As we look ahead to what could be a fantastic season for the Toronto Raptors, much of the discussion has been centered on Jermaine O’Neal, Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon and of course Andrea Bargnani.
The reasons for this are obvious. There are legitimate questions surrounding each of the aforementioned players while at the same time it’s these players who will likely provide the most excitement this upcoming season. It’s only natural to dream of the next edition of the Twin Towers. It will be fascinating to see what Jose will do with starter minutes and undoubtedly Bargnani’s junior season is the most important yet.
Yet for all the talk surrounding these players there is little talk about what will more likely than not be the teams Achilles heel…wing play.
This shouldn’t be ignored.
When you look at the rosters of Eastern Conference teams they feature some of the best two guards in the league, including Ray Allen, Vince Carter, Andre Iguodala, Richard Hamilton, Michael Redd, Jason Richardson and of course Dwyane Wade. This is a strong list of players who are each capable of great things on the court, in particular on the offensive end. On the Raps roster the only true SG is Anthony Parker.
If you look at the rest of the Raps roster there isn’t a true SG to be found outside of Parker. With the exodus of Delfino there is a significant hole. It’s true that Kapono could see some time at the two guard spot but most of the conversation surrounds playing him at the three where he would split minutes with Moon and possibly even Bargnani.
The new guys in town? Well let’s just say early reviews from John Hollinger are not all that positive.
Here’s a quick rundown of the Raptors discussion:
Will Solomon and Lorenzen Wright signed with the Raptors and the Cavs, respectively, for the minimum. They both are overpaid. Solomon washed out of the league five years ago, and his numbers from Europe have been unimpressive since; Wright was such a horrific bust with the Hawks that he didn't play even though they were desperate for frontcourt help. There's little evidence that either player belongs in the league.
Toronto inked Croatian guard Roko Ukic to back up Calderon; his European stats suggest he's a marginal backup at best and might not be up to the challenge.
Tarence Kinsey played well for Memphis two years ago and could help Cleveland with his athleticism on the wing. ... Ditto for Hassan Adams in Toronto;
After reading this it seems clear that if the Raps are expecting to get production from the SG position it will mostly likely come from AP and AP alone.
To be fair Hollinger was not totally negative towards the Raps off-season. He had the following to say about Jose Calderon:
The best deal of the bunch, however, might have been Jose Calderon's five-year, $40 million deal to stay in Toronto. Given how well he played a year ago and how much lesser players have commanded on the open market, that's a screaming bargain for an All-Star-caliber point guard.
Nevertheless when it comes to the two guard it is all about AP.
If you were to describe Anthony Parker in one word what would it be? Glue guy? Team player? Average? I would use the term "non-descript".
Since his arrival in Toronto AP has managed to fly under the radar. Rarely are we critical of his play and only on occasion do we give him praise. He does just enough to stay out of the dog-house but his play isn’t exactly deserving of the penthouse. Parker does almost everything well but nothing spectacular. If there is one major criticism of Parker’s play it’s inconsistency and it’s his inconsistency that I find mightily concerning as the season approaches.
When you look at his play from last season at macro level it is solid. He averaged 12.5 points per game, 4.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and a steal per contest. He started all 82 games, stayed healthy and as a result played the highest percentage of the team’s total minutes at 66%.
When you look at things on a micro level the statistics paint a different picture. The stats demonstrate a player whose averages are an accumulation of very good games and very bad games with little in between. For example, in the two games versus the Clippers (Cuttino Mobley) last season Parker averaged 2.5 point per game, yet for some strange reason averaged 17.3 points per game when matched-up with the Bobcats (Jason Richardson). When it comes to playing back-to-backs Parker averages 10.3 ppg while with one days’ rest only manages 8.3ppg.
It is hard to explain some of the large discrepancies in his statistics.
For the Raps getting consistent play out of AP will have a tremendous effect on the outcome of the upcoming season and AP has proven at different times that he can elevate his game to the next level over longer stretches of time. Last season in the month of March the Raptors played more games than any other month. In the 17 games played in March Parker averaged 15.5 ppg, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and shot over 50% from the floor. Of course in December of last season, the second busiest month, his numbers were at a low for the season. Strange, isn’t it?
What AP will show up this season? For Raps fans we have to hope for the former and there’s no reason why No.18 can’t produce those numbers witnessed last March. With defenses keying in on the two big men in the paint, there will be lots of opportunities for AP to score the basketball and even more of an opportunity to get clean looks. It will be a season where Parker needs to let the game come to him but also take full advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.
If Parker can become a consistent weapon on the offensive end without exerting too much energy there are countless benefits to reaped. Think of the one on one opportunities for Bosh and O’Neal if defenses are hesitant to leave Parker. Think how valuable the extra energy will be to Parker when he has to chase around those aforementioned SG listed above. The team’s net points per 48 minutes of playing time for Parker is the highest on the team. This should only increase.
When you realize how dependent the Raps are going to be on Parker to not only log heavy minutes but produce you start to realize how vital he is to this seasons success. Parker will have every opportunity to raise his game to the next level and help push this team to top of the Eastern Conference. Hopefully he doesn’t shy away, for his sake and the teams…it is after all a contract year for the guy.