Jones on NBA: What’s next for Raptors?

February 11, 2013, 2:27 PM

Toronto Raptor fans are starting to see the impact of Rudy Gay. The team has a modest record of 3-2 since Gay has joined the squad but the opponents have not exactly been chopped liver. The Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers are all playoff teams while the New Orleans Hornets are a young squad trying to fight their way to respectability.

With limited practice time, Toronto has managed to integrate Gay into the line-up and battle with good teams. The consensus around the league is that the Raptors are an improving squad and very close to being a very good team. You can listen to what Hornets general manager Dell Demps had to say about the Raptors here.

Gay’s impact was on full display in Toronto’s win over the Pacers in Indiana. True, the first three quarters saw a lackluster performance, some of that was due to the play of one of the NBA’s top defensive teams, but when the game was on the line, Gay made big plays. If you’re an NBA regular, his game-winner was certainly nothing new. Even if you read the scouting report and knew he was about to use his go-to move, stopping it is another story.

So now comes the question, what do the Raptors do with the guy that was selected first overall in the same year that Gay was picked by Memphis? All reports have the Raptors looking into a deal for Andrea Bargnani but is this the time to make the move?

Before you throw your hands up and say, it’s been seven years, just hang on a minute as there may finally be a proper role for Bargnani. If he can come off the bench and be a scoring threat in the second unit and not the first option, things may work out for him and the team. Let’s face it, if Bargnani was on another team, he’d be a good third option. With the addition of Gay, the development of DeMar DeRozan paired with the presence of Lowry, Bargnani might just be a viable third option in Toronto. Coming off the bench allows him to play against opposing bench players and if he is on the floor at the end of games, you simply can’t dismiss his presence.

But does Raptor brass have enough time to gage the success of the venture with the trade deadline just 10 days away? Do you play it out for the final 31 games of the season and not rush to judgment to get a better sense of how it works? If things don’t work out, then it may be easier to make the move in the summer around draft time with picks and other contracts that could be put into the deal.

If it does work out as the last-ditch effort in Toronto for Bargnani, the fans will have to be re-educated around the expectations.

No, there won’t be a major change around his playing style. After six seasons, Bargnani has showed everyone what he is about and to expect things to be different would be foolish. Toronto needs front court and inside scoring as they rank 28th and 27th respectively in those categories. So if it doesn’t work, any deal has to bring in missing pieces to address the frontcourt issues as well as another point man who is a good distributor. Once those issues are addressed Toronto may continue to build and move in the right direction.

Disregard the record but look at the team’s roster at the same point last season. The Raptors have more talent and the other teams around the NBA are starting to take notice.

So what’s going on in Boston? Are the Celtics really a better team with Rajon Rondo? The answer is no but right now they are playing better as they are moving the ball and playing together.

The surge in Beantown has also coincided with the return of Avery Bradley to the line-up as he has helped improve the team’s defence.

Old-fashioned head coach Doc Rivers offence works well with a point guard. Add to that, veteran players that understand how to play and move the ball, and it means there doesn’t have to be a steady diet of screen and roll with the point guard handling the ball.

The Celtics continue to rank amongst the NBA’s elite when it comes to sharing the ball. Boston is running the same type of offence with different options being available because different players are involved. The question is out there, do you break them up and try to rebuild on the fly?

It’s a difficult proposition and there is no guarantee it will work. It says here, ride with the veterans you have in Pierce and Garnett and hopefully each member of the supporting cast plays his role well enough to improve the team.

Boston now sits seventh in the east only half a game from the sixth seed and a game and a half from fifth. Never count out a veteran team. Remember, after an average regular season campaign, the Celtics had the eventual champs down for the count last season and were one game from the finals.

Yes, Boston is rolling now but the true test will come not during a mid-week game in February or March, but in a seven-game series in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how it all concludes in the post-season.


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