More mail than you can imagine; and more to come
I remember back in the day, maybe it was February, and someone asked me when things would slow down around here. I told ‘em for sure it’d be crazy through the playoffs and maybe up until the draft but then, surely then, things would ease and life would become more, um, normal.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
So, here’s about 4,000 words worth of questions and answers and I’ve probably got that much left to put up later tonight or tomorrow.
You people, as perhaps I may have mentioned, are over the top.
Fun. Exasperating. Persistent. Odd. Nice. Intelligent. Not So Intelligent. A whole gamut.
But over the top first and foremost.
Here ya go:
Q: Do you foresee a time when the suits at MLSE will be a tax paying team? Can you give us lazy fans a sense as to how luxury tax paying teams have fared vs. non-luxury tax paying teams.
Borys C, Toronto
A: No, I don’t see them becoming a tax team any time in the near future.
By the last figures I have, nine teams paid tax last year. It ranged from New York paying about $20 million to Phoenix paying about three. Boston ($6 million) and the Lakers ($4) paid into it, too.
Of the nine, the Celtics, Lakers and Cleveland were the only teams to win a playoff series.
Q: Doug, it's interesting that both Roko Ukic and Nathan Jawai were both drafted at 41 but one was left in Europe to develop for three years while the other looks to make the team his first year. I'd like your take on why the Raptors took two very different developmental approaches to players they drafted at the same number. Thanks in advance.
Jason K, Ajax
A: Different drafts, with different depths, of course, is the main reason. Point guards need more seasoning than big men; Ukic had somewhere to play in Europe and hone his game and I’m not sure Jawai would.
And, of course, Ukic was originally drafted in the Babcock era.
Q: I am a loyal reader and really enjoy your articles and your blog. While I usually agree with your views I have to ask the following questions to ensure that I am recalling your viewpoints correctly.
Only 6 months ago or so when there was the Calderon and Ford debate you used to say that Ford was #1 as he had more upside and could do things Calderon couldn’t.
Ford can still do things Calderon can’t but you seem to have changed your mind along the way – am I recalling your former viewpoint correctly? By the way, I am a big Calderon fan.
Last fall when asked about Ukic you felt that he would not be able to come over as the backup point guard without a fair amount of time as the 3rd guard. Now it seems that you are penciling him in as a 14 – 16 minute a night backup. Have you lowered the standards or just had a change of heart?
Carl M, Codroy Valley, NL
A: The more I watched Ford and Calderon, the more it became apparent to me (and this is not a universally-held opinion around here) was that Calderon had emerged as the right kind of point guard for this team. And as I’ve mentioned a billion or two times, on this roster, at this time, I saw Ford as a better backup, but that was never going to happen.
Last fall, Ukic wasn’t nearly ready, I didn’t think. After another year in a good Italian League and the Euroleague, he’s probably ready to take on a great role than I would have thought before 2006-07. It’s just that he matured as a player, nothing to do with my standards.
Q: Calderon's our #1 guy, Ukic to spell him off and wouldn't it be lovely to see ol' Darrick Martin on the bench? What happened to DMart? And would they? Could they resurrect his contract?
Akiko C, Barrie
A: Darrick is not in their plans at all. I presume he’s living a pretty good life wherever he is these days.
Q: Love the blog and keeps us going during the offseason! Quick question. The Star reported that the province is considering having sports betting at the Casinos, namely Niagaraand Rama with Woodbine TBD.
Does this violate the policy the NBA has whereby no franchise is allowed to operate in a city where sports gambling occurs? I'm not sure if they still enforce it but I remember before we got the Raps, the province had to take NBA betting off Proline.
Could we get away this given the casinos being mentioned aren't actually in Toronto?
Shachin G, Toronto
A: That’s an interesting question. And when the league office opens up again after the July 4 long weekend, believe you me, I’ll be asking.
My initial feeling is that the government will run sports books that don’t have basketball available, if indeed they go ahead with this plan to get further into the bookmaking business.
Q: On the topic of nicknames for our national team how about something from our anthem ... like the Glowing Hearts ... or the Strong (or Glorious) and Free? Either way I'll be checking them out at Ricoh. I hope they are selling jerseys as the web store seems to be out.
On to my question. You've been saying for the last year, and I'm paraphrasing here so don't be offended if I get it slightly wrong, that Toronto fans might need to get used to the fact that we are not a serious contender at present. How do you feel the JO trade has increased our chances in terms of A) contending in the conference against the big dogs like Boston(gross) and Detroit? B) contending for the league title?
Also, do you know if there are any plans to have some Euro teams come visit us this preseason? It would be cool to see Kalise Gran Canaria or other teams represented by prominent Canadian players.
One final question, do you see a Rod Benson type player fitting in well with the Raps? Would he be too pricey? I like his moxie.
Nicholas C, Toronto
A: I think this is a better team than last year because of O’Neal’s presence, the lack of uncertainty around the guard spot and a tighter rotation of swingmen. I still don’t think they’re as good as Boston at all, but let’s wait and see what the other East teams do before we think about ranking them. There are still lots of moves to be made.
And I’m told there will definitely be a Euroleague team here for a pre-season game next fall, I’m just trying to find out officially which one it is.
Rod Benson may have moxie but he’s not the kind of guy they’re looking for in that 13th spot. That’s going to be a guard.
Q: Two questions: can you break down how you get to $70M in existing salaries? I am having trouble getting anywhere near that number with the existing players. Secondly, the Raptors appear to be top heavy with big men. Are they looking to move someone like Hump for a swing man and could they package Hump with Graham or Parker (expiring contracts) for one more serviceable player?
Ray N, Toronto
A: These are rough numbers only and most are rounded down:
O’Neal, $21 million; Bosh, $14 million; Jose, $8 million; Kapono, $6 million, Bargnani, $5 million; Parker, $4.5 million; Humphries, $3 million; Joey, $2.5 million; Moon, $711,000; Adams, $711,000; Ukic, $1 million (maybe $711,000, it’s quibbling); Jawai, $427,000; Garbo, somewhere north of $2 million. That gets it to around $69 million.
And, actually, they’ve got five bigs, five wings, two point guards. That’s about the right break down.
Q: If a team has the league minimum 13 players on a roster, can they still send a player down to the D-League for some playing time? (ie. Nathan Jawai)
Justin C, Kitchener
A: Sure, they can send down anyone in his first or second year in the league.
Q: Love the blog, Good luck on your search for a nickname for out National team, how about the Nash-less Wonders?...No? Ok, hope you get some better suggestions.
A few questions about the team. Who do you see as the starting 5? We all know Sam Dalembert but who do you see stepping up in the qualifying tournament. I know Olu Famutimi has been logging big minutes in the tune up games, is he one of the guys that will need to play a key role in order to have a chance to come out of the qualifier?
And how’s Andy’s knee holding up so far?
Marc S, Scarborough
A: I’m not sure they’re set on a starting lineup yet but I’d look for something like Jermaine Anderson, two of Famutimi, Rowan Barett and Dave Thomas and then, in an intriguing front court, maybe Joel Anthony and Dalembert, with Juan Mendez maybe replacing Anthony.
Famutimi’s good, he has to be more aggressive attacking the basket when he gets the chance but I think the guy who’s going to have to play well over an extended period of time is Thomas. Barrett and Famutimi are going to get theirs, Thomas is going to have to score, too, for them to have a lot of success.
Q: Hey Doug! Love your blog and the articles. My questions is, how would a sign and trade for Delfino work? And who do you think we could get in return?
Kevin R, Markham
A: Well, he and his agents and Bryan would find a match for him with some other team at a salary that’s better than he’s getting now in return for a player making the same money on the other team.
But, for all the financial reasons I’m really tired of going over, that’s not going to happen.
Q: How do you see Jamario Moon's sophomore year in the big-leagues panning out? Have we seen the extent of his capabilities or does he have some room to grow?
George B, Almonte
A: I think it’ll probably be more of the same; they hope he’s more aggressive, handles the ball better and attacks the rim more often but I’m skeptical about that. He hasn’t shown that ability in his entire professional career, not sure it twigs all of a sudden over one summer.
Q: Here’s an “I’m crazy” question for you. Sheer, morbid curiosity, if you have time.
Say a team drafts a European player, and “stashes” him overseas for 4 or 5 years to give him some playing time that he won’t get in the NBA. When they do bring him over to the NBA, they must sign him to the standard rookie contract, right? But is this contract based on the scale/standards from when he was drafted, or the standards of the year he is signed (which would guarantee more money than the 4-years-ago rookie scale)?
Mike D, Toronto
A: The player’s on the rookie scale of the year he was drafted.
Q: With Spain having a good chance of going deep in the Olympic basketball tourney, what are your thoughts on Jose's fitness coming into next season?
I seem to remember some discussion about Bargnani coming out flat last year because of all of his Italian off-season responsibilities and lack of any real break. Could this sort of thing happen to Jose this coming season?
Kyle S, Ottawa
A: No doubt, there’s been a lot, and will be a lot, of basketball for Jose to play what with the Euros last year, the season, the Olympics this year and then the coming season. But he will have all of September to recover and I have a feeling he’ll be able to handle it.
It’s not like he plays at breakneck speed or with crazy athleticism.
Q: Thanks for making sure you specified no 'let's sign player X' questions/queries, though I doubt it'll help much.
I'm wondering who you think is going to be this year's version of Moon - not necessarily bringing the same game, but the 'coming out of nowhere' impact. I can't help but think it'll be Adams, mainly because of the position he plays, & the lack of, shall we say, oomph, coming from those currently playing said position(s).
Also, I can't really see Bosh or Jose improving dramatically over last season, and the best we can realistically hope from JO is that he stays healthy and comes close to a (for him) decent year (18-20 ppg, 8-10 rpg, solid D); we know what to expect from AP, and Kapono, if the other pieces fall together, should have a much better season (more room to operate on the perimeter, less of a liability on D w/ JO behind him). But generally speaking, it's the unknown quantities that make or break a team's fortunes - what unknown do you see helping (or hurting) the Raps this year? Will the shortened bench prove to be the key, giving guys like Bargs, Ukic, Moon, even Hump, a chance to play more consistent minutes, and, hopefully, better play?
Oh, my pick for breakout player is Adams.
Trev L, Halifax
A: The unknown, to me, is going to be Ukic. If he can play, that’s a huge plus. I presume Adams will be the fourth swingman; Ukic may have to play 16-18 minutes a night, which is a big request for a rookie.
I have no idea if he can handle it.
Q: Is this team, as currently constructed a better fit for Sam Mitchell's coaching style/abilities?
Steph R, Glencoe
A: I believe it is, yes.
Q: Question 1: In the context of the Rap's first round exit and bringing in O'Neal are the raptors trying to mimic what Orlando did? surround two (in Orlando's case one big one) post player(s) with a bunch of shooters? Question 2: As presently constructed, if the Raps stay healthy for most of the season how many games do you see them winning?
Andy C, Michigan
A: No, unless they get Dwight Howard and a gaggle of three-point shooting 6-10 bigs like Turkoglu and Lewis, there is no way in the world they are trying to mimic what Orlando has.
And there is no way in the world I’m guessing at wins next season before anyone knows what the other teams have, has seen a schedule or seen how the team looks in training camp and exhibition games.
Q: The most significant differences between the NEW Raptors rotation and those of the Celtics and the Lakers are 'team passing' and 'team defense'. From what I saw, they do have it in them to pass the ball around more, but should I be concerned about their ability to crank it up a notch on D?
Bo K, Mississauga
A: Absolutely be concerned, they were a horrible perimeter defence team last year and the only way they get better this year is by individual improvement, which is possible, and by an improvement in the interior defence (O’Neal) that might help the wings be more aggressive knowing there’s more help behind them.
But a concern? It’s the biggest around the team.
Q: Hi Doug: Over the past year or so, when I (and other blog readers) have written to you suggesting the Raps made a mistake in the 2006 draft and should have taken Aldridge over Bargnani, you have consistently poo-poohed the notion by insisting it made no sense because Aldridge and Bosh are far too similar. Now BC goes and trades for O'Neal, who by most accounts is much like Bosh, and you seem to be quite okay with this trade. Can you explain your logic? Or have you changed your mind on the 2006 draft?
One other question: presuming Bargnani regains his rookie-year form, and O'Neal doesn't perform as hoped -- do you see Andrea supplanting Jermaine in the starting line-up? Or does O'Neal have a TJ-Ford-esque divine right to a starting position, regardless of performance?
Kevin R, Winnipeg
A: No, most of the pooh-poohing was that I remain unconvinced that Aldridge, with injury issues of his own, will be a better player over the course of his career than Bargnani will be. And, as you well know, I don’t think two seasons (both of which ended with Bargnani playing a role in the post-season and Aldridge watching) is enough time to make that assessment. I’m sure that’s not a popular or commonly-held opinion out there but, frankly, I don’t care.
I think, right now and for next season and maybe the one after that, Bargnani should come off the bench as a backup 4-5.
Q: I realize that this question would have been more relevant a week ago, but it is something I have been wondering about and I thought you might be able to help.
I was under the impression that teams were unable to trade their first round pick in consecutive years. I can't remember the exact situation but I believe the rule was made after a GM mortgaged his team’s future by continually trading his first round pick and signing veterans. This would also explain why teams don't trade multiple picks to other teams in consecutive years, (I am thinking of the Gasol trade recently where Memphis got the 2008 and 2010 picks from LA).
How was Toronto allowed to trade their '08 pick when they did not make an '07 selection?
Kevin C, Toronto
A: The Raptors didn’t trade their ’08 pick, they selected Roy Hibbert and will trade his draft rights to Indiana on July 9.
But, as it was explained to me by a general manager, teams can trade first-round selections on a “going forward” basis. They could deal, say, ’08 this year and then ’09 next year, but not in the same transaction.
Q: Thanks for clarifying about the CAP vs. TAX issue. So a scenario/question that hopefully avoids the standard 'Graham for Maggette.'
Pretend the Raptors improve this season, but the weakness in the wing comes back to haunt us the entire season. Looking ahead to 2009-2010, do the Raptors have enough salary coming off the books to theoretically sign an athletic wing? I don't think it's possible to have space for an all star calibre player, but someone who can at least put up a fight against Lebron, Pierce, etc.
I know it's too far away to predict, but I'm just curious! Thanks!
Shaun A, Toronto
A: We are waaaaaay ahead ourselves here but, no, they won’t have a whole lot of money to spend next summer. Without knowing the exact cap number for Calderon and, of course, not knowing this year’s tax level, let alone next year’s, I’m guessing they’ll have maybe the full mid-level exception to again spread over a handful of players.
Q: Let's say Bargnani wakes up this year (longshot, I realize) and O'Neal actually stays healthy and plays like JO from five years ago (longshot x longshot), could you see us trying Nani out at the 3?
He can't cover 3's but the Raps could become more zone friendly with an actual interior defender/blocker.
Warren G, Toronto
A: There may be the odd matchup where they do that. But it will be seldom, very, very, very seldom.
Q: Chris Bosh is a #1 player on a NBA playoff team but a #2-#3 player on a NBA championship team. Your thoughts?
Sean T, Toronto
A: How about 1A. No player wins a title by himself, we all know that, right.
Q: You asked for non-trade-related questions, so here we go.
What is the advantage of the NBA's soft cap system? It still seems to create a have's and have-not's situation wherein a club willing to pay the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax can buy whomever they want. The luxury tax threshold seems to be the true cap.
That said, the NBA's cap management isn't all bad. I love the idea of the "Bird Rights." By enabling the player's home club to pay over and above the cap (and other teams' allowances) it would seem to foster an environment that encourages players to stick with a team -- thereby allowing fans to get more attached to their club. Maybe the folks in the NHL or NFL should consider this.
Jay M, London
A: The tax is, for most teams, the cap level they won’t exceed but as for creating haves and have-nots, look at teams like New York and Dallas, which far exceed the tax level with nothing to show for it.
I think the deal that allows players to keep their own free agents makes it the most workable cap system, for both sides, in all of sports.
Q: Is Germany one of the teams Canada has to beat out in the Olympic qualifier?
Just read that Chris Kaman just got his German citizenship and will be joining Dirk in the tournement.
That must drop Canada's odds from slim to anorexic doesn't it?
Steve G, Grand Falls-Windsor, NL
A: Yes, Germany is there, on the other side of the draw. I had always thought they and Greecewere favoured for two of the spots but there’s another spot open. And, besides, upsets happen.
Q: Hey Doug, as someone who doesn't really watch much NCAA hoops, I've got a question about Derrick Rose. Glancing at his stats, they look pretty average (fewer than 15 ppg and fewer than 5 apg). Obviously numbers don't come close to telling the whole story, so I'm wondering if you could shed some light on what makes him so attractive such that he was first overall.
Geoff A, Toronto
A: Leadership ability, athleticism and a general feeling that his game can improve in all facets are what made him the No. 1 pick.
NCAA stats, usually, don’t mean squat against NBA competition.
Q: Moon has the length and athleticism to provide the team with quality minutes as our starting SF. He has the necessary wing skills to be a lesser, poor-man's version of Shawn Marion at both ends of the court, which is all we really need on a consistent basis from that position.
I think if JO can solidify our interior defence, as is being expected, both AP's and Moon's defensive abilities will show a marked improvement. Of course neither of them will be able to "lockdown" any of the premier, all-star/superstar wing players in the league (LBJ, Kobe, Pierce, etc), but in all honesty, no one in the league who can when these stars are on their game. These superstar players can only be effectively defended in terms of isolating their offensive options by containing their teammates.
That said, I think a healthy JO will improve our team defence by simply providing his quality shot blocking presence in the paint, thus allowing Moon and AP to play within their adequate defensive abilities.
What are your thoughts?
James B, Toronto
A: I think if you’ve been reading here you’ll know that I agree. But with Moon, he didn’t do much last year to show he’s either a lock-down defender or a consistent slasher to give anyone much confidence that it’s going to happen over the course of a summer if it hadn’t happened over the course of half a decade leading up to last season.
Q: Do you think that this new roster with clearly defined separation in talent level from the rotation guys to the end of bench guys is Colangelo's way of countering Mitchell's weird rotations? There have been times in the past couple seasons where Sam seems to be intent on playing everyone. Even to the point of putting 11 or 12 guys out there in the first half. Will this year’s team end up with a consistent 8/9 man rotation?
Chris D, Waterloo
A: I think the rotation will be narrowed and I think that’s a good thing. I don’t imagine the moves were made intentionally with that in mind, but it’s a good trickle down impact. And I’d say 9-10 in the rotation, depending on foul trouble, might be more like it.
Q: Hi Doug, Do you think the Raps should use the mid-level exception to sign a Canadian prospect like Denham Brown, Carl English? These guys can play a bit. Also, Raptors is the only NBA team in Canada, it will sure feels good to have a Canadian on the team, eh?
L C, Waterloo
A: I’ll forgive the mis-use of “mid-level exception” because it’s an interesting question. I don’t think the Raptors are at all interested in paying someone as a token Canadian, nor do I think any player worth his sneakers wants a job because of his passport. So, no, taking a guy simply because he’s a Canadian isn’t going to happen.
And, in the opinion of people I respect, the closest thing there is to an NBA player on this Canadian team – and he’s not nearly ready yet – is Olu Famutimi, although English would be in the discussion.
That’s outside of the two NBAers who are already there, of course.
Q: I know all these people want a two or three that is athletic and great so here is a thought a bit of a risk that might solve the third point guard and SG, Livingston from the clips.
Anton K, Brampton
A: That’s a huge risk but if he falls through the cracks of free agency, he might be on a list. But, believe me, the Raptor medical staff is among the most, um, careful in the NBA so there might be issues if they think he’s healthy enough or not.
Q: So you want legit questions? Here's one: Would you please join my summer fantasy league team?
You may be wondering how this is a Raptors-related question. Well, my team has lots of Canadian content (four, all Raps fans), plus one Chicagoan (a Swirsk connection).
Another reason to join: The team's got the coolest name -- The Ripe Mature Cows. How can you resist?
Jeff W, North York
A: Seriously, they have summer fantasy leagues? Man! I’m honoured you asked but I’m out for all of August and probably wouldn’t be any help. Besides, fantasy leagues are the domain of M. Grange ™ I believe.
That is an excellent name, though.