As the negativity and doubt begins to swirl around Toronto after a disappointing loss to the Indiana Pacers—a loss that saw them not make a field goal in the last five minutes of the game—I begin to look over their roster with a fine-tooth comb and see what can be done to improve this bunch.
For those who forgot, here's a quick roster for both teams, going from point guard, to shooting guard, over to small forward, then to power forward and finishing off with the centers.
2006-07 (Bolded names played more than 20 minutes a night, which comprised their 11-man rotation)
T.J. Ford/Jose Calderon/Juan Dixon/Darrick Martin
Anthony Parker/Morris Peterson/Fred Jones/PJ Tucker
Jorge Garbajosa/Carlos Delfino/Joey Graham/Luke Jackson
Chris Bosh/Kris Humphries/Pape Sow
Rasho Nesterovic/Andrea Bargnani/Uros Slokar
Kyle Lowry/Jose Calderon/John Lucas III
DeMar DeRozan/Terrence Ross
Landry Fields/Alan Anderson/Linas Kleiza/Dominic McGuire
Andrea Bargnani/Ed Davis/Quincy Acy
Jonas Valanciunas/Amir Johnson/Aaron Gray
You can easily hand this year's crop of point guard the title here. The combination of the bulldog Kyle Lowry with the tactical and precise Jose Calderon, as well as the streaky shooting of John Lucas, makes them the obvious choice.
What puts this group over the top is better defence from Lowry, better shooting overall from all three, and lastly, the ability to play both of them in crunch time and not really lose much defensively due to Lowry's expertise as a defender.
The 2006-07 group was good no doubt, but this group is just stronger.
This is where the 2006-07 group begins to flex their muscle. The combination of experienced Euroleague player Anthony Parker and Morris Peterson puts this group over the top of Ross and DeRozan.
What Parker did for the Raptors was purely magical. A very good three-point shooter from the corner, Parker continually knocked down open jumpers and played suffocating defence on many of the league's elite guards.
A far cry from what DeRozan and Ross have done, albeit they are younger and more inexperienced. DeRozan has a difficult time stretching the defence out beyond the three-point line, and Ross right now has the ability but really lacks polish on his game to warrant playing more than 20 minutes a night to get into a shooting flow.
Oh, please stop! This is just awful. The 2006-07 group handily takes this one yet again, as all three, Garbajosa, Delfino, and Graham, could all start for the current group of Raptors and make them better. Garbajosa's defence and shooting, as well as Delfino's, would be welcomed additions, and I believe Graham had too much unfair pressure on him after the Raptors balked twice at Danny Granger and Gerald Green.
This group of small forwards are good defenders no doubt, but they severely lack any polish offensively. Only Linas Kleiza is a decent shooter, and in the home opener, he never even saw the floor. A clear indication of the style that coach Dwane Casey will be running this year—all-out defence apparently.
Chris Bosh and Kris Humphries pre-New Jersey Nets, as well as Bargnani who may have slid over to the four if Bosh was off the floor, made up what was likely one of the best power forward rotations in Raptors history.
Bosh was the leader, the focal point of the teams' offence, and he had good backup with Bargnani and Humphries—who today is showing everyone why he was taken so high in the NBA Draft with his combination of grit, rebounding and shot making. This year though, Humphries will find the majority of his buckets coming on putbacks and offensive rebounds, as he will now be the fifth option on a stacked Nets starting five.
This crop of power forwards features Bargnani again, as well as Ed Davis and Amir Johnson. They're good, but I'd still give the nod to the 2006-07 bunch over them any day of the week.
Experience is the only difference here, as Rasho Nesterovic, one of the unsung heroes of the 2006-07 squad, carried the centers of the Atlantic Division champs. Eventually when Jonas Valanciunas matures and his game grows a bit, the Raptors will be set at the center position for years to come.
Still though, because of Valanciunas' upside, and the combination of one of Davis or Johnson and veteran Aaron Gray, I'd actually give the nod here to the current version of the Raptors.
By looking over the groups and the rosters, you can easily see what position needs to be addressed for the Raptors to move out from the Atlantic Division basement: the wings.
At the two guard, I think Ross and DeRozan will eventually be comparable to the Parker and "Mopete" rotation, but it's at small forward that this team severely lacks any sort of go-top offensive player.
Will that player come at the draft? I highly doubt it, as the Raptors traded their pick to Houston, and the only way the Raptors receive the pick back is if they luck out in the lottery and receive a top-three selection. Nerlens Noel, Shabazz Muhammad and Andrew Wiggins would be the obvious three choices for the Raptors.
After that, the draft is pretty balanced, as Cody Zeller, James McAdoo and Isaiah Austin will likely go in the top part of the lottery as well.
Will that player come via trade? Yes, that's the more likely avenue, as the Raptors have an expiring trade asset in Jose Calderon they could use. Calderon, who's playing off the bench with the Raptors, could be dealt for the small forward this club has severely lacked since the days of Vince Carter, Jalen Rose and Tracy McGrady.
Until that small forward that can stretch the floor comes, expect another season of ups and plenty of downs for this Raptors squad. If they can ever get that additional scoring option, the Raptors will win more of those close games and not lose games down the stretch of the fourth quarter.
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