Archive for the ‘Leandro Barbosa’ Category

On Monday night, Chris Broussard of ESPN wrote this: “Lots of teams are calling Toronto about Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani. The Raptors aren’t likely to part with Bargnani, and if they move Calderon, they’ll need to get a point guard in return. That would seem to make a trade for Calderon unlikely.”

I’ll start by saying that if you thought Bryan Colangelo would never consider trading Bargnani before this season, then you have to know it isn’t happening after watching him look like an All Star in a small 13-game sample this year. While I would not advocate trading Bargnani, I think we’d all be intensely interested in knowing what kind of trade value the Italian big man has after his ridiculous start to the season. If you can get intriguing young players with high ceilings and a first round pick, would you consider parting ways with Andrea? I still wouldn’t, unless we’re talking about a significant package of can’t miss prospects, which I highly doubt any executive would actually offer for Bargs.

As for the ongoing Calderon rumours, which will likely continue through the trade deadline and off-season, I don’t believe trading Jose is as necessary as a lot of other Raptors fans believe. If you can get a capable (young) point guard in return, as Broussard hinted the Raptors would want, or a package that involves a top-20 first round pick, I’d be okay with a deal, but I’m not okay with the notion that the Raptors have to simply trade Calderon for the sake of it.

You don’t have to trade a guy who can still be a contributor to your team next season and can manage a young/inexperienced team well from the point guard position. Not to mention, with his recent performance, Calderon’s contract no longer looks like an albatross. Add in the fact that his deal will be an expiring one next year and the fact that the Raps aren’t really limited in cap space going forward , and the rush to capitalize on a Calderon trade doesn’t make much sense to me.

If you can get the right deal, of course you make it, but I’m much more concerned with getting something (heck, even an additional second round pick is better than nothing) in return for Leandro Barbosa’s expiring contract and making a decision on whether to utilize the team’s amnesty clause than I am about finding immediate trade value for Calderon.

Game No. 32: Bobcats 98, Raptors 91

I wrote earlier on Friday about how even Tank Nation subscribers wouldn’t be able to take anything out of a loss to arguably the worst team in NBA history. Hours later, it’s officially a reality, as the Bobcats snapped a 16-game losing streak with a win in Toronto, “improving” to 4-26 after 30 games and 2-16 on the road.

This has to be rock bottom, right?

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- My first thought is this, that the Raptors, as poor a team as they are, even without Andrea Bargnani and Linas Kleiza, are still a better team than the Bobcats. But they’re not better by enough of a margin to be able to coast by the Bobcats, or anyone else in the NBA for that matter. The incredibly frustrating thing about this loss is that the three or four times the Raptors decided to play hard in this game, they actually went on mini runs and started to build a lead. Then they would simply stop playing, almost as if they thought a six point lead against Charlotte would be enough. This team has to realize that as nice as solid efforts against teams like the Celtics, Lakers and Spurs are, those efforts will never excuse absolute duds like this. The Raptors we saw on this night deserved to be booed off of the floor.

2- One bit of good news for the Raptors is that they got one of their walking wounded back in the lineup in Jerryd Bayless. Bayless attacked the basket in his short stay on the floor and generally looked like his fearless self, but the bad news is that he played just five minutes in his return. I’m hoping this was just a precautionary decision by Dwane Casey, and not a sign that this injury is going to nag Bayless in one way or another all season. The guy was playing so well before he went down again, it would be a shame if he can’t get back to 100 per cent any time soon.

3- Another positive in this game for the Raptors was the crowd. Considering some of the larger crowds Toronto has had this season, 15,575 might not sound great, but if you ask me, getting over 15,000 people to spend their Friday night watching two teams with combined records of 12-48 is actually a minor accomplishment. Maybe “Naughty By Nature” or the “Fan Night” deals on merchandise brought the crowd in, but they actually sounded into the ball game, despite the “performance,” or lack there of, from the home team.

4- I’ve mentioned before that even when DeMar DeRozan has good games this season, there is always something that seems to hold him back from having a great game. Tonight was no different. DeRozan finished with a very efficient 24 points on just 15 field goal attempts and got to the line 12 times. Those are impressive numbers for the 22-year-old. But it leaves us with more to be desired when you consider that DeMar had 13 points after the first quarter on five-of-six shooting and 18 points at the half on six-of-seven shooting. Unfortunately, foul trouble slowed down DeRozan’s big night in the second half. He’s been pretty good over the last couple of weeks, and I suppose we can take solace in the fact that his January slump is officially over, but I can’t help thinking about the “what could have been” in a lot of these performances.

5- Yes, I realize that they just beat the team that I root for, but I remain confident in saying that the Bobcats have the worst NBA roster I’ve seen in my lifetime. It’s a joke to look at. I often find myself wondering how Bobcats fans, if they exist, make it through their days or make it through this season. As bad as things are here in Toronto, I still believe the Raptors have a couple of good pieces for the future already in place, a few additional assets that are at least somewhat attractive on the market and a solid coach in place. I look at the Bobcats, and I see a sad sack collection of “talent” with no hope in the near future. Drafting Anthony Davis would obviously change things, but right now, even exciting young players like Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo don’t do it for me.

6- You know what’s getting really frustrating? Watching Leandro Barbosa make really bad decisions with the ball in his hands. On the surface, you see a 16-point performance in 24 minutes off of the bench and think Barbosa performed well, but if you watched the ending of this game, I’m sure you share my frustration. The Raptors had cut the lead to two, got a stop and were running out on a fast break, with the ball in Leandro’s hands. Everyone in the building thought Barbosa should move the ball except Barbosa himself, and the play resulted in a turnover. Just minutes later, Barbosa committed another foolish turnover at a critical moment. I accepted that this season would be full of ups and downs (mostly downs) and full of frustrating moments a long time ago, but I assumed a lot of that frustration would come at the hands of our younger players, not the seasoned vets who were supposed to be supplying the leadership on this team.

Even a boost in the Tank Nation standings isn’t enough to satisfy me with a loss to the Bobcats, but if you can find comfort in it right now, a Pistons win on Friday leaves the Raptors with the fifth worst record in the NBA. Not to mention, a Hornets upset at MSG has Toronto just 1.5 games ahead of the second-worst record. Fun times, indeed.


To finish, I’m going to suggest that you listen to the return of RaptorBlog Radio, which features an interview with fan-favourite and “Ultimate Raptor,” Alvin Williams. I promise you it will go down easier than anything related to this embarrassment of a game.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jose Calderon – 42 Min, 14 Pts, 5-12 FG, 2-5 3PT, 2-2 FT, 3 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 TO (Amir Johnson’s season-high 15 rebounds and another balanced game from James Johnson have them in the conversation too)

Bobcats Player of the Game: Kemba Walker – 30 Min, 14 Pts, 5-15 FG, 1-4 3PT, 3-3 FT, 3 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 TO (You can take your pick between Walker and Biyombo, who came up with 13 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks)

In the aftermath of the Raptors’ first winning road trip of five games or more in over 10 years and the team soaring up power rankings all over the internet (this will be short lived), some very interesting news kind of slipped under the radar.

A HoopsWorld article on Monday stated that “the Raptors are shopping” and that the team would like to pick up some additional draft picks. The post added that Jose Calderon and Leandro Barbosa could be moved to acquire a traded player exception (TPE) or to acquire “smaller assets.” This, in itself, isn’t really news, since a lot of Raptors fans assumed Barbosa’s expiring contract and Calderon were on the block for the rebuilding Raps.

But it’s what HoopsWorld says the incoming TPE/assets could be used for that I really found interesting. Basically, the article says that the Raptors will use those pieces to try and acquire restricted free agent Wilson Chandler (whose rights belong to the Nuggets) once he is free to leave his current team, Zhejiang Guangsha, of the Chinese Basketball Association.

If this report is indeed true, it raises many questions. How much is Chandler worth in an offer sheet and/or sign-and-trade deal? Can the Raptors get better value than Chandler by trading Barbosa and Calderon? Can Chandler be a significant piece of the puzzle for a young team that claims to want to build an eventual title contender, not just a mediocre playoff team?

Since being selected 23rd overall by New York in the 2007 NBA Draft, Chandler has averaged 13.9 points on 45 per cent shooting (32.4 per cent three-point shooting) to go along with 5.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and nearly a block per game. Not bad for a guy who will only turn 25 in May.

In China, Chandler is averaging 26.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals. Obviously those numbers should be taken with a mountain of salt, but hey, at least he’s performing impressively in a league he should be dominating, instead of making CBA headlines for having a crazy family.

Chandler can be a very dangerous offensive weapon in the NBA and already looks like a good defender, with the athleticism and the body to be a great defender at his position.

Some knocks on his game are that he can sometimes force too much on the offensive end and can be wildly inconsistent in terms of his scoring. In addition, despite his impressive numbers, Chandler has never finished with a Player Efficiency Rating above 15 in his four-year NBA career.

Personally, I like Chandler’s game from what I’ve seen in his first four NBA seasons with the Knicks and Nuggets and thought he was good in a supporting role for a couple of playoff teams last season. But I don’t necessarily like him as a fit with the Raptors right now, not as a restricted free agent anyway. He is more the type of player that a contending team could add to put them over the top, or an already good team could add to make them a legit contender. In short, he’s a finishing touch.

I don’t see him as a future building block for a rebuilding team unless that team already has a young franchise player in place. The Raptors still don’t have that player, and they still don’t even know what they have with some of the young talent currently on the roster, so it doesn’t make much sense to me to get into a bidding war for Wilson Chandler.

Salary cap space will be critical for the Raptors rebuild going forward, so until this team has young pieces in place that I’m confident could evolve into a winner, I’m not going to get excited about using some of that precious cap space on a good, but not great young player.

Not to mention, the stacked 2012 Draft is loaded with potential at the wing positions that will have higher ceilings than Chandler and will obviously be much cheaper to obtain (though this is dependent on the Raptors finishing with a poor enough record and some lottery luck).

If the Raptors could find a way to acquire Chandler without giving up much in terms of cap space, I’d be all for it, but I doubt that’s possible.

Blake Kennedy is a basketball coach and official with an appreciation for the burgeoning field of NBA statistical analysis. He has used those tools to inform fans as well as to consult other high school coaches in establishing statistical methods for their own programs. You can read more of his work at The Hoops Institute blog and he’s on Twitter @BorisDK1.

Note: This post was meant to go up on Wednesday, so the numbers will have changed slightly after Wednesday’s night’s game.

I can honestly say I didn’t see this coming.

Any favourable odds you want to imagine would not have been enough to persuade me, prior to this season, to put money on the notion that the Raptors would be the 28th ranked team in points / 100 possessions in the NBA after 13 games. There’s no way I would have taken that bet.

Yet, that’s exactly where they are. Not only are they generally inefficient offensively, but in every single one of the Four Factors they are just not getting the job done. They currently sit ranked 23rd in effective field goal percentage, 26th in turnover percentage, 24th in offensive rebounding percentage and 22nd in free throws / field goal attempts. In other words, they don’t do a single thing well.

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Recently, a loyal reader and commenter, Tim W, posted a comment after one of our “Six Personal Thoughts on the Game” posts.

Tim basically asked why, given the Raptors’ history, fans get so excited any time this franchise shows a positive sign or two.

Tim has a point, and speaking to Raptors fans or reading twitter timelines, you can quickly see that he is by no means alone in his thoughts and was voicing an opinion that a number of Raptors fans have.

We all know the history: 16 seasons, only five playoff trips, only one series victory and 11 total playoff wins, just four winning seasons. Not to mention, a list of stars who have fled for greener pastures the minute things went south in Toronto. Quite frankly, you could make the case the Raptors are on a crash-course with a “Clippers North” label, if they haven’t already attained that moniker.

A high school history teacher often reminded me that the best eye into the future is a look into the past, and if that is indeed the case, basketball fans in the Big Smoke, and in Canada in general, are in for a long and cruel existence.

My problem with this way of thinking though, is that it doesn’t allow for the basic premise of what sports is about: hope and promise.

I don’t believe in blind optimism and homerism, but I’m just as opposed to blind pessimism. What I’m into is realism, and this is the realistic picture facing the Raptors right now:

- They have a potential franchise centre, who’s just 19-years-old, playing overseas. There is no way to judge Jonas Valanciunas on an NBA level until he plays a game in the Association, but what annoys me are pessimists who cast off his domination as bogus, simply because he isn’t playing in North America. Fans get giddy and throw out ridiculous comparisons to all time greats for teenagers who put up slanted numbers against fellow teenagers in the NCAA, but when a teenager dominates grown men the way Valanciunas does, we’re supposed to ignore it because he did it on another continent? Sorry, I’m not buying that. No one can guarantee Valanciunas will succeed in the NBA, but if there is stock in NCAA performances, then there is stock in JV’s professional performance. And that performance indicates the Raptors drafted a stud at a position that is in major demand in an NBA devoid of many truly dominating fives.

- They should have a top-ten pick in one of the best draft classes in years. Even if you want this year’s edition of the Raptors to over-achieve, you have to admit, things are bad right now record-wise (4-10), and are about to get a whole lot worse. Of the Raptors next nine games, only one (a road game against the Nets) can be counted as “winnable,” and that’s against a team that has already beaten the Raptors in Toronto this season. The other eight games are against the Celtics (twice), Blazers, Clippers, Suns, Jazz, Nuggets and Hawks. There is a good chance that in a couple of weeks, we’ll be talking about a team that has just four-to-six wins in 23 games. With how young the team’s core is and how demoralizing a start like that would be, not even a late improvement and surge would be able to save the Raptors from great lottery position. Is it a little messed up that I’m talking about a stretch of one or two wins in a three-week span as a positive? Yes. Welcome to Toronto. I can hear those ping pong balls already.

- They may actually have a young-ish All Star on their roster. For years I wrote about Andrea Bargnani’s potential, and how incredibly infuriating it was to watch him waste it. Call it a coming-of-age, call it the “Casey Effect,” call it whatever the hell you want. But what we saw from Andrea Bargnani through the first few weeks of the season was All Star caliber play. Does an impressive 11-game stretch undo a frustrating five years? Of course not, but Bargnani has finally proven what a lot of us already knew. There is All Star potential in that seven-foot frame. He’ll make an average of $11 million over the next three seasons after this one. That’s nothing if Andrea can play the way we now know he can. And he’s still just 26. There is no reason (aside from unexpected injuries) that he can’t stay around this level of play, or even elevate it, for the next five years. Now only if the Raptors had a good rebounding, defence-first centre on the way…oh, wait.

- Trade-able assets and salary cap space. Regardless of what you think about Jose Calderon and Leandro Barbosa, and regardless of how bad the former’s contract looked just a year ago, both Calderon and Barbosa can be solid trade chips for the Raptors over the next year or so. With the way Calderon has been playing lately, who knows, maybe management thinks he can still be the starting point guard when this team’s ready to compete, but I don’t think so. I say sell high on an above average point guard that currently contending teams would love to have. Same goes for Barbosa, whose frustrating out of control play shouldn’t take away from the fact that the man has proven for years that he can score off of the bench, and I’ve never seen a contender that isn’t looking for a guy like that. Barbosa is nearly an $8 million expiring contract this season. Calderon is a $10.5 million expiring contract next season. Whether Barbosa and Calderon are traded for younger pieces or draft picks or whether their expiring contracts simply become part of the $10-20 million in cap space the Raptors should have over the next couple of off-seasons, I look at those two guys as indirect positives for the future.

- The Raptors have a real NBA coach…no, seriously. With all due respect to Jay Triano’s significance for Canadian basketball and his good nature, the guy looked out of his league as an NBA head coach, and that was with a young team expected to lose a lot of games, let alone with a talented team expected to make the playoffs. Sam Mitchell was a great motivator, but didn’t seem to have a great grasp of X’s and O’s. Realistically, the Raptors haven’t had a really good head coach (Lenny Wilkens’ stroll into retirement doesn’t count) in over a decade. Dwane Casey seems to be the rare breed of coach who can both motivate (without scolding a player) and teach from an X’s and O’s standpoint. The Raptors may have taken a short-term step back on offence, but what Casey has done with Bargnani and the team’s defence can’t be praised enough. Imagine what he can do if the Raps do assemble a talented team in the near future…

- The Raptors have a plethora of young players we still don’t know enough about. This is the point that raises the most questions and the point that might be the deciding factor in what the future holds for the Raptors. Between DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson, Jerryd Bayless and James Johnson, Toronto has five players between the ages of 22 and 24 that we still aren’t sure about. Can James Johnson be a legitimate defensive stopper on a contending team, or will he flame out as a careless turnover machine? Can Jerryd Bayless become a legitimate point guard or impactful combo guard, or will he forever be lost in the middle? Can Amir Johnson become a consistent first big off of the bench, or will his propensity to get into foul trouble and inconsistency always leave us wondering about what could be? Can Ed Davis evolve into a legitimate starting big man, or will his limited offensive game hold him back his entire career? Lastly, can DeMar DeRozan capitalize on his All Star potential and athleticism on both ends of the floor, or is he simply going to be a poor ball-handler who won’t play defence but can give you 15-20 points on any given night? These five questions are key in determining both what the Raptors can be as early as next season and what they can be years down the road.

As currently constructed, the Raptors are a very poor basketball team stocked with a ton of untapped young talent that could either come together to form something special or could evolve into nothing more than a perennially under-achieving team (see Chris Bosh-led Raptors teams).

You could look at the above points, not like what you see, and decide this team isn’t worth your time. That’s an honest opinion and your right as a fan. Just as looking at the above points and thinking, “hey, this team might have something here,” is just as worthy an opinion.

But not even giving this team a chance based on the failures of previous players and teams who have come through Toronto over the last 16 years isn’t fair and doesn’t make much sense to me.

Management finally seems to have realized that the old way wasn’t working, and they have at least tried to do something about it. This is a new team with a new philosophy, a new coach and a new vibe. At least give them a chance to prove that before dismissing them in Year One.