Well, there’s one thing for sure about our team next year. We’re going to score a lot of points.
By adding the Miami Heat’s Jason Kapono for the full middle exemption, we can see that the Raptors have sewn up a scoring difficulty they’ve had at the SF position. As the premier 3 point shooter from last year, Kapono will be an incredible threat from 3 point land with Garbo, Parker, and Bargnani (not at the same time, probably, but at least 2 or 3 of the 4 at any one time) giving us options to swing the ball around the arc. The setup we should expect to see then, will see the Raptors employ an inside presence, with point guard penetration, and a lot of great perimeter shooters. Sounds a lot like Phoenix and the Spurs, doesn’t it?
If we thought that last year, the Raptors were potentially a “Phoenix East”, this year, with another major scorer on the table, the comparisons will be even greater. If we match up our teams , they definitely have more than a passing resemblance to one another. However, I’d like to say that surprisingly, the Raptors might have the better defense out of the two clubs. Toronto, towards the last part of last season (with Garbo in the lineup) was more of a Spurs/Suns hybrid; international, high scoring, with good team defense. If Toronto starts the next season with this lineup, defense, will once again, be the biggest difficulty for this team in the early part of the season, as Kapono does not provide a “lock down” defender presence, but is more of a great “team defender”. Nevertheless, I’m fine with this, as I think the the advantages will even things out in the end, and Toronto’s defensive scheme is mainly reliant on high basketball IQ players.
Here are the positives and negatives in this deal:
+ Automatically our best 3 pt shooter the next season. Jason will also make it more difficult for teams as they will not know who will be our 3 pt shooter. Who do you let go off the perimeter? Bargnani? Kapono? Parker? Garbo? It will be difficult for teams to make a decision as far as which player poses the least threat. Morris Peterson (with all the love of the blood, sweat, and tears he put in) is a shooter who shoots well when he gets a lot of touches. Unfortunately, that was no longer going to happen on this Raptors team. Kapono will give us a Steve Kerr/Dell Curry presence. Isn’t that exciting?
+ 6’8″. I’m a big proponent of believing that size matters. If you don’t have size, you better have good quickness on your feet and hands (TJ Ford), or you better have strength and tenacity (Kris Humphries). Luckily, Jason should be able to match up with most SFs within the league as he has a proper balance of both quickness and length. If not, Garbo is waiting behind him.
+ Good clutch shooter. He has a fairly good range within the arc as well as beyond, and he’s been able to play within Pat Riley’s system during crunch time, hitting some pretty good shots. Once again, another perimeter guy that can hit a game winning shot, and he is a good replacement for the outgoing Mo Pete.
+ Great FT %. You can never have enough good FT shooters, and luckily, if there’s one thing that Toronto has a lot of, it’s good FT talent. By having another 80+% shooter on the floor, in late game situations, it’ll mean that it’ll be difficult for our team to lose on foul shots; something that will guarantee a win in close game scenarios.
+ Youth (with experience). He’s been to the finals. He’s learned in a system that is one of the most highly regarded in the NBA. He’s also just 26 years old. (A year younger than me!! God, I feel old.) As a guy who’s still in his 20’s, he will be growing up along side our core set of youth; something that should not be discounted, as he will be here for 4 years. Chemistry will be built.
+/- A good defender, but not a great one-on-one defender. How good is he? Well, good enough to start on Pat Riley’s team, and win some praise from the legendary coach. I think that’s a start. For all the love we give to Mo Pete, he didn’t round back into form defensively until the New Jersey Nets rolled in for the playoffs. I think he won’t be a liability on this Raptors team and its schemes, but he won’t be as good as Mo Pete on single coverage. Then again, there are different configurations of the Raptors to mask this problem
– Not a great rebounder. Our biggest concern has been rebounding. Delfino, from what I’ve heard, has a nose for the ball, so it may be interesting to see how our lineup shakes out. Will Delfino get the SF spot in order to crash the boards? Will Kapono play behind Anthony Parker at some point to insure we have a consistent 3pt threat off the bench? In any case, we will see a need for team rebounding again this year.
– Injuries. Last season he received a high ankle sprain. He’s supposedly recovered from it, but I’ve always been worried about certain injuries to basketball players: back injuries for Cs and PFs, legs, for everyone else. He seemed to regain most of his mobility upon his return, but I’d keep an eye out for future reference.
– Fairly large contract for a long amount of time. It’s pretty interesting to see that Bryan signed all of his other players to 3 year contracts, but Jason signed for 4 years instead. Details haven’t come out yet about how the contract has been shaped, but out of Parker, Garbojosa, Ford and Bosh, the guy that has the longest contract, and will probably be with the team the longest is Kapono.
My conclusion right now, is that he’s an interesting fit for our team. An additional scorer who will draw defenders out, his negatives are fairly small for the potential upgrades in other areas. Hopefully, it’ll mean a net gain. It’s interesting to note the initial reaction from the Raptors faithful has been largely negative. Cries of “I waited for this?!” seemed to be the general sentiment. There are still those that cry out for a Josh Smith athlete, but what people don’t seem to realize is that Bosh, Delfino, and Bargnani can already attack the rim offensively. The days of needing a super athlete are over. Or is it that the people cry out for a… Vince Carter? I guess as fans, we go with what we know best from experience, but at the same time, I think the idea that Bryan has, is a steady one. There’s a clear path to this signing. It’s a part of the vision that Bryan has been trying to build, and is totally in line with the Spurs-Suns hybrid that we’ve been becoming. And the last time I checked, the Spurs won a championship without an “athletic” SG/SF.
There are those that can’t believe that the Raptors didn’t push harder for Grant Hill, but here’s my take on it. 1) He had one, one good injury-free season. These are the same Raptors that took Hakeem, went through the VinceSaga, and are still paying off both Alonzo Mourning and Alvin Williams. I doubt they want to take that risk. and 2) Grant Hill may very well be looking at Phoenix hard, since he probably wants to win. Yeah, you can make the argument that it’s easier to win in the East, but the Raptors have had one good year. I’m sure he’d rather go with a sure thing. Noccioni could have been taken, but I’m not sure he’s all that much better than Kapono. Certainly not on the offense side, and I believe the reason why Noccioni has been better on the defensive side is because of the team he plays on. As far as Sasha Pavlovic is concerned, he’s a guy I wouldn’t have signed unless he was a final option. On a team like Cleveland, who struggled to find someone to compliment LeBron James, Pavlovic consistently managed to not step up. Granted, we could have gotten him for less money, but once again, if the Raptors save 1 or 2 million, it’s not going to help them sign anyone of value.
I would like to say, though, that initially, I was not overly thrilled with this signing. Although I’m not sure what an extra million or two saved would have gotten us (we couldn’t sign anyone of quality for that little amount), I wasn’t pleased about not addressing our rebounding woes. However, there’s a question I’d like to pose: With a team that had rebounding issues, didn’t we discover quickly that Kris Humphries was that rebounder we more or less needed behind Bosh? Andrea will undoubtedly improve his “under the basket” game, which may let him get into position for rebounds on a more consistent basis. Delfino, by all accounts, is a great rebounder with a nose for the ball, and Garbo was missing for the final 1/4 of the year, and should return to near-full strength. All of these things are well within reason of expectations, and with a possibility of Joey Graham shifting to PF, we may already have a better rebounding team than expected.
A final note about our newest Raptor. As a young player with improvements in almost single year of play, I think there’s a possible upside and development possibility for our newest addition. He’s the kind of guy Colangelo likes to take a little risk on, to see if his improvements will continue. Notice that in his stats lines, his rebounding has improved steadily, as has his free throw % and assists.
So now, with this signing, who’s up for trades?