On the surface, tonight’s game between the Toronto Raptors and the Washington Wizards just looks like a battle of two struggling teams. The Raptors are 2-8 and in last place of the Atlantic Division, while the Washington Wizards are 2-6 and in last place in the Southeast. Both teams have gone through major personnel changes since the ’09-10 season, and both were expected to have uphill climbs this season.
Of course, the major difference is that the Raptors lost the face of their franchise in Chris Bosh over the summer, while the Wizards welcomed their new future when they drafted John Wall. The loss of Bosh without a significant player in return has basically ensured that the Raptors will struggle this season, and likely longer. The addition of a young player in Wall means that the Wizards may struggle this year, but their future certainly seems to be in great and capable hands.
It is quite easy for me to make grandiose, sweeping generalizations about the Toronto Raptors, because I observe the team from afar (afar, meaning I have not watched them play an entire game all season). So to get a better idea of what’s truly going with Raptors, I decided to reach out to my old editor, Mr. Ryan McNeill.
Ryan is the editor and founder of the site, HoopsAddict.com, and he has covered the Raptors with credentials for four years. He has appeared on NBA XL, ESPN Radio, The Fan 590, The Chris Townsend Show and WSRQ 1220, and he is also contributor to SLAM ONLINE.
Rashad Mobley: The Wizards have some young players in Nick Young and JaVale McGee who have shown spurts of greatness, but have yet to put it together consistently. The Raptors have young players in DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems, who have have been playing noticeably better this year. Why do you think they are playing better this year? And is there another young player I may have left out who is also playing well?
Ryan McNeill: Weems and DeRozan fit into that description because they have shown spurts of greatness, but have yet to put it together consistently. Granted, Weems sees limited minutes, but there has been no excuse for DeRozan. He’ll have back-to-back 20 point games and then attempt a handful of field goals over the following few games. Not only that, but he appears allergic to contact in the paint on drives.
Needless to say watching DeRozan play is frustrating for fans, and I’m disappointed in where he is in his development.
RM: I’ve been a bit critical of Flip Saunders as of late, because I really don’t think he’s a good fit for this new youth movement of the Wizards. I’ve been seeing articles here and there that suggest perhaps Jay Triano should be fired because the team is struggling. What is your take on that? Is he a good fit?
McNeill: There have been rumblings of Triano getting axed and I think that idea is ludicrous. What do fans want him to do – turn water into wine like Jesus did? The only “starter” on this team that would start for other teams is Andrea Bargnani, and even that is questionable as most teams would have him as a scoring option off the bench. The team lacks a true starting point guard [Jarrett Jack vs. Jose Calderon], their starting small forward played in Europe last year [Linas Kleiza], Reggie Evans should be glued to the bench, but is getting tons of minutes, and DeRozan has been madly inconsistent. None of those are issues with the coaching staff – it’s Bryan Colangelo issues. Still, they gave Miami a scare on Saturday and beat Orlando on Friday. At 2-8, I would say the team is performing above their abilities so far this season, and because of that Triano should be applauded.
RM: I think Andrea Bargnani is the Andray Blatche of the Toronto Raptors: loads of talent, a threat for 20/10 every night, but neither player properly takes advantage of their size. Is that a fair assessment? And with Bosh no longer there, have you noticed any change in his game?
McNeill: Each season I’ve noticed slow and steady growth in Bargnani’s game, and I think that’s all you can ask for a young big. Would more rebounds be good? Sure, but each season those rebounding averages have slowly increased. Last year his numbers were comparable to Brook Lopez, and this year he has a better scoring average and an almost identical rebounding average.
Bargnani averaged 17.1 points per game last season, and this year he’ll easily eclipse 20 per game. The thing is, he’s consistent this year and rarely has a night where he fails to hit double-figures in scoring. The rebounds (hopefully) will come in time. However, with that being said, it has been tough for anybody to snag a rebound when Evans is grabbing rebounds at the rate he is for this season.
Here’s my little rant: Who would you take over Bargs from that draft? Brandon Roy? I would pass on [Roy] because his knees have been shot for years and now his career is in real peril after the news that came out this weekend. LaMarcus Aldridge? He’s too much of a “diva” and doesn’t post numbers much better than Bargs. Maybe I’m biased, but when you look at the career numbers from guys in that draft I think you might find Bargnani will have enjoyed the best career. Far from the “bust” a lot of people claim he is.
[Ed. Note: The 2006 Draft, and looking back, many might take Rudy Gay or Rajon Rondo over Bargnani, but that, of course, depends on a team's size needs.]
RM: As mentioned, Toronto played the Magic and the Heat in the past two games (both in Florida), which means they’ve gone up against Vince Carter and Chris Bosh. Does Bosh’s decision to leave last summer free Carter from the wrath of Raptors fans? Or is there equal dislike? And so I don’t end on a negative note, what is your favorite Bosh story?
McNeill: Honestly? They will tear him a new hole when he returns to the ACC, but I don’t think it will be deserved. He played his heart out during his seven years in Toronto and as a free agent he earned the right to sign wherever he wanted. How can you blame the guy for wanting to play with his buddies in South Beach? To me, this reeks of what William C . Rhoden talked about his in book, “40 Million Dollar Slaves.” Personally, the only choice he made this summer that was bad was the one to “take sand to the beach.”
My favorite Bosh story was when he got caught in his elevator before a game and arrived to the arena just in time for the opening tip. Here’s the post if you want a good chuckle.