Sunday, May 25, 2008

How do the Raptors improve?

As the NBA season draws to a close, I am watching these top-tier teams battle it out, and thinking to myself that the Raptors are nowhere close to playing at this level. As much as I love the players on the team we have right now, deep down I know that we need to replace some of these pieces in order to escape from the first round of playoffs next year.

So where are our deficiencies? 
  • Rebounding: Night after night, we got killed on the boards. Chris Bosh can only do so much (8.7 RPG), but after that there's a huge dropoff. 
  • Interior Scoring: Everybody wants to shoot the 3-ball! Nobody wants to take it to the basket, invite contact, post-up, get physical. Either a few players need to mix it up (ahem, Jamario, Andrea), or we need to bring these type of people in.
  • Defense: We're one step too slow on our rotations. Unable to contain the LeBrons and Kobes of the world. We're always allowing other teams to slash and cut. We can score easily enough, we just have a problem with stopping other teams from scoring.
Well, now that our problems are on the table, what are our options for remedying the situation? I think a few key players need to go:
  1. Anthony Parker: I'm a huge Anthony Parker fan, but I feel that he was one step slower in 2007-2008 compared to 2006-2007. That'll probably mean that he'll be another step slower come October. He is no longer a lock-down defender, and superior 2's and 3's ate us up because AP couldn't contain them. His infatuation with shooting 18-foot stop and pops during the first few seconds of a fast break absolutely infuriated me. His shooting in general was inconsistent. I don't believe his game has any room for improvement, and as much as I appreciate his contribution to turning the franchise around, I would much more appreciate his roster spot opened to make room for his upgrade.
  2. Carlos Delfino: So much promise, not enough delivery. He's a great defender, 3-point shooter, ball handler, he finishes well close to the basket -- but only once every 5 or 6 games. The rest of time, he seems to disappear into thin air. We can't have players on our team contributing some of the time. They need to bring it every night.
  3. TJ Ford: His heart, his desire to win, his mental toughness are unquestionable. His motives are what I call into question. TJ seems to be all about proving others wrong, instead of trying to be part of the team. He's been vocal in his desire to start, a rather selfish and silly request. After coming back from his injury after the all-star break, TJ was dribbling deep into the shot clock, and shooting more often than he should, leaving the other 4 players standing around unsure and dumbfounded. You want to start? Fine. But not for the Raptors, we already have a point guard. 
What, no Andrea Bargnani? No. We need to stop with our instant gratification ways, and start looking at the big picture. Bargnani is only 22 years old. He's allowed to be inconsistent, and he's allowed to be soft, as long as he's ready and willing to improve. I continue to hold out hope that he will become the matchup nightmare that Brian Colangelo envisioned he would become. 

I think that after losing to the Nets in '07, Raptor fans were happy with the team, and thought that we could stand pat and make another run. But after watching us get smoked by the Magic in '08, reality has set in. We need to get much better, and to do that, we need to replace some major pieces. Here's hoping for a big offseason of wheeling and dealing.

No comments: