Players and coaches are programmed not to admit overconfidence publicly, but in the crevices of their locker room or practice courts, the Wizards and Raptors have to be looking at tonight’s game and thinking to themselves, “We are definitely winning.” In their last three games, the Wizards defeated the lowly Bobcats, came close to defeating the Orlando Magic (they aren’t playing well now, but they still have Dwight F. Howard), and the Chicago Bulls (arguably the best team in the league). Facing the Raptors, a team that gave the Wizards their first victory this season, would seem to be an easier task. The Raptors were just thoroughly whipped by the Celtics in Boston, just one night after being whipped by the Hawks in Toronto. They have to be thinking that their confidence can and will be restored against the lowly Wizards — a team they already have extra motivation to defeat after losing in Washington on January 10th. Before we see which franchise can take advantage of the other, Ryan McNeill (@ryanmcneill) of Hoops Addict, TAI’s Adam McGinnis (@AdamMcGinnis) and yours truly, Rashad Mobley (@rashad20), will go 3-on-3 starting right now.
#1) During his six-year tenure as president/GM of the Toronto Raptors, Bryan Colangelo enjoyed some success before the departure of Chris Bosh, but since then, he has been criticized for his draft failures, the Raptors’ lack of a defensive mindset, and his puzzling free agent signings (most recently Jamaal Magloire and Anthony Parker). During his nine-year tenure as Wizards team president, Ernie Grunfeld is credited with building playoff teams during the Gilbert Arenas era, but since then his moves (or lack thereof) have the Wizards mired in something worse than mediocrity. Both GMs are now asking their fans to trust in the development of their young players, and to be patient with the rebuilding process once again. Which GM deserves to be relieved of their duties?
McNEILL: Maybe I’m being a homer, but I’m voting for Grunfeld. Besides lucking into John Wall with an easy pick, what has he done to warrant trust during his time in Washington? Colangelo was burned by Bosh, but there isn’t anyone surrounding the team who honestly thought he should have dealt him before that summer. Even the drafting of Bargnani is looking “safe” considering his development and how that draft class is now shaking out. Again, this is a homer pick, but consider Bosh was in place, and LaMarcus Aldridge (2nd pick after Bosh in 2006) was a redundant piece, so the only other player who might have been a better fit is Rudy Gay. So, sorry, I’m not buying the argument that five years with Brandon Roy (6th pick) is better than the decade Toronto will get with Bargnani.
MOBLEY: I want to say Colangelo, because those rabid, supportive Raptors fans have watched Vince Carter and Chris Bosh lead the franchise to the playoffs, and now they have to watch Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon lead them to the lottery. But Grunfeld is trying to rebuild the Wizards franchise into a contender for the third time in nine years, and everyone who started with him from Gilbert Arenas to Eddie Jordan to Flip Saunders is gone. The official rebuild will begin when he follows suit.
McGINNIS: Since Ted Leonsis took over ownership in 2010, Grunfeld has been a good solider in the new mandate of freeing up cap space and acquiring young players. This does not absolve his past mistakes or mean that he warrants a contract extension after it expires at end of this season. Flip Saunders was relieved of his duties and the company line was team needed a new voice, but this also applies to the basketball personnel department. It would seem appropriate for a fresh decision-maker to lead the Washington rebuild and beyond. Colangelo could have a future super star in 2011 draft pick Jonas Valanciunas, and with a loaded 2012 draft, those two picks could determine whether the Raptors GM is worth keeping around.
#2) True or False: DeMar DeRozan and John Wall aren’t having disappointing 2011-2012 seasons, they just overachieved in 2010-2011
McNEILL: This is true In DeRozan’s case because he is showing that even with a high volume of shot attempts, he can’t put the ball in the bucket. His last game is typical of his output this year – he had as many made field goals (3) as turnovers and needed 12 field goal attempts to score 8 points. Ugly! Heck, even if Jordan Crawford can jack up shots he can score.
MOBLEY: In Wall’s case this is definitely false. Despite his refusal to acknowledge it, his struggles this year can partly be attributed to the habits he accured during the summer. As he finds his comfort zone with Randy Wittman’s running and pressing style, he’ll revert to his rookie form. DeRozan, like his fellow USC Trojan Nick Young, is adept at scoring and little else, and now that teams have figured out he’s a mild threat, he’s been neutralized a bit — even with Andrea Bargnani providing the ultimate distraction of having an All-Star season. For now, DeRozan an overrated player.
McGINNIS: Wall still has the talent to be a special point guard in this league and is only 21-years old. His defense is better from his rookie season, and he is using pick-and-rolls much more efficiently on offense. While Wall’s numbers have dipped a bit, DeRozan’s shooting percentage has nosedived from 47-percent to 38-percent. DeMar’s game seems to be modeled a la Nick Young’s, so he has be to drilling the mid-range shot to be an effective player. False, both have too much promise not to bounce back from their disappointing campaigns.
#3) It is no secret that a Wizards/Raptors game on a Friday night might be THE hardest game to sell to an NBA fan this season. If it was your job to do so, what would you say?
McNEILL: I would try to sell fans on the point guard matchup. John Wall has seemed to have turned a corner recently – or at least is attempting to – and Jose Calderon is one of the top assist guys in the NBA. If you like strong PG play, this is a game to soak up.
MOBLEY: It’s all about the USC battle between Nick Young and DeMar DeRozan.
McGINNIS: It could be worse than trying to make someone pay money to see a Charlotte Bobcats game, although this match up is also a tough sell. I would market the angle of Wall and Wizards being a young team with a few foreign players in an international city like Toronto. Raptors could give out a bobble head, as people love free stuff. I would ask the crew over at The Basketball Jones for advice, because they already had me lobbying for Andrea Bargnani to be in All-Star based on this creative video.