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Chisholm: Answering your Twitter questions: Version 8.0

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Tim Chisholm
1/13/2013 11:20:29 AM
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In our Tweet Bag this week, we look at the Raptors' priorities at point guard, the fine line Bryan Colangelo has to walk in trade talks and what happens to the frontcourt rotation once everyone is healthy. As always, tweet me @timpchisholm if you have any questions that you want answered.

@Steebo
What would you say the odds are that the Raps decide to trade Lowry & stick with jose (including re-signing) 30-70?

I don't know about odds, but it's becoming an increasingly valid question. Ever since the Raptors turned their season around in mid-December, the club has been winning games on the back of their incredibly efficient offence and not (as was expected) on the back of their defence.

A big, big reason for that has been Calderon. He's long been one of the most efficient point guards in the NBA, but he's offered his most masterful output ever as a team leader over the last month with the Raptors. After all, this is not a talented club on offence. They have a lot of hustle players and specialists, but Calderon knows how to find guys in the right spots to make them effective, and his teammates have taken up his cause and worked to find the best shot on each possession by moving and passing in sync with one another.

Conversely, when Lowry comes into the game, he is playing like a backup point guard. The ball sticks a little more, the offence bogs down a little more and he looks like a shell of the player that the Raptors thought they were getting this summer. A huge part of that is him being asked to play a style that completely negates most of his greatest offensive strengths. At his best, he has the ball in his hands (a lot) and looks to score often on drives and jumpers, breaking down defences and looking for the open man when teams key in on him. Unfortunately, his teammates struggle playing off of him when he plays like that, so Dwane Casey has asked him to try and mimic Calderon more with his play and he looks neutered as a result.

All that said, it's hard to believe that the Raptors change course and commit their future to Calderon, even if the makeup of this roster and the preferences of this coach seem to suit Calderon's style better. Yes, Calderon is making everyone around him look better while Lowry makes them look about as good as they actually are, but at his best, Lowry brings more to the table and he's younger and playing on a cheaper contract. What you have to figure is that when the trades start coming, there will be time spent finding guys that simply blend better with Lowry's strengths and weaknesses.

@ZanTabakHerald
BC doesn't have an easy job right now. Close to playoffs, finally clicking. Need to make a smart transaction if you make one.

The issue facing the Raptors right now is that they are good enough to beat weaker teams but are in turn beaten by teams loaded with more talent than they are. If the Raptors want to make the playoffs then they need to be able to snag a few games against the heavy-hitters to make up for the gimmes they lost early in the season. To do that, they need a talent injection, but they need to keep one eye on the long-term when they do while also being mindful of the chemistry that this team has achieved in recent weeks.

The real question becomes what takes precedence, talent or chemistry? If the club is sitting on the borderline of a deal that would upgrade the talent level but would sacrifice key chemistry pieces (Calderon, Johnson, Anderson), does the team pull the trigger? The risk they run is having that one new guy play in a dominant fashion, but the pieces around him suffer and look out of sorts (like how the team looked with Lowry at the helm in late-November and early-December).

The truth is there is no right answer here. Every trade carries with it a sizeable chunk of risk, and while team executives do their best to mitigate that risk you can never fully avoid it. Bryan Colangelo has to walk a very fine line in lining up trade options to maintain as much of the good that's going on right now while acknowledging that the team needs to be a lot better in order to get to the places that the organization wants them to be. Plus, as we all know, Colangelo has the added complication of his job hanging in the balance. So, you know, no pressure.

@JasDoooIt
so what do u see the big man rotation being with everyone back healthy?

I'd imagine that Jonas Valanciunas gets his starting job back when he's healthy, despite how well Amir Johnson has played in his stead. Johnson is still too much of a foul magnet, and Casey likes to have him available to finish games, so to make that workable, Valanciunas will get back to starting the first and third quarters alongside Ed Davis with Amir playing big minutes in reserve.

Of course, the seven-foot fly in the ointment is Andrea Bargnani. When he returns to the lineup, he'll come off the bench (unless Casey wants to risk being booed by a ravenous crowd on the ACC floor), logging minutes as a floor-spacer with the second-unit until the club can convince some other team that he's healthy and ready to be traded. The real headache comes if the Raptors are unable to find a taker for Bargnani by the February 28th trade deadline. He simply no longer fits the makeup of this roster and if Casey is forced to find minutes for him at the expense of Valanciunas, Davis or Johnson, then the team is going to suffer as a result.

Suffice it to say that the rotation SHOULD comprise of Valanciunas, Davis and Johnson in large quantities, but whether or not Bargnani mucks that up is a matter for the front office to work through. 

Jose Calderon (Photo: Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images)
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