Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors Wish List: 7 Centers to Pursue This Offseason

Justin BoninAnalyst IMay 3, 2011

Toronto Raptors Wish List: 7 Centers to Pursue This Offseason

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    MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 29:  Marc Gasol #33 of the Memphis Grizzlies celebrates after the Grizzlies beat the San Antonio Spurs 99-91 in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on April 29, 2011 in Memphis, Tenne
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Toronto Raptors' offseason checklist is three items long and consists of acquiring a point guard, small forward and center. The Raptors are poised to narrow this list down to two items in this year’s draft, and ideally they can check off at least one more or possibly the remaining two positions in free agency or offseason trades.

    Here’s hoping the Raps can land the first or second overall pick and draft either Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams. If that fails, I am hoping for Enes Kanter. 

    However, if for some reason the Raptors do not end up taking Kanter, here are some big men they should take a long, hard look at this offseason.

    For each player I will provide his stats from last season or his most recent stats, the positive and negative aspects of his game and my final thoughts.

    Enjoy!

7. Samuel Dalembert, Center, 6'11" (Unrestricted Free Agent)

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    PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 13:  Samuel Dalembert #10 of the Sacramento Kings reacts to the crowd during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on February 13, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Kings defeated the Suns 113-108.  NOTE TO USER: Us
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2010-2011 Stats in 23.8 minutes per game

    PPG: 8.0          RPG: 8.0        

    BPG: 1.5         PER: 14.19      

    FG%: .477      FT%: .734

     

    Positives

    Dalembert would give the Raptors a long center that can defend the post and get a lot of blocks. He is also a very good rebounder, particularly on the defensive glass. If the Raptors hold on to Andrea Bargnani, then Dalembert would certainly complement him nicely.

     

    Negatives

    His offensive game is nothing special. He is a good mid-range shooter; however, he does not possess much of a post game. Fortunately, for the Raptors, his shyness in the post only seems to appear on the offensive side of the ball.

    Dalembert will be entering his 10th NBA season next year, although he still struggles with the mental aspect of the game. His poor decisions with and without the ball are certainly a red flag for the Raptors.

     

    Final Thoughts

    Dalembert seems to be regressing with age rather than improving, but a change of scenery, increased minutes and a more important role on a team could be all he needs to make a positive change.

6. Chris Kaman, Center, 7'0" (Trade)

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 13:  Chris Kaman #35 of the Los Angeles Clippers dribbles to the basket in front of Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on December 13, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowl
    Harry How/Getty Images

    2010-2011 stats in 32 games averaging 26.2 minutes per game

    PPG: 12.4       RPG: 7.0        

    BPG: 1.5         PER: 15.76      

    FG%: .471      FT%: .754

    Injuries have kept NBA fans from seeing what former All-Star Chris Kaman is truly capable of, and as a result he is often under-appreciated. If he could somehow manage to stay healthy, he would be an excellent fit in Toronto.

     

    Positives

    Kaman is a great post scorer who can do it with both hands in a variety of ways and get himself open looks with his great footwork. In addition to his low-post offense, he also has developing range and is a tough defender.

    Kaman is a good rebounder, and as he develops his mid-range jumper, he will be able to effectively play an inside-outside game (something the Raptors do not currently have).

     

    Negatives

    Injuries are the greatest downside with Kaman. Aside from that, his short wingspan reduces his impact on defense, and his below-average passing ability can oftentimes result a lot of turnovers down in the post when he does not have an open shot.

    That being said, despite his short wingspan Kaman has still found a way to be a good defender, and his passing ability is certainly something he could improve on with a little hard work.

     

    Final Thoughts

    With the emergence of DeAndre Jordan the Clippers will very likely be looking to deal Chris Kaman this offseason, as they tried to do at the trade deadline. 

    If this is in fact the case, the Raptors must give Kaman a long, hard look. He has quite a large price tag at $11.8 million for the next two years, but the Raptors certainly have the cap room and could really use a player like Kaman, provided he can stay healthy.

5. Greg Oden, Center, 7'0" (Restricted Free Agent, Team Option)

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Greg Oden #52 of the Portland Trail Blazers looks on against the Golden State Warriors during an NBA game at Oracle Arena on November 20, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    2009-2010 season in 21 games averaging 23.9 minutes per game

    PPG: 11.1        RPG: 8.5        

    BPG: 2.3         PER: 23.14    

    FG%: .605      FT%: .766

    Drafted first overall in 2007 ahead of superstar Kevin Durant, Greg Oden still has a lot to prove. Provided he can finally stay healthy, I would love to see him do this in a Raptors jersey.

     

    Positives

    Greg Oden is a lockdown defender who makes great use of his size and strength on defense and on the glass. His offensive game still must improve, but he is nonetheless a capable low-post threat on offense.

     

    Negatives

    Injuries. The only thing preventing Oden from becoming a star at an extremely under-talented position in the NBA is his inability to stay healthy.

    Is he worth the risk?

     

    Final Thoughts

    Look at his stats from the 2009-2010 season. Now imagine what they would be like if he was playing 30-35 minutes per game...yeah, exactly. That’s why he is worth the risk.

4. Al Jefferson, Center, 6'10" (Trade)

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    DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 23:  Forward Al Jefferson #25 of the Utah Jazz at American Airlines Center on February 23, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consen
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    2010-2011 Stats in 36.0 minutes per game

    PPG: 18.8        RPG: 9.7        

    BPG: 1.9         PER: 20.28    

    FG%: .496      FT%: .763

    With the loss of Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan, it became quite clear that the Jazz would now enter rebuilding mode.

    Andrei Kirilenko is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and naturally he will end up with former teammate D-Will and fellow countryman Mikhail Prokhorov in New Jersey. Therefore, the Jazz need to continue the rebuild and let Al Jefferson go as well.

    I can see a trade centered on Andrea Bargnani and Al Jefferson being mutually beneficial for both clubs. Although at first glance this trade seems to heavily favour the Raptors, I am quite confident that Toronto could throw in another player to make it more attractive for Utah.

    The trade would see the Raptors get a solid center that can score, rebound and defend, and the Jazz would free up some cap room and get a young player they can build around along with their two lottery picks in this year’s draft.     

     

    Positives

    Al Jefferson is a very good low-post scorer, something the Raptors have not had for a very long time. Throw in the fact that he is a good rebounder and more than capable of blocking shots, and you seem to have the perfect solution for Toronto’s woes in the middle. But not so fast...

     

    Negatives

    Although Jefferson does average 1.9 blocks per game, he is still a liability on defense and does not completely solve the Raptors' defensive woes at center. 

    He is an unenthusiastic defender, lacking the quickness to keep up with other players, which makes him an eerily similar player to Andrea Bargnani. Nevertheless, the fact that he averages a little less than two blocks per game makes him the better of the two bad defenders.

    Beyond that, Al Jefferson is just as big of a threat on offense as Bargnani; he just scores in a different way. Bargnani is a deadly jump shooter from just about anywhere on the court, and Jefferson is a nightmare in the post. Jefferson would be a dominant presence in the post, which would create far more open looks for his teammates than Bargnani’s jump shooting ever will.

    What sets the two players apart is that Jefferson averages nearly two times more rebounds per game than Bargnani.

     

    Final Thoughts

    In the end, this trade should improve the Raptors, and if they could somehow convince the Jazz to include Devin Harris in the trade, they could really improve their record next season, especially if they land Derrick Williams in this year’s draft.

3. Tyson Chandler, Center, 7'1" (Unrestricted Free Agent)

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    DALLAS, TX - APRIL 25:  Center Tyson Chandler #6 of the Dallas Mavericks takes a shot against Brandon Roy #7 of the Portland Trail Blazers in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 25, 2011 at American Airl
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    2010-2011 stats in 27.9 minutes per game

    PPG: 10.3            RPG: 9.3        

    BPG: 1.1 BPG     PER: 18.65    

    FG%: .651             FT%: .731

    Tyson Chandler is big and tough and seems to be a perfect fit in Dallas. Could he do the same thing in Toronto?

     

    Positives

    Chandler is a big, athletic center and a dominant defender. He may be the missing piece defensively for the Raptors, and his uptempo offense would fit right in with this young Raptors squad.

     

    Negatives

    The biggest negative is his poor shooting ability; however, his size in the post and his ability to use that size to his advantage more than makes up for it.

    This is especially true if the Raptors end up keeping Andrea Bargnani. Since everyone says Bargs is supposed to be the next Dirk Nowitzki (I don’t buy it, by the way), then Chandler should thrive in Toronto the same way he is now in Dallas.

     

    Final Thoughts

    Tyson Chandler would fit in very well in Toronto both on defense and offense provided he stays healthy and remains motivated.

2. Nene Hilario, Center, 6'11" (Restricted Free Agent, Player Option)

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    DENVER, CO - APRIL 23:  Nene #31 of the Denver Nuggets scores against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on April 23, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expres
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    2010-2011 stats in 30.7 minutes per game

    PPG: 14.6        RPG: 7.7       

    BPG: 1.0         PER: 20.43    

    FG%: .615      FT%: .712

     

    Positives

    Extremely agile and quick for a center, Nene runs the floor very well. He is also a very efficient scorer and finished the season with the best field-goal percentage in the NBA.

     

    Negatives

    Nene is a decent rebounder and defender and would certainly be an improvement over Andrea Bargnani. However, he certainly has the potential to become much better in both areas of his game. Foul trouble is also an issue with Nene.

     

    Final Thoughts

    Nene is a very efficient center who can score, defend and rebound. His versatility and athleticism make him a perfect fit for this young Toronto team, and if he does not stay with the Nuggets, the Raptors must make a move.

1. Marc Gasol, Center, 7'1" (Restricted Free Agent)

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    MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 29:  Marc Gasol #33 of the Memphis Grizzlies hugs Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs after the Grizzlies beat the San Antonio Spurs 99-91 in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at FedExForu
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    2010-2011 Stats in 32.1 minutes per game

    PPG: 11.7        RPG: 7.0        

    BPG: 1.7         PER: 16.78    

    FG%: .527      FT%: .743 

     

    Positives

    Marc Gasol and Zack Randolph are having an excellent postseason for Memphis, and judging by their performances I highly doubt Memphis will let this Gasol brother get away as well.

    That being said, with Randolph’s big contract signing, Gasol may test the waters in free agency in an attempt to find a team that can offer him more money. Enter the Toronto Raptors... However, ultimately it will be Memphis who has the option of matching any offers Gasol receives. 

     

    Positives

    Though he is no Pau, Marc Gasol offers a variety of shots in the post in combination with his good court vision and ability to get the ball to an open man on the perimeter or a fellow big man who is left open down low.

    In addition, Gasol is a legitimate seven-footer who knows how to use his height and is a great team defender, one area where the Raptors must improve if they plan on having any future success. 

    Add in the fact that he actually rebounds the ball, and we’ve got ourselves a true center who can either play alongside Andrea Bargnani or simply take his place if the Raptors decide to show Bargs the door.

     

    Negatives

    The only real knock on Gasol’s game is his lack of athleticism, but honestly, the Raptors are a young, athletic team as it is, so I really do not see this being a problem. I simply had to nit-pick in order to find anything remotely negative about Gasol.

     

    Final thoughts

    As mentioned, Marc Gasol is a legitimate seven-footer who still has room for improvement. Nevertheless, he can already score, defend and rebound with the best of them and would be a huge boost for this Raptors team. He should be Toronto’s top priority this offseason, even if it ends up drafting a center.

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