3/28/11

9 Games To Go, 9 Questions To Answer

With 9 games to go let's take a look at 9 questions about the Raptors future going forward:

1. Bryan Colangelo's future with the Raptors? It has been the question that has hung over this season all year long. It was always suppose to be a formality but it has yet to become a reality. You have to wonder now if we still will see Bryan Colangelo next season. It still seems likely we will. But with the ownership of MLSE very much up in the air with the teacher's pension fund looking to sell their stake in the team it makes things a little less certain. Do we even know if Bryan wants to come back? If there was another opportunity in the league would he take it? There had been thoughts he could go to New York but with Isiah Thomas surfacing again in New York in some unknown advisory roll pretty sure that keeps B.C far away from the Knicks. Before you can answer any other questions you need to answer this one.

2. Jay Triano stays or goes? So many people want to find reasons for Jay Triano not to be fired. You have to figure that if Colangelo were to be gone Jay would be right behind him. Any new G.M that is going to have any real impact would almost 100% want to bring in his own coaching staff. But even if Bryan remains can he afford to stay with Jay Triano? Whatever you want to say about Jay the fact can not be denied that this team has not bought into his defensive system or his system on defence simply doesn't work. You can point the the Raptors lack of talent on that end of the floor as the reason. But it is up to the coach to find a way to make this team at least some what competent in terms of defence. I have yet to find a person that believes Jay Triano is the long term answer for this team moving forward. It is my believe the longer you keep him the more you are just wasting time. In a year that everyone admits was about development, in terms of defence this team has shown none. It has regressed in fact to be one of the worst teams on the defensive end of the floor that this franchise has ever seen.

3. Andrea or Demar? Who is this team ultimately being built around. Is it Andrea Bargnani or Demar DeRozan. Given the lack of improvement of Bargnani as a defender and a rebounder it would be truly scary if it is him. The Raptors also have stayed with Bargnani at the center position which seems to not be a good fit. In DeRozan he has shown a lot of improvement this season. Maybe not as much as people would have hoped for. But enough that you can see a day where people consider him the best player on this team. If you look around the league a team build around a dynamic wing player that is athletic is a lot more common than build around a big man. Other than a few franchises this is the case. The exceptions to the rules are true dominant traditional centers that rebound and defend. Bargnani is not that is he. I said as the start of this year the development of DeRozan was the key to this season. His development was the biggest factor. He needs to take over this team and become it's young leader. Bargnani is just never going to be that for this franchise.

4. Young Onez are one and done? It sure looks that way. Amir Johnson and Demar DeRozan will still be around. But with James Johnson coming on board it would seem that Sonny Weems days as a Raptor are coming to a close. It is something I think will have impact beyond just him being gone. We just got through talking about how important Demar DeRozan is for this franchises future. To toss his best friend over the side will be something that is going to bother DeRozan even if he never admits it publicly. He will say it is a business and will miss Sonny and all of that. But the chemistry and the relationship these 3 players built with each other and fans was something pretty special. While the basketball arguments for why this is happening are obvious, still it is sad that the Young Guns turned to Young Onez appear to be dust in the wind.

5. Reggie Evans say good bye or hello again? It is a very tough choice on what to do about Reggie Evans. When he has been out there he has been a force and a presence. The one guy that when he puts on a jersey on this team you know exactly what you get every single night. But the injuries to his foot are a big concern. He is sitting out with pain in that surgically repaired foot. I love Reggie and I think he adds a tremendous amount of value to this team. But I am very worried about these foot troubles Reggie is having. I am not sure you can be confident he can remain healthy. I know he will work hard. But it may be out of his control. If he was willing to take a short term contract at a very small number I think it is worth it. But if Reggie wants more than that it will have to be elsewhere. Reggie is perhaps my favourite person on this team. I hope for his sake he can be healthy and successful where ever he is playing. I am just not sure it can be here in Toronto. If it is Raptors will have a player that is a guy that commands respect in the locker room and just by his effort challenges others to match it. But to do those things Reggie has to be out on the floor playing and last two seasons that has been a challenge.

6. Draft Who, Draft What? I am pretty certain on what the Raptors need to do here. Point guard is what you want to draft. Assuming the Raptors luck is the same as it was in the season which is bad. That point guard you can watch in Final Four in the form of Kemba Walker. If you can't get rid of Jose Calderon at this point. Walker maybe a better version of T.J Ford and at his best could provide the same one, two punch Raptors had in the Forderon days. Kembaron? Jerryd Bayless has not shown to be a true challenge for minutes or Calderon's job. Kemba Walker will challenge Calderon and has the talent to surpass him. Calderon is just not a starter in this league. Walker has shown to be a tremendous talent and is the darling of March Madness. If the Raptors were to be lucky enough to get the number one pick they would likely have the chance to draft Irving from Duke. The only other player that might interest the Raptors is Harrison Barnes. The dynamic young freshman had a rough start at UNC but took big strides at the end of the season. These 3 players are likely the biggest difference makes the Raptors could hope to acquire in this draft.

7. Trade Bargnani? Many think if Bryan Colangelo is still on board there is no way this happens. Still there was a rumour in a New York paper that Bargnani may in fact be in play for the Knicks. While I don't think the Knicks have a package that would interest the Raptors enough to get Bargnani. After all they gave up a lot to get Carmelo Anthony. But the fact it is out there that Bargnani could be in play is news. I am convinced that unloading him now would be the smart move for this team. If you can find a team that is desperate enough to over look his lack of rebounding and defence for his offence you need to consider it strongly. Other teams have given up on first overall picks before. If you can get some actual value for him before he bottoms out you need to do it. Bargnani has reached the point that it would seem unlikely he finds God and is able to defend and rebound all of the sudden on a consistent basis

8. Ed Davis a part of the solution? It sure seems like it. Now he is not the Chris Bosh replacement that some billed him as when he was drafted. But he offers a solid rebounding presence and can be a decent defender in a good system with other players contributing to that system. He also has the potential to be something that Raptors have not had in a long time. A shot blocking presence that can change shots and block his share of them. Not since maybe Antonio Davis and Keon Clark were putting on the purple have they had this. Davis is not going to be a superstar. But he can be an effective part of a winning formula. Davis has surprised me this season given the amount of time he has missed. But he to his credit jumped into an NBA season and on most nights has looked like he belongs. You hope his development can continue on the right path. With a lock out looming who knows what that would mean for the Vegas Summer League. But DeRozan gained a lot of confidence from his time in Vegas last summer. You hope Davis would get a chance to do the same.

9. How much will the new CBA help the Raptors? When there is a new CBA no matter how it turns out Bryan Colangelo has done a solid job setting the Raptors up to be prepared for it. The general answer to this question for me is pretty simple. The more the owners win the more the Raptors win in terms of the CBA. Here are just a couple examples. If we get a franchise tag added to the mix. This gives you more control to keep your stars here to grow. Demar DeRozan can get better without the fear that he will be leaving. It also would give the team time to prepare should a player want out. It also would provide teams another weapon to avoid situations like the ones we have seen with James, Bosh, Williams, Anthony and Paul. Also if they eliminated the MLE this would cause players to really have to choose between money and winning. Would a guy really take a minimum salary to go play for a contender. Perhaps some older veteran players would but it makes it a much tougher choice for players to turn their back on teams with money to spend. Raptors will have money to spend and if the new system makes it easier for them to spend it. Regardless of the CBA we end up with Raptors are positioned well for it and that credit goes to Bryan Colangelo.

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