The multi-faceted player that Bryan Colangelo hinted at acquiring didn’t turn out to be Bonzi Wells or Michael Finley but Will Solomon. The Raptors have signed the 6′ 1″ guard to a contract for the upcoming season and it’s logical to think he’ll be playing the role of Darrick Martin. The combo-guard played the last two season in Turkey and was the 33rd pick in the 2001 draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies. He also happens to look a little like Milt Palacio and if his play is anything like the former grandmaster, we are in good hands.
Once again the Raptors tap into the international market to address a need. Nathan Jawai, Hassan Adams, Roko Ukic and Will Solomon were all snatched from foreign teams and combined the quartet has very little NBA experience. With the exception of Adams who played a year with the Nets and Solomon who played the better part of a season with the Grizz, the Raptors incoming crew lacks meaningful NBA experience which could come back to haunt them. If Joey Graham and Kris Humphries remain on the 15-man roster come November, we’ll practically have 6 “scrubs” on the team. This evaluation might seem harsh when applying it to Roko Ukic but until he’s gotten himself in a groove and played through his initial NBA season, expecting anything significant out of him is probably unfair, just like it would’ve been for Calderon’s first year.
When Colangelo was talking about “concentrating talent” on the team earlier in the year I didn’t expect this degree of said concentration. After Jermaine O’Neal, Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani and Jason Kapono, we are severely reaching for talent and ability. The “Big 3″ will need to produce at a very high level and with great consistency if the Raptors plan on hiding their weak bench, something which used to be their strong-suit only a year ago. Say what you will about Carlos Delfino but the man could come off the bench and spark the team with his offense and defense, albeit not with great consistency. Right now we’re asking Hassan Adams to fill that role which you would think would be a drop-off. We’re asking Ukic to make-up for TJ Ford which you would also think is a drop-off (at least next year). We’ve basically replaced Rasho Nesterovic with Jermaine O’Neal which by itself is a great improvement but when you look at all the overall addition/subtractions, its hard to definitely say whether we’ve actually improved or not – especially considering the relative improvements other teams in the East have made.
If Colangelo is to be believed this signals our last signing of the summer which has to be disappointing. Colagenlo’s most important off-season has consisted of one big risky move and a few signings that are unlikely to have an impact given the talent of the players and the coaching philosophy on this team. Asking Mitchell to integrate half a dozen new players with below-average talent is asking too much and will result in us putting too much pressure on our Big 3. Taking Boston’s example last year this might not all be bad but keep in mind that Boston’s supporting cast was superior and their three stars are future Hall of Famers. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves, we’re nowhere close to the Celtics in terms of core talent or supporting cast.
Maybe Colangelo’s thinking is to test out the Bosh/JO combo and see if it actually flies and if the team is doing exceedingly well by the trade deadline or is one player away from legitimately contending, then make a move to acquire another true talent. This “wait and see” approach makes some sense but it sure puts a damper on a summer where much was expected of the Raptors. There were obvious weaknesses at the end of the season (rebounding, perimeter defense, athleticism) and we’ve addressed them to some degree but this pessimistic observer feels its hardly going to be enough.
The last thing I want to see on the Raptors is players being stretched out of their ability and ask of them things that they’re not capable of doing. We saw this last year with Jamario Moon and are poised to see the same complaints being directed at the likes of Hassan Adams, Will Solomon and Nathan Jawai. It’s a slippery slope when you start expecting things from scrubs and get annoyed when they don’t deliver. The supporting cast Bryan Colangelo has assembled does not fill me with confidence, mainly because of their lack of proven talent and experience. Sure, they might have potential to be good players but how long can we afford to wait? I though the plan was to fix the Raptors this summer, not sign players that in the best case will turn out to be average NBA players.
We’re not even close to contention.
Jason Kapono talks about the O’Neal trade and how it’ll help him get his shot off. He reckons O’Neal will do for him in Toronto what Shaq did for him in Miami. An optimistic view of things but I see what he’s saying. If you combine Bosh’s quickness in the post with O’Neal’s back-to-the-basket game you’ll get a diverse set of double teams which can open up the offense given the right pass out of the double.
“If O’Neal’s playing well on the block, that’s going to help us out. The more shooters and post players you have, you have the balance to create problems for the guys on the defensive end. Defenders must choose between helping out on the post or guarding guys who can make shots on the perimeter. It makes you want to get training camp started just so you can get him in here and used to our system and our sets and used to the guys. You can’t expect J.O to learn our system in two weeks. Obviously we are going to have a tough time in the pre-season and have a few bumps in the road.
I give Jermaine two practices to learn our entire “system”.
Matt Devlin finally replied to my email and it was a long one too. The Swirsk’s replies were never more than 10 words and I suspect Devlin’s will get shorter too once the season begins. He sounds like a very humble and honest guy but that’s what they said of Charles Manson. There’s an article about him in the Globe where he talks about how he’s going to focus the attention on the players and how he’s not a “hometown announcer” aka homer.
Ricky Davis signed with the Clippers and Renaldo Balkman got traded to the Nuggets in a move that fails to make sense for the Knicks. Andris Biedrins got re-signed for 62 million over 6 years, sounds like overpayment but given today’s NBA market its almost fair value.