October 22, 2008
SI.com's NBA Enemy Lines
Toronto Raptors
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Raptors

If Jermaine O'Neal is healthy, he gives them a scoring option at the end of the game. Chris Bosh is not a great back-to-the-basket player, in my opinion. Jermaine got away from that as well in recent years, but I think he can still go there. It depends on his health and his desire to get in the paint and take a beating. But he could be a good fit, because Bosh is a jump shooter at the elbows.

O'Neal was obviously in decline the last couple of years with Indiana. He wasn't bouncing back from injuries, and he was becoming more of a jump shooter. You could see him have a honeymoon year, especially at the defensive end. Both O'Neal and Bosh are normally good at helping from the weak side and both can trade off defending against the post scorer with help from the other. O'Neal isn't as mobile as he used to be and teams will try to get him to defend out on the floor, but Bosh will try to take on that role because he's a younger, more active defender who gets out and shows on the perimeter. And to have those two in there as shot-blockers, that's going to be a good thing for Toronto.

I don't expect a whole lot more from Bosh than he gave last year, when I saw some big-time games from him. I don't know how much better he can get statistically because he's so team-oriented. The comparison used to be with Kevin Garnett, but Bosh will never be as dynamic on defense. He will, however, be a go-to guy on offense -- I saw games last year when he was nothing but bottom-of-net on his jump shot. It doesn't look pretty all the time but he's consistent,he rotation on the ball and the arc are good. Inside he can make a little jump hook and he's explosive-quick off his feet, but his post-up game gets swallowed up when you put any kind of length on him.

It's hard to predict where Andrea Bargnani's career is headed based on the last couple of years. He needs to develop a part of his game other than being able to shoot. I keep hearing that he's a great perimeter shooter, but I don't see him being a consistent shooter. He's not mobile; maybe as a rookie he was, but he's filled out. When he puts the ball on the floor, he's a right-handed, straight-line driver. It isn't like he's Dirk Nowitzki bringing the ball up the floor, and he's nowhere near Nowitzki as a shooter. At his size, he has to be more of a defensive presence and he has got to rebound. The word is they hope to play him at small forward at times alongside Bosh and O'Neal, but in those cases Bosh would have to defend the smalls. It won't be such a big deal on offense because they spread the floor, run pick-and-roll and put their bigs into spots where they're shooters, so it doesn't matter who's who in some of their sets.

Jose Calderon is a leader who gets his teammates involved. He's very good coming off screens because he gets into the paint and makes another defender react to him, and he finds people. I expect him to handle full-time minutes now that T.J. Ford is gone. I see Calderon as a potential All-Star.

Jason Kapono is a hired-gun kind of guy. He is terrible defensively, but you put him out there and let him shoot. If he's on, you ride him, and if he's off, you get him back on the bench. They need to keep him behind Anthony Parker, who is such a stabilizing force that he gets minutes that his stats don't warrant. He gives them leadership and a steadying hand, he can make open shots out to the three-point line, he makes good decisions and he keeps the others in focus.

Jamario Moon was the kind of guy you found yourself rooting for, and there were times when he was very impressive. But he's also very raw. He has incredible athleticism that is offset by mistakes and goof-ups. He needs to start thinking about being a solid basketball player. But I don't think he's a Ricky Davis type, in part because he's on a team with strong leadership.

I've always liked Sam Mitchell and I see him still evolving as a coach. He's almost like a young Jerry Sloan who doesn't care what anyone else thinks of him. He's going to coach these guys the way he believes they should be coached until he's told he can't anymore. This is the way he played, and this is the way his team is going to play.

It might be asking too much for this team to make a big move up based on the trade for O'Neal, because there are so many doubts about what he can do over the course of a full season. As much as they need to improve on defense, they have the personnel of a team that will scramble the game and trap here and there and ultimately just try to outscore you.


You May Like