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Old 09-10-2012, 10:43 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Chisholm: Looking at Raptors' changes in the paint


Last season: Aaron Gray and Amir Johnson
This Season: Aaron Gray and Amir Johnson

This spot is obviously just a placeholder until Jonas Valanciunas is ready to slide into the starting five, but for now (probably this entire season), Gray and Johnson will split the duties depending on matchups and injuries.

Gray is a stellar rebounder, fifth in the NBA last season in rebound rate, and he's the team's only legit seven-footer that is physically equipped to guard against the biggest pivot-men in the NBA. Gray started 40 of 66 games for the Raptors last year (he probably would have started even more had he not missed the start of the season with a rapid heart rate) and he'll likely be the default choice for the Raptors until Valanciunas gets comfortable on an NBA court.

It's worth remembering, of course, that Johnson also started 43 games last year, mostly at power forward as a result of Bargnani's injury problems keeping him out of regular action. General manager Bryan Colangelo has been boastful in the past about how the club's analytics favor a Bargnani/Johnson frontcourt, so one shouldn't rule out Johnson getting a chance to usurp a more permanent role in the starting five from Gray - it's just up to him to earn it with his play.

While Johnson can't match Gray's bulk, he is a more mobile forward and the club has been encouraging him to work on his jumper in an attempt to expand his offensive game. If he can prove himself a more capable back-line defender than he has been in the past while also making himself a more consistent pick-and-pop option, then whatever his role is, he should not have to worry about minutes in Toronto's rotation.
Chisholm: Looking at Raptors' changes in the paint
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