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Tim Chisholm: Defense Not the Only Issue for Raps
Apologies if this is a re-post, but some good stuff here:
The fact is that it appears that Triano has some serious damage control to do considering he's stuck in this job, and it begins with him exploring all of the seemingly valid criticisms being laid at his feet. If he is truly not calling out players for fear of their sensitivities ('cough' Andrea Bargnani 'cough') then Jarrett Jack was right to gripe about it to the press. There are so many individual breakdowns in rotations on defense that can be laid at the feet of Bargnani and Jose Calderon right now that even the possibility that they aren't being reprimanded for it is going to boil the blood of any paying customer at the Air Canada Centre. Plus, we have yet to see much of any signs of the get-out-on-the-break or passing-based offenses that Triano preached to every corner about in preseason. His current system, despite his plethora of scorers, has looked laughably easy to stop in the last week or two of the season. It's as though he came out to start the season with an idea of how to run this team's offense and was subsequently shocked to learn that opposing teams would scout it and learn to defend it. The team has been reduced to a series of pick-and-roll and isolation plays that may as well have been designed by the man Triano replaced a year ago today.
Not to pile it all on Triano, but he isn't helping his cause with fans with his Mitchell-esque remarks at the end of games, either. His casual "the shots didn't fall tonight" and "there are no problems with the starters" routine after Tuesday's loss to Washington were atypically dismissive for Triano and last night's claim that he felt his team was really trying out on the court was either delusional or insulting considering the records approached or broken for ineptitude.
As the team is currently constructed, a poor job is being done to prioritize certain players on offense. Clearly Bosh is the key figure in whatever this team does offensively, but after him it gets muddled. Who is the next guy the team is looking to get involved? Bargnani? Turkoglu? What is Calderon's function, then? He should simply be setting the table for these guys, but his assists are way down this season (6.4 compared to 8.9 last year) and it looks like he's only valuable when he too is scoring. What is DeRozan meant to offer the starting five?
The reason behind some of this is coaching, but it also looks to be the makeup of the team. This club, it has turned out, has incompatible talent. I always preferred this team keeping Shawn Marion over acquiring Hedo because it created less redundancy on the roster while also servicing a need (defense and rebounding). However, the team went with Hedo and is now facing the reality that squeezing another scorer into this core might have been a foolhardy effort.
Here's an example: Hedo broke out with the Magic because he found himself with the ball at the point a great deal of the time for the first time in his career. He plays at his best when he has the ball in his hands and he is allowed to create for himself and others. He is a rhythm player, and he needs the ball to stay in his rhythm and when he doesn't have the ball he tends to fade out of games. In Toronto, though, the team employs a ball-dominating guard in Calderon, who also needs control of the offense to stay productive. Right now, Calderon sees more of the ball, so Turkoglu is wildly out of rhythm (his shooting percentage overall is solid, but game-to-game he's incredibly inconsistent since the more shots he takes the more he misses) and he's more often than not relegated to being a REALLY expensive spot-up shooter. However, he is given enough time at the point to upset Calderon's rhythm, so his assist numbers have fallen off and he's become more of a scorer, which the team already has in abundance.
Here is the problem with having so many scorers: there is only one ball!
In an attempt to keep everyone around Bosh productive, no one gets enough shots to stay productive on a consistent, game-to-game basis. Plus, Bosh, Bargnani, Turkoglu and Calderon all start the game together, which means that someone is going to get left out of the early game attack and will need to find another time to get in the flow of the game. It's not going to be when the bench comes in, though, because that just gives you Jarrett Jack and Marco Belinelli, two more guys who need shots to stay effective as players.
Now, teams like Phoenix can adjust to a situation like this because they have one of history's all-time great playmakers in Steve Nash running the show, a man who can handle the challenge of keeping everybody productive on the court, plus Phoenix a more rigid pecking order than Toronto does, anyway. Channing Frye isn't meant to get as many shots as Bargnani, Grant Hill isn't meant to get as many shots as Hedo Turkoglu and Steve Nash is far better than Calderon at balancing his scoring against his passing. The Suns have one primary bench scorer, Leandro Barbosa, and he actually gets consistent touches when he comes in the game, unlike Belinelli. The Raptors have paid a lot of money to a lot of players to all basically do the same thing and the team as a whole is suffering as a result.
Then, of course, there is the defense. Here's the thing: this team isn't ever going to be a dominant defensive force. If they could sort out their offensive struggles they might be able to mitigate the defense, somewhat, but so long as "Traffic Cone Calderon" and "Rotation-free Bargnani" play two of the most crucial defensive positions on the court for this team, defense can pretty much be written-off as a possibility for this club.