re-furbishing their player roster, via trades, free agent signings, and the expert manipulation of the 2010 and 2011 NBA Drafts, there should be little doubt, whatsoever, that the Spurs have every intention of staying perched exactly where they have been for the last decade, i.e. firmly entrenched in the upper echelon of the Western Conference.
The simple fact is that:
- RC Buford and Gregg Popovich have just acquired 4 young players through the 2011 NBA draft with the capacity to fill a “rotation spot” for the Spurs for the better part of the next 10 years
- The key acquisitions for the Spurs during this time frame have NOT been DeJuan Blair, or Kawhi Leonard … but, instead, Gary Neal, Tiago Splitter, James Anderson, Nando de Colo, David Bertans and Adam Hanga … more-than-one of whom actually have what it takes to become a high level player, down-the-road, in the NBA.
Toronto chose Jonas Valanciunas with the No. 5 Selection in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Jonas plays the Center position and is currently listed as:
- 19 years of age.
Other KNOWN FACTS concerning Jonas Valanciunas, include the following:
i. He is a highly efficient scorer within close proximity of the basket [i.e. Euroleague/2010-2011: 70.0 FG%; 91.7 FT%; 0-0/3FG; 7.6 Pts/14.9 MP];
ii. Offensively, he has been used primarily in Pick and Roll situations;
iii. Rebounding is one of his strengths [i.e. Euroleague/2010-2011: 5.4 Rebs/14.9 MP];
iv. Shot blocking is one of his strengths [i.e. Euroleague/2010-2011: 0.6 BS/14.9 MP];
v. He plays the game with a good-to-high level of intensity;
vi. He is a relatively “good” athlete for a Center;
vii. He has a relatively “good” frame which should be able to carry additional weight, as he continues to mature physically;
viii. He was selected as the MVP for the European U 18 Men’s Championships last year [i.e. with 31 Pts and 18 Rebs in the Gold Medal game];
ix. He is under contract to his European club team for the 2011-2012 season and will only be eligible to join the Raptors for the 2012-2013 campaign, if there is a NBA season that year;
x. He is NOT Andrea Bargnani [C].
i. He is a relatively poor passer who does not yet display the ability to create easy baskets for his teammates [i.e. Euroleague/2010-2011: 0.2/Ast; 1.4/TO];
ii. He is NOTBrandon Knight [PG] or Jan Vesely [SF/PF], each of whom was also still available when the Raptors made the No. 5 Selection … and a player with the capacity to eventually become a “star” in the NBA – according to yours truly, based upon “positional upside” [i.e. relative skill-set and athleticism at the position played] – with Derrick Williams [SF] and Kyrie Irving [PG] no longer available; and,
iii. He is NOTTobias Harris [SF/PG] or Davis Bertans [SF], or [even] Josh Selby [PG], each of whom was still available when the Raptors made the No. 5 Selection … and a player with the capacity to eventually become a “star” in the NBA, if the Raptors would have decided to “trade down”, in an effort to acquire more than only 1 future rotation player from this year’s Draft.
2011 NBA Draft Prospects With Good Upside,
Relative To Their Position
Comp. Player Type
Projected as a 1st Round Selection
Mark Aguirre/Magic Johnson
New York/Walsh $
Larry Bird/Dirk Nowitzki
San Antonio/Buford $
Projected as a 2nd Round Selection
Jo Jo White
San Antonio/Buford $
LEGEND:Bold – Has the capacity to become a “star” player; Italics – Much better than many draft evaluators realize with the capacity to become a high end player in the NBA; * – Should be a target for Toronto, in effort to, either, trade up or down; $ – Former NBA Champion or Finalist, as an executive; % – Up-and-coming executive with a keen eye for NBA level talent.
By making this specific selection, the Raptors:
i. Added a very solid prospect … for the 2012-2013 season … with the ability to become a 10+ year, starting Center in the NBA;
ii. Increased their likelihood of being in the 2012-2013 NBA Draft Lottery;
iii. Failed to add a, possible, future “star” player to their current roster, in the form of Brandon Knight, or Jan Vesely, or Tobias Harris, or Davis Bertans [or, even, Josh Selby]; and,
iv. Re-confirmed their commitment to their players from last season, as their core group moving forward, including some combination of: A) Youngsters – DeMar DeRozan [OG/SF], Jerryd Bayless [PG/OG], Sonny Weems [OG/SF], James Johnson [SF/PF], Julian Wright [SF/PG], Ed Davis [PF], Amir Johnson [PF], Joey Dorsey [PF], Solomon Alabi [C] and Alexis Ajinca [C]; B) Young Vets – Andrea Bargnani [PF/C] and Linas Kleiza [SF/PF]; and, C) Veterans – Jose Calderon [PG], Leandro Barbosa [OG/PG] and Reggie Evans [PF].
Although Jonas Valanciunas [C] is almost certain to become a “good” Center in the NBA, sometime down-the-road … ala Pervis Ellison, Joel Przybilla, or Zydrunas Ilgauskas, etc. … in terms of being able to compete for, and eventually win, a League Championship … it is most unfortunate that the Raptors, once again, wasted another golden opportunity to add a future “star” player – i.e. with ahigh degree of Positional Skill, Athleticism, and Leadership – to their existing roster and, instead, were trumped by the likes of RC Buford, Joe Dumars, Pat Riley, John Hammond, Ed Stefanski and Daryl Morey.
Riley had to share the NBA’s Executive of the Year award with Chicago’s Gar Forman, and it’s hard to believe he lost an outright claim to the award on much beyond jealousy and spite. Just give the Bulls one of the Heat’s stars with Rose – James, Wade or even Chris Bosh over Boozer – and you’d probably be fitting them for rings this spring.
Chicago lost out on the three of them, and blew the $75 million on Boozer who seems to shrink with every challenge here. Everything’s played out in a way that’s justified the Heat’s choices.
Riley and Forman shared 11 first-place votes, but three former NBA executives of the year say they voted for Riley. As one says, “It should’ve been unanimous. I’m not close with Pat, but I’m embarrassed how that went.”
As the Heat moved within three victories of the NBA Finals with the series returning to Miami, the sight of Pat Riley standing with his wife, his assistant GM and team owner Micky Arison spoke to the undeniable truth of these modern Miami Heat: For all the talk about Wade as the lead recruiter, the most important selling point of the Heat is that Riley lords over them. That franchise is relevant because of his presence, his stature in the game. Wade sold a partnership to James and Bosh, but Riley engaged everyone in the kind of bigger, broader vision that only he can.
there should be no doubt, whatsoever, that Gar Forman did, in fact, deserve his share of this year’s NBA Executive Of The Year Award, as the principal architect of the resurgent Chicago Bulls with a current player roster that looks like this:
Derrick Rose, PG [No. 1 Selection 2008 NBA Draft *]
Keith Bogans, OG [signed as UFA last off season *]
Luol Deng, SF [re-signed as RFA July 2008 *]
Carlos Boozer, PF [signed as UFA last off season *]
Joakim Noah, C [No. 9 Selection, 2007 NBA Draft]
CJ Watson, PG [obtained, via trade, last off season *]
Kyle Korver, OG [signed as UFA last off season *]
Ronnie Brewer, SF [signed as UFA last off season *]
Taj Gibson, PF [No. 26 Selection, 2009 NBA Draft *]
Omer Asik, C [signed as UFA last off season *]
Rasual Butler, G/F [signed as UFA this season *]
Kurt Thomas, PF/C [signed as UFA last off season *]
John Lucas, PG [signed as UFA this season *]
Jannero Pargo, PG/OG [signed as UFA this season *]
Brian Scalabrine, PF/C [signed as UFA last off season *]
Tom Thibodeau [hired last off season *]
[Note: * - First-rate personnel moves made by Chicago the last 3 seasons.]
An authentic ranking of the GM’s in the NBA today, should look like the following:
TOP NOTCH 
RC Buford [San Antonio Spurs, past NBA Champs]
Mitch Kupchak [LA Lakers, past NBA Champs]
Joe Dumars [Detroit Pistons, past NBA Champs]
Danny Ainge [Boston Celtics, past NBA Champs]
Pat Riley [Miami Heat, past NBA Champs; New York Knicks, past NBA Finalists]
ABOVE AVERAGE 
Kevin O’Connor [Utah Jazz, past NBA Finalists]
Donnie Nelson [Dallas Mavericks, past NBA Finalists]
Otis Smith [Orlando Magic, past NBA Finalists]
Donnie Walsh [New York Knicks; Indiana Pacers, past NBA Finalists]
Gar Forman [Chicago Bulls, up-and-comers]
Sam Presti [Oklahoma City Thunder, up-and-comers]
If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you should already be quite familiar with the utmost level of R.E.S.P.E.C.T yours truly has for the best run organization in the NBA:
Kudos to Peter Holt, Gregg Popovich, RC Buford & Co. for:
- the discovery of Gary Neal [OG/SF]
- the decision to insert DeJuan Blair [PF] into the Starting Five beside Timmy D [C]
- the decision to stick with Richard Jefferson [SF] this past off season … and keep him in the 1st unit … when many other so-called NBA analysts were advising you to jettison him, asap
- the decision to stick with Tony Parker [PG] this past off season when many other so-called NBA analysts were advising you to trade him away in return for other assets in order to re-stock your cupboard for the future
- the decision to reduce the minutes allocated on a nightly basis to Timmy D [C], who remains one of the best players in the NBA
- the decision to use Manu Ginobili [OG/SF], as the Starting Off Guard
- the decision to keep George Hill [PG] in the 2nd unit, as the heir apparent to TP
- the decision to selection James Anderson [SF], as the Big 12 POY, with the No. 20 Selection in the 1st Round of the 2010 NBA Draft
- the decision to shift Matt Bonner [PF] to the 2nd unit, as the team’s top perimeter shooting Big Man
- the decision to shift Antonio McDyess [C] to the 2nd unit, as the team’s best mid-range shooting Big Man
- the decision to gradually add Tiago Splitter [C] into the mix this season, as a part-time role player who is going to be a very solid replacement for Timmy D down-the-road
- making the following list of player personnel decisions, in the month of November, which involved Garrett Temple, Alonzo Gee, Bobby Simmons, Danny Green, Ume Idoka and Chris Quinn
While other franchises in the NBA, either:
A. Languish forever in the lowest tier of the league;
B. Are semi-permanetly entrenched in its middle tier, as a Treadmill Team;
… It is simply a joy to watch this outfit Go To Work! … 24-7-365.
You were told in this space that the outcome of a playoff series can sometimes be determined by the ability of a team to make the correct game-to-game … and, THEN, in-game … adjustments, based on what its opponent’s specific strengths and weaknesses are and the best possible use of its own personnel:
1. Sample sizes are rendered virtually meaningless;
2. League-wide averages are rendered virtually meaningless; and,
3. Creating and minimizing individual mis-matches against the best teams in the league – and a particular opponent of high calibre – are absolutely crucial;
… when it comes to determining accurately which teams, coaches and, therefore, players will advance in the playoffs, or not.
During the pre-season …
You were told in this space that the 2009-2010 NBA championship would, in all likelihood, be won by 1 of the following 5 teams:
Boston Celtics [i.e. depending upon the recovery of Kevin Garnett from injury]
Los Angeles Lakers
San Antonio Spurs
Nothing which has happened since that time has fundamentally changed that perception.
Right now …
The 4 best teams in the Eastern Conference are the Cleveland Cavaliers [4-1], Orlando Magic [4-0], Boston Celtics [4-1] and Atlanta Hawks [2-2].
The 4 best teams in the Western Conference are the Los Angeles Lakers [3-2], San Antonio Spurs [3-2], Utah Jazz [3-1] and Phoenix Suns [3-2].
Barring any further major injuries …
This year’s NBA champions will, in all likelihood, be 1 of the following 3 teams:
Los Angeles Lakers, Phil Jackson [and Mitch Kupchak and Dr. Jerry Buss]
Orlando Magic, Stan Van Gundy [and Otis Smith and Richard DeVos]
San Antonio Spurs, Gregg Popovich [and RC Buford and Peter Holt]
… none of which happens to be the Cleveland Cavaliers with Mike Brown [and Danny Ferry and Daniel Gilbert].
Basketball is the ultimate TEAM Sport … with each player on the court having to be able to function adequately on Offense, on Defense, and in terms of Rebounding, in conjunction with the sound strategic and tactical decision-making skills of an elite level head coach, general manager and owner.
Those who think that basketball can be properly understood by examining the statistical norms, averages, outliers, etc., associated with representative “sample sizes”, “numerical formulas”, and all manner of “efficiency ratings,” are simply wasting their [and your] time.
Basketball is a game of:
… the most important of which are the “approximately 6″ located between the ears of a team’s owner, general manager, head coach and 8-9 regular rotation players.
… that the 30 gentlemen who, at present, hold the General Manager’s positions, in the NBA, for the 30 best basketball teams in the world are, in fact, the 30 men with ”the best” grasp of what it actually takes to succeed in this league, as a player, then, this specific video clip is posted here expressly for your benefit.
DeJuan Blair [PF, 6-7, 265] was selected in the 37th [overall] position of the 2009 NBA Draft [i.e. No. 7, in the 2nd Round], by R.C. Buford, GM of the San Antonio Spurs … with the 1st of the team’s 2 available picks … which means that all 29 other general managers in the league each had the chance to take him – as an under-sized PF without anterior cruciate ligaments in either knee - and, instead, simply chose to pass him by.
When the Spurs are once again playing in the NBA’s post-season tounament this spring, fans of other teams across the league who repeat, ad naseum, the phrase,
“In ______________[substitute whatever GM's name you may want that's not R.C. Buford], we trust,”
would do well to keep this simple fact in-mind.
The best GM in the NBA currently resides in San Antonio, Texas … and, it’s by a wide margin.
When Spurs majority owner Peter Holt walked into the room for the NBA Board of Governors meeting here earlier this week, he was greeted with a cacophony of catcalls and good-natured ribbing.
His fellow owners couldn’t believe the supposedly thrifty Holt had signed off on one of the most expensive offseason makeovers in recent Spurs memory.
“They all think I’m cheap as hell,” Holt said.
Not anymore. In the span of less than a month, Holt and his ownership group have done some serious damage to their miserly reputation.
In the eye of an uncertain economy that prompted many NBA teams to put a lock on their wallets this offseason, the Spurs went barreling past the luxury tax threshold to acquire Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess.
The Spurs already are about $8 million over the dollar-for-dollar tax line, with still more roster pieces to add. The final tariff bill is likely to breach $10 million, on top of a payroll pushing $80 million.
In his first interview since the offseason began, Holt this week explained the reasoning behind the Spurs’ out-of-character summertime spending spree. In Vegas terms, it was time to go all in.
Whether or not the San Antonio Spurs actually win the 2009-2010 NBA title really isn’t the point.
What matters most of all is Mr. Holt’s versatility, intelligence, commitment to excellence and … perhaps, No. 1 on the list … actual Level of R.E.S.P.E.CT. for  the Spurs loyal fans,  RC Buford & Gregg Popovich,  Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili & Tony Parker, et al.
As that great, down-home, southern gentleman-philospher, Bum Phillips [Houston Oilers], once said, about the defining characteristic of a fabulous former NFL head coach by the name of Don Shula [Miami Dolphins]:
“He’s so good, he can take his’n and beat yours’n; then take yours’n and beat his’n.”
That, dear friends, right there, is a Prime Example of A Man who actually knows what he’s doing in the Great Arena of Life.
For Raptors fans who think that the recent 4-team trade was in fact based on the commitment of MLSE to do what’s necessary to win a League Championship, one day in the not-too-distant future:
Colangelo still tinkering with Raptors roster “You have to find a way to get the right pieces in this year and roll forward and keep below that luxury tax level,” Colangelo said. “It’s going to get tighter and it’s something to contend with.”
you SHOULD seriously re-evaluate that specific line of thinking.
When you hear Bryan Colangelo speak next of DOING WHAT’S NECESSARY TO ACCOMPLISH THAT SPECIFIC GOAL, down-the-road, please feel free to notify yours truly [perhaps, via email] right away!
The Raptors’ GM … and chief representative of MLSE, on the hoops side of the operation … talks, repeatedly, about being “committed to building a winning team” BUT he NEVER EVER takes the NEXT STEP and mentions something about,
“Doing what’s necessary to actually have a legitimate shot at winning the League Championship.”
What’s the reason for this?
Does he actually know what this involves, in today’s NBA, regarding such things as: i. Basketball Philosophy, ii. Coaching Philosophy, iii. Player Personnel, and iv. The Financial Commitment Required [etc.]?
The teams that are “honestly” trying to WIN the Championship in the NBA, these days, know full well that in order to give themselves a “real” chance at accomplishing this goal, they are going to have to accept the fact that they will be paying The Luxury Tax … which is really Nothing More than the “current toll fare” … in return for The Right to be able to drive on that specific Super-Highway.
The highest level of competition possible is where the Big Boyz play and that’s the going freight just to ante into the game.
The San Antonio Spurs … located in a small-to-mid sized market, but with a 1st-class ownership group [expertly led by Peter Holt] and a Top Notch GM/Head Coach tandem [i.e. RC Buford & Gregg Popovich] … are a prime example of a team that is now fully aware of this and, therefore, chose to act accordingly this off season … i.e. as you can plainly see from their recent decisions to:
* Retain their best 3 players [i.e. Time Duncan, Manu Ginobili & Tony Parker]
* Retain a veteran like Michael Finley
* Select 3 new players in the 2009 NBA Draft [i.e. DeJuan Blair, No. 37, Jack McClinton, No. 51, and Nando De Colo, No. 53] who are ready to compete right away
* Trade for Richard Jefferson [i.e. another high end player], and
* Sign Antonio McDyess [UFA]
While the Toronto Raptors, on the other hand … chose to go a different route, replete with a Magician’s Wand & Cloak, a rabbit, a head stand, a glass of bottled water, a still dry shirt – with an exceedingly high collar - and an accompanying 3-piece band of partners in crime.
There are just a few teams in this League that are legitimately trying to WIN It All [i.e. Category One] …
then, there’s Everybody Else [i.e. who can be further sub-divided into two additional specific Categories: Two. Those trying to field a highly "competitive" team, in the process of turning a profit, annually; and, Three. Those simply trying to survive in hopes of maybe turning a profit].
DO NOT MAKE THE MISTAKE OF THINKING THAT WHAT THE RAPTORS DID WITH THEIR PARTICIPATION IN THIS 4-TEAM TRADE WAS DESIGNED TO SHIFT THEM FROM CATEGORY TWO INTO CATEGORY ONE.
Prior to last night’s proceedings, these 15 individuals were identified by this corner as players who could have given the Toronto Raptors what they need, at this moment in time, heading towards a long term future [A] with or [B] without Chris Bosh:
Al-Farouq Aminu [6-9, 215, SF/PF, Wake Forest, now unavailable]
Tyreke Evans [6-6, 219, PG/OG, Memphis]
DeMar DeRozan [6-7, 220, OG/SF, USC]
Earl Clark [6-10, 226, PF, Louisville]
Derrick Brown [6-8, 225, SF, Xavier]
Terrence Williams [6-6, 213, OG, Louisville]
Wayne Ellington [6-5, 202, OG, UNC]
Danny Green [6-6, 208, OG/SF, UNC]
Sam Young [6-6, 223, SF, Pittsburgh]
Marcus Thorton [6-4, 194, OG, LSU]
Tyler Hansbrough [6-9, 234, PF, UNC]
Taj Gibson [6-10, 214, PF, USC]
Dante Cunningham [6-8, 227, PF/SF, Villanova]
Tyler Smith [6-6, 212, OG, Tennessee, now unavailable]
Nando De Colo [6-5, 190, OG, France]
This is what happened last night with each of those 15 players::
- Al-Farouq Aminu. Withdrew from consideration; back to Wake Forest.
- Tyler Smith. Withdrew from consideration; back to Tennessee.
- Tyreke Evans. SACRAMENTO/No. 4, selected by Geoff Petrie.
- DeMar DeRozan. Player the Raptors/No. 9 wanted all along.
- Earl Clark. PHOENIX/No. 14, selected by Steve Kerr.
- Derrick Brown. CHARLOTTE/No. 40, selected by M-Jordan/L-Brown.
- Terrence Williams. NEW JERSEY/No. 11., selected by R-Thorn/K-Vandeweghe.
- Wayne Ellington. MINNESOTA/No. 28, selected by David Kahn
- Sam Young. MEMPHIS/No. 36, selected by Chris Wallace.
- Danny Green. CLEVELAND/No. 46, selected by Danny Ferry.
- Marcus Thorton. MIAMI/No. 43, selected by Pat Riley [traded to New Orleans-Jeff Bower/Byron Scott].
- Tyler Hansbrough. INDIANA/No. 13, selected by Larry Bird.
- Taj Gibson. CHICAGO/No. 26, selected by J-Paxson/G-Forman.
- Dante Cunningham. PORTLAND/No. 33, selected by Kevin Pritchard.
- Nando De Colo. SAN ANTONIO/N. 53, selected by RC Buford/G-Popovich.
1. Over the next few seasons, it is going to be most interesting to watch the development of these 15 players.
2. The Charlotte Bobcats [37-45] are gradually building a very solid team:
* Adding Gerald Henderson [OG] and Derrick Brown [SF] last night
* Trading for Boris Diaw [PF-SF], Raja Bell [OG], Vladimir Radmanovic [SF-PF] and DeSagana Diop [C} last season
* Drafting DJ Augustin [PG] & Alex Ajinca [C} last year
* Re-signing Gerald Wallace [SF-PF] last year
* Re-signing Emeka Okafor [C-PF] 2 years ago
3. There’s a very good reason the same names keep popping up when the Larry O’Brien Trophy is awarded, in June, to the NBA Champions.
It’s now Mon Mar 30 and this is what these eyes observed last night in the NBA:
Tuned in to last night’s San Antonio/New Orleans match-up …
Spurs 47, HORNETS 43 … at the beginning of the 3rd quarter
… and was absolutely shocked to see what was on the screen,
i.e. The Big Fundamental, wearing a protective sleeve/brace on each of his knees, limping, hobbling, basically immobile and, in general, dragging himself around the court, in a futile effort to propel the Spurs to a victory in this game.
After watching Tim Duncan play earlier this season … when he was not wearing these two sleeves and was not hobbling and not hopping about in this way … in comparison with his performance last night, this trained eye will say CATEGORICALLY that Tim Duncan should NOT be allowed to play basketball right now, given the current state of his knees, as he is only doing further damage to himself and the Spurs’ long term hopes of regaining the NBA Championship this season.
Tim Duncan is injured RIGHT NOW and it’s amazing to these eyes that the Spurs are even allowing him to step on the court, under these conditions.
Gregg Popovich, RC Buford & Co. really NEED to get him off the court RIGHT NOW … if they know what’s good for them and him, on a long term basis.