Toronto Raptors' Bench Full of Unknowns

Robert Seagal-MisovicCorrespondent ISeptember 21, 2008

A certain No. 15 once had optimism at a sky-high in Toronto, a little less than a decade ago. But since the reign of Air Canada ended, this team has had a serious lack of star power.

Big names to grace the ACC floors have been a one-legged Hakeem Olajuwan, an aging Jalen Rose—and who could forget that Alonzo Mourning almost made a courtesy trip?

Regardless, the team has a budding star in Chris Bosh, whose rise to stardom has had a lot to do with his comical efforts on Youtube and his over-rated performance in the Olympics.

And with the arrival of Jermaine O'Neal, the Raptors have a star presence once again and fans seem pretty happy to start the season. With O'Neal, Bosh, and a freshly-inked Jose Calderon, the Toronto Raptors seem confident that they can at the very least compete with the best of the East.

But what has truly made the best teams great isn't just their stars, but their role players.

The Raptors gave up three very valuable ones this off season in Delfino, Garbajosa—blah blah blah, he was injured—and Rasho Nesterovic, and have replaced them with some big, big question marks. So how does the second unit for the Raptors stack up now?

It really depends on Sam Mitchell and who he decides to put in at the starting three spot. Thus far, it's a three man race between Kapono, Bargnani, and Moon.

I'm going to say for the record that Moon being a starter will ultimately be the best for this team, and I'm going to make a case for it based on some strange logic—Bargnani and Kapono would thrive coming off the bench.

If we are to peg Moon as the starter, the Bench shapes to be Ukic, Adams, Graham, Kapono, Humphries, and Bargnani. Obviously, this isn't hockey, and the likely situation is that Bosh/O'Neal will be on the floor for the majority of this time instead of Humphries.

So why would this unit thrive?

One thing people will learn immediately about Roko Leni Ukic is that he's about as good a slasher this team's seen in a while. He's a shooters dream—a drive-kick guy who has great court vision, out-of-this universe handles, and plays in control.

While, in his younger days, people played off of him due to his lack of upper body strength and limited finishing ability, last year he showed some great skills at finding his shooters.

Ukic's jump to the NBA couldn't have come at a better time. Had he come two years ago, he might have come down with Yoroslav Korolev syndrome, and been forced to play in Turkey for the next three decades.

With Bargnani, and Kapono as the focal points of offense coming off the bench, the Raptors will have a very balanced attack which could see both players reaching double-digit scoring totals.

Adams—unlike Delfino—will not be taking 13 shots a game, and will allow Bargnani and Kapono to do their thing as the good shooters they are. At the end of the game, either player can play the three if an additional shooter is needed to replace Moon—who is a bit of a handicap out there on offense.

The idea that Moon is to be ousted from the starting role because O'Neal and Bosh need shooters is simply silly. There isn't enough ball on the court for Jose, Bosh, and O'Neal as it is. To put in a Bargnani or Kapono—two players who don't particularly look like they belong in the NBA when they don't have the ball in their hands—would be a failed experiment.

I, for one, hope that Mitchell and Colangelo see this sooner rather than later—like in the first round of a playoff series.