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Alexis Ajinca and Joey Dorsey - Hold'em or Fold'em?

The HQ continues its look at "current" Raptors that the team may want to bring back next season.  This morning, Ajinca and Dorsey set to the tune of Kenny Rogers...

"You gotta know when to hold'em.  Know when to fold'em.  Know when to walk away.  Know when to run."

Those are of course the lyrics to one of the most famous country songs of all time, "The Gambler," by Kenny Rogers.

In the song, Rogers uses poker as a metaphor for life, but it could easily be applied in other ways too.  

For instance, when I played it as the last song at the University bar where I DJed, it could easily have referred to the person you ended the night with.

Or from a basketball perspective, how an NBA GM should approach his own free agents.

While most of the Raptors' are under contract at this point, last week we started discussing those who Toronto has not yet chosen to retain, beginning with Reggie Evans.

This morning, two more players, Alexis Ajinca and Joey Dorsey, both examples of Bryan Colangelo hoping to strike it rich on former top prospects he had acquired for cheap.

We break down their situations ala "The Gambler..."


Alexis Ajinca:

Age - 23

Career Stats - 3.1 points, 1.6 rebounds, 0.4 blocks, True Shooting % - .479, PER - 10.1

Using the Kenny Rogers metaphor, Ajinca looks like an obvious "know when to run" situation.

He was the 20th pick overall in the 2008 draft by the Charlotte Bobcats, compared to the likes of Jonathan Bender and LaMarcus Aldridge on the high side, Mikki Moore and Francisco Elson on the low side.

And while I get the comparisons, Ajinca's style of play is akin to a really poor man's version of Aldridge, at this point it would be a revelation if Ajinca ever became as serviceable as the latter two.  He got the best chance he's had yet in his three years in the L to show and prove (265 minutes played last year in Toronto) and while it wasn't exactly like he was being thrown in as a starter every night, had he been consistently effective even in limited minutes, it would have stood out.

But that wasn't the case.

Instead we basically saw a slightly better version of Patrick O'Bryant; a legit 7 footer who preferred to shoot 3's than mix it up in the paint.

His under 9 rebounds a game average when projected out over 36 minutes speak to this and considering Andrea Bargnani's game, it hardly makes sense to have another 7 foot floor spacer.

Especially since he didn't even do that quite well.

33% shooting from long range is ok for a big man, but if that's your bread and butter, you better be able to be a lot more automatic.

So should the Raptors be considering bringing him back at all, even as a "fringe 15th man" so to speak?

I don't think so.

I'd much rather see the team use that spot on someone with a lot more upside, not to mention tangible skills that directly contribute to W's.

Ajinca posted a wins produced mark of negative 0.4 last year...

...fold'em and run.


Joey Dorsey:

Age - 27

Career Stats - 2.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 0.3 blocks, True Shooting % - .517, PER - 13.4

Dorsey in many ways is the opposite of Mr. Ajinca.

Statistically he looks like a keeper producing 2.2 wins in limited minutes last year, not to mention his per 36 minute numbers, which project him to be snatching up 13 rebounds a game.

His price tag last year was only about $854K, and with a qualifying offer of just over a million dollars next season, again, at face value, this looks like a "hold'em" situation.

So why wasn't an offer made to keep Dorsey around, similar to the Sonny Weems situation?

In my estimation, it's not because of anything he did wrong on the court, but off.

Numerous sources during the season last year noted to me that Dorsey was not a popular player amongst the Raptors' brass thanks to his relationship with the Toronto nightlife.  No specifics were given, but apparently he fell under the lure of "White Vegas" far too often and this took a toll on his game.  

(Apparently, that's also why Sundiata Gaines wasn't kept around either.)  

The whole situation (it first came to my attention in about February) struck me as curious though considering his on-court effectiveness so I dug a bit deeper.  Was this just a case of perception (I mean, who really cares if a player parties it up all the time as long as he's bringing it when he steps on the court), or if in fact there was more to this story.

The same sources indicated that the sore spot was his level of preparation for practice, not so much games, which would probably explain the roller-coaster allocation of minutes he constantly seemed to be on.

Now the big caveat here for me is that I never witnessed any issues in practice (hell, I didn't attend a Raptors' practice of any sort all year), and I didn't get a chance to talk to any of Raptors' management myself about the situation, something I'm hoping to do over the summer.

I've also reached out to Dorsey's agent, Lance Young, hoping for some feedback on the situation.

However the sources I spoke to are ones who've been around the team for years and ones I trust quite well.

As well, if there was some personal beef between former coach Jay Triano and Joey Dorsey, you'd think with the regime change that a play would have been made by BC and co. to keep the former Memphis Tiger.

So far, that hasn't been the case.

And it's really a shame on both sides.

For the Raptors, we're talking about a player who had a better offensive rebounding rate last year than Reggie Evans (17.8%), the exact same defensive win score as Reggie, a slightly better offensive win score, and very similar overall metrics at a fraction of Reggie's cost.

Dorsey is 27, so not exactly a spring chicken, but that's still four years younger than Reggie with a lot less mileage, so keeping Dorsey, at face value, makes a lot of sense and it's a shame this on-court upside has been compromised possibly by off-court issues.

On Joey's side, it's even more disappointing considering his background, one put to paper by The Score's Holly MacKenzie prior to last season.

From the piece:

While there were concerns about Dorsey's attitude after the Sacramento Kings- who acquired him in the Kevin Martin/Tracy McGrady swap with Houston- released him last spring, the bruising forward has been on his best behavior here in Toronto.

"I have seen absolutely nothing of the negative variety at all," Raptors head coach Jay Triano said. "He's one of the nicest guys that I've been around. Respectful, works hard in practice and he's fun. He's a fun guy to be around. I like to base my opinion on what I see and what I know and maybe he's pulling the wool over my eyes, but I'm not going to believe anything different until I see something different."

Funny how things can change.

Considering that Toronto may have been Dorsey's last chance in the NBA, it's extremely disappointing if the off-court reports are true, and therefore Joey ends up being his own undoing career-wise.

We've seen it before though in this league, and we'll no doubt see it again.

The bottom line for Toronto is that they're attempting to rebuild this franchise and to do so, they need a full commitment from each and every player, one through 15.  This means that if players are spending too much time in White Vegas and not enough on the practice court, they can't be kept around long-term so unfortunately for the Dinos, they may just have to "walk away" from Richard Elmer Dorsey.