One was supposed to be a title contender, the other a playoff contender. Neither has lived up to the billing. The Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers have been two of the most disappointing teams in the NBA thus far so the Five-Man Weave crew takes a look at some potential changes that could be coming down the pipeline for both clubs.
1. Will Dwane Casey still be the Raptors coach this time next year?
Duane Watson: Yes. He's a defensive minded coach, which has been the Raptors Achilles heel and can get the job done. See last year. Injuries and new players isn't an excuse, but it would be unfair to rest all of the squad's misfortunes on his shoulders.
Josh Lewenberg: Yes, and he should be. Like everyone else involved in this team's creation and on-court performance, Casey shares in the blame. However, the Raptors haven't forgotten what he did a year ago; spearheading a defensive renaissance with an underwhelming roster. That should be enough to buy him some more time... unless a new GM is brought in with his own bench boss in mind.
Tim Chisholm: This is heavily dependent on the answer to the next question, but suffice it to say that if the Raptors continue down this path he won't be back. One of the most important qualities a head coach can have is an ability to motivate and inspire professional (and financially secure) athletes and while Casey excelled at that last year he has had tremendous trouble replicating that success this year. He'll get the season to figure it out but unless he rediscovers that ability it will be hard for the club to bring him back for '13-'14.
Will Strickland: Not if this precipitous fall continues. Someone's gotta fall on the sword for this mess & it won't be Bryan Colangelo... first...
Mitch Ward: I really hope so. Casey is a good coach and I think he has a lot to offer the Raptors young core. But unless the Raptors find a way to put some more checks in the win column, he may not last this season let alone be back next year.
2. Will Bryan Colangelo still be the Raptors GM this time next year?
Watson: Do I think Colangelo should be with the team next year? No, but I would let him finish the season. Do I think he will be back? Yes. I think the fact that a clear cut replacement who can turn the team around isn't available will make ownership stand pat. However, if the Raptors continue on this pace, the only thing that could ensure his employment next season would be landing Chris Paul and Dwight Howard in free agency.
Lewenberg: Unlikely. I do think he survives the season in the Raptors' front office (or at least makes it through February), for lack of a better option at the moment. For his expiring contract to be renewed, he'd likely have to engineer a major deadline roster shakeup, followed by a convincing second half run. Even then, his fate may already be sealed.
Chisholm: No. His rebuild has been a disaster, he's overcommitted to medium-grade players like Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan and he still carries around the stink of Jason Kapono, Jermaine O'Neal and Hedo Turkoglu. He's had seven years on the job in Toronto and all the city has to show for it is two unimpressive Playoffs ousters and A LOT of losing. It's time for a new voice at the top of Mount Raptor and we'll likely be introduced to him in time for the 2013 NBA Draft.
Strickland: Shouldn't be... But this is a familiar refrain. Ed Stefanski was brought in to help Colangelo? We Thinketh Not. See: Short Term Contingency Plan.
Ward: Barring a major (and highly unlikely) turnaround this season I can't see how he would still be the Raptors GM next season. There's really no point in getting rid of him right now, but I think there will be a move made during the off-season to bring in a new GM.
3. Which player is most likely to be traded this season? Pau Gasol, Andrea Bargnani or Jose Calderon?
Watson: The whole league has the Raptors and Lakers over a barrel. The value of all the aforementioned commodities are low and both teams need value in return to change their fortunes. While Bargnani has to go, will they get rid of him for the sake of making a trade? The little that Toronto yielded in the Vince Carter trade should serve as a reminder.
Lewenberg: Possible all three could be moved before the February 21st trade deadline. The most likely scenario involves Jose Calderon and his expiring contract. Word is Colangelo would prefer to include Calderon in a larger deal (understandable), but Bargnani's most recent injury could complicate matters. Even if BC is unable to find a buyer for Bargnani, look for him to shop Calderon, assuming Kyle Lowry is healthy enough to run the show.
Chisholm: All three will be moved this season. Gasol because the Lakers desperately need to spread his salary out to cover multiple positional weaknesses on the roster, Bargnani because, well, everyone in Toronto hates him, and Calderon because he's an attractive asset that can help the Raptors better distribute their talent at other positions. The likelihood of the three being swapped for each other, though, has dimmed considerably in recent weeks.
Strickland: Pau, Andrea & Calderon will all be seeking quality realtors in an NBA city not so near you, most likely just before or at the February Trade Deadline.
Ward: Call me foolish but I still haven't completely given up hope on the Lakers this year. Once Steve Nash comes back, the Lakers offence will flow far more smoothly and there will be a place in it for Gasol. He's just too smart a basketball player not to figure it out. As for the Raptors, Calderon's expiring contract will entice some teams looking to deal and Bargnani should be as good as gone.
4. Will Mike D'Antoni be the Lakers coach this time next year?
Watson: Yes. Jim Buss made a point of making Phil Jackson looking silly, just to make his point and say, "This is my team." The Lakers are paying Mike Brown good money right now, and won't be paying D'Antoni as well, only to have to pay a third for his successor as well.
Lewenberg: I'll say yes. D'Antoni was never the right fit but at this point the Lakers front office must realize that the primary issue is their roster. They're old, slow, lacking in depth and disinterested albeit limited on defence. All the coaching changes in the world won't change that.
Chisholm: Probably. I really believe Steve Nash's return will have a transformative effect on this team. While Nash won't directly help the sputtering defense, sometimes teams that are playing an effective and fun offence lets that energy carry over the defensive end. Plus, the Lakers don't' want to be shelling out for three high-priced head coaches at the same time. Expect the assistant staff to be revamped, if nothing else, this summer in L.A.
Strickland: Answering questions with questions is rude & severely violates The Code Of Common Courtesy, but... I'm a violator, so: Is this before or after Dwight Howard leaves to go play in Atlanta with Chris Paul, Josh Smith & a much younger, more athletic Hawks team for the 2012-2013 season?
Ward: Yes. Like I said, I haven't given up hope on the Lakers. They will turn this thing around. D'Antoni's system clearly has its flaws and is not very well tailored to the lineup the Lakers have been trotting out since he took over. That all changes with Nash on the floor. I don't think they get back to a top-4 seed in the West but the Lakers will make the playoffs and could be a terrifying first round matchup.
5. Will Dwight Howard re-sign with the Lakers or go somewhere else?
Watson: If the season ended right now? Definitely gone. But Howard hasn't had a chance to play with a point guard like Nash, who is light years ahead of Jameer Nelson, Steve Blake, or Chris Duhon. But if we learned anything from The Dwightmare, Howard's not to be trusted.
Lewenberg: Barring a complete 180 and a legitimate run at the title this season, the Lakers will lose Dwight to Mark Cuban's Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs have enough cap space to seduce Howard and build a team around him. Clearly D12 is not overly concerned with his imagine – he wants to win – and if the Lakers can't offer him the best opportunity to do so, he's a goner.
Chisholm: He probably stays, but there is a lot of season left for him to sour even further on this experience. When he fled Orlando, one of the big reasons was his inability to mesh with the hyper-demanding coaching style of Stan Van Gundy. Well, Kobe Bryant has vowed to apply much of the same pressures to Howard as the team haemorrhages losses and Dwight may not appreciate that level of scrutiny any more than he did when he was with the Magic - especially since he knows Dallas and Atlanta will be waiting to welcome him with open arms and open wallets.
Strickland: Jack Nicholson told Dwight he can't handle the truth! Hollywood's too much for Mr. Clown Makeup! D12's not a #1 guy... He's #2... Maybe literally & figuratively... Stay classy, Guys... Stay classy!
Ward: Until the ink is dried on a signed contract, I wouldn't put anything past Howard given the way he handled his exit from Orlando. I tend to think he will be back given that I think the Lakers will turn things around. But if I'm wrong and they don't, well... Dallas and Atlanta might start looking real good.
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).