Toronto Raptors End-of-Season Player Grades - Gladiator Edition, Part I

Bargnani and Calderon find themselves on opposite ends of the HQ's grading system...

After a small break in Raptors discussion, the HQ is back, summing up the season that was. They kick things off with part one of their annual player grades...with a twist.

Every year at the HQ after the Raps' season has ended, most of the time sans-playoffs, we dole out our annual player grades.

In fact, I think we created the concept back in 2006 amongst Raptors' media, and after six years, well, we're kind of sick of it.

Everyone does them now, and does it really matter if someone like DeMar DeRozan gets a B+ as opposed to a B-?

So we're going to try something a little different now that the dust has settled on Toronto's 2011-12 campaign, and the playoffs are in full swing. We're simply going to look at each player and give them a Gladiator-esque thumbs up, down or to the middle, a sort of pass/fail based on not only performance, but the expectations we had for each player going into the season.

Let's start with Mr. Primo Pasta himself...

Andrea Bargnani:

Thumbs_down_medium

Yep, we got 13 games of an Andrea Bargnani that looked finally like a player who could contribute on a winning team. And if the season was 13 games long then hey, thumbs up. But Andrea got hurt, and sat out the rest of the season.

Well, not the rest, he did appear in 31 of the team's 66 games, but it sure felt like that didn't it?

And considering his play in the limited time he played after his return from injury, there wasn't much to show that those first 13 games were anything more than a blip of false hope on the Andrea Bargnani radar that's now been active for six NBA seasons.

Bottom line? Not that I had high hopes for Andrea coming into the season, but 2011-12 marked another season of the Andrea Bargnani project that failed to show conclusively that the player Bryan Colangelo drafted first overall in 2006 is anything more than the second coming of Al Harrington.

Jose Calderon:

Thumbs_up_medium

I'm putting Jose in the thumbs up department and in fact, you could easily make the argument that he was the team's MVP. He's still no defensive stopper but his efforts in that regard were better this year and offensively, well, there are very few point guards in the league who are as efficient.

His field goal, three-point and free-throw percentages were all up over last year, and his mark of 8.8 assists per game was good enough for fourth-best in the L, behind only Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo and Steven Nash, and he sported the league's best assist to turnover ratio.

Bottom line? After the last two seasons my expectations of Jose this past season were much lower and it was great to see him rebound. At worst next year he's a terrific back-up and at best he gets some additional talent that can truly make use of his premerier passing-skills. How Calderon managed to average nearly nine assists a game surrounded by bricklayers like Butler and DeRozan is absolutely unbelievable.

Solomon Alabi:

Thumbs_down_medium

Who knows what to make of "Solo." We finally got to see him play a bit at the end of the season but it's hard to say that he's anything more than a mega project at this point, who may need another season or two...or four.

Bottom line? I know big men often take longer to develop in the NBA but Solo's had two full NBA seasons now and really hasn't seen a peep of real-time action. (Beating up on the Nets' D-Leaguers doesn't count.) At this point he should at least be a serviceable option off the pine but it's obvious the Raptors' coaching staff isn't close to even plugging him into that role right now.

Linas Kleiza:

Thumbs_down_medium

Linas nearly got a "thumbs to the middle" from me, because I'm not sure how much we should be expecting from the former Mizzou star. Coming off micro-fracture surgery in the off-season, there was no guarantee that we'd even get half of the Kleiza many of us remember from his days in Denver so I can totally see an argument where he gets the "thumbs to the middle." But I don't think you can say thumbs up on a a 27-year old small forward who plays better as a power forward, who's getting paid over $4.5M a season, and yet producing like someone making much less. Bryan Colangelo brought him in hoping he'd add legit scoring, rebounding and toughness off the bench and that hasn't happened. At least not consistently.

Bottom line? Being a countryman of Jonas Valanciunas probably gives Kleiza a pass heading into next season but there' s no question he needs to start producing more if he wants to avoid the Raptors' amnesty list.

Aaron Gray:

Thumbs_up_medium

Toughness? Check. Low-post offensive game? Check. Size? Check. Rebounding ability? Check.

Bottom line? Sure, Gray is no Dwight Howard but considering his price tag, there's a hell of a lot to like about the season the former Pitt big man turned in for the Dinos. It's not easy to find competent back-up big men and Gray fits this niche to a T. Here's hoping we see him back in a Raptors' uniform next season.

Jamaal Magloire:

Thumbs_up_medium

I'm expecting some feedback on this one. After all, at face value, someone who averages 1.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and shoots 26 per cent from the foul line, would hardly seem to have had a successful campaign.

But really, what did we expect from Jamaal when the Raptors brought him on board? A few hard fouls, some decent defense, lots of encouraging teammates and a positive presence in the locker room.

Bottom line? Hard to see how he didn't meet all of those objectives and I'd be happy to see him back next year in a similar role...with a few less opportunities to airball free-throws.

Gary Forbes:

Thumbs_down_medium

It was a bit of a wreckage heap in terms of shooting guards and swingmen for the Toronto Raptors this past season and we're adding Gary Forbes to the top of the pile.

Forbes was the player I had the highest expectations of in many ways because I felt he was a real "under-the-radar" signing that might provide some Sonny Weems-esque upside.

However that was not to be and at best his play this past season could be described as mediocre. Forbes himself acknowledged his disappointment via Twitter saying:

2nd NBA season in the books... I'm a tough critic on myself. So dealing wit everything I did I give myself a C-. Disappointed overall

This summer will be a tough one. Motivated to make my stamp next season in the NBA. Nothing less is acceptable.

Bottom line? It's not hard to see Forbes being packaged this off-season in part of a bigger deal to make salaries work. He just didn't do anything much to stand out and make you think that his production couldn't be replaced by various other options, even ones via the D-League.

Leandro Barbosa:

Thumbs_up_medium

He only lasted until the trade deadline but played enough games to make his mark.

Bottom line? Like Magloire, you couldn't have asked more of Barbosa. He scored off the bench, was a leader on and off the court, and more importantly, headed to Indiana at the trade deadline to give the Raps some added flexibility both in terms of personnel and finances

(Part II tomorrow).

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