The feelings of most of readers of late have been very strong when it comes to the Charlie Villanueva trade. Although the RapsHQ poll so far shows a majority in favour of the trade, there is definitely some strong sentiment in the opposite direction judging by various comments that we've received. Some of these may be due to a perceived of lack of return in the trade, the idea that Toronto dealt one half what could have been Toronto's "twin towers" for years ahead, or for entirely different reasons altogether.
I have taken some time to really debate this deal and try and figure out how I really feel. Originally I was strongly opposed to it but now appear to have mellowed (or maybe just acknowledged that Charlie is now Bucks property)however I still contend that that this was not a great deal for the Raptors. Not because TJ Ford does not have the ability to be a very good or possibly even great PG, but because the team should have obtained more.
How much more? Hard to say.
A second round pick? A first in '08? (An 07 pick would have ended negotiations I have no doubt) Or maybe the rights to Ersan Ilyasova?
All I can think about is how Charlie's value seems higher today that TJ's. CV Smooth had a solid rookie year where he came second in voting to someone who arguably could have been on the All-Star team, scored 48 points in a single night, had more than his fair share of great highlights and at times showed flashes of brilliance. By the season's end Charlie's name was being bandied about NBA circles as a great new big man in the mold of the new NBA - a scorer from inside and out who could play multiple positions. On top of all of these great attributes, Charlie's production per dollar was and will continue to be sky high as he plays through his rookie contract. In fact, unless Charlie becomes a dominant force in the NBA you could argue that his value and production per dollar will never be as high as it is right now and will be for at least the next two seasons.
That being said, Villanueva has some parts of his game that need work. Defense is obviously the first and consistency the second. Neither of these flaws are unique to a rookie as most of the time first year players need to improve in these areas. And furthermore, in spite of these, Charlie is a great building block with tremendous NBA "upside."
In return the Raps obtained their first true point guard since Damon Stoudamire. It's been too long since the Raps have had a solid presence at the 1. Undoubtedly this team needed a starting point guard as even the most casual fan knew that Calderon was not ready for starters' minutes. He may never be. That's why making a deal to acquire a starting point guard was necessary...and TJ Ford is definitely no spare part.
Coming out of Texas he was highly viewed in the eyes of many and rumour has it former GM Glenn Grunwald had to be talked by someone into taking Bosh over Ford in the '03 draft as Grunwald liked Ford's game that much. (As an aside if this is true, that "someone" deserves a raise!) TJ is an extremely fast point guard with well above average passing skills. He's also young, despite what seems like a long career. He is only 24.
Like Charlie, TJ has areas of his game he needs to work on. First and foremost his jump shot. TJ, even in his college days, was not a great shooter. In his rookie year he shot below 40 per cent, and this past season 41.. These numbers do not strike fear into any defender and until that number improves the opposition will be able to sit back and defend against his first step, as a result reducing its effectiveness. Ford did show however a strong willingness to get to the hole and threfore made it to the free-throw line almost 250 times. Although that is only 35th in the league for guards, it does put him ahead of guys like Jason Terry and Jason Kidd. It also shows that mentally he's recovered from that horrific injury he suffered after crashing into Mark Madsen.
Aaaaa the injury. Now as seen in many of the comments as of late there are many readers who are apprehensive about the deal because of Ford's health. For me this is not really a concern. If an NBA player gets time in more than 70 games in a season, I consider him healthy. Like Ford said, he's been cleared. With a serious injury like the one he suffered I can't imagine a professional doctor giving clearance unless he/she was sure. I really do believe that TJ's healthy and until I hear otherwise I don't really factor this into the trade.
In the end Ford definitely is an nice addition to the team, I just think Charlie is a bigger loss. I stand by the fact that BC should have gotten more, and no, CASH does not count. How is cash useful? Sure it's an asset, but it is no help as against the cap, and as a fan we are highly unlikely to see any return. It is simple math, when team A gives up more value than team B, team A should be compensated. In my opinion that compensation should take the form of a basketball asset, be it in a player now or later. Not cash.
The other major concern I have about this deal is that when you take the loss of Charlie and add in what looks like the inevitable loss of Mike James, this once high-scoring Raptors team has a fairly large void to fill. Sure Ford averaged 12 point per game or so, but I don't think we are going to see a major rise in that number next season. I think Charlie is poised for 17 or so. Ford should compensate for this in the assists column but this team now needs to add a scorer. A SCORER?! Going into the off-season, the last thing I thought this team would need is a scorer. (Someone better be on the ringer with Fred Jones' agent. He would be a GREAT guy off the bench and could provide some instance offence. A decent shooter he can also get above the rim (he did win the Slam Dunk contest in 04) and could be a great sixth man.)
At the end of the day however, I don't think history is going to agree with me that this trade was slanted in favour of the Bucks. The reason? I think Charlie will regress as a player while playing for the Bucks. I am not proclaiming myself as some expert as to the workings of the Milwaukee franchise (for that matter on the Toronto franchise either) but I do know enough to say the following:
1. Terry Stotts is not a guy that really sets a fire under anyone's a** when required.
Although there is great debate as to Sam Mitchell's coaching ability the one thing you cannot argue with is that he gets his point across and he does it with minutes. On more than one occasion Mitchell would plunk Charlie on the bench and on an equal number of occasions Charlie would get the point. Mitchell relates to his players and was slowly getting to know what buttons to push (I say this was because so much of the roster is new). I am not sure Stotts and his coaching ways are going to have a similar effect. From what I know of him, he is not the greatest of motivators being more of an "X's and O's guy," and in Villanueva's case that is not a good thing.
2. Milwaukee is not exactly known as being one of North America's great cities.
Charlie is from the Big Apple, and Toronto as a city, is filled with things to do. It's international and is in the spotlight....at least more than Milwaukee. With less coverage, and less press I just have the feeling that Charlie is going to be less interested. I never thought that was going to be a concern here in Toronto due to the mass amounts of press (good or bad) and I actually think that Toronto was a perfect situation for Charlie to succeed. I do not however, think that is the case with his new squad.
3. The Bucks no longer have a player that will get in your grill (they traded him to us).
One of Ford's strongest attributes is his leadership ability. He truly is a floor general. He and Bosh will make a great tandem from a leadership standpoint. In many ways his role as a leader is one thing that gives me comfort in this deal. In fact this is the one part of the deal that made no sense to me from a Bucks' perspective. Who is the leader on that team now? Is it Redd's team? Simmons? Bogut? None of these guys are known for being leaders on or off the court except maybe Bogut who is too young still. It is this lack of leader that concerns me when it comes to Villanueva. If his coach won't force him to keep elevating his game, and there is no true leader on the hardwood, I think his chances for success are greatly reduced.
4. The criticism against Charlie is no more.
Charlie, in a very classy way, put all of his critics in their place last season. He took their draft day criticism to heart and it provided him the fire he needed to play hard everyday. As a result, the criticism seems to have dissipated. What are the consequences of that? Is the trade enough motivation to keep the ball rolling in terms of progression? Again I am skeptical.
Consequently, if Charlie does regress even a little, and Ford stays at a minimum consistent, then history will likely view the trade as fair. I think this is the likely result based on each of their situations and respective upsides. I guess the thing that just irks me the most about this deal is that it doesn't matter whether my prediction about the end result is right - the Raps should have walked away with more value. Therefore I guess the moral of the story is a simple one:
We didn't get equal value.
The saving grace I suppose?
We now have a starting PG and a pretty good one at that.