After going through the starters, the second part will take a crack at the bench and head coach.
First off, there seems to be some confusion (surprise!) over the recommendations. Think of it this way: Regarding the starters, I would actively pursue trades for both Lowry and DeRozan, but if no decent trade was available, then I would keep them until a decent deal became available. For Valanciunas and Ross, I would NOT actively pursue a deal for them, but if another team approached me with a good offer, I would consider it. For Amir, I would re-sign him only if the deal made financial sense (you can’t trade Amir as he’s an unrestricted free agent and he’s not good enough to warrant a sign-and-trade).
In other words, the recommendations are my preferences for each player. Are we clear?
Also, can we stop using the excuse that DeRozan or Lowry should be kept because they’re the best players on the team. This was the EXACT same argument people made for keeping Bargnani and Rudy Gay. Being the best player on a mediocre team is like winning the Atlantic Division in a season where the next team was below .500. The ‘not trading a player because they’re the best player on the team’ argument only works when that player is a top 10 (or so) player. Not when they’re borderline All Stars.
LOU WILLIAMS: Release
Let me say outright I was surprised when Williams won the 6th Man of the Year Award. Until I looked at the competition. This has to be one of the worst years for 6th men in a while. No one really stuck out with a great season. Williams did average 15.5 ppg and hit some big shots, but he also shot poorly from the field and only averaged what he did because he shot the ball every chance he could and took just as many cringe worthy shots that missed in crunch time as he hit. More, actually.
Masai Ujiri got a great deal when he traded a bunch of spare parts for Williams, who Atlanta seemed to have given up on. Williams reverted to pre-injury form and ended up scoring the most of his ten year career, good for third on the team. What Ujiri should have done was to turn that into something else before the trade deadline, which he obviously didn’t do.
The problem with one-dimensional chuckers like Williams is that they’re high-risk high-reward style of game is fine when it’s spread out over an entire 82 game season, but in the playoffs, when you need to minimize mistakes and every possession counts, guys like Williams become a detriment and usually see their playing time plummet (possibly the best reason to trade Lowry and DeRozan).
Plus, I can see him demanding in excess of $7 million a season, which is too much.
GREIVIS VASQUEZ: Keep*
Now before everyone has a stroke, you need to understand why. Vasquez is obviously not the answer at PG. His defense is poor and he would be a below average starter. But if Lowry is traded, the Raptors need a replacement, and Greivis can be it. For now. Having a replacement also means you don’t have to worry about getting a PG back in a trade. You can simply worry about getting the best return, and not a position of need.
The other reason to keep Vasquez is that starting him has a chance to increase his trade value, and if a good deal can be found before the trade deadline, then you jump on it.
Why keep Vasquez over Lowry? Two reasons. The first is that Lowry is the more valuable asset and will fetch more on the trade marker. The second is that Vasquez only has one year left on his contract, so this isn’t a long term marriage.
*Keeping Vasquez is contingent on trading Lowry. If Lowry isn’t traded, for one reason or another, then Vasquez needs to go.
Things To Work On: Lateral mobility
PATRICK PATTERSON: Trade
Offensively, Patterson would seem to be a very complimentary player to play next to Valanciunas, because he can space the floor and hit the three. Unfortunately, reality told a different story. Patterson and Valanciunas didn’t play a ton of minutes together, but when they did, it usually didn’t go well. Having both Patterson and Valanciunas on the floor together exposed the team defensively and they weren’t nearly as good offensively together as you might think.
While Patterson is a pretty good 3 point shooter, and a very good mid-range shooter this year, he doesn’t bring a whole lot else to the table. He’s average, at best, on defense, a below average rebounder and gets to the line at a rate that would only make Terrence Ross proud. And no, it’s not just the way Casey used him. He’s always been like that.
I must say, I don’t completely understand the love many Raptor fans have for Patterson. He’s a decent bench player, but he could only start if surrounded by much better players and a great defensive center. In fact, he’s simply a darker and more muscular version of Matt Bonner. Before you argue, click the link and see just how similar Patterson is to Matt Bonner at the same point in his career.
Don’t get me wrong, Matt Bonner is a nice player, but he’s a luxury for a team that still lacks an identity and players to build around. Patterson is more valuable as trade bait to the Raptors, where he could return a young prospect or be added to a deal for a better player.
Possible Targets: Cleveland, Houston, Memphis, Sacramento and Golden State (if Draymond Green leaves).
JAMES JOHNSON: Keep
Now, without me being behind the scenes, I have no idea what transpired to make Johnson lose his spot in the rotation. That makes it difficult to really understand if keeping Johnson would be bad for the team, but I’m going to make the assumption that if Ujiri feels what he did was unforgivable, then he’ll be gone. Otherwise, I don’t see any reason not to keep him on for the last year of his contract.
Johnson had a good year, but there were definitely valid reasons why Casey didn’t end up playing him more, even when Johnson wasn’t glued to the bench. Johnson is a good defensive player who can defend three positions, but he also isn’t much of a shooter which made playing alongside DeRozan and/or Valanciunas difficult. Thankfully, Johnson has finally come to realize this and barely shoots beyond 3 feet, which is why his field goal percentage is so high.
Johnson also isn’t a great rebounder, especially for his size and physical skills, and it’s why you can’t really play him at the PF position for very long. So he’s stuck between being not a good enough shooter to be a small forward and not a good enough rebounder to be a power forward. Basically, the definition of a tweener.
Still he’s the best defensive player on the team and he’s got no trade value, so you might as well keep him.
Things To Work On: Shooting, keeping mouth shut.
TYLER HANSBROUGH: Keep
If Hansbrough wants to return to the Raptors as their third power forward at a reduced rate, then I don’t see a reason to say no. He’s a decent rebounder and defender who isn’t afraid to throw his weight around the paint and do some damage. He actually had his best shooting season of his career, by far, but that’s not saying much since he’s got a career .439 field goal percentage. Not great for a guard, horrible for a big man. What saves him is he gets to the line at a phenomenal rate for a guy who you probably want to shoot the ball.
Unfortunately, while he’s been a poor shooter during the regular season, he’s been atrocious in the playoffs, and not just shooting the ball. If the Raptors hope to make noise in the playoffs next season, then Hansbrough probably isn’t the best guy to have playing for you. Otherwise, I would say if he agrees to a minimum contract (or slightly above) then he’s worth asking back.
Things To Work On: Putting the ball in the basket, not sucking in the playoffs
LANDRY FIELDS: Release
I think it’s too bad Fields didn’t work out because he’s one of the few high IQ players on the team and if not for the presence of James Johnson, probably would be worth keeping around. As it is, he just would duplicate many of the strengths and weaknesses Johnson has.
It’s hard to say whether or not Fields will stick in the league unless his shooting stroke returns to some semblance of what it was, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him resurface somewhere due to his intangibles. And unfortunately the Raptors lack many of those intangibles.
CHUCK HAYES: Release
An undersized big man who lost out in a numbers game never made much of an impact on the Raptors. And it’s probably time to move on an find a bigger backup center.
GREG STEIMSMA: Release
After watching him play 17 games with the Raptors, I have no idea what his strengths are. That’s probably not a good thing.
BEBE NOGUEIRA: Keep
Played a total of 23 minutes, but is tall and has great hair.
Things To Work On: Playing more, other skills
BRUNO CABOCLO: Keep
Perhaps the crack about him being two years away from being two years away was more accurate than we thought.
Things To Work On: Being able to get minutes in the D League
DWANE CASEY: Release
So much has been written about him here and other places, but I think Casey has actually become underrated. He definitely has his flaws, and those flaws make parting ways a necessity, but fans are beginning to blame him for everything now. While he must bear a lot of the blame for both playoff exists, so must the players and Ujiri, who kept the team together. I’ve already pointed out why a team comprised of Lowry, DeRozan and Valanciunas is not only poorly constructed, but destined to perform poorly in the playoffs.
Raptor fans were talking about Casey as Coach of the Year in December, and in a few short months turned him into the worst coach in the league. In reality, he’s somewhere in between.
While Casey definitely has his strengths, the team’s collapse in the playoffs, Valanciunas and Ross’ lack of development, and the lack of development of his coaching skills over his tenure as the head coach of the team make it impossible for me to believe he won’t be replaced.
Fans that expect replacing him and then adding a power forward and small forward will turn this team into a contender are in for a rude awakening, if that’s what Ujiri decides to do. Casey will end up leaving the team as the most successful coach in Raptors’ history, which tells you all you need to know about their history.
Next week, I’m going to look at the players the Raptors should be targeting trades and even what could be offered for those players. So stay tuned….