Friday, March 14, 2008

Nuggets vs. Raptors: Game 65 Preview

(Boulder-CO) I have participated in a spectacular double-interview with and Raptors HQ in preperation for today's Raptors game. Toronto will be Bosh-less, so with no further delay, I present a short Q&A with "The Franchise" from Raptors HQ and Connor Wolfe of Hoops Addict. They had a couple questions for me which you can read my answers by clicking here and here. The questions they asked were:
From Connor-
1. Which team are the Nuggets looking to knock out of the playoff picture?
2. George Karl discussed that fatigue may be becoming a factor down the stretch. What are your observations?
3a) Talk about the importance of a player like Anthony Carter. As a PG with a career year, how does he fit with the team?
b) What is his role?
From "The Franchise"-
1) The Nuggets are currently sitting just out of the final playoff spot in the West. Where do you see the club ending in the standings when all is said and done and is this a team that can go far if they make the playoffs?
2) There was a lot of talk around the trade deadline about acquiring Ron Artest. What did you think about that and would he have helped this team get to that "next" level?
3) Keys to Friday's game. What do the Nuggets have to do to defend their home court?
Be sure to use the links above to see what my thoughts are on their questions.
Now, I asked both guys the same three questions and their answers were surprising. Here are my questions and their answers:
ND: A lot of people may be sleeping on the Raptors come playoff time because there isn’t a lot of nationally televised games from up in Canada, eh? Tell me the one aspect of this team that makes them the most dangerous.

ND: What player has been the most pleasant surprise for the Raptors this year?

ND: Talk about Andrea Bargnani. Say whatever you want, but somehow either show your support or disgust with Raptor’s brass for picking him #1 overall back in 2006.
CW: I think the primary aspect is the fact that they play an European style of basketball and are highly effective. A lot of people have called them Phoenix North, and with the team among the league leaders in three-point percentage (first at 43.5%), free throw percentage (second at 81.4%) they have a very efficient and successful offensive system. The other reason they are battling for home court advantage is the dynamic duo of T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon. Both point guards play with different styles but both players could start for most teams in the league. It gives the team two point guards playing a high level which led to the bench scoring 42 points last Sunday.
CW: Without question it has been the steady development of Jose Calderon to the point where he was considered for a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. While Gilbert Arenas argued strongly against this in his blog initially, after watching some game tape Agent Zero changed his mind. Calderon is among the league leaders in assists (fourth with 8.6 per game) and is first in assist-to-turnover ratio for players who have played more than 20 minutes per game. While Calderon still has room for improvement, especially on the defensive end, he's the primary reason Toronto has stayed in the playoff picture this season despite injuries to Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh and T.J Ford which caused all of those players to miss extended amounts of time.
CW: Here's the deal with Bargnani - numbers lie. If you're a stat guy looking at boxscores you'll see his scoring and rebounding have dipped and automatically you'll think, "Oh, he's another bust." This couldn't be further from the truth and fans that have watched him play the past two season are impressed with his development, even if it's not showing up in his stat lines. Last year he would set up shop outside the three point arc and wait for passes, while this year he's attacking the rim for thunderous dunks and he's added a mid-range jumper to the his arsenal. Another nice improvement is he's getting aggressive on defense by taking away passing lanes, changing shots and lately he's grabbing more rebounds. If you watch game tapes from last season and then watch him play this season you'll see some huge improvements on offense and defense. Maybe I'm biased, but I wouldn't surprised to see Bargnani become a 20 point scorer next season. Besides, isn't the general rule of thumb about big men is it takes them longer to develop? People forget that he's only 21, they need to wait a couple more seasons before they rush to judgment on Bargnani.
TF: The sleepin' shall continue if they keep playing the way they have on this road trip. The media coverage of the team is improving (we even had a game vs. Detroit on ESPN this steps) but right now the club finds itself floundering without Chris Bosh and trying to re-integrate TJ Ford. The club is one of the most dangerous in the league offensively when firing on all cylinders...however much of that offense ispredicated on teams collapsing on CB4 thus leaving the NBA's best legion of gunners open to fire away. Therefore it's that shooting ability that makes Toronto most dangerous. Without Bosh though...well let's see...we've had some terrible defensiveplay, lack of leadership on the court and TJ Ford doing his best Allen Iverson impression...
TF: That's a tough one. Toronto has actually had a few nice surprises this year but the two most pleasant would have to be Jamario Moon and Jose Calderon. Considering that Moon was a guy the Raptors found at a free agent camp they hosted prior to last year's NBA draft, a guy not even on the NBDL radar and who most didn't think would even make the Raps' roster, let alone get playing time, to say he's a surprise would be an undestatement. I mean, I got to see him up close at that camp and thought he'd have an impact on the team...but to end up the team's starting 3, then in the "top rookies of the year" discussion, then part of the All-Star weekend in both the rookie game and the dunk competition? Get Spielberg on the phone right now! As for Calderon, Raps fans always knew we had perhaps the best "back-up"point guard in the league...but for him to have the success he did as astarter, carrying the club while TJ Ford was out, was more than anyone ever expected. The guy should have been an All-Star in the East over Joe Johnson, and Toronto needs to retain his services this off-season.
TF: Hmmm...a major point of daily contention on the site. My take is as follows:I think that Andrea IS going to be a good player in this league and was a good choice by the Bryan Colangelo and co. However two things:1) Admittedly my vote in the draft was actually for Tyrus Thomas, as I felt he matched up with the Raptors' needs (ie rebounding and athleticism) at the time. Otherwise, I was hoping to deal down for Brandon Roy. After seeing Charlie Villanueva and Chris Bosh struggling to play on the court together the previous year, I wasn't sure Andrea wouldn't be in a similar situation, even though I understood that Colangelo's intention was to play him at the 5. The problem is, Andrea's currently not an effective center because of his lack of rebounding skills and low-post moves, and from time to time I wonder if he's being used in the manner that makes him most effective. Last year, as a scoring sixth man off the bench, Bargs could play the 3 or 4 and sometimes the 5 and added another dimension to the Raptors' attack. This year, it appears at times as if Toronto is trying to place a square into a circle by starting him at center. He's only in his second year though, and does some things on the court that other 7 footers could only dream of, so I do still think this was a solid choice by the Raps' braintrust. The second part of this is that while I do think Bargs was a good choice, it doesn't necessarily mean he's going to be a franchise player. Many Raptors' fans have been disappointed with him this year simply because of where he was drafted. They expected the coming of another immediate impact player with the acquisition of the top choice in that draft. The problem with this mentality is that not every draft's top pick is a Lebron James. Sometimes you get a Glenn Robinson, a very good complimentary piece and potential All-Star, but not someone who ends up anchoring the franchise for years to come. That's not to say that the choice you made in the draft was a bad one, but in hindsight (always 20/20 with the draft) perhaps another player was a better alternative. So really, I like the Bargnani choice and support the decision made by Colangelo. Right now Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay look like they would have been better fits for the Raptors, but it's not even the end of year 2 of Bargs' NBA tenure, so passing judgement is a bit premature. He's certainly no Tskitishvili (sorry, had to throw that in) but he does need to put in some work this off-season to keep expanding his low-post game insists on playing him at the 5...
Thanks, fellas! May the best team win.
Go Nuggets!


ThaAnswer said...

Well I'm definitely surprised to hear you say we should have made the Artest move. Sure it's a moot point now, but even if he opted out after this year, there's salary cap to bring in someone else.

Considering LK hasn't hit an open jumper in a month and a half, we're not getting much return on this investment.

Well make the playoffs. If you're so sure we won't Doc, why bother with previews and recaps? Keep the faith

Nugg Doctor said...

Hey thaanswer,

I'm not bothered by previews and recaps, homie. What bothers me is the inconsistency of this team. They just don't play hard all the time and there is no excuse for that. Now, your boy AI definitely does, but for some reason some of the other Nuggets just don't bring it and leave it all out on the floor. I hope your right about the playoffs, but teams ahead of us just don't seem to lose.

I guess we'll see.

And as you've seen... I'm not too proud to admit when I may have been wrong. That's part of the game. People seem to always remember when your wrong, and that's ok, but obviously, I wouldn't carry the reputation I do around the NBA blogosphere if I was some blathering idiot. There's plenty of those out there, and those of us who have established ourselves know the difference between and "blogger" and a NBA writer.

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor