Archive for the ‘Alexis Ajinca’ Category

With less and less to talk about in the dog days of summer in the midst of an ugly NBA lockout, ESPN provides us with a meaningless yet entertaining enough list, ranking NBA players from 1-500.

Only numbers 500-391 have been revealed thus far, but as you can imagine with a 60-loss team like Toronto, Raptors are popping up on the list already…three times to be exact.

What’s important to note about the list is that players who have signed overseas were not included, nor were 2011 draft picks who aren’t expected to play if there is a 2011-2012 season.

For the Raps, that eliminates the possibility of seeing Sonny Weems or fan-favourite Jonas “Rambo” Valanciunas on the list.

According to ESPN, 91 experts rated every player on a scale of 0-to-10, based on what they refer to as “the current quality of each player,” whatever that means.

Anyways, the worst of the worst Raptors, in 91 “experts’” opinions, are Solomon Alabi (497th), Alexis Ajinca (416th) and Joey Dorsey (406th).

It’s hard to argue with any of these Raptors rankings, and I was pleased to see that Dorsey was ranked ahead of Ajinca and amused to see that according to experts, Solomon Alabi is only three players worse than Eddy Curry.

While it seems awful to have three eligible players in the bottom 100, it’s really not that bad. Many other teams have at least three players in the bottom 100 as well, with seven teams, including the Blazers, Hawks, Thunder and Magic, actually having more than three players appear on the current list.

The NBA, where amazing happens.

The Toronto Raptors, where “our worst players can compete with your worst players” happens.

GO team!

Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be evaluating each player on the Raptors’ roster, looking at how they fared this season, and what their value is to the team going forward, if any.

I’ll run through the roster in alphabetical order, with the more important players getting their own posts. In addition, for each evaluation, Scott Carefoot will add his own thoughts on the different Raptors.

My apologies to Alexis Ajinca and Solomon Alabi, but there was no chance of one of these guys getting their own post.

Alexis Ajinca: 24 GP, 11 MPG, 4.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 46.5 FG%, 33.3 3Pt%, 73.3 FT%, 0.58 BPG, 0.3 APG, 0.33 SPG

Ajinca joined the Raptors in a trade from Dallas when the Mavericks needed to clear cap space to sign Peja Stojakovic. In 24 games, the big Frenchman was noticeable, if not by his size alone, but hardly impactful. His short stint in Toronto reminds me of fellow European big man, Primoz Brezec.

When he’s having a hot shooting night, Ajinca can spread the floor with his range for a big, but his hot shooting nights are too few and far between to make up for his lack of rebounding or defence. To be honest, there were a couple of games in the final week of the season where I actually noticed and appreciated Ajinca’s hustle and work ethic around the basket, but never did I believe the Raptors had a piece for the future, let alone a significant one.

If there is one thing, besides his height, that Ajinca has going for him, it’s his youth. The seven-foot-two centre will only turn 23-years-old in a few weeks, so there is definitely time for him to develop into a decent big off of the bench. But with the Raptors going athletic in this rebuild, there is no room or time for Ajinca in Toronto. It will be interesting to see how much money Ajinca can make as a free agent after making nearly $1.5 million this season. If he’s still in the NBA next season, I can almost guarantee it won’t be that much.

Scott Carefoot’s take on Alexis Ajinca:

Ever wondered what Andrea Bargnani would look like if he was a black French dude? Raptors fans, I present Alexis Ajinca! As you might suspect, I’m not a fan of his game. He’s soft, he doesn’t rebound or block shots, and he loves to shoot threes. I don’t understand Bryan Colangelo’s attraction to this type of player and if he’s going to remain the General Manager of this franchise, I would like him to undergo hypnosis treatments to cure him of this sick obsession.

Solomon Alabi: Totals: 12 GP, 59 Min, 6 Pts, 3-15 FG, 0-2 FT, 14 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Blk, 2 Stl

When evaluating Solomon Alabi’s rookie season, it’s impossible to look at stats; the Nigerian big man only played 59 minutes all year, and just about all of those minutes came in garbage time.

When he did play, Alabi looked awkward and lost amongst other NBA athletes, and I would have to believe that trend will continue. Having said that, the difference between Alabi and Ajinca is that Alabi is a Raptors’ draft pick that was seen as a “project”-type player anyway. In addition, Alabi has much more of a potential to develop into a decent defensive presence than Ajinca does.

My problem with Solomon is that the only time the guy made the news this season was when he complained about the conditions of the D-League. I understand that the D-League is far from ideal for guys who’ve been drafted by NBA franchises, but at the end of the day, you’re being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to play basketball. Suck it up, shut up and play. And if you are going to complain, at least turn it into a “now I want to work harder to ensure I never go back there” kind of rant, the way Ed Davis did.

Given that he’s on the books for only $830,000 next season, and the fact that he hasn’t been given much of an opportunity yet, I’d keep Alabi around as an emergency big at the end of the bench. If he shocks the world and blossoms into a serviceable player or valuable asset, then that’s great. If he doesn’t, it cost you less than a million dollars and you simply refuse to pick up his team option for the next season.

Scott Carefoot’s take on Solomon Alabi:

It’s hard to come up with a good assessment of Solomon Alabi based on just 59 minutes of NBA experience, but from what I’ve seen he appears to be too slow and lacking the necessary instincts to make it on this level. Considering he was drafted with the 50th pick of the 2010 draft, we should have realized Alabi would be a longshot. With the Raptors’ desperate need for a true centre, he’ll be given every chance to make the team’s regular rotation next season — but I suspect he’ll ultimately end up collecting paychecks overseas.

Next up in our list of player evaluations will be Leandro Barbosa, so look out for a post on the Brazilian Blur early next week. And don’t forget that although the season is over for Raptors fans, you can count on RaptorBlog to continue to deliver throughout the off-season, as Scott, Holly and I will do our best to keep the site fresh.

Until then, enjoy the long weekend.

14 886 (It looked like a lot less than that) fans ventured to the Air Canada Centre for this meeting between two teams with a combined record of 37-117. And really, when you hear numbers like that, you can’t blame fans for not scooping up tickets.

For those who did show up, they were “treated” to an excruciatingly painful basketball game. Just as there was no energy emanating from the stands, there was even less to go around on the depleted Raptors’ bench.

The Raps got off to a sluggish start for the second night in a row, and allowed the dismal Cavs to open the ball game with a big run and build confidence.

Reggie Evans was the only Raptor who seemed to know what the hell he was doing on the floor in the first half. To emphasize how horrible Toronto was in the first 24 minutes, consider that Reggie scored 10 of the team’s first 30 points.

To make matters worse, the Raptors, as usual, showed no signs of concern for the defensive end of the court. It showed in the fact that the offensively anaemic Cavs, who average just 95 points per game, had put up 60 in the first half on 60 per cent shooting and were up 20.

The ACC faithful made the young Raptors aware of their displeasure, sending the Raps to the locker room with a serenade of boos, and rightfully so.

The third quarter looked like an extension of the opening half at first, but the Raptors began to make their own run towards the end of the quarter, and a hard, flagrant foul committed on Joey Graham, by James Johnson, seemed to create a spark around the arena.

The little run had the deficit down to 13 going into the fourth quarter.

Alexis Ajinca, yes, Alexis Ajinca, DeMar DeRozan and Jerryd Bayless continued to power the Raptors’ rally in the fourth quarter, and a Sonny Weems’ three-pointer had the suddenly cold-shooting Cavs’ lead down to five.

The game went back and forth between five and 10 points after that, and  despite the fact that Bayless was keeping the Raptors alive, the 22-point hole they had dug themselves proved to be too much, as did Baron Davis’ clutch shooting down the stretch.

I’d love to say it was a valiant effort from the young Raptors, or that their comeback attempt was admirable, but the truth is that a quarter-and-a-half of good, tough basketball does not excuse their piss-poor performance through two-and-a-half quarters.

There shouldn’t be many positives to discuss after a loss to Cleveland, but there were a few bright spots for the Raptors. Reggie Evans finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds in 29 minutes, DeMar DeRozan came on in the second half to finish with 19 points and Sonny Weems finished with 17 points on just 10 shots.

But the real shining presence for the Raptors of late continues to be the emergence of Jerryd Bayless as a very capable point guard. After being sent back to the bench to accomodate Jose Calderon, Bayless still had another solid game.

If this season truly was supposed to be about youth development and an eye to the future, then one has to question why Bayless wasn’t given the start tonight with Jose coming back after an injury. The choice for the final four games should be simple: Bayless should get the nod.

Now there are those that actually claim to cheer against the Raptors right now, in order to attain a higher probability of winning the lottery. Believe me, I understand this thinking to a certain extent, but the way I see it, a home loss to a team like the Cavs undoes everything that a young team can gain from impressive wins, like the recent W’s over the Thunder, Bulls and Magic.

Speaking of the lottery situation, the Raptors (at 21-57) now sit in a tie with the Wizards for the 28th and 27th spots overall. That would mean the Raptors would most likely receive the third or fourth pick in the draft. Unless something drastic changes in the final week of the season, that’s exactly where the Raps should finish up.

If you were wondering why Amir Johnson suddenly joined the walking wounded tonight, it’s because Amir sustained an ankle injury during the pre-game warmup.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 30 Min, 28 Pts, 10-18 FG, 2-5 3Pt, 6-8 FT, 2 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

Cavaliers Player of the Game: J.J. Hickson – 36 Min, 28 Pts, 9-17 FG, 10-14 FT, 10 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: Jose Calderon – 27 Min, 4 Pts, 0-7 FG, 0-3 3Pt, 4-4 FT, 1 Reb, 9 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO (I could have easily given this title to Ed Davis tonight as well)

Getty Images

Yup, that's Sonny taking another jump-shot

Friday night, lively crowd, great ball game, overtime, ten losses in a row. Hey, at least you got your money’s worth.

The Raptors faced another winnable game at home (if you can call any game on the schedule ‘winnable’ anymore) on Friday night, and though their performance was somewhat acceptable, the end result was loss no. 34 on the season.

The Raps came out with good energy in the first quarter, but were undone by absolutely brutal interior defence, particularly from Andrea Bargnani, leading to a 10-point deficit after one.

The second quarter was by far the Raptors’ best of the night, as they jumped out to a 10-0 run to start the quarter, and even started to stretch out a lead of their own as the quarter wore on. Alexis Ajinca was surprisingly good in that second frame. He made jump-shot after jump-shot from the top of the key, was solid defensively and even had a big block on little Earl Boykins. Leading the way though, for the Raps, was Jerryd Bayless, whose aggression and pesky play sparked Toronto to a 57-55 lead at halftime.

The third quarter was the Ersan Ilyasova and Corey Maggette show, as the Bucks began to assert their will on the court. The only thing keeping Toronto in it was the stellar effort being turned in by Amir Johnson.

The Bucks led by as many as 10 in the final quarter, and looked like they could run away with it, when Andrea Bargnani finally came alive. Bargs got hot at the right time for the Raps, and hit a jumper to tie the game with under a minute to play. Amir Johnson stepped to the free throw line with 18 seconds left to tie the game again, and the Bucks, like the Grizzlies on Monday, had 18 seconds to break the Raptors’ hearts.

Unfortunately for Milwaukee, Carlos Delfino could not channel his inner Rudy Gay, and he stumbled out of bounds, leaving Toronto with the ball and 2.8 seconds to do something with it. After calling back-to-back timeouts, the play the Raptors settled for was Andrea Bargnani shooting a turnaround jumper from the right corner. It never came close, and overtime was on the horizon.

Despite Bargnani’s obvious inability to guard Andrew Bogut throughout the ball game, it was Andrea trying to handle Bogut in the first minute of OT, and I think you can guess what happened. Bogut scored the first six points of the extra frame before the Raptors realized something wasn’t working. Amir switched over to guarding Bogut, and though the Raptors came back to tie it again, they ultimately came up six points short.

Onto some notes from the game now. I mentioned above that Ajinca was hot in the second quarter. The truth is his jumper was falling, but over the course of just 13 minutes, it became pretty clear that he has no offensive game; just a nice stroke. If defenders close in on him, don’t expect much.

Sonny Weems had a decent game on Friday night, finishing with 10 points and showing some nice passing ability with six assists. However, Sonny continued to settle for jump shots and finished 4-of-13 from the field, which included missing a wide open put-back. He certainly was not good enough to blow anybody away or steal minutes from a guy who’s been busting his butt for the last month.

Oh, I guess he was. Weems replaced Julian Wright as a starter to begin the second half, as Wright was having a bit of a rough game. Sonny finished with 43 minutes, Wright had 12. We appreciate all your hard work Julian, but you were always just one bad quarter away from losing your spot to an undeserving player. Wait until Kleiza comes back and chucks his way past you in the rotation.

The highlight of the night was definitely Matt Devlin and Jack Armstrong grabbing the mic and leading the crowd in a sing-along to “Living On A Prayer.” No joke, the crowd was ten times louder for that than they were for Rob Base’s halftime performance.

As I wrote up top, fans certainly got their money’s worth on this night, but that shouldn’t fool people into thinking the effort was acceptable. Yes, the Raptors fought back from another late deficit, had their chance to win it and forced overtime. Their effort on offence was commendable.

But there is another side to the story. The Raptors let the worst offensive team in the league (Milwaukee averages 91.2 points per game on 42.3 per cent shooting) score 104 points in regulation and shoot 55 per cent from the field. If someone thinks that a great effort went into that just because the game was exciting, they’re dreaming.

Raptors Player of the Game: Amir Johnson -34 Min, 24 Pts, 8-11 FG, 8-9 FT, 12 Reb, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

Bucks Player of the Game: Ersan Ilyasova – 34 Min, 25 Pts, 9-10 FG, 2-2 3Pt, 5-5 FT, 7 Reb, 1 Ast, 3 Stl, 2 Blk (Bogut and Maggette could take this place too)

Among NBA coaches outside Toronto, the word is out on how soft the Raptors’ defence is. Admittedly, you don’t need to be Gregg Popovich to figure out that the Raptors’ defensive deficiencies are easy to exploit — they can’t defend the pick-and-roll, they don’t box out consistently, they’re soft, they’re not particularly athletic, certain key players “tune out” for extended periods on the defensive end… I could go on, but you get the point. Here’s Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins on the Raptors’ defence:

“I was watching the Spurs-Toronto game and one of the sets (San Antonio) runs, we run and Toronto was struggling stopping it when they played zone. We ran that play almost the entire second quarter. (Maurice Speights) rolled to the basket and Jrue (Holiday) did a nice job finding him for those little pocket passes and scores.”

The second quarter of last night’s game might have been the most embarrassing defensive display I’ve seen the Raptors put up all season, and that’s really saying something. It wasn’t just that the Sixers scored 30 points in the quarter, it was how they scored them. They repeatedly scored off the same pick-and-roll play and off of several uncontested offensive rebounds.

In particular, backup big man Marreese Speights looked like an unstoppable force of nature as he scored 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting and grabbed five offensive rebounds in his nine-minute stint. Unsurprisingly, Andrea Bargnani was the main Raptor to look bad on a lot of these points, but Jose Calderon, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson and new Raptor Alexis Ajinca all had moments where they were culpable — as you can see in this painful-to-watch compilation of Speights’ second-quarter offensive rampage.

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