Archive for the ‘Player Evaluations’ Category

Season Stats: 66 GP, 35.7 MPG, 21.4 PPG, 44.8 FG%,  34.5 3PT%, 82 FT%, 5.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.7 BPG

Career Stats: 367 GP, 30.2 MPG, 15.1 PPG, 44.1 FG%, 37.1 3PT%, 81.7 FT%, 4.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.9 BPG

Of all the player evaluations, I have a feeling this one will generate the most buzz and debate. After all, there’s a reason Bryan Colangelo referred to Andrea Bargnani as the “enigma of all enigmas to you and many.”

I’ll try not to go on a very long rant about Bargnani, because I’ve done that enough over the last few years, and everything I write in this post has already been said too many times.

Hopefully for the last time, here’s my take on Bargnani’s season and his future with the Raptors organization.

Let me make this clear from the beginning: Andrea Bargnani’s 2010-11 season was a disappointment. Yes, Bargnani finished 16th in the NBA in scoring and finished second in scoring among centres, but we already knew he could score. I fully expected Bargnani to be a 20-point scorer as the focal point of the offence and assumed we’d see him use more of a mix of an inside-outside game.

What was concerning on the offensive end for Bargnani was that despite taking a greater number of higher-percentage shots as opposed to three-pointers, his field goal percentage barely improved, and his three-point percentage actually dipped.

But the most troubling signs from Bargnani came on the other end of the floor. It’s one thing if he simply didn’t improve defensively or on the glass – then at least we could say he reached a ceiling in those areas of his game. But Andrea’s defence and rebounding actually took drastic steps back this season. In the 2008-2009 season, Bargnani grabbed 5.3 rebounds per game in 31.4 minutes per game. Then in the 2009-2010 season, Bargnani showed some promise by taking down 6.2 rebounds in 35 minutes. With an even more increased role this season, natural progression should have seen him up his average to at least seven rebounds per game. He fell well short of that mark – in fact, he grabbed less rebounds than the previous two seasons despite playing more minutes. And don’t give me the “Reggie grabbed everything” excuse, because Reggie Evans missed a significant chunk of the season.

On the defensive end, Bargnani was never going to be a legitimate defensive force. However, again, he had shown signs over the last two seasons of at least becoming somewhat of a shot-blocking presence. In 2008-09 and 2009-10, Bargnani blocked a very respectable 1.2 and 1.4 shots per game. And yet just as his rebounding numbers did, Bargnani’s blocks per game decreased despite more minutes this season.

Some believe that Bargnani needed this season to get acclimated to his new role as the offensive centre-piece, and therefore couldn’t devote the necessary attention to defence. To those that raise this argument, I beg you, please do not take the same kind of soft, excuse-making and laid-back approach to raising children as you do to coddling Andrea Bargnani. Our society doesn’t need any more spoiled kids looking for excuses.

I have said forever, and will continue to say, that Andrea Bargnani has the natural talent to be a 25-point, eight-rebound and two-blocks type of player. Potential and natural ability have never been and will never be an issue for Andrea. The problem will always be what he does with that ability, and so far, the results show that he won’t take full advantage of it.

I once wrote a post on Bargnani comparing him to the great line in A Bronx Tale that states “the saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” I don’t think I need to explain any further how Bargnani and that quote go hand in hand.

I’m still stubborn enough to believe that paired with a dominant defensive post-presence, Bargnani will realize some of his potential and could become an All Star. But I am also of the opinion that if you have to make certain moves just to “cover” a player’s flaws, then it might be easier to simply move that flawed player.

So if Dwight Howard somehow falls in your lap, or you find a way to land that dominant defensive post-presence, then you keep Andrea and probably watch him flourish. But the fact is that’s not going to happen, and based on that fact, whoever is running this team come the summer or the end of a possible lockout must find a way to part with the “enigma of all enigmas.”

Scott Carefoot’s take on Andrea Bargnani

Joseph said pretty much everything I would have said in regards to my complaints about “Il Mago”, so my contribution will be to reiterate my belief that you can’t succeed in the NBA with somebody as negligent in the responsibilities of defense and rebounding as Bargnani. There are Bargnani fans who feel like the franchise has failed him more than the other way around, and they are welcome to continue rooting for him when he is mercifully shipped out after five frustrating seasons in Toronto. If you choose to continue to believe that he is a unique talent who only needs the right environment to flourish, that’s your prerogative. I will be more than willing to admit I was wrong about him when that situation occurs. I’m still waiting for all the Turkoglu fans who felt like I was disrespecting their national treasure to throw his post-Raptors success in my face. Until then, I want his goldbricking ass traded to another team regardless of the return. I’m not a Bargnani hater, I’m a Raptors fan — and I’m convinced this team won’t achieve any kind of meaningful success as long as Bargnani is considered a significant building block.

After getting this big one one out of the way, my next player evaluation will focus on Jerryd Bayless. Look for that post early next week.

Season Stats: 58 GP, 24.1 MPG, 13.3 PPG, 45 FG%, 33.8 3PT%, 79.6 FT%, 2.1 APG, 1.7 RPG, 0.9 SPG

Career Stats: 524 GP, 25 MPG, 12.7 PPG, 46.5 FG%, 39.2 3PT%, 82.4 FT%, 2.5 APG, 2.3 RPG, 1 SPG

Leandro Barbosa arrived in Toronto with the promise of a rebirth or renewal north of the border. The Brazilian Blur had contributed to contending Suns teams for seven seasons, including winning the Sixth Man of the Year award for the 2006-2007 season. However, wrist surgery limited his games played and minutes in his seventh and final season in Phoenix, and Barbosa struggled through his worst season in five years.

To the delight of Raptors fans far and wide, Barbosa was given a chance to regain his award-winning form in Toronto. Even better, the speedy guard was acquired in a trade that rid the Raptors of Hedo Turkoglu’s atrocious contract.

With Barbosa looking as good as advertised and leading the Raptors through a decent pre-season, the stage was set for him to make a significant impact for the young Raptors. Unfortunately, a wrist injury sustained in the final pre-season game limited Barbosa once again.

Barbosa missed 24 games this season, but what’s important is how he fared in the 58 games he did play, and whether or not he can contribute next season, should he elect to pick up his $7.6 million player option for the 2011-2012 season (I can’t see why he wouldn’t take that option).

While some saw Barbosa’s season as a minor disappointment, it’s interesting to see that he actually finished with a better scoring average than his career average. Having said that, Barbosa was nowhere near the guard who scored between 14 and 18 points off of the bench for three straight seasons in Phoenix.

If it wasn’t for his wrist, he may have been.

If the pre-season was any indication, Barbosa was ready to break out again with the Raptors. And when you look at the fact that his shooting numbers were down across the board, compared to his career averages, you’d have to assume that the troubled wrist is what affected Leandro’s stroke. Consider that Barbosa shot over 46 per cent for five straight seasons before his wrist troubles intervened last year.

Barbosa’s biggest problem this season was his struggle with consistency. When he was on, he was a fantastic game-changer off of the bench, who sparked the young Raptors to some impressive victories, like their franchise record comeback in Detroit. But when he was off, he sometimes looked like a confused and hesitant rookie.

If it really was just the wrist that caused the problems, then one would have to hope that an off-season of rest, and possibly surgery, can cure the Blur. But if Barbosa plays for his native Brazil in this summer’s 2011 FIBA Americas, and doesn’t give his wrist the rest it needs, then this past season may have been his best, or simply his first and last, in Toronto.

The conundrum for Bryan Colangelo, assuming there is NBA basketball next season, is determining whether Barbosa will be healthy enough to contribute at a level that is worth $7.6 million of valuable cap space for a young team.

I know there are doubts out there, and rightfully so, but given the fact that next season would be the final year of his contract, I don’t see the risk in keeping Barbosa around. If he continues to struggle, whether on the floor or with injuries, then the Raptors can walk away after next season. But if he returns to his old form, Barbosa, still only 28, could become a key part of the Raptors’ future core going forward, or could become a valuable asset in a trade.

For one year and $7.6 million, I’d rather keep him around and find out which Barbosa shows up.

Scott Carefoot’s take on Leandro Barbosa:

Let’s face it — Barbosa could have sat out the entire season because of his wrist injury and most Raptors fans would still feel like we came out ahead because he replaced that bum, Hedo Turkoglu. When he did play, Barbosa was the quintessential NBA sixth man — inconsistent, not much help on the defensive end, but a tremendous spark off the bench at times who could score points in bunches when he was in a groove. If he returns to the Raptors next season as expected, a healed-up wrist will hopefully mean a return to his deadly three-point shooting form from the 2005-06 to 2008-09 seasons when he jacked up 4.5 treys per game and made 41 percent of them. If the Raptors get that version of Barbosa next season, it’s highly unlikely they’ll finish dead last in the league in three-point shooting percentage again.

That’s three player evaluations down (I did Ajinca and Alabi last week) and 12 still to go as we navigate through this Raptors off-season. Next up will be the “enigma of all enigmas,” so look out for a Bargnani evaluation in the next couple of days.

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.