Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Gruntbag Theft

I'll shorten the lede, here: Stealing questions from Doug Smith's mailbag, not looking at his answers (because it's New Years and I don't need any more nausea) and answering them by my own, bitter, self:

Q: Hey Doug: Since there were a number of questions/comments about HWSNBN, I thought I'd ask another.

First, on a scale of 1 to 10, how good was he compared to how good he might have been?

Second, what (in your opinion) held him back from reaching his full potential?

Here's wishing you, Super Family and all of the Irregulars a prosperous and blog/mailbag-filled 2012!

Tim H, Windsor

Hi, Tim. Sorry, I guess I don't follow this blog enough to know the street lingo but I assume "he who shall not be named" is Vince Carter? And not, say, BJ Armstrong? I don't like your scale, Tim, so I'll use the BitterRaptorFan Scale of Truth and Light™which spans from 17 to 34 with 26 being somewhere in the middle and say... 28. I don't know. Vince was incredible for about two seasons worth of basketball. Then oscillated between an average and slightly above average player for the next 10. I have trouble with the concept of player "potential" unless you're talking about a catastrophic injury like Penny, Grant Hill or  Antonio McDyess. Yes, Vince got hurt some in the early aughts, but I think mostly he lost conditioning and a fearlessness to run into traffic. The history of pogo-sticking shooting guards is fraught with disappointment, often forgotten because of the eclipsing shadow of Jordan (and, I suppose to a lesser extent, Kobe Bryant). 

I'm comfortable saying Vince Carter (if he retired tomorrow, which would be nice) was about as good of an NBA player as Mitch Richmond? Is that helpful? I think Richmond had cooler shoes, though.

Q: Doug, I hope you continue to enjoy the holiday season. Can you please comment on why DeMar is considered a shooting guard and not a small forward? I think the Raptors best lineup might include Leandro and DeMar playing at the same time, with DeMar moving to the 3. I think he has the height to play the 3.

Thanks, Happy Holidays,

Chris F, Ottawa

Frankly, my dear Chris F., I don't think it matters. With a team constructed mostly of feces, strict position delineation is a red herring for fundamental roster issues. That said, I think that in a classic  half court offensive set, you want DeMar at the top of the key, able to attack the basket, have defenders collapse and try to get him fouled. While I'd normally scoff at the suggestion that anyone's best lineup includes Barbossa, unless James Johnson uses the butter on his fingers to dress popcorn, I just can't rebut. Am I starting to miss Julian Wright? No, no, it's all sample size.

Q: Doug. I know 2 games in but...._Which squad do you think can produce more wins this year's Raps with new coach Casey or last year's starting line up with Jay? Forever a Raps optimist I think they will win more games playing hard D and winning ugly than trying to outscore opponents "looking good" which style do you prefer watching? The Suns or Celtics (in their prime)

M C, Winnipeg

Really good basketball teams are fun to watch no matter what style they play. I'm too young to have watched Larry Bird anywhere but on NBA Hardwood Classics but I remember enjoying those first few years of Nash's return to Phoenix. Not just the running and the gunning but the grab-who-you-can boxing out and rebounding by committee. Check out Shawn Marion's rebounding numbers for those few years. 

I'm going to dismiss, M C, your implication that any significant performance changes between last year's team and this year's will be due to coaching and say that I expect the Raptors to have a poorer winning percentage this year. Despite the scheduling gift of refraining West teams from beating up on the East, I believe that the Raptors got unexpected averageness from small forwards last year, a hard-to-match rookie campaign from Ed Davis, good health for all important players and some gifted wins eked out by ferocious rebounding by dudes like Reggie Evans and Joey Dorsey. Also, I expect Andrea Bargnani to play even more minutes this year. But, as the name suggests, I'm often a pessimist. Maybe everything works out: 23-43!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Q: Thanks for all the effort you put into this. I follow your blog religiously and appreciate your mostly unbiased reporting. Hopefully the Star recognized you at Christmas with more than an “Attaboy but do better next year”.

First a list. Who would you rank as the top 5 free agents signed by the Rap’s. I think we forget that a few years ago the Raptors seemed to be a destination free agents would seriously consider.

Second: Which group of Raptors would you say were the best rebounding team?

Third , in the Indiana game I would have had “the Blur” out there for the last 2 minutes instead of James Johnson. Is he a defensive liability ? Thanks

Mike S, Calgary

Mike S., you're going to make me think on New Years? For shame, you rapscallion Calgarian. 
I assume we're talking about new-to-the-team free agents? #1 is obviously Jose Calderon. It gets hazy after that. I suppose Anthony Parker is #2 and then a bunch of nose-twitchers. Honestly, Hedo might be #3. I'm blanking about who else came to the team as a FA (besides Kapono and Hakeem) and I don't want to do any research so I yield this answer back to Doug.

(I peeked... Tracy Murray and Dell Curry are fine by me. Shrug to Garbo)

Best rebounding is a quantifiable question but I'm guessing it's the 00'-01' playoff series-winning team. 

Yes, Leandro = bad on defence. Bad, bad, bad. 

Q: Hey Doug, happy holidays! Do crappy shooters who have made it to the NBA ever remake their shooting technique after they have spent a couple of years playing professionally?

Good luck with the schedule.

Kim A, Toronto

Yes. Lots. Michael Jordan. Magic Johnson could hit 3s by the end of the 80s. Some stay crappy forever. Do you remember Jamal Mashburn's ugly, ugly shot? No? It was ugly, trust me.

My question is: Do you see any expendable veteran-like role-player on our team that a contender might want to "get them over the hump"? Something we could turn into more young potential or draft picks? (I'm thinking possibly AJohnson or Kleiza or Barbosa or even Calderon) Any of the top tier teams have a need for one of those guys in your opinion?


David W, Toronto

Yes! Andrea Bargnani! You hear that, contenders? Trade for him! Bryan Colangelo is waiting by the phone! Call now! Don't delay! Raps will chip in Leafs tickets and pay shipping and handling!

Q: Hey Doug, say for a second the Raps wanted to get serious about this season, could they still sign Andrei Kirilenko if they wanted to, without having to make too many moves to squeeze him in? Even if it was just for this year, so they still have their precious cap space for next year to sign more bench players?

Shawn L, Bowmanville

Good question, Shawny. I actually have no idea what's up with Kirilenko. He's playing pro in Russia, I think. Maybe he knocked up a Russian lass in his annual freebie and is paying off the debt. He's only 30 which means he probably has four more years of productive basketball in him but he hasn't been able to stay healthy the last few and he no longer blocks shots like a centre. For the future, I'd be okay signing him in the mid-level range for a few years but I'd bet a contending team would match that offer. But, no, Shawn, the Raptors should not pay anyone any more money to play for them this year. 

Q: Doug. Can you give us a brief run-down of what to expect from a few of the more intriguing players / players with most upside on the Raps in 2012? Ed Davis, James Johnson and DeMar?

Is Ed the real deal? Where will he be in a season or two? Will he ever be a 20 / 10 guy?

Is James Johnson a keeper? Where does he fit in the longer term plans?

What is DeMar's ceiling realistically? Can he be a 25 / 6 guy?

Eric B, Toronto

With the disclaimer that point and rebound totals are stupid ways to rate players, Ed Davis had an incredibly promising rookie season that took me by surprise. He's an excellent rebounder who goes above the rim to grab boards. I prefer "grounded" rebounders in the Rodman/Wallace/Evans mould as I believe those type of players can thrive into the latter stages of their careers. But Davis can also keep his cover in front of him, recover from help defence, take Jose's alley-oops and seems to be developing a decent close-to-the-basket offensive repertoire. I can't predict the future but I'm in on Ed. He's getting the 10 rebounds in starter's minutes anyways. Could he be the leading scorer on a good team? I think so, if he was continually fed the ball inside or on the break (with possessions taken away from Bargnani). 

James Johnson is a decent rebounder and defender but his affinity for chucking keeps him at just higher than replacement-level player but, unfortunately, right now he's playing ahead of below replacement players like Rasual Butler and Gary Forbes.

Q: Doug: A question for seamheads.

Why don't you see more MLB batters who are being intentionally walked, swing at the first 2 pitches? Even though the ball is being lobbed to a catcher standing 10 feet from the plate, it would call for 2 more pitches that could ultimately, be thrown in the dirt, allowing a run to score, or at least help build up bad muscle memory. Thanks as always.

Ken B, Matheson

A baseball question? Fun! zgall1 is ringing in the new year in sunny Mexico so I'll have to handle this myself. Ken, they totally should. Not for muscle memory but to wear out pitchers and potentially lead a ball past the catcher. The only reason they don't is that the secret code of baseball manliness would dicate that swinging at IWs is punishable by fastballs to the skull. 

Q: Doug, what are the odds we might see DeRozan and Bargnani run a few pick and rolls? I know DeMar's handle isn't the greatest, but with his ability to slash and Bargs' ability to hit from anywhere, it would seem to present some matchup issues for opposing defences.

Chris W, Yellowknife

Next Raps game, watch for situations in which DeMar has to make a decisive pass with the defence set up, it's not pretty. 

There's some speculative questions about Triano vs. Casey that I'll ignore in the spirit of banalysis. 

Happy New Year, to all the bitter Raptor fans out there. May 2012 exceed our eroded expectations!

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