Barbosa Odd Man Man Out in Raptors' Backcourt


Point guard controversy? What point guard controversy? The HQ takes a look at the competitors for the Raptors' starting point guard spot and express their lack of concern over who gets the gig.

More importantly they argue, the team needs to find a taker for Leandro Barbosa...

Last year the Toronto Raptors were not a good team.

This we know, thanks to a myriad of stats.

Oh, and the fact that of the 82 games they played, they won only 22 of these matches.

The problems were everywhere, from offensive stagnation to defensive...ahhh...ok so no defence at all. Throw in some coaching follies, injuries, inexperience, and a schedule that didn't do them many favours, and it's not hard to see why this team was earmarked for one of the league's worst records, before the season even began.

I can remember asking Sonny Weems about this at Media Day and he thought this prognostication by various "experts" was ludicrous.

Unfortunately we fans knew better, and the 2010-11 season was over well before the Raps had been slapped silly by Eddie House and a "big-three less" Miami Heat squad in the team's last game of the campaign.

Bright spots?

Not too many, and Toronto's roster was more akin to the Miss Corpus Christi than Miss America.

However there were some "less ugly" areas, starting with the point guard position.

Yes, it still posted a negative PER in terms of its own production versus that of opponents, but much less so than the other four spots on the floor at -0.6.

Jose Calderon, Jarrett Jack, Leandro Barbosa, Jerryd Bayless and others kept the position on the floor respectable in terms of production, and helped keep the team in games at times.

Calderon was the dominant factor in this equation as while some of his individual statistics declined (points, turnovers, field goal and 3-point shooting percentages, etc) he again provided positive marks in various advanced metrics like wins produced (8.1 WP) and win shares (3.7).

Towards the end of the year, Jerryd Bayless also started to have a positive impact for the Dinos. While not the efficient player that Jose was, Bayless provided some much-needed scoring punch and defense, and many felt that going into this season, the point guard job was his to lose.

This whole situation of course has started up a few "point guard controversy" angles already in training camp, and Raps' fans may have visions of the TJ Ford/Calderon situation all over again.

But I don't think that will be the case.

This team really is a collection of 15 players with about the same level of talent. Is James Johnson that much worse or better of an option than Rasual Butler? And for all of Jose Calderon's offensive effectiveness, is Anthony Carter not going to be a preferable play in various situations, especially in terms of D?

Sure, guys like Ed Davis and DeMar DeRozan may stand out talent-wise.

However neither has shown they're ready to stand head and shoulders above the rest of their competition; DeMar with major strides needed on the defensive end in addition to hitting the 3, and Ed needing a good deal of seasoning at both ends of the court.

This campaign needs to be all about getting a grasp on what Toronto has to work with, the main reason I argued that the loss of a full season would be catastrophic to the club, and to that end, new coach Dwane Casey is just going to have to let things sort themselves out.

Which goes for the point guard position as well.

I expect Calderon to start when the season tips off but that doesn't mean Jerryd Bayless doesn't occupy that spot by year's end. Bayless has a number of attributes that would seem to be a better fit with Casey's moxy, and as the Toronto Sun's Ryan Wolstat recently noted, Casey and assistant coach Johnny Davis have a lot of experience working with Bayless, combo-guard types.

In fact if you could combine Calderon and Bayless into one player, you'd likely get something along the lines of Chris Paul so it may be best for the two to continue to work in tandem; Calderon being the efficient offensive machine, splashing open shots and moving the team's offence, Bayles being the bulldog off the bench, locking down defensively and attacking the rim.

Add the proverbial veteran third-stringer Anthony Carter in, and there are worse situations in terms of point guard combos in the league. (I'm looking at you Miami.)

Who doesn't fit in this mix then?

One Leandro Barbosa.

To me this is where the fan focus should be, not Jose versus Jerryd.

Barbosa can be the most talented player on the court for Toronto on a given night, but I truly believe that Bryan Colangelo needs to find a way to move him somewhere else. He's good enough on this team of unproven youngsters and mediocre veterans that he'll take away precious minutes, minutes that coach Dwane Casey should be dolling out to players like Bayless and even Gary Forbes as the Raptors attempt to determine who stays, and who goes heading into next year's key season.

To a large extent Barbosa duplicates most of what players like Forbes, Bayless and even DeRozan do (good individual offense threat, not much else) so if BC can find a taker for him early in the season, I think that benefits the club in the long run.

Optimally, the Raps end this season with a solid understanding of whether Bayless can play the 1 as a starter in the league, and manage to keep Calderon feeling like he's still a big piece of the puzzle. Calderon is overpaid, but he does produce, something you can't say about many other players on this club, and I'd be fine with having Jose remain a Raptor in a backup role when his current contract ends. In fact a one-two punch of a a young, elite PG in the mould of a Rondo, Westbrook or Irving, with Calderon, the pass-first, risk averse, efficient shooting PG as a back-up, would look pretty good in terms of the club's future would it not?

We're not sure if Bayless can be that elite first option at the 1, but that's what this season should be all about, discovering if indeed he can grab those reigns.

And as mentioned to start this piece, really, Bryan Colangelo and his braintrust have bigger fish to fry at other positions.

I say let Jose and Jerryd play, mix in some Anthony Carter and even Gary Forbes (who played the 1 at times for his national team), and see what happens.

The club's real issues lie elsewhere and considering the respect Calderon and Bayless seem to have for each other, I don't see this being a problem during the season.

The problem will be if we start to see Leandro Barbosa playing 30 minutes a night.

If that's the case, and Barbosa isn't dealt early on, I along with many other Raptors' fans I'm sure, are going to be wondering to an extent, just what the point of this season was.

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