Posts Tagged ‘Hedo Turkoglu

Raptors PPG: Playoffs, we’re talking playoffs? Raptors go from tank to bank; What’s happened since the Raptors last made the post-season

- March 29th, 2014

So, the Raptors are in. Fittingly, Amir Johnson, exemplifying everything he brings to the table, was the one to supply the last push Friday against Boston. Amir and DeMar DeRozan have been suffering through down seasons together here longer than anyone else, the last remaining players from the end of the Chris Bosh era.

It’s been a long time coming, that’s for sure. A lot of bad basketball has been played since Bosh broke his face. It’s a new day. While nobody knows what the off-season will bring (a lot of change, or stability?) the tank is long-dead and thoughts about potential playoff opponents can now be voiced.

- Johnson’s been Toronto’s best overall player in the three seasons previous to this one and works harder and plays through more injuries than anybody on the team (though DeRozan is about his equal in both of those regards). That’s why it was nice to see him get the Raptors through.

- No question Kyle Lowry’s been the top Raptor this season (again, with apologies to DeRozan) and he showed what he’s all about as well in fighting off an ankle injury to make some decisive drives to the bucket that helped seal the win.

- DeRozan wasn’t about to let the pesky Celtics, who he’d already seen five times this season, including the two exhibition games, come back again. With his jumper shaky, DeRozan looked to repeatedly attack, getting five shots in the paint in both the third and fourth quarters. Now that he’s an all-star, DeRozan  is getting calls from the officials, which helps quite a bit, but it’s his mindset that is the key.

- Nice to see John Salmons find his game. To say he’s been struggling is a massive understatement. His game had completely vanished, but Dwane Casey kept the faith, even though using Landry Fields instead would have made a lot of sense, and Salmons responded by nailing his first two shots, picking up two assists, a couple of steals and no turnovers. He was also +15, tied for the team lead.

- A bonus thought: +/- is way down on the list of useful stats, but it’s a lot more relevant in basketball than it is in hockey, where power plays mess with the numbers. While it’s not a be all, end all, the eye test shows that Chuck Hayes has been excellent for the team lately. The +/- check shows Hayes has been +15 (tied for team lead), +3 (best of the reserves), +17 (2nd on team) and +16 (best on team) in his past four games. He’s supplied strong defence and helps move the ball around thanks to his surprisingly strong passing skills.

- Since Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu took out the Raptors in five games in the playoffs, Toronto witnessed (a lot more than this, but a few highlights/lowlights):

The ill-fated Jermaine O’Neal deal; The end of the Sam Mitchell era and the elevation of Jay Triano to head coach; Bryan Colangelo gifting  the Heat with the cap space to form the Big Three by dumping O’Neal for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks; The drafting of DeMar DeRozan; The Raptors “winning” the Turkoglu sweepstakes, only to almost immediately regret it once Turkoglu showed up to camp fat and unwilling to justify his payday; DeRozan starting 65 games as a rookie; the Jarrett Jack\Jose Calderon controversy at the point; A career year from Bosh, that ended prematurely when he got hurt and shut himself down in advance of his free agent flight to Miami; Bosh leaving, Bryan Colangelo ripping him, then saving some face by somehow dumping Turkoglu on the Suns (his former agent was in charge there); A disastrous season that ended with Triano out, Dwane Casey in and Jonas Valanciunas drafted in Colangelo’s ballsiest move, since he wouldn’t come over for a year and because Bargnani had soured nearly everyone in the city on European players; A lockout, followed by a shortened season where the Raptors were horrible to watch because the talent simply wasn’t there, but where Casey turned around the defensive culture and started turning around Toronto’s reputation as a soft team; The development of the youngsters and the drafting of Terrence Ross and Quincy Acy; Last season’s brutal start; The Kyle Lowry/Calderon and Lowry/Casey situations; Ross wins the slam dunk contest; The trade for Rudy Gay which sent Calderon elsewhere; The regression and booing of Bargnani; The arrival of Tim Leiweke and Masai Ujiri; The miraculous Bargnani trade that actually brought back draft picks; The tank talk; This season’s bad start and the Lowry trade rumours and questions about Casey’s future; The trade of Gay to Sacramento; The stunning turnaround of the team into a squad that wins two thirds of the time; Lowry’s all-NBA caliber campaign; DeRozan’s all-star nod; The return to the playoffs.

 

 

 

Raptors at Warriors Points Per Game: An epic disaster that might actually help franchise in the long run by forcing Masai Ujiri’s hand

- December 4th, 2013

Kobe’s 81 points; Isiah Thomas leaving the franchise after a failed coup, Damon Stoudamire following him not long after; Butch Carter, still the best coach in team history leaving after a failed coup; the Vince Carter trade; The Araujo selection; Giving fans Nets colours then losing in the playoffs despite being favoured; Turkoglu/Ball; Bargnani … the list is long, but add another entry to worst moments in franchise history when the low-light reel is played for the team’s 20th season.

How could Tuesday night happen? That’s a very good question. How do these things happen so often to the Raptors? Do other teams constantly go through them too? Is there any other NBA team where you know deep down, whether a fan of the team or someone who has covered it for a while, that no lead is safe, no matter how big? The Spurs are a polar opposite example, obviously, but when that franchise gets up big, you expect games to be closed. You never expect the Raptors to close. It helps when writing a game story, because you know you have to always have a backup option ready when covering this team, but it doesn’t do much for Toronto’s reputation.

Back on tangent: Tuesday’s epic failure could help this franchise in the long run. How?

(1) It’s clear this group lacks in leadership and winning experience. Good veteran leaders, with a winning history are some of the most crucial building  blocks in the NBA. We’ve seen it time and time again, you can have as much lottery talent as you like, without good vets, 98% of the time, you’ll accomplish nothing. This is a nice group, a talented group, but one that has no clue what to do in winning time.

(2) There’s no coming back from this for the coaching staff, so the elephant in the room, the lame duck status of Dwane Casey  will be resolved. And it can only be resolved one way now. “It’s hard to keep your head up,” said a stunned  Casey afterward. Dwane’s been around a long time. He surely knows his time in Toronto is running out, barring a miracle in the next couple of weeks – and how many miracles has this organization had on its side over the years? Starting the fourth, knowing Golden State was about to start throwing Mike Tyson haymakers, putting Steve Novak, the team’s worst defender on the floor was an odd gamble. Letting Kyle Lowry stay on the court despite getting his bell rung was a gamble. Even if he didn’t have a concussion, he didn’t look right. Julyan Stone did a decent job earlier and is a superb defender who forced Stephen Curry into a rare pull-up airball earlier in the game (Curry is the league’s best pull-up shooter). Then the team failed to load up at the three-point line, daring the Warriors the best three-point shooting team in NBA history, to beat Toronto by going to the rim. It wasn’t pretty.

(3) No more dithering. By waiting and “giving these guys a shot” President/GM Masai Ujiri thought he was being fair and also hedged, thinking players could raise their value/or come together and be a force in the East. Force in the East, even the awful, putrid, historically bad East is not going to happen. Sure this group still could make the playoffs, given half the conference is either not trying or totally discombobulated, but what’s the point. By hedging, Ujiri has seen DeMar DeRozan’s value rise significantly, seen Kyle Lowry’s stock likely rise, but also seen Rudy Gay’s value crater. He’s also made it tough for the team to be bad enough to sink to the bottom four by waiting to gut the roster. But now, only one course makes any sense. Move Lowry, become rudderless at the point and therefore, very bad and either sell high on DeRozan, or take expirings for Gay and open up cap space this summer. Anything else is futile. The DeRozan call is particularly tough. He’s now Toronto’s best player – though Gay could reclaim that spot by finding himself on offence. As good as DeRozan has been on offence – and he’s been good enough to be reasonably valuable on the open market, according to one source – he’s still a major liability defensively. Andrea Bargnani had to go because he killed the team on defence and wasn’t a huge help offensively. DeRozan isn’t Bargnani-bad on defence, not close really, but he’s still poor on that end. He is far better offensively though, so it’s a tough call. It depends on the return and just how deep you want a rebuild to go. In one scenario, if you keep DeRozan, you can become relevant pretty quickly as long as you move Gay for expirings and get a chance to draft Marcus Smart or Dante Exum. Even if you end up 8th or 9th and get Andrew Harrison, you might not have to do a complete rebuild. If you move DeRozan and don’t get a top 6 guy in the draft, you’re basically guaranteeing a long rebuild.

Here’s what I wrote before everything went to hell:

- Starts have been a major problem for the Raptors most games, but there were no issues on that front on Tuesday night in San Francisco. It might have been Toronto’s best start of the year, actually. A 14-5 edge on the boards, 66.7% shooting, did not allow the Warriors to hit a three … it was everything the team could have asked for to start a tough trip. It carried into the second quarter as the Raptors looked like the Warriors in the opening half, putting up 65 points.

- Close to home, Amir Johnson found his missing game and focus. He was a force in the second quarter, doing all the dirty work we’ve become so accustomed to. Johnson seemed to have some spring back and helped Toronto maintain the lead it built in the first quarter. It was his best performance of the season and a good sign for a club that desperately needs him.

- After a tough start to his Raptors career following a couple of injuries, Steve Novak appears to have found his form. Novak started 4-for-17 from three as a Raptor, but has shot 50% (8-for-16) since.

- The normally selfish Raptors were matching the Warriors in assists, dominating in bench points and crushing Golden State on the boards after three.

- You knew a Golden State run was coming in the fourth and boy did it ever come full bore at the Raptors. The defence that had been solid early sprung many leaks on the perimeter. The offence looked lost as Golden State increased the pressure significantly.

- Golden State was 4-for-18 from three (22.2%) before the fourth quarter explosion

- One good early sign was Toronto attacking Golden State inside early. You know Stephen Curry is going to light it up every night, so having Kyle Lowry post him up was solid coaching. Not only is Kyle stronger than Curry, meaning he could get easy buckets, he also is crafty enough to draw fouls on him down low. Was also impressed with Jonas Valanciunas getting Andrew Bogut, merely one of the NBA’s premier defenders, to bite on a pump fake, resulting in a big dunk. Still, as solid as he looked early, Valanciunas struggled later, getting pushed out of the post, leading to turnovers.

- Opponents had been dominating the Raptors in the paint over the three-game home losing streak. Knowing Klay Thompson is a great scorer, but a poor perimeter defender, DeMar DeRozan went right at him. When Andre Iguodala is playing, Golden State can make up for its backcourt’s defensive issues, when he’s not, things get dicey for them. And even though Curry can be beaten, he’s always a threat to steal the ball.

 

 

 

Monday musings

- October 18th, 2010

Let’s start with Canada Basketball, before moving on to the Raptors and the NBA in general.

- Leo Rautins is going to get a two-year extension today. A lot of fans might not be happy with the move, but the organization has shown a commitment to Leo and the Dalembert incident aside – he has done a passable job with the team. He got them into the World Championship when nobody thought they’d get there. Yes, they were pretty terrible once there, but they weren’t exactly running out an imposing roster. Let’s see what he can do with some talent, before we write him off.

The one problem with that line of thinking is I have heard chatter from a handful of people who happen to have the ears of some of Canada’s up-and-coming star-calibre prospects, and the word is some of them would prefer to play for a younger coach that they have more of a connection with. That would make developmental coach Greg Francis the guy in my eyes, but I’ve heard he might not be who they want to play for either. Who is? No idea.

I’m going to side with Canada basketball on this one. You can’t have the players running the show, no matter how talented and promising they are. Once they start calling the shots on any team, you’re done. Ask the Raptors how letting Carter or Bosh run things went.

Leo has improved as a coach over the years and he will have to get a lot better yet in order to last the next two years. He will be the guy that will try to get Canada into the 2012 London Olympics. It is possible, but more realistic is 2014 (worlds in Spain) and beyond. By that point, Canada, talent-wise, should be top 5 or 6 in the world. Right now we’re more like 15-25.

- As for the Raptors, still not feeling the Jose Calderon, Reggie Evans version of the starting lineup. I see the logic – Evans’ rebounding helps make up for Bargnani’s failings in that regard and Amir Johnson is rolling with the second unit, but I’d still rather see Johnson – who also plays great with Bargnani – starting.

The argument for Calderon is he isn’t doing terrible, he doesn’t turn the ball over and Jarrett Jack is running the bench brigade brilliantly. I understand that, but at this point, to me, Jack is a much better player than Calderon, particularly defensively and I think it is going to get ugly if Calderon is starting against guys like Paul, Williams, Rondo, Collison, Holiday, and on and on. He’s far more suited to guarding backup point guards.

- Time to admit I was wrong about Linas Kleiza. He is a much better player now than he was before heading over to Europe. I was judging him on his years in Denver. He’s not the same guy. Is it crazy to think Kleiza might be the team’s best player? I don’t think so. He can score in a variety of ways, hits the boards and competes hard, is a good passer and isn’t completely useless defensively.

- Still can’t believe Phoenix agreed to (A) Take Turkoglu and (B) send back Barbosa. Highway robbery. I feel bad for Steve Nash. By next year at the latest I expect him to be sent elsewhere. He will get extremely frustrated trying to carry Turkoglu on his back.

Raptors clean up mess, what now?

- July 12th, 2010

A week ago, things looked awfully bleak for the Toronto Raptors.

Chris Bosh was leaving, the team was in cap hell and didn’t even have its next non-lottery draft pick.

Well, give credit where it is due, much like Glen Grunwald used to clean up well after screwing up, Bryan Colangelo did very well Tuesday.

Hedo Turkoglu, Jose Calderon and Reggie Evans are out – and Tyson Chandler, Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa are heading to Toronto.

The Raptors clear a ton of salary off the books, Chandler is expiring, Diaw and Barbosa have two years left, Calderon and Turkoglu have three and four big money years still remaining.

They also appear to be doing what I have advocated basically forever. Move Andrea Bargnani to the power forward spot, where he is far more suited.

The Raptors will be young, exciting and … probably pretty bad. But at least they have their pick and Miami’s and the potential to either exceed the luxury tax and trade for another good player, or sign a good player either next summer or in the summer of 2012, when they might be flush with cash.

This team has some talent, but lacks the star power to do anything big. It might fight for 8th or it might win only 30 games. Either way, the flexibility is now there to add a much-needed star down the line.

It’s a start, and a decent one with more likely to come.

Raptors, Suns working on Turkoglu for Barbosa swap

- July 12th, 2010

Looks like Bryan Colangelo is pulling a Glen Grunwald and cleaning up one of his mistakes.

Grunwald made a habit of correcting his bad calls ie. Mark Jackson and a few others, with quality follow-up moves.

The Arizona Republic reported late Sunday night that the Raptors and Phoenix Suns were working on a deal that would send Turkoglu to Phoenix in exchange for guard Leandro Barbosa.

The Suns are also expected to swing a sign-and-trade deal with the Atlanta Hawks for swingman Josh Childress, who spent last season in Greece.

According to the Republic, Turkoglu is represented by player agent Lon Babby, a candidate to take over as GM in Phoenix for Steve Kerr.

Turkoglu, of course, was horrific as a Raptor, both on and off the court and the team will shed considerable salary if the deal gets done, which it will since it has gone too far not to.

Turkoglu has four years remaining on his contract ($9.8 million US, $10.6, $11.4, $12.0) while Barbosa has just two years left, for $7.1 and $7.6 million.

Barbosa give the Raptors another option at shooting guard, but is not much of a point guard. Expect Linas Kleiza and Sonny Weems to battle for Turkoglu’s starting small forward position, a fight that might be the best one at training camp in Vancouver this fall.

I believe Turkoglu backtracked on his get me out of here comments recently because Colangelo told him he would move him. Can’t really see how Turkoglu will work with Nash, who also needs the ball at all times, but he will really help the Suns when Nash is on the bench.

The trade gets the Raptors even further away from the luxury tax, so they can now take back a player making approximately $10-11 million without hitting the luxury tax.

Why would Sac want Turkoglu?

- June 8th, 2010

So the news of the day is Hedo Turkoglu wants to play in Sacramento again?

But why would the Kings want him. Is it his high character? His game-readiness? His commercial acting abilities?

It certainly can’t be for what he does on the court because Sacramento is one of the worst fits in the entire league for a guy with Hedo’s skillset. Sacramento revolves around rookie of the year Tyreke Evans who needs the ball in his hands to be at his best.

Guess what? So does Hedo. Hedo thrives in setting up teammates or in taking the ball to the hoop himself (at least he did pre-Toronto).

Turkoglu would take away the effectiveness of Evans, a rising star who lacks a jumper. Teams would contain the Kings by allowing Evans to shoot the ball if Turkoglu plays facilitator. The team also has Omri Casspi a three who played well as a rookie.

Even if Sacramento feels swapping the useless Andres Nocioni (who has gone from a steady, gritty veteran in Chicago to an afterthought, but has long been a Bryan Colangelo favourite) for Turkoglu makes sense (they would get more bang for their buck now, but would have to pay Turkoglu for two years longer than they would Nocioni) I think the lack of on-court fit prevents them from making this deal.

But that’s just my opinion. Maybe the Kings think Evans will learn to be a knock down jump shooter and maybe they think Turkoglu will make him better by taking pressure off of him? I don’t see it, but just in case, here’s an idea that would work salary-wise:

Turkoglu and Marcus Banks:

($14.6 million 2010/11, $10.6 million 2011/12, $11.4 2012/13, $12 2013/14)

for

Andres Nocioni and Francisco Garcia:

($12.35,                                     $12.45,                                  $6.1)

I’m not surprised that we’re hearing all kinds of rumours about Raptor players. The word is everybody but Andrea Bargnani is available and one of Jarrett Jack/Jose Calderon will definitely not be back next season.

For those that have asked. If I’m offered Mo Williams for Jose Calderon I do it because you save a year of salary and Williams is a better player. But … if I was running a team I wouldn’t want either as my starting point guard. Neither play a lick of D, Calderon doesn’t go hard to the hoop anymore, and Williams is too in love with his jumper and frighteningly, turns into a pumpkin once the playoffs start (perhaps that last point isn’t too much of a problem in Toronto).

But 90% of the time, trade rumours that get out are dead rumours. Usually rumours that were discussed but dismissed and will not be revived are leaked for a variety of reasons.

Grading the Raptors

- April 15th, 2010

It’s time to take a look at the season that was for the Raptors and hand out a report card.

Andrea Bargnani- C: Looked great some nights, listless on others. It has become clear the team cannot win with him at centre. For all the good he does as a mismatch offensively, he gives it all back by not doing the things a traditional centre does, ie. rebound, seal the middle, discourage penetration.

Rasho Nesterovic – Incomplete: Steady veteran has lost a step, but it is my opinion he wasn’t used often enough.

Patrick O’Bryant – Incomplete: Saw almost no time. Won’t be back.

Chris Bosh – B-: Came out like a first team All-NBA player. Was not the same guy during the second half. For whatever reasons – injuries, the dreaded outside distractions, perhaps the idea he didn’t want to risk his huge coming payday, Bosh did not lead the team and perform the way he is capable throughout the entire season. A+ for first two months, C for next two, D for the final two.

Amir Johnson- A: He was a revelation. One of the few players on the roster who came to work every night and attacked the glass and intimidated with a fervour. Must cut down on fouls, but proved himself as a solid rotation big. Not a starter on a good team, most likely, but a great third big in any rotation. Should be brought back, but not at all costs. Four years, $16 million would be a fair offer.

Reggie Evans- C-: Missed most of the year, then team went into a tailspin when he finally came back. Not his fault, of course, but club was better with Johnson taking his minutes.
Very limited player. Posting him up, as the Raps sometimes did, was simply put, moronic. Could be trade fodder with his expiring contract, or could be brought back to fill out the big man rotation, especially if Bosh leaves and a big doesn’t come back the other way.

Hedo Turkoglu- D: Only decent finished saved him from an F. He didn’t produce. Didn’t play hard, didn’t contribute enough, whined about not getting the ball enough (even though he really should have had it in his hands more). Just a dismal failure all around in year 1, but I don’t buy into the conclusion that this is the worst contract on the team. With a full training camp and a much bigger role offensively, he can still provide some value to the club.

Sonny Weems- A: The other big revelation. Weems was a throw-in who almost got released because he had an unguaranteed contract. Instead, he bided his time until getting his chance. Weems displayed a smooth jumper, top-shelf athleticism and a hunger to earn his keep. Jamario Moon did similar things here than turned back into a pumpkin. Will be interesting to see what Weems, likely with a bigger role, does next season.
Should the Raptors draft a swingman, it is also possible they use Weems as a sweetener in a deal that dumps a bad contract like Jose Calderon’s. Though a move like that could cause the long-suffering fans to riot.

DeMar DeRozan – C: Like most rookies, had a bumpy ride filled with peaks and valleys but showed more positives than negatives. Upside is unclear, but definitely appears to be a rotation NBA player. Great athleticism, must improve jumper and range.

Antoine Wright- C+: A hard worker and straight shooter. Got too involved in the offence considering he is a terrible offensive player, but stepped up as a defender on many occassions. Probably won’t be back with Weems and DeRozan needing more minutes, but did his job.

Marco Belinelli- D+: Far too inconsistent. Struggled to get minutes. Defence was an afterthought. Everybody expected more.

Jarrett Jack- B: One of the more solid Raptors. Played hard at both ends. Showed decent leadership and grit. Didn’t complain about minutes. Defence wasn’t as good as advertised, but his offence was a bit better than expected. Team needs to trade Calderon and cement Jack as the starter, plus get him a solid backup in the Kyle Lowry mold.

Jose Calderon- D: Could not guard anybody and took a step back offensively. His time in Toronto is about up, if anybody will take his ghastly contract. His shooting went South though his passing seemed to actually improve. Pounds the ball too much. Team would be much better with an offence that spreads it around more at a quick pace. Calderon isn’t the guy for that.

Marcus Banks- C: Didn’t get a lot of chances. I think he should have been given more time at Calderon’s expense, but played hard and well when called upon.
Provided a lot more than expected when he did get into games. Could be brought back for depth or like Evans, peddled as an expiring contract.

Jay Triano- D: The fact that the stats show this is one of the 20 worst defensive teams of all-time says it all. Does most things better than Sam Mitchell, but one key thing Mitchell did well – getting the team to show up and play hard every night – was glaringly absent under Triano.
An excellent assistant coach and X’s and O’s guy like former Raptor assistant Brian James, Triano’s body of work indicates he isn’t the guy to lead this team into the future.
In a league where men who act like boys want to be treated like men by somebody they respect, Triano just doesn’t have the background/authority/demeanour to gain that cachet.
May have been an assistant here for too long and players couldn’t adapt to treating him like a head coach.

Bryan Colangelo- D+: His moves looked great on paper. Nobody could have expected Turkoglu would play like such a dud or that Calderon would become a complete liability. But, pampering Turkoglu was clearly the wrong move and trying to reinvent the wheel might be way too ballsy a play by Colangelo.
Specifically, NBA history isn’t exactly littered with examples of contending teams who didn’t play any defence and didn’t have a traditional centre anchoring the middle.
The pieces just don’t fit and two keys to success are missing:

The good teams today have a dynamic swingman (some have two) that is an absolute must and the Raptors haven’t had that since Vince Carter. Failing to get that for the Raptors (Turkoglu in the past was good, but by no means a dynamite athlete or 20 point scorer every night) has really hurt this team.
Getting John Salmons to join the team (which basically happened before Salmons embarassed himself) would have gone a long way a few years ago, but Colangelo never recovered with a suitable replacement.

Mistake No. 2 was relying on the Bosh/Bargnani frontcourt. The other thing really good NBA teams have is an intimidator down low. Someone who discourages opponents from entering the lane and who dominate on the boards. Even a soft team, like the Raptors, can do OK if it has a great defensive big man or two. It doesn’t even have to be Dwight Howard or Tim Duncan-calibre player. An Anderson Varejao, Kendrick Perkins or Brendan Haywood would have been enough.