Sunday, June 10, 2012

How Can I Help You? Toronto Raptors

DeRozan has been scratching his head ever since he got to Toronto.
Last season, the Toronto Raptors finished 23-43, and despite being 12 games out of a playoff spot, they did surpass the Nets and the Wizards, two teams who had more talent than them. The reason for this is because head coach Dwane Casey has instilled a defensive mindset in his players. Their play defending the ball has improved and they are back on the right track. Now they must add some talent in the draft.

The biggest loss to free agency is point guard Jerryd Bayless. He averaged 11.4 points and 3.8 assists this year and began to show some flashes of becoming a true starting point guard. Toronto will have to decide if they want to resign him and have him continue to learn under 30-year old veteran Jose Calderon, or let him go and start over in the search for a leader for their offense. It seems like the Raptors want to bring Bayless back because he has been a solid sixth man and the team may thinks he can develop into more of a pure point guard under Calderon. Other than that, Toronto doesn't have any other significant free agents to retain.

So we've already gone over the point guard discussion, and it appears that the Raptors are doing well in that department. At shooting guard is the team's star, DeMar DeRozan. Although he is 6'7" and can play small forward, he is currently at the SG position. DeRozan makes Toronto set in the backcourt.

At small forward, all the Raptors have is James Johnson, so a wing player is certainly a need. There is a buildup at power forward now that Andrea Bargnani has been playing at that spot. Bargnani is a very talented offensive player, but his rebounding is subpar for a big man, which poses the question of whether Toronto will eventually trade him or keep him in their rebuilding plans. Ed Davis and Amir Johnson are two talented forwards who haven't really lived up to their potential. There are a lot of decisions for this team at PF. At center, Jonas Valanciunas from Lithuania was a lottery pick last year for the team and is expected to come over and play this season. The Raptors have their C of the future.

So what do the Raptors need? A small forward for sure, specifically one with scoring ability. Maybe a backup combo guard to spell DeRozan and also give Toronto an option besides Bayless after Calderon. And of course, big man depth. Taking a center late to put behind Valanciunas wouldn't be a bad idea, but if they decide that their three power forwards are not worth it, they will want to draft a 4.

The Raptors pick 8th, 37th, and 56th. Let's see what they can do.

A lot of people think they'll select Jeremy Lamb, put him at shooting guard, and shift DeRozan to small forward. While that wouldn't be a bad idea, I'm not too high on Lamb and think he's a very similar player to DeRozan. Austin Rivers would make more sense here as more of a pure scorer. However, I think it's too high to take him.

Perry Jones would be a solid pick. Jones' athleticism and size enable him to play both forward positions, and he could really blossom into a special player one day. However, I think the team should adress this power forward issue and grab Mississippi St.'s Arnett Moultrie.

Signs point to Moultrie getting draft by the Raptors.
Moultrie is very athletic and explosive and a sleeper in this draft. He has a dynamic post game, but plays smooth like a guard. Valanciunas may not be ready to start right away, and Bargnani may never be the player the Raptors expected him to be, so what they can do is have Valanciunas play under Bargnani, Moultrie play under Davis, and get rid of Johnson. This would enable the team to transition from two underachieving but talented players to two players of the future while still remaining competitive.

It may be unorthodox, but it would be a quietly smart move for Toronto. Moultrie is an incredibly underrated talented that could be a star in this league. Moving onto the 37th pick, the Raptors will want to address that need on the wing. Do they take a shooting guard and move DeRozan to the 3, or do they take a small forward? Here are some options.

Khris Middleton and Kevin Murphy are two dynamic scorers. They can fill the shooting guard spot and while they may not be able to score as much as DeRozan does, they will at a more efficient rate.

If the Raptors want to continue their run at European players, Kostas Papinkolaou would be a nice pick. He's a tall sharpshooter who would fill the 3 spot. However, the team wasn't overly lucky with Bargnani and the jury is still out for Valanciunas.

Green will be a leader wherever he goes.
My pick here is Draymond Green from Michigan St. A lot of scouts don't like Green because of his lack of upside. However, I think he would be a perfect fit in Toronto. Green would be a good compliment to DeRozan as a physical player with high character and leadership that holds everything together. Green has good ability shooting, passing, and rebounding, making him more versatile on offense than (James) Johnson. I wouldn't be surprised to see Green starting at some point in his rookie season.

Near the end of the draft, the 56th pick awaits. Toronto wants a combo guard to give them some depth in the backcourt. One guy who should still be available is Tu Holloway from Xavier. Holloway dropped down draft boards after the Musketeers' underachieving season, but a run to the Sweet Sixteen got him back on the radar. Holloway is a big time scorer and has the toughness to play in the NBA. Putting him next to Bayless can give the Raptors options so they can determine who they want to be their point guard for the future and who's more suited for a sixth man role.

In conclusion, I feel that Toronto should select Arnett Moultrie, Draymond Green, and Tu Holloway with their three picks. That would give them a starting squad of Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Ed Davis, and Andrea Bargnani and a bench of Tu Holloway, Jerryd Bayless, Draymond Green, Arnett Moultrie, and Jonas Valanciunas. That team sounds dramatically better than last year's, and one with a large amount of young talent and depth.

Up next are the Detroit Pistons who look to build around their cornerstone, Greg Monroe.

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