Shape Up or Ship Out: Guards

Colangelo has tough decisions to make, so I’ll help him out by dropping players into three categories for him.

Colangelo has tough decisions to make, so I’ll help him out by dropping players into three categories for him: Shape Up, meaning they need to improve considerably if they want to stick around. Ship Out, meaning their time is up and we should part ways. Finally, there’s the All Good category, which means that based on the current trajectory of the player and the incremental improvement they’ve shown, they should stick around.

DeMar DeRozan: He answered the questions put to him at the end of last season by improving his mid-range game and his ball-handling skill. The efficiency numbers took a slight dip due to increased shot attempts, more minutes and greater pressure to score, but he never came close to dominating the ball or becoming a volume shooter. The defense is still a ways away, but if he can replicate his offensive improvement on the defensive end next year, he could take a big step towards becoming a complete player. The question of whether he’s a good player on a bad team, or a great player in the making will be answered very soon, well before his rookie-deal expires in 2012.
Verdict: All Good.

Jose Calderon: 68. That’s how many games Calderon has played in each of the last three season, but only in the one that just ended has he been close to being healthy. Calderon will be 30 once training camp hits and remains the lone reminder of the Raptors’ wishful thinking of Chris Bosh being a centerpiece. We’ve gone as far as we can go with Calderon at the point, his ceiling is quite evident (if he hasn’t reached it already), and for both parties’ sakes, a change of scenery is in order. For the Raptors, it’s because new, young blood is needed and for Calderon, because he deserves a better legacy than being a poor defender on a treadmill team who is inequitably blamed for the team’s poor defense. He’s better than that, and I hope he shows it with a good team. The Raptors need to have two-way players at at least four out of the five starting positions, and Calderon is definitely not one of them.
Verdict: Ship out.

Jerryd Bayless: If his end-game is to be a starter in the league, the improvements he needs to make are immense because a point guard is more than just about the occasional drive-and-kick and sweet passes in transition. Bayless needs to mature, become less petulant, more of a floor general, and stick that jumper with dead-eye accuracy to make his quickness a factor when driving (needs to get better at both live and unused dribble situations). Defensively, he surprised me with his footwork and wasn’t the foul-machine that his reputation hinted at. As a backup, he could be an ideal, improving fit. As a starter, we’re risking having another Jarrett Jack on our hands. I’m going to assume he’s part of Colangelo’s backup PG plans and hence give him a pass, while throwing caution that he does need to improve the mental aspect of being a point guard.
Verdict: Shape up.

Leandro Barbosa: There’s an element of redundancy in having Bayless and Barbosa on the roster, both are undersized shooting guards who have been asked to play the point because of their size. Barbosa is a more refined scorer who can make a meaningful impact off the bench for any team looking to contend, or even aim for the playoffs. His skill-set is desirable and I can excuse his high shot volumes because he’s on a bad team where he’s implicitly slotted in as a scorer. Barbosa is a good enough player with a reasonable contract, that he will attract suitors on the market. Colangelo has to answer one question explicitly before deciding on Barbosa: Is winning games important? If it is, then keep Barbosa, if it’s not as high of a priority as player development, then his trade value in bringing in an asset (individually or as part of a package) is the way to go. Again, I’m assuming player development is the calling for next year.
Verdict: Ship out.

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