For the second consecutive year, Bryan Colangelo has kept the Toronto Raptors' NBA Season alive well into August.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the Toronto Raptors shipped Guard Marco Belinelli off to the New Orleans Hornets for Forward Julian Wright, as Colangelo continues to stir the pot.
At face value, it's pretty easy to look at this move as something akin to shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic; Julian Wright or no Julian Wright, this team is going to be in tough next year, andthe results of our latest poll seem to suggest that most readers believe 26 to 35 wins are in order.
However this is one of those classic BC "small moves that could pay off nicely" in my books.
Marco was pretty redundant on this club in terms of skill set and with the emphasis on developing the likes of Sonny Weems and DeMar DeRozan, it likely was going to be tough for him to see many minutes at the 2 next year. Wright however fills a positional need as a 3/4, and adds some much needed length and athleticism on the wing.
As well, despite this being his fourth season in the league, he's only 22 years old, so this continues Colangelo's recent "go young and hope for upside" trend.
Does Wright have upside however?
Much like former Raptor Joey Graham, Wright has always been a bit of an NBA enigma, a player with NBA size and athleticism that scouts have drooled over since his days at Kansas, but who simply hasn't been able to put it together consistently at either end of the court.
Last season for New Orleans he averaged only 3.8 points and 2.1 rebounds per game despite playing in 68 contests, starting in only 14 of those. It's not like the Hornets had too many other options though at SF last year which prevented him from taking over the spot. Both Morris Peterson and James Posey have been on the downside of their careers for a while now and Peja Stojakovic is hardly a spring chicken himself.
Simply put, Wright has had his chances, and hasn't produced as expected.
However his 12.8 minutes per game might suggest otherwise, and Julian has made it known over the past two seasons that he'd like to a get a much longer look either in NO, or elsewhere.
It got to the point where at the trade deadline last year via Twitter he bemoaned not getting enough of a chance and was jealous of other players who were headed off to new teams, able to start fresh.
Well Mr. Wright, you'll certainly get your chance here in Toronto.
Much like the Sonny Weems and Patrick O'Bryant situations, Wright is going to be given every opportunity in TO. At present, he and Linas Kleiza are the only real 3's on the roster, and if the Raptors go small, he'll get a shot at the 4 as well I'm sure.
In fact I'm hoping that with the additions of Kleiza and now Wright, Toronto does go in this direction a lot next year, using Johnson, Davis or even Alabi at the 5 at times with perhaps Sonny or DeMar at the 2 and 3, creating an uber-athletic and quick line-up that would create severe match-up issues for opponents. Both Kleiza and Wright have solid post-up games, and Wright's athletic abilities should enable him to guard the Andre Blatche's and ironically, Chris Bosh's of the East.
Do I expect to see Wright start for Toronto next season?
At this point, it's quite possible although considering his advanced statistical levels of productivity last year (0.8 wins produced and sub-average 11.8 PER), he's got a lot of work to do before anyone can simply pencil him in as a starter.
As well, Wright has been pegged since college as a bit of a Tim Thomas clone, aka the prototypical NBA Small Forward considering his size (6-8), frame and athletic ability, but someone who just doesn't "get it."
Toronto may in fact be his last chance to "get it."
Ironically, much like another Wright last season, Antoine, Julian may have to carve out a niche for himself as a defensive ace considering his physical attributes, and that may be his best chance at sticking in the league. He's a horrendous shooter for someone with his tools (52% career true shooting percentage including 28% from 3 and 61% from the free-throw-line) and is hardly a great facilitator or rebounder either. He averages only 6.5 boards per 36 and last year failed to top even an assist per game in his approximately 13 minutes of play.
In other words, he just isn't "great" at anything.
Therefore this move could turn into much more of a Patrick O'Bryant ending than a Sonny Weems one. I was extremely excited about Weems around this time last year because I knew there were several areas he could come in and make an impact immediately for Toronto.
Wright - not so much.
And hopefully we don't see any dunks like this...
That being said, you can't help but like this trade.
As discussed, Wright fills a positional need, has upside and youth on his side, brings some physical and athletic traits to a team with gaps in those areas, removes a redundant part (Marco) and barely affects Toronto's salary situation. Like Marco, Julian has only this year left on his deal with a reasonable qualifying offer for next, and is owed only about a half a million more this season.
Not to mention, as a Chicago native, this probably continues Colangelo's mandate of grabbing players who feel right at home in Toronto.
On a final note outside of the Wright acquisition, in case you haven't seen it yet, the Raptors released their 2010-11 pre-season schedule yesterday.
Here are the details:
The Toronto Raptors announced Thursday an eight-game preseason schedule featuring the team's first appearance in franchise history in Montreal. The Raptors will play at Bell Centre on Friday, October 22 when they entertain the New York Knicks.
"We are excited to bring the Raptors to the province of Quebec for the first time," said Tom Anselmi, Executive Vice-President, Chief Operating Officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. "Training in Vancouver and playing a game in Montreal are indications of our continued commitment to make the Raptors Canada's team."
Ticket information for the game in Montreal will be made available at a later date.
The Raptors will hold a portion of their training camp in Vancouver from October 1-6 and then open preseason play at Rogers Arena as the visiting team against the Phoenix Suns. The team will make stops in Boston and Chicago before returning to Toronto for four consecutive home games.
The Raptors will play host at Air Canada Centre to Philadelphia followed by rematches versus Boston, Phoenix and Chicago.
Mark your calendars fans.
October 17th is officially "Boo Hedo Day."