The Raptors' big men are going to have their hands full in the Atlantic Division next season.
With the rollercoaster ride, which is the Dwight Howard trade-rumor saga finally over, RaptorsHQ's newest team member, Brandon Graham, asks; would the self-proclaimed Superman's decision eventually hit the Raptors in the Atlantic division?
Last Friday, the 26-year old centre, Howard, along with Chris Duhon and Earl Clark were shipped off to L.A in a four-team trade which saw 24-year old Andrew Bynum land in Philadelphia along with swingman Jason Richardson as the Sixers sent forward Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets and forward Maurice Harkless, centre Nikola Vucevic, and a protected first-round pick to the Orlando Magic.
At first glance, the front-runner in this deal has to be the Lakers. As they retain their image of possessing the strongest frontcourt in the West and arguably throughout the entire league, while adding vital pieces to their depth in Duhon and Clark.
After the renowned Game Seven loss at the hands of the Boston Celtics, head coach Doug Collins was quite direct about what his Sixers needed most moving forward; "Our inability to score is what plagued us all season long," admitted Collins. Although the newly acquired Bynum is reportedly undergoing an "experimental procedure" on his knee in Germany next month, it's quite certain that Collins won't find any need to mutter those flaws come next season.
Last season, the 7-foot, 285-pound centre was the only player in the NBA to average more than 17 points (18.7) on less than 13.4 field goal attempts per game. Not to mention that while racking up 18.7 ppg, he collected an average of 11.8 rebounds in 35.2 minutes, which were career highs all across the board.
Bynum's interior presence will be posed as a threat all season long, which must concern each team in the East but most importantly the Atlantic division. Something tells me that the transition from the third option offensively in L.A behind Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to the first in Philadelphia will not be much of an issue for Bynum. Judging by the legacy that he built in L.A (which is still under construction), it's inevitable that he believes he still needs to prove himself worthy of being considered a top-three centre in the league.
The Atlantic division has undeniably become a taller division over night, but how does this correlate to the Raptors progression going forward you ask? Well, Bynum's arrival in Philly along with presumably the healthy return of Brook Lopez to the Nets and the recent gold medalist, Tyson Chandler, will pose as a great challenge for the bigs of the Raps.
If Amir Johnson is seeking for the best year to prove his doubters wrong, it should be this year, as time is running out for him to live up to his big contract. The move will also lend Raptors faithful a good estimation of where the well-regarded Jonas Valanciunas will be for years to come.
Being a part of the Raptor faithful for as long as I can remember, it seems like I've always had a habit of losing patience with the progression of some of our young big men. Ed Davis' career thus far has epitomized my frustration on this case, but with the solid summer camp that he put together, and from the interview Franchise did with Eric Hughes regarding his off-season regimen; watch out for him to turn some heads this year.
In a span of a year, Aaron Gray has proven that he isn't scared to bang around in the inside with high caliber bigs, I wouldn't be surprised if he consistently contains those type of players this year, although he still remains a bit of a liability on the offensive end.
With the exception of JV, Andrea Bargnani and Amir Johnson are the two tallest players with the most weight on their shoulders for the Raps this season, as there's no excuse for not providing day-in and day-out on both ends of the court. Holding an average of 5.95 boards per game respectively between these two bigs isn't going to cut it against premier centers within the division. Let's just hope that Bynum's landing in Philly has lit a spark under the Dino big men, because there's nothing worse than being taken for granted on the glass, year after year.
As many are starting to believe that the move has nothing but negative connotations attached to it for the Raps, I believe that it will do nothing but motivate each team to give Philly and Bynum nothing but their all on any given night. Regardless, with a year under head coach Dwane Casey's belt, the approach defensively will remain the same, as this year the offense must remain consistent and fluent in order to make a splash in terms of playoff contention.