It's time for Part III of the Raptors bloggers roundtable, a quartet of invited guests making like
Rick Mike James and Firin' It Up -- Scott Carefoot at Raptorblog, J.E. Skeets, Ryan McNeill at Hoopsaddict and Adam Francis, Jeff Chapman and Dave Randell at RaptorsHQ. You can check out Part I here, while Part II is here. And now a drum roll as we head into the final chapter ...
JABS: What's been the dullest storyline so far? And by that I mean perhaps any of a number of things -- the most overdone, the most inexplicable, the most yawnworthy, the latest Glory Road review? I'm not just talking about the Raptors here -- the whole league, where I'd nominate the Kobe-Phil reunion.
SCOTT: Personally, I'm sick of reading about how Bosh might not re-sign with the Raptors. As I explained in this Dec. 30th blog post, it simply doesn't make sense that Chris would put his financial future at risk by playing two full seasons without a max-level contract extension.
|Artest: For cryin' out loud, trade him. Anywhere.|
J.E. SKEETS: Anything to do with Ron Artest. Honestly, I can't stand it anymore. The Pacers ought to just hurry up and trade the bum to like the San Miguel Beermen of the Philippines Basketball Association. You know, perhaps score some cheap electronics equipment or something. Bonus: The dullest blade of the season has been the blade that has attempted to control the monster that is Chris Kaman's hair.
RYAN: Something that I’m sick of hearing about is Larry Brown. The guy makes headline news by being a complete jerk and by showing a complete lack of commitment to any organization that he’s worked for. This summer Isiah Thomas made a pact with the devil and brings Brown on board only to see things completely blow up early this season when Brown wanted to play the vets while the Knicks needed to see the rookies and young players play. It looks like Brown’s been able to “right the ship” in Gotham this month but I just think that whole situation has been covered to death.
RAPTORS HQ: Tough call . . . there's been a bunch including the Toronto media's preocupation with Chris Bosh's future and Jalen having to come off the bench, the aforementioned Kobe/Phil drama and the whole Ron Artest situation. But we're gonna have to go with the never-ending Latrell Sprewell discussion. Look . . . obviously his kids aren't THAT hungry or he'd be back playing for the veteran's minimum. I mean, when the media has taken to asking RICK BRUNSON about Sprewell's plans for this season, you know it's been a slow news week.
JABS: Scott, you posted on Raptorblog about possible draft picks that might fit here, and you fellas at HQ have alluded to it. If you could circle one new player who is going to be available next June and might land in the Raptors' sights, who would it be?
SCOTT: It's too early to know for sure who will be the top 10 prospects come draft time (I still remember when Pavel Podkolzine was going to be the Raptors' savior) but I'm increasingly fascinated by Tyrus Thomas from LSU. He's averaging 14 points, 10 rebounds and over 3 blocks per game in his freshman season - including a 7-block performance against second-ranked UConn two Saturdays ago and a 9-block performance against Tennessee last Saturday. I know he's another power forward but when you draft for position instead of talent, you tend to end up with someone like Rafael Araujo. I prefer to take the most talented player available and then trade for positional needs, if necessary.
RAPTORS HQ: We’ve been discussing who the Raptors should select in 2006 ever since Detroit selected Alex Acker out of Doug Christie’s alma mater to conclude the 2005 Draft. What is the team’s biggest need? Without a dominant shot-blocking centre available with the top picks, it's an impact swingman capable of creating his own shot. The two players who best fit that description are UConn’s Rudy Gay and Ronnie Brewer from Arkansas. Gay has more potential and, as such, may not be available when the Raptors pick. Brewer, however, has been much more consistent and is much better on the defensive end. He is a long, lean, athletic swingman with the handle to play the point. His long wingspan leads to many steals, as evidenced by his 3.4 per game this season, which leads the SEC by almost a steal a game. Brewer is a scorer (18.4 PPG this season leads the SEC) who can create his own shot and is a very aggressive player at both ends of the court.
RYAN: It’s hard to tell where the Raps will finish this season so I looked at a couple of picks they could get with their second pick in the first round this summer. That pick looks to be around 14th -- players I’d love to see the Raptors end up with are J.J. Redick from Duke, Daniel Gibson from Texas or Maurice Ager from Michigan State. Redick’s a flat-out winner and would be a welcome addition to the Raptors. Someone who received a lot of talk this past fall but seems to have fallen off the map a bit is Gibson. He doesn’t have flashy stats but he reminds me a lot of ex-Longhorn T.J. Ford. My “sleeper” pick here is Ager. He’s shown the ability to improve each year and has increased his scoring each of his four years at Michigan State (6.7, 8.2, 14.1 and now 20.9 points per game) while turning into one of the top scorers in the college game.
|RICHARD LAUTENS/TORONTO STAR|
|James: "Super Freak, Super Freak, yow..."|
JABS: Hmm. Well, moving right along, it's the all-star break upcoming, and I'm hoping for the first J.E. Skeets NBA prom night. Over in the Raptors' corner of the room, who's dancing with whom? What are they requesting at the DJ's booth? What is Matt Bonner's “oh-i-love-this-song-soooo-much” song?
J.E. SKEETS: Surprisingly, none of the Raptors are really up dancing -- well, except Loren Woods. Yeah, that guy will do just about anything to get some blood circulation going in the ol' legs.
Meanwhile, over at the "4 Corners" DJ booth, Chris is requesting Nelly's #1, Mike wants to hear some Super Freak (he's Mike James, bitch!), and Jalen is busy behind the tables spinnin' his personal anthem, Cry Me A River. And oh, I'm not too sure if Matt Bonner even knows what this whole “music fad” is all about.
RAPTORS HQ: We're trying to picture this scenario and all we can think about is the Raptors intro. From the sound of it, Chris Bosh and Loren Woods would be dancing together, probably to the soundtrack of Woods’ favourite movie: Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. We see the requests coming from Darrick Martin, who wants American Pie played in honour of his former UCLA teammate Don MacLean, who was a Raptor in name only back in 2001. As for Bonner, the easy choice would be Crazy in Love. However, we're hearing that the Red Rocket wants to improve his street cred. So, he’ll try and be down with Texan Bosh and he’ll beg the DJ, Jalen Rose, to throw on They Don’t Know by Paul Wall and featuring Mike James. I mean, Mike Jones.
|HANS DERYK/TORONTO STAR|
|Bonner: Afraid of driving?|
SCOTT: I'm not sure how to answer most of this question, but I bet Matt Bonner likes Aerosmith. Speaking of which, can we talk about Matt's refusal to buy a car? The guy's making roughly $3 million per season. I think he could bankroll a Dodge truck or something. Surely he doesn't like the TTC that much. Does he even have a driver's licence? Is he afraid of driving? Is he a closeted environmentalist hippy? I think there's a story here and Chris needs to use his contacts to get to the bottom of it.
JABS: Hey, you guys are my contacts. I like the closeted environmentalist hippy angle -- sort of like the old-school Bill Walton model. Last one, guys. Is it really a good idea for this team to make a concerted push for the playoffs (and by that I mean, act as short-term buyers rather than long-term sellers at the trade deadline). They're so young already -- do they really need another draft pick, from a weak draft at that?
SCOTT: Making the playoffs is never a bad thing, even if the Raptors get swept by the Pistons in the first round. I don't actually expect this team to play in the post-season, but I'll be ecstatic if they get there. People tend to forget that the draft is a crapshoot. Sure things come around once every 5 to 10 years, and this draft clearly isn't one of those years.
RYAN: I say bring on the playoffs! How could it hurt the young guys to experience what it’s like to make a run for the playoffs? With the way that we’re playing right now we probably won’t have a top five pick in the draft anyway. Don’t forget that with the draft lottery we aren’t guaranteed the top pick even if we have the worse record in the league. I think a big thing for Raps fans to remember is that you can’t tell professional athletes to play at half speed and not try to win. The Raptors have fierce competitors like Morris Peterson, Mike James and Chris Bosh who get fired up over a game in January against the Nets – how are they not going to fight for a playoff spot? Throw in the fact that Bosh started talking about his desire to make a playoff run back in December and it’s clear that this team’s focused on sneaking into the playoffs.
RAPTORS HQ: Do we want the Raptors to make the playoffs? Absolutely. Should they sacrifice any of the future to become a lamb to Detroit or Miami’s slaughter? Absolutely not. This team still needs more talent and you’re not going to get that as a short-term buyer at the trading deadline.
|Childs: Skeets' playoff inspiration.|
J.E. SKEETS: Playoffs? Sure, go nuts. Do it for Chris Childs.
JABS: No speeches here, just a number, a yes-no and we're out. How many wins? Playoffs? (I'm going to stick with my preseason 28, and say no. Hardly out on a limb there).
RYAN: Do I vote with my head or my heart here? It’s tough because I can see Toronto going on a run during the next month and picking up a ton of wins to inflate their record and confidence, but I don’t see them being a team that can win more than 25-30 games this season. I’d love to see Toronto make the playoffs but I don’t think we’re there yet.
SCOTT: I'm not a revisionist historian, so I will stick with my original prediction of 30 wins for the Raptors. Unless the Eastern Conference is weaker than my stomach after an ACC pulled pork sandwich, that's not going to put this team in the post-season.
J.E. SKEETS: 33 wins; which is just good enough for like 3rd in the East, right?
RAPTORS HQ: We think the Raps will win more then the 28 laid out by many but not by much . . . in fact, it might come down to the season finale in Chicago. 30 tops. Playoffs? We still say no.