Arsenalist: Building With Bosh and Bargnani As The Core
Old 08-22-2009, 10:36 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Post Arsenalist: Building With Bosh and Bargnani As The Core

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Building with Bosh and Bargnani as the core
By Arsenalist

Whenever this issue comes up there are the naysayers who maintain that the two cannot coexist on the same team. The arguments made are numerous. The popular ones include that theyíre too perimeter oriented to complement each other, or that they play the same position forcing one of them to play out of position, or that the chemistry between them just isnít there. Based on the evidence all arguments have a point and a counter-point, letís examine this issue further. Iím not suggesting that they can or canít play together; Iím merely exploring the thought.

Natural Position

Some experts like Jonathan Givony of Draft Express feel that the distinction between the PF and C in the modern game has eroded to the point where teams should have two big men and not worry about what position they play. Many disagree with that theory by pointing out that both positions should bring different elements to the game and that the role of each is well-defined enough that although there may be role-reversal, there cannot be duplication. Letís go with this theory for a second.

On the offensive side in a perfect world theyíll both play PF because it happens to be their natural position. Bargnani made his mark in Europe there and Bosh has gotten numerous All-Star nods at the same position. Offensively, Bosh is able to take advantage of slower PFs and Cs using his quickness to get to the FT line or by creating space for his jumper. Defensively, he doesnít have the bulk or width to defend centers and has a body-type more suited to defend the PF (or even slower SFs). Bargnani too has an advantage at the PF; he isnít the greatest of jumpers and can use his height advantage far more frequently at the 4 than at the 5. Shooting over smaller players is his strength but at center he often encounters big men who match him in size forcing him to use the perimeter dribble to create the advantage, something he hasnít mastered in three years.

Rebounding is where Bargnani struggles. Heís grown up playing the 4 on either block and has been asked to shift to the middle and assume the rebounding responsibilities associated with a center. Heís struggled with that as on most nights heís trying to box-out the opposing teamís best rebounder. Would Bargnani fare better if he were guarding the smaller of the opposing 4/5 rather than the bigger? Bosh carries the brunt of the rebounding load on the frontline and is a very good rebounder for his position, the question is whether heíd do the same against Cs and in the process allow Bargnani to try his luck at rebounding against the usually smaller PFs.

I do think itís a question of guarding the weaker player on defense for both of them. Checking their positional stats you can see that the waters between PF and C are muddied, it comes down to who has the easier defensive matchup on most nights and thatís where Bargnaniís disadvantage lies as I believe heís more suited to guarding the PF than the C.

Perimeter Oriented

Yes, I know Bosh gets to the FT line but that doesnít mean heís not a perimeter oriented player. Both Bargnani and Bosh catch the ball from at least 15 feet out and work from there. Their primary offensive moves are of the face-up variety and both prefer the jumper, Bosh and Bargnani shoot 64% and 75% of their shots from outside respectively, that is a higher percentage than any other PF/C duo in the league. The main threat they pose is very similar: guard me tight outside or Iíll launch a jumper on you; if you guard me too tight I can get by you, whether Iíll actually do that or not is a different story. The ĎTwin Towersí comparison to Duncan/Robinson isnít correct because they donít actually play like towers and control the paint, theyíve both got guard-skills and rely on heavy rebounding help from others (mostly due to Bargnani), something which is very, very rare in NBA frontlines. Rebounding is the crux of an NBA team and with this duo collecting only 36.4% of defensive rebounds and only 24% of all available rebounds, both near the bottom in the league, is this defensive pairing sustainable?

In Sync

I can count on one hand the plays where theyíve truly fed off of each other. A lot has to do with our offense favouring the guard/big two-man game which forces one of Bosh and Bargnani to just wait for something to develop in the elbow/wing area. Itís also our tendency to use Bargnani strictly as a 3-point shooter on most of the sets while Bosh and Calderon run the pick Ďn pop to death. Our offense under Mitchell and Triano has never managed to accommodate or mesh the skills that these two players have. Iím not sure how much it is due to the lack of sets featuring Bargnani-Bosh as the primary players and how much it is due to the limits of their or the coaching staffsí skill.

Kobe/Shaq, Duncan/Robinson, Jordan/Pippen, Stockton/Malone, Magic/Kareem, Bird/McHale, Thomas/Dumars etc. Itís safe to say that the great NBA title-contending combos of the last quarter century have rarely been at the 4/5 and this is perhaps the strongest argument against the Bosh-Bargnani pairing. Simply put, the Ying to a big manís Yang is usually a wing and not another big man.

I wrote a post earlier which called for the Raptors to get a post-up player who would play the game inside-out which would encourage cutters to cut. I was thinking of Bosh and Bargnani to be the post-up player and the cutter, whether that will remain a pipe dream should be known this year. Playing rinse-and-repeat with last yearís offense isnít going to make-do this year. Triano needs to create a dynamic and repeatable property in the offense that involves Bosh and Bargnani gelling together instead of simply alternating touches every possession.

This missing dynamic is something I was hoping the OíNeal trade to bring forth but that effort failed miserably and only resulted in Bargnaniís growth as a player slowing down. This year Triano will have to apply his coaching powers to extract the maximum out of this pairing, something he failed to do last year after Mitchell had failed to do the same OíNeal and Bosh.

Finances and Coaching

Finances-wise, all weíre doing is committing 40-44M to our four best players (Bosh, Bargnani, Calderon and Turkoglu), this is a very common strategy as demonstrated by Orlando, Cleveland, Lakers and Denver to name a few so I donít think those who feel that we overpaid for Bargnani have a real point. Is Nene, Wallace or Bynum worth the money? Arguing from a financial perspective is pointless; the question is whether Bosh and Bargnani can find harmony on the basketball court and whether Calderon is the point-guard to act as the catalyst. I firmly believe (just like I did last year) that coaching and point-guard play will have a large part to play in how successful the Bosh-Bargnani duo will be. Triano and his staff better find a way to create a system Ė a new one Ė which integrates these two unique players or else the team balance will shift to a point where weíll be asking role players to perform above their abilities because the core isnít contributing.

If weíre going to stick with this combo there needs to be a clear advantage to this madness, not just weaknesses which are there to be exploited. They need to be our bread-and-butter just like Duncan/Robinson were to the Spurs and just like Stockton/Malone to the Jazz. When the offense is running dry we should be able to go the Bosh/Bargnani well while still maintaining defensive parity, if not advantage. History has shown that this is a highly unusual method of building a contender but it is possible to have your two best players at the 4 and 5 while still contending.

In the end the math is simple: if the disadvantages outweigh the advantages then you have to end the experiment no matter how sexy it is.

Your thoughts are welcome.
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Old 08-22-2009, 01:07 PM   #2 (permalink)
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excellent article, I would argue that Bargnani is just as suited at defending Cs and PFs, he only has problems with very big centers (howard, shaq, yao, Z) due to lack of strength. If he gets stronger (won't happen this offseason), he will become a top post defender in this league imo.

as far as the experiment, I think this season will be the first one when the emphasis will be on bosh/andreea. Until now, andreea was an afterthought on this team (mitchell was horrible in this respect, and probably the main reason he was fired, you can't play the same player at C and SF in the same month - that's ridiculous).

Andreea used to get his points as leftovers of various schemes focused on bosh. This season, he will, for the first time, get plays designed with him in mind, and to exploit his strengths, other than the 3pt shot.

And therefore I agree that this season will be the benchmark for the BB experiment. I only want to add that it won't come to making a choice, because it either works, or Bosh leaves.
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Old 08-22-2009, 01:19 PM   #3 (permalink)
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The problem isn't that they're both PFs. It's that Bosh is as much a SF as PF offensively and Bargnani is a 7 foot SG. The most effective big man scorers are post players because when teams collapse on them you can kick it out to open shots. If you don't have a post player, a guy like Wade or Paul will do the same thing by crashing the paint and collapsing the d. We don't have that.

Furthermore we have no defensive presence from this two. To make up for it requires super defensive role players on the perimeter. But the problem is perimeter defense has eroded since the handcheck change. PG defense has ceased to be about the player himself and defending iso-style, it's about how well your team guards the pick and roll, which relies on your big as much it does the PG. Nash got killed so much last year because present Shaq is like the worst pnr defender in history. Look at Rondo - For a supposed league best PG defender, his d looked godawful against the Bulls. I wonder if that had anything to do the best pick and roll defender in the league KG being injured. Calderon looks brutal guarding PGs, but it's not so much his lack of footspeed that does it, it's how much he sucks fighting through screens combined with Bosh and Bargs providing nothing defending pick and rolls

Then look at the other side... Orl was the #1 defensive team in the league last year with Nelson/Alston, Lee/Pietrus, Hedo, and Rashard on the perimeter, all mediocore man to man defenders. It's their team d that was fantastic, and it started with Dwight anchoring it all.

If Bargnani maintains his current level on defense, this pair will forever be garbage. If he gets to Rasho leve, we're in business. This year that's what will be most important our future. If Bargs drops to 12ppg but becomes a Rasho-like defender, I'll be much much happier than if he is a 19ppg guy who played d like last year. At present what he brings offensively is just not worth what he takes away on the defensive end and boards. We'd be much better off with a 9/9 with defense guy who we can find on the open market most years. Samuel Dalembert and Tyson Chandler are currently much more valuable players than Bargnani

Last edited by The MVP of West Hollywood; 08-22-2009 at 01:35 PM.
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Old 08-22-2009, 01:27 PM   #4 (permalink)
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The perimeter defense was absolutely horrible. Even when Marion arrived and got to the point where he was able to tighten up the perimeter, it meant that the bigs were able to look OK on the defensive end. Even POB was changing shots constantly. Bargnani does need to get better with the help, but I really think he was headed in the right direction already.

Offensively, Bargnani has been far more than just an afterthought. He got plenty of chances as a first option once he was able to play more of an inside game, and that happened from the start of the season.
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Old 08-22-2009, 01:54 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I would expect Bosh's defense to take a quantum leap this season as well now that he doesn't have to worry about carrying the load offensively.
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Old 08-22-2009, 06:34 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TORaptor4Ever View Post
I would expect Bosh's defense to take a quantum leap this season as well now that he doesn't have to worry about carrying the load offensively.
I agree and also hopefully Jack will inspire some of the fight he had at the Olympics where he was their best defensive player.
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Old 08-22-2009, 10:27 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I think Bargnani improved his defense immensely last year when he started covering centers and played regularly. He needs to continue to improve.
Bosh has never become an excellent defensive player ... we need to be aggressive to get to the next level.
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Old 08-23-2009, 10:21 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I think Bargnani improved his defense immensely last year when he started covering centers and played regularly. He needs to continue to improve.
Bosh has never become an excellent defensive player ... we need to be aggressive to get to the next level.
Bosh is actually an amazing defensive player. In the Olympics when he was the back up center, he played a lot of good minutes because Dwight got into foul trouble and they said he was one of their four most important players because of his D. Hopefully the new Raptors (and Jarrett Jack) will inspire Bosh to play D to his full capabalities.
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Old 08-23-2009, 11:12 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Bosh has been a mediocre defender at best. His "D" at the Olympics is so overblown. Who exactly was he guarding there? Gasol put up 21 in the gold medal game.

Chris has to become the leader for Toronto at that end of the floor. He's got to talk it up, patrol the paint and make opposing players fear attacking the basket. He's too gentle and kind to put anyone who comes in there on their ass.
He's got to lead by example and work his ass off to shut down the other team's best big. He's got to hold his teammates accountable for their defensive effort. No more switching!! Fight through screens, stay in front of your man or take a seat on the bench.

Quote:
Triano needs to create a dynamic and repeatable property in the offense that involves Bosh and Bargnani gelling together instead of simply alternating touches every possession.
On offense, if the coaches implement some innovative sets that utilize high post screen and rolls/pops for Bosh and Bargs, both their games should flourish. More of the "O" should start on the wings - foul line extended - with the ball in Hedo's hands. Pick and roll between Bosh and Turkoglu should be almost unguardable. Same type of deal between say, Bargs and Belinelli, on the opposite side of the floor. The PG should get alot of open looks spotting up and waiting for the ball.
I envision it kind of like the triangle but with the strong-side big starting at the elbow rather than the low block and the weak-side forward heading down low for high-low feeds and or offensive boards.
But what the hell do I know?
I'm really interested to see what Triano comes up with.
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Old 08-23-2009, 11:39 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Bosh has been a mediocre defender at best. His "D" at the Olympics is so overblown. Who exactly was he guarding there? Gasol put up 21 in the gold medal game.

Chris has to become the leader for Toronto at that end of the floor. He's got to talk it up, patrol the paint and make opposing players fear attacking the basket. He's too gentle and kind to put anyone who comes in there on their ass.
He's got to lead by example and work his ass off to shut down the other team's best big. He's got to hold his teammates accountable for their defensive effort. No more switching!! Fight through screens, stay in front of your man or take a seat on the bench.



On offense, if the coaches implement some innovative sets that utilize high post screen and rolls/pops for Bosh and Bargs, both their games should flourish. More of the "O" should start on the wings - foul line extended - with the ball in Hedo's hands. Pick and roll between Bosh and Turkoglu should be almost unguardable. Same type of deal between say, Bargs and Belinelli, on the opposite side of the floor. The PG should get alot of open looks spotting up and waiting for the ball.
I envision it kind of like the triangle but with the strong-side big starting at the elbow rather than the low block and the weak-side forward heading down low for high-low feeds and or offensive boards.
But what the hell do I know?
I'm really interested to see what Triano comes up with.
I think you hit it right one the button. Bosh needs to toughen up on defence and get Bargs motivated on defence to or we will get burned. We switch to much, which give the opposing teams a lot of miss matchers. Offence should be interesting as well, Hopefully not so many pick and roles, and more back door screens, ISO's etc.
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Old 08-23-2009, 11:44 AM   #11 (permalink)
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What I don't want to see any more of are iso's where Bosh holds the ball for 5 seconds, lets the defense adjust, then attacks the basket like a giraffe on rollerskates.
With more talent the ball should move quicker for easier looks.
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Old 08-23-2009, 11:48 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I think the offence will be more fluid this season. That will make our offence more quick, and not so much time to hesitate. Bosh needs to put his back to the basket more, and become more aggressive. I'd more like to se Bargs iso from the top of the key. I think Jay trusts his jump shot opposed to Bosh's.
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Old 08-23-2009, 12:00 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Bosh has a ridiculously sweet mid-range J. They shouldn't take it away from him. He just needs to read the defense quicker and be more decisive with it.
Yes, Bosh should try to play a bit more with his back to the basket, but Bargs needs to as well. So far from what I've seen of Andrea's progress in that area this summer, it doesn't look good. The kid's footwork is awful and like Zoolander he can't go left.

Last edited by Dann38; 08-23-2009 at 11:41 PM.
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Old 08-23-2009, 01:40 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Alot of great points by everyone. I personally love a front court of Bargs and Bosh. Basketball is going away from traditional centers and Moremilk points out Shaq, Howard, Yao and Z as difficult covers for Andrea, which they are for anyone. But three of those guys could be out of the league by end of next season due to age and injury.

Center position in the NBA is changing to a more mobile one and the bigger quandry will be how opposing teams are gonna cover a front court of B&B as it matures. It doesn't matter how many points the opposing 4 and 5 put up, ours will allways put up more. They should become a monster cover on the offensive zone and it will become more about how other teams are gonna stop them than the other way around. However as pointed out by another poster, neither player has really had the benefit of a quality offensive playbook instituted by the coaches. Triano unlike Sam is an X/O's coach and that should help tremendously. It is their job to finally utilize the two to the best of their advantage. Imagine a playbook that has Bosh and Calderon, and than maybe Turk and Bargnani running screen and rolls from alternate sides of the floor against a myraid of different defenders while at the same time having back door cutters like Wright or Derozan heading to the hoop. Every player should have a purpose just like the triangle offence. It should be unstoppable.

I believe both Barganani and a bigger stronger Bosh are capable of being very good defenders and as someone else points out, some containment by perimeter defenders is a huge key to making the guys under the basket look extremely bad or extremely good. We have some great perimeter defenders this year and i pray that Calderon stays healthy because he actually can be a disruptive influence defensively when healthy.

Also as Dan38 points out and i've said this a number of times myself, Bosh has to stop with the indecision with the ball at the top of the key, it means he's not concentrating enough, he needs to know instinctively whether to drive or not. The indecision leads to the whole offence becoming static and easy to defend. If he hasn't made his move in 1 1/2 seconds he has to kick it out immediately, the defence has too much time to set. Also you can't put your team to sleep and than expect them to be responsive when you finally do something. Bargs must continue and will, improve his back to the basket game, he made huge strides last year in just one year and as he gets bigger and stronger each year he will be more and more difficult to stop.
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