Well we have come to the end of a very disappointing 2007-08 Raptors basketball season with the loss and elimination to the Orlando Magic. Congratulations to the Magic and their starting five who dominated what should have been a closer series. Dwight Howard has quickly taken over the title Dominant Big in the NBA and I would love to see him and Amare Stoudemire go mano a mano for a 7 game series!! Hedu Turkoglu deserved his Most Improved Player award and Jameer Nelson seems to have recovered his form that made him so hard to handle a couple years ago in March. Rashard Lewis was unstoppable and this group will be hard for whomever they face next to stop.
Thus begins the dissection of a team that should have won 50 games this year but seem to lack the drive and intensity needed to put teams away. Here is my evaluation of the key parts of this team and how I assess the overall structure of this team for next year.
Chris Bosh – ALL discussions about this team must start with CB4. The franchise player had a year good enough to be an all-star, but with guys like Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace ahead of him he will have to wait to be consistently there. His stats for the year look like this:
GP MIN/G PPG REB/G AST/G FG %
67 36.2 22.3 8.7 2.6 49.4
When compared to the league, he is the 8th ranked power forward, with 6 of the 7 ahead of him being from the west and the other being Antawn Jamison of the Wizards, pretty good company hanging with guys like Dirk Nowitzki of the Mavericks, Al Jefferson of the Timberwolves, Carlos Boozer of the Jazz, David West of the Hornets and Tim Duncan of the Spurs and the Lakers Lamar Odom. I think we have seen Chris SEE the next level, and now he is desperately waiting for his team to supply the support he needs down low to allow him to create the space he needs and raise his post play from the 4 spot not the 5. I see a lot of Amare in him, but not quite as strong physically. Bosh is very athletic and has the heart of a lion that is often ignored by his coach. More on him later!!
Brian Colangelo needs to go out and find a STUD center that can control the front end. Chris should not be expected to grab 15 boards a night as he plays 10 – 15 feet from the basket most of the game.
T.J. Ford – This team played it’s best team games with him in the hospital and in rehab. I am not sure why that fact was so hard to notice by Sam and Brian. I think T.J. would be a great guard on a team that needs a selfish ball hog who thinks he is Kobe Bryant or Tracey McGrady – wait, he WAS on this team at one point… wasn’t that Isaiah who traded him? Hmmmmm… wonder if the Knicks read any of the deals he made LOL… sorry, I digress! There are few players in this league who can suffer a severe neck injury and sit for 3 or 4 months and then come back and be as sharp as when he went out… Ford is not one of them. The Raptors held on to T.J. leading this team way too long. I think that fact alone is why they are out golfing or what ever it is tall guys do over the off-season. T.J. needs to listen more carefully to John Lucas who could teach him game sense and how to play with his team and rely on them. A lesson I think Kobe has finally caught!!
Andrea Bargnani – I love this kid’s talent, but his heart fails him. He does not have the grit to play an 82 game season with people who want to eat him for lunch… I am not sure you can teach toughness to that level. I think that he has to be a second line guy at best as the pressure of facing top centers on the opposing teams has completely demoralized this kid. He looks beaten up like after a school yard brawl, which is not a bad analogy for action in the post during an NBA game, let alone a playoff game. I know we paid him a lot and I would hate to see him become the next Sam Bowie as he does have NBA talent, just not sure he has the heart of a lion needed to survive there…
Rasho Nesterovic – how can a guy who STARTED for the Spurs when they won a title, sit on the bench behind Andrea Bargnani? Come on Sam; give your head a shake. When he started, he brought energy and a very complete inside game to the mix and he plays well as the second option low with CB4 free to play 10 – 15 feet and in, not the other way around. Am I the only one who saw this? When Rasho played well, they won, when he played ok, they at least had a shot, when he played very little, the got blitzed. MAKE THIS GUY THE STARTING 5 or trade him and the waste of space Primoz Brezec for someone they feel is BETTER… though I am not sure they will find a more consistant center than Rasho at those prices.
Anthony Parker – this man has blossomed into a top level shooting guard over the course of the season with the following numbers:
<o:p>GP MIN/G PPG REB/G AST/G FG %
82 32.1 12.5 4.1 2.2 47.6</o:p>
Those numbers have him in the top 20 ranked shooting guards which is a vast improvement from last year. He is quick, has great vision and is usually able to provide decent outside defense. Tony needs to step up his perimeter defense and not be reluctant to take clutch shots.
Jose Calderon – What this team needs is to decide what to do with perhaps one of the top 4 or 5 young guards in the game.
<o:p>GP MIN/G PPG REB/G AST/G FG %
82 30.3 11.2 2.9 8.3 51.9</o:p>
He comes in at number 8 in point guards, well ahead of T.J. Ford who comes in at 46<sup>th</sup>. I am not sure why the discussion over which guard to start is even thrown about as Jose has clearly demonstrated his ability to lead this team and make this team a winning team. After he gave his “T.J. will lead this team” speech, the whole team started to look lost and aimless as they had no floor leader that was committed to working all the players into the game. That is vital in a point guard and why Chris Paul and Deron Williams can play at such a high level even in this playoff season. They don’t expect to win games alone. That is the secret Jose brings. He had a couple great games but focused on making the game easy for the rest of the team and he was rewarded by a spot on the bench… nice move guys… I hope he stays, but I am pretty sure he won’t put up with that level of disrespect much longer. Jason Kapono, Carlos Delfino, Kris Humphries, Jamario Moon, all of these guys seem to drift the last part of the season as they were ignored by Ford and the “me first” or “ I just want to win so bad” attitude he brought. Which brings me to…
Sam Mitchell – Former Coach of the year in the NBA, 2007.
I could go on and on about how many lousy decisions he made that cost the team W’s so I won’t but I do know that this team should have won more than 41 games and it’s not the talent that was lacking. Sam’s “I love T.J.” attitude took a 4th seeded team to a 6th seeded team only because the teams behind them – 76ers and the Hawks were under .500 % teams. Sam has no sense of what to do with a bench as loaded as his and he showed that nightly as his subs were usually poorly timed and poorly chosen. His overall inability to manage his bench which had pretty good depth this year was frustrating to say the least.
I could go on and on and about Sam, but that won’t do much good. The bottom line is this: 2007-08 was at best very disappointing over all for the team. We saw bright lights in Jamario Moon and Jose Calderon, and very inconsistent play from T.J. Ford which ultimately cost them a higher seeding and an early exit from the playoffs.
What this team needs is leadership from above to make some very tough decisions about the direction of this team. I am sure some team would love to have Ford, toss in Primoz, though I don’t think anyone wants him… maybe add Joey Graham who can’t possibly be happy sitting on a team starved of forward play and acquire a solid 15 and 10 Center who can give Chris some real help down low. The Bench is very solid, and Jose SHOULD be the starter or he will walk.
Just a few thoughts…. I will add more as the playoffs roll on…