NBA Roundtable

Raptors: Two Terrifying Situations

In General NBA on December 1, 2009 at 7:29 am

There are two situations which downright terrify me about the Raptors future:

  • Andrea Bargnani moving to the bench
  • A Bosh sign-and-trade

Bench Bargnani

There have been a lot of Raptors fans wanting to see Bargnani move to the bench, or questioning/considering the idea and wondering if it would improve the team, in order to improve the Raptors defensively + general cohesiveness.

Firstly, let me get this out of the way, I fully agree that benching Bargnani will make the Raptors a better basketball team. Those who’ve read my thoughts on Bargnani in the past know why I think that (negatives defensively + rebounding outweigh the offensive contributions). However, while it helps, it becomes one of those situations where the phrase “short term gain, long term pain” applies.

Andrea Bargnani is a 24 year old seven foot sweet shooting center who scores 18-20 points per game and has potential. While he has serious flaws and while there are many teams who will be turned off those flaws … there will always be GM’s who see value + upside in a prospect like Bargnani. Seven footers who can score the ball like he can are rare + valuable.

As long as Bargnani is playing big minutes and producing those type of numbers he’s going to have positive trade value. At least for the next 2-3 years while he also gets the benefit of the “potential + high ceiling” factor.

But the minute Andrea Bargnani’s minutes decrease to 20-25 per game and with that a production decrease down to 10-12 points + 4 rebounds – the minute that happens – Andrea Bargnani will become the most difficult player to trade in the entire league. That $50 million extension will be a massive salary cap problem and one that is very difficult for the Raptors to move away from.

So while benching Bargnani could help the Raptors improve in the short term it will almost certainly destroy their best chance to improve in the medium-to-long term + consequently do vast damage to the Raptors chances of building a contender over the next five seasons.

The Raptors must either (1) play Bargnani big minutes, or, (2) trade Bargnani now in order to avoid a long term mess.

Benching Bargnani = short term gain, long term pain

Edit: I don’t even like Andrea’s minutes falling to 32-33 minutes a night. I want him up around 35-36 so he can stay in that 19/20 point range rather than 17 point range.

Edit: Also, as we’ve seen in the past, Bargnani sitting on the bench hasn’t exactly sparked improvement out of him.

Edit: I don’t think Bargnani is any danger of actually being benched for the time being but if the club continues to struggle over the time … the idea will gain more and more momentum.

Sign and Trade Chris Bosh

I used this example by means of explanation a few days ago

Two years ago Kobe Bryant demanded a trade. He was interested in joining the Chicago Bulls. The Lakers were hesitant to trade Kobe but did take inquiries and when negotiating with the Bulls they wanted Luol Deng + a lot of other parts in exchange.

Kobe Bryant immediately shot down the trade idea because Chicago was going to lose too much talent. He would have been in the exact same situation in Chicago that he was in with LA. The team would have been gutted and there wouldn’t be enough talent left to contend for a title.

Similarly, any of the elite players in next year’s free agency (LeBron, Wade, Bosh) will not be willing to agree to a sign and trade that guts the team that they were heading to.

If those players leave their current teams they will do so in the quest to win a Championship (financial incentives are all with their current teams) … and they will not accept a sign and trade that takes that possibility away from them.

The talent available in these sign and trades will not come close to matching those player’s value.

Edit: The more willing the Raptors are to agree to a sign and trade the less likely Bosh is to re-sign with the Raps. Why play with a worse team when you can get the same money elsewhere? Toronto are being overly positive about sign and trade possibilities. They should be playing hard ball.

Long Contracts

The most terrifying part of a Chris Bosh sign and trade is Bryan Colangelo agreeing to take back long term contracts. Trying to get as much talent as possible and agreeing to take back players like a Luol Deng or a Monta Ellis or whoever … in order to say he got the best package available and add the most talent possible to the Raptors squad.

In doing so, another $10+ million contract to a non-elite player when combined with Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, and Hedo Turkoglu will tie the Raptors hands financially ($40+ million for those four players) for the next 3-5 years and make life extremely difficult for the Raptors down the road.

Toronto is better off to let Chris Bosh leave and have the full + instant cap flexibility from that decision … rather than accepting back mediocre to poor long term contracts (even a good contract is problematic).

Once again, this is a short term gain (added talent via sign and trade) in exchange for long term pain (lack of a future, tied to mediocrity) situation.

Good Case

There is one good case scenario for the Raptors in a sign and trade should Bosh decide to leave.

That they only take back a cheap prospect (rookie scale contract) or future draft picks in exchange for Chris Bosh in a sign and trade. Minimize the finances coming back and try to keep the young talent involved to help spur the club’s rebuilding process.

That money (cap space) can then be put to better use in free agency either in 2010 or in a future offseason.

Edit – Teams who are below the cap and have enough cap space to sign Chris Bosh (or close to it) do not need to send contracts back to the Raptors in an a sign and trade to make the deal work financially + trade rules.

Therefore, the Raptors can simply take the pieces with the most value (young prospects, draft picks) and refuse to accept pieces which do not offer value (long contracts, bad contracts, expiring contracts — why take on extra money?).

If a team does does not have enough cap space for this to work then the Raptors negotiating position will improve. However, Bosh will be less likely to join that team over one who is below the cap if too much talent leaves in the sign and trade. The best incentive for Toronto is in teams who are way below the cap and they can effectively steer Bosh in that direction (intentionally or not).


Anyway, these are two very real possibilities for the Raptors over the next 12 or so months and how they’re handled is going to decide a lot about the Raptors medium-to-long term future.

Short term gain, long term pain

  1. Great read Dave, I don’t think you have to worry about either of those situations happening.

    Quickly, what do you think about a swap of Bosh for Stoudemire in a sign-and-trade situation?

  2. Really interesting read. I think these conversations become more ingrained in the conversations if we haven’t reached 500 by the end of an easier December.

  3. I was one of the people who wanted Bargs on the bench and Amir starting but I see the logic behind playing Il Mago big minutes to boost his trade value.

    Would Oklahoma City consider a Sefolosha + Etan Thomas for Bargnani trade? I think this would be an absolutely outstanding deal for Toronto. The question is on the other side.

    Would Oklahoma consider Bargnani worthy of sacrificing their cap space?

  4. I think a more likely scenario is that Chris and Andrea stay, and Calderon goes. At the end of the day, the Raptor’s problems start and end with Calderon.

    The defense starts on the ball, and we all know Jose is a sub-par (being nice), on-the-ball defender. This means that 1) opponents score more easily (less rebounds) and 2) help (often Bargnani) has to rotate, putting him out of position (less rebounds).

    For the most part, the Raptors are out rebounded because they have horrible defense. No rebounds on made buckets. I think everyone will be surprised by the drastic change that would occur if the club had decent to good defender at the point.

    Personally, I don’t think Amir has the hands nor the IQ to start. I don’t think he really understands what’s going on, on the defensive end and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him shoot with anything but his palm. That said, I really do think he has a role. He’s good for energy and length and he runs the floor really well, but those do not, a starter, maker.

    I know I wrote the article a LONG time ago, but it still stands. Bosh WILL become a free agent. It just makes logical and financial sense for him. With whom he signs is the really question. And you’re right Mr. Roundtable, there is no way Bosh is gonna agree to any meaningful sign and trade. Especially when he can go to Orlando/Miami and pay no income tax. That alone far outweighs the extra salary he’d get here.

  5. Hey Raps Fan,

    It’s a little too early in the season to judge where Amare’s game is at. He’s been disappointing. Less effective than normal so far. I would want to see him get back to his better days before I was willing to give him a max contract.

    I’d be hesitant to give him that contract at this point … but there’s lot of games left to play and he’s only just come back from a very serious injury so hopefully Amare will improve as the season goes on.


    If Amare does get back to that level + Bosh is definitely leaving = then Amare is a good enough talent for a sign and trade to make sense for Toronto.

    Good sign and trade — Raptors get back a comparable talent (Amare is worse, but in the ball park) who is either a perennial All-Star or an All-NBA caliber player. This player also needs to be in their prime or younger. The Raptors are too far from a being a contender for them to take on an older player — Unfortunately, I can’t see anyone giving this level of talent up in a sign and trade + struggle to see either Bosh (joining a team who’s losing that type of talent) or the other player wanting to participate in it (joining the Raps despite Bosh leaving).

    Hey Dino Gunners,

    I think it’s extremely difficult to talk about specific Bargnani trade ideas/rumours.

    For the most part trades follow fairly simple reasoning and have benefits for both teams so one can try make a well-reasoned case for how likely a trade is + how beneficial it is for either team … but Bargnani is such a flawed player + unusual type of talent (lot of offensive, lack of defense/rebounding center) … it’s more about a GM falling in love with his talent + skill-set than it is reasoning and that makes it very difficult to figure out which teams will be interested in Andrea, and to what extent (how serious their interest is), and consequently what they’ll be willing to give up.

    While there will be a few teams that see a lot of value in Bargnani, there will also be a lot of teams that see so-so value in him, and another large group of teams again who see minimal value in Bargnani. Separating those teams from another is extremely difficult to do from the outside looking in.

    And the team’s who are both interested in Bargnani + willing to give up a lot of talent in return for him are the smallest of the group. We’re likely talking about a single digit number of teams.


    In terms of talent, what I think a good Andrea Bargnani trades look like is either a borderline All-Star (Richard Jefferson type) or a good prospect (Thaddeus Young to Jeff Green level — someone established, talented, but hasn’t shown yet whether he’s capable of being an All-Star player or not but possibly could become one) or a good lottery pick (#4-to-#10). In the case of young talent or draft picks the Raptors should be able to get expiring or near-expiring contracts.

    That’s what I think the better (best) offers will look like for Bargnani on the trade market.


    So, in terms of Oklahoma, I don’t have a clue whether their GM (1) rates Bargnani highly or not (2) is willing to pay him $10 million a year or not in a long term deal (3) how much he’s willing to lose talent wise in a trade.

    There will be GMs who fall in love with Bargnani, like his contract, and will be willing to give up talent for him … but figuring out who they are from the outside looking in is almost impossible.

  6. Hey Gman, welcome to the site!

    Absolutely, this is definitely a situation which is going to escalate or temper down based on the Raptors W-L record over the next few months. Particularly the question, and the number of people who are asking it, about whether it’s best for the team to start Bargnani or for him to come off the bench.

    Entering the season I thought the Raps were a .500 team talent wise but considering the number of teams in the East who could make a similar claim I felt there was a good chance Toronto finished .500 or slightly below. A win range of around 36-41 wins. So that initial expectations for Toronto, which haven’t changed based on the first month of the season, also play into my thinking of what will happen down the road … with the situation becoming more serious.

    I expect an uptick in these two questions as the year goes on + also for their likelihood to steadily increase.

    Hey Raptor Cowboy,

    I agree — I think Jose Calderon is the most likely to leave too.

    Hedo Turkoglu and Andrea Bargnani were both given large contracts by Colangelo in the off-season. Colangelo clearly has a lot of faith in their abilities and that’s unlikely to disappear in such a short time. Colangelo would rather give them another opportunity to contribute in a different sort of environment (roster wise) before giving up on them.

    And, Bosh, is playing magnificent basketball and is by far the best player on the roster. I can’t see Colangelo engineering a trade mid-season that includes Bosh unless Bosh goes to him and makes it clear that he is unwilling to re-sign in the summer.

    Furthermore, with the Raptors hovering around or below .500 … I think Colangelo will be very disappointed with that record. He feels there’s more talent on this roster than that and expects more. He also wants to try and show Chris Bosh that this team has a bright future and will try to win more in the short term to make that happen.

    So a mid-season change is very likely … and Jose Calderon is the only player left with enough juice in the trade market to make a major change to the Raptors situation. The other options (say a Reggie Evans trade) would be more of a cosmetic change. Calderon is the only one who’ll bring about large change.


    That said, I disagree that the Raptors problems start and end with Jose Calderon.

    I don’t think his defense is that destructive. I think Calderon gets blamed for defensive problems which lie elsewhere (bigs pick and roll defense + general help defense).

    I believe that if you put Calderon on a good defensive team he’d be fine (still poor defensively, but not overly damaging). But if you put a good defensive point guard alongside the Raps bigs, that point guard is going to be a lot less effective defensively and the Raptors defense is still going to be one of the worst in the league.

    I think Calderon is a poor defender … I just don’t think his effect on the Raptors overall defense is as large as some say + think other players are far more responsible for that.


    I think Amir Johnson is the best option to start. Not an ideal situation but it is what it is. I like his quickness + mobility defensively + his rebounding ability. I think those skills would help make the Raptors a better team in both departments.

    I also like his offensive game. It’s limited but he knows it and doesn’t stray too far from the nest. Shoots 55-60% from the field and if he’ll get 10/12 points per 33-36 minutes. Most of his baskets will come off transition plays, offensive rebounds, and cuts to the rim. He doesn’t need the ball in his hands … yet can shoot a high percentage and score a decent number of points which is a very effective contribution from a garbage man (in contrast to someone like Reggie Evans or Ben Wallace).

    I also think Rasho would be a solid choice but I prefer Johnson’s quickness + mobility … I think they’re the Raptors biggest flaws defensively.

  7. Dave,

    Here’s a slightly different take on the perception of Bargnani’s value across the league today.

    Playing as mush as he is right now, the other GM’s can see clearly that he is:

    i. An offensive benefit, as a perimeter Center;
    ii. A defensive liability; and,
    iii. A rebounding liability.

    By playing fewer minutes per game, overall, what those GM’s will see less of are his consistently glaring [ii] defensive and [iii] rebounding liabilities, which are best observed by watching him closely for a prolonged period of time, rather than a general reduction in his scoring exploits which will still be visible to a large extent since these tend to come in fits and starts, punctuated with sporadic 3PT bombs.

    One dimensional role players like Bargnani are in fact best showcased through limited PT, during which they become the sole focus of a team’s offense.

    In sharp contrast, when one dimensional role players are afforded extended PT, in order to showcase their offensive repertoire for other GM’s to see, what actually happens is that their other deficiencies get OVER-EXPOSED, lessening their actual value across the league as an everyday marquee player with a positive effect overall.

  8. Those who think that the Raptors’ defense starts with the ability of its PG to defend in 1-on-1 situations vs his counterpart simply do not understand the role 1-on-1 defense plays in the NBA.

    1st-class defense in the NBA is played 5-on-5. Succeeding at this level of competition involves a great deal more than just 1-on-1 basketball.

  9. These are the line-ups which Toront and Atlanta just used to finish the 1st quarter of this evening’s game.

    Jack vs Murray
    Belinelli vs Crawford
    Weems vs Williams
    A-Johnson vs Pachulia
    Nesterovic vs Joe Smith

    In the off season, Raptors fans who thought that the back-ups on this team would better than the back-ups on the Hawks, for example … were simply “sold a bill of goods”, and were delusional.

  10. Sorry … please, substitute Jeff Teague for Flip Murray. It makes little difference as either player is better than Jarrett Jack, in the role he has at present with the Raptors.

  11. With 2:38 left in the 2nd quarter …

    Toronto 42
    ATLANTA 65

    This one could get very ugly.

  12. Khan – interesting counter-point. I’m not sure how I feel about this all now; I want to agree with you, but I feel like Bargs becomes far more effective offensively when he doesn’t come off the bench… But clear that his defensive shortcomings are obvious to the trained eye over the course of 35+ minutes. But maybe some GM’s eyes aren’t as trained as others’? (case in point, our fearless leader)

  13. With 7:24 left in the 4th quarter …

    Toronto 99
    ATLANTA 128

    Will the Hawks be the first team in the NBA to hit for 150 points in regulation time this season?

  14. Scott G.,

    A supposed “scorer” who can’t come off the bench to do just that … is no real “scorer” at all.

    1. Since Bargnani’s first season there should have been no doubt in anyone’s mind that the man can score the ball in the NBA, when he’s playing off of others.

    2. When you pick a player like Bargnani high in the Draft, it should always be with the idea of trading him, in the not too distant future.

    3. It’s joke that SOOOOOOOO many Raptors fans actually think/thought that a GM like Bryan Colangelo was a more knowledgeable basketball person than, say, Donnie Nelson [e.g. Marco Belinelli for Devean George], or Mark Warkentien [e.g. Sonny Weems and Amir Johnson for Roko Ukic and Carlos Delfino], Otis Smith [e.g. Shawn Marion, Kris Humphries and Nathan Jawai for Hedo Turkoglu, Antoine Wright and Devean George], Larry Bird [e.g. TJ Ford, Rasho Nesterovic and Roy Hibbert for Jermaine O’Neal], or Pat Riley [e.g. Jermaine O’Neal and Jamario Moon for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks] … which is not to say that I’ve always thought he’s been “bad”, but very simply put “nothing beyond average” [based on the facts of the matter].

  15. khandor, i agree with you that it may be best for the team and to hide Bargnani’s weaknesses if he comes off the bench, but I feel Bargnani does not react like usual players. He needs the confidence of starting + playing big minutes to be effective on the offense end (regardless of how terrible he is on the other two facets of basketball). While in theory, it may be best to limit his exposure it may prove unwise if Bargnani reverts back to his 7 point, 3 rebound averages. THen the Raptors will have no shot of trading him and stuck with this – already one of the – worst contracts in the league.

    I understand what you mean the GM’s are obviously smarter than you and I (well in most cases) in evaluating talent and could easily recognize an individual’s weaknesses, but I feel the percieved trade value of Bargnani would increase if he displayed better ‘conventional’ statistics.

  16. Dino Gunners,

    1. I am on the record stating my long-held belief that there is serious mis-management at the very top of MLSE, as far as lacking the “commitment” and the “sports” acumen it takes to actually “win a league championship”.

    2. That said …

    I am also on record stating clearly my long-standing belief that there are, in fact, different ways in which this year’s team … and last year’s team, and the team from 2 seasons ago, and the season prior to that, etc. … can, in fact, be improved substantially from within, by making highly specific personnel changes.

    By hiding Bargnani’s many weaknesses better and accentuating his few strengths it would go a long way to improving this team’s W-L capability AND thereby elevate his tradeability quotient.

    3. Bryan Colangelo has gotten himself in a real pickle here and, unfortunately, it doesn’t yet look as though he truly knows the correct way out.

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