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The RF Mock Draft

Don’t mock our mocking. We put together a bunch of our wonderful posters and got them to post selections for teams they laid claim to ahead of time. This is the result.

1. New Orleans (Superjudge) *ANTHONY DAVIS
2. Charlotte (Jackson Filth) *THOMAS ROBINSON
3. Washington (LOG) *MKG
4. Cleveland (Kirby) *BRADLEY BEAL
5. Sacramento (Bill Haverchuck) * HARRISON BARNES
6. Portland (Jeffb) * DAMIAN LILLARD
7. Golden State (Kirby) *ANDRE DRUMMOND
8. Toronto (Dark Knight) * KENDALL MARSHALL
9. Detroit (Stonezz) * JEREMY LAMB
10. New Orleans (Thriller92) *PERRY JONES
11. Portland (Windex) * TERRENCE JONES
12. Milwaukee (ChrisTrip) *TYLER ZELLER
13. Phoenix (ChrisTrip) * AUSTIN RIVERS
14. Houston (Box1992) *QUINCY MILLER
15. Philadelphia (Windex) *ARNETT MOULTRIE
16. Houston (OP13) * JARED SULLINGER
17. Dallas (10gizzle) * MEYERS LEONARD
18. Minnesota (Grizz) * TERRENCE ROSS
19. Orlando (SoGood) * FAB MELO
20. Denver (Shifty.py) * TONY WROTEN
21. Boston (10gizzle) * JOHN HENSON
22. Boston (Thriller92) * MOE HARKLESS
23. Atlanta (jj0786) * DION WAITERS
24. Cleveland (Dark Knight) * ROYCE WHITE
25. Memphis (Shifty.py)* MARQUIS TEAGUE
26. Indiana (KoolAid) * JOHN JENKINS
27. Miami (Quinn) * SCOTT MACHADO
28. OKC (Box1992) * ANDREW NICHOLSON
29. Chicago (Gurk) * TYSHAWN TAYLOR
30. Golden State (Jackson Filth) * DORON LAMB

Claudius: Are we looking at “Fool’s Gold”?

On July 1, 2011 the NBA locked out its players. For five months, Raptor fans had very little to look forward to (save for Jonas Valančiūnas and the continuous hype, but more on that later) beyond understanding that Dwane Casey would stress accountability, culture change and defense whenever the season would begin. As the calendar dates moved each month, fans understood that there would be no training camp, no September to work out the kinks. No camp to examine the condition of the young players that comprise this core (Demar, Davis, Amir, Andrea etc.). No time to establish the parameters of accountability. If there was a season, there was going to be an abbreviated training camp. If any teaching was going to be done, it was going to be done while the season progressed. However, as October turned into November and news of yet another break down in talks between the NBAPA and the NBA arose, the feeling that this season would be lost became predominant. Then, on November 26 news broke that the NBA and NBAPA agreed to a deal. On December 8 the season was officially saved.

Beginning immediately was the rush to start the season by Christmas. Just over two weeks to assemble a roster, begin a training camp, play a couple of preseason games and eventually start the season in Cleveland against the rebuilding Cavaliers. Quickly signed were Aaron Gray, Rasual Butler, Jamaal Magloire and Anthony Carter. Worry about integration later and back to back to back games later. The concern was getting this team ready for a shortened (and in hindsight insane) 66 game season.

As the season progressed several things became clear to Raptors fans and observers (but not universally agreed upon):

  • Dwane Casey was a good hire by Bryan Colangelo (but did not share his same sense of personal style)
  • The team began to play defence with a determination not seen since the Kevin O’Neill days
  • Andrea Bargnani improved his pick and roll defence
  • DeMar DeRozan was no ready to take the full reigns of the offence and be a number one option
  • We were stressed continuously (and much to the administration’s credit) that this year was a building year and that they would be a poor team
  • Jonas Valančiūnas would not suit up for the abbreviated season but would arrive for the beginning of the 2012-13 season and possibly make an impact.
  • That this past season, IF the Raptors were healthy would make the playoffs possibly as an 8th seed
  • Jamaal Magloire guaranteed the playoffs for the 2012-2013 season and unofficially announced his candidacy as a future community relations employee/spokesperson for the Toronto Raptors
  • The Raptors had an impressive divisional record (7-8) and had more wins on the road than they had during a full 82 game schedule
  • They finally won in Utah - and Phoenix (let’s not understate this; this was a big win in a tough building against a playoff calibre, Western Conference opponent. One could argue that one win highlighted a lot of the optimism surrounding this team).

By all accounts, from media outlets, fan reports and even from points of view from members of this very forum, this season was an unmitigated success (click here for Bryan Colangelo’s and Casey’s view). From a pessimistic July to an optimistic April 2012, Raptor fans could not and cannot wait for the rebuilding process to end, to add the necessary pieces and to begin the push towards the playoffs. For all intents and purposes, it was understood that the building was complete and the foundation was set based off the promising results of the past season.

However how successful was this season? Was this simply a mirage in a desert filled broken bodies and underachieving teams who could not cope with a shortened season? Are we essentially looking at fool’s gold? To answer these questions, you need to examine the data and the oddity of the shortened season.

First is to place this team and its competitors in perspective. This past season Toronto played and won 3 out of 4 games against Cleveland; won 2 of 4 games against Washington; caught a slumping Boston and Philadelphia team and won a meaningless game at the end of the season in an embarrassing display by the New Jersey Nets of “not caring, let’s just end this” ?itis. The list of players who missed time this season to injury is staggering and reads almost as a who?s who of NBA players: Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, Chauncey Billups to name just a few. Now, not all of them played against the Raptors, however, to provide some context to how ridiculous this season was, one must incorporate and mention the injuries and overall fatigue caused by schedule. Of course the Raptors weren’t immune to injuries as they missed Jose Calderon, Jerryd Bayless and Andrea Bargnani for large stretches of the season. However, you have to wonder, if the players weren’t thrust into such a ludicrous schedule would teams have been more healthy, thereby providing increased competition? Was this team fortunate in catching some teams at their season low points?

Now truthfully, a lot of this is difficult to determine. I’d argue that it’s almost as difficult as analyzing and providing statistics for ‘intangibles’ however, when analyzing the overall success of the team, placing the team in the context of its success (or failure) is necessary.

Another aspect to analyze is the continuous rhetoric that this team would improve from a longer training camp, from increased work with the coaching staff and that specific young players namely Ed Davis, would benefit most from this. However, does the same not ring true for the other NBA franchises? Do we not think that Derrick Williams, Kyrie Irving, Enes Kanter and Brandon Knight (to name a few) would not benefit from the same type of training camp seasoning? That Lawrence Frank would not benefit from implementing and handling a full training camp? All 30 NBA teams would benefit from this, yet we’ve been continuously told that this team in particular would benefit the most from it. Why? What advantage do we enjoy over the other 29 teams?

Lastly, we must examine Jonas Valančiūnas. In all honesty, very little is known about him. Many players have dominated their age group but struggle in their transition to the professional level. Yet, we have been repeatedly and tirelessly reminded about how important a piece he is and the role he can play next season. The truth is, very few rookies (and this is especially true for front court players) have impactful first seasons, unless they’re playing for a bad team. Think about it for a second. Kyrie Irving played on a poor Cleveland team and had an impressive season. John Wall and Kevin Durant both played a critical role on poor teams. The odds are sadly, not in his favour. This is not to say that Jonas will have a poor year or be a bad player. Instead it’s to provide caution to the impact Jonas will have on this team. IF this team is a playoff contender, then it cannot rely on the talents of a young man, learning a difficult position, learning the nuances of the NBA and getting accustomed to living and working in a new environment. This team will require that its existing core improves while Jonas is ushered in slowly, building confidence for the future, rather than immediate potential results. Yet all season we have been sold and marketed on Valančiūnas which has, rightly or wrongly, distorted this fan base’s expectation of his impact on next season’s team.

And we’re still ignoring the fact that DeRozan struggled this past season (regardless of what the coaching staff had mentioned at the end of the season), Ed Davis showed negligible improvement, Amir Johnson struggled for large parts of the season, Jerryd Bayless did very little to confirm his future as a Raptor, that Andrea Bargnani still showed flashes of his poor habits and that Jose Calderon played above his value during the past season and enjoyed one of his best seasons since 2009.

Does another rookie put us over the top or closer to it? Does Andre Iguodala push the Raptors as a playoff team (what must leave then in a trade from the promising core? the same question needs to be asked if Rudy Gay is a target and even Kyle Lowry)? Do any of the big free agents sign here? Was the improvement real, tangible improvement or was it the case of a team taking advantage a shortened schedule.

Where do we emerge from here? Am I simply being a pessimist? A realist? Or something else entirely? Once we examine the data, place the season in context and this team in context we need to truly ask ourselves, is this a playoff team that is a simply roster tweak away or did we see something in this team that the city and its fan base so desperately want to see. Do we want to see a winning team so badly that we’re willing to over look that sometimes anaemic offence? The fact that this team dropped games to statistically the worst team in the history of the NBA? Or, that while Andrea Bargnani missed games for the Raptors, other teams which made the playoffs also had their own slew of injury problems which hampered their own success during this past season. That when we examine the record, the Raptors still finished 12 games behind a youthful and improving Philadelphia 76ers, a team that upset the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. That possibly, just maybe, we’re looking at fool’s gold?

If you would like to share your thoughts or comments please leave them below or log on to Raptorsforum or you can always follow us on Twitter.

Grizz: Raps in the clutch

A topic that has been gaining quite a but of press around the league in the last few seasons is clutch play. It’s a topic that blends the lines of stats and narrative to create constant debate among sports fans. Such a complex category can cause quite a bit of disagreement among basketball experts, and I’m far from such, so I offer my analysis while still trying to give you enough data so you can come to your own conclusions. We can debate what even constitutes clutch play, but for my purposes I will lean towards the last few minutes of a game rather than game winning/tying shots, as I feel clutch play is random enough on it’s own, let alone breaking it down even further to a play or two a game. Also note there is plenty of work out there that will analyze clutch play among the superstars of the league, by better writers with better resources than I, so you won’t find that here. We’ll be focusing strictly Raptors for this piece.

Before we dive too deep into the analysis of the Raptors’ clutch play this year, lets put some qualifiers out in the open. Clutch data from a single season, even over the course of 82 (or, in this case 66) games, is a very small sample size. Unfortunately, with the youth and fluidity of the Raptors’ roster, I didn’t find it worthwhile to do a 3 or 5 year overview. Some of Hollinger’s excellent work on the topic shows that there is relatively low correlation from one season to the next in terms of clutch offence. To illustrate this point, as well as give a baseline for clutch stats for each NBA team, here’s a table outlining the last few seasons, in terms of +/-, in clutch situations.


As you can see, instances of a team having consistent clutch play from one season to the next are very rare. This is especially true if you don’t have someone named Kobe, Dirk, Lebron or Chris Paul on your roster. Now I’m going to go out on a limb and say the odds of the Raptors acquiring one of those players in the off-season are fairly slim. As such, we’ll focus this piece by looking at the players that finished last season with the Raptors. For the following table (and unless otherwise noted) we’re considering clutch play to be the last 5 minutes of the 4th quarter or overtime, with neither team down more than 5 points. (Stats taken from NBA.com and 82games.com)


Again, this table reinforces just how small the sample sizes are. For someone like Bayless, he’s played slightly more than a half’s worth of clutch time basketball, so it’s difficult to draw any concrete conclusions. He’s included mainly due to the fact he’s somewhat of an enigma for this team and I thought many of you would be interested in how he compared to the starters. The other players are chosen because they are either our main offensive weapons, or get an unexpected amount of clutch time shots (Amir and James Johnson). All of the counting stats are presented in Per 48 minute form.

Anyone who watched the Raptors on a consistent basis this year probably expected the shots to be divided roughly as the stats show. Bargnani gets the majority of the attempts, with Kleiza, Derozan and Jose getting the majority of the scraps. I also don’t think it surprises anyone that the amount of 3 pointers attempted rise dramatically, as the Raptors aren’t exactly renowned for their late game execution to free up easy looks. Derozan shows an unusual spike in 3’s as well, but after setting aside my personal Derozan pessimism and digging a little deeper, the majority of those three pointers were desperation shots with little or no time remaining. It is encouraging to see Bargnani and Kleiza doing work to get to the line, but again keep in mind this also counts any intentional fouls committed by the other team.

The AST’d (percent of baskets that are assisted on by another player) category is enlightening in terms of who is creating in clutch situations. Calderon appears to be making many of his own chances as well as for others judging by his high rates of AST/48 and AST’D%. For those looking to get rid of Jose, you may want to ask yourself who would be creating those shots otherwise? (If you’re shouting THIS IS EXACTLY WHERE BAYLESS SHOULD BE COMING IN! First of all, calm down, no need to get unruly over my first article. Second, don’t worry, we’re getting to him) On the other side of that equation guys like Bargnani and Kleiza appear to be more recipients of others making things happen. Even if being assisted, Bargnani does at least seem to be putting himself in good position to score, as he converted 5 of 11 shots in the paint, and another 6 of 14 in midrange. He still put up twelve 3 pointers as well, consistent with his season numbers (33% of shots are threes in crunch time, 30% all season) and I consider that reasonable, when taking into account how compressed the paint becomes during crunch time. Remember, those Free Throw attempts he gets don’t count towards his shot attempts in close either.

Bayless managed to put up huge numbers of FG and FT attempts while forgetting the other guys on the floor. Again, small sample size, but one assist in 27 minutes? Someone’s seen too many Kobe hi-lights.? On the flip side, half of his clutch attempts come in the restricted area, so there’s some ammo for those who think he’s one of the select few Raptors players capable of successfully driving to the rim.

Derozan also managed to find his way to the rim at a decent clip and hit 9-12 in the restricted area, obviously converting at a great rate. The downside is he managed to shoot 2 for 20 on every other clutch shot that wasn’t within 2 feet. His Usage Rate (amount of possessions used per 100) drops noticeably from 25.3 to 17.6 when we hit clutch time. Compare this to Bayless, who’s usage rate jumps from 24 in normal circumstances to 39.9

It’s also hard to judge the effect of coaching in these situations. For example in the first table in this piece, Mike Brown’s Cavs teams were very successful while he was there. Now that he’s on the Lakers, they are again very successful. Is he a master of the X’s and O’s, or is he just good at choosing teams with transcendent players on them? (Side note: Sorry Lebron bashers, take a look at Cavs and Heat, pre and post Lebron, and get back to me on the not clutch thing). Finding a way to quantify the effect of the coach, independent of players, is beyond my abilities, so I’ll leave it to you to speculate.

Overall, the clutch numbers for our primary weapons aren’t terribly inspiring. One positive year in the last 5 shows what I think we all suspected: even in the games we manage to take down to the wire, this team doesn’t have the offensive weapons to consistently be effective in the crunch. Lacking the go-to offensive option who can generate points without having a play run for him and not having the quantity to make up for our lack of quality leaves us at a disadvantage against the top tier teams. Is there room for growth? Certainly. Derozan’s development is still a question mark, and (depending on who you ask) he still has the chance to develop into a good offensive option for us down the stretch. Bargnani’s growth at the start of this year gave us hope that he’s ready to take the mantle. Our off-season is full of questions, and the draft, trades and free agency can drastically alter the look of our team. Sadly, unless we see some changes, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for us to see dramatic advances in the crunch from what I’ve discovered here.?

Thriller’s NBA Season Preview: the West

Northwest Division:

Utah Jazz

Projected Starters: Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson
Rotation players: Earl Watson, Alec Burks, CJ Miles, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter

Key Additions: Alec Burks, Enes Kanter

OUTLOOK:

The Jazz are in a rebuilding year with many good young pieces. I expect them to continue their rebuilding by trading Jefferson for a few more pieces, and possibly Millsap as well to free up minutes for their young bigs. I’m very interested to see if Hayward takes a big step in to becoming a solid starting SF after a very good 2nd half of the year, and how Alec Burks plays in his rookie year as a 6′3 SG.

Denver Nuggets

Projected Starters: Ty Lawson, Rudy Fernandez, Danilo Gallinari, Nene, Timofey Mozgov
Rotation players: Andre Miller, Corey Brewer, Al Harrington, Chris Anderson

Key Additions:Rudy Fernandez, Corey Brewer

OUTLOOK:

They’re still waiting on Afflalo to re sign still, but this looks to be a year of transition for the Nuggets due to losing 3 main pieces to China. I think they’ll still compete for a playoff spot with the improvement of Lawson/Gallo, but their overall team just doesn’t look good enough to make it as of right now. Unless of course Mozgov turns in to Mozgod.

Portland Trail Blazers

Projected Starters: Raymond Felton, Wes Matthews, Gerald Wallace, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby
Rotation players: Jamal Crawford, Nicolas Batum, Kurt Thomas

Key Additions: Jamal Crawford, Kurt Thomas

OUTLOOK:

Should be another year like last year for Portland, 1 and done. They do have a lot of good players, but they don’t have a 2nd big impact player anymore to put them over the top. The addition of Crawford will make them more dangerous, but they remain a solid team with little prospect of reaching the 2nd round.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Projected Starters: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins
Rotation players: Eric Maynor, James Harden, Daequan Cook, Nick Collison

Key Additions: None

OUTLOOK:

The Thunder stood pat this offseason because of their team make up. The one thing I dont like is the probability that Harden will come off the bench again, which may be ok for the regular season, but come postseason they cannot continue to get off to bad offensive starts in the 1st/3rd quarters due to them playing 4 on 5(much like CHI). If OKC wants to become a TITLE contender this year, they should start Harden and think about getting one more guard for scoring punch off of the bench. Either way, they may come out of the West due to the Lakers downgrade this offseason.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Projected Starters: Ricky Rubio, Wes Johnson, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Darko Milicic
Rotation players: JJ Barea, Luke Ridnour, Derrick Williams, Anthony Randolph

Key Additions:Ricky Rubio, JJ Barea, Derrick Williams

OUTLOOK:

Minnesota has acquired some nice young players in the past few years, and they look like they’ll be an exciting team to watch this year with Adelmans offence combined with the talent they have. Their starting lineup is still in question as there’s rumblings that JJ Barea may start, they may go small etc. It’ll be a transition year for the TWolves, in which they hope Williams shows himself to be worthy of the 2nd pick, and Rubio shows that hes NBA ready and improves as the season wears on. They do have trading chips if those 2 guys turn out to be as good as advertised, so MIN wont be too far away from competing for a playoff spot, next year.

Pacific Division:

Los Angeles Lakers

Projected Starters: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Rotation players: Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Josh McRoberts

Key Additions: Josh McRoberts, Jason Kapono(just so people see that Kapono is on the Lakers now)

OUTLOOK:

The Lakers come back with the same starting 5, but 1 year older. Fisher and World Peace didnt look great last year to begin with, and now theyre essentially going to be forced to force feed them or Blake and Barnes minutes. Unless the Lakers spruce up their bench or make a big splash with a trade, its possible this year they may be knocked out in the 1st round even with a top seed. But the Lakers are the Lakers and theyll pick up some players to improve the roster, I cant see them standing pat.

Los Angeles Clippers

Projected Starters: Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
Rotation players: Eric Bledsoe, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Ike Diogu, Reggie Evans

Key Additions: Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Reggie Evans

OUTLOOK:

The most anticipated team to watch for the 2012 NBA season. Theres obviously still question marks as to their bench, where theyre actually going to play Chauncey and for how many minutes, and the Mo Williams situation, but really, all that matters right now is they put together what possibly is right now the most devastating 1-2 combination in the NBA. If CP3 can get the crap filled Hornets to 56 wins, he should be able to work wonders with a much more talented roster. The Clippers do need to shore up their bench, and figure out the SG and Williams situation quickly though. Maybe Billups will play the SG role on defence like Kidd has and become that spot up shooter that Kidd has as well, if he does, then the Clippers could be contenders this year. That or if they get Afflalo, look out.

Phoenix Suns

Projected Starters: Steve Nash, Jared Dudley, Grant Hill, Channing Frye, Marcin Gortat
Rotation players:Sebastien Telfair, Shannon Brown, Hakim Warrick, Robin Lopez

Key Additions: Sebastien Telfair, Shannon Brown

OUTLOOK:

The Suns are stuck in a bad place right now with no prospects of the playoffs and an old team with no really good or potentially really good prospects. They should really look in to trading Nash at the deadline and trying to get a good lottery pick in this upcoming draft, and start the rebuilding process immediately.

Golden State Warriors

Projected Starters: Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Dorrell Wright, David Lee, Epke Udoh
Rotation players: Klay Thompson, Kwame Brown, Andris Biedrins

Key Additions: Klay Thompson, Kwame Brown

OUTLOOK:

The Warriors, much like the Suns, are stuck in a bad situation of having no chance to make the playoffs, but the Warriors at least have the young talent and pieces to get better. They should really look in to a blockbuster deal involving Ellis this year to not only balance out their lineup, but hand the keys over to Curry who looks to be ready to be a premier PG in the NBA. But I expect the Warriors to stand pat and have another underwhelming year where theyll be exciting to watch and score a lot, but get killed inside and on the boards as usual. Expect Marc Jacksons head to explode from too many hand down man down situations.

Sacramento Kings

Projected Starters: Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, John Salmons, Chuck Hayes, DeMarcus Cousins
Rotation players: Jimmer Fredette, Francisco Garcia, JJ Hickson, Jason Thompson

Key Additions: Chuck Hayes, Jimmer Fredette

OUTLOOK:

The Kings have many nice young players, but the make up of their team is not good. They have 4 guys in the starting lineup who get most of their points off of isolation and holding the ball(although Thornton didnt do that nearly as much after he came to the Kings), and their bench is too inexperienced to make up for the likely early leads theyre going to give up. I have no idea why they acquired Salmons back in the first place. Itll be a transition year for the Kings, who hopefully will figure out their arena and city situation, as well as who theyre going to look to keep in the future. This is a huge year for Tyreke to prove hes either a top level prospect, or another stat padder on a bad team.

Southwest Division:

Dallas Mavericks

Projected Starters: Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Brendan Haywood
Rotation players: Rodrigue Beaubois, Jason Terry, Lamar Odom

Key Additions:Vince Carter, Lamar Odom

OUTLOOK:

The Mavericks definitely he upgraded in terms of offensive firepower, but have downgraded in terms of defence. Theyre probably going to be the 2nd most fun team to watch after the Clippers, but can they really come out of the West with only Haywood really protecting the basket? I think they need to get another solid center to really have a chance at a repeat. The Kidd Terry Marion Dirk Odom lineup is going to be a ton of fun to watch.

San Antonio Spurs

Projected Starters: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson(not yet amnestied apparently), Tim Duncan, DaJuan Blair
Rotation players: TJ Ford, Gary Neal, James Anderson, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter

Key Additions:TJ Ford, Kawhi Leonard

OUTLOOK:

The Spurs have fallen in to the ATL no mans land as of this year. Their 3 stars are aging and they have no one really to step up and take the reigns. I think theyll still be a playoff team, but one and done unless they make big changes.

Houston Rockets

Projected Starters: Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger, Luis Scola, Jordan Hill

Rotation players: Goran Dragic, Courtney Lee, Patrick Patterson, Donatas Motiejunas

Key Additions: Donatas Motiejunas

OUTLOOK:

Houston is stuck in mediocrity as they have a bunch of very solid 2nd tier type players but no real stars and no star prospects. By process of elimination, itll either be DEN or HOU making the playoffs now that Ive looked at the standings. Its a tough call, but I guess I’ll backtrack and take the Nuggets.

New Orleans Hornets

Projected Starters: Jarrett Jack, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, Chris Kaman
Rotation players: Grievis Vasquez, Marco Belinelli, Al Farouq Aminu, Carl Landry

Key Additions: Eric Gordon, Al Farouq Aminu, Chris Kaman

OUTLOOK:

It’ll be a year of losing for the Hornets, but they got a great deal for Paul and hopefully have a new owner by early 2012. The future in terms of their roster looks bright, so long as they move out of New Orleans soon. Expect them to win the lottery.

Memphis Grizzlies

Projected Starters: Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
Rotation players: Greivas Vacquez, OJ Mayo, Sam Young, Darrell Arthur(injured) Quincy Pondexter
Key Additions: Dante Cunningham

OUTLOOK:

The Grizzlies were possibly a Rudy Gay injury away from advancing to the conference Finals and potentially the NBA finals due to them matching up well with the Mavs. This year they have Rudy back, and as many Grizz fans alluded to, MEM was playing great with the now starting lineup with Allen and Gay before Gay was injured. If Gay can fit in seemlessly and the bench continues to produce and get better, the Grizzlies are easily going to be a top seed and an extremely tough out come this years playoffs.

Thriller’s NBA season preview: the Atlantic

Atlantic Division:

Boston Celtics

Projected Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal
Rotation players: Keyon Dooling, Marquis Daniels, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox
Key Additions: Keyon Dooling, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox

OUTLOOK:

This is either going to be a year where the Celtics somehow pull it together as a team and get hot going in to the playoffs and be one of the more dangerous teams in this years playoffs, or the Rondo situation combined with their old age will catch up to them and blow up in their face. I expect the latter to be honest as I dont think their pickups will be able to overcome the exhaustion setting in over the season, plus the stars likely sitting out multiple back to back games. Celtics may drop out of the top 4 in the East this year due to the scheduling/old age/Rondo situation.

Philadelphia 76ers

Projected Starters: Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes
Rotation players: Louis Williams, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Nikola Vucevic
Key Additions: Nikola Vucevic

OUTLOOK:

The Sixers had a solid team last year and likely improved it a bit with the addition of Vucevic(assuming he adapts to the NBA game and doesnt become another stiff) and the likely improvement of Holiday. They, like Atlanta, only have a 1st round and out ceiling though with the team currently constructed. They need to figure out what they have in Turner this season, as well as what they’re going to do with Iguodala. They’re stuck in mediocrity, but they do have a good young core in place. Expect 1 and done.

New York Knicks

Projected Starters: Toney Douglas, Landry Fields, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler
Rotation players: Mike Bibby, Iman Shumpert, Bill Walker
Key Additions: Mike Bibby, Iman Shumpert, Tyson Chandler

OUTLOOK:

The Knicks have a team ready made for a defensive coach currently, but they have Mike D’Antoni. It’s going to be really interesting to see if D’Antoni changes his style at all with a very good looking defensive starting 5(but not likely). The Knicks obviously need to shore up their bench in the next 2 days as they literally have no big people off the bench(unless you count no name rookies) nor reliable guards/forwards. If they do get a couple of bench guys, I can see the team winning a round this year in the playoffs if D’Antoni can get his head around having his players play some defence. They have the best frontcourt in the NBA and a solid defensive backcourt who can rain 3s. They’re pretty close to contending with the right tweaks. I expect them to win a round this year and get ousted in the 2nd round by CHI or MIA.

Toronto Raptors

Projected Starters: Jose Calderon, Demar Derozan, James Johnson, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson
Rotation players: Jerryd Bayless, Leandro Barbosa, Gary Forbes, Ed Davis, Aaron Gray
Key Additions: Gary Forbes, Aaron Gray

OUTLOOK:

BC did a great job this offseason getting as many scrubs to fill out the roster as possible, going for a top pick in a stacked 2012 NBA draft. The main goal of the Raptors this year will be to see how good Derozan really is, and continue to develop Ed Davis.

New jersey Nets

Projected Starters: Deron Williams, Anthony Morrow, Damien James, Johan Petro, Mehmet Okur (Brook Lopez)
Rotation players: Jordan Farmar, Sheldon Williams
Key Additions: No one yet(they just amnestied Travis Outlaw FYI)

OUTLOOK:

(As of earlier this week) The Nets are currently a very incomplete team with 2 days left in free agency . As currently constructed, obviously they wont make the playoffs, but I’d expect them to re-sign Humphries (check) and then go after a SF and some bench pieces then the playoffs will be within reach but barely.

Thriller’s NBA Season preview: the Central Division

Chicago Bulls

Projected Starters: Derrick Rose, Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah
Rotation players: CJ Watson, Ron Brewer, Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson, Omer Asik

Key Additions: Richard Hamilton

OUTLOOK:
If Rip Hamilton is healthy, the Bulls have a very good shot at coming out of the East. He should provide that scoring punch they need to be able to space the floor, as well as give Rose more options and space to operate with now being able to play 5 on 5 instead of 4 on 5 with Bogans last year. Their bench may be the best in the NBA, as well as their defence. Their team looks rock solid this year.

Detroit Pistons

Projected Starters: Brandon Knight, Ben Gordon, Tayshaun Prince, Jonas Jerebko, Greg Monroe
Rotation players: Will Bynum, Austin Daye, Charlie Villanueva, Jason Maxiell

Key Additions: Brandon Knight

OUTLOOK:
I’m still sort of shocked they haven’t amnestied Charlie yet, and I’m super shocked that Dumars is trying to give Stuckey 9 million a year when he hasn’t done anything to earn it. They’re much better off letting Knight take the reigns and try to develop him. This will obviously be a rebuilding year for the Pistons.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Projected Starters: Kyrie Irving, Anthony Parker, Omri Casspi, Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varejao
Rotation players: Ramon Sessions, Daniel Gibson, Christian Eyenga, Tristan Thompson

Key Additions: Kyrie Irving, Omri Casspi, Tristan Thompson

OUTLOOK:
Like many other teams listed above, another rebuilding team. The starting lineup likely wont be the one listed because there’s no for sure lock at the 2, 3, and 4. This year in CLE will be all about Kyrie and if he’s as good as advertised. With Baron amnestied, the keys are in Kyries hands to basically make everything happen for this offensively challenged team. I think he’ll be solid but he wont have a John Wall type of rookie year.

Milwaukee Bucks

Projected Starters: Brandon Jennings, Carlos Delfino, Stephen Jackson, Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, Andrew Bogut
Rotation players: Beno Udrih, Mike Dunleavy, Drew Gooden, Ersan Ilyasova

Key Additions: Stephen Jackson, Beno Udrih, Mike Dunleavy

OUTLOOK:
The Bucks are in win now mode(trading Kemba Walker with Maggette for Jackson) with a very mediocre team. I expect they’ll make the playoffs, but they’re just as inefficient and offensively challenged as last year due to their slow pace and Brandon Jennings not understanding how to run an NBA team. Look for them to be one and done in the playoffs.

Indiana Pacers

Projected Starters: Darren Collison, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West, Roy Hibbert
Rotation players: George Hill, Brandon Rush, Tyler Hansbrough, Jeff Foster

Key Additions: David West, George Hill

OUTLOOK:
Larry Bird is slowly but surely building a winner in Indiana. They have a very solid starting 5 on both sides of the ball, and I think their bench is one of the better ones in the NBA as well with Hill, Hansbrough, and multiple other players who played minutes for them last season who may not to get to play as much this year due to their influx of talent. This is going to be a top 6 team in the East easily, and they could surprise a team and win a round this year in the playoffs. If Paul George does turn in to a star like they think he will in the upcoming years, Indiana could be on track to get back to where they were with Reggie 15 years ago as a bigtime contender in the East.

Thriller’s Season Preview: the Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks

Projected Starters:Jeff Teague, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford

Rotation players:Kirk Hinrich, Tracy McGrady, Vladimir Radmanovic, Zaza Pachulia

Key Additions: Tracy Mcgrady, Vladimir Radmanovic (if you consider him key)

OUTLOOK:

Atlanta stayed with the same team as last year, while replacing Crawford with Tmac which looks like a downgrade unless Tmac can prove otherwise. The one brightspot they have going for them is Teague, who will get an opportunity to prove himself right away with Hinrich out at least the first month of the season. If Teague improves on his impressive Playoff showing, well, it doesnt really matter, as ATLs best case scenario for the season is like previous years, 2nd round team at best(but unlikely this year due to Indiana/NY rising)

Orlando Magic

Projected Starters: Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, Dwight Howard
Rotation players: Chris Duhon, JJ Reddick, Quentin Richardson, Ryan Anderson

Key Additions: Glen Davis

OUTLOOK:

The present and future looks bleak for ORL with Howard demanding out twice now in the past week. If they dont get a deal done in the next 2 days before free agency ends, there’s going to be a lot of turmoil and a potential cancerous type of situation with Howard staying in a city that now hates him. In short, expect a disasterous year. If Howard stays the entire year, they still will likely make the playoffs as a lower seed, but they really have no chance of winning a round this year. They’re obviously best off trading him before the season starts.

Charlotte Bobcats

Projected Starters: DJ Augustin, Gerald Henderson, Corey Maggette, Boris Diaw, Desagana Diop
Rotation players: Kemba Walker, Reggie Williams, Tyrus Thomas, Bismack Biyombo

Key Additions: Kemba Walker, Reggie Williams, Bismack Biyombo

OUTLOOK:

As you can see with their starting 5, they’re deplorable. This will be a rebuilding year for CHA, with the main goal being to see what Walkers role will be in the NBA. Is he good/smart enough to man the starting PG position? Or will he be another combo scoring guard off the bench? Expect Charlotte to contend for that #1 lotto spot with Toronto.

Washington Wizards

Projected Starters: John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Rashard Lewis, Andray Blatche, Javale Mcgee
Rotation players: Ronny Turiaf, Jan Vesley, Trevor Booker

Key Additions: Jan Vesley, Ronny Turiaf

OUTLOOK:

Another rebuilding year for the Wizards. The thing is, if their frontcourt of Blatche/Mcgee had half a brain combined, this would be a playoff team in the East with their talent. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with Young over the next 2 days whether they do re sign him or let him go. Expect John Wall to climb up the PG ranks in the least this season.

Miami Heat

Projected Starters: Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony
Rotation players: Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem
Key Additions: Eddy Curry(LOL), Shane Battier

OUTLOOK:

They made a very good pickup with Battier, but them winning it all this year will depend on Lebron/Wade/Spoelstra figuring out the offence and figuring out how to get the most out of both this year. They cant continue taking turns dominating the ball with the other guy standing in the corner watching. A more complex offence is necessary, as well as Lebron going back in to aggressive mode as he was a passive little bitch in the Finals.

Spent


I would ordinarily watch all 82 Raptors games in some form or another. Considering that this season might have been fairly unwatchable, I have to think that there would be fewer games watched live and more viewed on fast forward on my PVR, or in the game-in-an-hour format. Let’s say I would have watched 60 games in real time.

60 x 2.5hours=150 hours

that leaves some 25 games, including preseason matchups, where I’d likely spend about an hour on average taking in.

so add another 25 hours

Of course there would be other NBA games to take in. Some of them I would catch halfway through, or give up on at some point, so let’s say there would be an average of 2 hours expended over a conservative estimate of 80 games, including the playoffs.

80 x 2 = 160 hours

There would be some 32 weeks of watching coverage of the Raptors and the league on a daily basis on NBATV, at a conservative average of 5 hours per week. And easily 2.5 hours per week reading from various sources. Add another 2.5 hours per week running the over/under. That’s 10 hours over 32 weeks.

32 x 10 = 320 hours

Let’s add all that up.

150+25+160+320 = 655 hours

thirty-nine thousand
and three hundred minutes

So how are you going to spend your extra time? I figure if I only bath once a week I might be able to compose a symphony. Doing without bathing wouldn’t be to gain a few more hours as much as allowing me to be inspired by a sense of my own mortality and decay. I suppose I could stay clean and just shoot for an off-broadway musical. Oh what the hell, let’s get that party started already. Should I go with Dribbler on the Roof, featuring star players singing If I were a Rich Man? Maybe Stern and the owners singing Hakuna Matata in the Circle of Strife? Let’s go with Spent, because I’m emotionally spent at this point, and I feel I’ve spent all I’m going to spend on these guys from this point on.

This may hurt a little

Free time is free. Spend it as you wish. Basketball billionaires and millionaires have just made you rich.

All locked out and no place to go, Part 1: The early years up to the end of the first lockout by DanH

Hi everyone.

Our resident capologist DanH has put together a thorough history of the NBA collective agreement and an analysis of how it got this far and where it might be going. We will be posting it in sections over the next week or so. It contains extensive information and lots of context for ongoing discussions about the labour disruption to the game we all love. We hope this will be the start of an ongoing presence for DanH on the RF blog team.

The entries will cover the following time periods:

1. The early years up to the end of the first lockout
2. The ‘beginning of the end’ up to the end of the 1999 agreement
3. The 2005 agreement and what has happened since
4. End game - the 3 main drivers of the push for change
5. Conclusions - How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Lockout, and The Way I See It Ending

This is some amazing stuff folks. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Without further ado, take it away DanH!

So, this sucks. No basketball. No offseason of trades, free agent signings, training camps. Nothing basketball-related to talk about that is even remotely interesting in the slightest…

So let’s talk about the CBA negotiations instead!

With all the rhetoric thrown around by both the players and owners, it’s hard to say exactly what’s even going on, or what each side really wants.

So I thought now would be a good time to take a look through the ancient and not-so-ancient history of these sort of negotiations in the NBA, and see if we can figure something out about what the heck is going on.

I’ll be putting a few posts up about the history of CBA negotiations, what impact they’ve had, what that means for this season, and what we can expect in the coming months. If you want to read more about the CBA and its past, especially the last two agreements, see Larry Coon’s FAQ at NBA Salary Cap FAQ or the NBPA website at National Basketball Player’s Association. That’s where I got a vast majority of the information I present here, and all credit for facts and figures goes to those two sites (mostly Coon’s FAQ, the most useful CBA site in the history of the world).

Also, as I post these feel free to jump in with anything you think I missed or that you think would be relevant to the conversation. Keep in mind that there are several sections though - for example, if we haven’t covered the 2005 CBA yet, you may want to hold your comments about it until we get there.

Let’s start at the beginning…

The Beginning

Bob Cousy led the start of a union in 1954, and the union of players was eventually recognized by the league in 1957. Nothing much came of this until the 1964 all-star game, when a threatened player strike forced the league to adopt a pension plan for the first time.

In 1970, the first collective bargaining agreement was struck between the league and union. This agreement established minimum salaries for players and gave them a per diem.

Several agreements followed over the next decade, with little in way of changes. Arbitration was introduced, a limited form of free agency was created (prior to this, teams could keep players in perpetuity by utilizing option clauses), and no-trade clauses were eliminated.

The 80’s

Finally, in 1983, the league and union agreed that league revenues should be shared between owners and players, and would be defined through the institution of a salary cap. This was the concept of a salary cap - it would restrict teams to spend only a certain percent of revenues, and would encourage teams to spend to that limit to be competitive. The revenue split was well below 50% for the players at this point, since the salary cap was defined as approximately 53% of revenues (divided by the number of teams) - it has ranged from 40% to just over 50% over the years. However, most teams were not spending up to the cap just yet.

Unfortunately for the league, the union (and some owners…) insisted on including a clause called Bird Rights. This clause allowed teams to exceed the cap to re-sign their own free agents, within certain restrictions. This was the beginning of the slippery slope that led to today’s work stoppage. The revenue split grew very quickly because of the inclusion of Bird Rights in the agreement. This drove teams to spend more and more to be competitive, and team salaries grew very quickly form here on out.

The next bargaining agreement in ‘88 stemmed from an antitrust lawsuit filed by the union, and established ideas like unrestricted free agency, a shorter draft (the number of players drafted each year was excessive - there were SEVEN rounds! - and the union was suffering from oversaturation of talent available), and safeguards against collusion amongst owners.

The First Lockout

After that agreement expired, the players filed another antitrust lawsuit in 1994, attacking the concepts of a salary cap and draft, among other things. After a one-year “no-strike-no-lockout” agreement allowed the season to be played, the union and league reached an agreement, but when put to the players for a vote, they decided to have the union decertify rather than accept the terms, and the league locked the players out.

The lockout was short-lived, as both parties came to another agreement before the season started or the filed decertification was ratified, and the players voted against decertification in time to save the entire season. It is hard to say what side won in this round, as the resulting CBA included a rookie salary scale, and a limitation on the revenue going to the players beyond the salary cap (the owners reserved the right to cancel the CBA if the revenue split went above 51.8% to the players). However, the players won the right to be drafted straight out of high school. Until this point, a player had to prove a condition of “hardship” to bypass the requirement that they be a year beyond their graduation.

It should be noted that I do not have detailed information on what the exact percentages were that were used for salary cap calculation in the early years of the NBA. In the most recent agreements, the value of 48% was used most often, with a slight increase recently to 51%. I expect this 48% was the original value used. The cap exceptions didn’t really push player salaries up too quickly for the majority of the early years because of the rapid revenue growth. As TV deals were put in place, the salary cap leaped up as well, keeping player salaries in check relative to the revenues. It is only in the last couple decades that revenue growth once again slowed and made player salary growth a problem.

Stayed tuned for Part 2: The ‘beginning of the end’ up to the end of the 1999 agreement

Report Card Time: Joey

‘trane

I like the big lug, but he?s always at least a step slower than the pace of the game. I had hopes that he could be a Joel Anthony-type player (and that?s not asking too much), but he doesn?t have the defensive IQ and he may not have the right coaching to draw out the best from him. Worth keeping him around as a bench big with the hope that he catches up one day. Not a rotation player.

Grade: C-

LX

Joey had some good games against lesser teams, but had a tough time against quality opponents. He always did well as the lead cheerleader while on the bench. A good character guy to have filling out the roster. And there is still the possibility that he eventually overachieves.

Grade: C

oneironaught

Wouldn’t mind seeing him back. He’s a big body capable of providing energy as a last resort. Every now and then he will provide a highlight, or at least perform the highlight camera mime from the sideline when somebody with a tangible skill does something noteworthy.

Grade: D

fancylad

His towel waving and high fives were full of passion and some of the best i’ve seen. oh wait… we’re grading his play? nevermind then..

Grade: A

Acie

Dorsey could very easily become the next Reggie Evans. Oh wait, what? He’s almost the same age as Reggie. Good luck in Europe.

Grade: C

INSIDER

honestly, this guy shouldnt be in the NBA.
not a fan of him whatsoever.

he actually started a few games for us last year…. that is how badly we stunk.

Grade: D-

RF POSTERS

Joey gets a couple of votes for an A, with 53% handing out a C and 32 percent giving him a D

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