Summer Rounds

With the sweltering summer heat rolling around, news around the NBA has slowed down. So, we’ve decided to spice things up with a little roundtable, featuring some of the HoopsAddict regulars. Today’s focus: We’re looking at the Raptors’ Summer Moves.

Gagandeep Gandhi
Ryan McNeill
Jeff Wong
Kinnon Yee

Q1: With the addition of Jason Kapono and Carlos Delfino this summer the Raptors have shored up their small forward position. What would your next move be if you were GM?

Kinnon Yee: If I were the GM, to be honest, the next thing I’d look at is shoring up Jose’s contract. I’ve made no small hint as to how much I like Calderon’s game, but I think that he’s the guy that will ultimately bring them to where they need to be in the future.
As far as an actual move is concerned, people have mentioned a need for another slashing small forward. I’m just not completely sure the Raptors can trade for anyone that can fill that need, and not at the expense of our (arguably) better defending point guard. I’m more or less content to see how this team will react and grow together. My only questions for the next year is whether Delfino will emerge as the player that we expect him to be, and whether Anthony Parker can continue being our #1 defender on his 32-year old legs. Until then, I’m staying put, and observing what this team can do.
One last thing. I’d sign on one more “euro” coach. My reasoning remains the same as last year: Sam is great as far as a motivator, but currently, the coaching staff is lacking the ability to both enforce and attack the zone. Jay Triano’s international experience helps, but he’s hardly a strong mind who can attack the zone consistently. I think another coach is almost required, especially since Jim Todd has departed and has been replaced by a (former coach) “scout”.

Jeff Wong: I’m with Kinnon. For the most part, I’d like to wait and see how this team gels. I’d also see what I can do with Rasho Nesterovic’s contract – $16 million over the next two years is a lot of dough for a projected backup center. BC might be able to work some magic, but I don’t know who would be willing to swallow that.
Another consideration is Kris Humphries – Will he get enough minutes to satisfy him, behind Chris Bosh and Jorge Garbajosa? And if we make room by playing Bosh and Garbo at the 5, would there be enough floor time for Andrea Bargnani and Rasho? Something’s got to give in that big man rotation, and Humphries seems to be the most movable part.

Gagandeep Gandhi: The Raptors have as good an offensive team as you will find in the Eastern Conference, so the smart move would be to get an athletic big who can play defense. Yes, yes I know, easier than done. But, after Anthony Parker, Toronto doesn’t have a shut down defender. Morris Peterson will be leaving for another team in the coming days and he was the second go-to guy. Jorge Garbajosa is a solid all-around player but soon his age will catch up to him and he already isn’t that mobile, although he tries, that much is for sure.
No major changes are needed in Toronto this off-season, the two additions Bryan Colangelo has made so far this summer have been good ones and gives the team even more depth than they had last season, which is saying a lot. But then again, who needs stinkin’ defense anyways? Have Jason Kapono at one pocket, Anthony Parker at the other and Andrea Bargnani up top. Have more points than your opponent at the end of the game and you win, plain and simple.

Ryan McNeill: If I were the GM my next move would be to ink someone to help out on the glass. Adding two swingmen was a much needed move with Mo Pete on his way out of town so I think the next logical move would be to add someone to help Chris Bosh, Kris Humphries and Rasho on the glass. This week BC added Maceo Baston however I don’t think he’s the answer to our rebounding issues. While I’m sure that Baston will turn out to be a great fit for the Raptors – has BC made a mistake yet during his tenure – I would have preferred if the Raptors had invested that money in someone like Andray Blatche, Chuck Hayes, Brandan Bass, Kelvin Cato, Melvin Ely, Shavlik Randolph or Brian Skinner.

Q2: What does everyone think about BC inking Maceo Baston to a two-year deal with $3.8 million? Is he going to be the solution to our
rebounding issue?

Kinnon Yee: Short answer, no. I know what many people are thinking. “What are Bryan and Sam doing signing this guy on a two year, $3.8 Million offer sheet that Indiana can match within the next 7 days?” Well, for one thing, I will be very, very surprised if Maceo pushed Kris Humphries out of the rotation. However, I do not believe that is the intent of the Raptors. For the amount of money that he’s signing for, Maceo Baston is there to insure that there is competition at the 4/5 spot, and to make sure the Kris Humphries has suitable competition. In addition, in the event that there are further injuries to Garbajosa, Bosh, Bargnani, and Nesterovich, we have another player that can fill in as a simple rebounder.
At such a small amount of money, there is little risk involved.
On a related note, I still firmly believe that the Raptors’ rebounding situation has been greatly overblown. I think it’s safe to assume that Bargnani can, conservatively, average a full 2 more rebounds in this upcoming season. In addition, both the addition of Delfino and the return of Jorge will greatly aide the Raptors.

Gagandeep Gandhi: I agree with Mr. Yee on this one for the most part. With limited cap space to work with for the next few years, this rebounding issue the Raptors have faced for the better part of 4 seasons will have to be resolved internally. Rasho Nesterovic has the size, but he has no jump and he isn’t exactly a ‘grinder.’ Kris Humphries is a solid rebounder but consistency is a big issue. He can probably only give you 40-50 games where he is at his best so there is still a big hole left. Maceo Baston is a good addition, but again, he is a depth guy. With the minutes he will get he cannot be counted on to resolve their biggest problem at this time.
No doubt, Bryan Colangelo has put his faith into the hands of Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani on this issue. As they grow, as they get stronger, as they learn, they will develop that instinct that comes naturally. It’s an instinct that is inside of all big men, it’s just a matter of whether or not they find it.

Jeff Wong: Maceo Baston is a power forward. Humphries – power forward. I think the Raptors will go into the season with them to see who fits better and who is trade-worthy. As I said in the first Q, the logjam in the 4/5 spots need to be relieved: Bosh (lots of minutes), Bargnani (ditto), Garbo (he’s capable at 3/4/5), Rasho (big contract), Humphries (proved his worth last year), and now probably Baston.

Q3: What are your thoughts on the Raptors point guard tandem of TJ Ford and Jose Calderon? How long will Calderon be content in his role as a backup?

Jeff Wong: I’m a big Jose fan. As a true floor general, he directs traffic very well, and shows great enthusiasm. He and AP are my favorite Raptors. TJ? He’s yet to grow on me, but obviously his speed is a huge asset. Like many people say, we’ve got two starter-quality PGs, which no other team (arguably) can boast.
In interviews, Jose says that all he wants to do is win, whatever his minutes or his stats. Don’t know how he’ll react, though, if some team in contention offers him a lot of moolah and a starting gig, but I’m sure he appreciates what Toronto uniquely offers (Euro atmosphere and an excellent international front office). I want Jose to stay, but I don’t know how much more he can improve as a player. TJ, I think, has a higher ceiling. It would be awesome to keep both, but Jose’s value may never be greater. Someone will overpay for him.

Kinnon Yee: As I’ve told everyone, I have a (completely hetero) man-crush on Jose. But leaving that aside, here’s how I break things down. I still think that Jose has the better tactical mind out of our two point guards. He’s also stronger and taller, which makes him a slightly better defender against certain types of point guards. TJ, is a guy who has a natural ability of speed. It’s a great asset to have, but I’m also sure that he’s relied on this advantage too much in his life, and is now going to come to grips with advancing his other abilities. Here’s the thing, you can’t teach speed, but at the same time, you also can’t teach height and a great mind. Our tandem is the greatest in the NBA, and I firmly believe that a “no ego” player like Jose Calderon is content to just play equal minutes with TJ. If I take him at his word, TJ is also very much the same, but it’s easier for him to deal with things, since he’s a starter. Granted, in a Sam Mitchell lineup, being a starter doesn’t mean you’ll finish, or even get the most minutes, but he has that moniker.
I’m sure everyone will point out that Jose could leave if there’s enough “cha-ching” and a starters position, but that’s part of the risk. Here’s how I view it though, as far as Jose’s year. If Jose regresses somehow to his previous year, it means that Bryan will have an easier time keeping Jose, due to a perceived lessening of his value. If Jose plays great for yet another year, then his trade potential value becomes exponentially higher. Therefore, it makes no sense to me for him to trade Jose until at least the trade deadline. At least, that’s how I think about his “situation”. I still believe that Bryan will find a way to match any offer in the off season, and that Jose will take lesser money to stay on the Raptors. Then again, I’m just going on what Doug Smith has said as a result of hanging out with Jose, and I’m not exactly biased on this issue. Nevertheless, I don’t see our PG situation struggling at all, and I think as a result of such a strong 1 position, our team is much stronger than the individual parts that Bryan has assembled.

Ryan McNeill: I think everyone in Raptors Nation is a huge fan of Jose. He’s the one bright spot from Rob Babcock’s tenure, he’s the best backup PG in the NBA and he’s a class act on and off the court. What’s not to like? The concern I have had is that GM’s around the League are drooling at the chance to ink him next summer and I think this would be a legit concert any other summer. Have you taken a look at the list of free agent’s next summer? It’s clearly the deepest free agency class the NBA has seen in decades and possibly ever. With that in mind I don’t see Calderon being a top flight free agent and it could result in him inking for the MLE whereas this summer he could have signed for Maurice Williams coin (five years and $52 million). Maybe I’m being a biased fan here but I feel that because of the glut of All-Star and future Hall of Fame players that will be on the market next summer it will push Calderon out of the forefront of other GM’s mind and it won’t be as tough to resign him that some fans think.
I think the point that Kinnon raised was right on the money as well. If Calderon backslides a bit this season then it increases the chance the Raps can ink him for the MLE but if he rips it up and he plays out of our price range then we could deal him. However, with that being said, last spring I cringed whenever fans talked about dealing him to a contender. Now that Toronto is clearly a playoff team why would we deal away one of our top assets that we’ll need in the playoffs? I feel that even if Calderon’s going to bolt we should hold onto him for our playoff run because Cleveland showed that any team can advance to the NBA Finals to rep the East. Why risk losing that opportunity?

Gagandeep Gandhi: They are undoubtedly one of the best point guard tandems in the league. They both have the classic pass-first mentality that is so rare in today’s game, in addition to that, the fact that they are both young and aren’t even close to reaching their prime bodes well for the future of the Raptors franchise. However, in today’s day and age of high salaries and cap issues, a problem does lurk in the near future.
Jose Calderon is set to become a free agent next summer. Like most Raptors fans, I am very, very high on Calderon and his abilities to lead a team. I actually believe he has more upside than TJ Ford. But, Ford already has a long term deal, so that may be one of the deciding factors. I do not believe you can have two point guards on your team that take up a total of 15-18 million in cap space and still be competitive. In the end, I think it will be Ford who gets traded between January and next summer. Every move Bryan Colangelo makes is calculated and for the most part smart; if he is smart he knows he shouldn’t mess with fans of the Toronto Raptors. The Toronto fans have come to embrace this euro-invasion and it would be real ruthless to take away such a great piece the fans have come to adored.

Q4: Because a team can’t commit 15-18 million per season to their point guards, if you were GM of the Raptors and it came down to Calderon or Ford who would you choose?

Jeff Wong: I’d keep Calderon, naturally. However, Ford’s a Base Year Compensation player (expires July 1 of next year), so that greatly limits his tradability.

Gagandeep Gandhi: Like I said earlier, I would keep Jose Calderon hands down. I really believe you need to have a European player to lead the way as a point guard if that’s the type of team concept you envision. Early last season I really didn’t enjoy seeing Andrea Bargnani play at the same time TJ Ford was playing the point because I didn’t think he looked to set up Andrea. Calderon on the other hand would be looking to create some open space and shots for Andrea. Although, maybe it was just a simple case of over-analyzing and me being biased. Sure, you would have a tough time dealing Ford and his new contract, but if he is supposed to be as good as some people think he is, there should be takers. However, if you trade Ford, how does Bosh feel about losing one of his closest friends? There is no real easy answer here.

Kinnon Yee: Are Bosh and TJ that close though? I mean, they share the same birthday, but I just don’t feel it that much. They have fun in the locker rooms together, and they seem to have a great time playing off each other, but it’s not the same as, let’s say, Jose and Garbajosa. But to the original question, Calderon’s my guy, simply because his distribution method is more in tune with how I feel the ball should be moved. With TJ on the floor, you have TJ and Bosh running the show most of the time, with Parker and everyone else standing around, waiting for things to happen. This leads to stagnation a lot of the time. Calderon, is more like Steve Nash. Constantly moving, looking to see the soft spots in the offense, and trying to utilize all his weapons at once. There’s a vast difference in each player’s tactical ability, and while I think TJ is much faster, this leads to an “out of control” playing style. Calderon, plays with the proper acceleration method in order to get the most out of his limited speed. He also looks deep into his tactics to create an ideal situation score a hoop. Like a seasoned chess player, Jose looks about two or three passes deep to get the ball where he wants to, whereas TJ tends to look only one person deep.
One final thing. At 15-16 million, I think it’s easy to keep both PGs. I also think that it’s worth making sure that both the starting and bench PG positions are secure. It’s one of those positions that gets some of the most wear and tear, and having the proper tacticians leads to other people playing at least half a grade to a full grade better than having a poor PG. So you can get away with having weaker players at other positions, so long as your PGs are top form.

Q5: Are there any deals or signings that you’re glad didn’t make it through?

Jeff Wong: The only player I can think of is Mickael Pietrus. Sure, he’s got potential, but the phrase “low b-ball IQ” keeps popping up about him, so that didn’t sound like a BC-type acquisition anyway, at least not for the whole MLE.

Ryan McNeill: Can I pull out a lame answer and say that I’m relieved that Hoffa’s gone? I know that this deal happened last summer but I’m happy that he was able to escape the wrath of Raptors fans and get a fresh start. However, I’m bummed that he drew the ire of Jerry Sloan and couldn’t find his way off the bench last season…

Gagandeep Gandhi: I am glad Morris Peterson isn’t returning. Okay, before I get called names and sent nasty emails hear me out. It’s not because I didn’t enjoy every season of Peterson’s career as a Raptor. It’s because in this system the Raptors have, I do not believe he would be as valuable to Toronto and he will be to New Orleans. The Raptors have a lot of depth and I would argue if Peterson came back he would get less playing time this season than last. So, it would essentially be a waste of the MLE. Personally, I hope the ACC crowd gives him a standing ovation when he makes his return to Toronto because he was a pro when times were good and when times were bad.

Kinnon Yee: I don’t know even where to begin. Especially with the endless speculation about Jose going to Atlanta, I think this off season saw a lot of the Raptors fans keep their same mindset of the past few seasons. The mindset was “Let’s make (drastic) changes and hope for the best”. To really understand how happy I am with the lack of activity, we should look at the San Antonio Spurs and their consistent lineup over the past years. I’m not even just talking about recently, but even as far back as the David Robinson era. The Spurs reload, grow people through their system, and promote them as they reach a certain level. As players reach a certain age, (an “over the hill”, but still worth something age) they are traded for new draft picks so the entire system can run its course again. There’s a point when your team is good, and you just need to really tweak due to insufficiencies such as a lack of depth or chemistry.
Right now, the Raptors, arguably, have one of the most talented and deep young core of players. In addition, this core has a lot of experience and has few chemistry problems. They display maturity, poise, and an incredible work ethic. Draft picks don’t help, because this core is already young. Older players don’t help much, because in addition to Jorge Garbajosa and Rasho Nesterovic, Sam Mitchell is practically a veteran player presence. So what do you do? Stay relatively still and see just how your young players can grow in another year.

Thanks to everyone for participating in this roundtable. We hope that you (the
reader) enjoyed it. We’ll be looking to your feedback for future roundtables!

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