NBA Roundtable

Small Moves For Toronto

In Free Agency, General NBA on August 8, 2009 at 2:28 am

Okay, this feels like a pointless exercise … since Colangelo is settled, or close to, on his roster for the start of training camp … but I can’t help it so here we go.

I think the Raptors could benefit from making a couple more small moves — losing some of the dead weight on the end of their roster, and then signing a couple of solid minimum contract players who’ll provide more impact for the Raptors.

Here’s a few small moves Toronto could make to flesh out their bench

Dead Weight

Toronto have 14 players on their roster currently. They can only depend on 10 of those players, and I think one of those 10 guys isn’t good enough to be a rotation worthy player on a team with solid depth.

The guys who I consider to be dead weight are — Marcus Banks, Roko Ukic, Quincy Douby and Patrick O’Bryant.

I’d like to see the Raptors remove at least three of those players from the squad. I don’t think O’Bryant is good enough to play in the NBA, so he’s an easy call. Then it’s a choice between the three point guards. I’d like to see Banks removed from the equation, because I hold zero hope for him coming good at this stage of his career whereas there’s still some hope for both Roko + Douby to improve. I’d be happy with either Roko or Douby in the third string slot, but I’d prefer to keep Roko.

Since Toronto have no luxury tax concerns on the immediate horizon, they could just waive the players they’re no longer interested in and comfortably sign minimum contract replacements.

The Wing

There are two players who I think will sign minimum contract deals next season who I’d like to see the Raptors show some interest in — Ime Udoka and Keith Bogans.

I think either one of those players immediately becomes the Raptors first wing off the bench. For me, their superior defense makes them an upgrade over Belinelli, and their superior all-round games make them much better options than Antoine Wright.

Keith Bogans is a slightly above average defender (like Wright), while Udoka is a good-to-very good defender. Udoka is an excellent rebounder for a two guard, and a good rebounder for a small forward. Keith Bogans is a very good rebounder for a two guard, and slightly below average but serviceable rebounder for a three. Offensively, both players are little more than stand still jump shooters, but that’s fine for a role player. They’re both solid shooters, although Udoka struggled with his shot last year but I think that’s only a temporary blip.

My first choice would be Ime Udoka, but I’d be very happy with either player.

The Big Men

Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani combined to give Toronto one of the worst pick and roll defenses in the league. I don’t understand the logic in Toronto then proceeding to sign two slow footed bigs in Reggie Evans and Rasho Nesterovic to back them up.

I was a big fan of bringing back Pops Mensah-Bonsu, because I thought an athletic big man like himself could help improve the pick and roll defense, while also offering a different look for the Raptors to throw at the opposition. Ergo, I’d like to see the Raptors bring back Pops to be the fifth big in the Raptors big man rotation.

I would then like to see the Raptors sign a sixth big man to provide more heft and size for whenever the Raptors needed a true third string center option. A couple of names I’d like Colangelo to look at would be — James Augustine, Adonal Foyle, Brian Skinner, Jason Collins.

I’m not sure who my favourite from that group would be. I think Collins would be the best locker room presence, and a good defender who’d help the Raptors work on their D in practices. Foyle would likely prove too hard a sell, I don’t expect him to leave Orlando without being offered a larger role elsewhere. I’m partial to a guy like Augustine, a guy who’s a very good rebounder, works his socks off, and is fighting for his NBA life. I like having workers like that at the end of my roster, so I think he’s my first choice.

Raptors Lineup

Starting Five — Calderon – DeRozan – Turkoglu – Bosh – Bargnani

Rotation Players — Ten man rotation

  • First guard off bench — Jarrett Jack
  • First wing off bench — Ime Udoka or Keith Bogans
  • Second wing off bench — Marco Belinelli
  • First big off bench — Reggie Evans
  • Second big off bench — Rasho Nesterovic

Rest Of Roster

  • Third string point guard — Roko Ukic or Quincy Douby
  • Fifth wing in rotation — Antoine Wright
  • Fifth big in rotation — Pops Mensah-Bonsu
  • Sixth big in rotation — James Augustine … or Jason Collins or Adonal Foyle or Brian Skinner

That would get the Raptors to 14 players. I’d keep the final roster spot open in case of emergency (injury) during the season, or a quality player becoming available at a later date.

Conclusions

I think some small moves like these three minimum contract signings would do a lot to boost the Raptors depth beyond their first choice rotation players.

I also think a good defender, good rebounder, a solid shooter on the wing (Udoka or Bogans) would be an upgrade over their two present options in Belinelli + Wright and would provide a further boost to their regular rotation players.

I think these moves would help improve the Raptors overall depth. I’d be very happy to see Bryan Colangelo make some additions along these lines, rather than standing still with the guys he’s currently got.

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  1. I agree with you for the most part here… but if Wright doesn’t start, I would still rather see him off the bench over Marco (as it stands right now, things can definetely change over preseason and the regular season though).

    As for your list of bigs, I think Skinner would be an excellent decision. Good rebounder, defender and some toughness. Plus he doesn’t seem to mind playing the fill in role and has always played hard in his limited minutes. We would also finally have a (although limited) shot blocker.

  2. I’m largely in agreement, but are you positive the math works? All 4 will still count against the cap. We can assume a million or so for each vet’s min – we could be creeping on an additional $5M.

  3. I’m curious what you think, ultimately, the sense of waiving Banks is. Do you think someone will claim him? If so, who? And, a better question, why would they? Are there other teams in need of an end-of-the-bench player who would take up $4.5 million of valuable capspace while contributing nothing? Please provide us with a GM who would be that stupid—pulease. If you can’t come up with a name (and neither can I), your masterstroke falls apart. If we release Banks, his salary still counts against the cap. Using your logic (dumb NBA GM’s) I would propose that the Raps trade Banks to Cleveland for LeBron. LBJ would be ideal backing up Hedo at the SF. Then trade POB to Orlando for Dwight Howard. With DH backing up Bargs at Centre, we would have one of the better teams in the league. Come on, BC. I hope your reading this!

  4. Unless you are thinking the Raps have a shot at the conference finals this year, the tweaking you’re looking at probably isn’t going to make much of a difference and it would likely, at the least, take minutes away from some young guys who could lead the Raptors deeper into the playoffs, 2 to 3 seasons from now.
    I believe that is the object of getting Belinelli, drafting Derozan, giving big minutes to Bargs, and giving a shot to overlooked guys like POB & QD instead of signing “proven” slightly below average talent who might make you marginally better right now.
    Your analysis isn’t wrong, it just isn’t BCo’s plan. And guys like the one’s you’re considering are available in August every year when/if the team needs that “sure thing” veteran’s minimum back up. Hey, there’s still one roster spot left!

    (Should consider the possibility that BCo is holding onto “deadweight” contracts for trade purposes just in case the season is over in January and CB4 is being traded – Not expected, but he’d look like an idiot if the worst happens and he bought out those contracts now)

  5. Hey Random Baller,

    I like that plan too! Wright instead of Marco, and Skinner as the big. Nice.

    I was leaning towards Belinelli as the second wing off the bench, because I think his defense is better than Wright’s offense, and that his offense is about equal to Wright’s defense. I think overall he’s a better player. However, considering the team’s need for more defense and already impressive offensive arsenal, Wright’s defense may be the better choice for Toronto. I’d be happy with Wright getting those minutes.

    Hey Tom,

    The most a minimum contract costs against a team’s cap is $825k. So three times $825k would be an additional $2.475 million on the Raptors cap, which still keeps them well below the luxury tax threshold — salaries would be around $67.2 million with the tax at $69.9 million, so $2.7 million in space remaining.

    Side Note: When you hear about a veteran signing a minimum contract worth $1.3 million … only $825k counts against the team’s cap + luxury tax threshold, with the league paying the rest of the bill. It’s to prevent age discrimination — it’s to make sure more expensive minimum contract older players don’t lose roster spots to younger cheaper talent, instead ensuring that the best talent wins out and gets the spot (prolongs older players’ careers).

    Hey Steve,

    If Colangelo did make a couple of moves like this, which by all appearances he won’t, the Raptors would still be giving Bargnani and DeRozan starter’s minutes … with no difference from their current situation. In my rotation they’d also be giving Belinelli some minutes off the bench.

    As I said above, I don’t consider Patrick O’Bryant an NBA level player, I just don’t think he can play at this level. So his development is of no concern of mine. There’s no difference minutes wise for the third string point guards (Banks, Roko, Douby) in either plan, they simply won’t be getting minutes unless Jack or Calderon get injured for a lengthily period.

    So there’s only two differences minutes wise for the team’s young players — (1) POB who I don’t rate, and then, (2) Udoka taking some time away from Belinelli + Wright — I don’t consider Wright a prospect and would be happy at him having a smaller role for the Raptors next season, so that’s fine with me. The second is Belinelli shifting from a 20 minute a night backup to a guy who plays more like 10 minutes. I’m fine with that trade off, if you or others do not like that, then you could always decide not to sign the backup wing and just sign two backup bigs instead, or sign a lesser backup wing to provide depth for Belinelli (which Colangelo is likely to do – the small forward he wants to sign).

    Trade wise — Colangelo can trade these veterans just as easily as makeweights in a trade proposal, as he could the current guys … oh, expect Banks, who is a negative in any trade but is also paid ($4.55 million) good money which could prove useful in a possible Bosh trade. There was one spot left open in my preferred Raptors roster, so you can use that on Banks if that’s a serious concern.

    Hey EarthJuice,

    I made a comment over at Raptors Republic saying I felt there were three, later split into to four, options for the Raptors over Banks.

    (1) Trade Banks to a team for a better player with a worse (longer) contract
    (2) Combine Banks’ contract with a future first round pick, and try to acquire a good player at Banks’ pay level (a good 6th or 7th man type).
    (3) Hold Banks contract for the duration, and then use him as a trade asset when he’s an expiring contract in February 2011.
    (4) Waive Banks

    I think options 1+2 do more long term harm than short term good, so I’m not interested in them. I would say, however, if one rated the Raptors squad highly (50 win team, possible playoff run) then I could see some value in either of these options because a good 6th/7th man for the next three years could make a significant difference for the team. But I’m not as optimistic, and believe the pick + cap flexibility to be more valuable.

    Then we’re left with the other two options. I initially bundled them together, but they’re better split into two. My interest in waiving Banks — with his contract counting against the Raps cap for two years — isn’t everyone’s cup of tea … but it’s my preferred move.

    To explain …

    I don’t think the Raptors are going to be successful, I think they’re going hit a glass ceiling and be forced to take apart parts of this roster. I think the best opportunity to do that well is in 2011 when Reggie Evans + Marcus Banks expire, and then trading one or two of the big four (Bosh/Hedo/Jose/Bargnani) for expiring contracts and then getting under the cap in a big way and making a play in free agency that summer. This is what I believe to be the best option for the Raptors franchise … and trading Banks’ expiring contract for talent only adds payroll, and limits the cap space they could have that summer, hurting by first choice option for improving the team.

    Anyway, nearly everyone would disagree with my views on this … especially at this early stage (before the new look Raps play a game) … and would prefer to keep Banks so that he could be a trade asset in 18 months time. That’s fine, there’s one roster spot left open, the team can keep Banks comfortably. The team could also trade both Roko + Douby, and give Banks the third string role so at least he’s not completely useless while sitting on the bench over there.

    Waiving Banks benefits — just frees up a roster spot, that’s the main point, allows the team to put that roster spot to better use — Allows the Raptors to move on and put this behind them, rather than have a non-playing player’s contract hanging over their heads. They’re probably have to pay Banks 95% of his contract to get rid of him, so whatever savings they get in the buyout would be minimal.

  6. I agree with the fact that we have 3 wasted rosters spots in Douby, POB, and Banks because they are not going to play. Roko deserves a chance because the kid showed potential last year. He could easly play 5 or 7 minutes per game and be in the rotation moving jack to the two and playing small ball.

    About a trade with banks, i think the only logical option is trading him for a player with a larger contract and in the trade block. There’s no sense in talking about a Martell Webster trade with Portland because they don’t want to part with him, is one of their young core that’s developing together.

    I still think we need to address the back up SF position, I don’t like A. Wright at all. He’s not what we really need at that position. We need a shooter, defensive minded who can play the 4 sometimes.
    I have very little options available.
    1. Andres Nocioni
    2. Linas Kleiza
    3. Ime Udoka
    4. Renaldo Balkman.

    Of course, the last two are much cheaper options but not as good as the first two. There’s no way we can get Kleiza, so the best option is Nocioni. He’s overpaid but at the same time very underrated. He clearly doesn’t fit in the Kings rebuilding plans and deserves to be with a playoff contender. In a raptors jersey, a player of his caliber could make us a ridiculously deep team and a title contender right away. That’s for sure.

    A possible trade for him could be including Wright and POB

    —> http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=mmujbl

    Wright will give them the type of production they need and an expiring contract. POB will address some of their back up big man needs. With this move Sacramento would save about, 2.5 mill next year and 7.5 mill when Banks contract expires. That’s 10 mill dollars off their books and three players who could contribute for their team.
    I think it’s the best option for the raptors to trade Banks and at the same time, get a high quality back up sf. For Sacramento is a real good move, saving money and getting two young players who can contribute right away, plus banks could see some minutes too

    By the way, the only reason this trade failed in the trade machine is because wright can’t be trade with another player until September 9th, so that’s not an issue for this trade to happen

    Imagine a rotation of
    Calderon/Jack/Ukic
    De Rozan/Belinelli/Douby -with jack playing a lot of minutes at the SG
    Turk/Nocioni/Iwekenbe (realy like what i saw in the summer league)
    Bosh/Evans -with nocioni playing some back up PF minutes
    Bargs/Rasho/ some young min salary big men James Augustine For example

  7. Hey Raul,

    I like that idea. I like it a lot, I think Nocioni could be of great use to the Toronto Raptors.

    Nocioni’s Contract

    I wasn’t a fan of Nocioni’s contract but that declining contract of his is starting to look a lot more passable these days …

    2009-10 — $7.5 million
    2010-11 — $7 million
    2011-12 — $6.5 million
    2012-13 — Team Option — $6 million

    If Nocioni ages well, they can keep him around for four years. If he doesn’t, it’s only a three year commitment.

    Bench

    I love the idea of having Jack and Nocioni as my team’s 6th and 7th men. That’s a strong presence off the bench. Two guys who can impact games.

    Sacramento Kings

    I think this is a good trade for Sacramento. I think they should be trying to trade Nocioni, Udrih and Garcia for expiring deals. Too much money tied up in a role players, when the squad badly needs that money to be able to go out and sign an All-Star or two through free agency.

    That said, I’m not sure Sacramento are currently interested in a trade like this. They walked away from a similar trade proposal from the Boston Celtics at the trading deadline last season, and that trade included more talent + savings.

    I think it’s just a matter of time though … until Sacramento figure out that this is their best move.

    Edit: Bah, bloody Marcus Banks. I think the Kings will look for an expiring contract instead of taking Banks on. It’s not a sure thing that they’ll be offered that, but there’s a decent likelihood.

    Roko Ukic

    I’m comfortable keeping Ukic around.

    My main problem is having three third string point guards, just one and I’ll be a lot happier.

    I thought Ukic hurt the team last season (weaknesses greater than strengths) … But he is clearly an interesting prospect, with good potential, so I’d be happy to keep him around at the bench and see if he develops further. Because of his potential, and his defense, Ukic would definitely be my favourite of the three third stringers.

    I don’t think there will be any minutes for Ukic next season though … at least not regular minutes … Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack have them locked up

  8. sorry man but you have to realize, a 15 man team does not mean all 15 players will be able to play, you said it yourself, each team only has a 10 man rotation. whats the point in waiving players then replacing them with other players when in reality, none of these players will be able to play anyways??? unless 5 players in the rotation all get injured at the same time, then there’s no point replacing your bench warmers. also, why in the world do you think udoka and bogans, who were rotation players last season, sign, for a stinking minimum contract and be faced with the fact that they wont be playing a single minute in an NBA game. would you sign under those circumstances? POB, banks, ukic, douby, they are called fillers. they are there to fill spots for the team to be complete. plus if you waive players, you will have to pay them essentially to get rid of them, but whatever you pay them still counts on your cap, so really, this is one dumb idea. sorry.

  9. Jason Kapono was, at the time he was traded, an untradeable contract – a shooter would couldn’t or wouldn’t shoot. Reggie Evans was a piece of nastiness on defense Colangelo wanted. This was the BIG TRADE that started in all. This defined the draft pick and everything else.

  10. One of the things this summer taught us, in my opinion, is that getting way under the cap to sign free agents is overrated. Things only worked out for toronto because they didn’t end up getting turkoglu as a free agent, but as a trade. The fact that banks and Evans come off the cap in 2011 is not a good reason to base all the raptors plans around that year, IMHO. And the fact that the plan now cannot work without trading away one of the raptors 4 best players (for an expiring contracts, no less), should demonstrate that it’s not something that can work at this point. Maybe before the turkoglu signing and bargnani extension, but not now. What’s the point of trading a good player for expiring contracts, just so you can maybe sign another player about as good? You could do that any year, it doesn’t have to be 2011.

  11. Hey methayusking,

    I think a team needs a minimum of 12 players that they can rely on … so that they can handle a reasonable amount of injuries over the course of a regular season.

    Hey Richard,

    Not sure I follow your train of thought there … but yeah, absolutely, an excellent trade by Bryan Colangelo.

    Hey malefax,

    There is only virtue in a salary dump if the club feels confident that they can reasonably find an upgrade the player at the same paycheck.

    If you don’t feel that’s applicable to this Raptors team, then you should absolutely be against this idea. I, however, think it will be very easy for the Raptors to find a superior player than Bargnani at that paycheck level.

    The 2011 part is just because other contracts were expiring at the same time. You don’t want to trade, say Jose Calderon, and then find that you’re not far enough below the cap to offer a large contract because Banks + Evans are taking up $10 million of your cap flexibility. 2011 is the earliest possible date for a major change through free agency (while keeping Bosh) because of those contracts.

    Next Season = 50 wins?

    The Raptors four stars … if they’re legitimate stars, there is no good reason for this team not to win 50 games next season …

    I’d rate them as: in Bosh they have a top 15-20 player, in Turkoglu a borderline All-Star caliber player, and in Calderon a player a notch below an All-Star. Then add a fourth player (Bargnani) who is/will be earning $10 million a year should be a borderline All-Star or better … a core with that level of talent, and with a reasonable supporting cast (which the Raps are close to having), that core should be able to lead the Raptors to a 50+ win season. If Bargnani is the type of talent we’d all love him to be, the Raptors should be that good next season.

    If this team isn’t winning 50 games … then something is wrong, and almost definitely wrong with the core of the team, and they’ll need to rebuild it (I expect Bargnani to be that problem) in order to move forward.

    There’s no point in going forward with a core to a team that’s only good enough to lead them to 40-45 wins. Even you build one of the best supporting casts in the league, you still won’t be a contender.

  12. I guessed 45 wins for the Raptors. Bargnani’s rebounding and defense, and the perimeter defense are still issues in my eyes.

  13. I agree. I think Bargnani needs to be moved if there isnt significant improvement in his play next season. He takes up far too much cap space for what he provides, especially defensively and rebounding. In my opinion, I think people overrate his offense.

  14. I’m thinking the Raptors will be somewhere around .500 next season.

  15. Probably be waiting until training camp to find out if Colangelo has any interest in adding a min salary wing player. Its gets pretty hard to tell them apart. Never know we might get a surprise visit from Joey by then (try not to panic, too much).

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