Tag:Toronto Raptors
Posted on: July 9, 2011 12:17 am
Edited on: July 10, 2011 10:21 pm
 

What teams risk in a lockout: Atlantic Division

Posted by Matt Moore



Talk of losing an entire season is a bit ridiculous to us. There's just way too much at stake. Money, momentum, fan support, money, loyalty, money -- it's just hard to imagine losing any games much less a whole season.

But it's a possibility. And with all this hardline talk going on, it seems like neither the players nor the owners are wanting to budge. There's incentive for teams to get a deal done and not just for the money, but because a year without basketball and more importantly, basketball operations, could greatly affect each and every NBA franchise. We continue with the Atlantic Division.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics have already started keeping an eye on the future past this core. Their trade of Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green and the Clippers' draft pick were both aimed at the future. In 2012-2013, the Celtics have less than $30 million comitted. But their best shot at a title is now. Losing 2011-2012 ends the Big 3 era in Boston. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen's contracts would expire just as their ability to anchor a championship team also goes the way of the dodo. Losing next season means they wind up with a single championship for all that money invested, all that excitement created. 

On top of that, no city needs the current structure to hold as much as Boston. The ability to outspend the small markets under a flex-cap, using its big market status combined with its superiority as a historical powerhouse are both tied to the current luxury-tax system. Savvy spending, reasonable contracts, creative maneuvers? Does any of that sound like the team whose current core is the product of Kevin McHale pitching his old team a favor?

New Jersey Nets

Mikhail Prokhorov did not get into this business to lose an entire season, the last he has Deron Williams under contract before an extension he hopes to sign him to, and then begin to build a contender under a system which negates every advantage moving his team to Brooklyn provides. But that's the reality that faces the Russian mogul.

Deron Williams is the big key for the Nets. They sent a fortune in the trade for Williams, with the understanding they would convince him of their grand vision and build around him on his next contract. It was a gamble. But they need the 2011-2012 season to convince Williams that the plan works, that the vision is in place, that they can succeed as the team Williams wants to commit to. Without the 11-12 season, Williams will end up entering free agency with his only time as a Net filled with failure. He may wind up with more wins with his team in Turkey than he won with New Jersey.

From there, Prokhorov would actually be better suited to a system that allows for overspending. If small market teams succeed under the new CBA, his advantage is leveraged. And in such a scenario, New York's power would be amplified within the market. If you're getting paid the same amount regardless, going to the team with the most cache is the best idea.

New York Knicks

Speaking of the Knicks, they have quite a bit to lose in this scenario. A harsher cap drives up the likelihood they won't be able to build effectively around Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, if at all. They're already struggling to fill in the gaps (as Donnie Walsh put it in his conference call after stepping down), with a lower spending ceiling that job only gets more difficult. Dolan has failed to succeed when he's broken the bank open. What happens when he can't spend his way out of a problem?

Bigger than that, however, are the risks of the actua lockout. Amar'e Stoudemire is an injury risk. Despite the fact that he's had no problems since microfracture surgery five years ago, scouts and execs are still hesitant about him. Stoudemire is talking about heading to Israel to play during the lockout. Any uninsured play could wind up wiping out time for Stoudemire which devastates the Knicks' prospects for contention. They need to have the stars available so build around, and another year to see what direction they need to go to build a complete team. Losing the season is a disaster. 

Philadelphia 76ers

Hey, look! They could spend a whole year thinking more about whether to trade Andre Iguodala! They haven't really done enough of that so far.

The lockout could actually help the Sixers on two fronts. First, their attendance was terrible again last season despite making the playoffs. They need the kind of financial overhaul the lockout aims to create. Second, losing the 2011-2012 season means they lose out on a year where they are on the books to pay Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, and Andres Nocioni (remember him?) over $37 million next season. They can probably do without that with a fanbase that still hasn't bought in.

Elton Brand has an early termination option for 2012-2013, but he is unlikely to exercise it. Instead, the Sixers will be hoping for the amnesty clause to allow them out from under that final year of Brand's contract.

If any team could use all of the ramifications of the lockout, it's the Sixers, big market or not.

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors won't be winning the title any time soon. Their huge contracts won't be moving off the books any time soon. Their fanbase is still angry over giving Andrea Bargnani his extension and the damage done by Chris Bosh's departure.

So pretty much the Raptors are fine with however the lockout works out. Lose the season, they get Jose Calderon into a contract year, and have more time to come up with inventive ways to ditch Andrea Bargnani, plus Jonas Valanciunas is available to come over from Europe. A new salary cap may mitigate the uphill climb they face with their market and location.

They're pretty much fine with however this shakes out.
Posted on: July 5, 2011 3:33 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 3:44 pm
 

Report: Sonny Weems to sign in Europe

Posted by Royce Young

Add another name to the slowly growing list of NBA players packing up for Europe.

According to HoopsWorld, guard Sonny Weems is set to sign with Zalgiris in Lithuania. The Weems deal reportedly should be finalized later this week.

This comes just a week after the Raptors issued Weems a qualifying offer before the lockout went into effect. Because of that, Toronto retains his rights as a restricted free agent.

Weems, however, reportedly signed a one-year deal without a NBA opt-out clause, meaning even if the NBA doesn't lose games Weems, 24, can't return to play for the Raptors (or anyone else). He's going to spend the entire 2011-12 season in Europe no matter what.

In 59 games this past season, Weems averaged career highs in points (9.2) and minutes (23.9) for the Raptors and played a solid backup shooting guard behind DeMar DeRozan.

Not exactly an earth-shattering loss, but still Weems is a valuable player to the team. And he's exactly the type of player you're going to see take off to Europe with the uncertainty in the NBA right now. Weems was a low-dollar player, and he probably wasn't keen on missing even a single paycheck.
Posted on: July 5, 2011 2:18 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 2:30 pm
 

2012 NBA Draft: Light at the end of the tunnel

A look at five top 2012 NBA Draft picks and where they might fit best in the NBA. Posted by Ben Golliver.

A confluence of factors made the 2011 NBA Draft one to forget. The one-and-done class was weak to begin with; there were only 3-4 players selected who are believed to possess eventual All-Star talent; the impending NBA lockout scared many top players into returning to school; there wasn’t an American-born center taken in the first round; two of the most talented international players (Enes Kanter and Bismack Biyombo) had very short resumes and another, Jonas Valanciunas, had a tricky contract buyout. On and on the list goes.

In that light, the 2011 NBA Draft was about assessing risk for bad teams. Which incomplete player fits best with our pieces? Which of these diamonds in the rough might pan out in the right circumstances?

The 2012 Draft couldn't be more different. Yes, we're 11 months away, but it's setting up as an evaluating of rewards rather than riches thanks to a crop that should be in the running for best class since 2003 brought LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and company. Considering that the NBA's lockout is now officially underway, the 2012 class serves as the perfect light at the end of the tunnel.

At first glance, there are arguably 10 prospects who could have been top five talents in this year’s draft. Why? Because the one-and-dones that stayed put – big-name stars like Harrison Barnes and Jared Sullinger – will converge with a very strong high school Class of 2011 – topped by Anthony Davis, James McAdoo, Michael Gilchrist, Austin Rivers and others. 

Here’s an early look at five top prospects and where their impact would be greatest.

harrison-barnes1. Harrison Barnes | Sophomore | UNC | SF | 6-foot-8, 210 pounds   

Barnes should headline the 2012 NBA Draft class and is the early favorite to go No. 1 overall. Despite falling short of preseason All-American expectations and starting slow as a freshman, Barnes came on strong over the second half of the season, averaging 21.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in March. He has all the tools to be an NBA All-Star and an elite scorer. He’s polished, smooth, has a pretty stroke, good size and a scorer’s self-confidence. After he gets a second season under his belt, Barnes should be ready to start from Day 1 and step in as a No. 1 scoring option from the get-go in 2012-2013. He understands the marketing side of the modern game and projects to be a franchise building block.

Best fit: If the Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Bobcats are as bad as everyone expects them to be next season, Barnes serves as the potential savior.

2. Jared Sullinger| Sophomore | Ohio State | PF | 6-foot-8, 250 pounds

The No. 2 spot in next year’s draft is Sullinger’s to lose, although he’ll certainly have his share of challengers. A traditional low-post power forward, Sullinger shed questions about his weight to become the best freshman in the nation last season, averaging 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Sullinger is strong and relentless, overpowering older players at the college level. Physically, he’s a throwback in this age of combo fours and he would be the consensus No. 1 pick next year if he were an inch or two taller and a few inches longer so that he could more comfortably play center. His productivity on the glass – and the offensive efficiency that goes with it -- is his top selling point. The biggest concern: Will he be subject to mismatches on the defensive end (too short to guard fives, too big to stay with combo fours on the perimeter)?

Best fit: Pair him with a lengthy shot-blocker. The Washington Wizards – with JaVale McGee -- or the Detroit Pistons – with Greg Monroe -- would allow Sullinger to do what he does best.

3. Anthony Davis | Freshman | Kentucky | PF | 6-foot-10, 220 pounds

The best word to describe Davis is “tantalizing.” At this point, despite a solid showing on the All-Star circuit, Davis is regarded more for his potential than his current ability. That’s to be expected given a well-documented growth spurt that has made him the most hyped American big man prospect since Greg Oden. While Davis is much skinnier and less overwhelming than Oden, he is significantly more mobile. He's also  extremely long and active around the basket on both ends. Kentucky is an ideal situation for him to develop: surrounded by future pros and not asked to do too much, Davis should have an excellent chance to make a big impact games during March Madness, even if he isn’t putting up overwhelming stat lines. There isn’t a team in the NBA that wouldn’t take him today based on the rarity of his physical package. If he continues to develop his strength and size, he has a very good shot to go No. 1 overall, even if he’s riskier right now than Barnes or Sullinger.

Best fit: Pairing Davis with a wide body, low-post presence would be his best-case scenario: Minnesota, next to Kevin Love, or Sacramento, alongside DeMarcus Cousins.

4. James McAdoo | Freshman | UNC | PF | 6-foot-8, 223 pounds

McAdoo is a supremely talented, although sometimes overlooked, combo forward who will likely play four as a pro. His skill level, comfort with the ball in his hands, nose for rebounds, ability to finish and general intelligence make him a can’t-miss prospect. A (very) distant relative of NBA Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo, he raised his profile on the All-Star circuit and declared at the Nike Hoop Summit that he was ready to average 20 points and 10 rebounds as a freshman at Carolina, a feat that would be unprecedented. With UNC returning so much talent, he’s in line for an adjustment of expectations but there’s no question that he was born to play basketball at the NBA level.

Best fit: The Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t get the talented combo forward they desired in Derrick Williams in 2011. McAdoo would make a nice consolation prize. Pending a decision on Kris Humphries and a rumored free agency pursuit of David West, McAdoo would fit nicely next to Brook Lopez in New Jersey too.

5. Michael Gilchrist | Freshman | Kentucky | 6-foot-7, 205 pounds

NBA teams haven’t exactly shown a desire to reward elite wing defenders with top draft selections, but Gilchrist deserves it. He really redefines “motor” and “intensity,” making full use of his ideal wing size. He enjoys playing chest-to-chest defense but is comfortable off the ball as well, equally capable of taking a No. 1 scoring option out of the game or breaking plays from the weakside and finishing in transition. Other than an ugly release on his jumper, Gilchrist is a solid offensive prospect too, able to score and make plays, and fully comfortable with the ball in his hands.   

Best fit: Any team in need of an intensity injection. The Raptors, Wizards, Bobcats and Los Angeles Clippers all qualify.

All height and weight figures courtesy of DraftExpress.com.

Posted on: June 29, 2011 12:52 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2011 1:07 pm
 

Valanciunas dominant against US in U-19 games

Posted by Royce Young

The Cleveland Cavaliers were the first team on draft night that had to make a big decision. At No. 4 with Enes Kanter off the board, who do they go with?

There's Jonas Valanciunas from Lithuania who is raw and needs strength and might have buyout issues. There's Tristan Thompson from Texas who is an impact rebounder and defender but doesn't have quite the upside of Valanciunas. Or there were other options like Jan Vesely, Bismack Biyombo or whichever one of the Morris twins is better.

The Cavs passed on Valanciunas and so the Raptors were grateful at No. 5 to pick up the 19-year-old center. And while it's still WAY too early too tell, that pick certainly looked pretty darn good yesterday in a tuneup for the FIBA under-19 games.

Valanciunas dominated against the United States, scoring 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds as Lithuania worked the U.S. 108-75 in a friendly before the games get going Thursday.

Now of course, before anyone gets too excited, it's just one game, and a game that didn't even count to boot. It also wasn't against anything resembling NBA talent, though University of Florida big man and projected lottery pick Patric Young played against Valanciunas in the game and had only six points.

As the Toronto Sun notes, Valanciunas still needs at least 15-20 pounds on him before he's really able to compete inside against the big physical centers in the NBA, but the guy has serious talent. The Raptors went with the best guy available on draft night and grabbed the guy a bunch of teams were hoping would slip to them later.

Valanciunas has been pegged as another Pau Gasol because of his touch around the basket, and there's no doubt the young Americans trying to guard him probably couldn't tell the difference Tuesday. But it's way too early to make any real determination on things. Still, the Raptors and Bryan Colangelo have to be feeling pretty good that the Cavs passed on Valanciunas right now.

Via PBT

Posted on: June 28, 2011 3:17 pm
Edited on: June 28, 2011 3:38 pm
 

Dwane Casey says the Raptors will defend

Posted by Royce Young

Picturing the Toronto Raptors as a team that's going to stop people is hard. Kind of like picturing the Toronto Raptors as a good team, I guess.

But new coach Dwane Casey is committed to the defensive end. And he should be. He just saw how that kind of philosophy worked in Dallas leading to a championship.

In an interview with SI.com's The Point Forward, Casey preached a defensive approach, along with a solid use of advanced metrics.
It’s all about what you emphasize as a coach. Jay [Triano] has done an excellent job at creating an offensive atmosphere, and I don’t want to take away from that. But we have to have a defensive emphasis. We have to create a defensive identity. Every single day there will be a theme of the day about defense, whether it be working on one thing in regard to the pick-and-roll or man-to-man or whatever. There will be a theme every day until we get an identity we can compete with.
The Raptors certainly could score last season. Offensive talent is there. But how do you turn guys like Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon and even new guy Jonas Valanciunas into capable defenders? Here's how: The same way you did it with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd.

Casey compared Bargnani to Dirk and it's a valid comparison in a lot of ways. Both are deft international players with an impressive touch at seven feet tall. The biggest difference is Dirk has built an impressive post game, rebounds and works hard defensively. Bargnani needs those three things. But Casey can bring that message to Bargnani.
Well, he’s not going to be our starting center, really [because he's more of a power forward]. He’s in a similar situation with Dirk Nowitzki at this point in his career. I’d have to check their numbers, but I’d venture to say at this point in his career, he’s probably somewhere in the same area where Dirk was, where both have had to live down the reputation of being soft. And by the way, Dirk has never been anywhere near soft. Don’t ever use that word with him.
In reality, Casey's experience with Dallas probably made him an ideal fit with the Raptors. In a way, the Raps are kind of the Mavs lite. Amir Johnson could be Tyson Chandler-ish, Bargnani cast as Dirk and though it's a stretch, DeMar DeRozan as a scoring punch at guard like Jason Terry. There's potential there. Casey will likely bring along the Dallas zone too to help hide guys like Bargnani and Calderon. Worked wonders in Dallas.

You can win with offense, but only 30 games or so yearly. That's where the Raptors were with Jay Triano. To take another step, it's time to play defense. And that's the plan Casey's bringing.
Posted on: June 25, 2011 11:23 am
Edited on: June 25, 2011 6:54 pm
 

Valanciunas' buyout situation settled

Posted by Royce Young

A few days before the draft, some concern arose that Jonas Valanciunas, the big Lithuanian center the Raptors selected fifth, was going to have some major buyout issues.

As a result, there was some speculation that Valanciunas could slip down in the lottery. He didn't and I guess it was because the buyout thing wasn't that big of a deal.

Raptor general manager Bryan Colangelo told the Toronto Sun that the buyout has been resolved with Valanciunas' team Lietuvos Ryta. Valanciunas' deal was for three years with his Euro team. 

"I can confirm the buyout is in place," Colangelo said.

The Raptors can contribute up to $500,000 of the $2.4 million buyout under the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement.

Now that Valanciunas will join the Raptors alongside Andrea Bargnani, Toronto will get a fresh look at its new front line. Valanciunas isn't ready to be an impact player, though, as he needs to add strength, which he admitted draft night. "I have no so strong body," he said. So that'll likely be the focus for the young 19-year-old center. Some have said he's a young Pau Gasol and if that's the case, Toronto will likely be fine waiting however long for him to add strength.

Posted on: June 23, 2011 8:09 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2011 10:08 pm
 

NBA Draft: Raptors select Jonas Valanciunas 5th

Posted by Royce Young

There were a lot of directions for the Raptors to go with the fifth pick. Bismack Biyombo, Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker were all talked about in this spot.

But with the cards falling where they did, the Raptors simply couldn't pass up an upside player in Jonas Valanciunas. Bryan Colangelo loves himself some international players and Valanciunas was the highest ranked international on the board. Really, it's a match made in heaven.

He probably won't be able to help Toronto next season -- if there is a next season -- as Valanciunas has a complicated buyout to settle that will likely keep him in Europe another season. Which honestly, is probably a good thing. Valanciunas needs more seasoning, needs a little more weight to his frame and a little bit of time to mature and progress.

It's good that the Raptors realize that rebuilding takes time. Instead of trying to land someone that helps now, the Raptors elected to stay patient and hope that Valanciunas can develop into a post presence alongside Andrea Bargnani. Some see Valanciunas as a young Pau Gasol, which might not be a good thing though. The Raps are extremely soft inside and if Valanciunas is going to play with Bargnani, he's going to have to toughen up a bit. He's extremely young and as they say, has that whole upside thing working for him.

Which is what Toronto is banking on.
Posted on: June 22, 2011 9:11 pm
Edited on: June 22, 2011 9:13 pm
 

NBA Draft: Brandon Knight says he's ready now

2011 NBA Draft prospect Brandon Knight says he's ready to lead a team right now. Posted by Ben Golliver. draft-brandon-knight

NEW YORK, N. Y. -- Brandon Knight isn't looking over his shoulder and he doesn't have any time to waste.

The one and done Kentucky point guard addressed the media on the eve of the 2011 NBA Draft, and it was the verbal equivalent of a rim run: straight, direct, no veering or wavering.

Knight, who averaged 17.3 points and 4.2 assists as a freshman, wants to be picked at the top of the board, he wants to start immediately and he wants to win.

"My competitive nature wants me to go as high as possible," Knight said.

One day before NBA Draft night, Knight is projected to go as high as No. 3 to the Utah Jazz and no lower than No. 7 to the Sacramento Kings. The Toronto Raptors at No. 5 are also a possibility should the Jazz elect to draft Turkish big man Enes Kanter at No. 3.

Knight holds himself to a high standard -- notching a 4.3 GPA in high school -- and is equally demanding in his expectations for his NBA home.

"A place that can use a point guard, a place that wants me, obviously," Knight said. "A place where I can compete. I don't want to go somewhere where they have no chance of winning at all. A place where I know I can compete, where I have great teammates."

The Jazz figure to be the best fit for that description. While they have a starting quality point guard in Devin Harris already in place, Utah certainly has a longer tradition of winning than either Toronto or Sacramento. Utah had made the playoffs four straight years before this season, which saw a trade of franchise point guard Deron Williams and the retirement of longtime coach Jerry Sloan. The Jazz also have a string of making the postseason 20 straight years.

The Raptors, meanwhile, have made the playoffs in just two of the last nine years and arguably have one of the two or three least talented roster in the league. The Kings are far removed from their glory days at the beginning of the aughts, having missed the playoffs in five seasons. A turbulent and tenuous ownership situation only makes seriously competing that much more difficult.

Pressed about his fit with the Jazz, Knight did his best to remain open to all possibilities.

"The draft is inexact," he said. "I might not be taken by the Jazz. I might. I definitely would be comfortable there. I had a great vibe with the coaching staff and front office." 

Outsiders might view Utah as a perfect fit. Knight could serve as Harris' understudy, learning the pro game and gradually taking on added responsibilities and minutes. Knight doesn't necessarily see it that way.

Asked if he felt he was ready to step in and assume starting point guard duties from Day One, Knight, who is 19 years old, said, "Yeah, I do." No hesitation. No blinking.

He listed off the attributes he brings to the table in a methodical manner, stripping emotion from the process as if he was reading a boring legal document.

"The ability to shoot, spread a defense, defend other point guards, run a team," he said. "That's something I've got better at this year."

One thing he doesn't bring to the NBA? Second thoughts about returning to Kentucky for a sophomore season.

"Once I knew I might be a top 10 pick," Knight recalled without a trace of regret. "My mind was decided."

For all that readiness and self-assuredness, Knight did admit that one thing has tripped him during the pre-draft process: the travel.

"I've never really lived out of a suitcase before," he said, allowing himself a rare grin.

He'll get used to it.
 
 
 
 
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