Tony Allen, Trevor Ariza, Ron Artest, Shane Battier, Shawn Marion, Thabo Sefolosha, Gerald Wallace, James Posey and the list goes on. Seemingly, every playoff team has a wing player whose specialty is slashing and defense. The Raptors too have attempted to fill this role with varying levels of success and failure. Tracy McGrady’s defensive work was a big reason the Raptors won their first ever playoff berth in 2000, and the best example in recent franchise history has to be Jose Garbajosa, a versatile small forward whose defensive work resonated with the team and whose injury was seen as a critical blow at the time. There was also Shawn Marion who was acquired for Jermaine O’Neal to pair up with Bosh, Marion had an immediate influence on the team as they took advantage of a softer schedule and finished the season strong. On a side note, the irony of how Shawn Marion was sold to us as a possible partner for Bosh by Pat Riley, only to use that cap space to take away Bosh is nothing short of great GMing.
The Raptors under Colangelo have always attempted to have this type of player: Antoine Wright, Julian Wright, Jamario Moon and Joey Graham come to mind, as you can see the quality has been very low. If you’ve read RR throughout the season you know that I’ve always valued such a player, and have sung the praises of Julian Wright while being bemused at his lack of playing time. At the same time, I understand why he doesn’t play despite being a very good individual defender and more than capable of playing the point-forward for short stints. Wright isn’t the ideal player player to fill this role because he doesn’t have the absolutely necessary traits to play the role of the defensive-minded shooter-stopper (DMSS)
Spreading the floor: Usually the offensive abilities of the DMSS are minimal, but at the very least they are expected to space the floor. If they are unable to do that, their defender is allowed to roam and cause havoc. Unless the DMSS has Marion-type slashing and run ‘n gun abilities, they need to be a good three-point shooter.
Low FGAs: The DMSS is not to be confused for the star of the team, and so it follows that they shoudn’t be taking too many shots. Shoot only when open is the call.
Sparkplug: Bench sparkplugs are seen to be offensive-minded: Jason Terry, Jamal Crawford, Manu Ginobili, Leandro Barbosa, Mike Miller and Ben Gordon are recent Sixth Man of The Year examples that further solidify this point. The old adage goes that offense gets the glory but defense wins the game, which is only too true. The DMSS may not provide the same highlight-reel material as the players I mentioned, but their impact on the game can be significant. This happens using hustle/intensity plays and the occasional baskets, usually spawned by the defense.
Glue Guy: James Posey was seen as instrumental in the Celtics’ 2008 championship run, Tony Allen and Shane Battier ares the catalysts that fuel the Memphis perimeter defense. In addition to providing on-the-court value, these players bring with them a sense of chemistry that results in team growth and resolve.
Ball-handling: He must be able to handle the ball well because the coach will often use him as “change of look” guy which gives the defense something different to think about, perhaps with the mind of using his size at the PG spot to some advantage. Play a bit of point-forward, run two-man games, and that sort of thing. Being a shooter alone isn’t good enough, a skill of facilitating is needed.
It’s foolish to even suggest that this type of player is an absolute need for the Raptors in this stage of their rebuilding, or that they should make it a priority this summer. The DMSS falls in the “missing link” category when a team is trying to round out their bid for contention, not someone that is sought when the other, more production-heavy, parts of the roster are question marks. The Raptors are not going to make the DMSS a target this summer, but could they have one growing within the organization?
James Johnson? Right now he’s too poor of a defender and shooter to be the man. Julian Wright’s jumpshot could cost him a spot in the league, he’s got most of the other areas covered except shooting, which happens to be a critical component. Sonny Weems was supposed to be the guy but this year his defense regressed and his intensity/hustle level wasn’t where we expected it to be (maybe because of injury). Weems is a good mid-range shooter, but needs to extend his range to fulfill this role. Right now he’s more of a scorer off the bench than a defensive presence. Kleiza has enough three-point shooting to do the job, carries adequate swagger, but is not a good defender for any position and certainly can’t handle the ball. DeMar DeRozan? Hmm…it’s not the “star’s” job to do this…can’t think of anybody else…
Ah, it’s 1:56AM. I think I’ll make it to bed before 2AM tonight…