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

The All-Star break is over, Melo is finally a member of the Knicks, and the Raptors have to get back to work tonight in Charlotte...

Let's have a round of applause for Masai Ujiri this morning.

The Denver Nuggets' GM held out until nearly the 25th hour, ignored the press and their bashing of his handling of Melo and any impending trades, and in the end, grabbed a pretty nice haul in exchange for his disgruntled superstar.

Sure, there's no All-Star coming to Denver in return for Melo, but one could do a lot worse than Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, the Knicks' 2014 first-round pick, two second-round picks and cash, in return for Melo's services.

In fact the Toronto Raptors have done a lot worse in similar situations, first with Vince Carter when he was dealt to the New Jersey Nets for what essentially ended up being Joey Graham, and second, more recently, with Chris Bosh.

For myself and other Raptors' fans, the Bosh wound was ripped open again late last night after hearing about the details of the Nuggets-Knicks trade.  Here was a situation akin to that of the Raps with Bosh last year, and this time, the team that held the superstar, refused to be held for ransom, ensuring they received some sort of return as opposed to seeing their franchise-piece, walk for essentially nothing.

Hindsight is indeed 20/20, but it should be crystal clear now that Bryan Colangelo screwed up royally in not moving Bosh prior to last year's trade deadline.

Did he try and not find any suitable offers?

I doubt it.

With the way the media is now days, I'm highly skeptical much of an attempt was made; we would have heard about it.

Was Colangelo duped into thinking Bosh was sticking around?


But at the same time, it didn't seem that Colangelo had any sort of back-up plan in place, one that could have been acted upon the moment it became obvious post-All-Star break that Bosh had his sights set on playing elsewhere the following season.  Last year's All-Star break came much earlier too (the actual game was played on Valentine's Day) so that gave BC nearly two weeks to get such a plan in place and execute on it.

Instead, Bryan opted to play what I've referred to in the past as an extremely high-stakes game of poker with Bosh.  He bluffed, holding nothing more than a pair of 6's, and lost.  Remember, this is the GM who repeatedly assured fans and the media that he wasn't losing Bosh for "nothing," that he would definitely get some sort of asset in return.

The irony of this Melo stuff is that Ujiri was a member of the Raptors' front office staff during the Bosh fiasco, and either learned from his previous mistake re: Bosh, or had always wanted to move CB1 in the first place, and was vetoed by Bryan Colangelo or others higher up.

Now, the Nuggets can remain competitive though with this deal, and some may even argue are better off in both the short and long term.

(Also, how scary is it that in this report, notes that Gallinari may be flipped again with the Toronto Raptors being a potential destination!!)

As for the Knicks, well on brand value alone they win out.  Plus with their cache, they should be able to refill on talent via free-agency similar to what the Heat did this past off-season, getting valuable veteran players to take less money for a chance to play in a preferred NBA destination with a group of elite players.

The big loser in this deal is the NBA though.

Suddenly the league has shifted in the direction of Major League Baseball, where only a few teams compete for titles each and every year, and players are able to hold franchises hostage.

It's a sad state, especially as a fan of a team without the cache of a Los Angeles or Boston, and hopefully one that will be corrected this off-season with a new CBA.

However let's put the Melo deal aside for now.

The 15 win Toronto Raptors unfortunately still have a good chunk of the season to go, and it starts in Charlotte tonight.

Here are our 3 keys to a Dino's win:

1)  3 Scorers.  Recently, Toronto has gotten great scoring from Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan, but little after that.  The Charlotte Bobcats remain one of the worst offensive clubs in the league, so to get a W tonight, considering how bad the Raps' D is, I think we'll need to see not only good games offensively from Bargs and DeMar, but also one other Raptor.  It could be Sonny Weems or Jose Calderon, but I'm hoping it's one of TO's big men like Amir Johnson and Ed Davis.  Frankly, the Bobcats don't have anyone who can adequately match up with these two, so the hope is that both bring their A games tonight.

2)  Rebounding.  No surprise here, this seems to be a key each and every game.  However if you recall, the Bobcats, despite being fairly undersized, ate TO alive on the glass last time the clubs met.  Gerald Wallace is always a tough match-up, but it was Nazr Mohammed that really did a number on the Dinos and that simply can't happen again tonight.  I'm not expecting Andrea Bargnani to suddenly haul in 8 boards, but the onus is on Jay Triano to find some combination that works in this regard, if Andrea can't get the job done.

3)  Second-unit.  While they've been decimated by injuries for most of the season now, the Raps bench at one point was viewed as the team's main strength.  Lately?  Not so much.  As a result, opposing clubs are taking advantage of the Raps when Jay Triano is forced to turn to his subs, something that should be a major concern tonight.  I watched bench players like Gerald Henderson and Shaun Livingston take down the Celtics pre-All-Star break and play with incredible passion at both ends.  If Toronto wants to start the "second half" of the NBA season with a win, guys like Barbosa, Wright and Bayless are going to have to do a much better job than they have recently.