The Toronto Raptors had a very successful season. It was impressive how a team with little to none playoffs experience took a team with players that have logged gazillion playoff minutes. I started thinking about what the Raptors will need to do this offseason to improve their roster. After watching the first round playoffs series between the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets, it was clear that they needed a defensive stopper at the wing position. Joe Johnson absolutely destroyed the Raptors. Dwane Casey played Landry Fields in Game 2 and did a decent job of containing Johnson. After Game 1, I wanted Casey to play Fields. I actually wrote after Game 1 that they should play Fields to stop Johnson, because he’s the only player with size at the wing position on the Raptors. But a thought of relying on Fields to play 20-30 minutes to be a defensive stopper in the future is quite frightening. Yes, he did a good job guarding Johnson, but that doesn’t make him a great defender. He’s a decent defender with offensive skills that more often than not turn out to be liabilities.
Finding a good defensive stopper within is tough as well. DeMar DeRozan is terrible at defense. I’m okay with DeRozan not being a good defender though. He has so much offensive load to carry for the Raptors to score. As long as his defense isn’t as bad as James Harden’s defense, it’s fine. Terrence Ross has improved a lot defensively as Casey gave him more consistent minutes. His lateral quickness, length and ability to pressure the ball handler made him a very good defender that can suffocate point guards effectively. But his lack of strength makes him an unreliable defender against big guards or small forwards.
If the Raptors want to compete in the East, they need a player that can guard big wings like Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, LeBron James and Joe Johnson. Here’s a solution: Sign Thabo Sefolosha.
Sefolosha is one of the most under appreciated players in the league. The Oklahoma City Thunder really values him and he’s a fantastic fit for them. But there’s no guarantee he’ll be back next season for the Thunder. Sefolosha is in a contract year and many teams will want him.
The 6’7” wingman has been renowned as a defensive specialist. His defensive stats are not impressive as he averages just over one steal per game and less than half a block, but smart basketball fans know steals and blocks are two of the most overrated stats in basketball. Sefolosha has an incredible knowledge of how to play defense. He is a tremendous on-ball defender and he can deny his man from catching the ball easily. Sefolosha’s shot contesting ability is one of the best in the NBA. His long arms frustrate the hell out of offensive players and the timing of his contest is just so great.
Sefolosha is a very versatile defender as well. His size and athleticism allow him to defend both guard positions as well as the small forward position. He’ll be a huge help on the defensive end of the Raptors.
You might call me an idiot and say Sefolosha’s offensive ability is comparable to Fields’. That is a good point. He’s not a very good offensive basketball player, but I think he’s underrated. Even though he struggled shooting this year, he is a career 35% three-point shooter. From the corner, he shot 46% last year and only 34% this year. We don’t know why he struggled this year, maybe he’s aging or maybe it’s because he was hurt this year. But the history says he should be able to make open three-pointers on a consistent basis. Sefolosha is an underrated cutter as well. He kind of has a knack for recognizing open space on the court and cutting.
And, from time to time, he gives you something like this:
The Raptors should sign Sefolosha under one condition: right price. Don’t ever overrated players who have developed a reputation as 3-and-D wing players. For the right price, he can be a difference-maker. Memphis guard Tony Allen, another great perimeter defender, sighed a four-year, $20 million contract last year. I suspect Sefolosha will get a little bit less than that because he’s not as good on the offensive end as Allen. Something like a three-year, $15 million deal would be an ideal price for Sefolosha.