Monday Morning Roundtable: Gasol, Draft, Small Forwards

Hello and welcome to the Monday afternoon roundtable. In this edition, we discuss Pau Gasol, the upcoming draft, and potentially upgrading at small-forward. When there is a dearth of Raptors-related news, when there is nothing but scraps of half-heard whispers and rumor mill dregs, we here at Raptors Republic don’t simply stop posting and get…

Hello and welcome to the Monday afternoon roundtable. In this edition, we discuss Pau Gasol, the upcoming draft, and potentially upgrading at small-forward.

When there is a dearth of Raptors-related news, when there is nothing but scraps of half-heard whispers and rumor mill dregs, we here at Raptors Republic don’t simply stop posting and get on with our lives (mostly because we have none). No, we munch on ever scrap until we’re full of fluff.

This week’s edition of the roundtable features yours truly, the full-bearded Blake Murphy, and microphone connoisseur Zarar Siddiqi.

1. Ric Bucher says the Raptors are one Pau Gasol signing away from contention in the East. Agree/disagree.

William: The Raptors should not sign Pau Gasol. For the record, I’m a big fan of his and I respect his talents. In a down year last season, he still managed to average over 17 points and 9 rebounds per game. He’s an NBA champion and he would undoubtedly fill a void in both the paint and in leadership.

But his age worries me. We’re talking about a player with multiple 37 minute-per-game seasons and deep playoff runs under his belt. What does he really have left? Say nothing of logistics and fit — what’s left in the tank? How much could an aging center with limited mobility help in the increasingly perimeter-oriented NBA? The Raptors could stand to make a big move. Getting Gasol at nearly 34 years of age wouldn’t be big, it would be shortsighted.

Blake: Disagree. Well, I mean, I disagree logistically at least, because I don’t see how it’s really all that possible – the Raptors are light on cap space when the free agent cap holds are considered, and Gasol has been pretty clear that his decision set includes primarily contenders. On the floor, Gasol would make sense on offense, adding an element of creativity and yet another weapon in the pick-and-roll game. He would mean the end of Patrick Patterson and a decrease in role for Amir Johnson; neither of those things on their own are a bad result of adding a player of Gasol’s caliber, but it speaks to how there may be a better use of assets and cap space. Also, Gasol and Valanciunas together defensively…yuck. In short, Gasol is great, I just don’t see it.

Zarar: No, but it really depends on what he means by contention.  The greater offensive balance achieved by having Gasol patrol the frontcourt would make the Raptors a better team in the near-term, or at least as long as the 34-year old can sustain himself at a reasonably high level.  He’s been injured a lot, having missed 32, and 22 games the last two seasons, respectively, so that has to be taken into account.  He would also come at a very high price, and any move would have to be money-driven since he can’t reasonably expect to win a title here.  How his price tag would restrict the Raptors in retaining and signing free-agents would also have to be considered.  The effect on Jonas Valanciunas’ development could also be negative because Gasol’s minutes would come at his expense since putting both in the frontcourt would get congested.  So, even though Gasol would make the Raptors better in the near-term and perhaps bump them into the second round, the long-term implications are negative from a player development and salary cap perspective.  Basically, this would be a sort of move that Bryan Colangelo would make in hopes of pseudo-contention.

2. What should the Raptors do with the 20th pick?

William: I’m going to be honest — I don’t know anything about college ball. I couldn’t tell Kyle Anderson from P.J. Hairston. It’s always on when the NBA is, and the professional association is a superior product. I’ll refer you to my esteemed compatriots for specific player recommendations.

Having said that, here’s one principle I want the Raptors to stick to: draft a player with at least one solid NBA skill. Can he defend, shoot threes, rebound, quickly rotate from the basket to the perimeter, or handle the ball? I don’t want the team to gamble on a player who could “do it all”. There’s no LeBrons to be found at the 20th pick. There are, however, solid contributors like Kawhi Leonard, Robin Lopez and Kenneth Farieds available.

Blake: There are two names atop Blake Murphy’s big ol big board that may or may not be available at No. 20. Adreian Payne intrigues the hell out of me, and if Patterson is heading out the door he’s a pretty seamless replacement – he’s big, he can hit the NBA three, he’s a decent defender, and he’s tough as hell. Yes, he’s 23, but he’s also a “late bloomer” and his 2013-14 performance was marred by a battle with mono. He could go higher, though, and if a wing’s the call I love K.J. McDaniels from Clemson. While the shooting is somewhat of a concern, he has significant defensive potential and is solid offensively beyond the range question. And Elfrid Payton, well, I know some were excited but he ain’t sliding that far anymore.

Zarar: Either move up or trade the pick.  The stock around 20 doesn’t impress me as every player on the board has a weakness that I’m not looking to give playing time to just so they can develop.  I like Rodney Hood, but I hate his defense. I like Clint Capella, but I think he doesn’t ‘get’ the game and who he is. I think Andreian Payne’s 4-year college experience could be productive sooner than later, but we already have a stretch-four (if Patterson returns).  I like K.J. McDaniels but feel there’s too much overlap with Terrence Ross.  You see where I’m going? The 20th pick on its own isn’t going to fetch anything, and a package-deal is required for something greater to come out of it.

3. Should the Raptors move to acquire a starting SF this offseason? If so, suggest a candidate.

William: I’m in favor of bringing the band (Vasquez, Lowry, Patterson) back together which leaves the Raptors with very little to cap room to work with. However, someone has to come in and fill John Salmons’ role. My suggestion is to plug the hole with something in the interim. So, how does one of Marvin Williams, Wes Johnson or Jason Richardson sound? No? Okay I’m sorry I suggested it. For what it’s worth, they would all be upgrades over Salmons.

Blake: Sure, why not? They may draft someone at No. 20 to fill the spot but they’d probably still want another veteran in the mix. It’s really hard to predict the team’s offseason given the RFAs and Lowry’s price tag are up in the air, because those players will impact the team’s cap space a great deal. Say we re-up all three, then all that’s really available is the mid-level exception. That’s not getting Luol Deng or Rudy Gay on the phone, and the crop thins out from there. Does Danny Granger move the needle at all? Would Shawn Marion come back? Can we just sign Boris Diaw regardless of position because that would be the best? I wrote all those words and totally forgot it’s already pre-ordained that Vince Carter’s coming back.

Zarar: Luol Deng, if the price is right.  He’s always been a “team guy” who plays both ends and that’s exactly what the Raptors need.  It immediately improves the defense and gives Dwane Casey a player he can easily work with.  It strengthens the bench by moving Ross back to it, and it does all that without introducing a player who feeds off of shot-attempts.  He’s a free-agent so you can acquire him without giving up assets, which makes this about as no-brainer a move as you can have.   He’s also someone who will have good resale value because he’s what contending teams often look for.  The only negative here is his health, as he did miss 19 games last season due to a back injury.

So what do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments.