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NBA Free Agency 2011 - Top Power Forward Options for the Toronto Raptors

Do the Toronto Raptors need more help at the 4?  The HQ doesn't think so, but they do have a few players on their wish list that could be solid options in back-up roles...

Let's pretend the lock-out isn't going on.

Let's pretend in fact that Toronto was currently knee-deep in the free agency market, looking for ways to improve upon a 22 win season.

Obviously there are lots of holes in the roster, and as we discussed recently, some spots needing more help than others.

Last week we looked at the top center options for Toronto in free-agency, perhaps the real abyss in terms of starting positions for this club, and the consensus was that after the Chandler's and the Nene's, there wasn't a lot that warranted top dollar.

However that doesn't change the fact that Colangelo will have to dip into the free agent pool if he can't swing some sort of trade, as the impending move of Andrea Bargnani back to the 4 leaves the likes of Solomon Alabi manning the 5.

How certain though is the move of Bargs back to power forward?

It sounds pretty certain if you go off of new coach Dwane Casey's comments of late.

From a Sports Illustrated Q & A  recently with newly minted Raptors' coach Dwane Casey:

Casey: Well, he's (Andrea's) not going to be our starting center, really [because he's more of a power forward]. He's in a similar situation with Dirk Nowitzki at this point in his career. I'd have to check their numbers, but I'd venture to say at this point in his career, he's probably somewhere in the same area where Dirk was, where both have had to live down the reputation of being soft. And by the way, Dirk has never been anywhere near soft. Don't ever use that word with him. I won't! Believe me!

Casey: Because he's one of the toughest, hardest-working guys in the league. I don't know Andrea. All I know is what I've read and seen. I am excited to get to know him. He's going to get better defensively, and he's a great offensive player. But we have to work with him, coach him up and put him in the right situations so he is not exposed as much. I think Amir Johnson can be an above-average defender in the same position, and that we can put someone like Amir in a system so that Andrea is not exposed as much.

Look, our challenge is to find a five-man unit that is above-average defensively. Who that five will be, I just don't know at this point. But when you win 22 games, you've got to change things. You can't come back with the status quo.

So if Andrea isn't playing the 5 as a starter, he's got to start at the 4 right?

Or could Casey begin the season by bringing him off the bench?

I see the former being more realistic, but hopefully his last line regarding "not coming back with status quo" means that there's no guarantee Andrea is the team's starting PF for good.

(And as a sidebar, considering his supposed use of advanced stats, something SI touches on in the two previous questions, it's a bit concerning to hear Casey say that Andrea is a great offensive player.  Basic stats might tell you that simply because he averaged over 20 points per game last year, but as we all know, he did that in a manner that one would hardly classify as "efficient," let alone "great.")

The problem is, moving Andrea to the 4 likely comes at the expense of two of the roster's most productive players, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson.  Somehow Casey is going to have to figure out a way for this rotation to work as visions of 42 minutes of Bargs versus 20 to 25 minutes of Ed and Amir is enough to make me scream already.

And it's July.

So here's a question.

Could we see Colangelo and co. attempt to move one of the aforementioned three to get address other needs?

That's possible, but what's more likely I'd say is BC making a play for a player or two who can back-up a few different positions on the court, especially if the likes of Dorsey, Ajiinca and Evans are let go.

With that in mind, we breeze through our tier system for this positional breakdown, keeping in mind some potential low-cost, yet possibly quite valuable free agent options.

The "I'll Hug Colangelo" Tier:

1)  No one.

Looking through this year's PF free-agent list, there's no one that screams "sign me and I'll take your club to the next level!"

I love David West, but considering his style of play, age, and the recent injury he'll be trying to recoup from, he's a big risk.

And as discussed, the club's got enough 4's vying for a major minutes, so without a uber-stud option out there, let's go to the next tier.

The "Nice Work if you Can Get It" Tier:


1)  No one.

Sensing a pattern here?

This tier offers the same options to me as above; there's just no one I'd be willing to go even a little over the top on salary-wise for.

In our Center discussion, we had guys like Marc Gasol and DeAndre Jordan in this tier; players that were likely out of the question, but that made sense for Toronto perhaps to take a run at.

At the 4, no such luck.

The "Fine, I Guess That Works" Tier:

1)  No one.

Considering I'm perfectly content with the two players who should be getting the bulk of the minutes at the 4, Ed and Amir, and it seems like Andrea will be getting burn here as well, this tier I'd say is all wrapped up too.

No need for stand-ins, Toronto has some very intriguing options at the 4, including guys like James Johnson who can play that spot in smaller line-ups.

Let's then turn to the final tier, where the real options present themselves.

The "These Guys are Kind of Interesting" Tier:

1)  Chuck Hayes - Is he a 4?  A 5?  Does it matter?  We put him on our "center" list, but I'm going to include him again here.  Hayes is the type I'd be thrilled to see Toronto sign as he gives 110% every night, would replace a good chunk of the rebounding and effort lost if/when Evans goes, and probably could be had for a very reasonable price.

2)  Luc Mbah a Moute - To me, if Colangelo is going to take a shot at any free agent 4's, it's guys like Hayes and Prince Luc that he should be targeting.  These are guys who don't need the ball in their hands to be effective, should be quite cost efficient, and can fill in at more than one spot on the floor.  Considering how weak Toronto's starters will likely be, the bench needs to be a strength.

Mbah a Moute is one of the best defenders in the free agent class, can even play some 5 in smaller line-ups, and would give this club a serious dose of grit and tenacity.

3)  Dante Cunningham - While not quite on par with the first two options, Cunningham is another player who fits the mould of what Toronto is hopefully trying to move towards in terms of defensive upgrades.  He's an undersized type but overcomes any physical shortcomings thanks to heart and hustle, and you could do a lot worse in spot minutes off the pine.

4)  Josh McRoberts - I'd be surprised if Indiana lets him go when all is said and done, but an excellent athlete who excels in creating for teammates is certainly not a bad thing to have coming off the pine.

5)  Brandan Wright - Would you take a flyer on the former lottery pick if you were Bryan Colangelo?  We've seen BC do this before with the likes of Patrick O'Bryant and Ajinca, and Wright, at still only 23, has more upside than the two previous names combined.  It remains to be seen if he can ever stay healthy and get his game together, but for likely a cheap price tag, he could very well be worth the risk as an 11th or 12th man.


The "Just Say No" Tier:

Yi Jianlian, Juwan Howard, Brian Scalabrine, Glen Davis.