Diagnosing Raptors' Remaining Roster Flaws
As things stand now, the Toronto Raptors will be entering the 2013-14 NBA regular season with a revamped, yet somewhat flawed roster that's looking to end a five-year playoff drought for the franchise.
GM Masai Ujiri has done a fantastic job of acquiring talent this summer in hopes of getting the Raptors out of the bottom-half of the Eastern Conference. Bringing on Steve Novak, Austin Daye, Tyler Hansbrough, D.J. Augustin and Dwight Buycks will add much-needed depth to the rotation.
It's going to take some time to integrate all of these faces into the offense, but it's a nice problem to have. The Raptors have options, and that's never a bad thing.
However, if one were to closely examine the roster and look up and down the 15-man lineup of talent, they would find some notable areas of weakness that still need addressing.
The Raptors are far from a perfect basketball team. In fairness, it's hard to envision any team in the NBA being perfect. Every roster has its issues, no matter how big or small. It's just a matter of how each coaching staff goes about accentuating the positives and hiding the negatives.
There will be moments during the course of the season where the following flaws in the roster become problematic. Can this team overcome their deficiencies in order to finally return to the postseason?
This franchise has a lot invested in 21-year-old Jonas Valanciunas, both next season and beyond.
Valanciunas missed 20 games due to injury during his rookie year, and with no other options available, coach Dwane Casey was forced to start Aaron Gray as his replacement.
He's once again slated to be the primary backup to Valanciunas in 2013-14.
In 42 games, Gray averaged 2.8 points and 3.2 rebounds, which equates to 8.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per-36 minutes.
Marcus Camby, acquired as part of the trade that sent Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks, was bought out of his contract on July 18th. As a veteran backup at the 5-spot, Camby could have provided the Raptors with a little more breathing room in case Valanciunas were to get hurt again. Bargnani also could have played minutes at center, but as previously mentioned, he's now playing in Madison Square Garden.
That just leaves Gray. Quincy Acy will be moving to small forward and Amir Johnson is best left alone at power forward.
The worst-case scenario would be Valanciunas suffering a major injury that keeps him out of action for a majority of the year. Unless someone were to be signed off waivers, all the Raptors would have to work with is Gray, and that's a scary thought.
As much of a fan favorite as he's become, Gray is not someone Raptors' faithful want to see playing any significant minutes. He's a big body who can put up six fouls and use his massive size—all 7'0" and 270 pounds of it—to bang down low in the paint.
The Eastern Conference hosts some of the most dominant big men in the league today, including Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez, Tyson Chandler and Greg Monroe. Gray, at best, is a third-stringer on a winning basketball team. As a starter, he would have quite the difficult task of having to shut down any of those aforementioned players.
If Valanciunas can avoid injury, none of this will be an issue. However, if that's not the case, the Raptors will pay the price big time.
Minutes for Terrence Ross
If second-year player Terrence Ross is ever going to break out and become a valuable contributor in the rotation, he's going to need more playing time.
Unfortunately, having entered the league at the same time as teammate Jonas Valanciunas, who has found much early success in his young career, the pressure for Ross to elevate his game has perhaps become too much for him to bear.
According to a report done by Wages of Wins, young shooting guards develop the fastest in the NBA, usually peaking around their third season. Ross could very well be on the clock if he doesn't take any significant leaps forward in his sophomore year.
In 73 games, Ross averaged 6.4 points on 40.7 percent from the field, including 2.0 rebounds and 0.7 assists. He was very erratic with his shot, struggling to find any sort of consistency. It became very frustrating to watch. Since Ross wasn't contributing in other areas, Coach Casey was forced to keep him on the sidelines until faith could be restored.
The problem in developing Ross is that he plays on a team that has enough wings to fill out an entire menu at your local Jack Astor's Bar & Grill. He's going to have to contend with the likes of Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Austin Daye, Steve Novak and Landry Fields for PT, and that's easier said than done.
It's hard to call this a roster flaw, but the continued development of Ross in year two is going to be a major story in Toronto throughout the season. It's hard to imagine the Raptors being the perfect situation for him, as there are too many mouths to feed and not enough minutes to go around.
Is it time to pull the cord and cut ties? Absolutely not, although, that tune may change come midseason. He's only 22 years old, but patience wears very thin very quickly.
Lack of Veterans
Quentin Richardson is 33 years old and has been in the league since 2000-01, however, he's unlikely to be with the Raptors by the start of the preseason.
The next oldest is Steve Novak, who is really the only player on the roster at or over the age of 30.
Everyone else is 27 or younger.
Amir Johnson is only 26, but he's been in the NBA for eight seasons and would technically be considered a veteran in comparison to some of his teammates.
It's clear as day that a youth movement has taken over, but it's always nice to throw in a good mix of veterans to keep the young guns grounded and on the straight and narrow, as well.
The Raptors found their most success as a franchise back in the early 2000s when the roster was comprised of grizzled veterans (Kevin Willis, Charles Oakley, Dell Curry) and budding talent (Vince Carter, Morris Peterson, Alvin Williams).
It's been years and years since they've found that unique blend from both sides.
With a team as young as the 2013-14 Raptors, it could do wonders.
*All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and HoopsData
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