After reading Doug Smith’s blog this morning I felt compelled to write and respond to his assessment that the Raptors are where they should be. His advice is that we all “need to chill”. Not should, not may but need.

Although I appreciate Mr. Smith’s blog and insight he has provided over the years about the Raptors I believe that he has been drinking the Brian Colangelo cool-aid for far too long. I am also surprised that someone with his credentials and experience does not offer more insight and some reasonable suggestions but merely proposes that the Fans need to chill about the current state of the Raptors.

In his blog today he challenges us to prove to him that we thought that the Raptors should be scraping to get into the 8th and final playoff spot.

So, are the Raptors where they need to be? No they are not. Scraping to get into the 8th playoff spot this year was a realistic expectation for a team that has not been there the past 4 years. This is not merely my opinion but the expectation of many long standing Raptor fans and bloggers for this year.
Everyone has lamented (including me) if it is time to trade Bargnani. I have been advocating about a Bargnani trade since last year. I do not necessarily think that he is a horrible player and for 13 games last year I thought he had finally realized his potential. He is a very capable player and we should not dismiss this fact. What we need to look at is if he’s still the player the Raptors need in Casey’s system.
Casey’s defensive system is predicated on a strong defensive center presence. The reason the Raptors improved last year so drastically on defense is because Bargnani (on the games he played in) along with Aaron Gray and Amir Johnson provided a strong center presence when they played the position.

This year with the arrival of Valanciounas, Bargnani has looked out of place on defense. On most defensive possessions he seems lost and does not know where to rotate. Here are five reasons why Colangelo should trade Bargnani as soon as possible:

1. Trading Bargnani will accelerate Valanciounas’ growth. The young center can benefit from a defensive minded power-forward and will get to improve his offence much quicker with more shots available to go around.
2. Demar DeRosan will be given the chance to emerge as the Raptor’s offensive leader. He has already rounded out his game this year. The next step is to become the Raptors leading scorer.
3. Ed Davis will get more minutes and will emerge as one of the Raptors best players of the bench
4. The Raptors will become a top 5 defensive team by the end of the year
5. Training Bargnani will give this franchise an opportunity to start fresh. We can longer wait for Bargnani to arrive. He never will while in Toronto.

Now you probably ask who you trade for Bargnani. I would go with Pau Gasol for Bargnani and Amir Johnson. Although the Lakers might be more inclined to take Fields instead of A. Johnson, who was a great fit in D’Antoni’s system while in New York. This trade would not be feasible until late December.

Regardless of where the Raptors finish this year after a trade they would be able to improve and make a run at the playoffs next year with Gasol as the PF. The year after next they would also have $20M coming off the books when Gasol’s contract expires and they would be primed to make a significant free agent addition.