Josh Smith, Amir Johnson

Traning camp is less than 20 days away. Let me give you a minute to digest that sentence…it hasn’t been a minute yet…there we go…YES!!!! To be fair, this summer hasn’t been as bad as previous ones, we’ve had the World Cup to distract us, the meaningless summer league success took some edge off of things, the early off-season moves took some time to settle in, and then we have the FIBA tournament. Usually the summer is all about Jays bats swinging at pitches in the dirt, but not so this year, we’ve had plenty of distractions making it for a bearable off-season.

Yesterday Jay Triano said that he’s open to using some plays he learnt at the FIBA tournament:

“I have plays that we will run next season that I picked up from the other teams here.”

Any guesses what they are? I’m thinking he’s watched the Lithuanian team and noticed how they use Linas Kleiza. Rather than just be a three-point shooter parked in the corner who makes an occasional foray to the paint, Lithuania uses Kleiza in a variety of different ways including brief ball-handling, post-ups and in face-up situations. This is much different than what his usage was with the Nuggets where he was a role player with a very particular role. His usage rate has always been fairly high at 20%, and you expect that to remain the same with the minutes probably going up from 19.

I realize that one can’t make a direct comparison between FIBA and NBA stats, but it’s encouraging to know that in the tournament only 31% of his shots have been threes, this is down from 42% from his last season with the Nuggets. He also happens to be shooting 4% higher from there but that’s likely because of the shorter three-point line. Kleiza remains our biggest off-season acquisition who is expected to make the most difference (see poll on front page), so it’s good to see Triano taking notes from Kestutis Kemzura’s playbook. Maybe we should hire him as an assistant coach? Just kidding, but hey, what ever happened to the Ettore Messina to Toronto chants?

Back to the poll, I voted for Ed Davis because he can be a very good defensive player for us, much like Amir Johnson was last year. In summer league he showed a great desire to play help defense, was smart about it and extremely aware of the action on the court. It’s important to point out that in addition to having excellent physical tools and great defensive timing, Davis is a sound fundamental player that doesn’t make silly mistakes. He does not play outside of his comfort zone on either end of the court, meaning you can trust him to do the right thing, which is often simply passing the ball (much like Johnson last year).

He did get pushed outside the block and underneath the rim in some rebounding situations in summer league, but those are weight and strength issues which can be addressed. Unlike Chris Bosh, Davis’ frame is suited for weight gain and in a year or so, fans should expect him to be a very reliable defensive power forward with an offensive game that’s coming along. Being #2 on the depth chart at power forward should mean at least 15 minutes a game for him, a nice dose for the first couple months of his NBA career.

Last year the relevant rebounding stats for Johnson, Bargnani and Bosh were so:

ORB% DRB% TRB%
Bosh 9.9 25.2 17.7
Johnson 12.9 19.1 16.1
Bargnani 4.6 15.9 10.4

What does this mean? Johnson is a more effective offensive rebounder than Bosh, but not as good a defensive rebounder. It’s hard to argue those stats given what we saw on the court last year. Johnson’s hustle was very valuable in 50-50 situations and on the offensive glass where hustle is often rewarded through second-chance points and extra possessions. On the defensive side where one has to use more technique (proper boxing-out, timing), Johnson wasn’t as effective. Based on more playing time and experience, one has to expect his DRB% to rise this year, because if it doesn’t, then it leaves very little in terms of rebounding prowess in the starting lineup as one can see by looking at Bargnani’s numbers.

I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of rebounding numbers a Johnson-Davis frontcourt might produce, I would imagine it has a chance to be very effective. Two guys who are good at cleaning the glass and are committed to offensive rebounding, maybe let them do the bulk of the dirty work and have the scoring come from elsewhere. You might wonder where this would leave Bargnani; well, he could slide over to the three but we’ve known from experience that he’s liable to get exploited there. It could be that we move Johnson over to SF to accommodate a Davis-Johnson-Bargnani lineup, Johnson did play small amounts at the three last year but I figure even if he can play that defensively, moving him away from the rim would hurt the rebounding he’s in there for to begin with. Just some thoughts, that’s all.

Amir Johnson has released a shaky and grainy video of him walking though the most Chinese Chinatown of China. One can’t help expect a sex-tape to break out any second, especially around 2:20.

Remember Patrick O’Bryant? It’s OK if you don’t, he was the bloke who we put in the game when 30 seconds left when the result had been decided in the second quarter. He’s an active participating in the Twittersphere and had this small exchange with DeMar DeRozan:

DeRozan: I’m a Monster, I should be in District 9…

O’Bryant: ya u a ugly mofo. Pause

DeRozan: No response.

I understand O’Bryant’s got to be a little jealous of the franchise’s love affair with DeRozan and it’s lack of love for him, but it’s all O’Bryant’s doing. The man played the game like he didn’t care, everything about him said ‘soft’ and he’s rightfully on the fringe of the NBA. The Raptors gave him a very big chance by guaranteeing his contract last year but he failed to show anything. It says something when Pops, basically a guy off the street, is ahead of you in the rotation after being with the team for three days.

The season is fast approaching, do you have suggestions to improve Raptors Republic? Email us at: info at raptorsrepublic.com.

That’s that for today.