The Toronto Raptors have begun the season 1-4 and, to be quite blunt and honest, could possibly point to their lack of depth at small forward as one of the main reasons why they have lost four of their first five games.
Bryan Colangelo‘s attempt to lure Steve Nash to Toronto and screw the New York Knicks over in the process has ended up as a cream pie and it being thrown right back in Colangelo‘s face.
Colangelo attempted to sign guard/forward Landry Fields to an offer sheet to force the Knicks’ hand. Match Landry and try to trade him to get Nash, or let Fields go and hopefully somehow find a way to work out a sign and trade with the Suns to get Nash without Fields.
Fields struggled all season last year, and the start to this season may actually be worse than originally expected.
Going into the season as one of the worst free-agent signings in the NBA, Fields has further cemented himself as probably the worst free-agent signing of the offseason.
Fields brings good defence to the table, but his inability to make lay-ups, free throws and wide-open jumpers is putting him on a fast track to the bench, and possibly to the D-League to work on his shooting touch.
I’d be lying to you if I said I expected LeBron James type of numbers from the small forward spot, but it wouldn’t be too much to have expected Shane Battier, circa 2004-05 type of numbers where he averaged 10.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, a steal a game, while shooting 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three and 70-plus percent from the line while providing solid defence.
The funny thing about those stats I threw out there is that Fields actually averaged better than those numbers his first season with the Knicks, where he played the most minutes per game in his short three-year career.
Now the point of this article wasn’t to point out Fields’ short comings and rag on him, but rather, to point the finger at the general manager on this one. I begin to question what he really looks for in a standard NBA three-man.
Not since Jorge Garbajosa have the Raptors ever been fully satisfied with their small forward position. Shawn Marion, who was acquired for Jermaine O’Neal, spent 27 games with the Raptors and put up a very respectable 15 PPG, eight RPG, one SPG and one BPG while shooting 48 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free-throw line.
However, I personally would have preferred the Raptors to have kept Roy Hibbert instead of including him in a trade to land O’Neal. Hindsight is 20/20 in the end.
In the years that followed, Colangelo continued to grasp at straws to find a reliable small forward.
He signed Jason Kapono to a ridiculous contract for a spot-up shooter. He failed and was eventually replaced by 10-day contract player Jamario Moon, who enjoyed early success in the NBA. He reminded plenty of an early Scottie Pippen—that was, until the NBA got a book out on him and realized all he was was a jumper. He had next to no jump shot.
Hedo Turkoglu was brought to town via a sign and trade that saw Marion dealt to Dallas as part of the four team trade.
Turkoglu would not live up to his potential in Toronto and was eventually booed out of town. He was later dealt to Phoenix for Leandro Barbosa, who also enjoyed modest success in Toronto.
Linus Kleiza, Sonny Weems, Rasual Butler, James Johnson–whom I believe should have stuck around, all tried their hand at starting at the three for the Raptors; however, only Johnson would have any sticking power.
Unexpectedly, Johnson was dealt this past summer to Sacramento, and the Raptors lost their defensive anchor on the perimeter.
In his place came Fields, and the results so far are far worse than originally expected.
Is it time for the Raptors to finally get that elusive small forward? Are their players the right mix for that small forward? Will the Raptors system allow for that small forward to be successful.
The answers to those three questions should all be yes.
Thanks for reading.
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