Stats not kind to Araujo

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

Now we know why Rafael Araujo's nickname is Hoffa.

He keeps disappearing.

This probably isn't a news flash to anyone who has witnessed a Raptors game in the last year, but Araujo may be the most unqualified player in the NBA.

On the court, he looks slow, confused, clumsy, not particularly big. To his credit though, he tries very hard. And works really hard in practice as well. (Or so we're told. Unlike most pro leagues, reporters are banned from practices in the NBA).

And he does things at the end of practice (when the reporters are allowed in the gym) that other players wouldn't do. For instance, the coaching staff had poor Hoffa doing a drill yesterday which made him look like a drunk attempting the chicken dance. That's what makes Araujo's existence in the NBA that much sadder. He tries so hard.

Araujo still has his defenders, particularly Raptors general manager Rob Babcock, who has to defend the big Brazilian, seeing that Babcock drafted him eighth overall last year.

BOTTOM LINE

Babcock will tell you all about the things Hoffa does that doesn't appear in the boxscore. But the bottom line is, a good centre is supposed to gather rebounds, block shots and score once in a while. Statistics don't lie and Araujo's numbers through the first four pre-season games are not anywhere close to being adequate.

The man has collected almost as many fouls (17) as points (20). Even worse, he has committed more turnovers (13) than he has pulled in rebounds (10).

It's pretty certain that Araujo will be the first or second (hello, Pape Sow) Raptor sent down to the team's NBA Development League team in Arkansas.

The situation at centre for Toronto is so desperate now, Babcock recently admitted that he is actively seeking help at that position.

But all is not lost at Raptors Central. While the eighth pick overall in last year's draft is an obvious bust, the seventh pick in this year's draft appears to be the real deal.

Again, statistics tell a story and Charlie Villanueva's numbers have been very telling.

The former UConn star, who was booed by Raptors fans at the Air Canada Centre when his name was announced seventh overall, has averaged 16 points and six rebounds through four games. In Toronto's most recent game, a 107-105 overtime win over the New Jersey Nets, Villanueva picked up a team-leading 24 points.

But more than just the good numbers, he looks like he belongs in the NBA, with the best in the world.

"I feel like I belong," Villanueva said yesterday after practice. "I've been working really hard and things are going smooth. But I can't be satisfied."

Babcock took a lot of heat for drafting Villanueva so early. The kid, according to some sources, was supposed to be a cancer. But ask anyone in the Raptors locker room what they think of the big New York City native. He's respected and well-liked.

As well, basketball insiders were puzzled why a team with a great young power forward in Chris Bosh would take a guy who plays the same position.

Bosh and Villanueva proved against Jersey that they can work well together. If opponents double-team Bosh, as they probably will a lot this year, Villanueva can pick up the slack in the frontcourt.

"Teams are going to have to match up to us," Bosh said. "Basically, pick their poison."

The Chris and Charlie Show. Has a nice ring to it.


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