Toronto Raptors Offseason Decisions: The Case For Sonny Weems

Stephen Brotherston@@ProBballNBAAnalyst IMay 8, 2010

RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 23:  Sonny Weems #13 of the Arkansas Razorbacks goes up for the slam dunk against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2nd round of the East Regional of the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at RBC Center on March 23, 2008 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Tar Heels defeated the Razorbacks 108-77. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In what should be the easiest offseason decision that Bryan Colangelo has to make, the Toronto Raptors hold an $854,000 team option for Sonny Weems services next year.

The former college slam dunk champion has shown that he deserves a spot on a NBA team.  Weems is one potential free agent who will not have to worry about his team picking up his option for next season.

Sonny Weems—the Bull who never was, and a toss-in player from Milwaukee deemed expendable by the Nuggets—was never supposed to factor into the Raptors rotation in 2009-10.

Like many four-year college players picked up in the second round of the draft, Sonny Weems never really even got a look by his first NBA team. The Chicago Bulls couldn’t trade him fast enough for a second round pick in the next draft.

And it seems uncertain as to why the Nuggets bothered to trade for him.  Weems was sent to the D-League and ended up playing a total of 55 minutes in the NBA with Denver. Last year’s offseason trade to Milwaukee didn’t even require Sonny to bother checking in with his agent as the Bucks couldn’t wait to ship him off to Toronto.

And no one in Toronto give Weems a chance at anything but “garbage time” as the Raptors had just drafted their own future “high-flyer” in DeMar DeRozan.

But as one well-versed scribe said towards the end of the season, the Raptors problem was that Sonny Weems ended up being DeMar DeRozan and DeMar DeRozan was Sonny Weems.

Where the Raptors ninth pick in the draft was tentative on offense and abused on defense, Weems was aggressive and rarely beat off the dribble in his own end.  Opposing wings who seemed to relish in taking turns attacking the Raptors rookie had to work for their points against the sophomore.

It wasn’t that Weems’ play did not resemble that of a rookie’s at times.  With less than an hour of playing time in the NBA, Weems was virtually still in his rookie season.  But Weems played with a confidence that his younger playing partner only showed on occasion.

And Sonny Weems can fly.

“… not just faster than DeRozan, Sonny Weems had the fastest 3/4 court sprint of any guard in the last five years recorded in NBA draft camp testing.  per

Weems was tested faster than Chris Paul by a quarter of a second and Rodney Stuckey by 0.15  of a second.  In fact, Draftexpress records no guard except Sonny Weems has completed the 3/4 court sprint test in under three seconds in recent years.”

Toronto Raptors Speedster Sonny Weems

Watching Sonny go for the dunk at one end and be the first defender down the floor at the other was something Raptors fans were not used to seeing.

For all the media hype about DeMar DeRozan, on the whole, Sonny Weems’ athletic abilities tested out better.

And this shouldn’t have been a surprise.  Weems was the college dunk champion, was three years older, and had four years more basketball experience behind him.

“As each month of the season has past and the Raptors coaching staff gained confidence in Weems abilities, Sonny Weems on-court performances have improved.”

DeMar DeRozan vs Sonny Weems

In 19 starts, Sonny Weems averaged: 11.7 points on 56 percent shooting; 4.3 rebounds; 2.2 assists; 1.0 steals; and, 0.3 blocks in 29.2 minutes.

In his 65 starts, the Raptors prized rookie averaged: 8.5 points on 47.6 percent shooting; 3.0 rebounds; 0.7 assists; 0.6 steals; and 0.2 blocks in 21.8 minutes.

And to address those who would point to the discrepancy in playing time, Weems played more minutes because he was not the defense liability DeRozan was.

However, there is no call to be labelling DeMar DeRozan a poor draft choice at this time.  His rookie numbers are comparable to many veteran NBA wing players who have gone on to very good careers.  And at just 20 years-old, the very athletic DeRozan should continue to get much better for many years.

But the unexpected play of the 23-year-old Sonny Weems presents the Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo with some interesting possibilities this summer.

At just 23 years-old, Sonny Weems is expected to get better next season as well.

His month-to-month improvement this season looked like:

  • November: 3.6 points and 1.3 rebounds;
  • December: 7.1 points and 2.6 rebounds;
  • January: 4.8 points and 2.3 rebounds;
  • February: 7.4 points and 2.2 rebounds;
  • March: 9.0 points and 3.5 rebounds;
  • April: 14.1 points and 4.8 rebounds.

The Raptors have the young athletic wing they were hoping to draft in DeMar DeRozan in Sonny Weems.

Bryan Colangelo will have to decide if he wants to take the time to develop his young players together and accept the number of victories relying on young talent will produce.  Or package his very desirable draft pick from 2009 with another player(s) to bring back a proven veteran who can improve his team now.

It is good to have choices.

Thanks Sonny.


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