By Jeff Wong
Now that the Toronto Raptors are officially eliminated from playoff contention, it’s time for Raps fans to enjoy their annual “what-does-our-offseason-look-like” game. Let’s indulge in some fantasizing.
First, the point guard spot.
General Manager Bryan Colangelo has started to address the 2006-2007 season with the non-guaranteed signing of Andre Barrett. Impressed? I wasn’t either. I actually yelled “What?!” when I saw it on the ticker . However, this does set the stage for further changes to the point position. At the start of ’06-’07, the roster will include the following players (excluding Alvin “The Black Knight” Williams): Andre Barrett (5’10”, age 24), Jose Calderon (6’3″, age 25) and Roko-Leni Ukic (6’5″, age 22). According to RaptorBlog, Ukic may be coming to North America “sooner than expected.”
Colangelo has already been quoted by the Star as saying, “Another young guy with no experience may not be the best thing for this team,” and all of the above indeed have little NBA experience. Obviously, then, the Raptors will look to trade for or sign a veteran who doesn’t mind splitting time with a couple of rookies (this excludes Mike James, of course). My guess is that Barrett and Ukic would duke it out for the 3rd guard role. If Ukic is good enough to open the season, then Barrett is released. Otherwise, Ukic goes down to the D-League until he’s ready. According to my projections that leaves the rotation with a veteran, Calderon, and Barrett or Ukic.
Are there enough minutes to go around? Some have argued that Ukic is more of a combo guard and can get minutes at the two spot, while others say he is strictly a one, being effective only with the ball in his hands. If the former is the case, then this could work.
As for Barrett, I see him as a stop gap and insurance. Nothing personal, but size matters, and the ceiling is higher (no pun intended) for the Euro-guards.
Who are the veteran PG candidates? Some have suggested Speedy Claxton (this year a “NOOCH” behind Chris Paul). An interesting side note on Claxton is that according to Chuck Swirsky the Raptors’ brass in 2000 were interested in drafting him. Who else might be available and willing? Eric Snow? Darrick Martin? Rod Strickland? Thankfully, Colangelo probably has more ideas than I do. One thing’s for sure, if the two youngsters are meant to see significant floor time, the vet will have to be past his prime and resigned to being a career backup.
I would enjoy this group as the ’06-’07 Raptor point guards because Calderon is already a fan favorite, Ukic is a flashy and talented 2nd round steal, and whomever Colangelo gets for the remaining spot will no doubt be effective, at least for the short term.