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Posts Tagged ‘Toronto Raptors

The Raptors loaded up on mildly intriguing prospects and let the odds play in their favor

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Pascal Siakam’s improved play for the Raptors this year is a game changer going forward. At 16.8 pts, 6.9 rebs, 3.1 ast on .625 TS% he has played near all-star level and the best part is the room to get better. He only averages 32.2 minutes and has yet to add the midrange game to his arsenal with only 40 attempts from 10-16 feet and 15 attempts from 16-23 feet this season. At 67 for 188 from 3 (35.6%) he’s also just emerging as a 3pt shooter. It’s easy to see how with more minutes, a willingness to take the midrange shot to keep the defense honest and improving his 3pt stroke how he could make the leap to 20 points per game, especially if the team lost Kawhi Leonard. His elite mobility is also ideal defensively for a power forward for this era and it’s unclear if he’s reached his upside in that area yet. At best Siakam could be the combination of spacing and defense every team wants from a power forward right now while also scoring at an all-star level.

Surely even the Raptors would tell you he didn’t expect to land a potential all-star with the 27th pick. But they didn’t get here by luck either. The last few years the Raptors roster could be divided into established veterans like Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan, C.J. Miles, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas and two seasons ago DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph, and rookie scale prospects making up the “bench mob” in Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, Norman Powell, O.G. Anunoby, Bruno Caboclo, Jakob Poeltl, Bebe Nogueira, along with Siakam. Traditional over 50 win teams with finals aspirations rely on veterans for the bottom half of the roster, but Masai Ujiri put his trust entirely on prospects. This acted as a farm system for the veterans who would one day need to be replaced for luxury tax reasons. When they had to trade Cory Joseph’s contract, their backup PG play only improved with the VanVleet and Wright combination. Likewise they had no drop-off when dumping Carroll for rookie Anunoby. If Poeltl had stayed he would have one day replaced Valanciunas.

The outcomes of these prospects however has been as unpredictable as usual. Caboclo never became the player Masai Ujiri envisioned while in Toronto and is only now showing signs in Memphis, and Nogueira is back in Europe. Powell flashed signs of greatness, but his shooting regressed and now his 4 years, 44 million extension is a negative value contract. Wright who is a month from his 27th birthday is running out of time to be more than a solid bench guard. VanVleet has emerged as a huge part of the Raptors playoff chances but has been banged up so much for his generous six feet that he may be best sticking to a sub 30 minute role in his career. Poeltl and Anunoby are too young to judge yet, but Poeltl’s production has fallen behind the big picked after him Domantas Sabonis and Anunoby is working his way through a sophomore slump. In this context it’s not that the Raptors talent evaluation is perfect, it’s that they gave themselves so many shots with the hope one or two went in, which is precisely what happened with the success of Siakam and VanVleet. None of these prospects had the statistical odds of becoming an all-star that a top 5 pick does, but the combined odds of one breaking out were much friendlier.

With that said, filling half a team with credible mid to lower level prospects is easier said than done. In some ways Ujiri repeatedly hitting these singles and doubles in the draft took more skill than just taking one home run lottery pick. Another key move for Ujiri is putting Poeltl in the Kawhi trade instead of Siakam. While moving Ibaka to center made it logical to trade him, Poeltl was the younger prospect with top ten pick pedigree making it a harder decision. If they had believed Poeltl was the potential all-star instead of Siakam he would likely be the one still on the team.

Having a young all-star talent not only makes the Raptors more appealing to Kawhi than just playing with an aging Lowry, but it gives them a future if he leaves. Without Kawhi, if they keep everyone the hope would be Siakam becomes the new Kawhi and a prospect like Anunoby becomes the new Siakam. While Siakam’s improvement was near impossible to predict, by loading up on credible mid level prospects they were able to turn probability to their side as they only needed the best of the group to come out as a gem.

Written by jr.

March 26, 2019 at 12:42 pm

Why Steve Novak may be more talented than Andrea Bargnani

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English: Basketball player Steve Novak during ...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the Knicks traded for Andrea Bargnani, clearly they anticipated an upgrade, or the chance at one. Bargnani is both much more expensive than Novak and it cost New York a 1st and two 2nds to make the swap, thus by logic they prefer Bargnani.

Regardless of how they feel about Novak’s production the last 2 seasons vs a standard Bargnani year, it seems obvious they prefer Andrea’s talent. Bargnani is a former #1 pick and is more physically gifted, thanks to both a 7’1 height in shoes and greater athleticism.

However I’ve made the point repeatedly on this blog, that treating physical tools as the near end all of talent is dangerous. What Novak lacks physically compared to Bargnani, he may make up elsewhere:

First consider that Novak is a better pure shooter than Bargnani. Aside from his career 43.3% 3P to Bargnani’s 36.1%, Novak has a career FT% of 88.6% to Bargnani’s 82.5%. Novak shoots free throws at a rate reserved for the NBA’s shooting greats. In addition to this, Novak had an incredible shooting career at Marquette, hitting 46.1% from 3 and 93.1% from the FT line over 4 years. While Novak has only taken 105 free throws in his entire NBA career putting his FT% in small sample size dispute, that he took 261 FTAs in college at an even better rate, helps confirm his ability. The evidence suggests that for pure shooting, Novak is among the best of the best along with NBA players like Steve Nash, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, etc. Whereas Bargnani is an above average shooter for a big man, but not as freakishly gifted at it.

However the biggest difference may be in mental talent. Bargnani has awareness issues, the root of falling behind so often in help defense. Even on offense, Bargnani has never struck me as a natural or fluid basketball player. He’s not a player who surveys plays or feels his opponents out. Very few of his plays could be described as crafty. Bargnani to me, has a similar affliction that athletes like Javale McGee and Anthony Randolph do. Despite obvious talents they do not read the game well. Chris Kaman is another big man who has standout skills with size and mobility, but can’t pick up plays fast enough in a read and react dominated game. What separates Brook Lopez and Chris Kaman has everything to do with this feel and instincts.

Novak on the other hand, knows positioning, recognizes space when shooting and in the few times he needs to move shows a degree of smoothness and fluidity. Overall I would argue Novak has a better feel for the game than Bargnani does.

That’s not to say Novak is for sure more talented than Bargnani. Bargnani’s athleticism does give him more versatility attacking the basket or creating midrange jumpers off the dribble. Bargnani’s height and strength allows him to defend the post more than Novak. While defensively he may lose plays mentally more than Novak, if he’s in the area his physical tools allow him to contest shots better. It’s hard to pin down just how much value Bargnani’s physical talents could have, if it’s accepted he’s an enigma who doesn’t use all of it.

Nevertheless, to me calling Steve Novak more talented than Andrea Bargnani is perfectly reasonable. For while Bargnani may have the edge in physical gifts, I see Novak’s special talent as a shooter and his feel potentially making up the difference.

Written by jr.

October 9, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Predicting a trade: Amar’e Stoudemire to the Raptors

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Amar’e (Photo credit: SportsAngle.com)

Last summer I predicted the Raptors would trade for Rudy Gay, based on Bryan Colangelo’s history – favoring highly priced, big name players who fills the latest “biggest hole”, which at the time was wing offense. I had the trade right, but the timing wrong – Gay ended up in Toronto at the trade deadline, not before the draft.

This post is the sequel. I’m predicting Toronto trades for the biggest, baddest (not in a good way) contract in the league, Amar’e Stoudemire’s. Here’s why

– Toronto can construct a deal with little financial hit or burden to them. Dealing Andrea Bargnani, Landry Fields and Aaron Gray for Amar’e, adds 2.0 million in salary this season and 5.65 million in 2014-2015, both likely inconsequential to a free spender like Colangelo. Replacing Fields with Kleiza in that deal, makes their salary increase in 2013-2014 3.6 million and in 2014-2015 11.9 million – a bigger hit, but easily believable with Colangelo’s history, especially if ownership is willing to pay the luxury tax.

Because Bargnani and Fields are so unproductive for the Raptors, they do not take much risk on in that deal at all. If the worst case scenario happens for Stoudemire’s production, by the season after next, he’s a huge expiring contract which gives them flexibility at the deadline or in the summer. The long term damage of trading for Stoudemire if it doesn’t work out is NBD. Also since Bargnani and Fields’ contracts are such embarrassing mistakes for Colangelo, managing to dump them both will appeal to his PR side.

– As I mentioned, a signature of the Colangelo era is plugging the biggest hole from the season before, in as much a “big media splash” way as possible. The team lacks offense from the frontcourt right now, which makes Amar’e fit like a glove. Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas compliment him, as energy rebounders who have the effort to cover his lapses defensively. With Kyle Lowry, Demar Derozan, Rudy Gay, Terrence Ross as perimeter offensive players next to that frontcourt, the Raptors easily have the talent and look of a playoff team in the East if they stay healthy – they’re already expecting to compete for the playoffs next year, by adding Amar’e even if he only plays 50 or 60 Gs, Colangelo may see the Raptors ending their playoff drought next year a foregone conclusion, with the biggest question as whether they’ll finish top 6. After missing 5 straight years, if Colangelo is extended for another season it’ll be by promising a playoff season next year. Without capspace or a draft pick, making a big Amar’e move will be one of his biggest options to try and have a booming season. The key to figuring out how interested Bryan Colangelo will be in a deal, is to ask “What is the best case scenario for this trade – if I just ignored the possibility of it failing?” The best case scenario for this roster is very very high. It’d presume Amar’e stays healthy and plays like an all-star, Gay breaks out to an all-star caliber season, Lowry plays like a top 10-15 PG, Derozan takes another leap as a scorer with the pressure taken off him efficiency wise, Amir has even better year statistically, Valanciunas and Ross both make leaps forward and prove to be blue chip young players. If all that happened the Raptors would be looking at a top 5 or 6 team in the East. With a strategy defined by ignoring the downside and presuming “I can get out of a mistake if I screw it up”, this should appeal to Colangelo.

I consider a straight up trade of Amar’e for Bargnani, Fields and Gray to be a near no-brainer for the Raptors, considering the lack of financial risk or assets given up, for a high upside acquisition in Stoudemire. The better question is whether the Knicks will ask for the pot to be sweetened. They would dump Amar’e to get more cap friendly and healthier players. With Bargnani’s injury history and his and Fields’ contract, that doesn’t do much for them. With Melo and Steve Novak, finding more stretch 4 play isn’t a pressing need for them. Fields played well in New York, but there’s a reason they didn’t match his offer sheet at that price.

My take: More would have to be given from the Raptors. Here’s the deal I predict:

Toronto gets:
Amar’e Stoudemire

New York gets:
Andrea Bargnani
Landry Fields
Aaron Gray
TOR 2014 1st (lottery protected, until 5-6 years from now when it becomes unprotected)

Toronto gives up a real asset in a future 1st round pick, even if it’s lottery protected. The logic by the bullish Colangelo may be that he projects the pick to be outside of top 18 based on the quality of the new roster, thus a pick he’s willing to give up value wise. By rolling out Lowry, Derozan, Ross, Gay, Amar’e, Amir, Valanciunas, Colangelo does his best to make a big enough splash, to get the Raptors to a top 8 seed next year with an upside higher than that. He gets to sell the team is the most talented the Raptors franchise has seen and has the upside to win now and then progress up the East. As the league’s signature hype man, it fits his profile.

New York gets value back for Amar’e via that pick, as well as fills out their bench with two players in Fields and Bargnani, hoping the latter breaks out with a fresh start. They move on from the injury history of Amar’e and the eventual problems that would come from playing him as 6th man and they clear a little money in 2014-2015. For a guy that most agree has the worst contract in the whole league, this is as fair value as they can expect.

Written by jr.

March 20, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Basketball

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Stats Tuesday – The future of Demar Derozan and the possessions game catching up to young players

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DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors {| class=...As a Raptors fan, I’ve been asking myself “What to do with a problem like Demar Derozan” Sound of Music style

By the old way of judging players, Derozan scoring 17.2 points and 16.7 points a game in the 2nd and 3rd seasons would seem evidence he’s a player to build around in a starting lineup. It’s not easy to get 16 point a game+ scorers.

Advanced stats say otherwise. A .530 TS% and .503 TS% the last two years and little other impact on the game but scoring, bring him to a PER of 14.4 and 12.8, the former below average and the latter awful.

The boogieman for Derozan’s career going forward is possessions. Using the equation of FGA+0.44*FTA+TOV to measure scoring possessions, he averaged 18.0 and 18.6 possessions a game. This is a lot. To use a comparison, last year Paul Pierce used 19.9, Joe Johnson used 18.8 last year, Danny Granger used 19.1. So Derozan’s 18.6 possessions a game last year is fairly close to star wings’.

The problem for Derozan is the only reason he’s getting these possessions at his current caliber of play is the poor quality of his team’s offensive options. He does not have the talent to be a top scoring option on an elite team, based on what he’s shown so far. The way we know this is the players who do have “top scoring option on a great team” talent, if given the keys on a bad team, will typically produce at a much higher volume than Derozan did last year. Granger in 2008-2009 averaged 25.8ppg, then 24.1ppg in 2009-2010. Joe Johnson averaged 25.0ppg in 2006-2007. By comparison’s Derozan’s 17.2 and 16.7ppg seasons are fairly meek, especially at a poor efficiency.

In basically any situation, a score first player is going to get less possessions on a talented team than on a poor one. This seems inherently obvious – The star offensive player has to carry the team with less help. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

September 25, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Predicting a trade: Rudy Gay to the Raptors

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Rudy Gay watches the Drew League vs Goodman Le...

Rudy Gay watches the Drew League vs Goodman League game. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve cheered for a sports team who’s had the same general manager for a long time, you can usually sniff out exactly what types of moves fit his style or not. I’ve cheered for Toronto for some time and have followed the Bryan Colangelo era since his hiring in 2006 and I feel I understand the way this man operates, for better or worse. It is for that reason that I am expecting Rudy Gay to be on the team by the end of June. While I am a speculative person in general about NBA team’s future moves, this trade crosses a threshold to me where the more I look at it, the more I become assured that it will in fact happen. There are two trades for Toronto in the Colangelo era I sniffed out and prepared myself for months before they happened – one was a minor trade of Jason Kapono for Reggie Evans, at a time when Toronto had many shooters but no rebounders and Philadelphia had many rebounders but no shooters and both players had the same contract, making it a swap so logical that it had to happen. The other deal that seemed inherently obvious was  Jermaine O’Neal being traded for Shawn Marion’s expiring contract, allowing the team to attempt a final hail mary in the Chris Bosh era (that ended up being Hedo Turkoglu’s dreadful contract). I feel nearly as strongly about a predction that Rudy Gay will be a member of the team by the end of this month.

My proposed trade is that Memphis will deal Rudy Gay and Toronto will trade back the 8th overall pick, Linas Kleiza, and depending on the negotation, possibly Ed Davis. Toronto can make this trade on draft day because after dealing Leandro Barbosa’s contract to Indiana, they now have just enough capspace to legally exchange the difference between Gay and Kleiza. Colangelo literally stated after the deal that giving himself this flexibility to deal before July 1st in uneven financial terms  made him “giddy”.

First, this is an exceedingly good trade for the Memphis Grizzlies. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

June 3, 2012 at 4:06 pm

NBA Fan Q&A: Toronto Raptors

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From now on after a ranking of players on the NBA Franchise Power Rankings, I will post quotes from the fans – taken from RealGM.com, most of the time. With the Raptors ranking at #22 here,  I debute a roundup of their answers to 6 of my questions from fans of the team:

Q: Do you believe extending Bryan Colangelo was a good idea, and why?

J-Roc: No, GM’s are a dime a dozen and he blew his change here.

J Dilla: No. Handed out rich contracts to crappy players. Promoted and extended Jay Triano. Gave away Bosh for nothing when he could’ve had a young asset in Michael Beasley. Has a flawed vision of building an NBA basketball team.

pass first: Great decision. BC is the man. I like his track record despite what other people say.

witnessraps: Extending Bryan Colangelo was absolutely a good decision. The guy is a proven winner and has a great track record of drafting, and the 2012 draft is where we plan to make noise. People need to understand that things don’t always work out on the first try, he now has another chance to build this team into a contender and I like where we are right now.

Silk Wilkes: Yes. The options out there were limited and a 2-year contract gives him a short period of time to prove himself. It’s a now or never deal. However, if he fails and they extend him again I would be scratching my head.

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Written by jr.

October 22, 2011 at 2:10 pm

NBA Mock Draft Version 2.5 – With pre draft grades and comparisons

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Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving looks like the 1st overall pick (Image by Chamber of Fear via Flickr)

This will be my final mock draft unless a game changing trade occurs. The picks are based on what I have heard through the usual suspects on the internet – Chad Ford (ESPN.com), Jonathan Givony (Draftexpress.com), Ryan Feldman (thehoopsreport.com), Ken Berger (CBS.com), Adrian Wojnarowski (Yahoo.com) with a big scoop of my own instincts. Truthfully they did most of the leg work for the actual order. I added grades for each pick and comparisons. Consider that my contribution. Here is the Mock Draft 2.0:

EDIT – Why  not. Here’s the Mock Draft 2.5, edited the morning before the draft with all the latest information. For optimal accuracy.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers – PG Kyrie Irving

There’s been talk lately of Cleveland switching to Derrick Williams #1 to pair him with Brandon Knight, perhaps a better pair together than Irving and a non PG at 4. The problem I see with that is the chance Knight doesn’t make it to #4 with Utah’s interest in him at #3. I say they take Irving.

My Grade: A. The correct choice, Irving is not only one of the best bets for all-star production in the draft, but gives the Cavaliers a badly needed leader for the post Lebron era. No need to overthink it, take Irving.

NBA Comparison: Mark Price

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Examining Steve Nash trade possibilities and the oversaturated PG market

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Steve Nash 00054121

Image via Wikipedia

The Phoenix Suns need to trade Steve Nash this summer. At age 37 he has about one more year at this level and is an unrestricted free agent after the 11-12 season. Thus his is the last chance for the Suns to get value in return for their star. Virtually the only reason to keep him is ticket sales, which may be why Robert Sarver keeps him. But the Suns desperately need to take this oppurtunity to add young trade assets and start rebuilding. The longer they wait, the bigger the hole they create to climb out of.

Unfortunately for Phoenix, this is the worst possible trade market for Nash. With his age only teams looking to win a title now will be interested. But contenders like Boston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Chicago have PGs in place like Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, and Derrick Rose and won’t be interested. The win now teams where Nash fills a need like Dallas, Miami, the LA Lakers and Orlando have minimal trade assets. The lack of buyers for a PG Nash’s age and the lack of quality offers available on good teams diminishes Nash’s likely return. We are in the PG era.

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