Rasho and an agile big man, we need both

Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Raptors, England

You now the difference, the Pops-type versus the Rasho-type. Big men who rely on positioning versus those who rely on their mobility and agility. We’ve got the positional part covered with Rasho, he’s one of the best at using his God-given frame to clog the lane, push a center outside his comfort zone in the block, draw a center out to the perimeter, use his frame to clear space inside and other things only a man built like a wall can do. On the other hand you have the more mobile center, someone who relies on his athleticism to slash inside, muscle his way around the glass, uses his leaping ability before his brain, tries to hammer everything down and feels he can out-jump others instead of boxing out. Which one is of more value to us?

I think ideally you’d like to have both types of players on your roster because through the course of 48 minutes different situations and matchups arise which warrant different personnel. Rasho could be used against a bigger body like Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut, Andrew Bynum, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and other centers that on most nights have an advantage because of their size. Rasho’s mid-range game reminds me a lot of Luc Longley who made a living at the elbow against centers who’d rather park themselves in the paint in hopes of blocking a shot instead of coming out to guard their check. He also served as the pinch-post man on the weak side of the triangle offense, which is analogous to Rasho being a secondary option to the high screen we like to use and will be doing more of with Turkoglu and Bosh. Point is that there’s a place for Rasho on this team whether it be as a one-on-one defender, an offensive option or a rebounder.

What’s missing from the frontline is raw unadulterated athleticism which Pops can bring. Reggie Evans (God bless his heart) is a ferocious player that won’t stop playing hard and will go for every rebound out there, but he’s there to be exploited in one-on-one situations. He doesn’t have the lateral quickness to keep up with quicker PFs and is slowly losing the ability to make an impact on the offensive glass which translates to giving your team more possessions. His OREB% last year was 14.1 which is below his career percentage of 14.9. Pops’ number with the Spurs last year was 29.4 and with the Raptors it was 23.4 which means that he’s more liable to fight off box-outs and get offensive rebounds, which judging by the jumpers we’re going to be taking, is very important.

As much as I like Reggie Evans, he’s not the hustle guy that’ll give you extra possessions and fire up an under-performing unit through his energy. His role is to consistently clean the defensive glass and act as an enforcer by making sure those who get to the rim pay a price. The current roster doesn’t have a JYD-type that Triano can insert in the third quarter to give the opposing team a different look or something fresh to worry about. He doesn’t have a wildcard to hang on to at the PF/C since there’s a very high likelihood of Bosh, Bargnani and Evans all seeing good minutes in the first half. I think we can only benefit from having different types of players on the team that can pose offensive and defensive mismatches and as much as Pops was inconsistent last year, we saw that he has the ability to change the dynamics of a game. At 6′ 10″ Pops becomes an interchangeable part at the PF/C whereas Evans at 6′ 8″ is undersized for the C and a worse one-on-one defender.

Brian Skinner Girl

If history has taught us anything it’s that you always end up using your third-string bigs. We’ve reached for the likes of Jake Voskuhl, Linton Johnston, Primoz Brezec, Maceo Baston, Nathan Jawai and Patrick O’Bryant in the last couple years and you have to agree that Pops brings more to the game than any of those guys. If Colangelo does sign Pops to a one-year deal it’ll be considered his most boring transaction of the summer but it will pay dividends. You can never underestimate athleticism mixed with agility and hustle, the only missing ingredient is consistency and there’s no better than a contract year. Or you could look at it this way, right now Patrick O’Bryant is our third-string center and nobody except Patrick O’Bryant can feel good about that.

Rasho was a good signing but he only brings half of what we need, the other half is currently missing and we can’t expect Reggie Evans to provide it. There’s a reason why a wiry PF like Leon Powe is in demand, they can be inserted into any given lineup regardless of matchup and be productive. They’re athletic enough to defend their position and can be a great fifth man in the offense who the defense will care about the least and that’s where they shine – when attention is deflected elsewhere and they’re free to roam the paint and make an impact using their mobility and energy. Not since the days of JYD and Keon Clark have we had a player that fits that mold (I’m not counting Lonny Baxter) and Pops could fit right in, and cheaply too.

There are other options to fill this role, the following are unrestricted free agents: Mikki Moore, Juwan Howard, Lorenzen Wright, Johan Petro, Rob Kurz, Maceo Baston, Brian Skinner, Sean Marks, Malik Rose, Stromile Swift, Shavlik Randolph, Michael Ruffin, Calvin Booth, Cedric Simmons, Linton Johnson, and Jermareo Davidson. Other than Brian Skinner who I’ve always liked and perhaps Malik Rose, I don’t think I’d take anyone ahead of Pops on that list.

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