Friday , Nov , 27 , 2009 Oly Sandor

Toronto Raptors will struggle starting Calderon at point guard and Bargnani at post

Over the summer and throughout training camp, the Toronto Raptors publicly stated that they had to improve their defense to become relevant in the Eastern Conference. The entire organization – the players, coaches, and front office – seemed focused on getting-stops in 2010. A month into the season, it seems this was all talk. Nothing more. So far, the Raptors have played little or no defense, allowing opponents to score an embarrassing 108 points per game, which is the second highest in the NBA …


Toronto Raptors will struggle starting Calderon at point guard and Bargnani at postIt’s time to be honest: the plan has flaws.

Over the summer and throughout training camp, the Toronto Raptors publicly stated that they had to improve their defense to become relevant in the Eastern Conference. The entire organization – the players, coaches, and front office –  was focused on getting-stops in 2010. 

A month into the season, it seems this was all talk. Nothing more. So far, the Raptors have played little or no defense, allowing opponents to score an embarrassing 108 points per game, which is the second highest in the NBA.

The problem is simple: the organization thinks finesse starters Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon can help them become a defensive squad.

You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. And it will always be a struggle for skilled players like Bargnani and Calderon to hold their own, let alone excel on defense.

So, what now? Well, now things get interesting for coach Jay Triano because he lacks the leverage within the organization to make these changes.

For instance, if defense is really Triano’s priority, why not start the bigger, quicker Jarrett Jack over Calderon? And while were at it, why not start Reggie Evans (when healthy), Amir Johnson, or Rasha Nesterovic at center, shift the frontcourt down a position, and have DeMar DeRozan come off the bench?

These moves makes sense. Jack, as the starter, wouldn’t get beat off the dribble, while Calderon could assume his super-sub role of two seasons ago. Evans, Johnson, or Nesterovic would add toughness; Bosh, Bargnani, and Turkoglu would create mismatches at the 4, 3, and 2 spots. 

Unfortunately, politics won’t allow it. GM Bryan Colangelo signed Calderon to a five-year, $45 million contract to start at the 1-spot. The two-time Executive of the Year also drafted Bargnani first overall and, thinking he was their post of the future last summer, extended him to the tune of five-years and $50 million. Clearly, the front office has committed to the Spaniard and Italian.

To be fair, neither contract is unreasonable, as Calderon and Bargnani are good players. But both their skill-sets suit the old plan, where Toronto would use a player from virtually every country, region, or semi-autonomous state in Europe to become an offensive juggernaut, the northern version of the Phoenix Suns.

Their loss against the struggling Boston Celtics showed things have to change. The Raptors must put politics aside, tweak the starting line-up, and follow through on their goal to play defense. Until then, they’ll stay flawed and continue underachieving.

Does Toronto have to make changes to their first five? Get at us in the comment box below and follow Oly’s work on HoopsVibe The Blog and Twitter. Photo courtesy of Rudy E. Escoto