My totally unqualified opinion on how a team should be built is 5 starters, 4 backups. 3 reserve projects, 3 reserve vets. With each having specific characteristics. The raptors have a lot of imbalance in their lineup right now.
IMO, starers should be prototypical players for their position, not combo's or tweeners or "new style" players. Of course, if you have a versatile elite/all-star type player you may make an exception, however it makes it more difficult to build a winning team around an atypical player.
The raptors have a prototypical point guard in Calderon, they have two prototypical power forwards in Amir Johnson and Ed Davis. We'll give DeMar the benefit of the doubt as SG. And it looks like JV is the very model of a modern major league center.
So, let's say we have 4 of our 5 starters. Chosing between Ed and Amir is difficult, but Johnson is better player today. Now Bargnani is in some ways better that Johnson, but doesn't really do the typical work of a PF. Johnson and Kleiza can also play the 4, but are more combo forwards, not full time power forwards.
Since we don't have a starting caliber 3, we can assume one will brought in by way of trade/draft this off season.
So, that would give us the following starting 5:
Calderon, DeRozan, New SF, Amir Johnson, Jonas V.
A team should have 4 main rotation backups, each of them should be able to play multiple positions effectively. This is where you want your match up nightmares, new style players, etc, to give you different looks, between the 4 of them they should be able to hold down all 5 positions.
Bargnani is gold here, although primarily a 4, hey can play decent minutes at the 5, and even line up at the 3 in certain cases. May be tough for a former #1 pick to accept a backup role, but with one or maybe two rookies in the starting lineup and a fould-prone starting 4, there is no reason dude can't play 30 minutes of the bench.
Bayless is also nice, if he can play consistently off the bench, which he hasn't show. However, if he commits to this role, he can earn big minutes backing up the 1 and 2.
JJohnson or Linus Kleiza would be great as combo forwards backing up 3/4, but we don't need both of them. I'd go wil JJonson over Kleiza, although the Lithuanian connection with JV may give Linus the edge, also James probably has more trade value. So let's guess the team rolls with LK as the backup combo forward.
Now the team needs a backup swingman that can be a rotation player at the 2/3, the only guy we have is Gary Forbes.
so our rotation backups are:
Bargnani, Bayless, Kleiza, Forbes.
In your reserves you want a combination of projects who you may develop into legit players and vets who you can count on to fill in when injuries happen, or when projected young/rookie starters need to be bailed out and good locker room, unofficial assistant coach, tough practice players types.
I also think you especially need at least 1 prototypical center and 1 prototypical point guard among your reserves, that could potentially be starters if something goes wrong, obviously not great starters, but capable of holding the fort.
Aaron Gray is really good here, especially with a very young and unproven JV coming in, however Gray is probably a little to good and too young to be a deep bench player, so once Jonas comes into his own, Gray is probably on the block. However to start with it, it's prudent to keep him around.
Magliore is exactly the guy you need here, keep him in street clothes for now, when JV blossoms and Gray is moved, Jamal becomes the deep bench center.
The deep bench PG could be a project, maybe one of our draft picks, maybe European/international recruit or an undrafted player. If so, if this players blossoms, then you look at moving Calderon or Bayless. Otherwise, look for a vet minimum player for this spot.
The other three spots are available for vet minimum players, or other projects. Solo and one of our 2nd rounders probably takes two of these spots, with a training camp invitee grabbing the last spot.
So what does that leave us with?
Ed Davis and James Johnson have no real place on this team, unless they replace Amir Johnson and Kleiza. In any case we need to trade one of our spare 4s and one of our spare combo forwards.
In terms of the draft, we need either a starting SF, a project PG, and up to two deep bench prospects. Of our existing rotation players, there are plenty of weak links, not sure Amir is a real NBA starter, not sure DeRozan is either, so i'd definitely be into bringing in project players that can play 4 and 2 and see if get lucky with a draft sleeper. Of course we can't be sure about JV either, but he needs to be given the chance.
So our draft needs are, in order of priority, a 3 or 1 with the 1st rounder. If can't get one of these, then we need to trade the pick or trade the current backup or starter. If we do get a 1 then Bayless or Calderon is probably gone by the end of the season unless the player needs more time or is a bust, If don't get a 3 or a 1 in the first round, but get a 2 instead, then probably Bayless or DeRozan will gone. If the best player available is a 4, then Amir Johnson probably joins Davis on the trade market, unless we trade the pick.
So without any radical moves, our line up next year could be:
JV, AJohnson, New SF, DeRozan, Calderon, Bargnani, Bayless, Kleiza, Forbes
Gray, New PG, Magliore, Alabi, Some Young Dude, Some Old dude
So, we have JJohnson, Ed Davis and a number 8 pick, plus cap space to get a New SF, hopefully a current or future all-star caliber one. A deep bench PG who can hopefully at least contest for the backup job and have a chance of being our PG of the future, Some Young Dude who can either make Amir, DeMar or at least Forbes look over their shoulder, and Some Old Dude who can talk to Doug Smith when needed.
wow that's a lot of work, nice post. i am of the opinion that if it isn't the very beginning of a rebuild then projects don't belong on the roster as they need minutes to become actual players.
i don't think that amir has the post moves to be the prototypical pf. at best i see him as an excellent reserve and energy guy off the bench. a perfect pf is karl malone. and i wouldn't give dd the benefit of the doubt right now as he can't shoot or create his own shot on our team i think bayless would be the most suited to sg.
i also have it much simpler in team building. you need a playmaker/rebounder/shotblocker/scorer and then role players and they can come from any position to me.
i think you have big cat right but might over value gray a bit. he isn't "too good" for anything
You make good points especially on the preference of orthodoxy in the player to position regard. However I was disappointed you never once mentioned the term "defense" either in the overarching vision of the team's playing style or indeed a quality/capability needed in the player employed on the Raps. Personally I am very partial to this and willing to give up some of the offensive skill measurement in a player for that of the defensive side as well as the willingness to play more intensely that part of the game. In terms of team building, this would then be a necessary part of the player profile both in drafting as well as trade acquisition.
Why does everyone diss on Bargnani? Like it or not, he is our best player. Me, I like him. I don't understand the love for ED...seriously.
"Best player" is a relative term. It doesn't mean anything.
Halifax Raps Fan
A team full of midgets still has a "tallest player".
HAHA that is hilarious.
with regards to the OP, great post. However, I would still have bargs starting at the 4, especially with Jonas coming over next year to hopefully cover up some of bargnani's defensive shortcomings.
Team Building in NBA
1. Get elite, top of the food chain superstar by any means necessary (e.g. every team that has won a title or been in a Finals since 1980 other than the Pistons).
2. Don't hire short-sighted management to screw it up.
3. Get to conference finals and hope you get lucky.
With respect to the Raptors, Toronto doesn't have 4 of its 5 starters. It has one marginal NBA starter in Bargnani. It has a legit backup PG in Calderon and a potentially useful bench player in Derozan. Amir could also be an 8th or 9th guy on a good team. Valanciunas could be awesome but consdering he hasn't yet played a second in the NBA, let's just pencil him in for now.
And... that's it. So, by my count, Toronto needs a starting: SG, SF and PG. Along with a legit third big and perimeter shooter off the bench. Also, one of the first three guys needs to be like Kobe, Durant, Lebron, etc. Then we're good.
Sad but true.
I think Calderon would be a very effective starting PG on a veteran team, such as the Lakers. I think his passing and ability to get everyone involved would have served Memphis well too, as there were quarters where they just let Gay disappear. I even think OKC could have used him in the 1st quarter last night, when Westbrook was doing his best Bayless out-of-control impression. His calming influence would have been well served, even if he isn't near the talent that Westbrook is. However, he has maybe a year or two tops left at that level, so he's not in the long-term plans of the Raptors regardless.
DeRozan still has a chance to become starting calibur, but I'm losing faith. Even without improving further, I think he would be an excellent 6th man, if he consistently goes to the basket and draws fouls. He needs to improve his dribbling, defense, rebounding and court vision big time, and significantly improve his 3pt shooting, to be considered a legit starting SG.
If Bargnani can play consistently at the level he started last season at, while showing that he's not an injury risk, then he's a legit starting PF. If Valanciunas can play up to potential/expectations, then I think he's bound to become a legit starting C and a defensive anchor.
Having said that, you're absolutely right that the Raps have 2 or maybe 3 of their long-term starters on the roster right now. Worst case next season, Valanciunas needs a year to acclimate in the backup C role, Bargnani regresses or his injury becomes chronic, and DeRozan proves he's a 6th man at best... that would leave the team with not a single legitimate long-term starter of the future playing next season (pending roster moves between now and next season of course).
I agree that a starting SF and PG of the future are top priorities. Hopefully one can be found via the draft and another via trade or free agency.
That's actually why I was really hoping we would get Rudy Gay (which seems to be a long shot now). Although he isn't a top of the food chain kind of super star.. he's up there in talent. And with a lot of those super stars heading towards retirement (Duncan, Nowitski, Nash, Bryant, KG, Pierce, even Wade), I think getting a talented, young, veteran with upside would be great.
If we can't get Rudy Gay, then I really would like to see Bryan make a solid offer for Batum that would make Portland think twice before signing him back.
The PG, SG and SF positions are key pieces that we need to fill with above average talent. If we can't get Gay or Batum, then I hope the plan is to go after Harden in 2013, or to try and move up in this draft for guys like Beal, MKG or even Barnes. The PG would be a tougher piece to get, but there are options like Lowry this year, or Jennings next year (assuming we don't get Lillard).
Hmmm... as much as I'm very indifferent on whether we keep AB or not, I wouldn't go so far as to call him a marginal starter. He could be very dangerous in the right system imo. Pairing him with a defensive minded C who is also capable of scoring could do wonders for his game. Maybe that's JV... I do agree with the rest of your post though.
you can't judge any of our young players right now until we have all the pieces in place. Then we'll see who is good and whoo needs to be replaced.
I like Bargnani! I suggested that he can play 30mins a game and be gold off the bench!
The reason that I don't think it's easy to build a winning team around an atypical player, is exactly because they are atypical, and thereby had to come by, they can be deadly coming off the bench and reeking havoc, when opportunities present themselves. As I mentioned, it would be great to have players like Bargnani, Bayless, etc on the 2nd unit, where they can play a large role.
However to have them as your starters creates problems, exactly because they are atypical, and rare, in order to balance the starting lineup you need other atypical players that match up well with them, and as such players are rare, it becomes very difficult to create the right balance.
Creating a productive starting 5 with prototypical players is simply easier, because they fit together well, which is why they are typical, and why they are more readily available.
Yes .. but its relative to our players .. not relative to guys off the street (or "midgets" in your example).
Quirk's post spends time debating whether or not two of the "midgets" (Amir or Ed) should start ahead of AB. I would love to bring AB off the bench if the debate at PF was, say Z-Bo and Gasol in our starting lineup or the other Gasol and Bynum. Ed / Amir? Sorry .. those "midgets" dont deserve the respect that Quirk is affording them (nor does AB deserve the implied disrespect .. )
Thats a totally rational point of view .. the only problem is that you have to overlay talent with whether or not you are "prototypical". If we had better players than Ed or Amir at the 4 .. (see my post above) - Id agree with you 100% .. problem is that we simply do not.
I agree with you, that's why I'm hoping the team can bring in players that can challenge Amir and DeMar for the starting jobs, since we could improve there. However, Amir and Ed as the starting 4 would be better than Bargnani, not because they are better players but because the can do the typical job of a PF, and thus can be complimented by more typical, and thus easier to acquire players as we move forward.
Both Ed and Amir are good enough to be starters though, providing that the offensive focus is the back court and the new sf,
Also, having Bargnani playing heavy, yet selective, minutes of the bench, lining up at 4, 5 and a bit of 3, would create big problems for the opposing team.
Whereas having Bargnani in the starting 5 creates an imbalanced lineup that can only be balanced by finding more atypical players, which being atypical are harder to find.
I'm not suggesting the players I have slotted in to the various roles are good enough, just that using what we have in a more typical way will both be more productive in the present, and be better base to improve upon.
I don't buy in the "prototypical" comparisons. If people can ball, they can ball.
- Miami features a line-up with Bosh as the centre, Battier as the 4.
- OKC has Westbrook, Harden, Shefalosha, KD & Ibaka.
- The Lakers have a "prototypical" line-up. They still have problems.
- Dallas plays Dirk, Marion, Kidd, Carter and Terry together during 4th quarters.
- San Antonio had Capt. Jack as the 4 with Duncan as the 5 & three guards.
It's really match-ups. Maybe some days, it's better to go small. Sometimes, big.
I just look at it in a perspective that, Bargnani is a tough cover for most 4's in the league. He can get away playing the 5 for short stretches, if the game becomes small ball.
Prototypical or not, all successful line-ups have similar things in common; balance offensively & togetherness defensively. The fact is, the Raptors do not have this balance offensively.
When they ran the pick and roll, no one even pays attention to out bigs rolling or popping (except Bargnani) because they don't respect their game. Often times, the big pops & receives the pass, only to look around (like why'd you pass it to me?), then hands it off to the point to run another series of screen and rolls.
There's no shooting when Bargnani is out. Defenses load into the middle, allow mid-range shots for our bigs and three pointers to our wings (DeMar, JJ & maybe even Forbes). What option does Jose really have knowing he doesn't have the breakdown ability to take his man 1 on 1?
I strongly believe that we need a shot creator or 2 on the team. The type of guy who can get into the teeth of the defense & have enough shooters to balance the floor (which goes for bigs and wings).
LeBron, Wade = shot creators. Battier, Chalmers and Bosh = shooters (pressure release)
Durant, Westbrook, Harden = shot creators. everyone else except for Perkins = shooters
Parker, Ginobili = shot creators. The whole damn team = shooters (except for Splitter)
Case (Dallas) 2011
Barea, Terry = shot creators. *Dirk (amazing), Kidd, Stevenson, Peja, even Terry = shooters
Boston is the same & when you start dissecting most of these playoff teams, they follow similar molds.
With exception to the Lakers. Too iso-based, horrible to watch.
Overall, without this balance, the Raptors will never be good. I hope they can address these problems.
- back up point guard who is relentless at attacking/penetrating
- secondary ball handler as a 2 (off the bench)
- 3 who can defend, rebound & hit the three
- Ed/Amir to improve tremendously on their mid-range, short pocket jumpshots, close-range
- Jonas to be able to do the same (mid-range, short pocket, close-range)
- more shooting
That's exactly the point, if you have atypical players in your starting line up, then you need more atypical players to create this balance, i.e. when you have a PF that doesn't rebound well, you need more than average rebounding from your other positions. When you have small forwards that can't score, you need more scoring from other positions, when you have a point gaurd that isn't a great passer, you need a second ball handler. When a big plays on the perimeter, another player needs to man the post, etc.
As atypical players are more rare than typical players it is more difficult (but not impossible) to create balance with atypical players, since getting one is rare, getting a few that actually balance each other is very rare. So the team is constantly fiddling and trying to get the right balance, and usually fails.
The best way to exploit match ups is to have these special, versatile, atypical players come off the bench, when you can put them in selectively when the best match up opportunities present themselves of on the floor.
In the meantime, a balanced staring 5, which is simply easier to achieve with typical players, will keep you in the
game, even if not all the starters are elite all stars or even the best players on your team, because they bring the balance needed to succeed.
I would say you need a coach that can put together defensive and offensive systems that run well with your existing talent. Key word here is talent. If the "talent level" of your "talent" is low, it doesn't matter if you have prototypical, atypical or rototypical players, you are going to get spanked.
With Bargs as a four, you definitely need someone like JV who plays a more typical defensive center position, but you also need a good distributing PG who can also slash to the basket on O. Or a lot more penetration from your SG/SF positions. Raps don't have that kind of talent.
Casey is more than capable of dealing with a player like AB who can shoot from further out and also beat his man after a quick up-fake.
Interesting post but I believe you aren't giving coach enough credit. And as torch19 said, where are the prototypical teams in the playoffs? There are hardly any prototypical players left in the league, if by prototypical you mean the way the positions were described in coaching textbooks form the 60's and 70's.
I think the post above gave many examples of how atypical lineups are doing just fine. The most obvious of which is Miami who plays without a true big man pretty much all the time.
The reality is, as has been stated - you need players that balance eachother in aggregate. You do not need a prototypical 1,2,3,4 and 5. You need shooting - we have sorely missed this the last couple of years. You need rebounding (in aggregate .. not necessarily from one player in particular).
But, most importantly, you need players who can create their own shot and draw a double team every once in a while so that others can get open shots. AB is the only guy we have who is even close to this. As a result, he should start (and play a lot of minutes).