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Sunday Thought – Just How Pressing Is the Need for a Back-Up PG?

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Can Roko rebound after a tough rookie year and be the back-up this team needs?

Can Roko rebound after a tough rookie year and be the back-up this team needs?

As good as Jose Calderon can be when healthy, he can’t do it alone.

Jose’s first season as "the guy" wasn’t exactly peaches and cream. At times he showed flashes of greatness but for the most part it was a disappointing year. The reasons were obvious and well documented. First, Jose had no choice but to play heavy minutes considering the back-up point guard situation and second, he was injured. Combined, perhaps it should come as no surprise that this team struggled throughout the season.

Consequently, among the myriad of other issues BC has to deal with this summer, he has to determine how to alleviate some of the pressure on Jose. He has to find help for the Spanish Fly.

Before looking outside the organization for help at the 1, BC has to determine whether the guys already in the fold can provide the much needed assistance. If you look at the Raps roster today, the team already has a number of guys who have, or could conceivably play, the PG position. Calderon, Banks, Ukic and yes, even Douby have played some PG in the league.

That’s four roster spots designated to one position and yet still an area with more questions than answers.

Can the Raps head into the 2009-2010 season with a combination of Banks/Roko/Douby playing back-up minutes? Or does BC need to start looking at alternatives?

At the final press conference of the season, BC discussed the PG situation at length, but not a single time did he discuss Marcus Banks, a player that Colangelo’s old employer is quite familiar with. Banks, since his days in Minnesota, has done nothing to validate the 5 year $21 million contract he received in 2006. Since averaging 12.0 ppg, 4.7 apg and 2.9 rpg in Minnesota, Banks has seen very little playing time. Despite having had the opportunity to learn from one of the leagues best in Steve Nash, Banks has never come close to producing like when he was with the Wolves. I think you would be hard-pressed to find anyone within the Raptors organization that would feel comfortable giving consistent back-up minutes to Mr. Banks. Let’s remove him from the equation.

Quincy Douby isn’t going to be the answer either. At no point has Douby shown anything more than adequate ball-handling skills and if he does stick with the team he won’t be asked to play PG unless the team is in dire straights.

Currently, the most obvious candidate for the back-up roll is the same guy as last season, Roko Ukic. Despite his bumpy rookie season the kid has promise, but promise just isn’t going to get the job done. There is only one way BC can be sure he can head into next season with Roko as Calderon’s primary back-up and that’s if he is sure Roko, much like Calderon, is ready to make a big leap in his second year.

As many people have pointed out, Roko and Calderon had very similar rookie seasons.

Roko:

.380 fg%, .177 3p%, 1 rpg, 2.1 apg, 4.2 ppg.

Calderon:

.423 fg%, .163 3p%, 2.2 rpg, 4.5 apg, 5.5 ppg

Calderon, in his second season improved a great deal and statistically his season looked like this:

.521 fg%, .333 3p%, 1.2 rpg, 5.0 apg, 8.0 ppg.

Clearly in year two Calderon came back much more confident on the offensive end and his shooting percentages were significantly better. Calderon was playing just over 20 minutes a game and really started to look like an NBA point-guard.

Now ask yourself, if Roko managed to make a similar leap to Calderon from a statistical standpoint, would this be good enough? I think the answer is clearly yes. If Roko could play a solid 20 minutes a game and forced opposing defences to respect his outside jumper, then the back-up PG issues would seemingly disappear.

Of course trying to determine whether Roko can make this quantum leap is the big question, and more importantly whether the team can afford to give him that opportunity. If BC is not able to move Marcus Banks or he decides to remove Douby from the equation then he is unlikely to bring in another PG. Having upwards of 5 point guards on roster is a luxury no franchise can afford. In particular when only one of them will really help you win games.

On the flip side, if you don't give Roko the opportunity to grow why have him on the roster at all? Is the D-League an option or should the team simply let him play out the next season and then cut ties?

I for one don't believe we will see this issue resolved until much later in the summer once BC and Triano have had an opportunity to see just how much Roko has improved over the course of the summer. How this turns out is really as much on Roko as it is on anyone else.

HOWLAND