Raptors

Toronto Raptors 2009-10 NBA Season Recap

| by Hoops Addict

When I first started Hoops Addict, I was fortunate enough to take part in some Raptors Roundtable’s that Chris Young would host on The Star. I was joined by Scott Carefoot, JE Skeets and a bunch of other rabid basketball fans that made these roundtables a blast to be a part.

With a bit of a lull between the NBA Draft and free agency kicking off, I thought I’d revisit this idea and collect some of my favourite writers and people I chat basketball with. So, I recruited Doug Smith from The Star, Eric Koreen from The National Post, Scott Carefoot from RaptorBlog, Mark Cheel from AM640, Arsenalist from Raptors Republic, Jeff Wong and Michael Cusden to take part in a Raptors Roundtable.

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did.

1. What is your favourite story involving the team from the past season?

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Doug Smith: You mean aside from all the times we sat around the media room or practice facility mocking them in our own inimitable fashion?

Okay, well, if that’s the case, how about the emergence of Amir Johnson as a pretty good player?

He’s a good kid that the coaches love and someone fans should probably root for. He arrived as an unknown and turned out to be the one guy who truly recognized his role and relished it. Oh, and he played it pretty damn well, too.

In a season that, on the whole, turned out terribly disappointing, his was the feel-good story of the year.
But sitting around busting on them for some failing sure was a favourite time for some of us.

Eric Koreen: I’m not sure favourite is right word, but anytime a team gets more return than it expected from investments it has to be pleased. Seeing as that did not happen with the Raptors a whole lot this year, I’ll say the emergence of both Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems were nice to see.

I’ll cop to the fact that I made my sure of Italian mafia jokes when Weems was acquired with Johnson last summer. I, like most people, had no idea who the kid was, and as Bryan Colangelo admitted, he nearly waived him. So to see him leapfrog everyone in the swingman rotation — yes, everyone — was a nice story. You almost wonder if the Raptors would not have squeezed out a few more wins if they would have figured out his utility earlier in the season.

I’m even more pleased for Johnson, who as far as I can tell is egoless. It’s a pretty substandard reason to root for someone because he treats the media well, but Johnson seems to treat everyone well. He worked hard and even turned his jumper into something beyond an end-of-days weapon. He deserves whatever he can get this off-season.

Mark Cheel: I really enjoyed watching the progression of Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems. At the start of season it was hard to pinpoint how effective these two would be. Sonny Weems was suffering from the D-League mentality and he would jack up bad shots and would focus more time on offence then defence. Over the course of the season I had the pleasure of watching Weems mature and become more of a complete player. He learned how to harness his energetic and aggressive style of play to benefit him on both ends of the floor.

At the start of the season, Amir was like the new kid in class never knowing where he fit in. He would look lost on defensive coverages, never using his size to his advantage.   Over the course of the season Amir would blossom into one of the most dependable role players on the Raptors roster. Instead of worrying about points and stats Amir developed a winners mentality. He would do all the little things right, like dive for loose balls or run back on defence. Amir knew what it took to win. He may not have been the most talented player on the floor but he sure was the hardest working.

Scott Carefoot: I’ve been an Amir Johnson fan even since he entered the league in 2005 and when he was traded to the Raptors, I predicted that Raptors fans would be pleasantly surprised by what he brought to the team (see this post from last August: http://www.raptorblog.com/090817a.php) and he definitely lived up to my expectations. As much as everybody’s talking about bringing Chris Bosh back, I hope that Bryan Colangelo makes re-signing Amir Johnson his secondary priority this off-season.

Jeff Wong: Tough to choose from: A) That 24-11 stretch just before All-Star Weekend, or B) Sonny Weems. He had a mind-boggling PER of negative (negative!) 3.9 in limited minutes in his rookie year with the Denver Nuggets. This past season, he proved to be much more than just comic relief, providing athleticism and decent defence off the bench.

Hmm… I’ll go with option B. Option A only got our hopes up.

Michael Cusden: It is hard to pick out a favourite story from a season gone bad but I will go with the big home win over the Lakers. That was the highlight of my season and it showed the potential of the team when everything is working 100%. Sadly it was fool’s gold.

Aresnalist: It’s hard to see a silver lining, but Sonny Weems’ emergence as a potentially serviceable NBA player is definitely one.

As far as an actual “story”, the whole Hedo Turkoglu “Ball” thing was pretty entertaining.

Also, I had an opportunity to sit in the players’ wives section once and saw a girl wearing a Patrick O’Bryant jersey.  On further inquiry, she was his fiance, so I suppose a Patrick O’Bryant jersey actually existing is a pretty big story.

2. What was the most disappointing aspect of last season for you?

Arsenalist: How bad our defense was.

Our coaching staff failed to implement a defensive system which catered to our personnel.  Nobody’s saying that the Raptors have great defensive players, but making average defenders play good to great defense is what defensive specialists are hired for, and Marc Iavaroni was ours.  Aggressive help schemes, blindly collapsing in the paint and overall lack of communication spoke to how the players were on different wavelengths with each other and the coaching staff.  Nobody was held accountable for their mistakes so we continued to make the same ones over and over again; Triano never put his foot down on Andrea Bargnani and chose to punish lesser culprits like Antoine Wright and Marco Belinelli, who were both at fault at times, but nothing compared to Bargnani, who got a free pass all season long.  Triano failing to make an imprint on the team and getting them to play with a decent effort was very disappointing, and that should be the low-water mark for a coach.

Koreen: It’s easy to point out Turkoglu, and by no means am I suggesting anybody who does is wrong. His first year was disastrous, and frankly, I think that anybody who suggests he will make some sort of massive leap next year is deluding himself or herself.

On a more general level, though, the amount of resiliency in this group, or the lack there of, discouraged me that this core can ever be very good, let alone great. 16 of their 42 losses came by 15 points or more, and that is just an arbitrary number. They were actually not competitive in more games than that.

And that is an indictment of coaching and leadership, and speaks pretty loudly about Jay Triano and Chris Bosh. On its own, it does not mean Triano cannot be a good coach in this league and Bosh cannot be a great leader. But it’s solid evidence to support those theories.

Carefoot: The lack of accountability on defence was more than disappointing, it was disturbing. I figured this would be a poor defensive team but I didn’t imagine that they would have the worst team defence in the league. The fact that Jay Triano failed to make the proper adjustments to deal with this team’s defensive deficiencies really made me lose confidence in him as a coach.

Smith: Ball.

Wait, that was a moment of high comedy. Never mind.

Actually, the whole L’Affair Hedo has to be the most disappointing part of the year to any sane thinking person (and I believe we’re all sane here, right?).

From the time he was coddled at training camp to the desultory play for most of the season to the whole de-facto suspension that night in Miami to his lack of impact on all but a few nights, that was a stinker.

Now, maybe he redeems himself next season (I personally think he will) but when you look back on 2009-10 and think, “hmm, what was so disappointing about that?” you have to turn your mind to Turk.

Runnersup?

Reggie Evans’s foot, which apparently impacted his ability to pass; the revolving point guard door and the fact Mona never once invited me to the Saturday night soirees.

Cusden: Effort. Man more times than not I was just blown away at how little effort the Raptors showed. I mean there have been way worse teams in the past but they worked their asses off. Toronto fans don’t ask for much but the one thing they want is effort every night. Just seeing how this team played “D” was embarrassing.
I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that Toronto should make a play for Joe Johnson this summer to pair with Chris Bosh. However, after watching him in the playoffs I’m worried that his age (29) is catching up to him. Who would you have as the ideal player for Toronto to sign this summer to pair with Chris Bosh?

I am pretty bad at keeping up with who is out there to get so forgive me if I pick someone who is not even on the list. I was also liking Joe Johnson until he flamed out in the playoffs. I think CB4 needs an Alpha player who is ideally a point guard. Chris Paul would do the trick

Cheel: Watching the Raps fall apart after the All-Star break was probably the most disappointing. After such a great start to 2010 it seemed that the issues that haunted the Raps at the beginning season were behind them. They had tied a franchise high in wins going into the All-Star break and were closing in on the Boston Celtics for fourth in the Eastern Conference. When they returned from the break it appeared that someone had hit the off switch. The team lost its edge and eventually played themselves out of a playoff berth.

Furthermore, In the most important game of season versus the Chicago Bulls, a game in which the winner would clinch the eighth and final playoff spot, Toronto appeared to be playing in an exhibition game. There was no intensity, no desperation and no heart. They would go on to lose that game and pretty much any hopes of making the playoffs. Truly, the most disappointing aspect to the season.

Wong: The team’s lack of competitive fire was “disappointing,” to say the least. The stench of underachievement kept me from watching more than a handful of Raptors games.

3. I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that Toronto should make a play for Joe Johnson this summer to pair with Chris Bosh. However, after watching him in the playoffs I’m worried that his age (29) is catching up to him. Who would you have as the ideal player for Toronto to sign this summer to pair with Chris Bosh?

Carefoot: There isn’t a realistic way that the Raptors could acquire Joe Johnson because they don’t have the cap space to sign him outright and the Raptors have nothing that the Hawks would want in return for a sign-and-trade deal. This team’s biggest need — with or without Bosh — is a defensive-minded center. Looking at the upcoming free agent market, Brendan Haywood stands out as someone who could play 25 minutes per game, block shots and grab rebounds, and might be signable for the mid-level exception.

Koreen: LeBron James. You said ideal, right?

The question is likely irrelevant for two reasons. 1) Bosh will probably leave; 2) Even if Bosh stays, the Raptors have no space under the salary cap to sign an elite free agent. Anything they would get would have to be via trade (or sign-and-trade).

So, if I’m Bryan Colangelo, and Bosh does stay, what do I do? I make a Godfather offer to New Orleans to see if they are interested in moving Chris Paul. Let’s call it Bargnani, DeRozan, expiring contracts (Evans, Banks) and a pick for Paul and another bad contract. I doubt New Orleans moves Paul, though.

What other targets might be available around the league? Andre Iguodala, Monta Ellis? Neither of those options moves the bar a lot, although I am a fan of Iguodala, especially if he is not called on to be the No. 1 option.

However, the question, I maintain, is likely irrelevant.

Smith: I’m supposing that James bloke and the Wade fellow are out of the mix, right? Too bad, I believe my natural basketball instincts tell me that they’re pretty good.

In all seriousness, once you get past the real cream of the crop, there isn’t a whole lot in the free agent market to overwhelm anyone.

Been there, done that with Jermaine O’Neal, right?

The Gangster was never really the answer, huh?

So those pickings are tremendously slim.

But, I know last season they had some interest in Andre Iguodala, who may or may not be available again, so there’s a name I can toss out with no responsibility.

Whoever it is, I think he’s got to be a better version of Young DeMar, a slashing, shooting, veteran two-guard who can defend.

I’m guessing the Bryant dude in L.A.’s not on the list of possible ones, either.

Too bad.

Arsenalist: Let’s fix our defense before importing more average defenders who play 35 minutes a night.  I suppose Joe Johnson would be good talent to bring in if you’re willing to stick with the Bosh experiment, but personally, I’m sick and tired of the guy and wouldn’t mind turning the page.  A Joe Johnson signing would mean we’d be very close to the tax just by making one signing (unless the Hawks agree to an unlikely sign-and-trade for one of our bad contracts), we’d probably also have to renounce Amir Johnson just to sign Johnson which means we only have the MLE left to either sign Johnson or another free agent.  I think the Raptors problems are deeper than just acquiring one player, I’d much rather invest in youth and target younger players like Rudy Gay or Anthony Morrow who are restricted free-agents.  We should be focusing on the upcoming draft as a rebuilding tool instead of applying more bandaids by overpaying on the free-agent market.  No point in digging the hole we’re in deeper, if anything, we should be looking to off-load one of our bad contracts in the Bosh sign-and-trade, if that’s even possible.  Did I answer your question?

Cheel: Carlos Boozer’s 11 rebounds per game would be a breath of fresh air at the five position and would address one of the glaring disparities on the Toronto Raptors. Also,  he’s not scared to get his hands dirty underneath the basket. Toronto needs to get tougher and Boozer would compliment Bosh’s style of play on both ends of the court.

Wong: Shaq. It would be fun to hear him say: “I’m here to win a ring for RuPaul.”

But seriously, I think the Raptors already have a good complement for Bosh — Hedo Turkoglu, if he were fit and focused. I’m reasonably sure he will be next season.

If Bosh chose to stay, Bryan Colangelo could surround him and Turkoglu with players who will (not “can,” but “will”) defend, hit open shots and, not insignificantly, care.

And, as much as I like Andrea Bargnani, I think this team needs a true low-post presence to fit in with the mid-range-oriented Bosh.

4. Speaking of Bosh, what’s your bold prediction for how this summer will shake out?

Carefoot: I don’t really have one. When the Raptors were riding high just before the All-Star break, I was certain he would re-sign with the team. Now, whoever correctly predicts which team he’ll play for next season will have simply made a lucky guess. I still think the most likely scenario is that he’ll remain in Toronto, but if I had to pick the ideal team for a sign-and-trade, I’ll go with Houston. It’s Chris’ home state, they’ll be a force if Yao Ming returns to health, and they have some nice players and draft picks they’ll be willing to give up in this scenario.

Smith: Hang on, let me go to tweeter world to find out the latest.

If I had to guess today (and it’s May 16, about 10 a.m. Eastern time), I’m saying he’s gone. I’m not saying where because I have no earthly idea except to say I think he wants to be wined and dined and whoever puts on the biggest dog and pony show might have an inside track.

And with that bold prediction, I should offer another: I think I’m going to come to hate the summer more than I hate the-day-after-the-season-ends-media circus because I think this is going to be a long, drawn out process and July is looking to be quite work filled trying to separate wheat from chaff and truth from rumours.

Koreen: There are conflicting reports out there surrounding Bosh. He wants to win at all costs; he wants to be The Man in a big city; he wants to be closer to his hometown of Dallas (without actually being in his hometown of Dallas); he wants to be closer to his daughter (who is in DC); he wants to be closer to Apple headquarters.

I think he is leaving, because if you’re Bosh, there is no compelling reason to stay, assuming you can get the extra US$30-million in a sign and trade. I’ll say he ends up in one of three cities, in order of likelihood: Chicago, Houston, Miami. I think the Raptors will get a few pieces back in a sign-and-trade, but a borderline starter, at best. I just do not think Colangelo has much leverage, here.

Arsenalist: I think Bosh’s destination could be decided by what happens to Amare because at this point, I’m thinking teams would rather have the latter.  If Bosh is serious about winning, he’d go to Chicago, not Houston.  Joakim Noah can do the dirty work for him and Derrick Rose can take the pressure off of him in the fourth quarter.  I’m convinced Miami will make a play for him but I don’t think the Wade-Bosh combo would work.  Bosh will be asked to play defense in Miami and if he’s going to do that, it’ll take away from his offensive game, I’m also not sure he’s healthy/strong enough to stick in a Riley system.  If I had to make a prediction, I’d say he goes to Dallas and we get Caron Butler.  There’s some trading history between the two teams which could come into play, provided of course, Bosh wants to return to his home city.

Wong: Bye-bye, Bosh. Thanks for agreeing to the sign-and-trade. It’s probably a bad thing that Bosh is leaving, but I trust Colangelo can pull off a Joe Johnson-for-Boris Diaw-and-picks-type deal, or even a Gasol-for-Gasol.

Cheel: I think he’ll stay. Chris Bosh is not Lebron James or Dwayne Wade. He does not have that superstar quality to him. On any other team in the league Bosh would have to play the second fiddle, something that wouldn’t sit well with him. Bosh likes to be the man and in Toronto he’s the cornerstone. Staying in Toronto would be his best bet because he can get a max deal and still retain his alpha dog status. Plus, the Raptors have said they are willing to pay the luxury tax to surround Bosh with the talent it takes to win. Why am I having Jermaine O’Neal flashbacks?

Effort. Man more times than not I was just blown away at how little effort the Raptors showed. I mean there have been way worse teams in the past but they worked their asses off. Toronto fans don’t ask for much but the one thing they want is effort every night. Just seeing how this team played “D” was embarrassing.

I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that Toronto should make a play for Joe Johnson this summer to pair with Chris Bosh. However, after watching him in the playoffs I’m worried that his age (29) is catching up to him. Who would you have as the ideal player for Toronto to sign this summer to pair with Chris Bosh?

I am pretty bad at keeping up with who is out there to get so forgive me if I pick someone who is not even on the list. I was also liking Joe Johnson until he flamed out in the playoffs. I think CB4 needs an Alpha player who is ideally a point guard. Chris Paul would do the trick