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Around the League: Toronto Raptors

I know virtually nothing about the Toronto Raptors, besides the fact that they play in Canada.

Seriously, try this: name as many Toronto players as you possibly can. Go ahead. Answer is after the jump.

Solomon Alabi, Alan Anderson, Andrea Bargnani, Jerryd Bayless, Jose Calderon, Ed Davis, Justin Dentmon, DeMar DeRozan, Gary Forbes, Aaron Gray, Amir Johnson, James Johnson, Linas Kleiza, Jamaal Magloire, and Ben Uzoh. There you have it. 15 names.

5 of those players were drafted by the Raptors (Alabi, Bargnani, Calderon, Davis, and DeRozan). 4 were not drafted at all (Anderson, Dentmon, Forbes, and Uzoh). Bayless was cast off by Portland after less than 2000 minutes. Amir Johnson was traded from Detroit to Milwaukee for Fabricio Oberto, who Detroit cut 9 days later. Milwaukee soured on the situation and traded him not two months after they got him; Johnson never played a game for them. James Johnson got less than 900 minutes to show his talents off to Chicago before they traded him for the pick that became Norris Cole. Linas Kleiza took 4yr/18m to take his talents to Toronto, and Toronto is Jamaal Magloire's 7th NBA stop (8th if you count Charlotte/New Orleans as separate, but who does)?

So there you go. A mix of cast-offs, hyped players, top draft picks, and players nobody thought would stick. Your 2012 Toronto Raptors everybody!

Salaries

ADJ = Adjusted

TO = Team Option

QO = Qualifying Offer

NFG = Not Fully Guarenteed

PO/ETO = Player Option / Early Termination Option

UDP = Unsigned Draft Pick

Name 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 TOTAL
Jose Calderon 9.78 10.56 20.35
Andrea Bargnani 9.25 10 10.75 11.5 (PO/ETO) 41.5
Amir Johnson 5.55 6.05 6.55 7.05 (NFG) 23.2
Linas Kleiza 4.6 4.6 4.6 (PO/ETO) 9.2
Jerryd Bayless 3.04 4.16 (QO) 3.04
DeMar DeRozan 2.63 3.34 4.53 (QO) 5.97
Aaron Gray 2.5 2.5
Ed Davis 2.06 2.21 3.15 (TO) 4.36 (QO) 4.27
James Johnson 1.83 2.81 4.65
Gary Forbes 1.5 1.5 1.5 (TO) 3
Jamaal Magloire 1.35 (ADJ) 0.85
Solomon Alabi 0.83 0.89 (TO) 1.11 (QO) 0.83
Alan Anderson 0.21 0.88 (NFG) 0.21
Ben Uzoh 0.18 0.85 (NFG) 1.11 (QO) 0.18
Jonas Valanciunas (UDP) 2.81 2.94 3.07 3.88 5.75

For a team that's pretty mediocre, the salary situation looks pretty... mediocre. Calderon's deal is expiring after next year, which frees some cap space up, but there are a glut of rookie deals expiring soon after that, which means that cap space has about a one year window to be used on a free agent. Kleiza's Kahn-tract isn't great, but it's not the worst deal on the team. In fact, it's probably not even the second worst. Andrea Bargnani's deal is terrible, and Amir Johnson's isn't far behind, if only because of how long it was. Note to NBA GM's: if a guy has never played more than 18 minutes a game at the NBA level, don't give him a 5 year deal.

The Talent (?)

Here's a quick breakdown of everybody on the team, roughly from best player to worst.

Jose Calderon (30, PG) - Calderon is basically a poor man's Steve Nash. Great assist numbers, great shooting percentages, awful defense. He's 30 years old and would be a great trade chip, except for that contract. It's an expiring next year, but it's still 10m that another team has to take on. For a team that has a lot of talent and a decent defensive frontcourt, Calderon would be a great pickup.

Jerryd Bayless (23, PG/SG) - Is he a PG or a SG? 18 points and 6 assists per 36 this year suggests that talent is there, but he might not be able to consistently shoot 42% from three over an entire season again like he did this year, which depreciates his value. Toronto isn't exactly competing for a playoff spot, so Bayless should get another shot next year to prove that his numbers were not a fluke.

Amir Johnson (24, PF) - Despite the bad deal, Johnson isn't a bad player. 10/10 per 36 while shooting close to 60% from the field is good, but he's only taking 5 shots per game, making me think that he might not be able to produce for those 36 minutes a game at the efficiency the way he does for the 24 minutes per game he's played over the last two seasons. There's also the issue of...

Ed Davis (22, PF) - It's actually kind of funny how similar A. Johnson and Davis are. Johnson is the more efficient scorer, while Davis rebounds slightly better and turns the ball over less. Davis also has a very low usage, which makes me wonder whether he can remain an efficient scorer while putting up more shots. My guess? Probably not.

Andrea Bargnani (26, C/PF) - Can he do anything besides score? This was the best season he's had as a pro, and he put up 21/6 on 43/30/87 shooting. His defense (apparently) was better, but he's not exactly Tyson Chandler, and he's the most horrendous rebounder imaginable. If the Raptors had a player like Pekovic (dominates the low post, decent rebounder) at center or a true #1 scorer, Bargnani would be more valuable. With what the team has to offer, Bargnani's skill set doesn't look like it meshes well - he would probably be better off as the #2 option, not trying to carry the team virtually by himself. The Raptors signed him long-term, and they're tied to him for better or for worse.

James Johnson (24, SF/PF) - He actually shoots the ball every once in a while! 8 whole shots per game! Actually seems like he might be a decent player if he figures out that jump shot, though looking at his shooting numbers, it seems like he might be a PF forced to play SF some of the time. His midrange game is awful, but there are some pluses - he could be an decent backup stretch 4 for a team that runs an offense around the mid-range games of their big men. Whoever gets Dwight Howard could take a decent look at Johnson.

Linas Kleiza (27, SF) - Kleiza looks like a prototypical tweener on offense - not enough of a banger to go down low, not enough of a shooter to be great around the perimeter. Considering how every other player on this team so far has played PG or PF, the Raptors would kill for Kleiza to turn into a decent SF. Seems to me like he is what he is - flex SF/PF who should not get extended minutes on a good team.

Aaron Gray (27, C) - Bad defender. Good rebounder. Not an offensive threat. Advanced stats hates his game.

DeMar DeRozan (22, SG) - 26% shooter from beyond the 3 point line. 26%. I know he does a very good job getting to the free-throw line, but he doesn't have an elite mid-range game, he doesn't have an elite 3 point game, and he isn't great at the rim. He's pretty good from 3-9 feet, but that's the only good part of his shooting game. The rest of his game is average-to-bad: not a good defender, assist numbers are bad, rebounding numbers are bad, steals numbers are bad.

Targets for the Timberwolves

None

Wait, What?

Yep. There is not a single player on the Raptors that I would definitely want on the Timberwolves. Bargnani will always be overpaid because he's 7 feet tall, but he plays like he's 6'7". Davis and A. Johnson would be good backups, but aren't NBA starters on any team, and they'll be overpaid as backups (though if Davis does not pan out particularly well, he could probably be had on the cheap). J. Johnson will probably turn into a pretty solid player, but he's not going to be better for the Wolves than Derrick Williams, unless Williams is traded or he comes at a low cost on a short deal. DeRozan plays the right position, but has the wrong skill-set. Overall, nothing really excites me. Maybe a backup or two on the cheap.

Alright. How about a tl;dr?

The Toronto Raptors are basically the Minnesota Timberwolves with less talent and more depth. Rubio will never be able to shoot like Calderon, but he's going to be an elite distributor and an elite defender. Love is basically two-to-three times the player Bargnani will ever be. Pekovic would consume Davis and both of the Johnsons whole. I'd take Ridnour over DeRozan right now, and the wings are bad on both sides of the border. At the same time, their low-post rotation is 4-5 deep (even if they're not that great), and they have Jonas Valanciunas coming over soon. Ed Davis and James Johnson are still very cheap, and can be moved easily for a wing. Overall, the future is still a little murky, but the team could definitely mature into something pretty good, especially if they move Bargnani or find a true #1 option so he can try to be a more efficient #2. They do need some serious lottery luck - Anthony Davis would be a godsend, and a guy like Bradley Beal would do well to solidify their wing rotation.

EDIT: More About James Johnson

Looking at guys who played forward (just forwards, no forward/centers or forward/guards), J. Johnson was 6th in the league in STL% and 7th in BLK% (out of 89). He is a bad rebounder (57th in REB%), but he is a pretty decent passer (12th in AST%). He was 65th in TS%. He managed to be the 9th worst offensive forward and the 14th best defensive forward in the NBA last year. Those defensive numbers are great, especially on that team, but it is very hard to be an above average player when you're as bad as J. Johnson is on offense. Keep that in mind.

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