Saturday, June 26, 2004

SPORTS: Drafty out there

The NBA and NHL drafts have come and gone and I have mixed feelings for 'my' teams.

The Toronto Raptors took a chance on Thursday taking Rafael Araujo with the eighth pick instead of my prefered choice of Andris Biedrins. As I posted earlier, Biedrins was a chancy pick with a very good up-side and a development time of two to four years. In other words, I wasn't expecting the Latvian to come in here and turn the team around. The Raptors are NOT a single guy away from winning the Eastern Division next season. In fact, if the team doesn't break its three-year injury hex, it isn't even a playoff team next season. So, I was worried when Rob Babcock went for a player he thinks is most ready to help his team next season.

But over the last few days, I've started warming up to the idea of Araujo, the Brazilian national with a blue-collar mentality. I was hoping to see some film that showed me what Babcock saw, but I couldn't. But I like what I am hearing and the more that I think about it, the more I could see Araujo being the piece of the puzzle that Babcock thinks he is. There's no lack of shooters in Raptors' uniforms (well, maybe chuckers would be a better term). If Araujo can come in and do the dirty work, including laying out those players that take liberties with Bosh and Carter), then what more could I ask? A rotation of Araujo, Bosh and Donyell Marshall could be a decent power trio. And Marshall's trade bait with talent and a great contract, come spring. Who knows, if Sam Mitchell, the reputed new Raptor coach, can find Jerome Moiso's on/off switch, then the Raptors might have cured half the glaring problems the team had last year.

Before you think I've gone completely soft on Babcock for no apparent reason, let me complain about the second-round shenanigans. The Raptors almost always have squandered second-round picks in the past, trading them away or taking out-of-the-blue busts. This year, Babcock tabs Albert Miralles, a perfect pick. A Euro, who can stay over there and mature, Miralles was atop many a sleeper list. Good for Babcock. Bad for Babcock, who trades Miralles' rights to Miami for Pape Sow's rights and a second-round Miami choice in the future. Hunh? Sow's the same kind of suspect Toronto normally drafts and the vig for making the trade is probably a pick in the 50's next season. Double Hunh? This one has Mehmet Okur written ALL over it again.

Moving to the NHL where the greatest team in sporting history, Les Canadiens de Montreal, made a quality character pick, too. Kyle Chipchura is somebody who makes the Habs a better team. Whether he adds a little, like Jason Ward, or a lot, like a taller Saku Koivu, this is a guy who helps the franchise. He can score a little, which is always welcome is goal-challenged Montreal. In all, I'm a happy Habs' fan.

Doesn't hurt that the Canadiens also grabbed Radek Bonk in a three-cornered trade that also netted them perfect backup goalie Cristobel Huet for mouldering asset Mathieu Garon. Some draft choices were involved too. Does Bonk have a downside? Sure. Enigmatic as all get out. But even when he's mystifyingly uninvolved, he's a size-plus scoring centre. That's a pretty rare breed in Montreal these days.

The lotteries: winning numbers still to be announced!

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