May 4, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins (98) warms up before playing against the Toronto Raptors in game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Raptors Options For Centre Depth

Oct 17, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Washington Wizards center Emeka Okafor (50) looks to go up as Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) defends and guard Kyle Lowry (3) watches at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Wizards 104-101. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

What options are left for the Toronto Raptors to improve their depth at Centre behind Jonas Valanciunas?  My speculation leaves the dregs of free agency, and trade possibilities.  First I will explore how the team is currently structured in the front court and break down why I feel more depth is necessary.  If last season’s starting lineup hold, Jonas Valanciunas will start at Centre and Amir Johnson will start at Power Forward.  This leaves Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson, Tyler Hansbrough and Lucas (Bebe) Nogueira as reserve big men.  Chuck Hayes is dwarfed by most at Centre, however does an adequate job defending the position due to his strength, experience and overall savvy.  Hayes unfortunately is not a scorer.  Patrick Patterson, like  Hayes lacks the size for Centre, but shows the ability to make up for that with great basketball instincts, strength and surprising quickness for a big man.  Patterson, however is likely backing up Johnson at the Power Forward position.  Tyler Hansbrough, or as I like to call him the Hacker, is certainly good for 6 hard fouls a game, and good effort defensively  I’m not sold on his overall defensive ability to defend without fouling, nor his offensive game.  I like Hansbrough as more of an injury backup type player, who when he plays will probably only see around 8 minutes a game to pull in 3 or 4 rebounds.  Bebe Noguiera is, from my analysis for Summer League, the player who should be touted as “two years away from being two years away.” to steal a quote from Fran Fraschilla from Draft night.  Noguiera showed athleticism and energy, but not much more.  He was constantly exposed on the defensive end, and I think I would prefer Hansbrough offensively, which says quite a lot right there.  Now that we have established why the current roster players would not be suitable to take 12-16 minutes a night backing up JV, I will look into free agents left available.

Jason Collins is a free agent who provides a toughness and grit that could be a nice attribute.  He is a strong defender, and a positive influence on the locker room who knows his role and does not go beyond it.  Collins unfortunately is not an offensive threat, but that might not be too much of a burden with Lou Williams, Greivis Vasquez, and Patrick Patterson providing a punch off the bench.

Aaron Gray is still available in the free agent market.  The Raptors are already familiar with him, however I do not think he offers anything noteworthy.

Nazr Mohammed is an interesting Centre still unsigned.  He is a defensive specialist, but that might be all that is needed.  Mohammed has played with some great coaches and defensive systems, most recently the Chicago Bulls and Tom Thibodeau.  He would be a good choice, but not my favorite.

Greg Monroe would be a great addition, however the Raptors do not have the salary cap room to sign him unfortunately.

Emeka Okafor might be my favorite choice left over from free agency.  When healthy he is both a great defender and a good low post scorer.  In the 2011-12 season Okafor only played 27 games, but rebounded well playing 79 games in 2012-13.  Okafor did not play at all in 2013-14 with a neck injury, and while there are no guarantees he will be fully healthy for next season, would be a steal if he is.  Okafor averages a steady 51.2 Field Goal Percentage, 9.9 Rebounds Per Game and 12.3 Points Per Game throughout his career thus far.  He would be worth the risk in my opinion because he has the most ability to contribute in the remaining free agents.

Kevin Seraphin is not a player I’m greatly familiar with, neither is Ekpe Udoh, but I would not be disappointed to see either player end up with the Raptors.  From the games I have seen them play and the box scores I have read throughout the years they both seem productive and useful players who are still unsigned.

As far as trade targets go, I do not believe the Raptors have the pieces to facilitate any trade of use.  One trade I have looked at however, would be trading Tyler Hansbrough to Boston for Joel Anthony.  Anthony is not likely to get much playing time behind Vitor Faverani, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller, and Jared Sullinger.  Both Hansbrough and Anthony are expiring contracts and Boston sheds some salary in the deal.  Anthony has played with the Miami Heat in many playoff games and could bring valuable experience to the Raptors.  I have attempted another trade through http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine NBA Trade Machine, that would send Tyler Hansbrough to New Orleans for Austin Rivers and Jeff Withey.  Why would we need incumbent Austin Rivers included in the deal?  Well we don’t if Salary Cap were not an issue, and if the Pelicans are willing to give up a youngster with upside like Withey, the would likely want to dump salary to take back Hansbrough.  Withey doesn’t have a lot of nba experience but does show a willingness to defend, and some nice potential.  Unfortunately as far as trade potential, that is all I could get to work with Trade Machine that I felt was conceivable enough to happen, although I still have my doubts about the Pelicans trade also.

With what does appear left on the table, my vote is strongly in favor of Emeka Okafor at this point.  What do you think Raptor Nation?  I would love to get your opinions, or a better alternative.

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