Drafting Harrison Barnes in 2012 Will Make the Toronto Raptors a Playoff Team
It seems like the Toronto Raptors are in a constant rebuilding process, but now they have a good plethora of talent to work with. They have staples at many major positions, and a bunch of young talent that has yet to reach its prime. The Raptors will likely have a good draft pick again next NBA Draft; they need to be thinking about drafting UNC's Harrison Barnes.
The Raptors have finally strung together a couple of seasons of really good draft picks. High-flying Demar DeRozan was an excellent choice in 2009, and I think Ed Davis—their 2010 first-round selection—will be an All-Star someday.
Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas will be a good pick if he can just commit to being a good rebounder and paint defender. Any offense that the Raptors get from him will be a plus, as they don't have too much trouble putting up points.
Jose Calderon and/or Jerryd Bayless are both credible options to start at point guard. Bayless is a bit more raw, but brings a lot more to the defensive side of the court. Whereas Calderon is a terrible defender, but one of the most efficient passers in the whole NBA.
Andrea Bargnani is a tremendously unique scorer for a big man (as his flourishing career-high 21.4 PPG average this past campaign would indicate). If Jonas Valanciunas, the No. 5 pick in the 2011 draft, pans out then he won't have to deal with the number one defensive assignment. That will bode very well for the Raps team defense.
If the Raptors can start Bayless or Calderon, DeRozan, Davis or Bargnani and Valanciunas, there will be four positions locked up with very good players.
The missing position is small forward. James Johnson is a good stop-gap measure, but won't be enough if the Raptors want to consistently make the playoffs.
Enter Harrison Barnes.
The kid has all of the tools to be a tremendous wing player in the NBA. He has prototypical size for a small forward at 6'8", and has a massive 7-foot wingspan. He's a worker, and doesn't really cause too much trouble. His work ethic will mesh very well with the rest of the Raptors young core.
His frame and athleticism is a good base to become a lockdown NBA defender. Dwayne Casey could certainly get the most out of the Tar Heels star.
He has a very fluid jump shot that he's working on to improve consistency. Nevertheless, he can go on crazy spurts, though, pouring in baskets with great ease.
Barnes is solid from the line, and can take the ball to the hoop with authority as well; showing the ability to finish in traffic with consistency.
More than that, Barnes is a legitimate number one scoring option. Bargnani is good, but not a guy that you want being your primary offensive weapon. Harrison would be a great guy to get the ball to in late-game situations.
He likes to work mostly out of half court sets, which would also be nice for the Raptors. With Bargnani off the floor, the Raps sometime have trouble creating shots.
I hope the Raptors are a playoff team whenever the NBA lockout ends, but it's a pipe dream at least for now. If the Raptors can draft Harrison Barnes in 2012, they could be poised not only to become that, but a top team in the Eastern Conference.
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