Friday, December 30, 2011

Fantasy Friday - A Bench Gem In Both Worlds

Every Friday, we'll be bringing you some fantasy notes and tidbits exclusively from a Toronto Raptors perspective. We're well aware that not many people were sweating bullets on draft night, hoping that a Raptor wasn't picked before their pick came up, but the Raps do have that sleeper potential that could be the difference maker in winning your fantasy league championship.

This week, we've got to bring up the man that best represents the change in culture the Raptors are trying to undergo - James Johnson. The athletic wing was probably left undrafted in just about every fantasy league, but he's absolutely stuffed the stat sheet the first two games.

At the moment, he has lofty small forward averages in most categories with 5.5 pts, 7.0 reb, 3.5 ast, 4.0 stl, 2.0 blks, 45% FG.

The fact that he's also logging in heavy minutes despite coming off the bench means he'll have the opportunity to keep racking up the stats. The only knock on him is you'd like to see him put up a few more points, but considering fantasy basketball is won on categories, Johnson is a gem if you have room on your bench.

If you're in a 12+ team league, definitely pick him up and use him in spot situations late in the week, when you're trying to catch up or protect your rebounds, steals, or blocks.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

DeMar Tebow

In the last two games, for the Raptors, quite a few things have been consistent. For starters, the effort has been there. The Raps may not be the most talented, but that's two straight games where I've seen dives to the floor for a loose ball. Secondly, the improved help defense, especially by James Johnson and Ed Davis.

And then there's DeMar DeRozan, who has been consistently inconsistent. In the first three quarters, DeMar has shown a lack of confidence, and at times, looks completely lost. He's been a big part of why the Raps are unable to get their offense going early. And when the only other scoring option in the starting line up gets in foul trouble like Bargs did last game, even an improved defense can't save the team,

Here are DeRozan's averages in the first three quarters in comparison to the 4th quarter.

QRT 1-3

5/15 FGA


Average Amount of Pts In First Three Quarters Combined: 6.0


11/ 13 FGA


Average Amount of Pts in Fourth Quarter: 12.5

We'll see if this small sample size turns into a trend for Mr. No Props Needed.

What caught my eye? The Raptors opened up the game with six straight stops on the defensive end. Unfortunately, they were unable to capitalize on it on offense due to poor offensive sets and moving screens, but it was a nice change to see us work hard on the defensive end.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Raptors Revisited: The Bargnani Effect

On Monday, January 26, 2011, the Toronto Raptors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 104-96.

Like noted in yesterday's post, the duo of Jose and Amir were able to pick apart Cleveland's interior defense with a healthy dose of pick and rolls. However, a big reason why it worked so well (besides the fact that the Cavs paint D isn't the most intimidating) is because of the dynamic Bargnani brings to the table.

Let's take a look at two plays that begin with a Calderon-Johnson pick and roll and end with an easy bucket partly because of where Bargnani positions himself on the court.

Jose and Amir initiate the pick n roll, while the Raptors keep both corner 3s occupied, establishing proper spacing. The key thing to watch is Jamison on Bargnani.

Irving goes over the screen due to Jose's hot hand, causing Varejao to leave Amir and switch to Jose. At this point (and due to Cleveland's lack of a shot blocking big), Jamison as the 4 man is caught between switching to Amir or staying on Bagrs

Jamison decides to stay near the perimeter with Bargnani, allowing Amir an easy uncontested basket.

Here's the second play, same concept, same result.

A switch is caused for Varejao on Jose, and Amir again rolls to the basket. Again, Jamison as the Cavs' 4, is assigned with shading Bargs near the top of the 3 point line.

As mentioned by Leo Rautins last night, Irving incorrectly commits himself to Calderon even though Varejao did a good job of leading Jose to the sideline on the hedge. This makes Jamison's job even more difficult when deciding between a wide open Amir or a wide open Bargnani.

Jamison decides to stick with Andrea at the perimeter, allowing Amir to get yet another easy bucket over the shorter Anthony Parker..

Monday, December 26, 2011

Jose-Amir 2K12 Lead Pass Cheese And Accountability


With Dwane Casey preaching a culture change of a defensive mentality, Raptors fans can expect a team that won't necessarily be the most talented, but will always try to out work the opposition.

Last night against Cleveland, we saw just that. Make no mistake, this team doesn't look like it will challenge for a playoff spot, but it was great to see some of our players compete. Two that stuck out the most to me were Amir Johnson and Jose Calderon. Amir looked like he was serious about his Defensive Player of the Year goals, and Jose looked like TJ Ford was on his tail again.

And then of course, there was that pass...Anyone who's ever played a game of NBA 2K knows the way to a win is to abuse the paint with some lead passing. Check out 4:30-5:30 of this video to see what Jose and Amir had perfected last night.

What caught my eye? At 4:40 of the 3rd quarter, Bargnani gave up yet another offensive rebound, and at a critical point of the game as well. Immediately, Coach Casey subs in Ed Davis and puts Bargs on the bench. Accountability will key in truly changing the culture of this franchise.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Basketball Never Stops? Nike Explains.

Even while in the midst of a lockout, Nike is capitalizing on their superstar roster and unleashing their "Basketball Never Stops" movement. The company decided to release a follow up video for their commercial to explain what exactly they meant - perhaps to avoid any sticky situations with the current labour dispute. Check out both the follow up video and the actual commercial below.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mayor John Henry Knows His Power Basketball

Oshawa Mayor John Henry was able to place the proverbial cherry on top on a historic night for Oshawa and Canadian basketball. With a convincing 107-80 win over the Moncton Miracles, John Henry can now look forward to seeing pictures of Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc sporting an Oshawa Power jersey at the next Moncton Council Meeting. This is all due to a friendly wager that involved Henry having to sport a Miracles jersey at his own meeting had the Power lost. But you know what they say, there are gamblers, and there are those who take calculated risks, and then there are those who just know their basketball.

Props to Mayor John Henry for showing support of the Power in my class' lecture yesterday morning. There was genuine pride in his eyes as he repeatedly mentioned the home opener to a lecture hall full of journalism students.

On that note, we hope to have members and players of the Oshawa Power as guests on Hoops N Hip-Hop this year.

Power Up.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

One Last "What Could Have Been" Please

"We just felt like nobody could stop us" - Tracy McGrady on his time with Vince Carter in Toronto.

Today on TSN at 5pm est, a very special episode of Off The Record with Michael Landsberg treats basketball fans all over Canada with guests Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, and Charles Oakley. The trio will be talking about their time in Toronto and possibly what could have happened had the dynamic duo decided to stay together.

I've always been of the opinion that had the cousins grown together in Toronto, they would have ended up being one of the greatest duos in NBA history. Vince Carter ended up being the face of the NBA for the next few years, while Tracy McGrady became the original Kevin Durant with better athleticism and defensive skills. Two legitimate MVP candidates on the same team.

If only.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Taking My Talents To Flag Football

While players like Sonny Weems and Ty Lawson deal with racism overseas, several NBA players have chosen to keep loose with some good ol fashioned flag football.

Kevin Durant being the most recent notable NBA'er to sport the flags when he surprised some university students in Oklahoma by dropping in on their flag football game. The news here? Durant stays in OKC during his free time.

Moving to L.A. next, the usual suspects of the Drew League take a break and lace up for their own games. Here are pictures of DeMar DeRozan (which also includes Matt Barnes and Corey Maggette), Nick Young, and Brandon Jennings' squads.

Which got me thinking? Who's who in the NBA when it comes to the football world?

Most likely to turn into Megatron? LBJ or Dwade?

Most likely to be that QB who has more rushing TDs than passing TDs? Monta Ellis.

Most likely to form their own Revis Island? Debatable, but I like Rajon Rondo or Tony Allen here.

Most likely to compete for rushing title? Derrick Rose

Trick or Lockout!

Alright you got me. That's not a Halloween picture, but what that IS however, is Steve Nash not being common perception Steve Nash, so that's good enough for me as a costume picture.

Tonight, we're going to leave the grunt work in the negotiation room, and go light - really light. Here are some of your favorite NBA players in costumes (obviously not jerseys) in celebration of the one night you can be whatever you desire.

First off, New York Knicks superstar Amare Stoudemire. At first, I thought he was just being silly with the whole Jewish background thing. But maybe, it is truly in fact a legit part of his identity. Maybe.

This piece of fine art is apparently called Shaqeeta. Big ol Shaquille O'Neal is easily the most intimidating man in drag the human race can offer. Ironically, he soon got injured after this.

From one Superman to another...? C'mon Wally, you're not the Man of Steel. You're more like Aquaman, or the blue Power Ranger. A role player! Or you could have gone as a Wal Mart employee and won my heart.

Oh D-Wade, you sly character you. Just when I think the Raptors have you cornered, you always manage to sidestep this way, crossover that way, and get to the basket. So I shouldn't have been surprised when you didn't go with the stereotypical Flash costume and instead crosover'd to trying your hand at whiteface.

Marquis Daniels of the Boston Celtics - he's still with the Celts right? - gets an A+ from me for being ahead of the curve and getting a jump on preaching money saving skills to his fellow NBA peers last year.

Let's stay with the Celts for a second here and take time to admire this ensemble they've put on. I mean c'mon, just look at all that food.

P.S. Rondo's Tiger Woods such a good costume!

Rudy Gay and Ray Allen summon their inner King of Pop from different eras. Best part is that I've never seen robotic Rudy Gay look so smooth and usually smooth Ray Allen look so robotic.

And last but not least, this is Kobe Bryant stealing your soul.

Happy Halloween everybody!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Taking Their Talents To Toronto?

While the NBA and the players union battle it out for financial supremacy, Toronto Raptors' General Manager Bryan Colangelo continues to search for the right man to take the job. Without as much worry as the other teams in regards to dollar signs (Forbes listed the Raptors as the 10th most valuable team in 2011), the front office can finally zero in on who will take over as the next GM.

We thought it was going to be Sixers GM Ed Stefanski. But according to recent reports, it looks like talks have slowed down, and the doors have been reopened for former Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard and former Hornets GM Jeff Bower. All three would bring credibility to our team and add another mind for Colangelo to bounce ideas off of.

The question is, which one is most appealing?

Is it still Stefanski? The man is credited with recently building the young and athletic Sixers team they have in Philly. He's very comfortable with bringing in a youth movement (Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner), but he also makes questionable decisions with useless veterans (Iverson, trading for Kapono).

What about Kevin Pritchard? Backtrack a few years ago, and the Portland Trail Blazers were the envy of the basketball world. Roy, Oden, Aldridge, Batum. There were whispers of the Western Conference having to go through the Blazers eventually. But then came the injuries. Toronto would gladly welcome Kevin, but will his reportedly unwillingness to play with others hurt a possible relationship with Colangelo? Portland didn't think his personality was worth their time.

Lastly, there's Jeff Bower. Forget his awful and short coaching career. Instead, consider the year he turned the Hornets from a stepping stone to a throwing stone. In the 07/08 season, we were treated to an exciting dose of CP3, Chandler, West, and Peja. Bower also knows how to turn things around in a hurry, demonstrating this best when he traded Hornets star Baron Davis and drafted Chris Paul with the 4th pick the upcoming offseason.

My guess? Ed Stefanski.

My hope? Kevin Pritchard.

Regardless, keep Kevin Garnett away from the negotiating room.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2K12 Sneak Peak: Ratings and New Raptors Court?

With the NBA lockout in full swing, J-School eating up a lot of my time, and having to get people buy things they don't need - this blog has taken a back seat in my life once again. I've brainstormed a couple of ideas with my senior editor (the girlfriend) for a new blog idea I can do on the side while the NBA fixes this tiny mess. But after some thought and the encouragement of readers through email and twitter messaging, we're going to decide to stick this out and weather the basketball storm. The GamePointBlog staff will be ready and basically use this moment in limbo as our "preseason".

Make sure to keep a lookout for Hoops N Hip-Hop to be back on the air in October. Check out our Facebook page for downloads to the podcast. The GamePointBlog will also very likely have a few guest writers appear here and there (with us returning the favour of course). Lastly, if you go to Durham College or UOIT, keep an eye out for our very own DJ Johnson making his newspaper writing debut in The Chronicle.

Now for your featured presentation!

So it's that time of the year again! NBA 2K12 magically appears on game shelves everywhere in North America on October 6 - that's next week for those who've lost track of time. And as per tradition, basketball fans around the globe can't wait to break down the player ratings and subsequently throw F-Bombs at the developers for 2K Sports.

In the video above, you'll basically see a list of all the players and their ratings. Some people will be satisfied. Others won't. Ask the high flying Raptor DeMar DeRozan.

DeRozan 2K Rating Response

Well, that's what happens when you play North of the 49 right?

On that note, 2K does seem to get a few things right. One of those things being their ability to get a heads up on what the teams' courts decal will look like for the upcoming season. Well - check 0:24-0:25 of the video to see what the new Toronto Raptors court may possibly look like for whenever basketball does start up again. It appears to be a remixed version of what centre court used to be a few years ago, as well as an all-red paint area. And oh yeah - us getting scored on in the interior.

Regardless of what becomes the final product of the game, it does look like for at least the near future, NBA 2K12 will be our sole fix for the NBA.

- Kris Cuaresma

Saturday, June 25, 2011

David Aldridge: Valanciunas Could Be The Best Player In The Draft

Other than his skin colour, and the fact that he played basketball in Europe, I can't see any similarities between Valanciunas and Bargnani. We as fans are impatient by nature, but as more days pass by, I'm starting to like this pick better and better.

A 7 foot center that can block shots, loves to rebound the ball, and would rather pick-n-roll than pick-n-pop.

UPDATE: In regards to Jonas' 2.5 million dollar buyout, the Raptors have willingly offered the maximum amount of $500,000. On top of that, Val has agreed to pay off the 2 million dollars remaining out of his own pocket. This means that Jonas will be playing for the Raptors in 2012-2013 season, which works out quite nicely for Raptors Nation.

The likely lockout means teams will not be able to interact with their players (explains why Raptors players are already in Toronto taking advantage of the coaching staff before the lockout becomes official). However, because Val will be in Europe and technically not under NBA contract, the Raptors staff will be in Lithuania all year to help him out.

Take the best center in the draft, and most likely have a lottery pick in next year's star studded class where most of the talent are point guards and wings? This may be a solid plan after all.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Now That We've Calmed Down - Let's See What We've Got In Jonas Valanciunas

Believe me when I say this, Jonas was definitely not at the top of my list. In fact, my board had Knight and Walker at the top, with Kanter and Biyombo as my other 4 options. And as disappointed as I was, it's best that we put this decision into perspective.

First off, Val was projected on many mock drafts and by many experts to go anywhere from 3-8. He was and is still considered to be the best Euro in the draft, as well as having one of the higher ceilings out of anyone in this year's class. In fact, Cleveland was thought to be the likely destination for Jonas at #4. The fact that he went to #5 isn't a reach at all and is in fact where about he should go. On top of that, many teams were rumored to be very interested in moving up to pick Jonas up - one of them being San Antonio. And let's face it, the Spurs have an incredible track record with scouting and drafting players. If San Antonio is interested in him, then there's no reason we should be so extremely opposed to him as well.

Secondly, this pick was made with new Raptors head coach Dwane Casey's input in mind. Casey and the entire franchise want to establish a defensive culture and acquire players that can best execute Casey's 2-3 zone. Dwane has said he's totally behind this pick and I can see why. Val's athleticism and scary lanky-ness will help a ton.

Lastly, I want to shamefully admit that the biggest reason I didn't have Valanciunas at the top of my board was simply because - he's a European player. And you know what? That mirrors the thinking of many Raptors fans out there. And because of our history with Euros, it's not unjustified.

But let's get one thing straight here. Jonas is NOT your typical Euro stereotype.

This guy doesn't shy away from contact. Rebounding is a big part of his game. Most of his points are scored with dunks and shots very close to the basket. He may be physically weak right now, but at a mere age of 19, he has more than enough time to bulk up. And I would bet he has more mass on him than Ed Davis does in his first season when he turns 21.

Check out this highlight mixtape of him:

Best case scenario, this guy turns out to be similar to a Pau Gasol. A 2 way big who can be a factor on both sides of the court. Lastly, major props to the the front office, who had the guts to pick a player they knew would receive backlash. Long term is the big picture, and it's best we give this thing a chance.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The 2011 Rookies: A Raptor In Disguise - Tristan Thompson CANADIAN Edition

So this year, the folks at Hoops N Hip-Hop will be behind a feature called "2011 Rookies: A Raptor In Disguise". Leading up to the draft, a new article will be posted up on the GamePointBlog and RaptorSpace, introducing and analyzing every rookie that will be within range of the Raptors' 5th overall pick. Though much is uncertain, we know one thing for sure, one of these players will be asked the question every rookie dreams of hearing: "Are you concerned about the taxes up there in Canada?"

And in this player's case - we know it won't be a problem at all.

Meet Tristan Thompson of University of Texas

Age: 20
Nationality: Canadian
Height: 6'8
Weight: 225
Position: Power Forward

Hoops N Hip-Hop Co-Host and Writer DeeJae Johnson

Coming straight out of Toronto, and possibly joining the Raptors on draft day, Tristan Thompson is looking to prove that home cooking is best served…at home. Described as a player with a super motor and a knack from rebounding, and he’s not bad at defense either. The Texas Longhorn averaged 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 30 minutes of play. Thompson’s remarkable play led him to accumulate many awards such as Big 12 Freshman of the year and was also named to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team. Described as a “tweener”, Thompson could be seen as a Small or Power Forward, but because of his lack of perimeter skills, he is more so projected to be better suited at the four. If Toronto were to draft Thompson, he would be the first Canadian born player to play for the organization. My concern with drafting Thompson is or immense amount of power forwards (not to mention Brian Colangelo is looking to acquire a rebounding big to help slide Andrea to the four). There isn’t much sense to draft him, but he will be a remarkable player in the right system if they allow him to focus on developing an NBA body and to better his rebounding and defensive skills. If he can translate his Texas record setting block party (against The Oakland Grizzles) in the NBA, he’ll do just fine.

Hoops N Hip-Hop Producer and Writer Rose Arcana

This is more of a hat tip of recognition than a real prospect for the Raptors. Yes he came to a work out and he was well liked by the media, of course, he’s Canadian! However his chances of going as high as #5 in the draft are extremely low to non-existent.

Tristan is a nice off ball player who has a unique ability to get to the line, although his FT% needs a lot of work. His athleticism makes him fun to watch and his wingspan can mean trouble for anyone trying to get past him. He was able to produce 10 double-doubles and align himself as one of the top big men in the Big 12. Oh and did I mention he can block and steal? Pleasantries aside he is a bit raw and is in need of a lot of help. His NBA readiness isn’t where it needs to be but he does have a nice upside and an energy about him that will liven up even the Spurs court.

Sadly Tristan Thompson will not be a Raptor at pick #5, however if he is still around at 14 maybe he can come to my home town where he will have to learn that Texas is a STATE and not a CITY! I would welcome him with open arms either way!

Kris Cuaresma's Conclusion

Strengths: Above average wingspan, aggressive rebounder, battles for position, quick and explosive second bounce, good athleticism, good hands allow him to run the pick and roll effectively, good timing in regards to blocking shots; gets to the free throw line

Weaknesses: questions about position, undersized as a 5 and a 4, not confident with his face up game, did not show consistent ability to create his own shot, needs to improve free throw percentage; needs to improve finishing at the rim

Though the consensus is that the Raptors will likely pass on Thompson at 5, we felt like we'd include him on this because it's not everyday that you get to associate a Canadian lottery pick with the Toronto Raptors. Call it what you want, but we're proud of TT and want him to succeed wherever he lands.

What you're getting with Tristan is simple - a hard working big who uses hustle and energy to affect both sides of the court. He won't wow you with finesse offensively, but he'll always be in the mix for an offensive rebound or putback. On the defensive end, he was all over the glass and established himself as the team's paint presence (Blocked a Texas NCAA Tournament record 7 shots).

Will the Raps draft him at 5? Probably not. And the biggest reason is that we currently have a logjam at the 4 spot. On top of that, the Raptors are such in need of any talent at the other positions, that it wouldn't be in the franchise's best interest. If we're going to draft our first Canadian player, it may have to wait until next year when Myck Kabongo declares.

Where will Tristan Thompson go? There are several spots I can see TT going. The earliest would be Detroit where they could pair him up with Monroe. And then anywhere from 9-11 would all be likely spots as well. The furthest I see him dropping is at 13 to the Suns where they already have good experience with Canadian players.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The 2011 Rookies: A Raptor In Disguise - Bismack Biyombo Edition

So this year, the folks at Hoops N Hip-Hop will be behind a feature called "2011 Rookies: A Raptor In Disguise". Leading up to the draft, a new article will be posted up on the GamePointBlog and RaptorSpace, introducing and analyzing every rookie that will be within range of the Raptors' 5th overall pick. Though much is uncertain, we know one thing for sure, one of these players will be asked the question every rookie dreams of hearing: "Are you concerned about the taxes up there in Canada?"

Meet Bismack Biyombo out of Congo

Age: 18?
Nationality: Congolese
Height: 6'9
Weight: 245
Position: Power Forward/Center

Hoops N Hip-Hop Co-Host and Producer DeeJae Johnson

I’m talking RAW, and not about meat…I’m talking about being so raw that your upside is highly considered. When I’m speaking about raw, two words come to mind, Bismack Biyombo. Is this young talent a potential Toronto Raptor in disguise? Lets see. Biyombo is an excellent shot blocker, and rebounder. He has a very big upside when it comes to hustling on the floor and has been said to always be all over the place on the defensive end, which is a positive for the Raptors who need major help on protecting the rim. Biyombo’s length is a constant disruption to players who would dare come into the post. The only downfalls are that he will most likely play the power forward spot, which is currently over flooded, and he is to small to be successful at the five. Biyombo is also very young. At the age of 18, he will need to come in and be strictly professional in an adult environment. Weight and strength is a concern for he needs to fill out his frame a bit in order to see his full potential., even at the four. He would be a really nice pick up for a team that needs a defensive presence at the four spot, but we have a young defensive power forward by the name of Ed Davis who will most likely man that spot down for a while. If you haven’t seen it, check out his triple double performance (12 points, eleven rebounds, and ten blocks) at the 2011 Nike Summit.

Hoops N Hip-Hop Producer and Writer Rose Arcana

Why are these players who are barely getting playing time in the Euro-league and Spanish League suddenly making a b-line for the NBA? Or maybe the better question is why would someone rank B-Smack to go as high as #5? Cool nick name aside the guy doesn’t have a whole lot to offer besides defense and an unbelievable wingspan. With the days of Hack-a-Shack over, I guess a new era of Hack-a-Smack will be born.

It’s true, with the weak draft this year people have been submitting their names from all over the world for a crack at the coveted NBA. This 6ft 10in Congo native is no different. One thing this guy has that many Euro/Spanish players don’t have is a good defensive game. It is that defensive game and freakish athleticism that has gotten him to where he is today. With high hopes of a PF/C that can play defense you would think a team like Toronto would take a stab at the 18 year old, however recent workouts aren’t showing him to be nearly as promising as suspected. He is now expected to fall as low as 14, that could actually be good news for Houston, a team that would be able to teach and train the raw rookie more effectively.

Basically Bismack has an incredible body for the game yet little proper training. I have no doubt that one day he will learn to play basketball and perhaps even rival some of the better PF/C in the game today. My problem with him is that at this moment he is so fundamentally raw that he really needs to be taught from scratch how to play basketball. If I were Bismack I would hope to fall a bit lower than 14 even and get drafted by the Spurs. If someone like Tim Duncan was to teach this kid how to play the game paired with his athleticism, then there is no telling where this kid could end up!

At the end of the day it would have to be a no for Toronto. Despite Bismack playing for the same ACB team as Caulderon, B-Smack just isn’t ready to be a Raptor. Toronto needs workable/mold-able pieces, not something they are going to have to train from the ground up. Fact is the young man is not NBA usable yet. His body may be NBA ready but his skills and mind are not.

Kris Cuaresma's Conclusion

Strengths: shot blocking, good defensive awareness, high motor, among the top of his class in athleticism, elite wingspan, fights for rebounds, has displayed leadership quality, mental maturity

Weaknesses: no sign of any offensive game outside of 3 feet, poor free throw shooter, questionable hands, date of birth concerns, lack of experience

Allow us to introduce you to the curious case of Bismack Biyombo. So is he a mature leader in the body of an 18 year old? Or is he really anywhere from 22-26 years old and just pulling a quick one on all of us? Either way, what he eventually brings to the table as a rookie will be quite clear.

Throw him out on the court, and all the positives he may bring to a team will come in the form of pure hustle and athleticism. Blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, tearing away 50-50 balls, diving on the floor for an extra possession - these traits all come to Biyombo instinctively.

And then of course, there is the other side of the spectrum, and many teams will find themselves playing 4-on-5 on the offensive end. Bismack is basically useless 5 feet away from the basket, and the fact that he has shown bad hands means it'll be tough to get him the ball down low. But that still shouldn't be the reason you draft this guy. If you want someone to intimidate paint (he may be undersized but has an excellent wingpsan that will help him block shots) and basically just wreck havoc on the court, this is your guy. Think best case scenario Ben Wallace and worst case scenario Joel Anthony. Realistically, he lands somewhere in the middle of that.

Will the Raps draft him at 5? I doubt it. The draft is a fairly weak one, but there are much better prospects to be had at 5. If Biyombo is the guy the Raps are interested in, then the best option would be to trade down or acquire another pick in the top 10, maybe even 15. Like Kanter, I think one of Bargnani, Amir, or Ed would have to be moved if we pick BB up.

Where will he go? Biyombo looked like a lock for the lottery, but with his recent botched workout, it's all up in the air now. He could go anywhere from 1-20 as of one week before the draft. The earliest I see him going (other than Toronto) is at #8 to Detroit as a potential pairing of Biyombo and Monroe would be pretty nice. I definitely see him being picked up at #14 by Houston if he's still on the board. And if he somehow slips out of the lottery, I don't see him getting past New York at 17 as they need a shot blocking big pretty bad.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The 2011 Rookies: A Raptor In Disguise - Kemba Walker Edition

So this year, the folks at Hoops N Hip-Hop will be behind a feature called "2011 Rookies: A Raptor In Disguise". Leading up to the draft, a new article will be posted up on the GamePointBlog and RaptorSpace, introducing and analyzing every rookie that will be within range of the Raptors' 5th overall pick. Though much is uncertain, we know one thing for sure, one of these players will be asked the question every rookie dreams of hearing: "Are you concerned about the taxes up there in Canada?"

Meet Kemba Walker of University of Connecticut

Age: 21
Nationality: American
Height: 6'0
Weight: 184

Hoops N Hip-Hop Co-Host and Writer DeeJae Johnson

To be or not to be, I’m sure this is what Kemba Walker asked himself when thinking of winning the NCAA tournament at the beginning of the season. By the end of march, that question was answered. The UCONN Huskies’ scoring machine, without a doubt played his best basketball this past NCAA season and proved not to only be a threat on the offensive end but as well whatever the team needed him to be. One word to truly describe Kemba is Clutch (see video below). Kemba has a presence about him that screams confidence, and his high basketball I.Q. doesn’t hurt at all. After a recent work out with the Toronto Raptors, you could see fearlessness in his eyes. To see him in a red and black jersey would help propel Toronto into an immediate playoff picture, the guy is just that good. Despite the lack of size, he can play above the rim and his shooting touch can alleviate a bad-shooting choice. Think Kevin Durant in a 5’10 body. If Kemba can show that he can be an excellent playmaker as a scorer, then the sky won’t be his limit. He’ll shoot above it.

You've probably seen it once before, but this is what DeeJae means when he says "Kemba is Clutch":

Hoops N Hip-Hop Producer and Writer Rose Arcana

One of the likely candidates for Toronto’s 5th pick in the draft will be Kemba Walker. Although many people were ecstatic for Kyrie Irving, I on the other hand have always had my eye on Walker. I watched the video mixes on him, I saw him in his March Madness success, and from the first time I saw him I was hooked.

This is a young man with a very high ceiling and a tremendous up-side. He spent a couple more years in college than most draft prospects which will only make him more valuable in my books. He will be more mature and more knowledgeable about not only basketball, but also about the political aspects of the game. He won't be a baby thrown into an adult world with all the thrills and frills so many rookies get caught up in. Not to mention he's a dancer. Sure most of you guys are going “WHAT?” but seriously there are so many NBA players that could improve their moves if they learned how to dance (ie Derozan.) When I first saw Walker, one of the first things I said was “I bet he can dance.” Sure enough he is an excellent dancer and has performed at the Apollo Theater.

Just look at his stats. Here we have a point guard that can do a bit of everything! He averages 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 23.4 points and nearly 2 steals per game. I would take him on my fantasy team any day of the week! Granted he is lacking in the 3-point area, but in all honesty maybe this is a good thing. With players like Bargnani shooting 3’s, someone needs to shoot from the inside. For years the Raptors have prided themselves on their 3-point prowess, it’s time to move away from that.

After all that, you are now wondering why he would even fall to 5th. Besides the obvious problems with his size, here are a few reasons he may fall to Toronto.

First off we are pretty sure he will not go 1 or 2; so I will start with #3 pick from the Utah Jazz. Plain and simple, they don’t need him. They have Devin Harris followed by Raja Bell, and Gordon Hayward. It would be a wasted pick for Utah unless they know of a certain team, down in let’s say Houston, that they could flip Kemba to. But with the 3rd pick, you are usually looking for something you can use for in the future, not something to trade for older players.

The #4 pick belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers. We all assume they will have already picked up Kyrie at pick #1 so they have no need for Kemba as well. However they could strike a deal with a team such as the Spurs who might be in need of a young athletic point guard in exchange for a solid piece or two. If I were picking for Cleveland, I wouldn’t pick Kyrie at #1. With the top rookies consisting of mainly point guards, I would go for Derrick Williams at #1 and hold off for Walker at #4, but that’s just me. I’m not so sure Cleveland can live with not taking the coveted top pick at #1. Men and their egos.

That leaves Walker falling to number 5 and the Toronto Raptors. This could be a win-win for everyone.

Kris Cuaresma's Conclusion

Strengths: Scoring ability, leadership, advanced ball handling, elite speed, amazing footwork, clutch, ability to contort body in mid air

Weaknesses: undersized, short wingspan, inconsistent jumper, lack of NBA 3 pt range, trouble with finishing at the rim, questions about point guard skills

After reading these strengths and weaknesses, do any particular recent Raptors come to mind? If you said "Jerryd Bayless", then have a cookie because it sure does match him quite well. And that to me, is the reason that's making me question Kemba Walker the most. Consider that the two have very similar play styles that resulted in comparable stats in their final collegiate season - Bayless (19.7 pts, 4.0 ast) and Walker (23.4 pts, 4.3 ast)

Now of course, there are several significant differences between the two. The first being that Walker actually was successful in putting a team on his back and leading them all the way to a National Championship.

Kemba had one of the most prolific years a player could have playing in the NCAA, marked with several highlights, clutch moments, and most importantly - wins. This guy has won on every level he's played, and that's a quality that every team doesn't mind in a player.

At the end of the day, it comes down to two things for Kemba; his measurements and his combination of speed and ball handling. If Kemba was four inches taller, he'd be going #1 and being compared as the next Dwyane Wade. But he's not, and the more likely outcome is he becomes the next Ben Gordon. What Walker does have going for him though is his crazy speed and superb dribbling. Derrick Rose has gone on record calling him one of the fastest people he's ever guarded.

Will the Raps draft him at 5? I think they do because he will be the best player available. I'm not sure they do though if Knight or Kanter is still on the board by then. The last point guard we've had that was this dynamic was Damon Stoudamire, so perhaps this will be Mighty Mouse part 2?

Where will Kemba Walker go? If the Raps don't pick him up at #5, expect Sacramento to pick him up at #7 considering the reports of the Kings being impressed with his workouts. A core of Walker, Evans, Thornton, and Cousins is though undersized, still a very nice group of pieces to move forward with.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The 2011 Rookies: A Raptor In Disguise - Brandon Knight Edition

So this year, the folks at Hoops N Hip-Hop will be behind a feature called "2011 Rookies: A Raptor In Disguise". Leading up to the draft, a new article will be posted up on the GamePointBlog and RaptorSpace, introducing and analyzing every rookie that will be within range of the Raptors' 5th overall pick. Though much is uncertain, we know one thing for sure, one of these players will be asked the question every rookie dreams of hearing: "Are you concerned about the taxes up there in Canada?"

Meet Brandon Knight of University of Kentucky

Age: 19
Nationality: American
Height: 6'3
Weight: 177
Position: Point Guard

Hoops N Hip-Hop Co-Host and Writer DeeJae Johnson

In a land filled with despair, where velociraptors roam with a basketball in their hands. Winning and losing come down to talent, effort, and the willingness to strive for greatness. We need a hero. No… we need a (Brandon) Knight in shining armour, or maybe not? The 6’3, 177 pound guard is projected to go anywhere from three to nine, and with Toronto having the fifth selection in the draft, what makes him worthy of roaming with the rest of the velociraptors? The Kentucky product is an excellent shooter, especially from the mid range. Knight has an average handle on the ball but balances that with enough craftiness and speed to get to the rim. Knight averaged 17 points, four rebounds, as well as four assists as a freshman. My concern is that Knight is more of a scoring guard, for example, like current Toronto Raptor, Jerryd Bayless. With the hopes of continuing to develop Bayless, there isn’t a need for Knight. There is no doubt in my mind that Knight will be a successful point guard in the NBA and it doesn’t hurt he had a college coach like John Calipari, who has helped produce John Wall, Tyreke Evans and this years M.V.P. Derrick Rose. With a team that wants to accelerate their abilities on the defensive end, Brandon Knight may not be the correct pick at five, but at the age of 19, time is on his side if he makes an effort to commit to that side of the ball.

Check out this video from FoxSports touching on DeeJae's concerns about Knights play style and the journey he's going to have to take to become a point guard:

Hoops N Hip-Hop Producer and Writer Rose Arcana

If Brandon Knight were to actually fall to #5 then it would be a no-brainer to snatch him up without hesitation. Toronto needs some young fresh intelligent blood and I believe Knight paired with Derozan along with a real center could really push this team to new levels. I’ll be honest; I’m a Kemba fan which you will see in a later installment; however Brandon would probably be my next choice in this year’s draft for point guards. Sure everyone is on a Kyrie kick, but not this girl. If I were a GM I would pick Brandon and let you curse me this year because in about 3 years you will be calling me a genius.

One thing Brandon has proven this year is that he can be taught and he is more than willing to learn and improve. Raw talent isn’t everything. Let’s face it there aren’t any surefire superstars in this year’s draft so you need to look for someone that is moldable. That is one thing The Raptors need, a player that is willing to be molded, taught and works hard. This is a guy that had a 4.6 GPA in high school (due to accelerated classes that give you extra points) from an academic minded elite prep school and then went on to University of Kentucky to finish the year with a 4.0 (straight A’s)! He has grades that rival mine and I have nothing but respect for that. Of course this upside is only as great as the coach they bring in to teach him.

One of his greatest criticisms is that he isn’t a true point guard. If you look closer you will see he is exactly what he had to be for the team to win. In the beginning coaches said he was too selfless and team minded, passing up opportunities for himself and giving them to his team mates. His game changed because his coach wanted it to change. He became the elite scorer that he needed to be for the advancement of his team. With University of Kentucky losing Kanter’s contribution due to ineligibility issues, the pressure was on Knight to fill the scoring shoes of two possible stars. Others say Brandon is wiry and can’t handle contact. That is nothing that some extra workouts and training can’t overcome.

With the way the current Raptors line-up plays, Knight may not be the best choice only because Toronto’s team is not balanced. If Toronto was to commit to getting a solid low post presence on the offensive end, then they wouldn’t have to worry about Brandon’s weak inside shot as much. Long gone are the days of Toronto’s domination of the 3-pt stats. Bring in a real big man and a new era in Raptors basketball where they dominate the entire game and not just a stat line.

Brandon Knight is one of those rare pearls that come along only once in a blue moon. If he is still around at number 5 then the Raptors would be doing themselves and their fans a disservice not to take him and run.

Check this video out to see why Brandon Knight may very well have what it takes to be the best of his class:

Kris Cuaresma's Conclusion

Strengths: Good height and length for the point guard position, reliable jumper, attacking mindframe, coachable, showed improvements throughout his college year, excels in the fast break, clutch performer, good lateral foot speed

Weaknesses: Trouble finishing all the way at the rim and will rely too much on floater, could improve shooting mechanics; may be more of a combo guard than a point guard, slight frame, not as athletic as point guards of similar measurements in recent drafts,

Our second straight yet final Kentucky product comes in the form of the exciting Brandon Knight. When I see him, I instantly draw physical comparisons to other young point guards like Russell Westbrook and John Wall. He isn't anywhere near as fast or as athletic as those guys, but he has the frame, and I think that's what is most intriguing about him. Potentially, he could be a very good defender at the 1 spot because of his physical tools. The NBA is already moving towards bigger and taller point guards, so drafting a Brandon Knight would give the Raptors someone they could throw at these athletic guards every night.

As for being able to play the point guard spot, I don't think he's going to make a sudden transformation. What you see is basically what you're going to get, a combo guard that you can play full time at the 1 spot - which is not a bad thing at all. I like his ability to score the ball and the fact that he took over for Kentucky during pressure situations. If he puts in the work, he has all the tools needed to become a very solid pg in the NBA.

Will the Raps take him at 5? If he's on the board, I definitely see Toronto not even hesitating to make the pick and welcome Knight to the Raptors. The last time we drafted a pg in the lottery - he turned out to win rookie of the year. So - that's a good precedent. He's easily one of the best point guards in the draft, and at 19 years of age, would be perfect with our youth movement.

Where will Brandon Knight go? I think there's a legit 50/50 chance he lands in Toronto. The only threat to that reality would be Utah taking him at 3 to replace Deron (though they already have Harris). Or if Cleveland takes Williams at 1, and Knight at 4. Other than that, his future home will be in Toronto.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The 2011 Rookies: A Raptor In Disguise - Enes Kanter Edition

So this year, the folks at Hoops N Hip-Hop will be behind a feature called "2011 Rookies: A Raptor In Disguise". Leading up to the draft, a new article will be posted up on the GamePointBlog and RaptorSpace, introducing and analyzing every rookie that will be within range of the Raptors' 5th overall pick. Though much is uncertain, we know one thing for sure, one of these players will be asked the question every rookie dreams of hearing: "Are you concerned about the taxes up there in Canada?"

Meet Enes Kanter of Kentucky University

Age: 19
Nationality: Turkish/Born in Switzerland
Height: 6'11
Weight: 260
Position: Power Forward/Center

Hoops N Hip-Hop Co-Host and Writer DeeJae Johnson:

With the NBA lottery balls not bouncing in the Toronto Raptor’s favour, it seems that the dream of the backcourt involving Kyrie Irving and Demar Derozan are now down the toilet. President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo has stated that the first and second pick in the 2011 draft is either Arizona’s Derrick Williams or the fore mentioned Duke product, Kyrie Irving. Despite the draft being considered as a two pick draft, the Raptors find themselves with the fifth pick and more questions than answers as to how to progress from the 22 win season. The Raptors are in need of a strong low post player who can rebound, and the one name that comes to mind is Enes Kanter. With Enes’ being ineligible to play for Kentucky (due to issues with receiving over $33,000 while playing with a Turkish basketball team), the only game to go on was his 34 points and 13 rebounds performance at the Nike Hoop Summit against team U.S.A. The 6’11 center proved to be dominant against highly recruited high school players.

From seeing Kanter at the NBA Draft Combine, he is an excellent rebounder, is quick off his feet and has a bit of athleticism that surprised most scouts. I think if he was to become a Raptor as the fifth pick, he would immediately make the team better defensively with his length and his rebounding ability. Offensively, Kanter has plenty moves and counter moves that make most question how good he can possibly become in the future.

Take a look at highlights from the Nike Hoop Summit game that DeeJae and many other scouts will have to refer to of Enes Kanter:

Hoops N Hip-Hop Producer and Writer Rose Arcana:

I’ll be honest. I'm not thrilled with the concept of Enes Kanter as a prospect for the Raptors. He’s unproven, offensive minded with similar game and mentality as current Raptor players, and fills a position that the Raps don’t really need right now (yeah - I think he's a PF and not a C). Sure people can argue that he is a great player. Of course he is or he wouldn’t be in the draft, let alone considered in the top 5. You could also say that he isn’t a typical European player because he went to high school in the US and college at University of Kentucky. Yet I would counter by saying he played one year of high school ball and didn’t really play much of any college ball, he was just assisting the coach because he wasn’t eligible to play. Then people might bring up the fact that he played in the Euro-league and again I would remind them that he was a seldom used ‘reserve’ player that barely saw playing time and only played FOUR games in the Euro-league and only FIVE games in the Turkish Basketball League. No matter how good Kanter looks in workouts, Kanter isn’t Rubio. This is a guy that has potential but at the end of the day still falls ‘SHORT’ of being the big man that Toronto wants and needs. I say pass on him, Raptors don’t need another offensive PF pretending to play center….

All in all Kanter is a great player, he's a good but not a great fit for the Raptors. I say Kanter gets drafted #6.

Check out the vid below as NBA TV analysts breakdown the same concerns and questions Rose had about Kanter

Kris Cuaresma's Conclusion:

Strengths: NBA-ready body, good amount of post moves, looks comfortable down low, impressive footwork, can hit the mid-range jumper, high motor, goes after rebounds, hard worker, has more than enough strength to hold his own in the NBA

Weaknesses: lack of experience, injury concerns, athleticism question marks, trouble rotating on defense, not looked as a shot blocker, foot speed will need to improve

Personally, I think it's going to take awhile, but Kanter will definitely be an impact player in the NBA barring any serious injuries. He's only 19, so there will more than his fair share of bumps and hurdles, but it looks like he's got the tools to succeed. He has a body meant for the NBA on both sides of the floor, and seems to have a good grasp of the fundamentals. This along with the reports of him being a hard worker will go a long way in neutralizing his weaker athleticism. I know there was that video of his combine drills running the floor and dunking the ball, but he's always been able to do that, and still either refuses or is unable to in the middle of a game. Because of this, I also don't see him being a dominant shot blocker either.

However, his main strengths will be with his offensive arsenal and defensive rebounding. If all goes well in his career, I can see him being a taller and stronger Luis Scola/Al Horford hybrid. Both are power forwards who won't wow you defensively, but are solid offensive options and work hard on the defensive end.

Will the Raps take him at #5? If they somehow move Ed Davis or Bargnani on draft night, then probably. But realistically, I don't think they will. I like Davis at the 4 spot with his shot blocking mentality anyways.

Where will Enes Kanter go? He has the biggest question marks attached to him. He could go at #2 to the Wolves and team up with Kevin Love forming one of the best rebounding duos. Or he could go #4 to the Cavs who would probably give Cleveland their small-big combo of the future with Irving. I think the furthest he could potentially slip is to Washington at 6, where he and Wall could do some damage together.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The ABCs of 2-3-2s

So if you've been following the NBA playoffs the last few years, you already know that the actual finals is treated differently in regards to format. Rounds one through three are played with a 2-2-1-1-1 best of 7 series. This means that the higher seed gets home court the first two games and the (if necessary) fifth and seventh game.

However, because we all love change, the "Finals" mixes it up and enforces a 2-3-2 best of 7 series. This means that the higher seeded team (in this year's case - the Miami Heat - will get home court the first and last 2 games.

NBA fans typically vary on their opinion of the 2-3-2 format, but personally, I don't like it. It places the lower seeded team at a bigger disadvantage than a 2-2-1-1-1 series would. Realistically, the Mavs could aim for a split in the first two (will be extremely tough to do in Miami where there Heat are undefeated in the playoffs), but will then have to win three straight afterwards to bury the Heat in Dallas. Consider that the playoffs are all about adjustments, Dallas will basically have to play out of their mind to accomplish this, and I'm telling you now - this is what the Mavs have to do if they want to become champions.

Because if this gets to game 6, Miami will not give this series up.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Only Way To Stop Dirk = Mike Brown..?

Let's face it, there's no one left in the Western Conference that can stop Dirk Nowitzki. Aldrige was overwhelmed, while Wallace crashed. Then of course the graphic abuse of Pau Gasol was broadcasted nationally for a few games. And now we get to see multiple attempts from Collison, Perkins, Ibaka, Mohammed, and even Durant - only to fail one by one.

If the Thunder somehow found a way to remove one of Dirk's legs - yes a friggen body limb - it still wouldn't prevent him from trying that fall-away shot he likes.

If you missed his legendary performance in game 4, here's a nice clip:

But wait! The Lakers have the answer in their new head coach.

Ladies and gentlemen...Mike Brown...

Quite a few Laker fans all over the world have this blank expression on their face, the same face Mr. Brown had during his tenure in Cleveland. Many felt he had no control over that team, so one can only hope the entertainment will be 100 times better in Hollywood.

And btw kids, you're witnessing history with the first ever GIF on the GamePointBlog. And you know what? It's a good first.