With the Raptors well into the off season and the playoffs giving us some compelling ball, it's been hard to be a Raptors fan looking in. I mean, that triple overtime with the Bulls against Celtics was one that was full of tension and drama. Though as a Raptors fan, you'd have to wonder if the Raptors couldn't have done better against a depleted Celtics roster. What "could have" and "should have" are things that we as fans dwell on, but it's frankly time to move on. We at the HQ insist on looking forward.
Today we'll be looking at the Raptors threads to European Basketball. The Euroleague is finished for the season with Panathinaikos edging out CSKA Moscow in the playoff final. Of course as the summer progresses, we'll also look at the FIBA Worlds qualifications but here's what we can gleam from the end of Euroleague play:
Where to Find Him: BC Khimki
Why Raptors Fans Should Care: We all know that Bryan Colangelo has made no secret about his desire to bring back Carlos Delfino into the Raptors fold. However, there were a few reasons why the Raptors simply could not bring back the Argentinian last year and instead Delfino chose the greener pastures. By signing with BC Khimki, Delfino managed to help his club get to second place behind CSKA Moscow in the Russian League, but unfortunately, outside of the qualifications for the Euroleague playoffs. With teammates Jorge Garbajosa and Milt Pilacio, Delfino was not the lone ex-Raptor on the team. Averaging 13 PPG, 3.6 RPG, and 2.6 APG in roughly 28 minutes per game, (keep in mind that assists are harder to attain in Euroleague play) Delfino did not take the league by storm. In fact, with 45% shooting within the arc and 42% shooting from the closer European 3-point line, I'm not sure if anyone back in Toronto should be exactly jumping for joy. Toss in about 5 attempts per game from beyond the arc and 6 attempts from within and Raptors fans should look closely at his statistics and be wary that Delfino still has not developed a consistent slashing game that fans have been clamouring for since his days in Detroit. In fact, none of us should be surprised if Delfino is the same kind of player upon his return as compared to his exit. Unless Carlos Delfino gets strict orders to work on changing his game to focus on slashing and attacking the rim in the FIBA Worlds with the Argentinian team, we could be in for a whole lot of the same if the Raptors decide to bring him back into the fold.
A diamond in the rough?
Where to Find Him: Olympiacos
Why Raptors Fans Should Care: There was some mention that Georgios Printezis might be a good pick for the Raptors to bring over in the upcoming year, and it's no wonder. As a key cog in the 4th place Olympiacos, Printezis has shown a fairly deft shooting touch as well as some toughness and a hunger to work hard. Originally billed as a possible power forward, Printezis seems to have carved out a niche as a small forward. A quick glance at his numbers shows that he averaged 19 minutes per game, with the majority of his minutes coming in the playoffs. Most of Printezis's shots come from within the arc, (5 attempts per game with 65% shooting) although he's shown a limited ability to hit a Euro three pointer (50%). Printezis also offers another alternative to Carlos Delfino as he's averaged about 3.3 rebounds per game, which is only marginally lower compared to Delfino. However, another year of seasoning may be best for the Greek, as the Raptors need more experience on their roster. Printezis would have difficulty defending NBA small forwards and he would have to make some major adjustments coming over to the NBA as a result. The Raptors will be taking plenty of chances in the draft this year, so it makes little sense for them to take a larger chance with a developing overseas player. It will be of greater interest to Raptors fans to see if Printezis is able to crack the experienced Greek squad for FIBA qualifications this summer as the Greek squad may be looking to younger in the upcoming years.
Where to Find Him: DKV Joventut
Why Raptors Fans Should Care: Jose Calderon likes him. He's been the talk of the town with certain segments of the basketball community and has shown at the worlds that he might be the natural replacement for Jose Calderon on the Spanish national team in the years to come. However, Rubio must be disappointed by Joventut's early exit from the Euroleague. Playing only five games for the season gives us little to work with, but the one thing that Rubio definitely needs is experience. Averaging only 13 minutes per game, Rubio's assist-to-turnover ratio is a pretty nasty 1.2. Even with the more difficult Euroleague assist calculation, the turnovers are a sign that Rubio's game would need some work coming over to the more challenging NBA. Shooting-wise, Rubio's percentages are also fairly anemic as his percentages hover around 29% from within the arc, and 33% from beyond the Euroleague arc in five games. Even if we factor in previous years, Rubio's shooting percentage has shown much fluctuation from hitting as high as 61% in last year's ULEB Cup, to 42% in last year's regular play. Much like the Raptors' Roko Ukic, Rubio would struggle defensively as well as have difficulty hitting the three pointer. However, we can also gleam from his previous years that this year was a sort of abberation for him offensively. Is it enough to drop Rubio low enough in the NBA draft that the Raptors could come in and pick him up? Should the Raptors try and move up to take the young point guard? With an ego and belief that he deserves the same calls as the best players on the floor, Rubio's transition should be a tough one. He would once again be playing behind Jose Calderon and the Raptors would have a project that would need at least a few years of seasoning to develop beyond his deficiencies. If the Raptors were to pick Rubio up in the draft, count on some trying times to go along with the highlights.
Where to Find Him: CSKA Moscow
Why Raptors Fans Should Care: Ettore Messina is widely regarded as the best coach not in the NBA. For years, the Raptors have been rumoured to covet his skills and would possibly look towards Messina towards restructuring the team in a rebuilding process. Ideally, the Raptors would like to give Messina an assistant's position with the intention of moving him into the head coach's position should a vacancy become available. However, Messina's comments from a Michael Grange interview last year have suggested that the possibility that he take a job other than as a head coach with an NBA team are slim to none. With another year under his belt though, we've seen Ettore take CSKA Moscow to the finals of the Euroleague, so there can be no question that Messina is a winner. Messina will always be a point of interest with the Raptors thanks to their European connection, but the situation just doesn't seem possible unless the Raptors enter into a complete rebuilding phase.