With the Denver Nuggets preparing to face the Toronto Raptors Sam Holako of the fantastic Raptors blog Raptors Republic invited me to swap some questions and answers. Below you can find out how Raptors fans feel about Linas Kleiza and what to think about Andrea Bargnani. You can see my answers to his questions on the futures of Carmelo and Chauncey and what to expect from the game tonight over at Raptors Republic.
Jeremy: Linas Keliza was sold to Raptors fans as a hard nosed player who would help improve the team defensively. How has that panned out?
Sam: Kleiza was sold as more than a defensive improvement for the team; folks around these parts thought he was going to be our saviour. He started out very strong, and has basically laid a big fat egg since. I had some high hopes for him, but always tempered my enthusiasm since he was out of the league for a year (there had to be a reason for that). I’d be willing to give his minutes to Peja Stojakovic when he gets back.
Jeremy: Who is the best player on the Toronto Raptors?
Sam: Andrea Bargnani, he’s the only person teams have to account for with a sound strategy to keep him off the boxscore. After that, Jose Calderon, Amir Johnson, then everyone else are about the same.
Jeremy: Andrea Bargnani is locked in to a big contract and has shown improvement each of the past four seasons. He is an efficient scorer; however, he is listed as a center and is seven feet tall, but has a rebound rate of a small forward. Plus he will never be a defensive stalwart. Can he be a high minute player on a great team? Is it just as simple as putting a very good defensive center next to him?
Sam: His rebounding is brutal for a 7 footer, but it’s getting up to respectable levels (averaging 5.7/game now). Tyson Chandler would have been a perfect compliment lined up with Bargnani had that trade gone through. As far as being a high minute player on a great team, I think he can play the part of a 3rd on a solid team. For example, if the Heat had him, he would open up all kinds of space for Wade and LeBron to drive to the rim while pulling out the opposing teams big from the paint. It all comes down to the GM’s ability to build the right team.
Jeremy: Are there any plans to use the Chris Bosh trade exception? How much of it is left to use?
Sam: There’s about $12.3mil left on the exception, and it’s about 50/50 whether it gets used. I’m sure MLSE (owners of the Raptors) would love to reduce committed contracts to the minimum heading into the CBA negotiations. However, Bryan Colangelo has shown a willingness to spend money and make moves in an effort to improve the team. Aside from the TPE, the Raptors have about $25mil in expiring contracts, so they definitely can be players come the trade deadline.
Jeremy: Under the best case scenario, when will the Raptors be a playoff team again?
Sam: It could be as early as this season, the East is still weak at the bottom, and they sit a half game out of 8th. However, the scenario where they are a legit playoff team that can win a playoff series…I don’t see that happening with the core that is being built around.
Thanks to Sam for reaching out to help preview the game and make sure you check out Raptors Republic for my answers to Sam’s questions and their coverage of tonight’s game.