The Five-Man Weave flips back to the NBA this week as the guys discuss the Raptors' off-season needs and whether there is anyone on the current roster that should be considered untouchable. They also weigh in on the injury to World Peace and LeBron getting hacked.
1. With their season winding down and the playoffs out of reach yet again, what are the Raptors biggest needs this off-season?
Mitch Ward: Start by dealing Andrea Bargnani for an asset the team can use like a backup point guard, a three-point shooter, some help in the post... or, you know, anything else. After that, I'd say the Raptors should spend a ton of time working with Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross to develop their games if they truly believe the two rookies are going to be a big part of the team's future. Both have shown flashes, particularly Valanciunas in the last few weeks, but there is still alot to learn.
Josh Lewenberg: Needless to say there are a number of areas the Raptors must address this summer and without much cap flexibility Bryan Colangelo (or whoever is at the helm) will have to be creative. In order, the team's offseason priorities should be: 1) Unloading Andrea Bargnani and securing an asset or two in the process, which could include… 2) A veteran shooter off the bench, and/or… 3) a low-post scorer.
Will Strickland: How much time you got? The needs are myriad: send Jonas Valanciunas to Houston for footwork sessions with both the Oracle, Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon, and have him make a stop at Kevin McHale's house, re-up Rudy Gay ONLY after having him go see the Quality Shot Fairy to raise his FG%, a healthy Amir Johnson, have Kyle Lowry follow The Rock's instructions, gift the weight room and ball handling lessons for DeMar DeRozan, try to hold on to Alan Anderson and sign a vocal, contributing veteran leader for the locker room and on the court.
Duane Watson: A power forward, one that can play a stretch four, a back-up point guard, a consistent three-point shooter... how much space do I have?
Tim Chisholm: Discipline. This is one of the sloppiest teams at both ends of the court that I've seen in a long time. Careless passing, terrible shot selection and defensive miscue after defensive miscue. The Raptors play like a team that isn't playing for anything, which is how things will continue until someone can persuade them to work more diligently on the court.
2. Are there any current Raptors that should be considered off-limits for potential trades?
Ward: When you've struggled for as long as the Raptors have, you have to at least entertain any legitimate offers no matter who is involved. Valanciunas is the closest thing the Raptors have to an 'untouchable' but even he would be worth moving if the return was right.
Lewenberg: Any team that considers any of their players (not named LeBron James or Kevin Durant) "off-limits" is doing themselves a great disservice. For the Raptors, a team 19 games under .500, everyone should be available at the right price. The closest thing Toronto has to an untouchable player would have to be Jonas Valanciunas. The 20-year-old has developed at an impressive rate in his rookie season and has shown flashes of greatness in the low-post. Experience and added strength should take him to the next level as a defender, where he has struggled this year. Believe the hype, JV has a bright future.
Strickland: Are you serious? The Raptors aren't these guys, but Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan would be closest to untouchable for this team. Jury's still out on the 40% FG Shooter aka the dynamic wing player Colangelo's always coveted and maybe Kyle Lowry, despite reports to keep them both. The many of the rest remaining face the fate of unmovable contracts (Fields), greener free agency pastures (Anderson), trade (Bargnani) or being waived.
Watson: Untouchables? Jonas Valanciunas is definitely a keeper, he has lived up to everything as advertised and is now doing it against the best of the best, he's on a high learning curve. After that, I don't know if there's anyone else I wouldn't say no to if made an offer I couldn't refuse.
Chisholm: Probably Jonas Valanciunas. Maybe Amir Johnson. But the reality is that this team is bad enough and stuck deep enough in the mud that they can't dismiss any trade scenario out of hand. They need to get so much better that every single option should be on the table.
3. Is LeBron right to be mad at the hard fouls he takes or does it come with the territory?
Ward: The hard fouls definitely come with the territory when you are as physically unstoppable as LeBron is. You have to foul him harder than you do your average player to prevent to stop the and-one. Now, that doesn't mean that some of the fouls he takes shouldn't be whistled as flagrants, and that definitely doesn't mean LeBron shouldn't get upset when he gets hacked.
Lewenberg: He has the right to be mad BUT it does come with the territory. Fresh off a 27-game winning streak, the reigning champs have a massive target on their backs. That's what they wanted, that's what they signed up for. Moreover, LeBron – the soon-to-be four-time MVP – is the most intimidating, physically dominant force in the league since Shaquille O'Neal. Shaq was beaten up on a nightly basis and LeBron can expect the same treatment. Is it fair? Doesn't matter, it's the reality.
Strickland: Double edged sword. The Jord..ahem... LeBron Rules were certainly at play in Chicago and The Streak was broken. As The Kang stated in his post game comments, he plays an aggressive style where contact will happen both ways. But defenders crossing the line between physical play and bush league is unwarranted. No one wants to see free throw contests as we move toward the playoffs. Fluid basketball is ideal. But when you have inferior talent, you do what you must to catch a win. Congrats to the Bulls. That may well have been their championship game
Watson: I've always had a problem with this, Shaq endured it and Dwight Howard does as well. Because they are perceived to be strong enough to handle those fouls, they should just accept it ...bollocks. LeBron is taking some hard muggings and while players know they have to go harder at him to prevent an and one, the league still has to protect him.
Chisholm: Both. Obviously it sucks to get beaten up on for forty-eight minutes and despite the effectiveness of that style of play it's really quite dangerous. That said, physical defence is to be expected when no sort of scheme can slow down the Miami juggernaut. If knocking the crap out of a guy is the only way to stop him, that's what teams are going to do - just as Shaq and Dwight.
4. Metta World Peace's injury does what to the Lakers playoff chances?
Ward: Damages them. World Peace has been a valuable part of the Lakers starting five and his physical defence will be missed. Still, The Lakers should be able to overcome his absence and make it into the post-season. Then again, they SHOULD be a heck of a lot further up the standings, not fighting for an eight seed in the first place.
Lewenberg: It hurts their chances, without a doubt. Quietly (assuming it's possible to do anything quietly on the Lakers), Metta has been the most reliable non-Kobe player on a team that has been anything but reliable this season. He has stayed under the radar (also shocking), worked hard and done his job in what has been his best campaign as a member of the Lakers. MWP's absence puts more pressure on Kobe to defend, something he hasn't shown much interest in doing this year.
Strickland: Tough. With a game and a half separating the Lakers, Jazz and the surging Dallas Mavericks, it's cliche time: Anything Can Happen. The likelihood that Mike D'Antoni will be creative enough to figure out how to overcome this malady is slim. Pau Gasol's return didn't exactly spell success for the Lakers as they well could have been 0-3 since he got back and LA's perimeter defensive "speed" was grass grow slow even with Metta on the floor. It can't get any worse... can it?
Watson: Sigh, I've counted these guys out so many times. The Lakers can't afford an injury of any kind really, but I think Kobe keeping his promise, Pau Gasol returning and the ineptitude of the bottom half of the Western Conference will keep the Lake show afloat enough to cruise into the playoffs, only to make like the Titanic.
Chisholm: It doesn't meaningfully impact their push. They are clinging to the 8th seed, but if four Hall of Fame-ers can't hold off Utah and a skeleton crew in Dallas then Metta wasn't going to be the piece that made the difference. What you really need him for are the Playoffs themselves, not the push to get there.
5. Skill level aside, which game is more fun to watch - NBA or NCAA?
Ward: 99 percent of the time I'll take the NBA. The players are better. I know we were supposed to put skill level aside but more often than not that alone makes for a more enjoyable game. Compare your average college game to your average NBA game and you'll see far more mental errors, bad turnovers and poor shot selection at the college level. But that one percent of the time - when you get the right college matchup - it can be magical!
Lewenberg: I'm not sure I can put skill level aside. One of the primary reasons why college ball is deemed exciting is tied directly to the inferior skill level. Inexperience resulting in missed free throws, careless turnovers and botched late-game execution often leads to wild finishes. Not to say these things don't exist in the NBA (exhibit A: the Raptors), but I'll take a match-up between two elite NBA teams over any NCAA game all day.
Strickland: NBA. March Madness and watching top-ranked teams go down weekly this year was exciting, but there is nothing like the NBA for me... Nothing... I Love This Game.
Watson: NCAA without question. A big college game, beats a big NBA game every time. With the NBA you only have to pay attention for the final five minutes, while the NCAA game is exciting from start to finish. Put it this way, if the NBA switched to a tournament style bracket, do you think it would be as exciting to watch as March Madness? That was a rhetorical question.
Chisholm: NBA, 100 times out of 100. The NCAA season is a slog, with lots of bad basketball being propped up by a few exciting games. The NBA season will give you something truly spectacular nearly every night, and that's before the drama of the Playoffs. People sometimes equate March Madness with NCAA basketball, but that's just a month of a long season (and most of it still isn't any good). Give me the NBA any day of the week.
The Five-Man Weave is made up of TSN.ca Raptors blogger Tim Chisholm ( @timpchisholm), TSN Radio 1050 Raptors reporter Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050), Duane Watson (@sweetswatson) and Will Strickland (@WallStrizzle1) from TSN Radio 1050's 1-on-1 with Will and Duane, and TSN.ca NBA Editor Mitch Ward (@jmitchw).