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Raptors Terrence Ross Breaks Out To Score 51 In Loss

Toronto Raptors sophomore wing Terrence Ross broke out the NBA ready skill that Head Coach Dwane Casey has said was there since the team drafted him and exploded for a franchise tying 51 points in a shootout loss to the Clippers 126-118 at the Air Canada Centre.

On February 27, 2000, Vince Carter scored 51 points and collected 9 rebounds for the Raptors in a 103-102 win over the Suns at the Air Canada Centre and Ross came within a missed free throw with 4 seconds left of surpassing this long held scoring mark.

It was a career night for Ross across numerous statistical categories:

Category            Old Career High           This Game
Minutes                      39                                44
Points                         26                                 51 franchise high
FGM                            10                                16
FGA                             17                                 29
3FGM                            7                                 10
3FGA                           11                                 17
FTM                              4                                    9
FTA                               6                                  10
Rebounds                     9                                   9

This was Ross’ night right from the start. He hit 2 three-pointers in the first 3 minutes and was 5-6 from deep in the first quarter. The assault from the land beyond kept going from there as Ross also set a new franchise high with 7 three-pointers for a half. He had 23 points at the break.

“For the fans it was a great exhibition of basketball,” Casey said. “The young man Terrence (Ross) picked it up – we lose DeMar when he hurts his ankle – (Ross) put on a heck of a display. He not only had 51 points. He had 9 rebounds which was huge too.”

The Raptors didn’t have any idea just how badly they were going to need Ross’ scoring in this game. At the 7:52 mark of the second quarter, Hedo Turkoglu slide under DeMar DeRozan on a jump shot and DeRozan landed on Turkoglu’s foot. After a full timeout, DeRozan took his free throws and stayed in the game, but after x-rays during half-time and trying to give it a go in the third quarter, DeRozan left the game for good and is scheduled for further tests.

“The x-rays were negative,” Casey said. “But, it is a little bit swollen, so hopefully he can go (play Brooklyn on Monday), but we will have to wait and see tomorrow.”

To make matters worse for Toronto, in the third quarter Blake Griffin broke Patrick Patterson’s nose he dived towards Patterson bringing his head, arms and ball up into Patterson’s face.

“Patrick, his nose is broken,” Casey confirmed. “Griffin came through with a forearm and got him – and (Patterson) got the foul. He can go (on Monday) – probably will have to wear a mask to play.”

The Raptors were tied with the Clippers after three-quarters at 93 points when Ross hit the very long distance heave as time expired.

In recent games, it has been DeRozan who has taken over the fourth quarter scoring for the Raptors and they could have used the extra firepower in this game. The Clippers outscored Toronto 33-25 in the fourth to win.

“It was an incredible offensive display on their part,” Casey said. It wasn’t like our guys weren’t giving effort at the defensive end. They made some tough shots.”

Jamaal Crawford had an amazing night, matching Ross’ scoring in the first half with 26 points of his own and finishing the game with a 37 point 11 assist double-double. The Raptors simply couldn’t find anyone that could effectively guard him.

Griffin dominated as well with 30 points and J.J. Redick, who was in and out of the game with back issues, scored 18 points.

The Raptors other sophomore Jonas Valanciunas had a 17 point 12 rebound double-double and Kyle Lowry had 11 points and 12 assists.

The Atlantic Division leading Raptors head to Brooklyn to play the Division’s second place Nets in a very important game on Monday.

The Clippers finished their 7-game Eastern Conference road trip in Milwaukee on Monday.

Check out our Raptors Game Info page and Pregame Report.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

NBA LA Clippers Doc Rivers

Raptors To Be Tested By Clippers Offense

The Atlantic Division leading Toronto Raptors return home after beating the 76ers on Friday night 104-95 to face the high scoring Pacific Division leading Clippers on Saturday and their defense will be tested.  The Clippers defeated the defense-oriented Bulls 112-95 on Friday night in Chicago.

The Raptors hang their hats on an NBA third best defense that holds their opponents to just 96.2 points per game and a modest offense led TOR_DeRozan_DeMarby DeMar DeRozan who is fourth in Eastern Conference scoring this season.  Starting point guard Kyle Lowry is having a career year in Toronto as he prepares for free agency this summer and both DeRozan and Lowry would be worthy All-Star reserves in the East.

Toronto’s defense got better this season after the Raptors acquired 4 players from the Sacramento Kings in the Rudy Gay trade.  Veterans SAC_Salmons_JohnJohn Salmons and Chuck Hayes have become game changers at the defensive end of the court for Head Coach Dwane Casey off the bench and the other former Kings, Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson, have also made their mark.  The Raptors turned around a 6-12 start to the season to go 16-8 post trade and have taken unexpected wins away from Dallas twice, the Timberwolves and the Thunder.  The Raptors have proven themselves against the West.

At 30-15, the Clippers are a very good team and even with Chris Paul sidelined by a separated shoulder, there hasn’t been any drop off.  This team can win with backup Darren Collision leading the charge.

As expected, power forward Blake Griffin, averaging 22.7 points and 10 Los Angeles Clippers Media Dayrebounds, has been voted onto the Western Conference All-Star team for his third appearance in three years, but Griffin isn’t this team’s only offensive threat.  One of the NBA’s best sixth men, Jamaal Crawford is averaging over 17 points per game and J.J. Redick returned from injury 2 weeks ago to resume his long range assault on the basket.  Even without Paul, the Clippers have no lack of firepower.

However, all of their recent losses have been against tough defensive-oriented teams.  The Spurs, Pacers and Bobcats held the Clippers to 92 points or less to get the win.

The Clippers are nearing the end of a 7 game Eastern Conference road trip during which they have won every other game.  With a Clippers win last night in Chicago, the Raptors are undoubtedly hoping it’s their turn to take a game away from this very good team today.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

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TOR_Ross_Terrence

Raptors At The Half – Still Developing Players First
“It is about Terrence Ross, growing him, getting him better. DeMar DeRozan is still a work-in-progress. Jonas Valanciunas is still a work-in-progress. We are still building – still in the improvement process of getting these guys better until further notice”

Ranking The Top Five NBA Western Conference Teams

Ranking the top five NBA Western Conference teams just got a little harder than usual this season. The Lakers are not going to be in this group at the start of the season and it is worth noting that change all on its own. The Clippers are and don’t expect Lakers fans to be all that happy about it. However, there are more changes than just the rise of the Clippers and the fall of the Lakers. The top five in the West is under renovation.

Every team faces risks and even the best in the West can have their season disrupted by unforeseen circumstances, but these teams are pretty deep and unless they lose a key star player for a significant number of games, they should be able to hold onto solid playoff spot fairly easily.

The Top Five

1. Los Angeles Clippers – 56-26 last season, projected 62-20

The Clippers are better than last season. 28-year-old Jared Dudley is an excellent replacement for last season’s 33-year-old starting small forward Caron Butler, equivalent but younger. J.J. Redick is a big upgrade over the former starting shooting guard Willie Green. Plus, five of the Clippers top six scorers from last season are back, so this team has continuity.

However, the Clippers will win more games because they upgraded their head coach. Doc Rivers has the respect of everyone associated with the NBA. Concerns about being out-coached are gone and if top-flight coaching really does make a difference, adding 10 percent more wins to last season’s total shouldn’t even be a stretch. Look for the best team in Los Angeles to compete for the best record in the NBA again this season.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder – 60-22 last season, projected 58-24

The Thunder are contenders to reach the Western Conference Finals for the third time in four years, however, this season like last season, they are going to face some serious competition.

The team had question marks about their ability to dominate the West after losing James Harden to the Rockets and those questions were compounded by the loss of Kevin Martin to the Timberwolves this summer, however, they will still coast through the regular season fairly easily on the backs of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

This team is still deep and talented and has assets to trade if the young players Steve Adams and Jeremy Lamb are not quite ready for prime time in backup roles. Any slippage from last season will be slight.

3. San Antonio Spurs – 58-24 last season, projected 54-28

One day Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are going to pack it in after long and successful NBA careers. Unfortunately for their Western Conference rivals, that time hasn’t arrived just yet. Neither of these players are going to be better than last season, but this resilient Spurs team that looks a lot like last year’s NBA Finalist has to be the favorite to win their division once again. They are the team no one wants to meet in the playoffs.

The only reason to project fewer wins than last season is the Spurs best players are getting older. Father-time catches up to everyone eventually.

4. Houston Rockets – 45-37 last season, projected 54-28

The Rockets have joined the list of serious contenders to advance to the Western Conference Finals because they won the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Two bona fide big-time All-Star players has been the formula to contend in the NBA and the combination of Harden and Howard is as legit as it comes.

Last season Howard played with a bad back in bad situation and he still led the league in rebounding and was fifth in blocks. Assume Howard will arrive in Houston with something to prove.

Houston still has a situation to sort out with Omer Asik as last year’s starting center is not a power forward, but Asik is a very tradable asset, so this problem is not a bad problem to have.

5. Golden State Warriors – 47-35 last season, projected 51-31

No one is going to mistake the Golden State Warriors for a defensive juggernaut, but last season Head Coach Mark Jackson got a decidedly better effort on defense out of his offensive-minded players and the Warriors won 24 more games than the year before and got to the Western Conference Semi-Finals.

The Warriors defense just took a huge step forward with this summer’s acquisition of Andre Iguodala. Jackson will be able to pair Iguodala on the wing with either Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson and give opposing offenses a look this team hasn’t been able to show for years.

Andrew Bogut looks like he will be ready to start the season and re-create his big defensive presence from last season’s playoff run and Jermaine O’Neal can help out defensively as long as Jackson doesn’t have to rely on him for big minutes.

The only obvious risk in Golden State is how well Stephen Curry’s ankles hold up and he only missed 4 regular season games last year.

Risks and Obstacles

The top five teams in the West are all deep enough to deal with reasonable injury risks and still compete for home court in the first round of the playoffs and aside from the Memphis Grizzlies, it would be a surprise if any of the other teams in the Western Conference were able to bump them into the sixth spot or lower. However, each team faces the real possibility that key players will miss games to known injury concerns and if this happens at the wrong time, their regular season standing will be affected.

Anyone in our top five could end up first in the West if the breaks go their way, however, pushing the Clippers and the Thunder out of the way is probably too big a hill to climb.

Who do you think will put forth the effort it takes to be first in the NBA Western Conference at the end of the season? Which one of these teams do you think gives up home court in the first round of the playoffs? Can any other team crack the top five in the West? Let us know in the comments below.

The muddled middle of teams competing for a playoff spot at 6, 7 and 8 will be available for discussion soon.

Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre. A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report. You can follow Stephen on twitter @stevesraptors

Five NBA Shooting Guards To Watch

After a very busy summer, there are a lot of NBA players to watch this season and these five shooting guards all have something to prove. Whether it’s developing for the future or taking their team to the playoffs, how each team measures success or failure will be riding on them living up to some pretty high expectations.

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

After 15 All-Star games, 5 NBA Championships, an NBA MVP, 2 NBA Finals MVPs and far too many other honors to mention, Kobe Bryant has made himself the shooting guard to watch this season. Not because he has any hope of topping what he has already done, but rather because he believes he can still play after tearing his Achilles tendon last season.

After 17 years in the NBA and about to turn 35-years-old, Bryant could have taken the year off to rehab and possibly retire and no one would have been surprised. His injury is very serious and other younger players have missed an entire season with a similar injury before playing again at a reduced level. Kobe, however, has insisted he would be back for the season opener and kept everyone informed of his post-operative recover every step of the way.

When Bryant returns and how well he plays will determine whether the Lakers season is mediocre or bust making him the shooting guard to watch this season even before he steps foot onto a court..

J.J. Redick, Los Angeles Clippers

At 29-years-old J.J. Redick has become the outside scoring threat that was envisioned when Orlando drafted him 11th overall in 2006 and the Clippers acquired him in a multi-player sign and trade deal that was worth $26.9 million to Redick over the next 4 seasons in July.

The Clippers, however, already have a similar player in the 33-year-old Jamal Crawford who came off the bench last season, but played starter’s minutes and provided a starter’s scoring production. Crawford actually averaged 2.4 more points per game and shot for a higher percentage than Redick last year.

Neither Redick nor Crawford are suited the playing small forward or point guard and the Clippers have enough depth at both of those positions barring injuries, so which shooting guard earns the bulk of the minutes next season will be something to watch. Redick may be in for a tougher battle than he expects.

Paul George, Indiana Pacers

Paul George will be a player to watch no matter which position he ends up playing, but with Danny Granger expected to return for opening night, George is expected to slide back to starting shooting guard with Granger playing his familiar starting small forward spot.

George’s stats have risen dramatically in lock-step with his minutes played since his rookie season and the improvement earned him an All-Star berth, but the real growth has been seen on the defensive end of the court. His defensive win shares have tripled from his rookie season’s 1.9 to 6.3 last year.

George’s big breakout offensively came during last season’s playoffs when he averaged 19.2 points per game which was up from 16.7 points during the regular season. This year George is expected to put it all together, the offense from his recent playoff performance combined with the defense of last season. He is still a player to watch.

O.J. Mayo, Milwaukee Bucks

At 18.5 points per game as a rookie, O.J. Mayo looked like a sure-fire max contract player with his next deal. Mayo started every game for the Grizzlies in his first two seasons, but his production fell back down to earth after he was relegated to the bench for years three and four. He signed to play for just $4 million last year as a free agent with Dallas after Memphis just let him leave. Mayo bounced back as a starter and arguably played even better than he did in his first two seasons, but Dallas didn’t exactly go out of their way to keep him.

This summer the Bucks watched Monta Ellis and Redick leave and gave Mayo $24 million over 3 years. With Brandon Jennings shipped off to Detroit, Mayo will be the scoring guard in Milwaukee and the Bucks will need his offense to have any hope of matching last season’s win total. The once next great shooting guard is getting another shot to let the NBA know they shouldn’t have overlooked him.

Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

Klay Thompson had a nice sophomore season with the Warriors and proved he could still produce as a starter and his rookie three-point shooting wasn’t a fluke. However, his shooting percentages dropped slightly and his defense is still far behind his offense. This wouldn’t even be an issue if the Warriors hadn’t signed the versatile wing player Andre Iguodala to 4-year $48 million deal.

While there is an assumption that Harrison Barnes will be the wing that gets bumped from the starting rotation, this is hardly a sure thing. Iguodala is a natural shooting guard that can play small forward and Iguodala will immediately become the best defender on the Warriors upon his arrival. The Warriors went from laughing stock to potential contender because they started playing defense. If Head Coach Mark Jackson continues down this road, it could be Thompson coming off the bench instead of Barnes.

No matter what Jackson decides to do, Thompson will be in a fight for minutes this season and how he responds to the pressure will impact both himself and his team. If the 23-year-old Thompson matures quickly enough and responds well, he will have a major impact on the Warriors success this season.

Honorable Mention

It will also be interesting to see how Ellis performs in Dallas as he replaces Mayo, if Louis Williams can regain his elite sixth man status in Atlanta after ACL surgery last season and can Kevin Martin be the productive shooting guard Minnesota has been missing for so long.

Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre. A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report.

You can follow Stephen on twitter @stevesraptors

Matt Barnes, My Heart is in Los Angeles

It seems Matt Barnes has been everywhere over his 10 NBA seasons and now he is happy to be back where it all started in 2002. Well almost where it all started, but we should let Barnes explain why Los Angeles is the place for him. Toronto journalist Kevin Rashidi recently asked Barnes about his NBA experience and why he re-signed with the Clippers this season.

Kevin: You recently re-signed with the Los Angeles Clippers on three-year deal that pays you close to $12 million dollars. Can you talk about your decision on deciding to stick with the Clippers and were there any other teams interested in your services?

Matt Barnes: There were other teams interested, but my heart was in LA. I wanted to be a part of the identity change of the Clippers.

Kevin: Was it a tough decision when you decided to leave the Lakers for the Clippers in 2012 considering both teams play in the same city and are rivals?

Matt Barnes: It wasn’t a very tough decision for me. Although it was a dream come true to play for the Lakers, I couldn’t play for Mike Brown. We have a lot more winning to do before the Clipper and Lakers are a rivalry.

Kevin: In my opinion, this is blown out of proportions, but can you talk about your relationship with Kobe Bryant? It’s been said numerous times that you both dislike each other. Is this true?

Matt Barnes: Kobe and I are friends and that’s the bottom line.

Kevin: With that said, who is the greatest teammate that you’ve played with and why?

Matt Barnes: Kobe and CP3 (Chris Paul). Kobe for his competitiveness and his killer instincts. CP3, same reason and his ability to pass the ball.

Kevin: Lastly, out of all of the memories that you have in the NBA, what would you say is your best one?

Matt Barnes: Until I win a championship, my greatest NBA memory will be the 2007 Warriors team that beat Dallas in the 1st round.

Matt Barnes has enjoyed a solid NBA career. Just short of 5,000 career points, over 1,000 career assists and about to pass 3,000 career rebounds, Barnes has been a reliable defender that could give a team a little bit of everything whether starting or coming off the bench.

It took Barnes a long time to get back to Los Angeles and the Clippers. His draft rights were traded by the Magic three years before he even came into the league and he was included in a draft day trade by the Grizzlies in 2002. Waived by the Cavaliers in October, the Clippers signed him to two 10-day contracts before picking him up for the rest of the 2002-2003 season. Barnes was signed as a free agent by the Kings in 2004 and traded to the 76ers in 2005. After that Barnes was signed as a free agent by the Knicks, 76ers, Warriors, Suns, Magic, Lakers and in each of the past two summers by the Clippers.

Now 33-years-old, but still playing at the same level as he has for the past 10-years, Barnes is on a very good Clippers team that just might give him a shot at an NBA Championship in the city where his heart resides.

Kevin Rashidi is a freelance journalist that assists Pro Bball Report with day-to-day activities and searches for exclusive interviews with the NBA personalities and players fans want to hear from. Kevin can be contacted on Twitter at @KevinRashidi

Where Are The Raptors Going In Free Agency?

Ujiri webIt has been a quiet start to free agency for the Toronto Raptors, but this should not have come as a big surprise. The Raptors were technically a luxury tax team as of July 1st when the NBA failed to approve the trade of Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks on June 30th and delayed the transaction until after the moratorium ends on July 10th. Even post trade the Raptors will be solidly above the salary cap and limited to offering the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions to free agent prospects. They were not going to be actively pursuing the available top tier guys after midnight on Monday morning.

MLSE President and CEO Tim Leiweke provided the first clues about where the Raptors might be headed earlier in June. Leiweke didn’t want to hear about 18 years of Raptors futility ever again.

“I inherited, I didn’t create,” Leiweke said. “I think it’s time for this organization once and for all to stop spinning and just do our job and if we do our job with the right people and create the right environment, I won’t have this conversation (about futility) again.”

The “right people” was 2013 NBA Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri who Leiweke convinced to come to Toronto and turn the Raptors prospects around. Ujiri had a very successful three year stint running the basketball side of the Denver Nuggets and he sees a similar challenge in Toronto.

“Why can’t I change it,” responded Ujiri to the Raptors situation. “It’s not all bad. There is plenty good about it. There are plenty of attractions. It is almost like when I went into the Denver situation. It is our job to make it better. It is our job to make it good. It is our job to create a winning environment. That is why I am here.”

However, other than stating a preference for using young guys to fill out the back end of his roster, Ujiri has been more than just a little cryptic about his future plans for the franchise.

“One of my philosophies is to grow young players – to develop young talent and maybe the back end of our roster has to be young guys that grow,” Ujiri said. “After we have analyzed this team, I think you guys (the media) will figure out the direction we are going.”

With his first big roster move, Ujiri sent Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks for what amounts to a backup combo forward and draft picks in what could be described as getting better by subtraction or a rather effective salary dump with benefits. This gives us a pretty good idea about where Ujiri will be taking this franchise in July.

It was former boss Bryan Colangelo who suggested the Raptors would be able to add talent on the cheap this summer because of the changes being implemented in the CBA for the coming season. That opportunistic approach is being followed by Ujiri now, but what are the Raptors needs?

Post Knicks trade, the Raptors roster will resemble this:

Point Guard: Kyle Lowry

Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross

Small Forward: Rudy Gay, Landry Fields, Steve Novak

Power Forward: Amir Johnson, Quincy Acy

Center: Jonas Valanciunas, Aaron Gray

Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson from the Knicks are likely to be traded or bought out before they arrive in Toronto. Linas Kleiza is an amnesty candidate, but even if he is held onto as an expiring contract for trade purposes, his knees have kept him out of the lineup for much of the past three years.

The Raptors did not pick up the option on John Lucas making backup point guard the top priority and with Bargnani traded to the Knicks and Camby an unwilling mentor/backup, another big man is a close second.

Casey has made it clear he wants to add toughness and there will be players who won’t get paid what they are worth this summer. In the free agent pool, there are a couple of big men the Raptors could use one of their exceptions on. Samuel Dalembert is a superior rebounder and shot blocker who could fall through the free agent cracks and Jason Maxiell is a likely overlooked veteran who can provide defensive rebounding and shot blocking. There will be plenty of opportunities to acquire talent after the initial free agent flurry has run its course.

However, being opportunistic means taking advantage of other teams needs and issues. The Clippers really do need a shooting guard and the Raptors are willing to part with DeMar DeRozan if the trade fills a team need. The Eric Bledsoe trade rumors may be premature, but it really depends on what other moves Doc Rivers makes happen in Clipperland next week.

Sacramento currently has seven guards on their team and even if Tyreke Evans leaves in free agency, the Kings will have to seriously look at moving someone.

The Pelicans acquired Jrue Holiday in a trade at the draft making Greivis Vasquez surplus to their needs and they have until July 5th to release Robin Lopez or his $5 million salary over each of the next two years becomes fully guaranteed. The Pelicans have a lot of free agent irons in the fire and this could give the opportunistic Ujiri the chance to pick up a couple of young talents on the cheap.

The surprise factor in Toronto could come in the form of a bigger deal. Leiweke has opened MLSE’s massive wallet and given a green light to spend luxury tax dollars if Ujiri can acquire the player or players that would make the Raptors championship contenders. It just doesn’t look like that deal is out there for the Raptors at the moment.

So the Raptors appear to be on the same building plan they were following when Colangelo was running the show, just under new management. The biggest difference is Casey will get his “tough guys” to help build a more defensive oriented team and Ujiri likes to fill out the back end of his roster with young players he can develop. Where the team goes in free agency will depend on what opportunities are created by other team’s moves and a little more patience will be required before Ujiri lets us know what the Raptors will look like next season.

Stephen Brotherston has covered the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Center since 2009. A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report.

Free Agent Tough Guy Bargains

If defense wins championships, the NBA’s best defenders should be among the league’s highest paid players.  Surprisingly, that is often not the case.  It’s the guys who can put the biscuit in the basket who get paid and that means there are difference-makers at the other end of the court that can be had for a comparable bargain.  This off season, there is no reason to believe anything has changed.

You have to be tough to play defense.  Basketball is a physical game.  The best defenders often have a mean streak in their play that makes them less popular with the fans, especially the fans from opposing teams.  This is our list of the best value tough guys available in free agency you don’t want to be playing against next season.

Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies – $3.3 million last season

After nine years in the NBA, defensive specialist Tony Allen is still looking for that one big payday and at 31-years-old, he will still probably have to settle for less money than other players that can score more, but can’t touch him on the defensive end.

Allen doesn’t score a lot and he doesn’t have a three-point shot.  He is, however, one of the best perimeter defenders in the game today and not just from the guard position.  Last season, opponents shot below 38 percent from more than eight feet beyond the basket against him and his steal percentage of 3.1 was one of the best in the league.  A relentless pursuer of the basketball that rarely seems to be out of position, Allen would instantly boost the perimeter defense of any team he joins next season.

Matt Barnes, LA Clippers – $1.2 million last season

Matt Barnes has a prickly nature on the court; he is not a nice guy to play against.  Apparently some of that nature must stick around off the court as he hasn’t stayed in one place longer than two seasons over his 10 years in the league.  It can’t be his on court production that has him in free agency once again, this 33-year-old veteran small forward continues to play effective defense and decent enough offensive to be an asset on a contending team.

Barnes held opponents to a sparkling under 37 percent shooting from beyond eight feet while collecting almost a block and a steal per game coming off the bench last season.  He even shoots a decent percentage from three-point range.  This veteran hasn’t slowed down at all and will be a bargain for the team that signs him once again next season.

Samuel Dalembert, Milwaukee Bucks – $6.7 million last season

Apparently Samuel Dalembert didn’t really fit into the Bucks plans last season as he only got into 47 games and played the fewest minutes of his 11 career since his rookie season.  However, it wasn’t for a lack of production.  Dalembert continued to block more than five percent of opponent two-point field goal attempts while he was on the court and rip down his typical 19.4 percent of available rebounds.  His per 36 minutes numbers, including scoring, were some the best of his career.

At 32-years-old, Dalembert can still be a defensive stopper under the rim and one of the best offensive and defensive rebounders in the game.  He isn’t going to land another big deal, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help a team next season.

Chris Andersen, Miami HEAT – $0.7 million last season

Just short of 35-years-old, Chris Anderson was almost out of league last season when the size deficient HEAT brought him on board and “The Birdman” didn’t disappoint.  A shot blocking phenom and solid defensive rebounder throughout his career, Andersen swatted almost six percent of opponents’ two-point attempts while he was in the game and collected 21.5 percent of the available defensive rebounds.  He didn’t score much, but that has never been a big part of his game.

Andersen played so well in Miami that many people wondered why Denver just let him go at the end of the previous season.  We can’t be sure how many more years Andersen can play the defensive energizer role, but he doesn’t look done yet.  The HEAT are expected to keep him around unless someone offers him a extended deal at more than the minimum.

Andray Blatche, Brooklyn Nets – $1.1 million last year

Andray Blatche played on the cheap last season for the Nets as Washington picked up the tab for the rest of his $7 million amnestied salary.  The Wizards remain on the hook for three more seasons, so the 26-year-old can afford to sign on the cheap for a while yet.

Perhaps the worst thing that happened to Washington after John Wall was hurt was watching Blatche pull himself back together and look like he could be better than the player they had originally signed to a long term deal.  Blatche averaged 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in just 19 minutes coming off the bench in Brooklyn.  He was one of the league leaders in steal percentage at 3.0 and he picked up his blocked shot effectiveness to that of four seasons ago.  The result was a career best defensive rating of 101 points allowed per 100 possessions

Sometimes it takes a shock to the system to get a young player back on track.  Blatche showed he can rebound effectively at both ends of the court, create steals, block shots and play defense.  All Washington can do is watch while they pay him to do it for someone else.

There are other tough-minded defensive players out there for diligent general managers to pick up on the cheap.  Let us know who you think could be a stopper on the cheap next season in the comments below.

 

Stephen Brotherston has covered the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Center since 2009.  A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report.

Raptors May Trade DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan at Media DayIt’s no secret that former Raptors President Bryan Colangelo pushed along DeMar DeRozan’s development starting in his rookie season, however, current President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri has no such allegiance to the young shooting guard.  According to Marc Stein, ESPN.com, Toronto is offering either Andrea Bargnani or DeMar DeRozan in an attempt to pry point guard Eric Bledsoe from the Los Angeles Clippers.

“Bargnani in any deal for Bledsoe, which wouldn’t necessarily dissuade the Clippers, given their longstanding need for a big man who can stretch the floor. But sources added that Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan is the Raptor most likely to tempt the Clippers…Some rival executives believe the Raptors are prepared to part with DeRozan.”

Bargnani has been shopped by the Raptors going back to an unexpected shooting slump early last year when Colangelo ventured that the big man might benefit from a change of scenery.  If Bargnani had not suffered elbow injuries during the season, it is likely he would have been gone by the trade deadline.  Apparently the desire to move Bargnani along hasn’t diminished under Ujiri.

Where Bledsoe has been the Clipper in the news and actively pursued by several teams in recent months, the inclusion of DeRozan in trade talks and the Clippers need to acquire a floor spreading big man suggests this deal could be expanded to better meet the goals of both teams.

Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey has made an overt plea for better defense and toughness on his roster and the Clippers have players they are not fully utilizing that should catch his interest.

Caron Butler is 33 years old and has an injury history, including a sore right knee at the end of last season, but Butler has the veteran presence and toughness Casey wants.  Butler played in 78 regular season games last year and averaged 24.1 minutes per game.  His contributions are not worth his $8 million expiring contract, but if the Clippers like DeRozan, the Raptors should be happy to take Butler to get Bledsoe.

Another highly paid Clipper that averaged just 24.5 minutes per game last season is DeAndre Jordan.  He might be popular with the fan base, but paying someone nearly $11 million that you can’t keep on the floor in crunch time is a luxury the Clippers are hard pressed to afford.  Jordan is another player that would fit the mold of what Casey is trying to build.  Bargnani’s contract is nearly identical to Jordan’s.  This looks like it could be a case of each team having what the other team would like to have.

Ujiri has been given carte blanche by MLSE President and CEO Tim Leiweke to do whatever it takes to complete their agreed upon vision to build a championship contender.  That DeRozan’s name has hit the rumor mill already should not come as much of a surprise.

Stephen Brotherston has covered the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Center since 2009.  A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report.