Anyone Know if Raptor-hide Makes a Nice Pair of Boots?

Published: December 14, 2008

Matchup: Hornets(12-7) @ Raptors (10-12)

Off Efficiency: Hornets 107.5(5th), Raptors 102.7(20th)
Def Efficiency: Hornets 103.1(14th), Raptors 105.6(20th)

Early, early game in Toronto tomorrow, as the Hornets arrive to take on the all the Raptors in Canada just a little after lunchtime.  Hopefully the dino’s will have been fed.

The Raptors sport one of the best scoring power forwards in the game, Chris Bosh, a highly efficient point guard in Jose Calderon, a trio of smooth shooting wingmen in 3-point champ Jason Kapono, Anthony Parker, and former #1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani, and they traded their second point guard for Jermaine O’Neal, a big man known for defense, rebounding, and blocking shots.

Kinda sounds like an attempt to build New Orleans Hornets East, doesn’t it? 

Unfortunately, Toronto has been a bit of a disappointment this year.  And not disappointing like the Hornets have been “disappointing”.(sorry guys, I still believe.  Last year we were 12-7 at this point too)  The Raptors just suffered through a 5 game losing streak, albiet against the Lakers, Jazz, Trailblazers, Nuggets and Cavaliers – which is pretty close to murderer’s row.  Since they’ve bounced back with double digit wins over the Pacers and the Nets.

My positional analysis would simply say Bosh is better than West, the Hornets have slightly better wings, Tyson(if playing) is better than Jermaine O’Neal, and Paul is better than Calderon but not by as much as you’d think.  That’s nice, but I decided to try and get a little more Raptor insight, so good ol’ Adam over at RaptorsHQ and I traded questions.  Here’s my questions for Adam, and his answers, and you can see Adam’s questions for me and my answers over here at some point.

Questions: The stat-geeks friend for predicting outcomes, point differential, indicates that Toronto is the worst team in  Eastern Conference.(They have an Eastern Conference Worst -4.8 differential)  I have a hard time believing that.  Do you think it’s an accurate reflection of the team, or is it just because of those insane back to back 30 point losses?(what happened there?)

RAPTORSHQ:  I don’t think it’s an accurate reflection of the team based simply on the Raptors’ schedule.  They’ve had the second toughest schedule in the league and while definitely have underperformed, haven’t been at a Bobcats or Bucks level.  The two blow-out losses looked pretty bad but I’m not sure they were that surprising to Raptors’ fans following the team.  The club was going through various issues and I think the losses were the result of a number of factors, from the coaching situation to injuries, to one of those spiralling situations in pro sport where a team just can’t do anything right in one area, and that expands to cover basically everything.  If you watched those two 30 point losses, you’d have thought the Raptors would have a tough time beating Duke this year.

Toronto sits in 10th right now but have beaten higher seeds like Miami (twice) and I think in reality the Raptors are probably the eighth best squad out of the East’s 15.  That’s still however a big drop from the fourth or fifth seed that many predicted when the year began, but I think even when the schedule evens out that we’ll see that this club just isn’t as talented as Bryan Colangelo originally thought. I see a .500 team when the year is over and one that will be fighting it out with clubs like the Heat for the final playoff spots barring any big trades. Now that Bargnani has bounced back a little from his bad year last season, predict Bargnani’s career: All-star? Starter? Sixth man? Journeyman?

RAPTORSHQ:  This is still such a tough question.  I’m a draft junkee and college hoops super-fan, and Bargs is one the only players in ages that I can remember where after almost 3 years, you still don’t really know what you’re going to get.  Guys like Billups aside, most pros show their true colours in their first few seasons (ahem, Kwame) but Andrea is still so up and down.

Do Raptors fans overvalue him?  Certainly.  However at points this season he’s looked like a more mobile version of Dirk Nowitzki so when you see that, it’s hard to explain to non-regular Raptors’ viewers that he’s much more talented than his 10 point, 5 rebound season averages indicate.

The short answer then is that I still think this guy can be an occasional All-Star when all is said and done.  A franchise center-piece?  I doubt it and in fact I liken him to Glenn Robinson; a deadly offensive weapon who could be a nice complement to another star, but couldn’t carry a team by himself.  Everyone talks about “the Raptors should have taken Roy or Gay or even Aldridge” but like Big Dog’s draft, it’s starting to look like there were a lot of players that came into the 2006 draft with high expectations that haven’t panned out – Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas, Shelden Williams, Randy Foye, Patrick O’Bryant??  Yikes.  Should he have gone number 1 overall?  At present you’d have to say no, but he’d still be top 7 behind Roy, Gay, Aldridge, Rodriquez, Rondo, and maybe Millsap.

The long answer however deals with the concern that Toronto might not be the best fit for Bargnani’s development.  He’s not really a 3 or a 5 so the 4 spot, surrounded by the right players, is probably the best position for him in terms of continued growth as an NBA player.  However the Raptors have that position well-manned with Chris Bosh so at some point, especially if CB4 stays in Toronto in 2010, Colangelo is going to have to make some decisions regarding Andrea and his future with the Dinos. Now that it’s academic: TJ Ford or Calderon?

:  Calderon, Calderon, Calderon.

TJ is quicker, a bit better defender and more aggressive going to the basket but there’s no doubt in my mind now who the better floor general is.  Factor in Jose’s superior shooting (he hasn’t missed from the free-throw line this season), personality (great team-mate), and durability (considering TJ’s injury history), and BC made the right move by keeping Calderon. I was a little sad to see Pargo go overseas – was there a similar feeling about Carlos Delfino when he left for Europe?

RAPTORSHQ:  Delfino is a classic case of “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” for Raptors’ fans.  When he was here, he was definitely appreciated, but now that he’s no longer coming off the bench with the second unit, his absence has really been felt.  Financially it just wasn’t possible to keep him, but in retrospect, Delfino is the exact type of player Toronto is lacking; someone who can create off the dribble, act as another ball-handler, get to the rim, and rebound in traffic from the wing position.

Enjoy the game!  Let’s hope Tyson plays and Antonio Daniels turns the Hornets second unit into the Showtime Lakers.

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