Apr 12, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (left) receives the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month award from executive vice president of basketball operations Ed Stefanski prior to a game against the Chicago Bulls at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Improving the Raptors: Part 5 - Centres

Let’s wrap our examination of the Toronto Raptors’ roster with a hard look at the Centre position. Our depth chart numbers two: Jonas Valanciunas and Aaron Gray. Few teams carry 3 centres these days; the trend is towards smaller lineups, with 2 or even 3 speedy swingmen on the floor. More important than the fad, in my view, is the dearth of quality centres. We haven’t seen the likes of Kareem or Wilt, or even Bill Walton, in a long time. Most teams are happy to use a rim-protector type, someone who can change the shots of guards driving the lane, grab some rebounds and outmuscle other bigs on the low block.

The Raps have JV, who may be the most talented natural centre we’ve ever had. His play once he returned from his broken finger was remarkable. With Aaron Gray well-established as JV’s caddy, the only way a free agent will see the floor is as the result of injury. Let’s take a look at who’s available (besides Dwight Howard, who made $19M last year – do you think we can get him to Toronto while staying under the cap?)

April 10, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center Ryan Hollins (15) goes in for a basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gustavo Ayon gives a good effort, but produces little. Chris Anderson, currently enjoying his time with Miami, would be an excellent pickup. He will have other suitors, and isn’t likely to accept the minuscule role the Raps can offer. Samuel Dalembert is Canadian, and might be happy to come home, but has a reputation as a difficult man in the dressing room. Ryan Hollins, stuck behind Blake Griffin with the Clippers, might blossom with more time. He isn’t in a position to demand big money, which will also be a significant factor.  Joel Pryzbilla barely had a pulse this season, the 12th of his career. I wouldn’t sign him to his 13th. Robert Sacre, another Canadian, has a Qualifying Offer from the Lakers, which is too bad. I like him, and believe he will develop. Jason Collins is in the twilight of a mediocre career.

Looks like pretty slim pickins indeed. I’d approach Hollins, as we do need help at this spot, but if he doesn’t bite, I might look overseas.

Apr 14, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) is fouled by Toronto Raptors center Aaron Gray (34) at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Nets 93-87. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t be surprised if the Raps take no steps at all to flesh out this position. I suspect Bryan Colangelo would much rather pad his roster with swingmen than very big men with limited skills.

Did I miss someone? Let me know in the Comments.

Brian Boake is Senior Editor 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.



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