The Toronto Raptors' Italian center, Andrea Bargnani, the top selection in the 2006 NBA Draft, transitioned nicely, excelling in his rookie season as the team's sixth man. A perimeter-oriented player, he played nothing like his position would suggest—living predominately on the outside rather that creating havoc in the middle.
Though his statistics have improved from year-to-year, he hasn’t made any effort to rebound, pass, or play much defense. Nonetheless, he set career highs in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and field goal percentage this past season.
He’s 23 and just starting to harness his offensive potential. The Raptors know this, and think very highly of him. Perhaps a bit too high.
Toronto, ready to sign Hedo Turkoglu for five years and $53 million, have inked Bargnani as well, a contract that will pay him $50 million over five years.
Though I think the Raptors are drastically overpaying for both Turkoglu and Bargnani, they are making a significant effort to build a long-term contender—a team that star Chris Bosh may want to stay with.
They like Turkoglu and Bargnani, or they wouldn’t have spent over $100 million, but these commitments were made specifically for Bosh’s benefit. Unless he signs an extension, Bosh will be a free agent after next season. So, in order to give him reason to stay, they had to surround him with such talent.
General Manager Brian Colangelo was also busy on the trade front.
He took part in a four-way deal in which he sent small forward Shawn Marion to the Dallas Mavericks, while acquiring Hedo Turkoglu in a sign-and-trade deal with the Orlando Magic.
Marion, a very versatile player who made his name with the run n’ gun Phoenix Suns, was expendable. His contract, which expires after next season, had to come off their books to be able to afford Turkoglu, whom they will sign to complete the deal.
The second of three players forced to leave, guard Anthony Parker, has signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Carlos Delfino, the last piece to the puzzle, has yet to be moved. Once he is, Turkoglu will be $53 million richer and can be introduced as a Raptor.
Though they have to renounce three important players, I respect what Toronto is doing. Now, they have a great young point guard, Jose Calderon, a promising rookie shooting guard, DeMar DeRozan, Turkoglu at small forward, Bargnani at power forward, and Bosh at center.
This lineup, with some additions to their now depleted bench, can make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, and may do enough to keep Bosh in Canada.
Meanwhile, rumors are flying regarding the Portland Trail Blazers. Jason Quick, the Blazers beat writer for The Oregonian, reported that General Manager Kevin Pritchard, after many trades fell through this past week, is “putting together what they consider a “toxic” offer to Utah’s Paul Millsap, a restricted free agent power forward.”
Quick hasn’t gained a reputation as a reliable source, but I hope that he’s right, and that Portland makes an offer Milsap can’t refuse.
Millsap, a physical rebounder with a deft touch offensively, averaged 13 points and eight rebounds in just 30 minutes per game. To give him similar minutes with Portland, Pritchard would have to make a trade. Signing Millsap would most likely mean that small forward Travis Outlaw (who played as their backup power forward for a majority of last season as part of a small lineup) would be out the door.
The problem is, Outlaw is so talented that the Blazers would be stupid to give him away.
Another problem: The Blazers wouldn’t need equal value in return, considering every position, figuring Millsap into the equation, would be at least two-deep.
This is why I expect Portland to package Outlaw along with point guard Steve Blake in a deal for a point guard: Chicago Bulls point guard Kirk Hinrich and Charlotte Bobcats point guard Raymond Felton appear to be on their radar.
In other Blazers news, stars Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge are due for extensions, since their rookie contracts run out after next season. According to Quick, Pritchard would rather not offer Roy a maximum contract of five years, instead tempting Roy with four.
I find this to be completely false. Pritchard would have to be out of his mind not to sign Roy, Portland's best player, for as long as possible. As for Aldridge, he should get five years as well, but considering how much Bargnani received, there is no telling what his asking price will be.
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