Keeping Carlos

Delfino was a nice find for the Raptors, but it looks like there's no way he'll be back next year...

Delfino was a nice find for the Raptors, but it looks like there's no way he'll be back next year...

In my recent free-agent and salary cap breakdowns there has been one name that many of our readers have mentioned as being conspicuously left out of the discussion; Carlos Delfino. Delfino in many ways had a breakthrough season for the Toronto Raptors last year after languishing for much of his career on the bench of the Detroit Pistons.

So why then has Count Chocula been left out in the cold free agent discussions concerning the Raptors? After all, this is a player who over 40 minutes would have averaged about 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists, not bad therefore as a spark off the bench. Del is a solid defender, one of the best on the perimeter that Toronto had last year, and was also the only Raptor besides Bosh and Ford who at least occasionally made the effort to get to the rim. Based on these facts, shouldn’t he have been a priority for BC and co. starting yesterday?

Unfortunately not. However the rationale behind ignoring Delfino has more to do with the numbers situation facing the Raptors’ than Delfino’s own value. Let’s take a closer look.

We’ve discussed some of these "numbers issues" on the site already but now that some more details in terms of Toronto’s plans for next year are trickling in, it’s pretty easy to see how the numbers just no longer add up in terms of retaining Carlos.

Looking at next year’s roster now that Jose has confirmed his intent to re-sign, Toronto has nine spots filled:

PG: Calderon,
SG: Parker, Graham,
SF: Kapono, Moon,
PF: Bosh, Humphries,
C: O’Neal, Bargnani,

Even if Graham is more of a 3-4 and Kapono a 2-3, the gaping holes on the roster are obviously at point guard and center. Delfino is neither, which is problem number 1.

Assuming that Roko Ukic and Nathan Jawai are brought over, perhaps that helps plug the holes at point and center. However by all accounts, Ukic may be more of shooting guard style creator at 6-6 than a perfect backup for Jose. And Jawai is listed at 6-10, 285, but in reality may be closer to 6-8 and therefore not the ideal backup for Jermaine O’Neal either. So problem number two for Delfino is that before he fits into the Raptors’ plans, Toronto may still need to go out and get some assistance at the 1 and 5 spots.

Problem 3 comes down to finances. Toronto is already tight with money and once Jose, Ukic and Jawai are on board, that’s where the next set of numbers work against Delfino, the financial ones.

My calculations from last Thursday night’s post-draft article had the Raptors at around $65 Million after Jose’s new deal. However I omitted Garbajosa’s buy-out which in fact would leave Toronto with about $61 Million in salary even before Jose’s new deal. Calderon’s contract therefore could push the total team payroll close $70 Million! Add on contracts to Roko and Jawai and suddenly we’re talking about potentially hitting the expected $71-72 Million luxury tax mark.

The point of all of this is simply to say that unless Carlos is willing to take a massive pay-cut, Toronto just won’t be able to afford him. Even before the O’Neal trade things looked bleak but now it’s getting pretty close to impossible in terms of seeing Del the Funkee Homosapien back in red and black next year.

And the nail in the coffin might have come this morning when reportedly the Raptors made overtures towards free-agent camp attendee Hassan Adams. Adams is an undersized 2-3 but is a solid defender, very athletic, and able to do a great number of the things Delfino did last year. Considering that Adams will probably sign for the veteran’s minimum, this means Colangelo is essentially obtaining a near Delfino-clone for at least a quarter of the cost. Compound this with the fact that Toronto is looking to only go with an eight or nine man rotation and you see how when you add things up, it just didn’t make sense to try and keep Carlos.

Will his production be missed?

Well as one of my favourite Raptors last year I initially thought so until I started digging deeper into the numbers. Yes Delfino never took a play off, but he was hardly consistent. And using some of John Hollinger’s statistical tools, I began to see that myself and other fans were quite possibly overvaluing Delfino’s contributions.

His PER of only 13.62 was barely ahead of All-Stars like Kirk Snyder, Willie Green, Rodney Carney and Bobby Jackson regarding other shooting guards. And league-wide, that left him behind players like Luther Head, Jared Dudley, Maurice Evans and Drew Gooden. In fact, only Jason Kapono and Andrea Bargnani had lower PER’s on the Raptors (of those who played at least 6.09 minutes per game), which definitely isn’t great considering Delfino averaged the sixth most minutes on the team!

Now PER (Player Efficiency Rating) isn’t the "be all end all" for sure, but it usually is quite a good indicator of a player’s level of contribution to his team. And according to Hollinger, the player Delfino was most similar to statistically at his current age was Jud Buechler. For those who remember Jud with the Bulls, this speaks volumes. For those who don’t, let’s just say Buechler was never more than a ninth man on great teams…which probably explains why Delfino seemed like such a valuable seventh or eight man on the up and down Raptors of 2007-08. And as we mentioned, considering Bryan Colangelo looks to be focusing on going only eight or nine deep this year, Delfino now seems to be on the outside looking in.

My big issue with this I guess isn’t so much that I feel Delfino should be kept at all costs, but that a few of the other players currently with the team don’t deserve spots ahead of him. And yes, I’m looking right at you Joey and Kris.

Delfino played defence AND loved cereal!

Delfino played defence AND loved cereal!

In fact at one point last season I wrote the following but never ended up using it in an article:

"For instance Kris Humphries and Joey Graham could be great eight, nine and ten guys off the bench for this team…at the right price. Right now Hump and Joey are pretty cheap and these are the type of guys you need to get you through the grind of an 82 game season. However would I shed a tear if any of them departed via trade? Not in the slightest. Hump showed something in limited minutes but just isn’t a big enough part of Sam’s rotation and Joey…well…he twirls the ball well on those new RaptorsTV commercials…"

My hope is that both either realize that this could be their last chances in the league and step it up, or BC finds some magical two-for-one deal that would see both shipped out to either create some cap room, or find a more serviceable replacement to address team needs.

In any event, with the rumoured signings on the way, next year’s line-up should look something like this:

PG: Calderon, Ukic
SG: Parker, Adams
SF: Kapono, Moon, Graham
PF: Bosh, Humphries, Jawai
C: O’Neal, Bargnani

That’s 12 spots filled so the remaining two or three (if BC elects to go a full 15 deep) will likely be other Hassan Adams types...guys who can play in practice and maybe get spot minutes in games but come for cheap.

I think that rules out Rod Benson therefore as he could probably make a lot more overseas and would rather do that then sit on the pine in Toronto for a year or two.

In fact, I expect the Raptors to look at a third-stringer point guard and a legit center to fill two of these spots and from there we’ll see. Both could be undrafted projects with upside or free agents who fell through the cracks and are now desperate for deals.

In any event, I'm prepared to see Carlos Delfino suiting up for another squad next year (perhaps the Spurs as rumoured?) He was a nice find by BC but between roster spots and spending money, there's just not much in terms of ways to keep him around. For now, it looks like the Raptors' line-up for next year is pretty much set in stone barring one or two minor moves.

But who knows…with the crazy rumours circulating yesterday about Baron Davis going to the Clippers and Gilbert Arenas perhaps reconsidering the Warriors, maybe Corey Maggette needs a new home?

Hmmmm...think Donald Sterling has any interest in Joey Graham?

FRANCHISE

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