Anyone who’s followed, or played, basketball for a number of years knew this was an incredibly dangerous game against the Pacers. There were four reasons why I had a feeling the Raptors were going to lose tonight:
1. The Raptors had come back from double digits in four of their last five game, and one of them was against the mighty Lakers. It’s great to be able to come back like that, but when you do it four times in a row, there’s the danger in believing that you can turn it on at any time, so there’s a tendency to relax. Great teams do it all the time. Great teams often can get away with it. The Raptors, no matter how well they have been playing, are not a great team.
2. The Raptors had just won 5 games in a row, a season high. Confidence was high and they’d just been able to easily handle Indiana. In the game in Toronto against Indiana, the Raptors were pretty much in charge the entire time, and despite the Pacers staying close for most of the game, the Raptors were able to kick it into high gear when it mattered and put the game away. Great, but don’t believe you can always do that.
3. The schedule. It has been well documented that the Raptors have an easy schedule for the next couple of weeks. So documented, in fact, that sports writers have been asking the players about it. One problem: no schedule in the NBA is easy because just about any team can beat any other team in any game. That’s the way it goes. There is only tougher and less tough. Not easy. The Raptors were caught in the trap of believing their schedule was easy. It’s not. It’s just easier than it was in November.
4. Mark Stein. I like Mark Stein, partly because he likes Canada, but putting the Raptors at number 7 in his Weekly Power Rankings probably hurt them more than anything. You don’t think the players know they are now ranked #7? Well, on the plus side, they won’t be ranked #7 in next week’s poll.
So there you have it. I’m not going to talk about the game itself because it’s pointless. It’s one game and, despite what some people think, it’s best not to examine it too closely looking for things that probably aren’t there. It doesn’t mean their defense has regressed. It doesn’t mean Bosh is leaving. It doesn’t mean the team isn’t the same one that won the previous 15 of 20. It just means they played a bad game. It happens to every team, even the good ones.
Hopefully they learned a valuable lesson, that they can’t rest on their laurels and assume they’re going to win any game because they can’t. It’s a lesson every good team eventually has to learn, and as I’ve stated time and time again here, this is a young and relatively inexperienced team. This is one lesson. Let’s learn it and move on.
The Raptors are currently 2 ½ games behind San Antonio, Portland and Phoenix in the league standings. I don’t think anyone would have guessed that would be so more than halfway into the season.
The results of the first poll were quite interesting. Nearly 100 people gave their opinion (97, to be precise) and it was pretty much a stalemate. 49 respondents said they would trade for Igoudala, whereas 48 said no. I have to say I didn’t expect it to be that close.
Personally, I voted `Yes, but regretfully’.
Now, I don’t think they should go out and seek a trade because stability is going to help more than anything right now, and throwing a new player in the mix might hurt in the short term. It took them long enough to adjust to each other, and making any moves is going to put them back some.
On the other hand, adding Igoudala would make the Raptors a better team. Teams, in general, are only as good as their top 2 or 3 players. Sure, role players matter, and so does depth, but the Lakers made their huge jump to contending by trading away depth and getting Pau Gasol, who immediately became their second best player. Cleveland didn’t become a contender until Mo Williams was signed.
Igoudala would step onto a team where he would arguably be the second best player. A team headed by Bosh, Igoudala and Bargnani is better than a team headed by Bosh, Bargnani and Turkoglu. And the Raptors starting five would become one of the best in the league.
Igoudala would also be a perfect fit for the Raptors, who are at their best when DeRozan is playing a game similar to Igoudala, slashing to the hoop, skying for rebounds and cutting to the basket. What DeRozan does on occasion, Igoudala does every night.
Igoudala also would flourish in a running game, which the Raptors play.
And two of his biggest strengths, defense and rebounding, are the two things the Raptors can have the most trouble with. Suddenly Bargnani’s low rebounding numbers don’t matter as much because Igoudala will be taking up the slack (he’s averaging 6.9 rpg this season).
And trading for Igoudala would increase the likelihood of Bosh re-signing, and if he does leave, would help cushion the blow. If Bosh does leave, the Raptors have very little flexibility to do anything to make up for it. Having Igoudala means the team could still compete.
Yes, losing DeRozan would be hard, but do we really expect that DeRozan’s going to be any better than Igoudala is right now? And Igoudala is 26, so he hasn’t even hit his prime, yet.
And Calderon is an important piece of the team right now, and a great backup to Jack, but if given the choice, wouldn’t you rather have Igoudala as your starting 2 than Calderon as your backup 1?
And then there’s the depth issue. Well, right now the Raptors have 7 players for 3 positions. There’s only so many minutes to go around, and you can bet that Igoudala will be playing a lot more than the 20 minutes DeRozan usually does, so there will be even fewer minutes for the bench wing players. And the fact that Igoudala, Belinelli and even Banks can play plenty of back up PG, it’s not something I’d really worry about.
So, have I changed your mind?