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3 in the Key: Raptors' Game-Day Preview vs. Bobcats

After a whirlwind of discussion about Andrea Bargnani, the franchise's future and even Marcia, Franchise looks at what he sees as the two main options the Raptors need to take with "Il Mago"...

If Andrea Bargnani had one rebound for every comment he inspired on the site, HE, not Reggie Evans, would be drawing Dennis Rodman comparisons.

Yep, it was Andrea-mania yesterday as the readership again cast their vote on what to do with "Il Mago," the new figurehead of fan frustration for many.

This morning instead of going into our usual 3 keys for tonight's game, I wanted to expand a bit on the great discussion our readers orchestrated.

Not that tonight's game isn't worth breaking down, but the Bobcats are simply a terrible team right now, scoring under 90 points a game and having defensive issues as well and the key really is to get a win.  If Toronto can't put the boots to this Charlotte club, this truly will be a long, long month.

(Sidebar - if you're feeling masochistic and want to attend tonight's game, check out the great contest Heels on the Hardwood is having!)

But let's get back to Andrea for a second and not because I want to keep kicking the tires on this.  What I want to discuss and what several readers commented on yesterday was that this whole thing goes beyond Andrea.  I don't want to keep rehashing the same old Andrea plot-lines and don't intend to.  I'd love to talk about how this team can improve, and how this franchise can move forward.  In fact, from about 2005 to 2008, that's what Howland and I did each and every day despite some dismal squads.  Yes, at one point I think he and I were even trying to see the upside of Mengke Bateer!

Here's the thing though.

Even in the darkest days of Rob Babcock, there was no pretense that the team had star players waiting to bloom. Sure, maybe early on guys like Villanueva and Graham had upside, but no one was saying that Loren Woods was the second coming of Tim Duncan, despite the fact that they shared the court briefly at Wake Forest.  Babcock was even criticized for telling it like it was; his team sucked and had a long ways to go before being a contender.

Now this isn't an "in defence of Rob Babcock" post.

After all, this is the guy who oversaw such classic hits like "Hoffa," and "The Skip to my Lou Remix."

But the point is that to me that club at least had a plan of action.  It was trying to clear out Glen Grunwald's salary cap woes and bring in new talent via the draft.

Was it a rebuild?

Yes indeed, and there was nothing standing in the way of that rebuild as the club literally began to blow things up.

On the flip side we have the current incarnation of the Toronto Raptors.

In my books, they should be progressing in a similar manner yet to the chagrin of myself and many others, management continues to extol the virtues of players who we don't see as solutions, but as the root causes of the team's lack of progress in a rebuild effort!

And that's where Andrea comes in.

Whether you like it or not, Bargnani is the biggest example of this.  There are others too but Hedo, JO, and The Matrix are gone, DeRozan is still barely into year 2, etc, etc.  So unfortunately Bargs becomes the main focal point under the "this rebuild ain't workin' " spotlight.

So it's not just an "I hate Bargnani" thing.  After all, I defended Colangelo's top pick for his first two and a half years before realizing that he simply wasn't going to get to that next level that many of us expected.

And this brings me to another point, let's talk a bit about expectations for a second.

One thing that I failed to do yesterday in my critique was suggest options in terms of what to do with Andrea.  If indeed it's time to fish or cut bait so to speak, then what?

To me there's two main options; you either use Andrea in a different manner, or you move him completely via trade.

In the first option, why not move him to the bench?  Is it because he was the top pick overall and therefore expectations predicate that he is a starter in this league?

-Ben Gordon was the 3rd overall pick in his draft year, and has been viewed as a much more effective player coming off the pine.

-James Harden was also the 3rd overall pick and despite a rough start for OKC last year, the team found him as a better option off the bench and continue to view him as such.

-Lamar Odom, Antawn Jamison, Marvin Williams; these are all top 5 picks in draft history who at one point or another were asked to play major roles for their teams by coming off the bench.

So again I ask, why this insistence on continuing to start Andrea?  Why couldn't he be an amazingly lethal 6th man for Toronto and therefore still a part of the team's future as it attempts to acquire more starting level talent?

Or as one of our readers suggested in a fan post, why not try playing him at the 3 and load up on rebounders and shot blockers at the 4, 5?  Andrea's advanced metrics look better at that spot and maybe this would negate some of his help defense issues?

No good, what about Option 2?

Many teams in the past have realized that for one reason or another, their lottery pick just isn't working out the way they expected, and that it was time to start fresh.  Emeka Okafor, Drew Gooden, Tyson Chandler, Darius Miles, the aforementioned Jamison, Tyrus Thomas, Shelden Williams...these are all examples of top 5 picks that just didn't pan out and were dealt by the clubs that selected them.

The common difference though between these types and Andrea?

These other clubs all realized within about two and a half years that their team vision regarding said draft selections wasn't coming to fruition and cut bait.

We're now in year 5 of the Andrea experiment.

Under option 2 then, maybe it's time for Colangelo to make like Joe Dumars did with Darko Milicic, admit defeat, and move on.  It happens.  An Eddy Curry deal was thrown out there and while I doubt the Knicks want essentially two Danilo Gallinari's, a Bargs and Evans for a Curry and similarly frustrating former lottery pick, Anthony Randolph comes close to working under the salary cap, and makes a lot of sense for both teams considering New York's need for rebounding help.  Maybe there's something along those lines that's possible.

In any event, whether you're more a fan of option 1 or 2, I think you need to choose one if you're Colangelo and co. I just don't think you can spend a year sacrificing game time for guys like Amir Johnson (and eventually Ed Davis, who is rumoured to be close to a return) by continuing to roll out Bargs and Evans at the big man spots.

It would be one thing if it was working, but it's not, so I'm hoping to see a change of some sort in the near future.

If not, unfortunately the next Raptors' playoff date looks further and further away.