Naturally, leading up to draft day, there is a lot of speculation on deals that could be made, but there is even more speculation that usual for the Raptors this year. It’s no secret that the Raptors are trying to make a deal to get TJ out of town (or get more agile and versatile as the execs would probably put it) and anybody who watched a single Raptors game last season knows what the Raptors are lacking: rebounding and the ability to get to the net…the exact same things they were lacking the year before.
So with all of the names being thrown around, what are the pros and cons? Who would fit? Who wouldn’t? Here are a few names that have come up and a few comments on each guy. Forget the actual deals, because then we start getting into picks and packages, I’m not interested in that. Let’s just take a look at some of the names.
I actually hate myself for saying this, because I actually like Jermaine O’Neal, but there are a lot of things about him that make me have visions of Whince Carter. The first is that he has had a lot of injury problems, mostly with his knee. Now, given, Jermaine’s injuries have been legit and we haven’t seen him writhing on the floor, asking anybody around to find the sniper in the building, but time away from the court is time away from the court. In the past four seasons, O’Neal has averaged 51.5 games played per season, not exactly the kind of thing that makes you think bargain for a guy who has $44 million coming his way over the next two years. That’s Yogi money.
I also have some reservations about Jermaine’s drive. Okay, I know that he has been asking to get out of Indiana for a while now and given what that organization has turned into, you can see where he is coming from, but just because you don’t want to be somewhere, you don’t quit playing. The Raptors had a guy who did that already: VC. If there’s one thing this team, this CITY hates, it’s a quitter. That’s why this city loved guys like JYD and Oak (well, Oak was love/hate). We all knew that they weren’t the best players on the court, but we damn well knew that they weren’t going to take a night off. If Jermaine comes over to the Raptors, he will probably be rejuvenated, having an opportunity to play with Bosh and a pass-first guard in Jose. He will like playing in a building that is pretty much full on most nights. But what happens if the Raptors falter? Does he start to sulk? Does he start walking the court? Do his injuries mysteriously start to appear again? Who knows?
As far as his actual abilities go, Jermaine definitely has talent. When he’s healthy and he feels like playing, he can be a serious force attacking the basket and on the defensive end. Raptor fans might remember back in the 2002-2003 season when he slapped 10 blocks down on the Raps. He has always had a good shot, but if he is going to be serious about attacking the basket, he needs to get that free throw percentage higher than the career 70.5% he’s sitting at.
Well, as long as we are talking about guys who mysteriously disappear, step forward Mr. Diaw…which is actually what the Suns have been asking him to do for a few years now. Boris Diaw is about as inconsistent player as there is in the league. His points per game have decreased in each of the last three years, but that’s also associated with his playing time, which has also decreased. But guess why his playing time has decreased? Because the dude is inconsistent. You never know which guy you are going to get.
Diaw is going to get you some rebounds, but his aggression needs to go way up if he is going to be a serious presence on the boards. Too many times we see him either get muscled out of the way or simply fade into the background when the ball’s up in the air. Am I calling him soft? No, I don’t think he’s soft, but I think he could be a little tougher on the court. I guess his style of play has allowed him to be very resilient as far as not missing many games. There’s the trade-off vs. O’Neal. Jermaine has more talent and can score and play more D, but Diaw is probably going to play in more games. Some of the “soft” notion may also be attributed to the kind of guy he is. By all accounts, Diaw is a down to Earth type of guy, a good teammate. Sometimes you have to learn to leave that nice guy image in the locker room and come out and be a bad ass on the court.
Is there a player who has been more talked about in Toronto over the past few seasons than Gerald Wallace? We’ve heard about his athleticism, how he can attack the basket and take over games when he needs to. We’ve heard how he can be the slasher the Raptors need, how a Wallace-Bosh tandem would be near unstoppable. But once again, here’s another guy who has had some injury problems. In the past four seasons, he has averaged almost 65 games per year, which isn’t all that bad, but his injuries have been of the nagging variety, the type that might just show up season after season. The groin injury at the end of last season is a prime example. Groin injuries are possibly the worst injury to have in basketball, because it doesn’t let you have any power to leap, make cuts or get speed. It essentially renders you useless.
You also have to watch out for guys who have any sort of history of concussions. The next knock on a guy’s head could be the one that puts him out for half of the season. Take that along with his foot/leg/calf injuries, shoulder problems…sounds like he is getting ready to fall apart…and we don’t want that happening on Toronto’s dime.
You have to think that a guy who is playing in Charlotte (although he opted to stay there) has to want to play somewhere where he is going to be able to compete each night. You want to show up to the arena thinking that you have a chance to win on any given night. You also like to know that you have some legit talent around you, guys who are going to be able to pick up the slack on nights when you might not have your best stuff. Gerald might also thrive in the Raptors system because he will know that he is going to get a lot of touches, but that they are probably going to be when he has more of an opening. Give credit to Jose, he can find guys in traffic and knowing that he has a legit slasher with him on the floor, he will be looking to get Gerald the ball early and often.
We’ve said it before. Corey Maggette has never seen a shot he didn’t like. Off-balance, fadeaway, turnaround, hook, baby hook, jump hook, long range, mid-range, left-handed, right-handed, hell, underhanded, the guy likes to shoot. Shoot first, shoot second and clap for the ball when other guys are shooting. Okay, maybe he’s not THAT shot happy, but it just seems that his shots come at the most inopportune time. But here’s what I love about Maggette: he also likes to attack the basket. He’s right up near the top of the league in trips to the free-throw line and if there’s one thing I harp about here all the time, it’s how guys need to score points with the clock still. What I also like is that not only is he getting to the line, he’s following it up by shooting about 82% from the line for his career. Those are points the Raptors need to win close games. The points you are able to score at the start of the game from the line take away the ones you need at the end of the game and if you find yourself on the line at the end of the game, you have to be able to seal the deal.
Maggette is a decent rebounder, but you’re not bringing him into the fold to bring down boards. Make no mistake, if you’re bringing in Maggette, you’re bringing him in to score, to attack, to get guys into foul trouble trying to handle his athleticism. The one constant criticism about Maggette is that he takes some mini-vacations when it’s time to get on the defensive end. The Raptors were actually stronger last year on D than people give them credit for, so Sam would have to be all over Corey to make sure that he is working on both ends of the court. This is the kind of player where when he first puts on your uniform, you make sure he knows the rules and you make sure early. If he misses assignments on D, you sit his ass down and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Lay down the law early.
Anyway, there are a few other names floating around right now, but those are the main ones. Let’s see what happens within the next couple of days and await Thursday night.