Name: Aaron Gray
Weight: 270 lbs.
Seasons with Raptors: 1
2011-2012 Stats: 49 GP, 16.6 MPG, 3.9 PPG, 0.6 APG, 5.7 RPG, 0.4 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 51.6 FG%, 0.0 3P%, 53.2 FT%, 11.09 PER
Analysis: Aaron Gray came to the Raps as yet another Colangelo reclamation project. He had flamed out (Today’s topic: Can you flame out if you haven’t flamed in? Discuss) with New Orleans, and previously the Bulls, who drafted him #49 in ‘07.
Last season, Aaron was pressed into service as a starter 40 times, which is tantamount to waving a white flag prior to the opening tip. Damning stat: Aaron’s highest production level was reached in his rookie season, in which he managed a sparkling 4.3 PPG. If he is smart, he will realize two things, namely that he might be the luckiest guy in basketball (a 2-year deal worth nearly 5 million for a player with his limited skills? OMG, as the kids text) and he needs to learn to be a professional sidekick. Aaron says all the right things about wanting to stay in Toronto, and if that’s so, he should dedicate his career to the improvement of Jonas Valanciunas. If JV is Johnny Carson, Aaron should strive to be the best Ed McMahon in the NBA. That means more than just being JV’s new BFF, the sympathetic backslapper who will help JV navigate what will be a bumpy first season. At practice, Aaron must emulate every opponent’s centre, and not allow JV to coast throughout simulations.
Aaron is not so bad as to be a joke player, like Brian Scalabrine, for example. He is a stereotype of the big-lug defensive centre – think Rasho Nesterovic minus the offense, or Tom Boerwinkle if you’re old enough. Aaron can move well enough on D to change a few shots in the paint, take some charges, and grab a handful of flat-footed rebounds to trigger the fast break (though he’s not fleet enough to get down the floor as the trailer). Once he rumbles into position on the high post, he can pick and pass at a C- level. Spoiler Alert: Don’t expect Vlade Divac or Arvydas Sabonis passing-wise. If Aaron has any sort of low post game he’s kept it well hidden, so whatever points he’s going to get are on the boards, or the occasional turn-around J. He needs lots of space to get his jumper off, though, as he has no leap.
If Aaron is playing more than 10 MPG, it says here the team is in trouble. Jonas isn’t “getting it”, hurt, in foul trouble, or squabbling with Dwane Casey. Jonas needs to play 25+ minutes, and let’s assume Coach decides to play small ball for 12-14 MPG. That leaves Aaron in his ideal role, giving JV a blow for 5 minutes in the first half, likewise in the second, and in garbage time as the Raps dust another overmatched opponent. Wait – what? Sorry….I’m back now, I was just imbibing happy pills.
I don’t think he’ll pile up the DNP-CDs; we need a backup centre, without question, so he’ll get his minutes. He is seldom injured, and doesn’t take nights off. Despite my earlier grumbling about his being overpaid (which he is!), his salary doesn’t handcuff Colangelo in any meaningful way.
One assumes Coach is happy enough with Aaron, and didn’t nag BC to audition other low-maintenance, low-ceiling bigs. Aaron is as good as any else is likely to be on the floor, and seems to be a solid citizen off it. He’ll need to be, if he’s to accept his role as second banana. Night after night “Hereeeeeeee’s Jonas!”
Key stat to watch- BPG: Even for someone with no vertical lift, 0.4 is a hapless number. If he can’t bump that up against the second stringers he’s going to be facing, he’ll be sitting even more than I expect.
He stays on the floor if: Everyone else is hurt? Aaron Gray is not our centre of the future, and can’t play any other position, unlike Amir or Ed Davis. Even in blowouts, Coach Casey will likely give the available minutes to those two rather than Aaron.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.