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Jump Ball

Franchise: Raptors eked out a win over the Bulls last week and defeated arch-nemesis Vince Carter and his Nets and are now knocking on the door of 30 wins already this season! It really looks like Toronto has the Atlantic on lockdown and is headed for the playoffs...finally! But am I the only one who’s not completely overjoyed by this? Sure I’m playing Devil’s advocate here but wouldn’t the best case scenario be that the Raps finish 7th in the East, make the playoffs and face Cleveland or Washington yet still have a bad enough record to get into this year’s draft? I know the team’s young as is, but with so many talented forwards in this year’s draft who can get to the rim...

Howland: I am never a proponent of a team doing anything but going for the gold. Perfect example? I have a ton of respect for the 76ers right now, in particular Andre Iguodala, who despite being on a team very short on talent, is not mailing it in just to get the opportunity at Durant or Oden. For this year’s Raps the best case scenario is getting as many wins as possible and seeing what happens. As I have said many times, this team just doesn’t seem to know any better. Who says this mentality can’t serve them well in the playoffs? Nobody really expected this at this point in the season so who is to say what to expect the rest of the way? For all anyone knows, this year’s Raps could be the NBA version of George Mason! It is always good to have a pick in the draft but it’s not like our team is short on talent at this point. Sure you can always have more but if the trade-off is league-wide respectability and a serious run in the playoffs, I’ll take that trade-off any day (provided I can get some tickets!)

Franchise: I want tickets too. I guess I’m just thinking about things long-term. I love this upcoming draft and want the Raptors to be a player in it but who knows, BC’s done a great job and if his attempts at getting Marcus Williams were any indication, he’ll find a way to grab a pick if he sees someone he likes. Speaking of which, anyone you like if Toronto WAS to get into the middle to late rounds of the draft? March Madness IS less than a month away!

Howland: Yeah, pumped for March Madness but I just haven’t given much thought to who I’d like to see in a Raps uniform besides the likes of Oden, Durant, Noah and Julian Wright. And obviously none of them, barring a crazy trade at draft time, have any chance of being a Raptors’ first-round pick this year.

Franchise: Ok, fine, leave the speculation to me. I’d love for Toronto to get its hands on one of the big Al’s...either Horford or Thornton. Both fill needs that Toronto currently has (athletic slasher vs. rebounding/inside presence.) I also would love to see Horford’s team-mate Corey Brewer have his name called by the Raps on draft-day and to a lesser degree both Marcus Williams and Josh McRoberts, both of whom I think fit niche rolls for Toronto. But enough on that topic then, moving on...

Howland: Well, if there is one topic that does not seem to be getting that much play as of late, it’s Coach Mitchell’s situation. The guy has been, and remains a sitting duck. What’s the future for this guy? If the team continues at this rate does Colangelo have any choice but to show him the money? I have been a fan of Mitchell since he arrived, and although he has gone through some serious growing pains, he has developed almost as fast as the players around him. He has done a spectacular job with CB4 and the players seem to really respect him. Even if this team gets knocked out in the first round I still believe that Mitchell is the coach for this team going forward. What has also been interesting is how much mutual respect there appears to be between Mitchell and Colangelo. Colangelo has to like what he sees here and if the Raps make a run he won’t be able to say that the team has not performed or should have performed better as an excuse for finding a replacement. If the Raps were a democracy and the fans could vote, I am voting for Mitchell.

Franchise: Here, here. We need to pick a new topic by the way, not enough in-fighting between us in this edition.

I’d vote to keep Sam too. I wouldn’t go the way of a five-year deal, but I’d go three. The only reason you wouldn’t re-sign Mitchell in my opinion is a) the wheels fall off things in the next 30 games, or b) there’s someone better out there. And for me, it’s b) that is really the issue here as even if the team only wins 38 or 39 games when the season ends, it’s still a huge improvement over last year on so many levels. So is there anyone better out there? We hear all this Iavoroni talk but isn’t that more of a "grass is greener on the other side" situation right now? It would be one thing if Mitchell and the Raps were floundering around the cellar of the East again and therefore it was a let’s hire "anyone else but Sam" situation...but right now I think changing the guard simply for the sake of change would be foolish.

Howland: Could someone please explain to me the whole U2 intro? Where is the Rage Against the Machine? A decision needs to be made on a song (and not just any song) that will be the Raps intro now and for years to come. I mean is there a better intro than the Chicago Bulls?! It’s been the same since David Stern secretly quit as commissioner and was replaced by the Stern-bot 1000, and every time you hear it you get pumped. Why can’t this team find a song that appeals to the right demographics (this writes-off any tune that would be played at a Leafs game) and that can stick? No Beyonce, no U2. Look, if the 4 Korners sound crew can’t come up with something then they should really be fired.

Franchise: 4 Korners? Not sure how deep they are in the production game...they'd probably need some help from Chris Webber.

In any event, you know I totally agree again with you on this one too. We’ve discussed on the site at length concerning new theme songs and now I think we need to contact the Raptors organization to let them know. U2 is bearable, Rage was better. But neither really captures the team vibe and build the way an intro song should. Hell, I’d be happier with the old DX theme song from WWF...or is it now WWE?

Howland: Next deadline in two days...and if you’re the Raps, I don’t think you make any moves. None. I love the depth of this team and should someone get injured we have a replacement waiting in the wings. I mean as of today, who would you deal anyway? Mo Pete? Not a chance. I mean there is a reason teams want him. He’s a good defender, is a solid contributor, and has an expiring contract. Are they not all things that we want as well? If he is getting minutes and now Toronto is winning, who says he leaves for nothing in the off-season anyway. Besides even if he does, shouldn’t we all have enough faith in Colangelo now to know he would find an adequate replacement? The only other tradeable assets in my mind are Fred Jones and Kris Humphries. When it comes to Jones let’s not be so quick to write him off. He has a very reasonable salary and I would not be surprised to see him contribute to this team and play at a high level at some point. He has been a pro about being on the bench and his time, at least in my opinion will come. When it comes to Humphries this guy could have some good value in the playoffs should the Raps be forced to match-up against the Heat, or any team that will look to slow the pace during the "second season." I say no trades. Not now. Hell this team is still gelling.

Franchise: Trade’em all! Ok...not all, but I do think there’s room for Colangelo to make moves. In fact, it’s interesting to think about this team in terms of "who can they trade." Would you trade Garbajosa? What about if it brought back someone like Stackhouse? I’m not saying it will happen, but don’t you get the feeling that Colangelo can’t trade any of the foreign guys he brought in because he’s kind of like their Sheppard? I mean, he’s the one who convinced them to come to the NBA so they could play for the Raps! He can’t deal them now can he? Isn’t there a certain guilt trip involved here? And how does this play out down the line, especially if he feels he can upgrade the talent level at various spots? Right now the chemistry is great and I agree, you probably don’t want to mess too much with it, but this team still needs help on the boards and a wing who can consistently get to the rim. last week (as one of our readers alluded to) was floating a Fred Jones for Juan Dixon rumour but I’m not sure that really solves anything. Dixon is hardly the second coming of Dwyane Wade in terms of getting to the rim so such a deal would be more because of Dixon’s contract situation. Dixon’s contract is up in a year, letting Colangelo pull a "well, that Fred Jones idea didn’t work out so well, let’s cut our losses" type redo.

And like you Howland, I’d rather not see Peterson (my favourite Raptor) go anywhere although it sounds like BC is not against moving the former Spartan. In the same article discussing the Fred Jones for Juan Dixon rumour, reported that Toronto had attempted to deal Peterson to the Clippers earlier this season in exchange for Corey Maggette.

It sounds like a few teams out there (Lakers, Cavs etc) are looking to shore up their point guard situation so Jose Calderon’s name comes to mind. However I wouldn’t move him unless you could really get a solid piece of the puzzle in return and I don’t see the Cavs or Lakers being able to do that. I mean, would you want Kwame Brown? Drew Gooden? I didn’t think so.

In fact, I’m tempted to agree with you again Howland and say that there’s not much reason to shake this team up right now so the only thing I can think of is if Colangelo wants to either jettison Fred Jones, or get back into next year’s draft. Right now Toronto’s record is good enough that Charlotte will receive the Raptors’ first-round pick however there are a number of teams who have multiple first-rounders next year. And some of these squads likely won’t have room for all the selections and look to make a trade. Best example – BC’s old club, the Phoenix Suns.

The Suns by way of their now rather lop-sided deal with the Hawks concerning Joe Johnson, own Atlanta’s first round pick in this year’s draft in addition to their own pick and a pick owed to them by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Phoenix is trying to win right now and as we saw in last year’s draft, will likely be open to moving some of these selections as they simply won’t have the roster space.

What if Toronto dealt Fred Jones for James Jones and the pick owed to Phoenix by Cleveland?

The deal works financially and Fred Jones would seem to be a perfect fit for the Suns’ offense. In addition, he could help backup the 1 or 2 spots, both areas where Phoenix has had some issues due to injury. For Toronto, James Jones could provide some extra size to the Raps in addition to being a solid outside shooter with a shorter contract. And while the Cavs record this year will probably make the pick fall between the range of 20 and 25, based on the perceived depth of this year’s draft, Toronto should still be able to find someone to help them out in one of their areas of need. Some interesting wing players like Morris Almond and Brandon Rush might be around in those spots or another foreign player like Rudy Fernandez or Marco Belinelli.

The only other person that I could see coming Toronto’s way is Jamaal Magloire who might make sense as a playoff rental. How much of an advantage would it be to have him come off the bench once Rasho picks up his three fouls on Shaq or Dwight Howard instead of having to play Bosh, Garbs or Humphries there? Magloire’s contract is up at season’s end giving the Raptors a great opportunity to clear his salary and further to this, maybe Magloire would be so happy to be back in Toronto that the Raptors could re-sign him for a decent amount and he’d be happy to play in a reduced role for the club.

Howland: You’re dreaming...sure Portland is looking to give away Jaamal for a box of Smarties but it would be tough for Toronto to match salaries up to make such a deal occur, never mind the fact that I doubt he’d be happy coming off the bench. Unless a buyout is in effect, I don’t see him ending up here at season’s end. I’m not saying he wouldn’t be big help to the Raps in terms of size and rebounding, but right now I don’t think anyone in the league really makes any noise until after the lottery is done although I really like the Phoenix idea.

Franchise: No, I’m leaning towards a quiet deadline day too...I call it the Oden effect. Until we know whether or not he, Durant and co. are even entering the draft this season, and where the lottery teams will be picking from, it would be foolish for most teams to deal their high picks at this point as they have a legit shot at landing a franchise-changing player. And furthermore, I think that’s why teams like Memphis and Boston will hold off on making any trades and simply ride out what’s been a tough season for them. Therefore if deadline day is quiet, hopefully this year's draft will involve some wild swaps.

Howland: Until then, go Raps go...

Franchise: Well put.