Breaking Down How the Toronto Raptors Can Survive Their Small Forward Crisis

James BorbathContributor INovember 15, 2012

Nov 10, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Injured Toronto Raptors forward Landry Fields (left) and guard Kyle Lowry (right) look on against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Air Canada Centre. The 76ers beat the Raptors 93-83. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE
Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

The Toronto Raptors already have some serious injury concerns at their small forward position early on in the NBA season. On Thursday afternoon, the Raptors announced  that Landry Fields had surgery on his right elbow and is out indefinitely. Alan Anderson, who replaced the injured Fields against the 76ers on Saturday, was injured as well. He is out for three to six weeks with a left foot injury.

This is in addition to the news that Kyle Lowry has a bone bruise and is expected to be out for one to two weeks. Jose Calderon has been able to fill in admirably for Lowry and recorded his first career triple-double in a win over the Pacers on Tuesday.

While the Lowry injury is a costly one, the Raptors woes at the small forward position will be far more of a concern long-term. It was already considered a point of weakness entering into the season. Now the Raptors options at the position are even worse.

The two remaining options on their depth chart are Linas Kleiza and Dominic McGuire. Kleiza, since returning from an absence from the team for some family issues, has done well scoring 20 points in a loss to Utah and 10 points in the Raptors win over the Pacers. That said, his durability is always a question and he himself missed time in that win over the Pacers with an ankle issue but did return.

Head coach Dwane Casey has been a fan McGuire, despite him not seeing much time prior to these injuries. He actually was used in the starting lineup over Kleiza. The obvious reason for this is his skill level as a defender is better than that of Kleiza.

If the Raptors don’t go the traditional route of the next man up, they could slide DeRozan to the small forward position and use rookie Terrence Ross at the shooting guard position. DeRozan has been rebounding the basketball more and showing signs of improvement. So maybe, rather than mess with something that is working, they insert Ross in for minutes at the small forward position.

Terrence Ross has been used sparingly and has looked like a raw rookie at times and this could be a big issue if you see his minutes increase. He would not have earned these minutes and more or less would be getting thrown into the fire as a result of injures.

These are all the logical options the Raptors can do with their current lineup. If the Raptors were to be as concerned as their fans, they might consider a more radical option. Andrea Bargnani has been getting hammered from all sides this season. If the Raptors were to test the trade market and see what they could get for him, this could land them a starting-caliber small forward.

The Raptors have given no indication they would go this route and consider finally giving up on their first overall pick from back in 2006. Fans would love to see it though, as Toronto just made a major move in baseball and getting rid of Bargnani might be enough for people to throw a party.  My advice is not to hold your breath waiting for this to happen.

Once Kyle Lowry has a clean bill of health they could also consider moving Jose Calderon to get some help at the small forward spot. The Raptors appetite to do that may not be as great when you consider Calderon’s play of late.  In addition, the fact is that Lowry has now been injured twice in his short history as a Raptor.

If the Raptors were to consider any other trade options they might be able to move Ed Davis. However, being on a rookie deal moving him alone would only net you another underachieving player on a rookie contract, or an over-the-hill veteran on a cheap deal. 

When you get down to it, the Raptors regardless of the path they choose to take to address this are in some trouble here. They have a full roster, so to take a flyer on a player currently in the NBDL is not an option for them. This is far from how Dwane Casey, or Bryan Colangelo wanted to see their season start.

The Raptors were already up against it, struggling with a tough schedule and 2-6 record. The goal now is to find a way to not fall so far behind, that the playoffs become an unrealistic option for this team. All of these injures have really been a problem for Dwane Casey, who has been unable to really lock in on a rotation, as a result of not having a full healthy roster and some inconsistent play from others.

Meanwhile, fans of the Raptors are likely saying in the back of their heads “here we go again,” after a lot of hope and expectations heading into the season.  The basketball gods, if they do in fact exist, sure are not fans of the Toronto Raptors.