So Part I of this mini-series caused some issues as to what points I was trying to get across. In the end it is just a way of determining who did and did not meet my expectations. So with that clarified, let's keep the ball rolling...
Morris Peterson: In terms of wins and losses I think Mo P will have the greatest impact. What Mo P are we getting? Do we get the magician (disappears when not at the ACC) or the new Road Warrior that we saw at the end of last season? If we get the latter Mo may go down as the best late first round pick in the Raps short history. Peterson has been in the L long enough to know what kind of player he is. I think after the Kevin Oâ€™Neal stint his confidence took a huge hit, and as a result his game suffered. Mo P is a solid player when he puts the ball on the floor, and when he does good things always tend to happen (like making lay-ups with his headband around his eyes). This is one of those guys that could really make the Raps a surprising team. If Mo can play with the same confidence he displayed when driving that MAD Bentley he was rocking during Carribana, then look out!
We here at the HQ have discussed many times the importance of getting a third player to step-up behind James and Bosh in order for the Raps to be successful. On more occassions than not Mo was that third guy. Peterson seems to have ended the disappearing act portion of the Mo Pete show while focusing solely on the "Girls Gone Wild" aspect based on the ridiculous number of circus shots and key plays this year. It was a break-out season for number 24 and he has really grown into a team leader (and with a great production per dollar value).
Do you as a fan even remeber the Peterson from the Kevin O'Neal era? Let's compare shall we:
03-04: 8.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.4 apg.
05-06: 16.8ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.3 apg.
Talk about two completely different players. In fact all of Peterson's numbers this year were higher than that dreadful 03-04 campaign. Mo has consistently gone to the hoop, maintains his sweet spot, and has played his heart out. Confidence was never an issue for Mo this year and even when he had an off shooting night he would quickly turn it around.
Some have talked about everyone on the Raps roster being tradeable except CB4. I highly doubt that Mo will get moved either. His contract is extremely cap friendly, he plays defence arguably better than anyone else on the team and he is now a guy you can rely on night in and night out. He is also becoming the perfect veteran. Peterson is mature enough to handle tough situations and still produces at a high level. Should he a second or third option offensively? Probably not, but Peterson is that "glue guy" you need to compete at a Championship level and he can play on my team anyday.
OUTCOME: Highly Successful.
Jalen Rose: As much as Mo P can improve this team Jalen has the same ability to be as equally detrimental. What is going through Jalenâ€™s mind? He needs to teach and not worry about being the man. He will get his playing time and will likely be second on the team in scoring. He is a veteran now whether he wants to be or not. I think Jalen should play, and he will be on the court during crunch time. Watching him post-up the young guys is awesome. Josh Childress in a game versus the Hawks last year was eaten alive by Rose. Rose can be a lethal offensive weapon, that being said I want to see him pass the ball to the rookies and young guys. Will he be a Raptor at the end of the year? Not sure. But by playing like he cares, and as a team player it will only help the team and him personally. Hopefully we donâ€™t get many Nash Charity Game performances! (2 pts.)
Well the answer to my question...no he will not be a Raptor at the end of the year. The end of Jalen's career stint in Toronto will not be a particularly memorable one. This past year he had some serious ups and downs but did continue to be professional. Even when he found himself coming off the bench again, he was hush- hush about it. He has also been very quiet since arriving in NY unlike many of the other players on that squad. Although there were nights where Jalen helped get a W, in reality he was imparing the development of the young guys.
In the end Jalen's biggest asset to the Toronto Raptors was his contract. Everyone by now knows the consequences of moving Rose from the increase in cap space, to the more attractive GM position resulting in Colangelo's hiring. If we look at Jalen's contribution as a Raptor and on the floor based on what I thought would be a successful season...
Pape Sow: I may be the biggest Pape Sow fan so it is hard not to be biased. Will he play in the NDBL this year? Possibly. Locking him up for a couple more years at a bargain was a great move. He obviously needs to develop a better offensive game and has a lot to learn but he is freakishly athletic and has worked his tail off all summer. He will never be â€œthe manâ€ but he has shown flashes of solid play. If it were a game of whoever tries the most wins, Pape would lead the Raps to the first ever 82-0 season. He needs more game time, and I would like to see him in the NBA now rather than later. He should get minutes before Loren Woods and arguably before Aaron Williams. He needs to develop and show improvement. If Hoffa is not careful Pape will become the man in the middle.
I had a hunch Pape would be D-league material. Sow did spend some time down there logging some quality PT and putting up great numbers. It was his great play that had him called back up to the big team where he played out the rest of the year to mixed reviews. What that tells us is that dominating in the D does not translate into immediate success, or even marginal success when it comes to playing with the big boys.
Pape's season was, well, ok. Much like Hoffa there are times when you just wonder what he is thinking. Is it another question of not having the basketball IQ or is it just lack of experience? With Pape the latter is more likely considering he started playing ball late in his youth and he is only 24. There were some good moments for Pape this year, but sometimes these were overshadowed by consistent foul trouble. Pape needs to continue his high-energy ways but also needs to continue to develop and learn how to play under control. Pape is like a child with super A.D.D. He just needs to focus.
By the end Pape "Spiderman" Sow did indeed start logging more minutes than Hoffa, (14 mpg vs. 11 mpg) and Mitchell was forced to play him with Bosh out for the last two weeks of the year. As I have mentioned before, if Colangelo wants to assemble an athletic team that can run, it may be wise to keep Pape around...even as an 11th or 12th man.
OUTCOME: Moderate Success.
Charlie Villanueva: Consistency, consistency, consistency. As a rookie in the NBA, considered to have been drafted too high and into a poor situation I wonâ€™t ask for more than consistency. Charlie V. Must display consistent effort, consistent development, and consistent improvement. The jury needs to be patient with this guy (if you call Steven A. Smith and Jay Bilas jurours). One thing is for sure, and he has to know this, the Toronto media and fan base wonâ€™t stand for laziness or donâ€™t care attitude. Everyone saw how the fans embraced Bonner last year for giving 110%. Charlie is going to be under a microscope all year and if he waivers from this mentality it will be well publicized. Fact is I donâ€™t think this will be an issue, because if Babcock thought it was going to be there is no way he would have drafted him that high. Go hard Charlie, go hard.
Effort? Not an issue. Go Hard? Damn right he did. Charlie Villanueva, although a high pick, was nothing but a pleasant surprise. Charlie proved many critics wrong and showed some amazing versatility, establishing himself as the second cornerstone to this young Raps team. The highlight for many will be the 48 point outburst....the highlight for me however, is that fact that there was only a handful of times when I wondered whether he was giving 100 per cent. As I mentioned in the Bosh segment, CV Smooth's passing is outstanding for a big man and he has some great range. When you look at Charlie's numbers for the year they look like this:
G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
81 36 29.1 .463 .327 .706 2.2 4.2 6.4 1.1 .74 .78 1.22 3.00 13.0
Obviously the shooting percentage is a strong point considering he did not spend NEARLY enough time in the paint. He also managed to shoot a much higher percentage from the line than was expected. The offensive rebounds are great and of course the 13.0 points put him up with the rookie leaders.
Out of curiosity I took a look at a few other rookie years for some comparable players. Take a look:
Name GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
Villanueva 36 29.1 .463 .327 .706 2.2 4.2 6.4 1.1 .74 .78 13.0
Bosh 63 33.5 .459 .357 .701 2.5 4.9 7.4 1.0 .79 1.41 11.5
Matrix 38 24.7 .471 .182 .847 2.1 4.5 6.5 1.4 .75 1.04 10.2
Nowitzki 24 20.4 .405 .206 .773 0.9 2.6 3.4 1.0 .62 .57 8.2
(GS = Games Started)
Now draw whatever conclusions you want, but any talk of trading CV Smooth for an established big should end NOW.
OUTCOME: Highly Successful.
Aaron Williams: I really thought he should have started last year. He gets rebounds and he bangs. He now needs to show Hoffa how to do these things. How will I view his season as a success? Probably through Hoffaâ€™s play. Aaron has been around long enough to teach Hoffa positioning and the basics of being a 5 in the NBA. Aaron has been a true professional thus far by not coming out and demanding a trade publicly. Hopefully his professionalism continues. Any contribution on the floor will be a bonus.
Based on Hoffa's play? Well, there's another great reason he was shipped out for a couple of second round picks. Sure being in Toronto was just a bad situation for him but Aaron played much better once he was moved. While here, his contribution was extremely limited and although a professional in the press, you have to wonder what sort of effort he was giving while on the floor.
Aaron was simply a disappointment.
Alvin Williams: Just be healthy. This guy when healthy makes us a much better team.
Well you have to actually wonder how healthy Alvin is. If you ask the man yourself he was ready to play the last few weeks of the season. Ask Coach Mitchell and that simply is not the case. Whether Alvin was right or wrong about playing I support not giving him any minutes during the games at the end of the year. The team is still paying him a large amount of cash (he is currently the highest paid Raptor) so it makes sense to let him heal even more during the summer in hopes that he comes back for good next year. You have to believe Colangelo will be keeping close tabs on Alvin during the Mike James negotiations and when deciding what to do with the PG spot for next season.
On a whole Alvin was a non-factor this year and based on minutes played (10) he wasn't.
Eric Williams: So now Eric doesnâ€™t want out and has publically stated he wants to be here. Even if this is a smokescreen this is what needs to be said. Eric Williams is a great veteran and can still play ball at a high level. I expect a bounce-back season. Being traded from NJ where his family is after just signing was not a good moment for him but, it sounds like he has come to realize that Toronto is where he is being paid to play. He is a tenacious defender and I expect him to be more vocal on the floor. A bounce-back season from Williams could be huge for this team.
High level? Bounce back season? Sure he WOULD have been a tremendous help...instead, not so much. Eric seems determined to simply play out the rest of his contract, which lasts through next season. He could in theory opt out, but that is highly unlikely as he would be fortunate to get anything more than the veterans' minimum this off-season. It is really too bad this did not work out for the Raps as Eric was a solid player in NJ and in Boston. Just like Aaron, this is just a bad fit and will continue to be for another year.
Oh and that "fresh start" and "wanting" to be here? About as truthful as Billy C. post Lewinski.
OUTCOME: Utter failure.
Loren Woods: First off, letâ€™s not get scolded publicly by the coach during a game. Loren likely wonâ€™t see the floor often unless he manages to realize he is 7â€² tall and hard-core effort is likely the only thing that will keep him employed in the NBA. Remember the opener last year against Yao and the Rockets? He needs to bring that every night.
Even if Loren had brought it every other night it would have been a help, but perhaps to no one's surprise he did little even in terms of making himself employable in the NBA after this season. Sure Loren showed some flashes at the end of the season but find me a guy in the L who won't play hard at the end of his contract to get some green. Anyone been introduced to Jerome James?
One of the biggest drawbacks with Loren is the fact that he cannot seem to put any weight on, be it muscle or fat, and so as useful as 7 footers are, when they weigh in at the same amount as your SG's, they simply can't bang with the other "big boys." Loren's career is done here in Toronto but he seems like a good guy so maybe he will land another gig elsewhere.
So where does that leave me? How do I feel about this year? Well there were some positives and some negatives. In fact if everyone had been "successful" and we ended up with less than 30 wins I would be drastically concerned. Instead? A lot of guys took positive steps, some took steps back. What's fortunate for this franchise is that it was the cornerstones and core players that elevated their play while the stop gaps and bench players had a tough go. Many will argue but to stay true to what I felt would be a successful season, I do believe on a lot of levels this season was a success. No not for wins and losses but for the development of the team. As I have stated here before, championship teams are not built in a day, or a year, it takes time. Depending on what happens this off-season my definition of success will change accordingly...here's hoping it means play-offs.