Saturday, December 24, 2011

NBA Preview 2011-12 (Part Two)

Here's part two of my NBA preview, covering the Western Conference. Click here for part one on the East.

1. Oklahoma City Thunder: So many people hopped on this team’s bandwagon in 2010 when the Thunder gave the eventual champion Lakers everything they could handle in the first round. It’s somewhat perplexing that there isn’t quite as much hype this year on the heels of a trip to the conference finals, where Oklahoma City lost again to the eventual champs. If the Thunder makes a similar improvement in 2012, it will win the title. While the climb gets steeper at this level, there’s little reason not to favor Oklahoma City to at least win the West. The Mavs and Lakers both lost key components, and the Spurs, Grizzlies and Clippers are wild cards. The Thunder has stability and youth, and they go 10-deep, assets that the compressed schedule will magnify.

2. Memphis Grizzlies: Their place as the No. 2 team in the West would be a lot more secure if they hadn’t lost Darrell Arthur for the season. Still, injuries will happen to just about every team, and if the worst injury of the season happens to someone who doesn’t start, it’s not damning. The Grizzlies proved last year that they’re capable over overcoming injury, as Rudy Gay, arguably their best player, was absent for their shocking playoff run. They won’t catch anyone by surprise this year, but they don’t have to. The post games of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were not built on subtlety, and as long as Randolph is plugged in, there’s little reason to expect Memphis won’t pick up where it left off last year.

3. Los Angeles Clippers: They’re the team everyone wants to see this year, and as they establish themselves as one of the elite teams in the West, the enthusiasm will only grow. They seem ripe for at least one more deal, as it would seem illogical to keep four point guards who could all conceivably start in this league, especially when Randy Foye is the best pure shooting guard they have. Still, it’s hard not to get excited about how Chris Paul and an improving Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will mesh together. Caron Butler was an expensive signing, but he does seem like the proper fit as a steady veteran at small forward.

4. Dallas Mavericks: Tyson Chandler was the keystone of the team’s defense in last year’s championship season, and his loss hurts. The Mavs shed plenty of critical role players from last year, too, as DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, J.J. Barea and Peja Stojakovic are all gone. Picking up Lamar Odom for next to nothing will help, but it’s not clear how he and Dirk Nowitzki, both power forwards, will fit together. Vince Carter’s name is bigger than his game at this point, so he will have a minimal impact. The Mavs were a No. 3 seed last year before their playoff run, so it’s hard to see them finishing any higher than fourth considering what they lost.

5. Los Angeles Lakers: This is a team seemingly locked into transition mode. Coach Phil Jackson and his triangle offense are gone. Odom’s sense of betrayal following the scuttled Chris Paul trade seemed to be the catalyst for his exit. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum face constant questioning over their future whereabouts. The erosion of the supporting cast and lack of depth will make it harder on Kobe Bryant, a 15-year vet who would already have been challenged by the compressed schedule. With Shannon Brown gone, there’s no obvious backup to Kobe. New coach Mike Brown has a challenge on his hands if he wants to escape the first round of the playoffs, much less win the championship.

6. San Antonio Spurs: It’s hard to get a read on this team. They won 61 games last year but got knocked off by the eighth-seeded Grizzlies, a year after pulling their own first-round upset as a No. 7 seed against the Mavs. However you look at it, the Spurs haven’t been to the conference finals since 2008, and there’s little to suggest they’ll get there this year, either. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are 35 and 34 years old, respectively, and Tony Parker, at 29, doesn’t seem like he’s the same, either. They lost sixth man George Hill in a trade for rookie Kawhi Leonard, a move that would raise eyebrows if it hadn’t been made by well-regarded general manager R.C. Buford. Leonard and second-year man Tiago Splitter will have to make significant impacts in order for the Spurs to remain an elite team.

7. Denver Nuggets: It’s a testament to the rebuilding efforts of Denver Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri that they’re still one of the league’s deepest teams even though three key players from last year are stuck in China. If any team is built for three games in as many nights, it’s this one. There are no stars, barring the distinct possibility that Ty Lawson or Arron Afflalo have breakout seasons, but plenty of rotation-worthy bodies. The arrangement worked well during the second half of last season, and it will be enough to get the team to the playoffs again this year.

8. Portland Trail Blazers: Just as the Nuggets have shown resilience in the wake of the Carmelo trade, the Blazers franchise remains in the playoff hunt despite the retirement of Brandon Roy and continued injury woes of Greg Oden. LaMarcus Aldridge turned into a legitimate star last year, and Wesley Matthews justified his $35 million contract. The additions of Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton will be enough to get them back to the postseason in a tough Western Conference.

9. Phoenix Suns: Nice guys Steve Nash and Grant Hill won’t finish last, but for the second year in a row, they won’t make the playoffs, either. The emergence of Marcin Gortat late last year gives the team some hope, but there’s little to like here beyond the graying brilliance of Steve Nash, age 37 and the pluck of Grant Hill, 39, neither of whom will be well-served by the condensed schedule.

10. Golden State Warriors: The key for the Warriors might be how much new coach Mark Jackson reins in the team’s up-tempo attack. Whether he likes it or not, this team is built for speed, at least until general manager Larry Riley, aided by the legendary Jerry West, starts making it over to fit the coach’s defensive style.

11. Sacramento Kings: Is this the year the young talent starts to mature? Tyreke Evans, the 2010 rookie of the year, Tyreke Evans was hurt last season and took a step back. He and DeMarcus Cousins are a year older and, hopefully, wiser, and they’ll have a full season with Marcus Thornton.

12. Minnesota Timberwolves: Another team stockpiling youngsters, the T’Wolves are hoping new coach Rick Adelman can help a few more players exceed expectations the way Kevin Love and Darko Milicic did last year.

13. Utah Jazz: As the preseason shedding of Mehmet Okur demonstrated, the Jazz are in full rebuilding mode. Look for a lot of experiments, like Paul Millsap at small forward, and heavy minutes for Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward.

14. Houston Rockets: What the Rockets may need most this year is Kevin McHale’s sense of humor. It might be a 66-game season, but it will feel much longer for Houston, even though they return many of the same players who overachieved to a ninth-place finish in the West last year.

15. New Orleans Hornets: There’s little doubt the Hornets extracted a heavy price from the Clippers for Chris Paul. It still won’t be enough to make them competitive this year. They got nothing in return for their second-best player, free agent David West, and much of the scoring burden rests on Eric Gordon’s shoulders.


First Round: Thunder over Blazers; Grizzlies over Nuggets; Clippers over Spurs; Lakers over Mavs

Conference Semis: Thunder over Lakers; Clippers over Grizzlies

Conference Finals: Thunder over Clippers

NBA Finals: Heat over Thunder in 7

NBA Preview 2011-12 (Part One)

Update: I realized that at least one Atlantic Division team needs to be among the top four seeds in the East, according to NBA rules. I kept the regular season rankings the same, but I adjusted the playoff matchups.

Who needs "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"? Let's crank up the old blog again for a Christmas Eve NBA preview! The Eastern Conference goes first.

1. Miami Heat: One of the least-notorious shortcomings of the Heat last year was that the team spent the entire year trying to figure out how everyone fit in. Injuries, midseason acquisitions and the challenge of getting three guys used to being the No. 1 option to function cohesively left the rotation in turmoil all the way through the Finals. After a season worth of tinkering, it seemed only appropriate that Erik Spoelstra switched starting point guards for Game 6 against Dallas. This year, there figures to be more stability. Now that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have a better understanding of how to play with each other and, just as importantly, know who else will be on the floor with them, the Heat can fulfill their potential.

2. Chicago Bulls: A match almost a year in the making finally came to pass when Richard Hamilton signed to fill the gaping hole at two-guard in Chicago. If they avoid the injuries to Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer they suffered last year, the team that last year had the league’s best record and the youngest MVP in NBA history is poised to improve. It may still not be enough to catch the Heat, particularly if Boozer continues to disappoint as he did in the playoffs last year.

3. Atlanta Hawks: After the Heat and the Bulls, there’s a major drop-off in the East. Since the Celtics and Magic aren’t what they have been in recent seasons, the Hawks suddenly go up a few notches by default. In a shortened season that will reward stability, Atlanta stands to benefit from a core that’s been together since 2008. This is especially true if Jeff Teague carries over his revelatory performance from last year’s playoffs.

4. Indiana Pacers: Everyone’s favorite Eastern Conference team on the rise. And why not? Adding David West and George Hill to a promising young roster is reason for excitement. Plus, Paul George reported to camp 2 inches taller than last year, meaning he’ll be a matchup nightmare as a 6-foot-10 shooting guard.

5. Orlando Magic: The 4-2 first-round defeat to Atlanta last year, in which Dwight Howard scored 46 points in a game the Magic lost by 10 points, said volumes about the potential of this Magic team. They can only go as far as Dwight Howard can take them on his broad shoulders, and that might not be any farther than the first round of the playoffs. If they trade Howard, it’s not as if they’re breaking up a championship team.

6. Boston Celtics: The obituary of these Celtics has been written many times before, and yet they always seem to remain contenders. This time, though, they’re really in trouble. A compressed schedule minimizing the impact of their veteran core, and Jeff Green’s year-long absence robs them of the depth they needed to keep everyone fresh. It’s also a morale-killer that confirms the worst fears about the Kendrick Perkins trade.

7. New York Knicks: If last year’s Heat was supposed to be a three-man team, these Knicks take the idea a step further. Aside from the monster frontline of Carmelo, Amare and Tyson Chandler, there’s really not much else on the roster. Since depth is more valuable this season than it usually is, this is a problem, even if Amare can stay healthy. The Knicks need Baron Davis and Landry Fields at their best to have hope of grabbing a high playoff seed.

8. New Jersey Nets: If Mikhail Prokhorov’s manifest destiny is realized, a playoff appearance could be just the beginning for the Nets. Whether or not they land Dwight Howard this year, they probably still have enough to beat out weak competition for a postseason berth. A full season of Deron Williams and the veteran presence of DeShawn Stevenson, who, like Kris Humphries, signed in the final week of the shortened preseason, should be enough to push this team out of the lottery.

9. Philadelphia 76ers: It’s hard to argue the Sixers didn’t overachieve last year, especially considering the limited contributions they got from Evan Turner, the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft. It’s reasonable to expect him to be better, but it’s just as reasonable to believe everyone else will take a step back. Their stability will help them stay competitive for a playoff spot, but their overall lack of talent will keep them from getting there.

10. Washington Wizards: John Wall is telling us to expect a breakout season from him, and he showed glimpses of his potential in his rookie season last year. No one else comes near his talent level on this team, but you don’t need much to be in the hunt for the postseason in the East.

11. Milwaukee Bucks: The team’s fate may depend on whether Andrew Bogut is finally healthy after his horrific arm injury curtailed a surprising run to the playoffs in 2010. The Bucks are hoping Stephen Jackson will play the same kind of role John Salmons did two years ago to boost their pop-gun offense. Jackson, who has back issues and has already made rumblings about his contract, might not be the guy to lean on.

12. Detroit Pistons: Greg Monroe’s steady improvement went largely unnoticed last season. If he keeps it up, he may get his due as an up-and-coming post presence, but because the rest of roster is bloated with tweener guards and small forwards, it will mean little in terms of wins and losses.

13. Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, the first and fourth picks in this year’s draft, respectively, provide hope in Cleveland. And hope is all they have.

14. Charlotte Bobcats: It says a lot about the Eastern Conference that this reprehensible roster might not be terrible enough to finish last.

15. Toronto Raptors: The team went 22-60 last year, failed to sign No. 5 pick Jonas Valanciunas, and its most significant offseason acquisition might be Gary Forbes. Enough said.


First Round: Heat over Nets; Bulls over Knicks; Hawks over Magic; Pacers over Celtics

Conference Semis: Heat over Pacers; Bulls over Hawks

Conference Finals: Heat over Bulls

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Trade deadline analysis: Part 2

Now a look at the Western Conference:

Acquire Kevin Martin and Hilton Armstrong from the Kings and Jared Jeffries and Jordan Hill from the Knicks for Tracy McGrady, Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey. The Rockets get a 2012 first-round pick from Knicks and swap their 2011 first-round picks with New York as long as the Knicks don't have the first overall selection.

Houston will miss Carl Landry's toughness, clutch scoring and vicious attacks on Dirk Nowitzki's elbow. But they get a legitimate scorer to plug in at starting shooting guard and get rid of a persona non grata in McGrady. Plus the opportunity to steal a lottery pick or two from the Knicks. This deal was actually GM Daryl Morey's second offer to the other teams. The first was "heads I win, tails you lose."

Acquire Drew Gooden from Wizards in three-way deal with Cavs for Al Thornton and Sebastian Telfair.

Because really, what do the Clippers need with a good, young small forward anyway?

Acquire Ronnie Brewer from the Jazz for a protected 2010 first-round pick.

"Yes, hello, NBA league office? This is Memphis GM Chris Wallace. I'd like to use my first-round pick this year to select the starting shooting guard off of the third-place team in the Western Conference ... wait, you mean I can actually do that? This was supposed to be a prank call!"


Acquire Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey from the Rockets and Larry Hughes from Knicks for Kevin Martin, Hilton Armstrong and Sergio Rodriguez.

Sacramento is now sure to lead the league in elbows nearly swallowed whole.

Acquire protected 2010 first-round pick from Grizzlies for Ronnie Brewer

Hey Jazz fans! Excited that your team is hot and a game out of second place in the West? Well guess what? The Jazz just traded away its starting shooting guard for absolutely nothing until June! And they also failed to get anything in return for Carlos Boozer, who is bound to leave as a free agent this summer! Don't forget to renew your season tickets right away!

Trade deadline analysis

We're back with a look at the winners and losers at the NBA Trade Deadline. The Eastern Conference goes first.

Acquire Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry from the Knicks for Eddie House, J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker.

Let's look at it this way. If the road to getting back into title contention this year was a mile long for this team, Robinson moves them forward by about 10 feet. But at least he's better than the last flashy guard the C's got from New York. (Steph Marbury would contend this point, but he's too busy learning how to say "career-killing live Web cast" in Chinese.


Acquire Jodie Meeks, Francisco Elson and a second-round pick from the Bucks for Primoz Brezec and Royal Ivey.

Pitchers and catchers have already reported to Phillies camp, so this move will not make anyone in Philadelphia remember they have a basketball team, too. When the best thing to happen to your team all year is the uniforms, it doesn't bode well.

Acquire Tracy McGrady from the Rockets and Sergio Rodriguez from the Kings for Jared Jeffries, Jordan Hill and Larry Hughes. The Knicks also give up their 2012 first-round pick and agree to swap 2011 first-round picks with the Rockets, unless the 2011 pick is first overall.
Acquire Eddie House, J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker from the Celtics for Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry.

New York's 2010-11 Plan A: Sign LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Plan B: Break the record New Jersey sets this year for worst record in league history.

Acquire Hakim Warrick and Joe Alexander from the Bucks for John Salmons.
Acquire Ronald Murray and Acie Law from the Bobcats for Tyrus Thomas.

Chicago better hope LeBron and Wade don't mind bad weather or unyielding comparisons to Jordan and Pippen. Or Vinny Del Negro.

Acquire Antawn Jamison from the Wizards and Sebastian Telfair from the Clippers for Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Emir Preldzic and a 2010 first-round pick.

Anything short of winning the 2010 title is disaster for Cleveland. Not quite the disaster that LeBron leaving would be, but still ...

Acquire John Salmons from Bulls for Hakim Warrick and Joe Alexander.
Acquire Primoz Brezec and Royal Ivey from Sixers for Jodie Meeks, Francisco Elson and a second-round pick.

I hear Salmons and Brandon Jennings will have a reverse H.O.R.S.E. contest next week. Both players will take an array of difficult shots with the goal being to miss as many as possible.

Acquire Tyrus Thomas from Bulls for Ronald Murray and Acie Law.

Are we sure Larry Brown is healthy enough for Tyrus Thomas? I mean, is his heart OK? Can he handle this at his age?

Acquire Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Emir Preldzic and a 2010 first-round draft pick from the Cavs and Al Thornton from the Clippers for Antawn Jamison and Drew Gooden.

For those who missed the D-League showcase this season, here's another chance: Washington visits New Jersey on Feb. 28th. Get your tickets now!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Quick predictions

Coming in just before tip-off ...

Eastern Conference Playoff Teams
in order of finish

Western Conference Playoff Teams
in order of finish

First Round
Magic 4, Heat 2
Cavs 4, Raptors 1
Celtics 4, Bulls 3
Hawks 4, Pistons 1
Lakers 4, Hornets 0
Mavs 4, Thunder 2
Spurs 4, Nuggets 1
Blazers 4, Jazz 2
Second Round
Magic 4, Hawks 1
Cavs 4, Celtics 3
Lakers 4, Blazers 2
Spurs 4, Mavs 0
Conference Finals
Magic 4, Cavs 1
Spurs 4, Lakers 1
NBA Finals
Spurs 4, Cavs 2

MVP: LeBron James

Monday, October 26, 2009

2009-10 Opening Day Starting Lineups

OK, so something a little bit different this year, perhaps, and we'll start with a very small scale season preview. I've tried to compile what I believe to be a pretty accurate account of every team's starting lineup as the season begins. I'm going by what every team's intended starting lineup is for their first game, notwithstanding minor injury. For instance, I list Josh Howard as a starter for Dallas even though he won't make it back from a left ankle injury in time for the opener. He should be back within the first month of the season, unlike Tracy McGrady, who's out until around the All-Star break. McGrady is not listed as a starter. In a couple of instances where it's too close to call and the team has made no official statement, I've listed both potential candidates.

So here goes. I plan on being back with occasional, with an emphasis on occasional, updates throughout the year. The daily updates were a little much and weren't really done the way I would have hoped last year, so we're trying something else.

UPDATE (6:22 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27): Blazers SF Nicolas Batum will have shoulder surgery and is out for at least the first half of the season, so Martell Webster is likely to take his place.

Atlanta Hawks
PG Mike Bibby
SG Joe Johnson
SF Marvin Williams
PF Josh Smith
C Al Horford

Boston Celtics
PG Rajon Rondo
SG Ray Allen
SF Paul Pierce
PF Kevin Garnett
C Kendrick Perkins

Charlotte Bobcats
PG Raymond Felton
SG Raja Bell
SF Gerald Wallace
PF Boris Diaw
C Tyson Chandler

Chicago Bulls
PG Derrick Rose
SG John Salmons
SF Luol Deng
PF Tyrus Thomas
C Joakim Noah

Cleveland Cavaliers
PG Mo Williams
SG Anthony Parker/Delonte West
SF LeBron James
PF Anderson Varejao
C Shaquille O'Neal

Dallas Mavericks
PG Jason Kidd
SG Josh Howard
SF Shawn Marion
PF Dirk Nowitzki
C Drew Gooden

Denver Nuggets
PG Chauncey Billups
SG Arron Afflalo
SF Carmelo Anthony
PF Kenyon Martin
C Nene

Detroit Pistons
PG Rodney Stuckey
SG Richard Hamilton
SF Tayshaun Prince
PF Charlie Villanueva
C Kwame Brown

Golden State Warriors
PG Monta Ellis
SG Stephen Jackson
SF Anthony Randolph
PF Ronny Turiaf
C Andris Biedrins

Houston Rockets
PG Aaron Brooks
SG Trevor Ariza
SF Shane Battier
PF Luis Scola
C Chuck Hayes/David Andersen

Indiana Pacers
PG T.J. Ford
SG Brandon Rush
SF Danny Granger
PF Troy Murphy
C Roy Hibbert

Los Angeles Clippers
PG Baron Davis
SG Eric Gordon
SF Al Thornton
PF Chris Kaman
C Marcus Camby

Los Angeles Lakers
PG Derek Fisher
SG Kobe Bryant
SF Ron Artest
PF Pau Gasol
C Andrew Bynum

Memphis Grizzlies
PG Mike Conley
SG O.J. Mayo
SF Rudy Gay
PF Zach Randolph
C Marc Gasol

Miami Heat
PG Mario Chalmers
SG Dwyane Wade
SF Michael Beasley
PF Udonis Haslem
C Jermaine O'Neal

Milwaukee Bucks
PG Brandon Jennings/Luke Ridnour
SG Michael Redd
SF Luc-Richard Mbah a Moute
PF Hakim Warrick
C Andrew Bogut

Minnesota Timberwolves
PG Jonny Flynn
SG Corey Brewer
SF Damien Wilkins
PF Ryan Gomes
C Al Jefferson

New Jersey Nets
PG Devin Harris
SG Courtney Lee
SF Chris Douglas-Roberts
PF Y. Jianlian
C Brook Lopez

New York Knicks
PG Chris Duhon
SG Wilson Chandler
SF Al Harrington
PF Jared Jeffries
C David Lee

New Orleans Hornets
PG Chris Paul
SG Morris Peterson
SF Julian Wright
PF David West
C Emeka Okafor

Oklahoma City Thunder
PG Russell Westbrook
SG Thabo Sefolosha/James Harden
SF Kevin Durant
PF Jeff Green
C Nenad Krstic

Orlando Magic
PG Jameer Nelson
SG Vince Carter
SF Mickael Pietrus/Matt Barnes
PF Rashard Lewis
C Dwight Howard

Phoenix Suns
PG Steve Nash
SG Jason Richardson
SF Grant Hill
PF Amare Stoudemire
C Channing Frye

Philadelphia 76ers
PG Lou Williams
SG Andre Iguodala
SF Thaddeus Young
PF Elton Brand
C Samuel Dalembert

Portland Trail Blazers
PG Steve Blake
SG Brandon Roy
SF Martell Webster
PF LaMarcus Aldridge
C Greg Oden

Sacramento Kings
PG Tyreke Evans
SG Kevin Martin
SF Desmond Mason
PF Jason Thompson
C Sean May

San Antonio Spurs
PG Tony Parker
SG Roger Mason
SF Richard Jefferson
PF Antonio McDyess
C Tim Duncan

Toronto Raptors
PG Jose Calderon
SG Demar DeRozan
SF Hedo Turkoglu
PF Chris Bosh
C Andrea Bargnani

Utah Jazz
PG Deron Williams
SG Ronnie Price
C Mehmet Okur
SF Andrei Kirilenko
PF Carlos Boozer

Washington Wizards
PG Gilbert Arenas
SG Mike Miller
SF Caron Butler
PF Antawn Jamison
C Brendan Haywood

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Marion to Mavs in 4-way trade

No deal in the NBA, with its complex salary cap structure, is simple. The four-way trade approved this afternoon is certainly no exception. Shawn Marion was acquired by the Dallas Mavericks in a byzantine arrangement that has assets going between the Mavs, the Raptors, the Magic and the Grizzlies. The core of the deal has Marion heading from Toronto to Dallas in a sign-and-trade move. Kris Humphries and Austrailian centerNathan Jawai goes with Marion, while the Raptors get Antoine Wright and Devean George in return. Hedo Turkoglu's decision to go to Toronto is wrapped up in this, as Toronto gets him as part of a sign-and-trade with Orlando, and the Magic at least receive cash and a trade exception instead of nothing, which they would have gotten if Turkoglu simply signed with the Raptors. The Grizzlies helped facilitate this, sending Greg Buckner to Dallas and receiving Jerry Stackhouse in return along with a 2016 second round pick. The Grizzlies will likely release Stackhouse, meaning they wind up gaining a bit of cap space and little else. Their participation in the deal is by far the most questionable, as though GM Chris Wallace were simply looking for ways to build good will after his gift of Pau Gasol to the Lakers helped L.A. to the championship. The pursuit of Allen Iverson, on top of at all, must leave Grizzlies fans shaking their heads. The Mavs are at the other end of the spectrum. They improve their perimeter defense markedly with Nowitzki around, and if they keep Josh Howard, they'll likely move him to shooting guard to facilitate Marion at small forward and allow Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry to continue in his bench role. They signed Marcin Gortat and have Jason Kidd coming back, too, so they're clearly looking to win now, a smart move given Nowitzki is in his prime. They probably haven't done enough to put themselves over the top, but they've gotten a lot closer. The Raptors are retooling after last season's debacle, and trying to show Chris Bosh that they're committed to winning. They didn't have any intention of signing Marion after they agreed to a deal with Turkoglu, so that they receive a couple of veterans like Wright and George makes this trade a winner for them. Wright can move into the starting shooting guard position vacated by Anthony Parker, who is headed to the Cavs. The criticism for Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo should come not for his willingness to get involved in deal so much as the decision to dump Marion and pick up Turkoglu in the first place. The notion that Turkoglu is that much of an upgrade over Marion is not a strong one, and what the Raptors gain in outside shooting and a few more points per game, they lose in on the glass, where Marion was 3.1 rebounds a night better than Turkoglu. Bosh, who averaged 10 boards a night, almost twice as many as the next best returning Raptor, will have to take a leap and rebound a lot like Turkoglu's old teammate Dwight Howard, who averaged 13.9 a game last year.