Monday, February 26, 2007

Q&A with RaptorsHQ

Late last week, your faithful moderator participated in a Q&A with Adam over at RaptorsHQ, one of the better Raptor blogs out there. What transpired is below. I'll include his questions and answers first, followed by the questions he asked me.

1. Why did Toronto make this deal? Purely to get out of Freddy's contract, or were they specifically looking for an off-the-bench shooter?
I think there were two main factors at work here in terms of why Toronto made the deal.
First of all, he simply wasn't performing up to expectations. After a solid pre-season in which he won the starting 2-guard spot and looked to be the slashing guard Toronto so desired, Jones stopped stopped getting to the rim and started shooting an inordinate amount of perimeter shots considering his accuracy from long-range. (This was extremely frustrating since 1) Jones' is such a great free-throw shooter that even drawing three shooting fouls a game would give Toronto an extra six points on their final score and 2) Toronto fans had just gone through this "I'd rather shoot jump-shots" situation with Vince Carter.) In any event, the jump-shots he was settling for weren't going in, and Jones found himself seated firmly on the pine.
Once it became obvious that Mo Pete and even Joey Graham had passed him on the depth chart, it made sense to move Jones considering the size of his contract and how unlikely it was that he'd regain much playing time. Therefore it was factor A which then led to factor B.
As for looking for an off-the-bench shooter, I don't think that was primarily what Colangelo had set out to do. I think he was simply looking to rid himself of Jones' contract after realizing that the former Duck just wasn't a good fit for the Raps, and would take what he could get in return.
2. When Freddy was first signed, what was the general reaction?
Interesting question as many may remember how the Raptors had originally courted John Salmons before he left Toronto hanging dry and moved on to Sacramento. Therefore fans were overjoyed that Toronto could get someone to take Salmons' place, let alone an athlete like Jones, and many believed that Freddie was an even better option than Salmons in the first place!
3. Did you watch Freddy at Indiana, and do you think the reason he couldn't match the production he gave there was because his skills had changed or deteriorated or he wasn't working as hard, or because the Raptors' system and personnel didn't go with his game?
I watched Jones a lot at Indiana and while I prefered Salmons over him, I did really think he could have a breakout year with the Raps. The Pacers played such a "slow-down, half-court, get the ball to O'Neal" style that I thought he'd excel under Raptors' coach Sam Mitchell's up and down approach. On top of this, I didn't feel he got the minutes that he needed in Indiana to be effective so it seemed like Freddie and the Raptors would be a perfect fit. However Toronto's offence changed about 10 games into the season and I think that yes, the change in system did have an effect on Jones' game. It seemed like he no longer knew his role in the offense and this is about when he started settling for jump-shots instead of driving the ball to the rim. And being that he's hardly Ray Allen from the perimeter, when his jump-shots (even open ones) stopped falling, he seemed to lose his confidence. Therefore I don't think his skillset deteriorated or that he stopped working hard, (believe me, Sam Mitchell gives Joey Graham enough grief so we would have heard if he was having issues with Freddie in that respect) I mainly think he just lost his place in the offence and this affected his confidence. However I'd also like to add that I think we all over-valued him when he arrived in Toronto. Whereas upon his signing I viewed him as a great sixth man in the league, I reaslitically think he's more suited to be an eigth or ninth guy on a good team.
4. Did he play the "2" exclusively, or did he play any SF?
Yes, Jones played the 2 almost exclusively for Toronto although did act on occasion as a 2/1 handling the ball in pre-season.

Now, the questions I answered.

1. Why did Portland make this deal?
Several reasons:
-Portland has needed some good PR in the worst way. The club bringing back a former University of Oregon star in Fred Jones makes everyone happy; even if he is a backup at best.
-Dixon wasn't bringing a whole lot to the table this year. People talk about him being a "good shooter", but in 131 games with Portland he shot 43% from the field and 37% from 3pt. That's a decent enough three point shot, but not "great". -Dixon didn't have a long-term future with the team. He's a liability on defense because of his size, and with Brandon Roy and Martell Webster, Portland already has it's 2-guard of the future and its shooting specialist of the future.
-This allows Brandon Roy to slide over to PG and not have a liability on defense next to him.
-Throw in Freddy's commitment to not pick up the player option and the "future considerations", and it became a no-brainer.
-And, you can't talk about Freddy without mentioning his athleticism. A few crowd-pleasing throwdowns certainly won't hurt Rose Garden attendence.

2. Why wasn't Dixon fitting into the Blazers regular rotation?
Last year and the first half of this year, Portland needed someone to fill minutes while the youngsters matured. That's just not the case anymore. With Brandon Roy being ready to start full-time right now, Dixon became a bench player. And with Sergio Rodriguez taking over the backup PG position, you simply can't play Rodriguez and Dixon together; they're both too undersized. Add to that Martell Webster's slow maturation into being ready to be a bench player, and Nate McMillan's continuing emphasis on defense, and Dixon just didn't have a role. Portland has been trying to establish a regular rotation all season, and Rodriguez, Webster, Travis Outlaw and LaMarcus Aldridge all need more minutes off the bench at this point.

3. Will Fred Jones be a better fit with Portland?
Probably a little bit. There's going to be a monthlong-or-so honeymoon period with him, purely because he is a former Oregon Duck star. (I'm a U of Oregon alum myself, and I'm fairly giddy to see him in a Portland uniform. At Fred's press conference yesterday, he was saying things like "I used to lay in my room at night when I was a kid and dream about playing for Portland" and "I just can't wipe the smile off my face, I'm so happy to be here, and this team is going to get 110% of everything I've got.") I think the addition of Freddy sort of turns Portland from a 9-man rotation to a 10-man rotation, and I see him getting about 10-15 minutes per night off the bench, backing up Brandon Roy at the 2-guard and playing the "3" in the small lineup. Nate McMillan rewards players who work hard, and it sounds like Fred's going to do that. Honestly, you could make the argument that Portland has gone from one mediocre backup SG to another, but we're still excited about it.

4. What can Juan Dixon bring to the Raptors?
I may sound down on Dixon, but he does have some value. For a long period of time in Portland he was the starting 2, which won't be a problem for you guys, but that's too much for him to handle. He's a guy who you can tell right away if he's "on" that night, and should be used as a shooter off the bench. He can provide some decent three-point shooting to relax the defense a little off of your inside guys when he's on. But he doesn't add much beyond that; he's a mediocre passer, a decent ballhandler, and a poor defender. I'll say this, he isn't afraid to put it up, hot or cold. We called him "Stop Shooting Juan" for awhile there last seson, but he did hit some big shots. And, he's a great character guy. I think he has had some terrible trajedies in his life that he has overcome (drug-addicted mother growing up, father died young, etc).

5. If he doesn't get minutes, will that be a problem?
Not at all. To Juan's credit, he's been jerked around a little bit in Portland -- losing minutes to younger players, sporadic playing time, seldomly defined role, etc -- and has handled it very well with very minimal complaining. I think going to a team like Toronto who's in the thick of a playoff race will be good for him, he's a very solid guy who will just enjoy the competition.

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