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The Alvin Williams Effect

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The Raptors released three guys on Saturday, Robert Pack, Tierre Brown, and Bryant Matthews. It looks like the Raptors brass is starting to piece together what they have, including three rookies that can contribute right away, solid swing-men, and a franchise player in Bosh. However, don't be misled. There are tons of questions remaining. Hoffa, Loren or Aaron Williams? Villaneuva and Bosh together? Who gets what minutes? Perhaps the biggest question is Alvin Williams. Over the past 18 months Raps fans have heard the line “Anything Alvin gives us will be bonus.” Let’s delve a little deeper into that comment....what is the nature of this “bonus”?

Before we get far into this, one thing must be said; it has been great to see Alvin play some minutes in the past two pre-season games and NOT playing at half-speed. In fact, at the Friday night Celts game he turned on the jets on a few occasions. Although his shot has yet to touch the bottom of the mesh, he is mixing it up with steals, assists and simply pushing the offence. In fact, he played more minutes on Friday than recommended by the Raptors medical staff . This guy is a warrior. When you talk Alvin Williams though, things are not this simple.

When Glen Grunwald locked Alvin up to a big deal he was supposed to be a centerpiece to an emerging franchise. Truth be told, the rate of return on Alvin's contract thus far has been small. Alvin’s health (or lack thereof) and the resulting impact on the team, both in regards to the on-court product and the cap implications has, perhaps surprisingly, been under-exposed. Well, it’s time to make like a Girls Gone Wild DVD.....let’s “reveal” the Alvin Williams Effect.

The Obvious: The PG Dilemma:

Anyone that follows the Raps with any sort of regularity knows that a hot topic this off-season has been the PG position. To summarize:

- Rafer Alston’s 04-05 season made the hurricane season look calm;

- The secret to defending Milt Palacio was exposed.....cover the other four guys and set up a brick wall in the lane for Milt to run into.

- Roko Leni-Ukic was drafted and then bolted for more dollars....or Euros.....or sangria in Spain. (RaptorsHQ still applauds this draft choice wholeheartedly and have discussed Roko in Europe at length)

- The Raps signed Jose Calderon. Although there was no publicized press-conference circa Hakeem, Calderon has been making serious statements on the court thus far even if his English needs work.

- Raps have Omar Cook play the point during Summer League.

- Rafer Alston was brilliantly shipped to Houston for Mike James.

- The Raptors flirt with the prospect of signing Duke alumni, former Harley-Davidson shareholder, and Kellen Winslow’s long lost brother Jay Williams.

- Raptors bring Tierre Brown, Corey Williams and Robert Pack into training camp to compete for the 3rd PG spot.

- Alvin Williams starts playing again.

This is quite the story for one position, but the story has really just begun. There has been so much talk about a 3rd PG and how the last available roster spot will likely go to a PG. All of this talk has been without regards to Alvin. Alvin’s playing now. So how does or could this impact the team? How does this come into play? Well, we are starting to see the consequences.

Alvin has now played two games in a row. Limited minutes? Sure. Good minutes? Absolutely. Good enough and revealing enough that the Raps can cut two of three 3rd PG prospects? Apparently. And besides, does anyone actually think Homicide is going to make this squad? Signals are being sent, and if you are a Raps fan, they are good ones.

No one expects Alvin to come back and play like he did against the Knicks during the Raps playoff years. The guy played like there was ice in his veins. He took, and made, big shots. At this point no one is even asking him to play that role anymore. But should we expect to see Alvin in some capacity this year if we can? I think so, and if you really think about it, the role of third-string PG is perhaps the perfect situation. Alvin is still damaged goods. Once you hurt your knee(s) you are never the same (and I’m talking from experience), and he is not a 40 minutes a night guy. In order to play the whole year, he likely won’t see more than 10-12 minutes a game. But this is exactly what you want from a guy who is third on the depth chart. A spark off the bench, good defense, the ability to change the pace of the game, and someone who you can trust enough not to go out there and blow it. Check, check, check, and check. Alvin does all of these things, and if the last two games are any indication, he can still do them well. Will he be the most highly paid third stringer in the league? Damn right. Even so, Alvin being an active member of the team does much more than provide us with PG depth, his playing also helps address the teams other main concern, rebounding and inside presence.

How does a PG with bad knees add to rebounding and inside presence you ask? Let’s take a look.

The Not So Obvious: The 5 Spot:

As much news as the Raptors PG position has created this off-season, it pales in comparison to the coverage the C spot has received. From boobirds to pink eye, trying to even list the issues and stories is an unenviable task and one I won’t be taking on quite yet.

Most of the media attention has centered on, and rightfully so, the lack of rebounding and big man talent on the Raptors roster. Luckily, a healthy Alvin can help in attempting so solve this problem. A healthy Alvin means there is no longer a need for another guard on this squad allowing management to focus on the available big men out there who could come in, add some toughness and be a dependable rebounder.

Provided Toree Morris does nothing to impress, and Homicide is cut, there will be at least one open spot on this roster that Babcock can now use to bring in some big men rather than PG’s. From this author’s standpoint there is much more talent available in terms of available big guys right now then guards. Just to name a few......Marcus Fizer, Marcus Haislip (did he do so little in summer that he was not even worth a chance?), Kevin Willis, and Vladimir Stepania. Sure, none of these guys are going to change the face of the organization, but each has shown at one time or another the ability to play in the NBA. RaptorsHQ is still a supporter of bringing back Willis if he is willing to take on a mentor like role while still banging for a few minutes a game.

So essentially the impact of Alvin’s health is two fold. It addresses the PG issue AND helps to address the big-man issue. If he does stay healthy and the Raps manage to bring in a serviceable big man Alvin should be credited with that players rebounds, points, and essentially any contribution.

Besides, doing so would also help validate the size of his contract.

HOWLAND