3 Weeks in February - The Possible Future of Calderon and Bargnani

For purposes of this piece, let’s pretend it’s just before tipoff against the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 1, and let’s make some assumptions:

Dec 9, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Toronto Raptors center Andrea Bargnani (7) holds the ball away from Los Angeles Clippers small forward Matt Barnes (22) during the game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

  • No player has suffered a significant injury, nor been traded/waived.
  • Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas are finally healthy and ready to play.
  • The Raps are in a battle with Philly, Milwaukee and Detroit for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

The Raps have 9 games between now and the trade deadline of February 21, including some serious toughies (Clippers, Heat, Knicks, Nuggets) and some winnable ones (Hornets, Wizards). What to do with our most tradeable assets, Andrea and Jose Calderon? You may be violently recoiling at me describing Andrea as “tradeable” but if he’s healthy again, and can re-establish himself as a significant offensive contributor, lots of teams will be interested in his services. Jose is still our starting point guard, and has surely removed all doubt about his ability to lead a team.

Do we trade these guys, only one of them [which one?], or should Bryan Colangelo eliminate all distractions by making a public declaration that these two are untouchable?

A battle between short- and long-term goal-seekers is looming. Colangelo wants to maximize his roster and cap space for next season, but Dwane Casey is coaching a playoff-contending team, and would dearly love to grab a postseason berth. Since we’re already imagining the future, let’s imagine a heated conversation:

BC: Unless you showcase Andrea, I won’t be able to find a trade partner. No one will believe he’s still capable of contributing, so you’ll have to work him into your game plan.

DC: I’m not crazy about that idea. We’re winning with our current rotation, but…OK, I suppose I can figure something out.

BC: You’ll need to do better than that. Oh, and be prepared for me to deal Jose. Oherwise he walks, & we get nothing.

DC: If you trade my starting PG, and we fall out of the playoff race, it’s on you, Bryan. How do you plan to explain last-minute failure to the ruthless new owners of MLSE? And how do you expect me to work into our rotation, in the heat of a playoff drive, the two new players you’ve just acquired, whom you don’t even know yet?

BC: [long intake of breath, then deep sigh, but no words]

I hope I’ve shown that this situation could get ugly. Now it’s time for me to predict how this will all play out during these crucial 9 games:

  • Never taking off the warm-ups: Aaron Gray, Mickael Pietrus, Quincy Acy, Linas Kleiza
  • Garbage Time: Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas, John Lucas
  • Second Unit: Kyle Lowry, Andrea Bargnani, Alan Anderson
  • Starters: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson
In other words, Casey will utilize a classic hockey coach’s ploy – the “short bench”; in this case, an 8-man rotation.

As for who will get traded: No one. Not because BC won’t be trying, but the only offers he’ll get for Andrea (who will play reasonably well) will be benchwarmers & knuckleheads. BC will bow to circumstances and keep Jose for the stretch run.

Jose is a loyal fellow. He will appreciate the fact he wasn’t dumped, and will return to Toronto next season at a reduced rate of pay. And we’ll be thrilled to have him back.

Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.

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