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…

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  • WJF

    I thought James Johnson held his own on defense quite well, he may not be a lock-down guy on the perimeter, but in his first real significant playing time he showed he can get the job done. Although his spot-up shooting was far from outstanding, he showed enough to think that with a little improvement in shot selection and fine tuning his mechanics and he will push his 3 point percentage up to the low 30’s easily, and with time can improve on that.

    • Theswirsky

      I agree. His defense was solid its his shooting that needs a little work. He can clearly handle and pass the ball. Is athletic and has the right size.

      If he can start stretching the floor a bit and keep his Sonny Weems hat off, I think he could be a solid contributor going forward.

  • Nilanka15

    Before even getting to the part of the article that mentioned Shane Battier, he was the first player who came to mind. But as eluded to, is there any point bringing in a guy like Battier this early in our rebuilding process?

    Maybe at the very least, Battier (or someone like him) can help instill some good defensive habits early in our young players’ careers so that they’re better able to “police” themselves later on.

  • pran

    I think Derozan needs to be this guy, whoever thinks he can become a star has their head up their ass.

    • WJF

      I don’t consider him a star, but he in far more than a role player, and that is the type of player we are talking about.

      • pran

        but he has the potential to do those things very well (slashing to the net, athletic enough to play defense, plays without the ball, can handle the ball to change things up), things might change next year, but if they don’t I wouldn’t mind him as the 3rd or 4th option I think he has the tools to thrive there.

    • demar

      i think you have your head up your ass if you don’t realise the talent of this guy. He is a star hands down

      • Toshmon

        No worries this is the toronto ‘fan’ attitude
        they said this about Mcgrady
        they said this about camby
        they said this about VC
        they said this about bosh

        Derozans next….feels like your living in the twilight zone eh? we draft a good player and fans chase him away.

  • Mediumcore

    James Johnson is the closest player on the roster to being the guy. Most of the players that were mentioned in the article were developed into defensive specialists and didn’t come out of college like that. JJ has already shown that he is tough and likes to rough up other wings, so he might be a cost effective player to develop into this role.

  • Copywryter

    Garbajosa. Sigh. A lot of things snapped with that leg.

    Spot on about Ju-Ju, though I don’t think he’s an elite on-the-ball defender at any rate. Very good instincts and IQ though.

    Re: JJ, I think it’s not so much his inability to shoot, it’s his willingness to take bad shots.

  • demar

    James Johnson is that guy. Not to mention he is an amazing shot blocker for an SF and he’s a stat sheet stuffer. Just needs to polish that jumper and 3 point game. He’s more of a 10/6/3/1/1(Ppg/Rbpg/Apg/spg/Bpg) guy.

    • WJF

      If his head is on right, he could be that important “glue guy” that we need.

  • tonious35

    James Johnson is not the immediate answer, but he has the physical skills and the motor to do so to maybe become that player. I believe that he needs to learn the game even more, increase his B-ball IQ some more, keep training, and hope that powers beyond him can get him a better coaching staff too.

  • osama is dead is time for bargani to go

    • Juicy

      I disagree. If the elusive Osama can be found then anything can happen. If they can find Osama, then maybe they can find Bargina’s defense.

  • sleepz

    Don’t know if J.Johnson can fill that role of the ‘slasher’ but the common thread with the other players mentioned is that they are vets.

    Nothing wrong with building through youth but certain key positions are going to have to be manned up but veterans at some point and this is a position that experienced leadership is valuable.

  • golden

    Like your stuff as always, Arse. But, I’m not sure if it makes any sense to be talking about ‘glue’ guys at this point, when we don’t even know if we’ve got any solid building materials yet.

    • Arsenalist

      Thanks, though I explicitly stated that in the post.

  • James

    Article is about Wing player, defense and ability to slash to the basket and the few typical looser fans here have to derail it about AB and … Now, we need Tim W. and his usual rant about AB to join the discussion.

  • KJ-B

    JAN VASELY… That’s all I have to say to the Raptors front office!

    • Toshmon

      I don’t mean to put down Jan Vasely but have you looked at his highlight reel? he is dunking on what looks like high school kids, complete pylons. There is hardly any opposition towards his advances.
      I’m not sure that this lack of opposition will occur in the NBA.(I could always be wrong)

      Just sayin’

      • mountio

        Pretty weak competition .. for sure. But, the guy does bring some excitement and athleticism. Not sure hes what we need .. but Ill be interested to see how he pans out. If we somehow get screwed and drop to 5 or 6, I might think about it ..
        One way or the other, I hope we dont end up with Kanter – hes my worst nightmare. No upside whatsoever.

        • Nilanka15

          I think Kanter gets some unfair negative attention simply because he’s a “Euro”. But I can see him as a servicable centre in the mold of Brook Lopez or Andrew Bogut. Obviously not worth the 1st overall pick, and may never be an All-Star, but I wouldn’t have any problems picking him with the 3rd pick (assuming Irving and Williams are off the board).

          • mountio

            I dont care that hes a euro .. I do care that hes slow, not athletic, cant jump and undersized (6’9 or 6’10 with shoes on ..)for the position he will have to play. At 10-15th overall (maybe a little higher in this weak draft) for sure Id take him .. but not at 3.

            • James

              Nicely Said. If BC wants Kantar, he can have him by pick as high as 7 or 8. No need to waste a 3 on this guy.

        • barenakedman

          A lot of disagreement about Kanter. How can you say a 19 year old with his size has no upside? He’s played well on both sides of the ball against good competition. He rebounds well, has a nice jump shot and a little post up game. Kentucky seems to think he’s a player worth putting some time and effort into.

          • mountio

            Kentucky thinks all kinds of players that have zero chance at making the NBA (let alone being a top 3 draft pick!) are worth putting time and effort into. Thats not the right bar for whether or not we should draft this guy.
            You are right, he does have some upside (everyone does) .. but hes undersized (height, not weight) and not athletic. To me, thats not a good combo for success in the NBA. Haffa anyone?

            • barenakedman

              Kanter is 6’11”. Having just turned 19 he’s still growing.

              • mountio

                Maybe true … im getting anywhere from 6’9 to 6’11 (in shoes) .. so maybe he has grown an inch or two (or maybe his height has been inflated .. not sure).
                Either way .. lack of athleticism and knee problems are not the first two descriptions I want to hear about my top 3 pick for this year …

                • Nilanka15

                  Does Kanter even have injury problems? I haven’t been able to find any info about it.

                • mountio

                  I cant find specifics, but many references to past knee problems in different posts. Below is one of them


                • barenakedman

                  Maybe you haven’t seen Kanter play. There is video om RR that shows him scoring thirty something, dunking on fast breaks and grabbing lots of rebounds. This was playing against some very decent players. Athleticism doesn’t look like an issue.

              • Superjesusman

                Ya. He’ll probably be 7’2″ by 21, and 8’11” by 26.

              • James

                Amir did not grow !!! He got into the league and was 6’9″ and he is still 6’9″ !! How is Kantar suppose to grow !!

                • Nilanka15

                  Physiologically speaking, human males grow until about 21 yrs of age. But that doesn’t mean Kanter WILL grow, but that he CAN grow taller.

                  Regardless, with a 7’1″ wingspan, he’s got more then enough length to play the 5.

                  Basketball players don’t play the game with their hands in their pockets. The difference between 6’10” and 7’2″ is meaningless if wingspan compensates.

                • James

                  What is Amir’s Wing Span ?? 😉 🙂

                • Nilanka15

                  Amir could have a similar wingspan, but Kanter out-weighs him by 40 lbs, which makes battling in the post much easier for Kanter.

                • barenakedman

                  Males usually stop growing in height between 18-21. Growing 1-2 inches for someone that just turned 19 is very possible.

                • James

                  It did not happen to Amir !! Why should it happen to Kantar 😉

                • barenakedman

                  Not all of us stop growing in height at the same time.
                  Most stop growing between 18-21 though there are a few exceptions that stop growing at 15 and some have grown until 25.

                • J Priemski

                  Durant. Drafted at 6’10’, now half an inch off of 7’0″.

    • ak

      jan vesely has ‘bust’ written all over him.

      he is tall and skinny sf with a narrow frame. typically players of his body type have an above average hops and below average lateral quickness.

      he has a long and quick first step, as a result he never uses more than one dribble to pass the opponent. when he does dribble though his bounce is very high off the ground which makes him susceptible to steals.

      to end the rant, here is a little trivia.
      vesely didn’t declare for the last year’s draft mostly because he wanted to develop under the top serbian coach dusko vujosevic for one more season.
      however, after a final four appearance dusko was snatched by a euro powerhouse cska moscow, essentially wasting vesely’s year in belgrade.

  • yertu damkule

    i’d like to see a bit more of james johnson before declaring him a plus defender…i saw a lot of bad habits out of him in the short time he was with TO that he’ll have to improve upon if he wants to be a consistent rotation player. my biggest beef with him is his tendency to let his check get by him in order to play for the block.

  • J Priemski

    It’s infuriating how much this forum underrates James Johnson.

    He was allowed to play with complete freedom with the Raptors and yet he played within himself the majority of the time. Didn’t get trigger happy, played d consistently, handled the ball better than the majority of starting small forwards in the league can.

    His issues are obvious: inconsistent outside shooting, and fouling too much.

    Otherwise, I see absolutely no reason that he cannot be the Raptors starting 3 moving forward, bar a substantial upgrade at the position.

    Check him out on Synergy. Defensive numbers are decent in most situations, as are his offensive ones.

    • J Priemski

      Oh, here are some stats, by the way. I’m assuming most of you do not have Synergy. James Johnson held his match up to 41.7% with the Raptors this season. He’s ranked 22nd in the entire league at guarding the ballhandler in the pick and roll (0.68 PPP, 39.1 FG%), 27th at guarding a man coming off of a screen (0.74 PPP, 29.6 FG%), and 47th in isolation situations (0.68 PPP, 31.6%). His one weakness on d, which I’d attribute more to the team’s defensive scheme than to him as a player, is guarding spot-up shooters (1.13 PPP, 43.5%). It’s a known fact that the Raptors allowed the highest 3P% in the league this season. So I’m fairly certain that it isn’t him as much as it is the team.