Archive for the ‘Leandro Barbosa’ Category

Game No. 58: Pacers 103, Raptors 98

The Pacers are a legitimate threat to win a playoff series in the Eastern Conference, while the Raptors are a surefire lottery team when healthy, so without Andrea Bargnani on the road in Indiana, no one expected much of anything from “Toronto’s other team” playing on Monday night.

Credit the Raptors for fighting to cut a 16-point deficit down to two in the fourth quarter and making the finish somewhat exciting, but did anyone feel the result was ever really in doubt?

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- With Andrea Bargnani missing his 27th game of the season with calf issues, Amir Johnson got the nod as Bargnani’s replacement in Toronto’s starting lineup. Amir responded with a solid outing of 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting to go with seven rebounds, three assists and a steal. By and large, Amir has been underwhelming this season, and one of the areas of his game I would have liked to see more of was his improved offence from last season. The 16 points came in a losing effort in a meaningless April game, but nonetheless, it was nice to see from him against a good opponent.

2- The Raptors’ other power forward, Ed Davis, put up some very solid numbers in very limited minutes, again. Davis posted a double-double of 11 points (on 5-of-7 shooting) and 10 rebounds in just 17 minutes of action. As I mentioned in Friday’s recap, Davis has been quietly picking up his play of late, but hasn’t been rewarded with extended minutes yet. In his last six games, Ed’s averaged about seven points and eight rebounds in just over 20 minutes. It’s too late into the season to be convinced one way or another by a good individual stretch or a slump, but I’d still like to see Davis get some major minutes down the stretch, especially with Bargnani out.

3- One guy we know was in Dwane Casey’s temporary dog house was James Johnson, who has now played two games since his benching. Johnson was active when he hit the floor tonight in Indy, and came up with two big blocks, but he hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire since his return to the lineup on Sunday in Oklahoma City. I wasn’t expecting James to put up huge numbers, but I was hoping his play forced him back into the starting five over 10-day man Alan Anderson. I don’t know that he’s done that.

4-Leandro Barbosa was a factor for the Pacers in this one, scoring 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 23 minutes off the bench for Indy. When the Raptors traded Leandro at the deadline, a few people discussed the possibility of Toronto bringing him back as an unrestricted free agent this off-season, which isn’t a stretch considering Bryan Colangelo’s relationship with the Brazilian Blur and how much he reportedly loved the city. As it stands right now, the Raptors have no guaranteed guard scoring punch off the bench for next season, as Jerryd Bayless isn’t certain to be back, and you can’t count on Gary Forbes for consistent production. If the Raps are still looking for that bench production in July, I’d be fine with bringing Barbosa back at a reasonable price. As frustrating as his shot selection sometimes is and as out of control as he sometimes plays, Barbosa has game-changing offensive ability off of the bench, and that’s something teams quickly realize they need when they don’t have it.

5- 11,021. That’s how many people came out to watch this game in Indiana. That’s it. In short, this is mind boggling to me. The Pacers used to have a great fan-base during their run of contention through the 1990′s and early 2000′s, and while I know the 2011-2012 edition of the team is a mere shadow of the Reggie Miller-led squad of days gone by, they are still a legitimate playoff team and one that can make some post-season noise over the next couple of years. They may not have a superstar, but they’re talented enough, they’re deep, they work hard on the court, they supposedly have one of the nicer arenas in the NBA and they currently sit third in the Eastern Conference at 35-22, winning 19 of 27 games at home. And yet the Pacers sit 29th in the Association with an average attendance of 14,209. Is ‘disappointing’ a strong enough word to describe the lack of hometown support this Pacers team is receiving?

6- One thing I mentioned on Friday night when the Raptors blew what looked to be a sure win against the Cavaliers is how quickly a would-be four game winning streak could turn into a lengthy losing streak. Losses against the Cavs, Thunder, and now Pacers have the streak at three already, and if you look at the Raps’ upcoming schedule and consider that Andrea Bargnani is currently sidelined, you can see why Tank Nation has suddenly been reinvigorated. The team’s next five games are all against playoff opponents (vs. 76ers, vs. Celtics, @ Hawks, vs. Hawks, @ Heat) and their last road game of the season is in Milwaukee, where the Bucks could be playing for their playoff lives. From a realistic standpoint, a game at Detroit and the season finale against the Nets may be Toronto’s final two opportunities for wins this season.

Raptors Player of the Game: Amir Johnson – 33 Min, 16 Pts, 7-9 FG, 1-1 3PT, 1-2 FT, 7 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

Pacers Player of the Game: George Hill – 36 Min, 18 Pts, 5-9 FG, 1-3 3PT, 7-7 FT, 7 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl

Man with a plan

RaptorBlog founder and self proclaimed “Blog Father” Scott Carefoot did a fine job posting on the Barbosa to the Pacers trade amid all the madness that was NBA deadline day 2012, so there’s no need to go over the trade again.

What I did want to get into is what the immediate future now looks like for the Raptors in the post-Barbosa era, both from an on-court angle and from a financial perspective.

I’ll start with this. Leandro Barbosa and the now officially waived Anthony Carter played approximately 1153 combined minutes for the Raptors this season, which works out to 26.8 minutes per game over Toronto’s 43 contests. Even with a healthy Jose Calderon, that’s an extra 27 minutes that Jerryd Bayless and Gary Forbes, and maybe even DeMar DeRozan, can share. Remember that Bayless has a qualifying offer worth over $4 million for next season, so it’s imperative that the Raptors’ brass gets a good enough look at him to be able to make a fully informed decision.

We’ve always known this season was supposed to be about development and analysis of the younger Raptors, and with Barbosa and even the little used Carter now out of the way, the Raps can take another step towards that development and analysis.

On to the finances.

The Raptors now have around $11 million or $12 million in cap space that they can use between the end of their season (which should come to an end on April 26) and July 1, when the 2012-2013 season will be officially open for business. That flexibility can be used to obtain more draft picks, or of course, to obtain an actual player before the start of free agency, which is a positive, since a lot of players end up getting overpaid after July 1.

Thinking further ahead (and assuming that the NBA’s salary cap stays around $58 million), the Raps are in line to have about $14 million or $15 million in cap space if they choose to extend the aforemtnioned qualifying offer to Bayless. If they were to renounce that option on Bayless (which I really can’t see them doing without Barbosa in the future plans), the cap space grows to $18 million or $19 million.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, as those figures don’t take into account the two top-10 draft picks the Raptors are expected to be paying next season. According to this NBA rookie salary scale, Jonas Valanciunas will be paid about $2.8 million in his rookie season. Assuming that the Raptors select somewhere between No. 1 and No. 8 in the 2012 draft, you then have to add another $2.1 million to $4.2 million in player salaries.

So, the Raptors will likely add anywhere from $4.9 million to $7 million in payroll between Valanciunas and their 2012 pick, and that’s not including the two second round picks that they now own, which are non-guaranteed contracts. If Bayless gets his $4.1 million option, the Raptors would be in line to have about $49 million-to-$52 million committed to 12 players next season.

Those players would be Jose Calderon, Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, Gary Forbes, James Johnson, Linas Kleiza, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, Aaron Gray, Jonas Valanciunas and 2012 pick. We’re obviously not looking at a championship core there, but if the 2012 pick is a good one, which it should be, and Valanciunas lives up to the hype, you definitely have a solid foundation, without having an insane amount of financial commitment.

I know a lot of disheartened Raptors fans will read a post like this as blind optimism, but I maintain that if the Raptors get one of the studs coming out in 2012, they’ll have a good enough core and financial situation to lay the building blocks for future success, and it would take blind pessimism to ignore that. Of course, it all does depend on how Lady Luck treats Toronto on lottery night.

The next six weeks of Raptors basketball should be intriguing to monitor. The 63 days between April 26 and June 28 (Draft day) could be fascinating and future-shaping.

Leandro Barbosa

Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports reported this morning that the Raptors have traded Leandro Barbosa to the Pacers in return for a second-round pick, presumably in the upcoming draft. Considering the Pacers’ current place in the standings, the pick will probably be in the 50s — which is like Solomon Alabi territory. The trade will save the Raptors around $2 million in salary on Barbosa’s expiring contract and will enable him to play some meaningful basketball over the next couple of months, which is nice.

I never considered Barbosa to be part of the Raptors’ plans beyond this season, so I can’t say I’m broken up about this. Jerryd Bayless and Gary Forbes would appear to be the guys who will pick up Barbosa’s minutes. Bayless is a restricted free agent after this season, so he’ll benefit from the ability to play 30 minutes per game over the rest of the season — regardless of whether Jose Calderon is in the lineup.

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Game No. 39: Raptors 116, Rockets 98

The Raptors got out and ran from the opening tip to take advantage of a fatigued (Houston went to overtime in Boston on Tuesday night) and slumping Rockets team that has now lost five in a row.

The Raps shot the lights out while playing their usual smothering style on the defensive end to conclude their four-game home stand with an even 2-2 record.

Now here are some thoughts on the game.

1- What an offensive display from the hometown team. The Raptors shot an incredible 59 per cent (45-for-76) from the floor, 50 per cent (6-for-12) from three-point range and over 83 per cent (20-for-24) from the free throw line. Perhaps even more impressive is that of the nine Raptors players who took at least three shots in this game, seven of them shot 50 per cent or better. As a team, Toronto scored at least 24 points in all four quarters and scored 30 and 34 points in the second and fourth quarters. From start to finish, it just seemed that everything the Raptors threw up fell conveniently in the basket.

2- While it’s easy to dismiss massive offensive blips on the radar like this one as pure luck or a fluke, the Raptors deserve a big chunk of credit for how crisply they ran their offence and in particular, how well they shared the ball. Led by Jose Calderon’s game-high 12 assists, the Raps recorded an eye-popping 31 assists on just 45 made field goals. That’s nearly 70 per cent of their baskets coming from an assist. It was the result of the Raptors looking to make the extra pass on seemingly every possession, as I’m sure there were a boat load of hockey assists for Toronto in this game.

3- It’s a good thing the Raptors shot as well as they did on Wednesday night, because they weren’t getting any help from the officials. It’s tough to say whether the officiating was unbalanced or the Raptors were simply too aggressive on the defensive end, but the fact is this, the Raptors were called for 32 fouls compared to the Rockets’ 20, and Houston went to the line an astonishing 44 times, while Toronto made a more pedestrian 24 trips to the charity stripe. I’d say it’s extremely rare to have 20 less free throw attempts than your opponent and still win by 18 points. In total, there were 52 fouls in this game, or 1.08 fouls per minute. The only thing that kept the pace of the game moving was Toronto’s efficient offence.

4- I mentioned Calderon’s 12 assists already, but the Spaniard also poured in 17 points on seven-of-11 shooting to go along with three rebounds and a couple of steals. I suppose we could look at Jose’s three turnovers as a negative in this game, but at the end of the day, a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, while simply average for Calderon, would be a highlight for many other lead guards. Quite simply, Jose clearly outplayed one of the better and younger point guards in the league in Kyle Lowry.

5- Fighting Calderon for player of the game honours were DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson. DeRozan attacked the basket, got to the free throw line eight times and showed off his steady mid-range game en route to a 23-point performance on eight-of-16 shooting. Amir put together a balanced stat-line of 14 points (on 7-of-10 shooting), eight rebounds, two assists and three blocks. Leandro Barbosa and Linas Kleiza also impressed in this ball game, coming off the bench to combine for 34 points on 14-of-26 shooting to go with eight rebounds, three assists (from Barbosa), two steals and a block (from Kleiza) in 26 and 24 minutes respectively.

6- The complete effort and team win over a potential Western Conference playoff team extends the Raptors’ run of consistency to 16 games. What I’m alluding to, of course, is the run the Raptors started on February 3 against the Wizards. Over that 16-game span, Toronto is 6-10, with the catch being that all 10 losses have been by seven points or less. The average margin of defeat in those 10 games is just 4.4 points and the Raptors point differential over the 16 games is actually positive, at +1.8.

What I find interesting about this stretch of competitiveness is that it started after a 36-point blowout loss in Boston. You always hear coaches and players talk about how “it won’t happen again” after they are embarrassed by another team, but rarely do teams actually come out with a grittier effort like the Raptors have since that Beantown beatdown. I’m not naive enough to believe this team won’t be blown out again, but I do believe they have learned and improved from that feeling of humiliation, and that’s more than I can say for Raptors teams of recent years.

***

Even Tank Nation loyalists can’t be too disappointed with this W, as the Wizards, Nets and Cavaliers all won on Wednesday, with the Hornets and Kings playing each other, so the Raptors won’t even negatively affect their lottery positioning with this solid home win.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jose Calderon – 35 Min, 17 Pts, 7-11 FG, 1-3 3PT, 2-2 FT, 3 Reb, 12 Ast, 2 Stl, 3 TO

Rockets Player of the Game: Chandler Parsons – 42 Min, 19 Pts, 6-9 FG, 1-1 3PT, 6-8 FT, 4 Reb, 2 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO

While the NHL trade deadline has our attention today, there are a couple of Raptors-related rumours out there to chew on with the NBA deadline just a couple of weeks away.

On Sunday night, the Orlando Sentinel wrote about a Dwight Howard to the Lakers rumour that included a Jose Calderon to Orlando component (Magic CEO has since denied that such a trade proposal exists). Then on Monday, Sam Smith of bulls.com wrote under the NBA news and notes section of his write-up that “The Raptors are anxious to move the contract of Leandro Barbosa to make a big offer to restricted free agent Wilson Chandler.

As I’ve stated a few times about Chandler, I like what he can bring to the table, but I would be worried about getting in a bidding war and overpaying for a complimentary piece type of player at this early and critical stage of the Raptors’ rebuild. If Smith is correct that the Raps are anxious to clear some cap space to make Chandler a “big” offer, then I won’t lie to you, I’m a little anxious myself, as all Raptors fans should be.

I am pleased, however, that the Raptors are trying to move Barbosa, whose departure I think should be more of a priority than Jose Calderon’s. After all, Leandro is on an expiring contract, which means the Raptors have just a little over two weeks left to extract any type of trade value out of the “Brazilian Blur.”