For the second year in a row, the Toronto Raptors have been eliminated in early fashion by a team they wanted to match up against in the playoffs and thought they could have beaten.
This was truly the dream match up for Toronto fans. It was Orlando instead of Boston or Detroit. I was at a bar in Toronto when the Cavaliers beat the 76ers on the second last game of the season to make Toronto Clinch sixth place.
The roar that went up when those two free throws were hit was invigorating. As a Raptors fan, I felt like, YES, MAYBE we can make it out of the first round this year.
Oh how I was mistaken. After that first game in Orlando, anyone who watched it could see that the presence of Dwight Howard was going to be the deciding factor in this series.
As a blind Raptors Fan, I did not see how completely hopeless the series was. A smart (non-biased) analyst would have seen that the Raptors had absolutely no chance, but I, being from Toronto, thought otherwise.
That aside, the series was over before it began. Toronto would need much more than two good point guards in T.J Ford and Jose Calderon and a franchise of a power forward in Chris Bosh.
They needed someone who could run into all 6'11"(2.11m), 265 pounds of Dwight Howard. They seriously lacked this, as no one would cover or even contest Dwight for rebounds or jams. Chris Bosh is an outstanding player, but the extra 35-40 pounds of muscle that Dwight has over CB4 means a lot.
Rasho Nesterovich is another big Raptor who had absolutely no chance of doing anything against Howard. Boston and Detroit aren't looking so bad right now, as they are both tied 2-2 in their series.
This absolute domination does not mean that Orlando is monumentally better than Toronto. It simply means that the lack of a dominant center means so much in the NBA.
Toronto has got a lot of talent, and the playoff performance over the last two years should prompt Bryan Colangelo, the GM for the Raptors, to seriously think about some moves maybe in the summer.
I have not forgotten about Jorge Garbajosa who when healthy will be a beneficial return to the team, and his big 6'9", 245-pound frame provides some size for the very small, very thin Raptors. Garbo is only a forward though, and at 6'9", he is not a center.
So what to do in Toronto?
There is only one thing to do: get a presence under that rim. Portland will be among the, or possibly the best in the west in the upcoming years.
Why? Because they are essentially the 05/06 Raptors of the West, except with a bit less luck and more talent then that 05/06 Raptor team.
Portland has got the brightest Future in the NBA in my opinion. If Greg Oden is as healthy and strong as he was in his Ohio State days, he will be a star in the NBA.
The set of Oden, Roy and Aldridge is a dynasty in the making. Throw Travis Outlaw, Jarrett Jack, and Joel Pryzbilla into the mix and that dynasty will last and have some depth. If these players keep on growing and learning, the Trailblazers will be one of the elite in the West.
The big piece to the puzzle though is Greg Oden. This was a problem this year, and they have their solution: getting healthy and strong for next season. The Raptors, on the other hand, do not have the solution training somewhere in a high tech facility/gym. They don’t have that solution at all.
It is no surprise why The Raptors took a seven footer first overall in the 06/07 draft. As well as a big, talented Spaniard in Garbo, but it is becoming evident that Andrea Bargnani will not be the answer to their rebounding woes.
The Raps need a big man, plain and simple. They have all the tools like the Trailblazers do. But unlike them, there is no Greg Oden ready to put on a Raptors jersey next year.
Hopefully, this playoff series against the Magic was a wake up call for Bryan Colangelo and this organization. The call should not come as a surprise; I mean the series was a culmination of the Raptors season, to the tee.
One game they show highlights of greatness, rebounding, hitting three-pointers, just firing on all cylinders.
Then the very next game, you have T.J ford taking impossible fade-away jumpers five times a game and Dwight Howard getting a free pass up the lane to do whatever he wants.
This is how the season was, not enough rebounds and second opportunity points. An actual Center is what the team need if they ever want to get out of the first round of the playoffs.
I will admit it is easier said then done, due to the shortage of true strong Centers in the game. So how about we get into the three pointers that Orlando was able to take?
It is quite hard to get a rebound against Dwight Howard, but what is very attainable is getting a hand in the face of Jameer Nelson or Rashard Lewis when they or anyone may go for a three ball.
The 91 total rebounds Dwight accumulated over the series are nauseating, but the open looks that the Raptors gave them is almost equally as sickening.
The percentages were bad, so very bad for a playoff game. And it seemed like the Magic constantly had room and time to make shots that the had no business making.
Bryan Colangelo is one of the best GMs in the league, but he better put his thinking cap back on after this series, because that high paced, exciting ball that he has created, needs help in Toronto.
He took this team from rags to a Division Championship, a trophy he can pretty much kiss goodbye for the years to come. The Celtics will be taking that home from now on, and he'll have to think about how he can win playoff games.
This team is good but could drop so easily in the upcoming years what with the rising talent in all the other teams in the East, especially those directly under them.
It's going to be tough, but moves have to be made. The Raptors are slipping, and if Colangelo is the basketball genius he is, he will see that and work some Magic between now and October to avoid the Magic working his team over in the years to come.