Friday, January 16, 2009

Raptors Report Card

The 2008-09 Toronto Raptors may not rebound, play defence, or finish off games, but they sure can shoot the hell out of free throws. As a team they’re hitting an NBA best 82.9% from the line, lead by Jose Calderon who hasn’t missed from the charity stripe all season.

Yes, with a 16-24 record on the morning of the 41st game, the official halfway point of the season, it has come to this: the best (only?) quality the Raptors have is free throw shooting.

A smart team would try to take advantage of its strength, particularly a team that is noticeably short on strengths. Not the Raptors. They get to the line only 23 times a game, seventh worst in the league.

The good news is…well, actually, I haven’t figured that out yet. But there’s gotta be a silver lining…right?

Chris Bosh – In his sixth NBA season Bosh has firmly established himself as a franchise player, a guy who will put up 23 and 10 every night, a guy any team would want to build around. But as we’ve seen this year, he isn’t quite good enough to do it all by himself (unless it’s a YouTube video). He’s a very, very good player, but not a superstar, not a guy who can put his team on his back and carry them to victories. We’ve seen too many double-digit leads evaporate, and too many half-hearted efforts to crown him as one of the truly elite.
Grade: A-

Anthony Parker – Continues to be very reliable from three-point range and has one of the best fade-aways in basketball, but the 33 year-old has clearly lost a step. He’s getting abused on the defensive end and his time as a legitimate starter in this league is probably over. That said, he’ll likely go to a place like San Antonio and win multiple championships on a team that really understands how to place players in their proper role.
Grade: C+

Andrea Bargnani – His recent play has been impressive…ok, it’s been shocking. After a 100 game hibernation, the sweet-stroke that was on display during his rookie season has finally returned. He’s put a streak together of nine straight games in which he hasn’t scored less than 17 and just as importantly, he may have finally turned the corner defensively. Not that he’s suddenly transformed into Dikembe Mutombo or Marcus Camby, but at least he isn’t Rafael Araujo anymore. (Made you cringe at the thought of Hoffa, didn’t I?)
Grade: B+

Jose Calderon – On the heels of two very impressive and promising seasons, Calderon’s play has leveled off to some extent. The jumper off the high screen that was basically a lay-up for him last year has disappeared, and he hasn’t been able to find the seams to the basket that he used to routinely exploit. The hamstring issue has obviously been nagging him, and probably will for the remainder of the season. Can we ask him to take the summer off and not play for Spain in EuroBasket 2009?
Grade: B

Jermaine O’Neal – What can you say? After missing 40, 13, 31, and 38 games over the last four seasons, anyone who expected O’Neal to be a regular contributor was naive. He’s already sat out 12 games this year, and when you see how well Bosh and Bargnani are currently complementing each other, the thinking in Raptor headquarters has to be centered on trading O’Neal. Has to be. Ummm, right?
Grade: C+

Jason Kapono – I still don’t think he’s being used properly. When he’s on the court you have to give him shots because otherwise he’s just a defensive liability. At worst, he should be the second option offensively when he’s on the floor. Let him catch and shoot, no dribbling. If there was any motion at all in the Raptor offense Kapono could be a 15-point per game player.
Grade: B-

Jamario Moon – You can’t depend on Moon for anything because you never know if he’s going to show up. His intensity is usually on the Vince Carter level, which is to say non-existent. If I were his agent I would be telling him to crash the boards, play lock-down defence, and never shoot the ball. Ever. Be Dennis Rodman minus the crazy. I guess he doesn’t understand that a 10 or 20 game stretch of good or even slightly above average play could net him $30-40 million. Not in Toronto, goodness no, but somewhere.
Grade: C

Joey Graham – Without Sam Mitchell berating him over every mistake, Joey finally started to play with the aggression Raps fans have wanted to see for years. Graham hasn’t made us forget that it could have been Danny Granger lining up beside Bosh, but he has potentially turned himself into decent trade filler for Bryan Colangelo. I mean, he makes one or two explosive moves every game, plays that bring fans to their feet in amazement. Couldn’t Colangelo sucker Chris Wallace or Kevin McHale into something?
Grade: B-

Will Solomon – Didn’t seem to want to put the team ahead of himself over the first 35 games, but in the last few games has shown signs that he could be competent. Still, his inner Mike James will always scare me.
Grade: C+

Roko Ukic – Not a typical point guard in that he really isn’t a great playmaker or passer, but has shown an ability to create his own shot when he gets in the lane (usually some kind of floater) and attacks the rim as well as anyone on the team. Ukic is one of the 2-3 players (along with Bargnani and mayyyyybe Bosh) on the roster who actually has room to grow. And at 6’5, he’s got the size to be a decent defender at his position.
Grade: B-

Kris Humphries – I’m convinced he could be a valuable rotation member, but Hump just can’t seem to get out of his own way. He makes a few good plays and suddenly thinks he can do anything. Maybe watching Jake Voskuhl (a guy who has perhaps a quarter of Humphries' talent but doesn’t ever try to do too much) usurp his minutes will turn the light on for him.
Grade: C


  1. A 16-24 record and the lowest grade you give is a C?

    Sorry, but for this reason, I give this posting a D.

  2. You're absolutely right, that doesn't make a great deal of sense on the surface. And maybe Moon or Hump should could have been Ds...but when you go up and down the roster, you can point to stretches from each player where they performed their role well and did the job.

    It's not like one or two guys have been awful all year, putting in terrible performances that make them an obvious goat. O'Neal scored 100 points in four games before the Holidays but started the year very slowly and now has missed some time. Bargnani can be Nowitzki one night and Darko the next.

    I tried to grade each player on his individual performance and ability to contribute to the team. So far this year, the Raps individual performances haven't been as bad as the total team performances...if that makes any sense.