The Raptors have known to be targeting a big man ever since the Chandler/Calderon deal fell through, and the recent injury to Ed Davis has increased the sense of urgency in doing so. With 15 guaranteed contracts, the only way it’s realistically going to happen is through trade. Scanning the remaining free-agent bigs, you come across names like Chris Hunter, Brian Skinner, D.J Mbenga, Primoz Brezec and Josh Boone. Those names only serve to further deflate my enthusiasm for this discussion but for the sake of completeness, let’s carry on.
If the Raptors invited another big to training camp and he happened to impress, what would they do? They’d be forced to either make a trade or waive someone. The only guaranteed-contract player who could realistically be waived is Joey Dorsey; Dorsey happened to impress in summer league and Ed Davis’ injury now makes him more valuable than he was last week. Plus, at the minimum salary you have to consider him a bargain. Seeing how the Raptors haven’t been able to trade either Banks or Evans’ expiring deals by now, it could be speculated that the market for those contracts isn’t as hot as one might have thought earlier in the summer. A possible lockout should increase the value of expiring contracts, but maybe teams are wondering just why they’d give up something of value when they don’t actually have to pay the players next year.
The Raptors waiving Evans or Banks to create room on the roster is a remote possibility, but for this to happen they’d have to really love someone. Even if a player clears waivers and is signed by another team, part of his salary is still counted against the original team’s cap, so the motivation to do something like this is very low. As I said, this could be a last gasp attempt at creating space for a guy Colangelo simply has to have. But moves like these are made by teams who are targeting and tinkering to achieve a very specific objective; the Raptors are just looking for 15 bodies spread out across five positions. Personally, I don’t care what the Raptors do about adding depth at center, because at the end of the day they’ll add a guy whose win produced number will be close to zero.
Wins produced close to zero? That sounds like Bobby Brown! In case you haven’t heard, the Raptors have four point guards on the roster and they tried to sign a fifth one in Brown, who wisely turned down a non-guaranteed contract to get some guaranteed money elsewhere. I can’t come up with a reason why the Raptors would try to get him, except that they need some bodies for training camp, or maybe because he’s good friends with the YGZ®. Here’s some wild speculation: Did Bryan Colangelo try to get Bobby Brown because he’s about to trade Calderon and Banks?
The only interesting thing left to see (at least to me) is where Jose Calderon might be shipped, nothing more. In an interview promoting NBA2K11, Calderon expressed his disappointment at the failed Charlotte deal, and said that he would have liked to had an opportunity to help Charlotte out. Calderon’s been the ultimate teammate who’s always been willing to sacrifice his minutes for the team’s greater good, and there’s not a doubt that if retained, he’d go about his business like a true professional. But, does Calderon even want to stay?
Calderon was signed as an outright starter and if it weren’t for injuries, he very well would still be the starter. It’s not like he’s been outplayed by Jarrett Jack to an extent where picking between the two is easy. What’s hurt Calderon’s position even more than his injuries are the club’s constant airing of dirty laundry when it comes to his defense. He’s been singled out as one of the main reasons why the Raptors were the worst defensive team in the league, when in fact we suffered at every single position other than power forward all year. After all, was the defense at point guard as bad as it was at center? Don’t answer that question, the point isn’t which was worse, it’s that both were very big problems and the blame is being unfairly channeled towards Calderon. Even though it’s not public yet, the relationship between Calderon and the Raptors can’t be all roses, and it’s in the best interest of Calderon to be traded to a team where he can get a fresh start and renew his enthusiasm for the game. In Toronto, it’ll just be more of the same.
Let’s end this honest but poor attempt at an article by talking about what it means to be a “true” position player, this is motivated by the title of this post which happens to be a Bryan Colangelo quote. Every position on the team has a certain level of responsibility, the point guard distributes the ball, the center and power forward rebound it, the shooting guard scores it, the small forward brings athleticism etc. These are well-defined responsibilities that are generally true across all teams, but where do the Raptors break pattern? At two positions.
Jarrett Jack has always been a tweener who has been ushered in as a point guard because the original starter was struggling. His passing and distribution skills are not consistent enough to become a high-caliber NBA point guard and his assist to turnover ratio is 2.53 (21st in league), which would only be considered good if he had the scoring ability of a Jameer Nelson, Brandon Jennings or Russell Westbrook. If those types of guys don’t distribute the ball well, it’s acceptable since they carry the scoring load and attract double teams. Jack is definitely a serviceable NBA player, but starting is just outside his real NBA reach. Leandro Barbosa is the greatest point guard ever if you’re playing in a three-on-three tournament, but so far in his career he’s been a “system guy” who can thrive at a particular role in a particular context. It’ll be interesting to see what he makes of himself (or what Triano makes of him) outside of the high-pace Phoenix offense. There’s also Marcus Banks – let’s say he’s a nice guy.
The other is Andrea Bargnani whose merits and deficiencies have been discussed only too often, so I’ll spare you the gory details. If Kleiza gets the start at the three, he’ll be one of the bulkier ones around but I haven’t seen enough of him to say where it’ll be a problem or an asset. At the power forward and shooting guard spots we have guys who fit perfectly into the mold. Weems and DeRozan are twos who can be interchanged at the three in anyone’s book, and the depth at power forward is pure. From Johnson’s aggressiveness to Davis’ athleticism to Dorsey’s brute force, this is the most defensively sound position on the team.
Post over. I’m about to pump me some PRP right into my neck!