Saturday, July 01, 2006

When did Bryan Colangelo get smart?

For many years Bryan Colangelo was merely an adequate GM. He drafted Shawn Marion, Michael Finley and Steve Nash. He traded for Jason Kidd. He also traded for Stephon Marbury and signed Tom Guggliotta to a 6-year deal. His Suns were generally good enough to make the playoffs, but were never a threat and never got past the 2nd round in the first 8 years of his tenure.

However, starting in 2002, Colangelo seemed unable to do any wrong. He traded Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk for Joe Johnson and a 1st round pick. He drafted Amare Stoudamire in the 2002 draft. In the 2003 draft, he traded for Leandro Barbosa. Midway through the 2003-2004 season, he named Mike D'Antoni head coach. He then sent Marbury and the man formerly known as Penny Hardaway to NY for a bunch of expiring contracts and got rid of Guggliotta. In the 2004 off-season he signed both Nash and Quentin Richardson. Q was traded the following off-season for Kurt Thomas and Dijon Thompson. Joe Johnson netted the Suns Boris Diaw and 2 1st round picks. Even with the devastating injury to Amare and the less-crushing, but important injury to Kurt Thomas, the Suns reached the Western Conference Finals.

Colangelo, having formed a championship contender, was already moving forward trying to undertake an even more impressive transformation - turning the downtrodden Toronto Raptors into a competitive team. The team he took over had a rising star in Chris Bosh and a solid complementary rookie in Charlie Villanueva. PG Mike James had a career year and Morris Peterson provided his steady scoring touch. The Raptors finished the season 27-55, 13 games out of a playoff spot. In spite of 4 teams having worse records, the Raptors won the 1st pick in the draft lottery.

Once the off-season started Colangelo started making small roster tweaks. He dumped slow 26-year old Rafael Araujo for 20-year old Kris Humphries. Humphries didn't show much last season at Utah, but he's an athletic big man who came out of college too early. Only 20, he has room to improve and become an asset to the team. He then made a somewhat confusing move for Rasho Nesterovic. With Bosh and Charlie V already on the team plus the great likelihood that the Raptors would draft another big man, what use could Nesterovic have? Little did we know what Colangelo would have up his sleeve.

At the draft, the Raptors took Andrea Bargnani first overall and added P.J. Tucker in the second round. I have seen only highlights of Bargnani (I'll admit, I don't get the chance to watch much professional Italian basketball), but he seems to move very smoothly on the court with a nice outside shot and the ability to block shots and rebound. The smoothness on the court is what really impresses me. You don't see too many 6'11" guys who seem to move more effortlessly. His range is legitimate and should keep defenses from double-teaming Bosh. I love the Tucker pick. He's a strong defender and rebounder even though he's only 6'5" and has a strong post game. Tucker is similar to Bonzi Wells, though with better defense and not as much shooting range.

BG's big move (the one that prompted this extensive post) happened yesterday when he traded Charlie V for T.J. Ford. I love Ford. He's a blur on the court with fantastic court vision and nice touch on his floaters. Ford is Tony Parker with a greater ability to find teammates. In 03-04 with Ford, Milwaukee was 41-41. In 04-05 with practically the same roster except for Ford, they dropped to 30-52. With Ford back in 05-06, the Bucks returned to 40-42. He'll make the Raptors go. With the addition of Nesterovic and Bargnani, Villanueva was a bit expendable. I think he'll solidify the PF position for Milwaukee who will turn the PG responsibilities over to Maurice Williams and Charlie Bell, adequate, but not Ford exciting.

Let's take a look at the Raptors next season.

PG - T.J. Ford
SG - Morris Peterson
SF - Joey Graham
PF - Chris Bosh
C - Rasho Nesterovic

PF Andrea Bargnani
SG P.J. Tucker
PG Jose Calderon
PF Kris Humphries

That's an exciting young core in Toronto. If Sam Mitchell can help these young kids gel, we could see the beginnings of a legitimate Canadian contender.

Also, if you're wondering, that poll is currently on the Raptors official website.


Blogger Mini Me said...

In the Easy East, any team has the potential to make the playoffs. I think the Raptors will certainly be in competition for one of the eight playoff spots next season. Also, I beleive they are one or two good players away from being a mid-top tier team in the East. One, if Bargnani ends up being a solid #1 draft pick and two if he is a bust. Bosh also needs to continue to improve. Further, expect P.J. Tucker to end up being a great selection. It is up to Colangelo to get that one or two more players to make the Raptors a good and possibly great team.

9:46 PM  
Blogger MC said...

With a defensive Center and SF, a speedy pg, a stud PF, a SG with a nice skill set and a variety of European imports, it looks like Colangelo isn't trying to create Suns North, but rather Spurs North.

I think this team is near where the Bulls were 2 seasons ago. I think they have the players, it'll be up to Sam Mitchell to get them to play and improve. If not, BG will have to get a coach to accomplish that.

10:09 PM  

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