A Few Thoughts…Including the Coaching Situation

Well, I don’t know if things could have ended with any more of a thud than they did a few nights ago…well, I guess there could have been a sweep, which would have been a serious thud, but there’s not much of a difference between a sweep and a 4-1 series win. The Raptors put themselves in a hole in the series by having those two bad first quarters in the first two games and they never seemed to fully rebound from that (wow, the Raptors not being able to rebound…there’s a new one). There were times when they looked very lethargic, being outhustled to loose balls, outmuscled on the boards and just not showing any sense of urgency regarding their season that was quickly coming to an end.

Well, let’s take a quick look at some of the good things from this season. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the progression of the Raptors defence over the season. The Raptors were continually in the top 10 on defence for most of the season and while there are a million things to criticize Sam and the Raptors on, you have to say that they stepped up on D, without their supposed best defender in Jorge Garbajosa. The Raptors were good at using their team speed to close in on shooters and also used that speed to effectively double team players, especially in the low block. The problem for the Raptors was that they had to double on the low block because they just don’t have anybody big and athletic enough to crash with the big boys down there. The Raptors lost a lot of games this season due to their inability to rebound, which led to numerous putback points. Job number one this offseason will be for Colangelo to address the lack of size and strength inside. Bosh needs some protection out there, some room to operate, because if he has to keep going up against guys like Dwight Howard, it is going to be a jump shot special on a lot of nights next year.

The Raptors problems this year have been well documented and rehashed a thousand times, but in the past few weeks, there have been some interesting comments regarding the coaching situation. Since Mike D’Antoni has left Phoenix, there has been some natural talk about him coming to Toronto, which Colangelo has essentially quashed by stating that Sam is here ‘for now’. I’m not even that sure if D’Antoni is the guy you would want in Toronto anyway. Quick, what has D’Antoni’s biggest problem been in Phoenix? His inability to effectively use his bench. D’Antoni has always had difficulty finding ways to effectively use his bench, leaving starters in for too long or having them out of the lineup in the wrong situations. There has been some argument that the reason the team always fades in the playoffs is that because of their run and gun style, the wear and tear on the team over the regular season is heightened. So if your bench isn’t being worked in, by the time you get to the playoffs, you just don’t have the depth or energy to compete. I’m not sure if I completely buy into that theory, but it does hold some weight. What you might also want to look at is that while Phoenix management made a mistake by bringing in Shaq (it completely disrupted their flow), D’Antoni struggled in finding a way to effectively implement Shaq into the Phoenix system. He had two options: either work Shaq into the system they were using (which wasn’t impossible…the Lakers were able to use Kareem in a run and gun style) or create something new that could work off of Shaq’s strengths. D’Antoni wasn’t able to succeed with either of those options. Now when you’re saddled with a Raptors lineup and game style that has no clear definition, I’m not sure if D’Antoni is the guy you want at the head.

What about the Little General? Avery Johnson is now available and while it appears Chicago and New York are serious about getting him, how would he look heading the Raptors? I think he might be a better fit than D’Antoni and I guarantee he would whip Andrea and Jose into shape on the defensive end. If there is one thing Avery stresses, it is defensive responsibility and toughness. Make the stop on your end, then get down the court and run your plays. Avery was able to get Dirk Nowitzki to become a tougher player, not just settling for jump shots, which you would love to see him do with Andrea. Avery was able to get the Mavs over the next level, but not the final hump, as he wasn’t able to win a championship there, but he did get them to the final and that was something they hadn’t seen before. You can talk about Avery not being able to get Jason Kidd working again in Dallas, but that could have been one of the worst management decisions I have ever seen. You don’t put an aging PG into a team bound for the playoffs right near the end of the season and expect it all to gel in time. It’s tougher than putting in a new centre. That move essentially killed the Mavs and you could see it down the stretch as with Kidd in the lineup, the Mavs couldn’t beat any teams above .500. Overall, I think Avery Johnson would be an interesting fit here…that is, if the Raptors were looking.

Moving onto some other toughts, I couldn’t believe how afraid of Dwight Howard the Raptors were in the playoffs. Bosh has the speed to take him on the bounce, but time after time, we saw him settle for jump shots or runners. Nobody on the Raptors other than Jamario Moon wanted to go up against Howard for any rebounds and let’s be honest, you have to give Jamario credit, because it’s not like he’s built like a mountain. We occasionally saw Delfino go in tough, but that was only in the times when he felt like playing. That guy’s more inconsistent than American foreign policy. Anybody watching the series was able to see that the Raptors are in need of some interior toughness, they’re practically walking around with a giant neon sign stating the fact. They also still need a slasher, because the options on the offensive end just don’t seem to be there. This could also be a problem with coaching…

Well, it will be interesting to see what happens this off-season and I think the draft will be very interesting for a variety of teams this year. A lot of diffferent directions teams can go with their picks this year as many young players have declared themselves eligible. As we get closer to the draft, we’ll check out how things might shake out.

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