Amit Mann and Zach Wilson look at centers the Raptors may add in free agency. Listen to the full episode on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed or watch the conversation about free agent guards on our Yahoo Sports Canada YouTube.
AMIT MANN: Let's move on to the centers. And this is an interesting one because I think we have to think about how are the Raptors evaluating Christian Koloko? Do they really think he's going to be a person who can provide five to 10 minutes this season?
How much is he going to spend in the 905? How important is that to him? How important is that to the Raptors? He's obviously going to get better reps with the 905 than with the Raptors because there's just different needs, different playing time available, all of that.
He could be the journeymen, like Dalano Banton. Dalano Banton had his moments [INAUDIBLE] with the season. He had moments where he played 20 minutes. He had moments where he played five seconds, five minutes, 10 minutes, whatever. It was everywhere for Dalano. And--
ZACH WILSON: Rookies have such a short leash with Nurse.
AMIT MANN: It's really true. And he could-- and Koloko could be in that role where he's just playing-- he's playing every single day, but it's not always with the same Toronto team, you know what I mean?
ZACH WILSON: Mm-hmm.
AMIT MANN: And so if that were to happen, then you could say that maybe there is a need to bring in some sort of center at that mid-level exception. Because you want to use them as a bridge while Koloko readies himself. And then maybe, depending on who it is-- like, we mentioned Mo Bamba earlier. Maybe you decide that if you do get Mo, now you're making a decision between Koloko and Mo Bamba.
Who do you want to proceed with? That could be a very real reality. But the other names that we had here for centers, Nic Claxton, Isaiah Hartenstein. JaVale McGee is someone that I've thought about as a minimum guy that, again, would just be a bridge for you. And then Mo Bamba.
Is there anyone there you want to dish about? Go ahead.
ZACH WILSON: Yeah, you just forgot Deandre Ayton.
AMIT MANN: Oh, yes, right, Deandre Ayton and Rudy Gobert. Forgot about them, both of them.
ZACH WILSON: I don't even want to think about these fake hypothetical trades, even if Jake Fischer reported that Toronto is still interested. Honestly, all of these centers are very interesting. I love Nic Claxton. I would expect him to return to Brooklyn because they really need him.
AMIT MANN: Sure.
ZACH WILSON: That's a guy who would definitely be a sexy move. Isaiah Hartenstein--
AMIT MANN: There you go.
ZACH WILSON: --I like as well. He was-- Hartenstein was very productive last year. Like, I think as a drop coverage center--
AMIT MANN: Mm.
ZACH WILSON: --I think he's really good. And I think he can honestly shoot a bit, like, I think mid-range. Stretching it out to 3, I don't know. But I like him as a player. I honestly-- I had him on my fantasy team, and he was very productive-- strong rebounder, tall guy, good defender.
AMIT MANN: Yeah.
ZACH WILSON: Overall-- overall, I liked him a lot. Claxton's the best player here. But I just don't see it. And he's, like, so young. He's 24. Like, I just can't see Brooklyn letting him go.
And I don't know how worth it grabbing a center is unless you're trading Birch in some sort of deal. Because as you mentioned, you have Achiuwa and Birch, who are, quote, unquote, "established" guys on the team. And then any sort of other minutes, you're going to want to give to Koloko to develop, I would assume. So bringing on a fourth center, I don't really know where it sits.
But it's worth talking about because they're probably more likely to bring in a center over a forward. Because we already have 18 of those.
AMIT MANN: Quick story on Isaiah Hartenstein, OK? So you mentioned fantasy. Now, I hate going down the path of I blame this guy for this happening.
But last season, my fantasy league, I was in the finals. It was on the final day. Now, it is my fault-- this is all my fault because I did not set my roster properly on Saturday and Sunday.
But it is because-- it was a lock to me. I had this down. I was going to win 700 bucks. It was a lock.
I tuned in-- I was also working. It was a busy time. Not sure what was going on with the Raptors, but it was a busy weekend.
And so I just tuned in at, like, 8:00 on Sunday, saying, oh, I wonder if I'm up, like, 7-2 or 6-3. It was 5-4. And the only player available for him-- I was done-- was Isaiah Hartenstein. I'm like, OK, so I just need him not to go off.
He went off in garbage time. He had, like, 12 points, 10 rebounds, and, like, two 3's, and I lost all because of Isaiah Hartenstein. That's all I'm going to say. That is all I'm going--
ZACH WILSON: Yeah.
AMIT MANN: --to say about him. But he is a good big. I think there is more to his 3-point shot than we've seen. He shot 3's in college. He shot 3's in the G League. He can do it. I think it was more the system that-- the system asked him that he is more of a DHO big, a drop big, not much of a rolling big. And he just didn't have a very big role in the offense. I think there's more there.
ZACH WILSON: Yeah. First of all, I know you took full credit, but I still don't know how you chalk up a win for $700, like, two days in advance. Like, that's just mind-blowing to me, especially when I'm someone who checks my fantasy app at least 12 times a day. Maybe I have a problem. But that also is a problem on your end.
AMIT MANN: It was, it was. Hey, hey--
ZACH WILSON: But yeah.
AMIT MANN: --it was 7-2. But also, like, I would say this was, like, the 40-point lead of 7-2s. It was really, really good. But I didn't set my roster properly. It's my fault. Anyway, go ahead.
ZACH WILSON: Oh, man, that's crazy, especially for 700. Like, I could see, in a free league, just kind of letting it slide and not even caring--
AMIT MANN: Old wounds, man. The wound is open now. It's open. My soul is out.
ZACH WILSON: Just got to bounce back next year, right?
AMIT MANN: Yeah, yeah--
ZACH WILSON: Maybe somebody will take a flyer on you as a bounce back guy. But no, I like Hartenstein. I think if they went center for some reason, this would be the guy to go for. And I don't even know if they would end up with him. But this would just be the guy that I would pursue if I were the Raptors, and I were going after a center.
AMIT MANN: And the drop big is an important part of today's NBA. I think we've collectively-- you know, as basketball analysts, we've gone back and forth with the dropping big, drop big, how important is it to NBA systems. But it's kind of like a release for your defense. Because playing so much switch can be really taxing. And this allows your big to be on the court longer.
And if you have, like, some really good guards who can come over the top on screens and guard that way, and you also have, like, a really positionally sound big, drop coverage can be really, really effective. Look no further than the Milwaukee Bucks. They were a much better team when Brook Lopez was on the court in the playoffs because of his ability-- his length, his size, and his ability to protect the rim. So it does have a place still.
And that's why JaVale McGee, for instance, could be really interesting, too-- running in transition, finishing lobs, and grabbing offensive boards. He's massive, and he's athletic. And that's why he's had such a successful late end to his career, is he has-- he kind of harnessed that ability to be positionally sound at his size. And he's not a liability-- 9.6 rebounds, 62% from the field last season. That's pretty good. That's pretty good for someone coming off the bench and playing, like, 14 minutes. So he would be an interesting name.
And Nic Claxton, like you said, I would anticipate that the Brooklyn Nets are going to bring him back in some capacity. Because they just can't get rid of him. He's too valuable.
Also, his free throw shooting is, like, really, really porous-- like, awful. And I get kind of queasy about bringing in players who don't shoot free throws very well. That's just my thing on it. But he's also not going to have a huge role, necessarily.
ZACH WILSON: Yeah.
AMIT MANN: For me, with the Raptors--
ZACH WILSON: Free throws are completely unsexy.
AMIT MANN: Yeah, completely unsexy free throw shooting from him, no question. But maybe the Raptors are able to help him with that. Who knows? And then on Mo Bamba, yeah, it'd be terrific. 10.6 points, 8.1 rebounds per game, 38% from 3. I mean, offensive rebounder, pick and pop big, drop defender. He's all of that.
ZACH WILSON: Yeah, long, tall, versatile.
AMIT MANN: Yeah, man. Athletic.
ZACH WILSON: I really like Bamba. I just see-- I think, as you mentioned before, I see Koloko in such a same light as him that I'd rather just go with the guy we drafted. I mean, maybe if Bamba is better, I'd rather go with Bamba, but I don't know.
I just love the idea of drafting these guys in the second round and developing them up. And I think that's why Koloko is such an interesting draft pick, back to the drop coverage conversation, is because Toronto bought so heavy in on this 6' 9" system that, you know, they could switch, no one is really a drop center, you'd hedge. But now, Koloko gives them some real size as a defensive anchor to run a drop scheme. And that's why maybe if he isn't even fully ready or better than Birch or better than Achiuwa, why we might see him get some minutes. Because he just gives the Raptors a level of versatility that they didn't really have last year.
AMIT MANN: And the Raptors may wait a little bit to see how the market goes before they make a decision. Because I think they want to see Koloko in Summer League. They want to see how dominant he is. They want to see him against other NBA-caliber talent to get a better idea.
They don't know yet. Like, they can say-- and I think Bobby Webster alluded to this too, is that they just don't know how it's going to translate yet. They can project how they feel Koloko's going to proceed in his career and how effective he's going to be as a center on the level, and as a drop coverage guy. Like, the tools are definitely there.
His offensive game probably has a ways to go, although the jump shooting is certainly encouraging. But they're not going to rush him, that's for sure. And so if they feel that he is miles away or they think that-- if he spends a good portion of this year in the 905, he's going to get that much better. Then some of these names could come into play. But for now, I wouldn't be surprised if they sat on their hands a little bit, at least from the center side, because they want to see where things go with Koloko.
And also, you know, give Khem Birch a second here. I would say that, too. I think they have a lot of faith in him. And he was injured pretty much all season last year and that early portion, similar to OG Anunoby.
Both those guys had their best stretch at the beginning of the year, which is odd. But that's how it went for Khem Birch. And between Precious and Khem, and then also the Raptors is playing a very switchy defense, do they need another center? Maybe not. But we'll see-- we'll see how it goes.
ZACH WILSON: They need another 6' 9" guy.
AMIT MANN: That's-- exactly.