5 Questions for a Monday

The long summer marches on but with the release of the NBA Schedule last week the light is at the end of the tunnel for basketball fans. I thought today that I would ease into the week with 5 questions that should define the Raptors season.

Question #1

Who is the Raptors starting shooting guard?

This had been a given for the last few seasons. For the majority of his time with the Raptors Anthony Parker would be the man. The hope is that Demar DeRozan will be the answer for years to come at the position. But will he be the guy this year and when? Eric Smith in a recent starting 5 says he has a gut feeling it will be from the opening tip of the 09/10 season. The other candidates are Antonie Wright and Marco Belinelli. I had always thought it would be Wright to start and eventually DeRozan would replace him moving forward. The wildcard that has been thrown into the mix is Marco Belinelli. I would tend to think he is a long shot. Not because he is not talented enough. Just because I don't think he has the defensive skill that the Raptors are hoping for out of their starting 5. But I think by the end of the season if it is not DeRozan something has gone wrong. He is the future for this team at that position and the sooner he answers that call the better in my view.

Question # 2

Can Jay Triano be successful as the head coach of the Raptors?

Almost everyone last season said that Jay Triano was given a bad hand. They explained away his bad record by saying he was not given the benefit of having a training camp. Well no excuses this year it will be all about results. The challenging start to the Raptors Schedule is going to really test if Triano truly is ready for this challenge. You can say whatever you like about what Jay did or did not do last season. However, what will define him is this first season as the head coach from start to finish. No one can question that Bryan Colangelo has not done his job in giving Triano the talent to be successful. It is very important for Jay to get off to a good start and get this season heading in the right direction. You can talk all you want about him and Bryan being on the same page and having a similar philosophy. It is about wins and losses and Jay Triano will need to get wins. If the Raptors are not a playoff team I would seriously question if Jay would make it to a second season as coach. He has the guy that had always been rumoured to be Bryan Colangelo's guy in Mark Ivaroni on the staff. Credit to Jay for being man enough to handle that. However it has to be a bit of an uneasy feeling. If Triano can direct this team to an above .500 record by the end of the calender year he will be on his way to having a successful first full season.

Question # 3

Depth at small forward a concern?

Yes the Raptors do have Hedo Turkoglu. But beyond that what do the Raptors have? You could see both DeRozan and Wright play some time behind him at the 3 spot. The Raptors could shift to a smaller look with Calderon and Jack at the guards and DeRozan or Wright playing at the 3. The Raptors do have that one open roster spot to fill and perhaps your back small forward is addressed there. Hedo did play heavy minutes for the Magic and at times he showed that he was out of gas in Orlando's playoff run. Last year I had said prior to the season the worst thing that could happen to the Raptors was an injury to Jose Calderon. This season the answer to that question may be an injury to Hedo. The Raptors have no clear answer for that right now. It may not be as bad as Roko Ukic and Will Solomon but it will be far from ideal. The same problem could arise should Hedo get himself into foul trouble. If the Raps re-sign Pops Mensah-Bonsu he is not able to play 3 spot at least has never shown the ability too. If someone says re-sign Joey Graham I may scream. We have seen that movie for 4 years and I know the plot line and so should you. But the Raptors would be wise to find someone that can play the 3 to fill that 15th roster spot.

Question # 4 "The Question"

Chris Bosh... What can we expect and how will he handle the pressure of 2010?

Chris Bosh wants a max deal, at least that is what were told. In order to get that kind of deal be it in Toronto or elsewhere he needs to add another solid season to the books. The questions of where Bosh will be playing in the 2010/11 season are going to follow him through the season. Bosh has said he is asked about it on a daily basis. If he thinks the summer has been rough, that will be a walk in the park compared to the fall and winter to come. Can Chris block all of this 2010 talk out of his mind and focus on what matters most..his game. Bosh needs to have a break out season and take his game to the next level. If Bosh is successful at this he will give himself that max deal and the Raptors will be successful. Which ironically might just be enough for Chris Bosh to want to remain a Raptor. However if the Raptors season goes wrong it could spell the end of Chris Bosh as a Raptor. This is really the ultimate question for this franchise. If you are a Chris Bosh fan you need to cross your finger tight this season. Hoping that Bosh has a great year and the Raptors do as well. If that happens, the Raptors may in fact be able to keep their star for a few more seasons to come.

Question #5

How does this team rebound and what about Bargnani?

Andrea Bargnani has a 50 million dollar contract. That is about 10 million per average rebound. Andrea will need to play much more of an inside outside game. He will be needed to improve his numbers on the glass. The Raptors do have Reggie Evans on the bench who will be like instant rebounding off the bench. But Ideally the Raptors would like to have Bargnani, Bosh and Turkoglu on the floor as much as possible together. If that is true than all 3 must make an extra effort to get on the glass. Especially the offensive glass. Some will say as they have in past seasons that Andrea Bargnani is the X-factor in how the Raptors season will go. I am not sure if I buy into that. Last season everyone would admit Bargnani was better but the Raptors were not. However, on an individual game basis when Bargnani is playing at a high level, the Raptors are a much tougher challenge for the opposition. When it comes to the rebounding it falls on this entire team. It will take a team effort to allow this team to compete on the boards. Even your players at the guard spots will need to get dirty and find a board now and then.

I do not have questions about the point guard spot. Jose now has a legit back-up that will press him to perform and should he go down injured be able to fill in and do a solid job. Jarrett Jack could be a big answer for the Raptors and not a question at all. So those are my questions what are yours? Leave a comment and say what concerns you about your new look Raptors? You can also comment on mine if you wish.


  1. James - great post!
    I made a case for Ime Udoka over at another blog. He may go for the vet's minimum (he was paid $1M or so last year and is 31 years old) and ranked #4 in the LEAGUE in Defensive Rating (for players that played over 1,000 min). Think he's a very nice fit.
    I would also buy out Banks - and while it doesn't affect the cap, it would open another roster spot for a vet minimum guy - and Pops would be my choice there. Could partially address our rebounding need.
    Well done.
    Cheers, T

  2. I had a chance to read that over the weekend it was well done. If you want to post a link here in the comments please do Tom. It is Monday I am moving a little slow or I would do it myself.

  3. What concerns me?

    1) Defense and rebounding: The best teams do these things very well. Our main guys, historically, have not done this. For all of the positive things Hedo brings offensively, he might take away as much defensively. I'm hoping for a big leap from Bargnani on the boards but I don't know if the time he's spending with his national team is going to allow him the time to really work at it.

    2) The wings. You brought up the fact that if Hedo gets hurt, the Raps are in trouble. I agree. The 2-guard could be a weak spot, too, even if we're healthy. I like the DeRozan pick and was impressed with his summer league play, but we must be careful not to expect too much from him. Wright started for Dallas last year, but that's misleading 'cause he didn't play staters' minutes. Belinelli is a good shooter who has potential but has not proven himself to be very effective thus far in his career. I think Jack will come off the bench, but still play starters' minutes. The others? Big question marks this year. I hope Jack continues to be durable.

  4. "Enough white players already! Are we trying to lead the league in this statistic?"

  5. I think you tread down a dangerous path when we start judging players by skin tone. White Black Blue or Brown let's just evaluate players on how they play. Warren Moon spent 6 years in CFL cause people believed black guys could not play quarterback. Steve Nash is white as a ghost and a 2 time MVP. Color should not be the issue how you play should.

  6. i agree with the first comment, go out & get Udoka + Pops. The rest is up to Triano - rebounding is about boxing out, and crashing the boards with passion/desire. Many people forget that basketball is a mental sport as much as it is physical.

  7. only 1 roster spot currently but a buyout of Banks and that is possible.

  8. I read and enjoyed Tom's blog as well, but I don't believe Tom's vision matches BCo's plan. Unless the young guys have break out seasons, this won't be the Raps year to reach the conference finals - no matter what minimum salary vets the Raps manage to sign for that last 1 or 2 (if buying out Bank's) spots.

    We'll see in September, but I believe BCo wants to give his young guys the chance to develop and become (in 1 or 2 years) the guys who give the Raps their first shot at a conference finals berth.

    That said, Demar will start and play at least 24 minutes per game, backed up by Belinelli. Look for Jack to pick up 8-10 minutes at the 2 as well, probably in crunch time (Jack isn't getting $5m/season to play 12-18 minutes a night).

    Wright will back up Hedo for 10-15 minutes and he'll do great at it. Providing decent defense beside Evans, giving Belinelli his chance to shine as an offensive player (don't waste it Belinelli). Wright is also the player whose minutes are at the biggest risk if both Belinelli and Demar show they deserve more time. BCo would love to see Demar earn 30 minutes per game and Belinelli earn 24+ minutes as his backup scorer. It won't be Jack losing out, it'll be Wright(and his expiring contract) sitting on the bench as a depth player.

    Depth at SF, if the young guns aren't quite ready for prime time or Hedo misses any time is a concern - but for all the crap heaped on Joey (Go ahead scream), as a minimum salary vet, Joey's no worse than any of the other older minimum salary guys BCo could bring instead. In all fairness, Joey got shafted by Sam. Sure Joey looks lost on occasion, and that may never change, but at the end of his rookie year Joey put together a very nice string of games. In his 2nd season, Joey barely saw the floor (average of 4 minutes over 82 games) and like Bargs suffered greatly under terrible (developmental) coaching from Sam. Last year, after Sam gets canned, Joey's numbers started looking better ending at 7.7pts, 3.1rbs in 19.8 minutes (or in the 27 games after new years where Joey averaged over 20 minutes per his numbers were 11.3/5.1 - there is no one out there with better numbers than these) Did Joey really get his chance under Sam? Should BCo give him another shot under Jay for the minimum? Why not, as 3rd string depth? That said, no one should be surprised if the Raps start the season as they look today! BCo will be/ should be very reluctant to bring in anyone who will disrupt the development of Demar and Belinelli.

    Look for Bosh to either have that break out season, find himself traded, or we finally find out that his knee is worse than expected - anyone got a 3 sided coin? Being as this is Bosh's career earnings year - I'd look to expect an absolutely amazing season out of CB4 - at his best Bosh can lead the Raps to the 2nd $$$ round this year. If Bosh can't deliver, BCo has got to be questioning if he can invest max money in CB4 - I wouldn't bet against Bosh getting that monster contract.

    After watching Bargs in the second half of last year, got to expect 18pts/7rbs/2bks this year. The ability is there, its time for him to put it all together. You know BCo believes it!

    Why did Jay get to be a head coach (and Sam get himself fired) - Same reason any employee finds themselves looking for another job when they aren't on the same page as their boss. You say you're right, the boss says there's the door. Jay is on the same page as BCo and that counts for a lot. The plan is to develop a team that can compete for a long time, Jay looks to be the guy to develop it. Doesn't mean he'll be here when they finally win something, we'll see.

  9. #1 -- I think it'll be DeRozan and that he'll play around 28 minutes per game.

    #2 -- Not sure what to make of Triano. There's a lot of things a like, and some I don't. Leaning towards unsuccessful, but I like his long term future as an NBA coach.

    #3 -- Overall depth on the wing, at both SG + SF, is a massive concern of mine.

    #4 -- Same old, same old. 22-23 points and 9-10 rebounds. Bosh has been putting up those numbers like clockwork for four seasons. He's Mr. Dependable.

    #5 -- The team will be a weak rebounding squad ... and most of the blame for that falls on Bargnani's shoulders. He didn't deserve the contract extension he received.