As promised, now that ESPN’s John Hollinger has released his player evaluations for the Toronto Raptors, I’m ready to share my take on his take.

On Hollinger
I know Hollinger gets a bad rap for a few things and there are vocal groups who don’t like him, but I find his written player profiles to be of value. For one, he sees a lot more data and video and basketball than I do, so I trust that he generally knows what he’s talking about (even if his once cutting-edge stats are now usurped by those of Basketball Reference, 82Games and more). In addition, when it comes to non-Raptors, it’s a handy first checkpoint for scouting, because his profiles do a good job wrapping up the players into simple generalities. (This obviously isn’t a healthy habit as a standard operating procedure, but for a first-glance it’s valuable).

Pay-Wall Caveat
With that long-winded introduction done, allow me one more unnecessarily wordy caveat – his player profiles are behind the ESPN Insider pay wall. As an ESPN Insider, I get access to the Hollinger stats and player profiles, while non-members, I believe, only get snippets. So in my reactions below, I kind of have to toe the line with respect to giving away too much of the “pay” content. Hopefully I’ve found a happy mid-way point between giving away his content and not providing anything of value.

I looked at Hollinger’s three “Scouting Report” bullets, wrote my reaction, and then read his “Analysis” portion to see if I missed any salient points.

Yesterday was part one examining the guards and wings, and today we’ll take a look at the big men.

Projected Starters – Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas

Big Men
Andrea Bargnani
Hollinger Pro: Jump shooting; off catch or with dribble/jab; improved defender
Hollinger Con: Soft; rebounding
My Take: I was surprised to see Bargs get a bit of love for his improved defense because I assumed this would have been an element that flew under the radar of the national media last season. Still, playing at the four obviously agrees with him defensively, allowing him to worry about using his length to guard his man rather than focusing on help-D, where Amir tags in. Obviously the rebounding is an issue, but it’s something the team can work around by putting strong rebounders around him, which they’ve done with Lowry, Fields, and Amir all possibly joining him in the starting unit. Given the dichotomy in the Republic’s opinions on Andrea, there isn’t much point in diving in too deeply. After six seasons we know who he is for the most part but he still seems to make incremental improvements each year, leaving me excited to see how he looks with renewed health, a new season, and some new teammates around him.

Jonas Valanciunas
Hollinger Pro: Mobility; scoring near basket; rebounding
Hollinger Con: Strength
My Take: Hollinger doesn’t seem to know much about Jonas, but his European translation stats speak highly of his upside, however reliable those translations are. A good point made is that Jonas’ strong free-throw shooting portends potential as a mid-range shooter, which is important to keep in mind since the book all offseason has been about his skill as a dive-man exclusively. Jonas is obviously The Big Unknown this year (aka the Lethaluanian…apologies to Eric Smith, but I’m taking this from Kleiza and giving it to Jonas), but luckily for all of us we start to find out more soon (assuming his calf heals in time for early exhibition games).

Ed Davis
Hollinger Pro: Finishing; shot-blocking; rebounding
Hollinger Con: Can’t create; turnovers; strength
My Take: I disagree with a lot of Hollinger’s discussion about Davis being “a 5 in a 4’s body,” since, as you’ve probably learned by now, I don’t really feel the need to shoehorn guys into the traditional five positions. The fact that Ed can only score near the basket and is a strong rebounder doesn’t have as much to do with position as it does with role, and the profile Hollinger describes is one that fits well offensively with someone like Andrea Bargnani. Sure, Davis is much too weak to guard centers so he may rarely play with Andrea, but questioning his fit offensively seemed odd to me. The talk from camp has been that Davis’ shot is much improved, which is something I outlined all season as a must-have for him this year, and if that’s even remotely the case then Hollinger’s entire take here goes out the window, as he could then conceivably play with Jonas or Amir comfortably as a “more true four.” Either way, it’s make or break time for Ed, given the battle for minutes among the bigs this preseason. Then again, I’m notoriously a Davis-backer, so take my analysis with a grain of salt.

Amir Johnson
Hollinger Pro: Finisher; shot-blocking; rebounding
Hollinger Con: Foul-prone; post-game
My Take: Hmm, decent midrange shooter but poor finisher? Sounds like a fair tag-team partner for Ed, doesn’t it? I digress. While the discussion mostly focuses on Amir as a four, the Raptors pair him with Andrea often due to their complementary games, and in those situations Johnson is the center, period. Obviously, fouls and turnovers remain a problem, but given the depth this team has in the post I can actually deal with a high foul rate if it means the rebounding and defense stay at the levels we’ve become accustomed to. I don’t think there’s the expectation of 35 minutes for Amir any longer, so if we all except the fouls and embrace the rest of his profile, we have a very adequate starting center, albeit a non-traditional one.

Aaron Gray
Hollinger Pro: Rebounding; low-post play
Hollinger Con: Fouls; mobility/athleticism
My Take: Gray will probably find himself on the short end of playing time this year except in certain match-ups, as he doesn’t provide much that isn’t found elsewhere on the roster except for size. He’s an adequate short-minute fill in, especially against big opposition, but he doesn’t add a lot beyond rebounding. All of this is readily obvious watching him for two minutes, so you don’t need an ESPN Insider account to confirm that for you. I like Gray as a 12th-man type, but it will infuriate me to no end if he gets consistent run now that Andrea is back full-time and Jonas has been added to the mix.

Quincy Acy
Hollinger Pro: Leaping; rebounding; shot-blocking
Hollinger Con: Skills
My Take: So he might just be a bench player with a bit of flash and a bit of grit, you say? Fine by me for a second round pick, especially if Casey can coax meaningful defense out of him. Personally I’d like to see Acy get some D-League time to refine his offensive game and work on the team’s defensive principles as a four, but the unfortunate nature of sharing a D-League affiliate with other teams is that you’re not afforded the luxury of managing your own players closely (MUCH more on that in a future piece I’m developing). As it is, Acy will either be a high-rebounding D-League player or a regularly inactive practice body, neither of which should be considered disappointing for a second round pick, even one who was a college senior.

I think Arse is going to have something over the weekend, but regardless you should check back on the holiday Monday, as I’m kicking around the idea of live-blogging the Raptors v Madrid exhibition game. And as always, follow me on Twitter.

  • APW

    If you look at defensive rebounds/game, Bargnani leads the team and it could be larger. But his offensive rebounds/game are pitiful. Playing above the free throw line on offense plays a big part in the second stat. So, everyone comments on the combined number. As a team, the Raptors are moving up the rebounding list and its likely to get better.

    • Destro

      Hes an inept rebounding you can make up any spin you want..everybodys knows it breh….lol @ rebounding per 12

  • j bean

    Bargnani’s defensive rebound numbers aren’t worth talking about. Two or three a game that he doesn’t have to fight for. Offensive numbers are at the bottom of his position for minutes played. Let’s face it, guys 6 inches shorter can all get up there higher than the seven footer.

  • Destro

    Interesting site to read for stat geeks is

    Interesting to read Bargnani is 5th on the team last season in clutch factor…Basically co signs what i said he is a volume shooter that doesnt win games or take over games when it counts…he’ll put up 20 first half and score 5 in the second half in a loss…

    • Zoso_adam

      I am the farthest thing from a Bargnani apologist.  However, pulling out random a stat, out of context, to vaguely support your preconceived ideas is not good. 7 out of 10 people know that.

    • BlakeMurphy

      Love 82games, but I have trouble using clutch stats…in small samples, especially late game ones, so much is team, teammate, and coach dependent. I mean, if you were to really dive in there’s some good info in there (e.g. do Bargnani’s shots tend to come late in the shot clock in those situations, does he pass more/less than usual, etc). This is something I’ll keep my eye on once the year gets started Destro!

    • cesco

       I think you are the most retarded troll on this site . Andrea is not even shown on the link you mentioned , perhaps because he didn’t play enough games . Now if you look at the individual clutch stats on 82 you will see that Andrea is HEAD and SHOULDERS above everyone else on the team
      Points scored per 48 min of clutch time : Andrea 40.0 pts , next is Jose at 19.5 pts . Andrea is the only player who has a plus net points , everyone else ( Jose , Amir , DD , JJ , the 4 players on your link has a minus net points ) .

    • NyAlesund

       Bla, bla, bla……………..
      Wait this damn season……….before starting to complain about AB. C’mon.

  • Ppellico

    well…..get ready to be “but it will infuriate me to no end if he gets consistent run “….
    guess you haven’t been watching the videos on the team site.

    • Ppellico

      cracks me up to read stuff like this. Its as if nobody has any memory or sense of the game.
      gonna be amusing this year watching and listening to the experts rant…

      • BlakeMurphy

        Can you back that up with anything? How does me wanting to see Amir/Davis/Jonas/Bargs be at the top of the minutes pile-up mean I have no memory or sense of the game? Gray got run last year with Bargs out and no Jonas, so they’ve essentially added 1.5 bigs to the rotation now. He has the lowest upside and the lowest overall talent level of any of the five mentioned.

        • Ppellico

          well…um…your upside is the question, really.
          IF protecting the inside is not the upsdie you are looking for, then I suppose I am wrong.
          IF playing the best at the center position…even if that means doing so at a more traditional center style, then you are condsiderably off base.
          And last year the coach saw this and indeed played Gray the most at the position.
          And all the Amir lovers stood with you and were upset.
          But the fact is…this did happen.

          Now yes…THIS year is different as JV can be something special…eventually.
          Hopefully sooner than later.
          But please keep Amir out of the center position.
          EVEN coach in his last post practice talk spoke as such speaking of JV and Gray getting the play…with Amir only occasionally at center.
          This is coach..not me.
          And the reason is Amir is NOT a center.

          • BlakeMurphy

            I disagree. I think he complements Andrea very well at both ends, allowing him to play a non-traditional five just fine. In fact, the Raptors 1st and 3rd and 10th most used lineups involved Andrea+Amir, even with Andrea’s injuries.

            My point was that Gray played last year more so due to injuries and a lack of depth than skill/talent. The fact that “Big Man Minutes” (say, 48min*2 positions=96min/game) are now being split between 5 players instead of 3.5 is just a fact.

            Amir’s defensive metrics are relatively strong, so the “protecting the inside” argument doesn’t really hold water. I even admitted Gray would likely play against large centers, but there aren’t that many. I don’t hate Gray, I just think that the other bigs offer better all-around games and I’d rather see them get the minutes. We can agree to disagree, of course, but I really doubt it means I have “no memory or sense of the game.”

            • Doug

              Bingo. Amir has done a better job defensively at centre. I think long term the lack of shot blocking and rebounding those 2 provide could hold the team back. Unfortunately I don’t see Tyson Chandler on the roster so Amir it is. Jonas could be that guy in the long run but this season I’d be surprised if he surpassed Amir’s 7 and 6. Too thin and raw to be a big minutes guy. I anticipate Amir and Jonas spending most of the season in foul trouble.

    • Nilanka15

      If Gray’s getting consistent run, it’s likely coming at the expense of Jonas, Amir, and/or Davis.  And I’m sure 99.9% of Raptor fans wouldn’t agree with that philosophy.

      It would be like giving Lucas minutes ahead of Lowry and Calderon.

      Aaron Gray for Prez!!!

  • Ppellico

    It doesn’t matter what you say the majority of fans would agree with…since you have absolutely no idea what that would even be.
    Next…IF you were listening to coach talk after the practice you would understand my opinion. Gray is indeed playing the big center role and very likely more in than JV himself.
    Next…how could everybody suddenly act as if last season did not happen?
    It bust me this happens.
    Amir lost hs center osition to Gray.
    Was I dreaming?
    Or was that really Gray getting all the starts at center and Amir not????
    Where were you folks????
    So please, just get with the reality and..that’s all.

    • Nilanka15

      Coach also said that there will be competition for the starting PG spot. 

      Moral of the story: don’t believe everything coach tells the media.

      Gray played a whopping 16.5 mpg last season.  I wouldn’t expect this year’s minutes to be close to that.

  • RaptorFan

    Ppellico just took us to school!! BAM….you better check yourself! LMAO 

    I think Blake is saying he would like to see the others (JV, ED, AMIR – i suspect for long term development) play more …..

    However, the truth is GRAY is the only true center on the team (aside from our Rookie JV – who will need time to learn the NBA game)

    Just a simple misunderstanding…. :)

    I think this is where BC could’ve done a better job…..maybe getting rid of the LOGJAM at PF and getting another true Center…… but he didnt…..*SHRUGS*….so just like in the past we’ll see guys playing out of position

    If your a true raptors fan you’ve seen this before — please see below for a recap:

    Gary Forbes – PG
    Andrea Bargnani – C
    Amir Johnson – C
    Ed Davis – C
    Anthony Parker – PG
    (include your own player here – too tired to look for more)

  • Ppellico

    like most internet postings misunderstandings is the game. If we were really all sitting around a bar and hearing real words mouthed and seeing the expressions on each others faces, we wuold all get along better, laugh and have fun.
    Its just I am a sucker for reality.
    And last year there were so many damned times Imir could have played regardless of match ups or inguries…but he was not.
    Or Gray got the center spot over him.
    I think what really is misunderstood above is coach.
    He demands a certain attitude and emotion and work ethic. If a player does not bring this…if a player does not give his team the best at every chance…he gets sat.
    I am a true Gray fan… but not always drunk on fandom.  I understand he looks like he is pulling a tree behind him.
    I understand he has a better chance of walking across the 405 at rush hour than hitting an outside shot…
    BUT he is the best spacer inside and even the top pick setter. These are things coach simply insist upon. He brings a tremendous spirit and emotion each and every time on the floor. Coach knows this. Teammates know this. And regardless of what others say here…Rap fans know this. I am not the first to see him as a fan fav.
    I am rooting for JV.  We need a mover and floor runner big time as a starter.  But Gray is THE first option off the bench and our 15 to 17 minute back up.
    Others simply need to understand the reality.