Depth is often a critical factor in creating a winning team in most sports and while it is obviously preferable in the NBA and basketball in general it isn’t necessarily as important or vital when compared to hockey, football and baseball. A winning basketball team can thrive with a six to seven man rotation and often times I’d venture to say it is problematic or a waste of asset distribution to have too deep of a ball club when considering where most pundits or experts feel this team will ultimately finish this season.
Case in point, look at these two squads:
|Team A||Team B|
|PG – Jose Calderon||PG – Jarrett Jack|
|SG – Demar Derozan||SG – Leandro Barbosa|
|SF – Linus Kleiza||SF – Sonny Weems|
|PF – Reggie Evans||PF – Amir Johnson|
|C – Andrea Bargnani||C – David Andersen|
Team A is the projected Toronto Raptors starting five while Team B is of course the projected second unit give or take a player. If these two teams did battle in a seven game set my guess is it would be a knock-em-down, drag-em-out war that might not ever end given the parity between the two sides. Some might see this as a positive given the roster depth but taking a closer look it is actually almost a negative.
The Raptors do possess a relatively deep roster overall however it is also a team filled with potentially only one legitimate NBA starter in smooth shooting (and much maligned) big man Andrea Bargnani. The Raptors have stuffed their salary cap and roster full of mediocre roster filler for the most part and obviously lack the top end talent in the wake of losing Chris Bosh.
The Raptors would love to shed the salaries of Jose Calderon, Reggie Evans, Jarrett Jack and Marcus Banks as all four would likely be bench options at best on most current contending rosters. They are in tough situations with Demar Derozan and Sonny Weems as while both have promise neither has shown they are going to be definite prime time producers yet both are going to be up for raises on longer term contracts in the next 1-2 seasons, like Amir Johnson last year.
They have added veteran bench and depth pieces in Linus Kleiza and Leandro Barbosa but they will both be long gone (at least their best games will) by the time the Raptors are ready to compete on a regular basis and are just receiving a big pay cheque and empty minutes at this point. At some point Andrea Bargnani will have to either step up his overall game to earn his massive new payday or be moved out to expedite the rebuilding process.
Make no mistake this is not a retooling, at least it shouldn’t be viewed as such given the dearth of quality legitimate NBA producers on the current roster. This one feels like it should be a complete overhaul with a tear it down and start it over mentality, immediately. The man in charge is Bryan Colangelo who is a smart basketball mind and has shown a quick trigger when admitted mistakes go awry but he is also fighting for a contract extension and it is doubtful he is willing to go this route when the folks at MLSE are hoping to fill the ACC on a nightly basis but this is something the fan base should be screaming for, loud and clear.
Why a Linus Kleiza was brought in on a four year contract is beyond me, Kleiza is a fine role player no doubt but a guy you bring in when trying to bridge the gap or play to a potential opponent’s specific strength. For example the Los Angeles Lakers bringing in Ron Artest last season and Matt Barnes this year and this type of move would have looked a lot better last season.
Now he gets a slight reprieve considering the roster might have looked a tad better with the additions of Tyson Chandler, Boris Diaw and Matt Barnes while simultaneously subtracting two bloated salaries in Jose Calderon and Reggie Evans. But realistically what was the best result that particular group would have achieved, a possible late seeded playoff berth? I think it’s time to shift that philosophy now that our supposed franchise player has left the building.
I am not suggesting “tank nation” in hopes of landing a top lottery selection as you never know where the ping pong balls will fall but instead I am saying tear it down, let all of our potential “keepers” play and give them a season long audition with heavy minutes. Demar Derozan, Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani, Ed Davis, Solomon Alobi and Joey Dorsey should be the main rotation and guys like Reggie Evans, Linus Kleiza and Leandro Barbosa shouldn’t steal minutes from players who could potentially help us in the next few years let alone have been brought in at all.
In closing we need a clear vision from management as to where this franchise is heading and the fans will appreciate some honesty and forward thinking knowing the team is at least moving in the right (or any) direction. If you want to try and win now with this lackluster group than fine, use the trade exemption along with expiring contracts to bring in the Tyson Chandler/Boris Diaw types, it is a futile effort and waste of assets (not to mention one year too late) but at least it is a plan. How do we intend to compete with the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics for the next decade, what is our action plan, and I hope it doesn’t involve signing a guy like Erick Dampier?
I contend it is time to start over, again. This is a deep year in the upcoming draft at the point guard spot, a position the Raptors have been dreadfully inadequate for quite some time and looking at the past crop of young, exciting point guards that have come into the NBA in recent years it seems as good a year as any to finish in the bottom three to five teams. I don’t want this to be a lost season or a waste of a calendar year in a potential rebuild, let’s get to it now.
Clear valuable cap space whether it can be used immediately or not, jettison our redundant veteran pieces (Kleiza, Barbosa, Jack, Calderon, Evans etc) while letting the youth play to get a good idea of what we have while adding a top pick (preferably point guard, but best available) in the offseason. That should be the only goal of the 2010/11 season and looking at our roster it wouldn’t take much to make that happen.