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The End of Project Brazil aka Hoffa

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This was's headline concerning Thursday's trade that sent the artist formerly known as Hoffa to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Kris Humphries and Robert Whaley.

-And it pretty much sums up Araujo's short stay with the Raptors.

Since being chosen over other players like Andre Iguodala, Robert Swift, Al Jefferson and Jameer Nelson in the 2004 NBA Draft, Araujo has been a constant source of malaise for the Raptors not to mention a key factor in MLSE's decision to fire former GM Rob Babcock.

Sure we've all heard the "Jack McCloskey made me do it" rebuttals but the bottom line here is this pick just didn't work out and it was time to move on. I've always been a Babcock defender to a certain extent but this is one move made on his watch where he deserves to bear the full brunt of criticism. In a rebuilding situation you just can't afford to have high picks be such dreadful failures, ESPECIALLY when you're making the pick based on the fact that the player is supposedly more "NBA-ready" than other players and fits a position need!

Think about this for a second.

Had Babcock taken Iguodala or even Jameer Nelson would this team, with last year's draft, have been a playoff team last season in the East? Would Toronto be a full year ahead of its rebuilding plan and have some extra trade leverage at the shooting guard/small forward spot to use this year? And furthermore, isn't there an interesting underlying point concerning the NBA draft here? If you aren't going to take the "upside athlete" (Iguodala) shouldn't you take the tried and tested college stud (Nelson) over a player who just happens to fit a position you need to fill (Hoffa)? Something perhaps to remember for this year when examining the likes of an Adam Morrison vs. an Andrea Bargnani...

Yes, hindsight really is 20/20. I mean, even though analysts now clamor that the Raps should have taken Jameer Nelson or some of the other players previously mentioned, I GUARANTEE Nelson at first would have been an equally panned pick, perhaps more so than Hoffa. Nelson was viewed as an even bigger stretch for the Raptors at 8 that year than Araujo even though he was coming off a "player of the year" season.

And of course as we've mentioned time and time again, the "experts" don't help matters. Take ESPN's Chad Ford, who went from this position immediately following Hoffa's selection:

"This is the first real surprise of the draft, though, if you look at it, it makes sense for the Raptors. They need a center in the worst, worst way. Chris Bosh is much more comfortable playing the four. Araujo is the only other big guy in the draft, other than Okafor, who is ready to play right now. He's strong, aggressive and isn't afraid to beat up people. He'll be a nice addition in Toronto, though he doesn't have the upside many of the other people on the board did."

to soon after:

"...GM Rob Babcock got off to a rocky start in Toronto last season. He blew the draft (selecting Rafael Araujo over Andre Iguodala, Al Jefferson and Josh and J.R. Smith)..."

While I enjoy reading Ford's columns for the insight he provides based on the access he is granted, examples like these just further the point that "experts" sure do have short memories!


So with project Hoffa off to Utah, what are the resulting implications of this deal?

Well for starters, by trading Araujo, obviously this ends the "well, maybe next year he'll break out" waiting game that Raps' management had been stuck in. At best, Hoffa continues to slim down and gets quicker becoming the second coming of Chris Mihm. (I still think the two make great comparisons considering Mihm's size and style of play when he was drafted out of Texas.) But that's at best so you cut your losses and move on. Even if Hoffa turned into the next Chris Mihm down the road, he simply doesn't fit into Bryan Colangelo's plans.

In return Toronto gets two interesting players.

Robert Whaley, as many of you will remember, was actually an HQ favourite as a possible late second round Raptors' pick last year. From the sounds of it, he was a throw-in to make the trade work regarding salaries and will be waived. However if kept, Whaley would give the Raps some depth at center and a shot-blocking threat albeit another Pape Sow type project.

Kris Humphries was Bryan Colangelo's main target in the trade and is an intriguing acquisition. Humphries played one season in college with Minnesota and while there became the first freshman to lead the Big Ten in both scoring and rebounding, and was the conference's freshman of the year and all-Big Ten first team. His college coach compared him to Karl Malone whereas Humphries saw himself as more of a Paul Pierce-type. Obviously Utah coach Jerry Sloan saw neither in Humphries and in two seasons Kris averaged 3.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 11.6 minutes.

So is this simply a case of GM's trading for each others problem children? After all, here at the HQ we were totally prepared to simply buy Hoffa out and were hardly expecting Colangelo to get anything in return for the Brazilian. However Colangelo did. Humphries was a disappointment in Utah but I always felt a lot of that had to do with the system he was playing in, not on his true abilities. Humphries isn't really big enough to be a traditional 4 in the league and behind Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur, just wasn't getting the minutes. In addition, Humphries is much more of a shoot-first player than a defender, two things that don't necessarily bode well when you're playing for Jerry Sloan.

However Humphries could be a pleasant surprise in Toronto. He drew comparisons to Tom Gugliotta coming out of college based on his inside/outside abilities and he's got a great range of offensive moves in the paint. He's also a tremendous rebounder with a mean streak who has always shown up for camp in top shape and could probably back-up both the 3 and 4 spots for Toronto. In fact it's almost surprising that Humphries hasn't had more of an impact yet in the league. Playing for the Jazz's Summer League squad in the Rocky Mountain Revue last summer, Humphries was dominating both larger and smaller players (including the likes of Marvin Williams and Josh Smith) and seemed poised for a break-out season.

With a year left on his rookie contract the Raptors will now get to evaluate Humphries for a season and hope to provide the right environment to facilitate such a break-out. At worst Humphries never does take that next step but with Hoffa's escargot-esque development these past two years, I think this is a chance we're all willing to take.

And in a sense this is almost another kick at the can for Toronto, a revist of sorts to the 2004 draft. Essentially Toronto has now traded the eighth pick in that draft for the 14th pick and the right to Utah's second round pick in the 2005 draft. Hopefully this mulligan provides better results than their first attempt ala Babcock. But even if it doesn't, Raptors fans can take some solace in one blown pick by looking in comparison at Utah's last first-round selections.

DeShawn Stevenson
(No. 23 in 2000)

Raul Lopez
(No. 24 in 2001)

Curtis Borchardt
(No. 18 in 2002)

Sasha Pavlovic
(No. 19 in 2003)

Kirk Snyder
(No. 16 in 2004)

Kris Humphries
(No. 14 in 2004)

It now suddenly doesn't seem so surprising that the Jazz wants to take a chance with Hoffa...