he acted in good faith and got burned, should he have been smarter? No doubt.
If Colangelo is to stay true to his rebuilding philosophy then using this trade exception would go against it. Adding more contracts to a team that is destined to miss the playoffs yet again doesn’t make much sense. We’ve already seen the negative effects of acquiring mediocre players to fill out a flawed roster, look no further than Linas Kleiza, Jarrett Jack and the like. If this rebuild is to stay true to itself, then passing up the trade exception is what makes financial and long-term sense. Even though it hurts like hell to be told (lied to?) that the key asset returning in the Bosh was this TPE, only to have well more than half of it wasted.
Andrea Bargnani is now an “asset”
Reality has finally hit Colangelo. He has realized that Andrea Bargnani will always be a poor defender, with it being as much to do with his lack of skill in that area as it is with his ‘focus’, ‘intensity’, ‘dedication’ or any of those words that reflect a person’s effort. You won’t hear the phrase “franchise guy” associated with Bargnani anymore and now he is simply and honestly being referred to as an “asset” and an “enigma” by the GM who once swore by him. Colangleo took exception to the viewpoint that he is obsessed with Bargnani, stating, “Lot of people want to make the Andrea situation about me and that’s nonsense”. We here at RR will take full credit for that accusation. Colangelo appeared tremendously disappointed in Bargnani’s progress and half-heartedly claimed that bigs always take longer to develop, knowing full well that the development for Bargnani is more or less complete. The promos on raptors.com are slowly but surely phasing him out. What bugs me the most? That it doesn’t aggravate, upset or motivate Bargnani that his GM is openly talking about acquiring a big defensive five in order to make up for his shortcomings.
No contract yet
Marc Stein reported a while back that a Colangelo extension was a “virtual lock” as long as long as Larry Tanenbaum retains his part-owner status. That might still hold, but the ownership changes in the Raptors organization could be so swift that it would overrule what Tanenbaum wants. Colangelo’s openly declaring how much he wants to stay and yet he is without a contract for next year, a glaring indication of how much his star has fallen amongst MLSE. The midas touch of the 2006-07 season has been stricken from memory and replaced with the more recent failings of Jermaine O’Neal, Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Bosh. How much power Colangelo has to make the changes he’s contemplating has to be questioned, because yesterday we saw a man that was only too unsure whether he’d be around these parts in two months, and resorted to advertising himself.
“We’re not married to the third pick, but trading away a third pick is not an easy proposition…I think we need to take the best available talent and let the dust settle”, said Colangelo. It’s rather pointless speculating on the draft without knowing who’s going to be available, and where the Raptors will be drafting. Colangelo showed his cards about what his strategy going into the draft will be, which is to take the best asset available and figure out how best to utilize it. You cannot make drafting for need a priority when you have a top-three pick, and I’m glad Colangelo has that view. Depending on where the Raptors select and what they think of Derrick Williams, it might just be that they could select him as their small forward. At 6’8″ he’s played the power forward position in college and I don’t see it translating in the NBA. He’s been a sub-par rebounder at the NCAA level and I don’t see a team taking chances with him at the four, so in my humble opinion, his NBA projection is at the three. Ask yourself this, between him and Kleiza, who would you rather have?
Upgrading defensively and changing course
So we here at RR are not crazy for preaching help/rim defense all season because Colangelo thinks the same and is looking to make that priority #1 this summer. To his credit, he did recognize this need earlier and tried to get Tyson Chandler to strengthen a playoff bid, when that didn’t happen the course of the season started to change with the goal slowly shifting from making the playoffs to rebuilding. The decision to do a full rebuild probably hit midway through the season, and Colangelo resisted making moves that he felt were “short-sighted”, i.e., ones which would abandon the rebuild in favor of a playoff run. The strategy of hiding Bargnani’s weaknesses by moving him to the four and getting a defensive center are destined for fail for two reasons. It would take away playing time from key contributors such as Amir Johnson and Ed Davis, and would still leave Bargnani’s defense exposed because it’s not like the power forward doesn’t have to rotate or play interior defense. Colangelo said that he doesn’t pigeonhole players into positions and views the team as bigs and wings, but soon contradicted himself by saying Bargnani’s best position is a four and the Raptors need a true five. Which is it? A big, no matter where the play, have to play interior defense. I don’t care how “lifted” the floor is.
“These players want to play in Toronto and that in itself is a victory”
No doubt about it. That’s why the Raptors have to overpay (Hedo Turkoglu), don’t attract great talent (Gerald Wallace), can’t re-sign their free-agents (Tracy McGrady, Chris Bosh), and have to continually rebuild hoping someone will stick. Winning will attract players but it then becomes a chicken and egg situation, you need players to win and you need to win to get players. The only player that has ever developed enough critical mass by staying in Toronto and attracting other free agents has been Vince Carter, nothing since. It’s that magic touch which the Raptors are longing for and right now DeMar DeRozan is wearing a very heavy crown.