Tuesday, June 24, 2008

SPORTS: You're on the Clock, Mr. Colangelo

Less than 48 hours to go before the clock strikes 12 on the Toronto Raptors off-season. Bryan Colangelo must decide how to dispense with two issues, T.J. Ford and the 17th pick in the NBA draft Thursday night. It's a thorny problem.

Now, I will tell you that the best scenario I see is swapping Ford to Phoenix for Boris Diaw AND keeping the 17th pick, which I would use on Roy Hibbert, the future Rasho Nesterovic. I wouldn't be horribly upset to see Robin Lopez' name, or even than of Alexis Ajinca come up on the screen. But that's what I think would be best for the Raptors. I'd later try to make a deal to move Kris Humphries off for a second round pick and use it on DJ White or Richard Hendrix. Seattle has a slew of picks and might like the energetic conundrum.

That's what I would LIKE to happen.

However, the story circling about is that Toronto is adding the draft pick to fluff up Ford's value to Phoenix. I really don't think that seems enticing. Helping Phoenix stave off the luxury tax AND getting Steve Nash a backup and eventual successor should actually get them thinking of ADDING their own 48th overall pick into the trade. That's a little late in the in the draft to do Toronto any good, but I do think it would make me hesitate to do the trade if Phoenix was in the business of draft-pick acquiring.

Of course, there's the headline-making trade with Indiana. One medical mystery for another. Move Ford, Nesterovic and the draft pick to Indiana for Jermaine O'Neal. I've run hot, cold and lukewarm on this trade since it first surfaced. A healthy O'Neal, even at 20 Million PLUS a year for the next two years would make the trade a no-brainer. Defensively, the pair of O'Neal and Bosh would play like Garnett and Perkins and would outscore the current title tandem handily. Surround them with long-range bombers and you have a title contender. Problem is, O'Neal is unhealthy an unhealthy amount of the time. Worse even than Ford. Not that Ford is a paragon of perfect health, but he's basically played more than O'Neal, excluding the year he sat out.

It comes down to the rest of the intangibles. If Larry Bird blinks first, than it might very well be a Ford, Nesterovic and Baston/Graham trade for O'Neal straight up. Forget the draft pick. Then, that draft pick would end up being used as for a swing man. And since small-ball is being tossed to the winds, I throw the dice and draft Nic Batum, the Frenchman with the suspect heart. Something tells me we have another Tony Parker situation here. Dismissed because of origin and knocked out of the lottery by the tepid physicals both Toronto and Philly let slip, the clean bill of health that has come out subsequently MIGHT be enough to return his value in some eyes. And experienced miner of Euro gems Brian Colangelo might be high on that list.

Let me see. I would make BOTH proposed trades bruited about, as long as the draft pick is NOT included. I think a case can be made to NOT include the pick. But what if the trades require including it? Then no to Diaw and a tepid yes to O'Neal.

But before that comes down, I'd try to shoehorn past Phoenix and get in on the Clippers' willingness to sign and trade Corey Maggette. I'd let Lost Angeles keep their 7th overall pick (which Phoenix is asking to swap with their own 15th), but I'd want that high second-rounder. With Maggette looking for around 10 mill a year, Maggette and the 35th pick for Ford and Baston or Graham. Plus Toronto would pay the max 3 million to help LA pay to make the ballast go away. Then, for sure, I'd go big with the first rounder and take a chance at finding the next Millsap with White or Hendrix in the second round.

Failing that, I'd be hounding Portland. Surely they jest when they say they prefer Jarret Jack to Ford. Granted, that's the way I believe, but I'm just some foolish crotchety old man living up in hockey country. Jack and Webster plus the 36th pick lands you Ford and Baston. I'd like to believe that.

Seattle seems set to draft Jerryd Bayless, who I would trade straight up for Ford if I could. Maybe, Seattle would settle for keeping the fourth to do with as they wish, but ship Chris Wilcox, the 24th pick, and one of their plethora of washed out centres to Toronto for Ford and Humphries. I might even toss in that 17th. The 24th might still be good enough for Batum. Heck, J.J. Hickson, in twice for show and tells, might be around at that spot.

And you know, Mitch Kupchak might just be feeling his trading oats. How 'bout Ford and Nesterovic to L.A. for Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar and a future number one pick? Farmar slots in perfectly as Calderon's backup. Odom starts at small forward with Andrea Bargnani and Bosh along the rest of the picket fence. Doesn't exactly solve the defensive wing woes, but Odom does a lot of other things well. Draft big with the pick and you have a decent front-court rotation. Although, I'd still try to make Humphries an ex-Raptor at the expense of a rebounding stud who might be a wee bit more coachable.

Cleveland and Miami, and possibly even the Knicks, would be happy to take Ford off Toronto's hands. Normally, making yourself better should be the first rule in trading. But it helps not to make a key divisional opponent or two better too. Besides, those three teams really don't have anything to offer for Ford beyond bad, expiring contracts. Not interested. Well, maybe if the Knicks offered Jamal Crawford plus a swap of draft picks. But that isn't happening. Mike D'Antoni is willing to try to go with Nate Robinson first.

I think I've run the gamut of new Ford homes. Could be wrong. Truly wish Chicago had wanted Mike Beasley more than Derrick Rose. There WAS a matchup of talents with the Bulls before that lottery draft.

When it's all said and done, Ford has to go. His time has come and gone. He needs to translate into something better defensively along the wing or in the centre. His trade will not satisfy both spots, and I wonder if Toronto's mid-level exception is enough to solve the other. That's why the club has to hold on to the draft pick, give or take a few spots in the drafting order.

We will know what Bryan Colangelo decides to do in about 46 hours.

Tick, Tick, Tick.

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