Free Agency

Of Rebounding, Douby, DeRozan and Larry

Right now we got two players on our entire roster who you could classify as rebounders without thinking twice, that’s Bosh and Evans and they aren’t even slotted to be in the same lineup. As you go down the roster you’re quickly looking at Bargnani and Turkoglu for rebounding help and neither’s strengths lie on the glass. Most teams put out a 4/5 combo out there that can control the boards and thus control the tempo of the game, the Raptors are a bit different. During the latter part of last year our rebounding got better because of two things, 1) our dribble defense tightening up thanks to a healthy Calderon and 2) the addition of Marion, a tremendous rebounder at his position. Although we seemed to have exchanged Evans for Pops, Hedo for Kapono, DeRozan for Graham and Jack for Roko, we still haven’t addressed just how we’re going to make up the rebounding void left by Marion in the starting lineup.

The projected opening night lineup of Calderon, DeRozan, Bosh, Bargnani and Hedo once again sees Bosh manning the glass on his own with Bargnani being asked to box-out and our wings being asked to keep their guard in check. If all that goes according to plan the current lineup isn’t a problem but you have to assume that our perimeter defense will get broken down, Bargnani will have lapses on the glass and eventually we’ll end up having -16 nights on the boards. Point is that as of today, we don’t have enough rebounding in the first or second unit and that needs to be addressed – even before we settle the Delfino/Kleiza debate (see poll on the site). It would be a shame for Colangelo not to address this hole properly because it has the potential to offset every other acquisition he’s made thus far. Baby Davis, Rasho Nesterovic (who I hear is dying to play for the Raptors and could take the LLE) and Drew Gooden are options. Here are some of the major free agents left this summer.

Even though we’re committed to Bargnani as a starting center and can’t really jerk him in and out of the lineup anymore, we still need to sure up our center spot for fourth quarter situations when he could very well be on the bench. Given his tendency to pick up cheap fouls you almost have to account for him being in foul trouble 50% of the time. Seeing how everyone’s on their last legs in the final quarter, it makes it that much more vital that we get some insurance for Reggie Evans and Chris Bosh, who we just can’t expect to put out there for 12 minutes each. Late in games the line between starter and reserve gets dissolved to the point where you’re playing your most effective players and even if we have to sign a “backup” center, it could very well be that he plays a big chunk of the fourth.

This also brings us to one of the candidates to fill out a rebounding slot – Patrick O’Bryant. If you’ve had the misfortune of watching any of the summer league games or follow the live blogs you’ll know that he’s playing like a stiff out there. Actually, even stiffs would take offense to the way he’s playing. He was manhandled by Robin Lopez last night and before that Jeff Pendergraph had his way with him. He’s not physically strong enough to contend with anybody in the post and has to generally concede position and try to make up for his positional disadvantage through his reach which is a proposition you’ll usually lose. The Raptors have gotten out-rebounded on the offensive glass in every summer league game thus far and O’Bryant has often been the guilty party. I can’t count how many times his man twirls around him to get the offensive reobound for a put-back, he simply cannot put a guy on his back and contain him. And if he can’t do it now what chance does he have in the regular season?

Offensively, he has one weapon and that’s a slow-release 18-20 foot jumper which is basically useless to us since we have plenty of mid-range jump shooters, we need our big men to be big men and O’Bryant’s game is simply too perimeter oriented and soft for this team. If it comes down to playing Pops or O’Bryant, it should be a no-brainer. Every analyst that has been asked to analyze his game this summer has been skeptical of his place in the NBA and has pointed to his fragility and lack of physical presence as the reason. He’s not good enough to make this roster.

Maurizio Gherardini was interviewed during the third quarter of last nights’ game and he clearly hinted at Quincy Douby retaining his position on the roster. He was asked to point out the players the Raptors were keeping an eye on and Ukic, O’Bryant and Douby were the ones he mentioned. Once you factor in Alex English’s not so strong endorsement of Smush Parker two days ago, the smart money should be on Parker not making the cut. According to Gherardini, Douby has been working his ass off since the day the season ended and has put in a tremendous amount of effort in improving his game over the course of the last two months.

It definitely shows on the court, he’s the most in-shape Raptor and is playing 100% on every possession, to me last night was his best game because he came off the bench and looked to push and setup people rather than showcase his one-on-one game which is what he did the first three games. Yes, he’s playing against so-so competition but it’s not like we’ll be asking him to step in as our sixth man. He could be a satisfactory 9th man on the team and step in as a tweener guard, perhaps even ahead of Roko who’s not doing himself any favors by playing like a badly coached Euro who refuses to change piss-poor habits. Douby gets my endorsement for the team, partially for his improved jumper and desire to drive and partially because he wants the job, something we can’t say about Roko.

On to DeRozan. The thing that has impressed me most about him is his composure. He doesn’t panic. He takes his time while being shot-clock aware, sizes up the situation, and executes professional high-percentage moves. He’s keeping the game extremely simple right now: driving when played too tight, going straight-up over smaller defenders and passing it off when nothing’s there. His athleticism is on display in Las Vegas on the break but his slashing isn’t there and that’s because he’s playing with low-caliber point guards who couldn’t recognize a good cut if their life depended on it. I really hope Triano has a good plan to use his ability which includes a mid-range game that, if refined, could be deadly. The ball-handling is a little suspect, the dribble is too high and not close to being as tight as it should be for a SG but it’s early days. We should all keep our expectations in check but I have to say that he’s got a chance to be a very good player. Also, anon pointed out in the live blog that DeMar’s jumpshot is better than VC’s jumpshot when he was a rookie. He’s right for what its worth.

Ekene Ibekwe of Maryland and Brent Petway of Michigan have been the most impressive non-NBA players for us. Ibekwe had 11 rebounds and the game-winning block at the buzzer last night, a play on which he landed hard; Petway had a quiet night as he only played 12 minutes but let it be said that both these players bring a physical presence that we could really use, especially Petway. The chances of them cracking the roster is rare but based on their performances I could see one of them getting an invite to training camp.

It’s also interesting to note that Alvin Williams was giving every player a little talk and a critique after they came off the floor. He seems to have the players’ ears.

For a Suns perspective on the game check out Bright Side of the Sun.

Finally, the Pacers are mulling over whether to match Jarrett Jack’s offersheet or not. Larry says:

“My owner’s coming into town next week to talk about it and coach (Jim O’Brien) is coming back, too. We’ll talk about it. We have five days left.”

Now, if they had decided not to match they would come out and say it right away but they’re actually thinking about it. If they don’t match, T.J Ford would become their clear-cut starting PG with Travis Diener and second-round draftee A.J. Price in reserve, that’s hardly depth, especially given Ford’s injury history. Also of note is that the Pacers declined to pick up Marquis Daniel’s 7.4 million team option, but there are reports that he could re-sign with them at a lower salary. If a team happens to snatch Daniels away it would leave the Pacers even thinner in the backcourt and could compel them to match Jack’s offersheet.

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