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Just The Sports: Toronto Raptors Offseason Moves

Just The Sports

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Toronto Raptors Offseason Moves

The NBA almost forces teams to overpay for players because of the way their salary system is set up. The NBA does not force teams to sign the number of below-average players, but the teams do so anyway. In fact, general managers seem to approach offseason moves with the sort of reckless abandon that suggests they are simply throwing darts at players' faces to decide which players they will sign or trade for. I, myself, have written about what I think are questionable signings and trades (Chicago Bulls) and players that teams would do well to avoid (Jared Jeffries and Eddie House, but for today I want to focus on the Toronto Raptors, whose roster has changed dramatically since the season ended.

Toronto hired Bryan Colangelo to be their GM on February 28, 2006, and he has kept himself busy, ostensibly to show the Raptors fans that even if the Raptors will not be a good team, they will at least not be content with the status quo. The way things are setting up now, the 2006 roster will be a significant departure from the 2005 one. Gone are Mike James, Charlie Villanueva, Jalen Rose, Matt Bonner, Andre Barrett, Antonio Davis, Eric Williams, Rafael Araujo, Loren Woods, and Alvin Williams. Alvin Williams only played in one game for the Raptors, but the more names I put in the sentence, the more strength it had. In those players' places are T.J. Ford, Andrea Bargnani, Jorge Garbajosa, Kris Humphries, Rasho Nesterovic, Anthony Parker, Uros Slokar, and P.J. Tucker. The only carryovers are Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon, Joey Graham, Darrick Martin, Morris Peterson, and Pape Sow. Roster stability, a good indicator for a team's improvement from one season to the next, is nowhere to be found for the Raptors.

Nesterovic was acquired from the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Matt Bonner, Eric Williams, and a second-round draft pick in 2009. Nesterovic has bettered the league average defensive rating in all but his rookie season and taking into account, the Raptors were 28th in defensive efficiency last year, the trade makes sense on the surface. However, Nesterovic also had the privilege to spend his career playing alongside Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, two defensive stalwarts. This will be Nesterovic's first time playing with a power forward in Chris Bosh, whose increasing offensive scoring load has made him less concerned with his defense. Having a good defensive player is one thing, but effort must be made from everyone on the team for good defense to be played, especially since Nesterovic has never been asked to carry a heavy defensive load before. Rasho is no offensive threat and he is not very efficient at scoring the few points he does score.

The trading away of Charlie Villanueva for T.J. Ford was to eliminate the logjam at the forward position created by the drafting of Andrea Bargnani. Ford gives the Raptors a true point guard and hopefully, Colangelo who worked for the Phoenix Suns realizes Ford does not possess all the tools of a Steve Nash. Ford did get a high number of assists with the Milwaukee Bucks along with a high turnover rate. With only two seasons under his belt, there is a good chance he will get his turnover rate down and his assist rate back up. Ford also is a better rebounder than is Nash in terms of his rebound rate. What Ford cannot do as well as Nash is shoot, but Ford still has a chance to at least be league average in his offensive rating. If Bargnani ends up being a better player than Villanueva, then this will be a trade that ends up being more even than it looks although it is never a good idea to trade a forward for a point guard.

Signing Anthony Parker from the Euroleague is both a questionable transaction and a good one. It is questionable because Parker only appeared in 56 games in three NBA seasons and has not appeared stateside in a professional game since he was 24. He is 31 now. Since I did not want to rail against the signing without looking at how Parker has done in the Euroleague, I took a look at his stats and he has been a very good and efficient shooter. Now how that translates against NBA players remains to be seen, but Parker's shooting touch will be needed greatly by the Toronto Raptors.

By trading Rafael Araujo for Kris Humphries, the Raptors improved by getting rid of a player with no potential in Araujo for one who has a chance to at least be a serviceable player.

None of these moves is likely to make the Raptors a contender in the upcoming season though we can be certain Bryan Colangelo is at least amusing himself as general manager.


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