Trio Ready To Man The Middle For Raptors

Ulmer's Position-by-Position Analysis: Point Guard | Shooting Guard | Small Forward | Power Forward | Centre
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Mike Ulmer -

October 3, 2009 - We have been breaking down the Raptors by position all week.

Today, we focus on the centre position.

For a franchise that generated headlines all summer with trades and free agent signings, the Raptors slipped one under the radar.

The announcement that centre Andrea Bargnani had a new five-year-contract extension could not compare with the hoopla over the signing of Hedo Turkoglu. In the long run, however it may prove equally important.

In his third season, Bargnani jacked his points per game to 15.4 and pushed his rebounding and shooting percentage to new highs.

He played more frequently in the low post with his back to the basket.

In short, he moved closer to being the player the Raptors envisioned when they selected him first overall in 2006.

Bargnani will be backed up veteran Rasho Nesterovic and Patrick O'Bryant, entering his fourth NBA season.

Andrea Bargnani

2008-09 Statistics: 15.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.4 spg, 1.2 bpg, 31.4 mpg, 0.450 FG%, 0.409 3p%, 0.831 FT% in 78 Games Played (59 starts)
Age: 23
Strengths: Few seven-footers combine the foot speed and coordination possessed by Bargnani. He has a lightning release and is unconscionable from long distance. He shot .409 from the arc last season, the same as the Celtics Ray Allen.

If he isnt afforded a proper cushion by a defender, Bargnani can put the ball on the floor in a heartbeat.

While he doesnt often get the chance, he is a solid passer.

Bargnani has become a competent shot blocker, his 97 blocks were easily the best on the Raptors.

He is accurate from the free throw line, where he hit 83 per cent of his attempts.

Bargnani is starting to show his experience. He is cutting down on his charging fouls and battling more effectively under the basket.

Weaknesses: Because he plays away from the basket on offence, Bargnani denies himself several easy tips and put-backs a game. After playing the high post for nearly his entire career, he still is not altogether comfortable with battling giants under the basket.

Rasho Nesterovic

2008-09 Statistics: 6.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.5 bpg, 17.3 mpg, 0.513 FG%, 0.000 3p%, 0.781 FT% in 70 Games Played (19 starts)
Age: 33
Strengths: Nesterovic is seven-feet tall and 255 pounds. He uses his size expertly to clog the lane and pull down rebounds. Most of his shots come from close in and because of that, his shooting percentage is 51 per cent. Now in his 10th year in the NBA, Nesterovic has a world of experience to draw on. He knows how to play and is a sensible voice in any dressing room.

Weaknesses: Nesterovics playing time with Indiana may indicate a graying game. His 17 minutes per game were the lowest in eight years. He is neither athletic nor fleet of foot. He cant challenge a starter for minutes.

Patrick O'Bryant

2008-09 Statistics: 2.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.4 bpg, 6.0 mpg, 0.490 FG%, 0.000 3p%, 0.595 FT% in 79 Games Played (3 starts)
Age: 23
Strengths: Patrick OBryant is a project. Start with his frame. OBryant has the kind of body coveted by NBA scouts. He has an awesome wingspan and he needs only to jump half a foot to touch the rim. OBryant is a good shot blocker who nearly managed one block a game despite only playing an average of six minutes in the 13 games he appeared. OBryant is very athletic and that commodity, paired with his height, will always ensure interest from teams hoping he will break through on their watch.

Weaknesses: Patrick OBryant is a project. A late bloomer, OBryant opted to come out after two years at Bradley and has dealt with the ramifications of that decision ever since. The basic elements, footwork, shot selection, playing with his back to the basket, still elude OBryant. OBryant averaged an adequate 2.5 rebounds a game in just over 11 minutes of playing time a night.