TORONTO,ON–The Raptors have already been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, consequently, leading fans to ponder the future. There are decisions to be made in an offseason where players like Sonny Weems, Reggie Evans and possibly Leandro Barbosa (player option worth $7.6 million) are free agents. Further considerations have to be given to the top 5-draft pick the Raptors should receive in the NBA entry draft.
This off-season, it is looking like for the first time in a long while, the Raptors’ glaring weakness is NOT in their frontcourt. How could this be? Chris Bosh gave the Raptors seven years of quality interior play, but aside from him, the Raptors have suffered through years of horrid interior defense and rebounding, and have not had any offensive or defensive presence in the key.
The additions of Ed Davis and Amir Johnson have been instrumental in improving the Raptors frontcourt. These two young Raptors are providing us with a quality we have rarely seen before. Hustle.
Amir Johnson and Ed Davis have become notorious for hustling on every play on both the offensive and defensive end. Davis is unique in that he is a left-handed power forward who can block shots. For a rookie, he has an innate ability to box out and has a good sense of where to be when going for a rebound. He might never be a great scorer, but his first season in the NBA has showed that Davis can block shots, clear space, hit the short-range jump shot and rebound with the best of them. Davis is not a great post-up player either, but his intangibles could allow him to be a double-double threat as soon as next season.
Amir Johnson is Toronto’s version of Joakim Noah. Like Noah, Johnson can shoot the ball; his mid-range jump shot this season has been excellent, as Johnson owns one of the best shooting percentages in the league at %57.2. Contributing to that great FG percentage is Amir’s great play in the paint; going for every board and attempting put-backs on any given chance. The best part of his game is that you never have to call a play for him. He will generate his points and rebounds from consistent energy. Johnson has only begun to tap into his potential, and as long as he can stay healthy, (every time he goes down hard, fans all around Toronto cringe a little) the Raptors will give him every chance to succeed.
The tandem of Ed Davis and Amir Johnson works well because they transition very quickly from offence to defense, (and vice-versa) helping the Raptors in fast break opportunities, and getting back to play defense. To make things even better, Davis is 21 and Johnson is 23; the best is yet to come from these two.
The second tandem begs a few questions and can seem a little shaky at moments, but at the same time, they have the potential to be a special combination. Andrea Bargnani, and the soon to be free agent Reggie Evans, have played very well with each other for parts of this season. Five seasons in, Bargnani’s deficiencies have been discussed ad nauseam. Simply put, Bargnani can’t rebound and he can’t defend his position. He rarely plays in the paint, as his five-year love affair with the 3-point line continues, and he can look lazy and lethargic at the best of times. Looking at Reggie Evans, 11.6 rebounds a game tells us this guy knows what he’s doing in the paint. He is exactly the kind of warrior the Raptors need as an interior presence, especially when Bargnani is on the floor. However, unlike Bargnani, Reggie Evans can’t score to save his life. He has absolutely NO offensive game with a paltry 38.2% FG percentage and a 55.4% at the charity stripe.
Are you seeing what I’m seeing?
Bargnani and Evans make up for each other’s deficiencies. Evans rebounds and defends, something Bargnani cant do, and Bargnani can focus on scoring. Despite many Raptors’ fan’s growing disdain for Bargnani, the one thing you can’t deny is that Bargnani knows how to score. Yes, he still takes a lot of jump shots, and 45% needs to be improved, but believe it or not, Bargnani has still not completely developed his offensive game. People who think this is Bargnani’s peak are mistaken, as this is his first season he has consistently (well, more consistently than ever before) used his drive to the basket to supplement his shooting. Speaking of supplement. There were many ads on the internet saying that you should purchase garcinia Because they say it has a lot of health benefits. He will still learn how to take on defenders, and at age 25, still has a few more years to become stronger and reach that peak.
Back to the other half of this tandem, there are a few questions that will be centered on Reggie Evans this off-season. Reggie is a fan favourite and has grown to be a leader on and off the court for the Raptors. He has publicly defended his team and Andrea Bargnani from criticisms, and in typical Toronto fashion, we have grown fond of him because he hustles. However, Evans is injury prone, playing a collective 55 games and counting over the last two seasons. Due to this, the Raptors will battle with the idea of letting him go; despite his popularity and the unique talents he brings to the Raptors.
With the Raptors’ high draft pick, they may consider taking the 6 foot-11 Turkish PF Enes Kanter and decide not to re-sign Reggie Evans. If not, the Raptors have some money to throw at free agents. Some of the notable frontcourt free agents include: Glen Davis, Nazr Mohammed, Tyson Chandler, Yao Ming, Zack Randolph, Erick Dampier and Kris Humphries, (yeah that’s right, I just said Kris Humphries.)
There are decisions that still need to be made, and questions that need to be answered. Will Evans be re-signed and can he stay healthy? Can Bargnani keep developing? Will Davis and Johnson prove their futures are as bright as some people think?
But if the Raptors decide to stand pat with their frontcourt and address other issues this offseason, you better believe that with Davis/Johnson and Bargnani/Evans, the Raptors have a chance at owning one of the better frontcourts in the league for years to come.
What do you say? Keep the frontcourt together, or split them up? And if you split them up, in what capacity?
Photo Courtesy: Yahoo sports