2013 Free Agency

RaptorsTalk comment

In Uncategorized on November 19, 2008 at 9:26 pm

A lengthily response to an interesting comment over at RaptorsTalk

The Shooting Guard + Small Forward option vs Small Forward option

Okay, my first attempt at writing this failed miserably so I deleted it. I’ll start again and with one straight forward sentence – The foundation of the team is more important than the short term needs that this squad currently has.

The difference between the two in my mind is: When you talk about the foundation you talk only about the core structure of the team - in this case Jose Calderon, Chris Bosh, Jermaine O’Neal - and discount the rest of the roster. When you talk about the needs of the team you talk about guys like Jason Kapono and Will Solomon in conjunction with the core of the team.

The Foundation’s Needs

Firstly, the foundation that this team needs is very clear. With the trio they presently hold it’s abundantly clear that a fourth player is needed for two main reasons

  1. Bosh and Jermaine while excellent aren’t dominant enough to control a game (to a Championship level) without a good perimeter crew
  2. Jose has too much pressure on the perimeter. Scoring wise the perimeter only has role players. Calderon is the only player who can create his own shot. Calderon is the only playmaker on the perimeter, so he’s the only perimeter player that regularly creates shots for teammates. As long as these two facts (scoring/playmaking) are true, the Raptors will lack diversity. Also, their fourth quarter execution is always going to be difficult until he gets more help, too predictable and one-dimensional.

What type of fourth player is needed? That player needs to be able to:

  • Score at a high level, second option so 18-20ppg (minimum)
  • Score from the perimeter with jumpshots/penetration
  • Some creativity off the dribble
  • Solid one-on-one defender + solid rebounder

with additional preferences in descending order of importance

  • Best option is also a playmaker/passer/ballhandler (think Joe Johnson rather than Jason Richardson)
  • Better D+Rebounding + perhaps general all round play (above option better but not elite)
  • Better scoring

Let’s play out the argument with an example – Gerald Wallace vs Jason Richardson

Gerald Wallace was chosen by RapsFan as one of the better options (along with Marion) on a small list of players I offered up in a comment. One of the other players was Jason Richardson. The fact they’re two teammates and two very different types of wings makes for an interesting comparison, one that will help bring a greater definition for the needs the Raptors have.

#1 Gerald Wallace

Gerald Wallace fits the short term needs of the squad very well. He’s a small forward. He’s athletic. He’s a very good rebounder. He’s a quality defensive player. He can score. Fills a lot of holes very well.

Medium term fit is poor though. Here’s a few reasons:

(1) Gerald Wallace defensive value comes primarily from being a help defender, someone who scrambles and tries to get turnovers. While that’s useful it’s not primarily what Jermaine/Bosh need, Bosh/Jermaine need someone who’ll stop dribble penetration and Wallace is barely an average one-on-one defender (something which has drawn the ire of Larry Brown).

(2) Gerald Wallace’s points per game is impressive but the way he scores is less so. He scores primarily out of the low post, mid post, broken plays and fastbreak opportunities. The spaces he likes to take offensively on the floor are the exact same spots Bosh and Jermaine take so spacing becomes a major issue, the Raps suddenly become easier to defend and it’s harder to take advantage of his scoring ability.

(3) Staying on his scoring, Wallace only scores from isolation plays in the halfcourt or broken plays. This means a lack of fluidity to the offense, because now there’s three frontcourt players who all need an iso or post up … offense will regularly lack movement and secondary threats in possessions. Said another way – it’s a my turn your turn offense

(4) Streaky jump shooter. Not a strength of his, his offensive value comes from high percentage hoops in the paint. Once again causing spacing issues for Toronto.

(5) Wallace is a poor passer and a poor ball handler for his position. Despite being a wing he does not help Jose Calderon, that burden of running everything on the perimeter is still on Jose’s shoulders.

So now we go back to the drawing board, the club is clearly improved, but clearly still has major flaws.

  1. Defensively they still need a one-on-one stopper. Dribble penetration defensively is still a major issue

Offensively the addition isn’t good enough to form a foundation for a contender.

  1. Wallace will be doing well to score 16ppg when playing alongside two players who take his favourite positions/touches on the court. Chris Bosh is still without a true second scorer.
  2. The way Wallace scores his points will not help Bosh/Jermaine/Jose. He adds nothing new that they do not already have. Several of his touches/shots will be ones that would have gone to Bosh/Jermaine otherwise. His complementary scoring he does create will be closer to an Anthony Parker/Jamario Moon level, than a true second scorer.
  3. The team will not improve it’s execution in the fourth quarter because at a basic level it’s still the same play (isolation)
  4. The offense will stick lack balance and Jose Calderon still has no help threading the offense together. Another poor passer/playmaker/ball handler. Calderon will still need to make all the decisions he’s making right now.

#2 Jason Richardson

Jason Richardson is a 20-24ppg scorer. He’s one of the best jump shooters in the league. He’s one of the most versatile scorers in the league – stand still jump shooter, jumpers off the dribble, high post, mid post, low post game, midrange game, can beat his defender off the dribble, can get to the rim and finish, can get to the line (although doesn’t do it enough), and can score on the fastbreak, can run off screens off the ball, good cutter, work the pick and roll off the dribble.

Richardson is able to get his baskets no matter what offense a team runs. He’s a low usage player who doesn’t need many touches to score, and he can play off of (alongside) any type of player. Richardson is a clutch shooter at the end of the games and plays well in big games (put the Warriors on his back in the final month of that season to get them to the playoffs). His versatility and athleticism makes him a very tough scorer to limit/contain.

Richardson is also one of the best, if not the best, rebounding two guards in the league. He’s also a good defender who could be a very good defender if he didn’t have a whole offense resting on his shoulders every night. His strength defensively is his man-to-man defense.

Richardson is also one of the most athletic players in the league.

He’s not a playmaker/passer but he is a solid ballhandler and he can create his own shot from the perimeter. It’s not the perfect fit because you’d rather have a Brandon Roy/Joe Johnson, someone who can take some of the playmaking duties away from Calderon …. but Richardson ability to create his own shot and solid handle does enough to make it work.

The structural fit of the team is far stronger with Jason Richardson because he fits into the present core (Jermaine, Bosh, Jose) much better. He’s also easier to fit role players around because his strengths correlate better, and his weaknesses (unlike Wallace) don’t decide the player that needs to be acquired.

Jason Richardson is not good enough to be a Contending team’s best perimeter player except in one scenario – a playmaking point guard who’s an excellent floor general, someone who can thread the play together. Also a good supporting cast and deep level of high caliber talents (four).

Part Two

Okay, that was the first part of equation, now onto the second part. Most trades have a consequential action, in this case it’s who needs to start alongside Wallace/Richardson on the wing and can they be acquired.

Gerald Wallace

This is the problem of judging the need from the whole team rather than the core, it can give you and unfavourable foundation to build around. As we covered in the Wallace section earlier, Gerald certainly improves the squad but still leaves major weaknesses in play. So who does his teammate need to be?

Anthony Parker is a good role player. He’s a two way player who contributes in a number of different areas. Is a Calderon-Parker-Wallace-Bosh-Jermaine combination enough to contend for a title? No, it’s not. Parker scores a good clip (12ppg), is a great shooter (40+% from downtown, TS% 58%), and a useful defensive player. What’s missing? Dribble penetration. A legitimate stopper defensively. Ability to create his own shot from the perimeter. How many role players have this combination of skills? Very, very few.

Let’s change it to two extremes.

(1) A stopper at the two guard spot. Let’s say Bruce Bowen off last season’s Spurs.

Is a Calderon-Bowen-Wallace-Jermaine-Bosh lineup good enough to contend for a title? I do not think so, I think it’s too weak offensively to get the job done. It could be a great defensive team though and a very good rebounding (not elite) team.

Bear in mind that a player of Bowen’s caliber (last year) is not acquirable, and that the team will likely be playing with a lesser player.

(2) The best role player in terms of scoring and shot creation in the league is JR Smith.

Is a Calderon-Smith-Wallace-Bosh-Jermaine lineup good enough to contend for a title? Probably not, but it’d be a dangerous team that could win a few rounds in the playoffs. A Smith/Calderon backcourt would be one of the worst defensive backcourts in the league, and Wallace is no stopper on the wing, so defensively there would be huge concerns. You could help limit that by having good defenders off the bench but it’s likely to much to overcome. Calderon’s below par defense puts too much pressure on the wings to be positives defensively. Offensively that’s an incredible team. Rebounding wise it’s very good.

Bear in mind that a player of Smith’s caliber is not acquirable and that the team will likely be playing with a lesser player

So let’s get back to the player that Gerald Wallace would need alongside him, this player would likely need to be a mix of these two skills – even rarer and harder to acquire - without losing the necessary shooting. The odds of landing that are terrible – in fact off the top of my head I can think of only one role player in the league making MLE or less money (not rookie contract) that can do that.

To add context, the fifth wheel would likely need to be a Stephen Jackson or Tayshaun Prince level player. Because the foundation is not strong enough with Jose-Wallace-Bosh-Jermaine, ergo, the four man foundation has to stretch to five players. This requires bringing in another high level player who’ll be making $7-10mil per annum. Since the Bosh-Jermaine-Calderon-Wallace group is making so much money, this option is not achievable.

Jason Richardson

This is where the benefits of the foundation come to fruition. Richardson’s strengths fit alongside the Raps trio much better, and his weaknesses do not cause major trouble on the rest of the squad.

Also, it’s very much possible to find and acquire role players who are steady rebounders and good defenders on the wing. Pietrus is an example of one last year. Bad case scenarios also have good fits like Keith Bogans.

My preference: After trading Parker+Bargnani+makeweights needed for Richardson. Then trade Kapono for an expiring contract to free up some spending money so the Raps actually use their MLE in the offseason, and sign Trevor Ariza.

Is a Calderon-Richardson-Ariza-Bosh-Jermaine lineup good enough to contend for a title? Yes, I think so. Offensively that’s a very good team, defensively that’s very strong, and it’s also very strong on the boards. Get a good bench to go with it and you definitely have a contender on your hands. It’s not a frontrunner like LA or Boston, but it is a contender (Detroit or New Orleans level).

One small point – if Richardson makes them a contender but not a frontrunner like Boston/LA, what does?

What would the squad need to be a frontrunner for a title?

That goes back to the start of my thoughts and fourth option on the needs for the fourth player in the foundation - a playmaker/passer/ballhandler in conjunction to Richardson’s skills - That player is Joe Johnson or a Brandon Roy. A higher level version would be Tracy McGrady. A higher level again is Pierce, Kobe, or a LeBron James.

Conclusion

I think Jason Richardson is the far superior option for the Toronto Raptors.

Also, I do not think it matters one iota whether it’s a two guard or a small forward that’s acquired. In contrast, the skill set of the player matters very much.

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  1. that’s a really good (long) point you made. i never considered a two guard because i thought parker serviceable. however, i never considered the raptors to be a championship contender, so my thought process was different.

    i still have some concerns about richardsons:

    defense, he is an improvement over wallace, but not a shut down defender on the wing (like pietrus, lol)

    salary: he’s on the books for about $12.5mill, which would mean a parker/bargnani/graham type swap.

    that would leave:

    calderon
    richardson
    moon
    bosh
    o’neal

    solomon/ukic
    kapono/adams
    kapono/?
    humphries
    jawai

    the 2/3 becomes a bit depleted unless another move (like you suggest) kapono for a couple serviceable (expiring) contracts. off the top of my head, i can’t think of who that would be.

    richardson can play about 37 minutes a game, but we would be riding him hard.

    one thing i love, is that he is young (28 in january).

    this plan is a two year one, because they would need to get some help with the expiring contracts from the kapono (proposed) trade.

    i wonder if richardson could be had? i can’t see brown appreciating a bargnani or graham – i can see him liking parker though.

    what other twos, who are in the salary/elite type level, richardson is in, could be had this season?

    really interesting out of the box thinking though man. i like it!

  2. Thank you Raps Fan,

    Yes, I was thinking of Joey Graham of as third player in the deal also.

    That would leave the wings lacking depth but the beautiful thing about the wings is it’s the most abundantly talented position in the NBA. The position is easier to fill than any other and there’s always good options available for low money somewhere.

    Bonzi Wells would be my favourite short term solution. Kirk Snyder, what is he doing? Some others will free up around the deadline either as buyouts or overlooked members of a roster that are available cheaply. Similar to Shawne Williams earlier this season.

    The options would open up in a big way by next summer. Sign someone like Quinton Ross as the fifth wing in the rotation. Khandor talked a good bit about Rodney Carney, that’s another player who could be available at the minimum. You might have a veteran like Jerry Stackhouse or Grant Hill available at the LLE or minimum also.

    By next summer there will be lots of options – and the team will need to wait until the summer to add that defensive stopper starting SF anyway, so the short term issue isn’t too important – Every summer there’s options, it’s something to take a lot of comfort in.

    ………………………………………….

    I think Parker will almost definitely be needed in a Bargnani trade because of his expiring contract. He’ll be difficult to hang onto.

    Shooters of Kapono’s ilk always have trade value but I think it’s more likely to be a different type of team that is interested in him, not a squad looking to move a veteran for youth/cap flexibility. You’ll see more contenders and playoff squads interested in Kapono.

    Also, if you trade Kapono is a separate deal you could pick up a serviceable role player as well as an expiring deal, like Phily did with Korver getting Goran Giricek. Whether this player is a short term fill in, or a deep insurance policy, or something very good (Mo Evans/Delfino were throw ins, throw aways, in the past) …. it’s possible to get something that fills a gap.

    One final point on a Bargnani trade, having Humphries is very valuable because it offers the Raptors an automatic fill in as the first big off the bench. Thus a 2-for-1 or 3-for-1 (if Graham, or one of the two backup PGs) has less effect on their first choice rotation.

    ………………………………………….

    I agree fully on Richardson’s defense and that the squad still needs a stopper next to him.

    But as a secondary (second best) perimeter defender on the wing, he’ll be very effective. That would give your perimeter defense good strength. He’s also good enough to spend some time on an opposition’s team’s best wing, say if the stopper is in foul trouble, which is good flexibility for the team to have.

    Pietrus would have been a nice option next to Richardson.

    ………………………………………….

    Another issue with Richardson is his contract which is slightly higher than you’d like ($10mil easier flexibility wise) and increases each of the next two years.

    This will make it difficult for the Raptors to take on further salaries – why I mentioned a salary dump with Kapono to free up the MLE next summer – so adding salaries to the bench will be difficult.

    However, if you keep the contracts low and short term (realistically aiming for a solid bench rather than an excellent one) for the 2009/10 season, then you can re-sign Jermaine O’Neal the following summer at a lower salary and start building a top notch bench.

    ………………………………………….

    Unfortunately, there’s not too many other options at Richardson’s level. His defense is a big separating factor between himself and wings like Michael Redd. Then his versatility scoring wise is another big separating factor between players like Richard Jefferson and himself. So players like Richardson are few and far between. When squads find a player like Richardson they’re normally very hesitant to give them up (Hamilton+Detroit).

    The only reason Richardson is so badly undervalued in comparison to some of these players is that …. he was stuck on lousy teams throughout his career. He’s flown under the radar. If he’d be on a couple of winning teams he’s likely a 2-3 time All-Star by now.

    Charlotte are a mess and are looking at options to rebuild – why they’re shopping Wallace – so they’ll consider moving Richardson. It’s just a question of what is the right offer, and in the Raptors case whether the Bobcats are interested in Andrea Bargnani and increased cap flexibility.

    When considering candidates it’s important that the player is at least a solid defender, because coupling Calderon with another weak defender will make it difficult for the Raptors to have a good perimeter defense.

    ………………………………………….

    I think Bargnani would be an excellent fit alongside Okafor and Wallace. Bargnani gets to play his natural position which is a nice start.

    Gerald Wallace has had his best stretches in Charlotte at power forward, and needs the post areas available to work, so Bargnani’s perimeter game opens up Wallace’s options offensively. He also creates more space for Okafor. Bargnani would also be the only big who provides a pick and pop option for the two young point guards.

    Wallace and Okafor are both elite rebounders at their position so they can cover Bargnani’s weaknesses. Also both are great help defenders, while Bargnani is a better one-on-one defender. It gives the Bobcats three shot blockers inside too.

    Charlotte are awful poor at power forward and are looking to acquire big man help - so Bargnani will catch their attention, whether that pause is strong enough to make a deal or not is unknown - Larry Brown desperately wants more big men and for good reason, Emeka Okafor has the wost big man help in the league bar none.

    Whether Brown is comfortable developing a PF like Bargnani or not is unclear. Brown likes workers who rebound so there’s a good chance he won’t. But Bargnani’s talent and upside may be enough to convince him otherwise.

    As for Joey Graham, the first thought that came into my mind after reading your comment was “dumb man’s George Lynch”. I’d give it a 50-50 shot. Good chance he’ll like Graham early on. Either way, Graham is just a throw in to make the salaries work, the team doesn’t need to like him.

    Brown will like Anthony Parker a great deal.

  3. i was exactly thinking bonzi wells too. he was actually someone i targeted in the summer, and is available, and probably licking his chops to get any sort of check. if they get some sort of exception for jawai, i would like to see them take a run at wells. the guy does a lot on offense that the raptors could use, specifically taking it to the rack.

    and after i posted my comment, i started to think that lining bargnani up with okafor and wallace would be a pretty solid front line.

    richardsons salary isn’t that bad. he will be 31 when he will be banking about 14.5mill. which means the raptors would have a pretty solid core of calderon, bosh and richardson for three years. i could see o’neal resign for a reasonable contract (8-10) which would allow the raptors about 10 mill in spending to grab a solid wing.

  4. Raps Fan,

    Some of the complications on Richardson’s contract

    Jason Richardson’s contract is a tad high but it’s fine so long as the other major contracts on his team are good – this is why you can’t build a team around Richardson (problem for GSW+Charlotte), Richardson needs to be a final piece rather than an initial piece (which suits Toronto fine), since his contract takes too much flexibility away. The Raptors have that with Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon, but not with Jermaine O’Neal (for 18 months at least) which complicates the immediate situation.

    For an example, let’s assume the trade is Bargnani+Parker+Graham for Jason Richardson. The present rate of pay for the big four is manageable but limits one’s options severely. If you think of the Raptors payroll right now – $43mil big three + $28mil role players – would switch to – $55mil big four + $16mil role players – which leaves the Raptors in a similar spot financially overall – very close to the luxury tax.

    If you think about that $16 million in role players you have Kapono at $6mil, and then $10mil to spend on 8 players. So you don’t have much wiggle room to develop your bench. You’d also definitely have to move Kapono in order to get the final piece of the puzzle for the starting five, and then fill out the bench with cheap contracts for 12 months (2009/10).

    If Jermaine O’Neal did then resign at less money, at $10mil (good ball park for his next extension at present level of performance + age), then the Raptors would suddenly have the cap flexibility (above cap, well below luxury tax) to add two more contracts at near MLE levels (could only use MLE once, so some creativity needed on second contract trade wise). The Raptors could get two 6th man quality players - or one 6th man and two 7th man quality players - at that type of money and really develop their bench in a big way. Between then and now the Raptors also will have two first round picks which if used well, could give two further quality rotation players. The Raptors also have two bench players on the books until 2010/11 in Kris Humphries (option for 2011) and Roko Ukic, one rotation worthy big man and perhaps a backup point guard in due time. Then spend the remaining money on a few well picked minimum/low contract players …. and the Raptors would suddenly have one of the best benches in the league to go with their high quality starting five.

    If it’s managed right there’s good opportunities there.

    Two Excellent Options in 2009+2010

    (1) I don’t know whether MLSE would do this but their best hand to play would be something along these lines – Sign Jermaine O’Neal (if he proves his health) to extension next summer (at $10mil) and use the MLE that summer, take the one year luxury tax hit knowing they can get under the cap again next season - that would give the Raptors the best chance of winning both in the short term (09/10) and medium term (following 2-3 years) because it would ensure more quality off the bench (two near MLE signings better than one, deeper bench, more quality).

    (2) The other excellent option for MLSE is to wait until 2010 and consider replacing Jermaine in free agency if the team is uncomfortable with his health and add a new fourth player (could be a small forward or big man) and then a role player (fifth starter dependent on fourth player’s position – center or small forward). The squad could get to a situation were they have about $42mil on the books with Bosh, Calderon, Richardson, Ukic in 2010 – lot of flexibility (max contract) there to add a high caliber fourth player. If that new fourth player is younger the squad would have a much larger window of opportunity contending for an NBA Championship.

    On the second option let’s play out a dream scenario —— the Raptors replace Jermaine O’Neal with Joe Johnson. A Calderon-Richardson-Johnson-Bosh foursome is Championship contender worthy, and is young enough to have several attempts at the title. This creates a hole at center which could be filled out by someone like Brendan Haywood or Joel Przybilla (JJ likely need a max contract, so the Raps might have to wait 12 months to acquire that center). That would be one heck of a basketball team. The Raptors could also keep their eye open on the trade market with Richardson’s expiring deal, or later in his career, and get younger again to prolong the Championship window of opportunity (Celtics are going to do this with Ray Allen over the next year).

    I guess my point is, through the second option, that even if you acquire Jason Richardson you’re not locked into a terrible situation if Jermaine O’Neal isn’t able to go. The team still has enough flexibility to re-adjust and put a contender out there. This is a very important note because it describes the risk of a Richardson acquisition well, and that risk is low and friendly towards the Raptors organization.

  5. if i organize a coup at mlse, would be interested in colangelo’s job?

  6. The bigger line-up they’re using right now with …

    * Bargnani, O’Neal & Bosh
    * Calderon [PG]
    * Non-distinguished OG [i.e. Parker or Kapono ... and, personally, I would introduce Moon into the mix at this spot, as well]

    has considerable merit … as a skewed version of the 1980’s Boston Celtics.

    Question
    Can they handle the High End Teams across the League with this specific ‘Style of Play’?

    Answer
    Time will tell.

    ———————————–

    Discuss at your leisure. :-)

  7. i can see moon rebounding and playing adequate defense at the 2, but feel his shooting wouldn’t be up to par. parker is a far superior shooter/scorer then moon. i’m not confidant that he would be able to replace the 11pts a game parker is putting up now. thoughts?

  8. Hey Khandor,

    I don’t think there’s much to discuss on that lineup at this point. I find it too early to draw any conclusions, a lack of quality information.

    I think Sam is doing the right thing experimenting with the lineup and that the success/failure of this grouping could/should go a long way to deciding the Raptors future.

    I look forward to seeing the lineup some more against a few different teams, get a feeling for where it works and where not.

    ———————————–

    Unless Bargnani has an amazing breakout season while playing small forward, I don’t see it changing the season’s outlook. It will change their style of play, but I don’t think it changes the end result.

    ————————————

    I must admit I’m more on the pessimistic side about this lineup’s future. I expect it will only work in certain situations, irregularly rather than constantly.

    That said it’s such an unusual lineup that it’s very difficult to get a firm read on it prior to the games being played … so the Raptors should definitely try it out and tinker around with it some more.

  9. Dave,

    The key thing is having their three ‘bigger’ players on the court at the same time with a ‘bigger’ PG, as well, who plays under control like, Jose Calderon, but is also far from being ‘slow’ by NBA standards.

    When you think about some of the best teams in NBA history, there’s a definite intrigue about such a group of 4 players with the Raptors, if three of them are Bosh, Bargnani [who shooting can really stretch the Defense when it's on] and Calderon.

    If that third ‘bigger’ player is either O’Neal [who needs to Rebound effectively for this team], or Humphries [who needs to score, because that's who he is as a basketball player], or even someone like Rasho Nesterovic [who doesn't need to shoot the ball to be effective but could defend on the block, rebound adequately and shot-block/deter shots in the lane] … none of whom are immobile … this would then allow them to use their smaller ‘more’ athletically explosive players off the bench in specific situations … and it might not matter very much if they can dominate the REBOUNDING Differential, win the Turnover Battle, and then shoot an absudly high 3FGM-A %.

    Something to definitely keep an eye as they begin to match-up with the High End Teams across the League between now and Christmas.

    ———————————–

    NOTE: If I recall correctly … when the Raptors tried to play Nesterovic, Bosh & Bargnani together, in the past, it was with TJ Ford on the floor. This is a different situation altogether.

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