In the third part of our season preview we take a look at the small forward position. Once upon a time this position was occupied by such Raptor greats as Vince Carter, TMAC, Tracy Murray, Jamario Moon and oh course Hedo Turkoglu. Suffice it to say, there has been plenty of bad to go with the good.
The Small forward position on most teams is filled with someone who can score in bunches and has potential to be an All Star. Think Lebron, Durant, Carmelo, Granger. These are the types of players you want playing on the wing.
Th Raptors are still waiting for their Durant. For now they have James Johnson.
Is he the Raptors Durant? Not likely, but he could develop into something this year. He’s going to be given plenty of opportunity.
Basically James Johnson is being given the opportunity here to play heavy minutes. He is a player that Colangelo has always liked and when he was acquired it was with an eye to the future. Bryan think Johnson might turn into a serviceable role player, a consistent starter, a spark off the bench. This year we get to find out.
Of course, Linas Kleiza is still around. After an impressive World Championships last year he did very little to endear himself to the Raptors faithful and now he is likely to be coming off the bench unless he can earn his starting spot back. Although he had a rough year last year, I wouldn’t count him out. He’s a scorer and still possesses the skills that were on display at the World Championships.
Forbes and Derozan will slide over to the 3 when Casey wants to play “small ball”. Each possess speed and the ability to defend and will fill in admirably when Barbosa is at the 2.
In Our Dreams
James Johnson proves he is worth keeping around. This is a kid that Colangelo was after in the draft two years ago and sees him as part of the future. I’m, at this point in time, inclined to believe Colangelo.
The best case scenario sees Johnson playing heavy minutes, scoring lots of points and defending big time small forwards admirably. Kleiza embraces his role off the bench and becomes a nice scoring threat when the starters are getting a rest.
Ideally the Raptors want their Small Forwards to be competitive.
James Johnson is a good player, but he isn’t an elite forward. He will have some nice games and then he will disappear. The reality is that he is a nice player on a second or third unit, not a first unit.
Kleiza could be starting material, but he needs to learn to play with the intelligence that he played with during the World Championships. He was a leader there, can he be here? Tough call.
This position is one to watch for Raptor fans, but I wouldn’t expect miracles. Small progress here is still progress. The Raptors are going to get murdered against the Durants and Carmelos but hopefully as the season progresses Johnson and Kleiza show the Raptor brass that they are worthy of a spot going forward.
The Zan Tabak Herald
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