New coach and Raptor Draft Preview

June 21, 2011

According to Dallas Morning News and ESPN, Dwayne Casey and the Toronto Raptors have agreed to a coaching deal. We don’t know the terms yet, but apparently Casey has already accompanied the Raptors to NY to look at Bismack Biyombo.  Colangelo isn’t a guy who likes to waste time, and he shows it once again.

Casey was one of the front runners to this job along with Lawrence Frank two weeks ago, but with the Mavericks winning the NBA championship, it’s a no surprise that Casey became the only candidate. Casey was a head coach a couple of years ago with Minnesota, and was let go after the Wolves overachieved in their first 40 games (20-20 with Casey).  Casey has the pedigree, head coaching experience and respect of players (every Maverick players give him high praises). His implement of the zone defense is a huge part of the reason why the Mavericks won the championship.  Even in Minnesota, Casey’s team would show a high level of intensity on the defensive end (didn’t hurt to have Kevin Garnett).

I will spend more time on this when this is made official. I like this move, it’s a step in the right direction for the Toronto Raptors. This team needs to be better defensively, so hiring someone who is a successful defensive guru will help.

Raptor Draft Preview

The draft is on Thursday, and I have heard plenty of names for the Raptors at #5. Obviously, the Raptors pick is heavily depended on the first four picks, but here are the potential players for the #5 pick:

1) Brandon Knight: If Knight is still around at 5, the Raptors will probably take him. However, the Jazz may pick him at #3. He is a very good athlete, good size for a PG, but he hasn’t shown PG instinct.  Many scouts think he is a combo guard, but he is young enough to learn how to run a team. I compare him to Jrue Holiday; similar size, strengths and weaknesses. Holiday also came out of the draft as a freshman. If the Raptors do pick Knight, I expect him to be the backup PG for the Raptors in his first season. I don’t think he is ready to be a starting PG for a NBA team yet.

2) Kemba Walker: Walker is more of a sure thing than Knight. With Barbosa possibly leaving the Raptors, Walker would make sense here. He is the quickest guard, with tremendous handle. His size is a question mark and he isn’t a true PG either, but he can run the team better than Knight.  And no one plays harder than Kemba.

3) Jan Vesely: Vesely sound more like an athlete than a basketball player. From reading some of the scouting report, he is a very good dunker, excellent athlete, with very good size and works very hard. On the other hand, he is not a good shooter, almost no handle, no post game, and questionable defensive player. I have seen him dunk in some video, and yes he can really dunk. His shooting and turnover numbers though, not too good.

4) Enes Kanter: If Kanter drops, then the Raptors could go with him. Kanter isn’t as athletic as some other players in this draft, but many scouts are impressed with his basketball IQ and his toughness. Apparently he has a very good post game and can rebound the ball. But we really don’t know this, since he hasn’t played a competitive game for almost a year now.

5) Kawhi Leonard: Not a big fan of his in San Diego State, but you can’t argue with his success there. Chad Ford of ESPN thinks he is the 5th best player in the draft, and John Hollinger’s draft rater has him ranked #5 as well. Excellent rebounder, works hard, plays defense, not much of an offensive force; his shooting needs a lot of work.

6) Bismack Biyombo: One of the big discoveries at the Nike Hoop Summit. He has very good instinct on the defensive end. Some scouts think he is the next Serge Ibaka. His offensive game needs work, lots of work. The Raptors are very interested in him, he maybe a reach at 5, so they may either try to get an extra pick to get him or trade down to do so.

Other players: Tristan Thompson would be a very good pickup for the only Canadian team. I think he is very similar to Ed Davis in many ways, Thompson is a little better offensively though.  Not sure the Raptors would pick another PF… some scouts compared Jonas Valanciunas  to Pau Gasol, I don’t really see it, but he is 7’ft tall and has good offensive instinct, his buyout is an issue though.

This is a difficult draft to evaluate. All these players have a lot of questions marks. Knight and Kanter has the most upside, but they may not be there at #5, and they are risky picks. Biyombo can’t score, but his potential on defense is intriguing. Kemba and Lenoard are ready to play now, but may not have the upside that other players have. To be honest, I don’t know who to pick at #5.

But if I do have to make a pick, I will go with Kemba. Love his heart and ability to create. At worst, he is a Bobby Jackson. Kemba does possess the leadership that this team sorely needs since day 1.

Looking back: 5th pick + Bryan Colangelo’s first round drafts in the past decade

June 9, 2011

With a couple of weeks left to the draft, it’s good time to look back and see Colangelo’s drafting record plus the 5th overall pick since 2000.

2000

5th Overall: Mike Miller.  Many people compared the 2000 draft to the 2011 draft. It was a really weak draft. The Magic did quite well by picking up Mike Miller at #5.  He had a good year in Florida and won the rookie of the year in Orlando. Not an all-star, but a very good role player who could shoot, pass and rebound. He also won the 6th man of the year award with Memphis.  The Raptors wouldn’t complain if they can get similar quality like Miller in a very weak draft.

Colangelo’s pick: Jake Tsakalidis, 25th overall. Not a bad pick in a weak draft; no one after that point in the first round was worth talking about. Tsakalidis is 7’3 and 290 pounds. Not very mobile nor athletic, and seem to prefer to shoot around mid-range.  He is out of the league now.

2001

5th Overall: Jason Richardson. Richardson was the first college player picked in the 2001 draft. Many scouts compared him to Vince Carter, but he didn’t have the ball-handling ability of Carter. Richardson never made to an all-star team but is a very effective player throughout his career. Though you always feel like he can do more with his ability.

Colangelo’s pick: The Suns didn’t have a first round pick in 2001

 

2002

5th Overall: Nikoloz Tskitishvili. Tskitishvili was an 18 year old who barely played in Bennetto. He looked great in workouts, but that’s the problem with just looking at workouts. Tskitishvili was never ready for the NBA, he wasn’t strong nor tough enough.  For those of you who want Enes Kanter, take note.

Colangelo’s pick: Amare Stoudamire 9th overall.  I don’t think any scouts have questions about Amare’s talent, but they did have questions about his life outside of basketball. Let’s put it this way, Amare came to the draft from high school, he was 21 years old. Give Colangelo credit, he could have gone to the safe route and pick Caron Butler who was supposed to be a top 5 pick but his draft stock dropped for no apparently reason.  Colangelo saw the upside of Amare, and got the best player in the 2002 draft; winning the rookie of the year and made the All-Star team 6 times.

2003

5th Overall: Dwayne Wade. 2003 was considered the best draft in the last 20 years. 4 of the first 5 picks made the all-star team multiple times. Lots of scouts wondered where Wade would play in the NBA; he was too turnover prone as a PG and too small to play SG. Also, he wasn’t a good shooter. Wade proved everyone wrong in his rookie year, leading the Miami Heat to the playoffs. He played as a PG as a rookie, then moved to the SG spot in his second year; eventually winning a championship and the Finals MVP. I don’t have to say anymore.

Colangelo’s pick: Zarko Cabarkapa, 17th overall. Cabarkapa is 6’10 and can shoot. Scouts thought he was similar to Rashard Lewis, but injuries have hurt his development.

2004

5th Overall: Devin Harris. Devin Harris was the best college PG in that draft. 6’3, with great speed and ball-handling ability. He eventually started for the Mavericks but wasn’t a huge part of the offense. It was the trade to New Jersey where Harris showed his quickness, he made the all-star team in 2009.  You could make some comparison between Brandon Knight and Devin Harris, they have similar size and speed. Harris, though had a better understanding of the game when the Mavs drafted him. Knight is 19 and only had one year of college experience.

Colangelo’s pick: None. He traded the 7th pick to the Bulls. Considering this move was made to maximize cap space and as a result they got Steve Nash, you really can’t argue it too much.  The Bulls picked Luol Dang.

 

2005

5th Overall: Raymond Felton. Felton shouldn’t be the 5th pick overall, he was drafted there because: 1) He led the Tar Heels to win the NCAA championship and 2) Charlotte wants to pick guys who played college at the home state to draw fans. Not saying Felton isn’t a good player. Undersized but with good speed, not a great shooter especially off the dribble.  Not an all-star but good enough to start on any NBA team.

Colangelo’s pick: None. The Suns traded Nate Robinson to the Knicks. Colangelo’s last draft as the Sun’s GM.

2006

5th Overall: Sheldon Williams. The ‘Landlord’ wasn’t the 5th best player in the draft, even in a weak draft year. But Billy Knight loved his game, and throw cautions to the wind. Williams is a role player who can defend but can’t score. Some compared Williams to Antonio Davis, but at least Davis can catch a pass and score a little.

Colangelo’s pick: Andrea Bargnani, 1st overall. I criticized both Colangelo and Bargnani for the past few years, but I will defend this pick. 2006 wasn’t a good draft year, no one stood out as the #1 overall player. Colangelo was very intrigued with Bargnani’s potential, a 7 footer who can score from anywhere was very difficult to find.  Bargnani’s weaknesses (rebounding and defense) were fixable.  Looking at this draft now, Brandon Roy is a better player, but now injured and may retire. Rudy Gay is better, LaMarcus Aldridge is better but it’s hard for the Raptors to draft a Chris Bosh clone at that time. Tyrus Thomas is still a headcase. Adam Morrison is out of the league. Randy Foye and Sheldon Williams are backup role players. In short, the Raptors didn’t do too badly in this draft.

 

2007

5th pick overall: Jeff Green. Not a big fan of Green when he played for Georgetown. Not a scorer, but a good complementary player. That’s probably the reason why Presti drafted Green to play with Durant, even though they played the same position. Looking back, they would have done better with Noah. Green is a tweener SF/PF, probably will make his living as a SF.

Colangelo’s pick: No one. Raptors have no first round pick in 2007

 

2008

5th pick overall: Kevin Love. I loved Love’s game in UCLA; he couldn’t jump but he could do everything else. Memphis actually had the 5th spot but wanted OJ Mayo, so traded up and Minnesota ending up with Kevin Love. One of the very few things Kevin McHale did right. Love is now an all-star, and a monster rebounder.

Colangelo’s pick. None. The Raptors traded their first round pick in the disaterous Jermaine O’Neal trade.

2009

5th pick overall: Ricky Rubio. The Wolves had the 5th pick once again and picked Rubio. Rubio still hasn’t played a game in the NBA, but you can argue his stock has slipped considerably in the past 2 years. Mainly because his performance in Europe was disappointing. Rubio will play for the Wolves this year.

Colangelo’s pick: DeMar DeRozan. Excellent pick by Colangelo. DeRozan struggled early in his freshman year in USC, but came on strong around the second half and in the NCAA tourney. Look at the 10-20 pick in the 2009 draft, would you pick anyone of them over DeRozan. You can make an argument for Ty Lawson, but he’s 2 years older than DeRozan. Jrue Holiday could be pretty darn good too, but I don’t think Colangelo would trade DeRozan for him.

2010

5th pick overall: DeMarcus Cousins. Huge talent, but a serious headcase. He did show flashes of his abilities in Sacramento. I wish I could say the same thing about his attitude. Still very young. If he matures (a big if), he will be an all-star.

Colangelo’s pick: Ed Davis. Davis was projected as a mid-lottery pick, so Colangelo got a gift here at 13. I wasn’t a big fan of Davis in North Carolina, but he was impressive as a rookie. Perhaps it’s due to him not having to be the #1 option on offense like he was in NC. I see Davis as a Dale Davis/PJ Brown type, not an all-star but a starter for any NBA teams. Here is question: Who would rather have now, Cousins or Davis? Davis will have a very long career but doesn’t have the upside of Cousins. Meanwhile, Cousins could be the next Derrick Coleman or a multiple all-star.

 

Summary: The 5th pick usually get you a decent player even in a weak draft. 4 of the past 11 picks made the all-star team, most of them turned out to be pretty solid players.  Colangelo though seem to love to pick guys with good upside especially when he has a pick in the lottery; we know he is not afraid to go pick a player in Europe. He gambled on Bargnani, Amare and DeRozan, and they weren’t busts. He does have a good eye for talent.

Searching for the Next Raptor Coach

June 1, 2011

It’s no secret that I am not the biggest Jay Triano fan. The team’s defense seem to gotten worse with him at the helm. You could make an argument that talent on the floor has a lot to do with this, but at the same time it’s easy to see Triano can’t get anyone to play defense.

So who are the candidates?  Colangelo wants someone who has a wealth of experience and success. Someone who has a free flowing offense and has success putting defensive unit together. Not sure a lot of those are available right now.

Here are some candidates:

1) Lawrence Frank. Frank has a nice deal of success when he coached the Nets; winning a couple of division titles. His team has always been very good on the defensive end (except for his last season), a very detail oriented coach. However, his offensive approach leaves a lot to be desired.

2) Dwayne Casey. Casey doesn’t have the resume like Frank, but he is a pretty good coach. Casey was 20-20 when he was fired as a coach for the Timberwolves in 2006-07 season. The team went 12-30 after that. In short, he overachieves, which is something you want from a coach. He almost become a head coach for the Toronto Raptors, when Glen Grunwald wanted him as a coach, but Richard Peddie wanted Kevin O’Neil instead. His Minnesota team did well on defense. It ranked 10th overall in 05-06 season, his offense ranked 28th, but when you have Marcus Banks as your starting PG, and Trenton Hassell as a starter, your offense isn’t going to be any good.

3) Mike D’Antoni. A little far-fetch since he is still under contract to the Knicks. But I am not sure if he will be around as a Knick coach. If Dolan decides on another direction, he could let D’Antoni go. It’s obvious that Colangelo is very familiar with D’Antoni and vice versa. However, D’Antoni’s team play no defense either, which isn’t what the Raptors are looking for.

4) Rick Adelman. Another far-fetch choice. It would be a great choice though, since Adelman is equally adept on offense and defense. Has an excellent resume. But why would Adelman go to a rebuilding team when he has other options available?

5) Ettore Messina. Messina has enormous success in Europe, a very well known coach. But is it a little risky for the Raptors to hire someone with no NBA experience?

6) Others. They are lots of other options. Brian Shaw is a possibility, he has lots of success as an assistant, and with Kobe giving an endorsement, it’s not a bad choice. But again, is experience as an assistant coach enough for Colangelo? Jeff Van Gundy has a nice TV job, I doubt you will see him as a coach unless a perfect opportunity is there. Larry Brown is out there, if you want someone with success and can teach, no one is better than Mr Fix it. Of course, he will want to leave after a year or so.

 

 

 

NBA Finals: Miami Heat vs Dallas Mavericks

May 30, 2011

Dallas Mavericks vs Miami Heat

Comments: The rematch of the 2006 finals.  Things have changed quite a bit for teams, but the two main players are still there (Dirk and Wade).  For the Mavericks, we will see a lot of zone and trying to contain the drive from Wade and LeBron James.  It may be effective for one or two games, but I don’t think it will work in a 7 game series.  I believe Marion will guard James and then Stevenson then Kidd will guard Wade. Marion is having a great playoffs, as the main defensive wing player. He did a great job against Durant denying him the ball. LeBron is so much stronger and tougher though.  The Mavs would need to continue their hot streak from the 3 point line thru out the playoffs in order to win this series. For the Heat, they have to stop Dirk. They did it in 2006, but Dirk is playing even at a higher level now. Back in 2006, it was Haslem who did a great job stopping him. I am not sure if Haslem can guard him especially after his injury. And Dirk got a lot stronger as well. I am sure Miami will avoid the double team because they don’t want to give up open 3s.  Of course the question everyone is asking: Can LeBron defend Dirk one on one?  Offensively, the Heat will rely heavily on both James and Wade. If Wade is not 100% however, it will put a lot of burden on James. If I am coaching the Heat,I would get the ball to Bosh early and see if he can get hot. That would put less pressure on both James and Wade.

Prediction: The Heat is just too strong. Miami in 5 games. Dallas has proved me wrong throughout the playoffs, and I am hoping that’s the case again.

 

 

Colangelo’s new contract and Raptors come up snake-eye in lottery

May 18, 2011

A very newsworthy day for the Raptors. First they announced Bryan Colangelo has agreed to a 2 year extension + a club option year. While I would rather have someone else taking a shot at running the franchise than Colangelo, I can see the reason for doing this. Since technically it’s only a 2 year extension, I can live with it.  Call me old school, but I tend to give extension to GMs who actually did a good job in previous seasons. But then again, I don’t run this franchise. Besides, it’s better to have a flaw GM than no GM at all.

Hopefully Colangelo learns his lessons and won’t saddle his team with crappy contracts like he did before. I am not optimistic about that, however.

Meanwhile, a NBA draft lottery was held earlier tonight, and the Raptors will pick 5th in the NBA draft.  Cleveland has the first and fourth pick, Minnesota the second pick and Utah #3. The #1 pick was due to the trade with the Clippers. It’s only fitting that the Clippers would not lottery protect their draft picks. Pretty amazing in this day and age. Dan Gilbert’s kid (who sounds like he is 50) ends up being the good luck charm to a sad sack team. Look for more kids next year at the lottery, it’s going to be a trend.

Back to the Raptors and the draft, 5th pick in a weak draft means horrible things. For a team that’s desperate for star players, they are not going to get any with this pick (not that there is one available). I would presume Cleveland picking Irving #1, Minny picking Williams #2, Utah will go with Kanter or Knight as #3. I don’t think Cavs will pick another PG at #4, if Kanter is available they may go with him, or else it could be Leonard. So if I have to take a guess now, the Raptors will pick Kemba Walker at the 5th pick.

Kemba can play, a combo guard who is quick, very athletic and he is not afraid to take big shots. The problem here is that he is not a PG, and not a great shooter. Also, he is listed as 6-1, but I don’t buy that for a second. Size matter in this league, sadly.

Other options: Brandon Knight, if he drops. Knight is also a combo guard, but younger. I am not sure he is NBA ready yet. He has very good size for a PG…Kawhi Leonard, a very athletic  tweener who doesn’t have the perimeter game to play SF in this league… Jan Vesely, who is a PF from Europe, not sure the Raptors need another PF…Jonas Valnciunas another Euro PF, this one with a possible big buyout… My dark horse is Alec Burks from Colorado, he has the size, speed, athleticism and handle to be a very good SG in this league. Unfortunately, he can’t shoot. If he can impress people in shooting drills during the workouts, I wouldn’t be surprise to see him move up.  The Raptors could also trade this pick but I don’t see this happening, the demand just isn’t there in a weak draft.

Semi Final Prediction

May 15, 2011

Miami Heat vs Chicago Bulls

Comments: Can the Bulls’ defense stop the two best players in the league right now? I have my doubts on that. The key for the Bulls is their offense. Rose will score 30 points, but he needs help. Boozer has to win the match up against Chris Bosh. The Bulls have to dominate the boards as well. Meanwhile, the Heat needs Mike Bibby to start hitting open looks, he has been terrible so far, and if this continues, he wouldn’t be starting for long. I expect Wade to guard Rose, and hide Bibby on Bogans and Brewer. Regardless, I have a hard time seeing the Bulls winning the series.

Prediction: Heat in 6

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Dallas Mavericks

Comment: I have been very wrong on the Mavs during the playoffs. In fact, they have done the exact opposite of what I think they would do. I thought they would be swept by the Lakers, instead they swept the Lakers in a very impressive fashion. There isn’t anyone playing better basketball than Dirk right now. The Thunder has to force the other Mavs to beat them; to the Mavs’ credit they have different guys step up in each series. Jason Kidd was huge in the first two games against Portland. JJ Barea was huge against the Lakers, Jason Terry hit 9 3s and Peja was playing like he’s in 2003. Can the Mavs continue to the three like they have all thru the playoffs? They do have a lot of shooters and with all the attention given to Dirk, those guys will get a lot of open looks. The Thunder’s offense is very predictable right now, It’s Durant, Westbrook and Harden. On defense, I would put Perkins on Dirk, play him close and make him drive, Ibaka will be the help defender. Do not let Dirk hit jumpers. If he gets hot, double team him. This will be a difficult series and a long one.  The Mavs don’t have anyone who can guard Westbrook and Durant.   Home court advantage is huge here.

Prediction: Dallas in Seven.

Quick Second Round Prediction

April 30, 2011

Chicago Bulls vs Atlanta Hawks

Prediction: Bulls in 4.

Comments: With Hinrich hurt, no one will be able to even try to defend Rose. Joe Johnson still hasn’t won one 2nd round playoff game as a Hawk, and he won’t do it here.

Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat

Prediction: Heat in 6

Comments: If the Perkins trade didn’t happen, I would have a different result. I think the Heat will get to the Finals.

LA Lakers vs Dallas Mavericks

Prediction: Lakers in 5

Comments: Just a bad matchup. The Mavs just don’t have enough to give the Lakers a scare.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Memphis Grizzlies

Prediction: Thunder in 6

Comments: Randolph is good, but he will be defended by Perkins. We will see if Tony Allen can check Kevin Durant.  From what I heard, a lot of people in Vegas are betting on the Thunder to win the championship. They have looked real good so far.

Quick first round playoff predictions

April 16, 2011

Just some predictions and comments today about the Playoffs.

Eastern Conference

(1) Chicago Bulls vs (8) Indiana Pacers

Prediction: Bulls in 5.

Comments: Easy series for the Bulls, I do expect the Pacers to win a game in Indiana though.

(2) Miami Heat vs (7) Philadelphia 76ers

Prediction: Heat in 4

Comments: Horrible match up for the 76ers. They were 0-3 against the Heat, and this series will yield the same result.

(3) Boston Celtics vs (6) New York Knicks

Prediction: Celtics in 5

Comments: In order for the Knicks to have a shot, the following has to happen. A) Put Toney Douglas in the starting lineup and have him guard Rondo, Billups would guard Ray Allen. B) Melo has to attack Paul Pierce every time he has the ball. C) Amare plays some defense and grab lots of rebounds. D) The Knicks actually put effort in transition D. I don’t have a lot of faith the Knicks nor D’Antoni will do any of those.

(4) Orlando Magic vs (5) Atlanta Hawks

Prediction: Magic in 7

Comments: On paper, this shouldn’t be even close. The Hawks has to be the worst looking 44 win team in history. Plus they lost to the Magic in 4 blowouts last playoffs. Here are the reasons why I don’t think it will happen this time, and why the result will be much closer: A) The Hawks won the season series 3-1, Dwight Howard shot 43% from the field against the Hawks this season. Jason Collins is a pretty useless basketball player, except when he has to guard big guys like Dwight Howard. Howard had a huge series against the Hawks last playoffs, but it won’t happen with Collins guarding him. B) Hinrich replaces Bibby as the starting PG, Bibby can’t play D but Hinrich is darn good at it. Nelson may not be able to score as easily this time around. C) Micheal Pietrus was guarding Joe Johnson in the last playoff match up, Johnson ended up having a horrendous series. No one in the Magic wing rotation right now can guard a chair. Johnson should be ok here. D) I do believe the Hawks were embarrassed by the results last year, so they should put a much better effort.  I can’t predict them winning the series, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they end up winning.

Western Conference

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (8) Memphis Grizzlies

Prediction: Spurs in 7

Comments: Tough series for the Spurs. It really depends on Ginobilli, if he is not 100%, the Spurs may not get out of the first round. Having Tony Allen and Shane Battier on the wings defending perimeter guys is such a luxary for the Grizzlies. I am not sure they can hit enough shots to beat the Spurs though.

(2) LA Lakers vs (7) New Orleans Hornets

Prediction: Lakers in 4

Comments: Game over for the Hornets. It will be ugly.

(3) Dallas Mavericks vs (6) Portland Trail Blazers

Prediction: Blazers in 6

Comments: Is it an upset if everyone is picking the lower seed team to win? The Mavericks has to be the least respected 57 win team in quite some time. If I am Nate McMillan, I would send traps and double team on Dirk Nowitzki whenever he has the ball. Look for lots of zone defense from the Mavs, Blazers can’t shoot the ball.

(4) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (5) Denver Nuggets

Prediction: Thunder in 6

Comments: Not a good match up for the Nuggets. It’s too bad, because they would have a good shot at beating the Mavs and may even give the Lakers some trouble. Unfortunately, they are facing a team that’s ready to take the next step and has all the tools it need to get there. The Nugget’s strength is their depth, which isn’t as noticeable in the playoffs. I am not sure they can find anyone who can stop Durant in a 7 game series. Chandler and Afflalo will definitely try.

Bayless – Starting PG of the future.

April 11, 2011

Haven’t post here for a while. In between work, NCAA tournament and that there really isn’t a lot to talk about (the team sucks, we know that since Nov), so I didn’t do much posting.

But I am still watching all the Raptor games, or as many as I can anyway. Just to see who could be the core for the next good Raptor team. The consensus from within the organization is to build around DeRozan and Ed Davis. DeRozan has really come on strong as a scorer, he has improved his handle and jumper to the point where it’s pretty easy to see him average 20 points next season. Davis is someone I really like, he will be a consistent double/double contributor.

The third player that’s starting to look like he belong to the core is Jerryd Bayless. His April stats really jumps out: 23 points, 6 assists, 50% shooting, 48% from 3 and average 7 Free Throw attempts. While I don’t see him shooting 50% for the entire season, his number still look really good, 7 free throw attempts from a PG is something the Raptors never have before.

The most impressive thing during this stretch is not his stats. It’s his ability to run the point. He has started before, and had good games, but he always have problems running a team. For example:  During the comeback against Detroit in December, Bayless had a great game, but he didn’t run the point well. Indeed, it was Barbosa who’s handling the PG duty during the stretch run. Bayless was more of a shooting guard.

If you look at Bayless now, he is a different player. Watching him play against the Nets in the early going, he let his teammates get into position, run plays for DeRozan, Johnson, Davis; if plays were broken up, then Bayless go to create something out of nothing.

The biggest attribute for a PG can’t really be measured by a stats. Sure statistic is important, but the PG’s main duty is to run the offense. A PG has to able to get the ball to his players at the right spot. Has to know when to run plays and calm the team down, has to know when to choose his spot to attack and keep defense honest. Jose Calderon knows how to do that, he may not have a great shooting game, he calms his team down, run plays. Coaches love that, I remember George Karl mentioned Calderon is a coach’s dream PG because he knows how to run a team.  That’s also the reason why Derek Fisher is the starting PG for the Lakers, he is 100, can’t move, but he knows the plays, he knows the triangle. Phil Jackson is happy to have a PG who knows the system to setup plays and Kobe Bryant is happy to have a PG who knows when and where to give him the ball.

Bayless is starting to get it as well. He runs his plays, look for options, give direction to his teammates. Knowing how to run a team has little to do with whether you are a pass-first PG or not. Chaucey Billups isn’t a pass first PG, but he knows where the ball should go to and he is going to attack. The key here is when. Bayless doesn’t have to be a pass-first PG to be a success, but he has to be a PG, and that means setting things up, be patient and find your opportunity.

Bayless has the physical size and skills to be an elite PG (he is big for a PG, quick and strong), and now he may have the mental capacity as well. So if the Raptors couldn’t get Kyrie Irving in the draft, it may not be the worst thing, because of Bayless.

 

 

Note:

I am writing up a Raptor Season Summary called Raptor in a Box. If you read Bill James Baseball Abstract books, you would know what I mean. Basically, it’s a season summary in an easier to read format. It will be pretty long, and hopefully I can finish it by the weekend.

Early impression on James Johnson

March 2, 2011

I like what the Raptors are doing with James Johnson, they are giving him time and spot for him to showcase himself. He has done everything he can to prove that the Raptor made the right move.

As a fan, it’s kind of fun to see what a new player can do, and sometimes you make an early impression of a player but then your opinion changed. I watched Johnson in Wake Forest and thought he was more of a Ryan Gomes type, but he seems to be a different player.

Johnson is more athletic than I thought, he did lose 20 pounds and moves very well for a 6-9 player. He plays very hard especially on the defensive end, which really shows up on this team.  He blocked 7 shots in 4 games, also got 5 steals during those games. He is very active and works very hard.

On offense, he seems to have a pretty good all-around game. He is a more than willing passer, and if anything he is a little too unselfish. Most of his points is coming around the basket area. He doesn’t have much of a jump shot (though he did hit a 3 tonight), and that may be something he needs to get more comfortable with. Teams with start playing off him and daring him to shoot. If he can hit shots off the dribble, then we may have something here.

Another weakness he has is that he is a little turnover prone. He plays very hard, and sometimes out of control.

Overall, it’s been a pretty good start for the Raptors and Johnson. Let’s see if this can continue.


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