We didn’t know much about Scott Carefoot, author of the snappy, inciteful Raptor Blog, until recently. Okay, to be honest we’d never heard of him until he recently dropped us a note that said his formerly in-hiatus site was now back in business and that we might want to give it a read. We’re glad we did.
Ostensibly dedicated to the Toronto Raptors but touching on the NBA in general nearly just as much, Carefoot’s Raptor Blog is a great example of why some of the best, most unique opinions and analysis on the NBA are found within this so-called blogosphere. His commentary is crisp, clean, and well-informed, and the humor is smart without being snarky. Yep, we’re fans.
So without further ado, it’s time to play 10 questions with Raptor Blog’s Scott Carefoot for our latest installment of ETB’s Scribes of the NBA Interview Series.
Empty the Bench: What is this Toronto Raptors team most lacking heading into 2008-09? Do they have a realistic shot at an Eastern Conference Finals appearance this year?
Scott Carefoot: Losing T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Carlos Delfino, and Jorge Garbajosa means that this team would appear to be lacking in bench strength. Of course, that’s what I thought about the Celtics going into last season. As for an Eastern Finals appearance, this team should definitely be able to compete with the Pistons, Magic, or Sixers in a second-round matchup – which is certainly an upgrade from how they laid down to the Magic last season.
ETB: Is Chris Bosh the all-around most likeable star in today’s NBA? Or, perhaps more accurately: should he be?
Carefoot: He’s definitely up there. If I was a Magic fan I’d probably nominate Dwight Howard for that title. Bosh’s videos are fun but in terms of NBA moments that actually made me smile for days afterwards, Howard’s “Superman dunk” is tough to top. Regardless, Howard and Bosh are a couple of good examples of guys to point to when ignoramuses claim that the NBA is a “league of thugs.”
ETB: How worried are you that Bosh will opt out of his current deal in the summer of 2010 and head for greener American pastures, where the opportunity for more endorsement deals might be greater?
Carefoot: I think the endorsement argument is a little bogus when it comes to whether or not star players want to play in Toronto. In terms of North American media markets, Toronto is only behind New York, L.A. and Chicago.
As for worrying about what Bosh will do in 2010 – what’s the point? A lot can happen between now and then. I certainly don’t want Bryan Colangelo to kowtow to his every whim to keep him happy. I remember how well that went with previous management and Vince Carter. The Milt Palacio Era is still a haunting memory.
Much more from Raptor Blog’s one and only Scott Carefoot after the jump…
ETB: When the regular season winds down next April and the playoffs begin, how much of an impact will Jermaine O’Neal have had on both ends of the floor in his first full season with the Raptors? What’s your over/under on games played by J.O.?
Carefoot: O’Neal’s impact should be felt most significantly on defense, where the Raptors previously had the reputation of being soft inside. He’s really not a very efficient offensive player, so I would actually prefer it if he’s a third or fourth option on offense – but I doubt that will happen since O’Neal will surely see himself as Option 1B at worst.
I can’t really say how many games J.O. will play in and it’s foolish for me to pretend I can predict that. I will say that if he can play in 65-70 regular season games and be healthy for the playoffs, that would satisfy me.
ETB: So far the 2006 NBA Draft isn’t shaping up to be an especially strong one. Five of the top ten picks are arguably pushing “bust status” already—will Andrea Bargnani join them? What are your expectations for Bargnani in the 2008-09 season?
Carefoot: I’m not going to sugarcoat this. For all of Colangelo’s smart moves he made in Phoenix and Toronto, the Bargnani pick is shaping up to be a colossal fuck-up. If he doesn’t show substantial improvement next season, there will be very little doubt that he blew the 2006 draft in passing on LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay to take his fellow Italian.
So far Bargnani looks like a seven-foot shooting specialist who doesn’t rebound, doesn’t understand the concept of help defense, and isn’t actually that good of a shooter based on his performance so far. His most comparable NBA player at this point is Vladimir Radmanovic, and that’s not who you take with the first-overall pick in a draft.
ETB: As a 27-year-old rookie, Jamario Moon was one of the best stories last year in stepping right into the starting lineup and averaging 8.5 points, 6.2 boards, 1.4 blocks, and 1 steal. Will he equal and perhaps top those numbers in his sophomore season?
Carefoot: Jamario was definitely the feel-good Raptors story of the season, but the backlash has already begun from fans who don’t consider him a truly worthy starting small forward. The bottom line is that he’s a high-energy, super-athletic hustle guy with below-average offensive skill so it’s unrealistic to expect his numbers to increase much.
Considering Moon’s role on the team, the one thing I’d like to see him get better at is hitting his mid-range and three-point shots when he’s open. With O’Neal and Bosh commanding attention down low and with Calderon becoming increasingly money from outside, Moon should get a lot of open looks next season.
ETB: Speaking of versatile forwards—what’s the story with four-year vet and ’05 first-round pick Joey Graham? He went from appearing in 80 games and averaging about 17 or 18 minutes/per in each of his first two pro seasons to just 38 games and 9 minutes last year. Has he permanently played himself out of the rotation?
Carefoot: Joey Graham is an enigma wrapped in an Incredible Hulk costume. He’s shown zero improvement over his three seasons and he’s now 26 years old. I think it’s safe to say at this point that he’s a remarkable physical specimen and a nice guy who just isn’t very good at the game of basketball.
ETB: After all the draft-day dust had settled, the Raps were left with 6-10 Australian-born center Nathan Jawai as their first-round pick. Aside from his unfortunate “Baby Shaq” nickname, what do you know about this kid and how much floor time will he see in his rookie season?
Carefoot: I know nothing about Nathan Jawai and I expect even less (if that’s possible). There has been a long procession of mysterious big men who have arrived in Toronto from various locales over the years, and none of them panned out. Look up the career stats of Garth Joseph, Nate Huffman, Pape Sow, Alex Radojevic, Mengke Bateer, and Mamadou N’diaye and you’ll get a rough sense of my expectations regarding Jawai. On the other hand, who saw Jamario Moon coming?
ETB: Non-Raptors question: who are your top three most likely candidates to enjoy a breakout season in the NBA next season?
Carefoot: Amir Johnson of the Pistons (I was pissed when the Raptors didn’t sign him in ’07), Carl Landry of the Rockets, and Ramon Sessions of the Bucks are my three main breakout picks for ’08-09. And just because, I’m going to include a bonus Raptors pick: Kris “Big Sexy” Humphries. Whether or not Raptors brass is willing to admit it, he should be the first Raptors big man off the bench until Bargnani begins to live up to the hype.
ETB: Alright—you’re getting the same Canadian treatment J.E. Skeets got in his ETB interview. Please reveal your favorite SCTV cast member. Explain why, and cite a specific example.
Carefoot: I’m going to give a response that I’m certain almost nobody else has ever given to this question. I have to go with Joe Flaherty. SCTV News, Count Floyd, and anything with Guy Cabellero were always the scenes that made me laugh the hardest. Candy and Short got all the glory from that show, but Flaherty was definitely its unsung hero.
Recommended Reading at Raptor Blog:
– Them Thugs You Know Ain’t Friendly. Them Jewels You Rock Make ‘Em Envy.
– If I Ran the NBA: Part 1
– Why I’m Looking Forward to the 2008-09 NBA Season: Reason #1
– Why I’m Looking Forward to the 2008-09 NBA Season: Reason #6
More ETB’s Scribes of the NBA Interview Series:
– J.E. Skeets of Yahoo!’s Ball Don’t Lie
– David Friedman of 20 Second Timeout
– Ron Hitley of Hornets 24/7
– Ryne “Odenized” Nelson of SLAMonline
– Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty and FanHouse
– Brett Hainline of Queen City Hoops
– Dave Deckard of Blazer’s Edge
– Kurt of Forum Blue and Gold
– Brian Powell of Awful Announcing
– Lee Grammier of The Dream Shake
– Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead
– Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Part 1
– Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Part 2
– Matt Watson of AOL FanHouse and Detroit Bad Boys
– Natalie Sitto of Need4Sheed.com
Andrea Bargnani Photo Credit: Icon SMI