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Chisholm: Pietrus addition could help Raptors in short-term

Tim Chisholm
11/30/2012 1:38:00 AM
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Here's one from the "it should have happened years ago" file: the Toronto Raptors have signed free agent forward Mickael Pietrus.

Too bad they did it in 2012.

Back in the summer of 2007, the Raptors had a little bit of money to spend on bringing a much-needed small forward to Toronto. Bryan Colangelo fell in love with three-point specialist Jason Kapono and turned his back on a far more appropriate fit in Pietrus. The Raptors were not a good defensive or rebounding club back then, and Pietrus had a reputation for playing committed defense and grabbing rebounds. He also shot .388 from three the season prior, which pales next to Kapono's .541, but is still a more-than-respectable percentage when set against the other areas that Pietrus could have contributed in had the Raptors pursued him instead.

It didn't take long for Kapono to fall out of the starting lineup to make way for Jamario Moon, a defensive-minded forward who grabbed rebounds and basically did the things that Pietrus would have done only less ably.

All that said, while Pietrus would have a been a savvy signing back in 2007, in 2012 his signing is a testament to the desperation being felt by an injury-hit team caught in a seemingly ceaseless tailspin. Pietrus is a player in decline at both ends of the floor (recall that the Raptors actually backed-out of a deal to acquire him last offseason when his bothersome knees prevented him from passing the team's physical) and while he'll provide help he's a far cry from a solution to what ails this team.

FIrst, though, let's look at how he can help the team. Of all of the areas that stand out, his ability to hit the corner three looms large. Last year he shot 42% in the corners (36-86 on the season according to nba.com), and if he can replicate that percentage in Toronto he'll really help open up the court for the club's bevy of mid-range options.

Also, Pietrus is a big, long body that has an ability to guard his position respectably, though more importantly will be his ability to cover space in help situations as the team is still terribly susceptible to breakdowns in rotations. His veteran status should allow him to act as something like a stabilizing force for a club that is unexpectedly hemorrhaging points.

Now for the bad news.

While Pieturs shot well from the corners last year, he shot poorly there two years ago at 32%, and over his last two seasons he's shot .389 from two and .349 from three - neither being especially impressive stats. He's not a particularly willing team player on offense, either, with a terribly pedestrian assist ratio and a too-heavy reliance on the three-point shot. For a club that is already loaded with shoot-first players, Pietrus could actually have a negative affect on the league's 22nd-ranked offense.

Defensively, Pieturs has the tools but he's never been one to consistently apply them. In stops at Golden State and Phoenix you can perhaps blame his surroundings, but not so in Orlando or Boston. He'll have prolonged stretches of inspired defensive play, but he'll follow them up with prolonged stretches of half-hearted defensive play. Pietrus fouls too often, a problem for the Raptors since they already rank dead-last in fouls per game (tied with Sacramento), he likes to gamble and he may well have lost a step if his play last season is any indication. He's also never again rebounded at the rate that he did when he played in Golden State during his breakout years. While Casey may be able to coax his best out of him (which defensively is quite a lot), Pietrus is trading more on his defensive reputation at this point than on his recent on-court production.

It's worth remembering, though, that Pietrus is only meant to be a fill-in player until Landry Fields and Alan Anderson return from injury. The Raptors took a look at what they had, felt that Pietrus could give more than Domenic McGuire (which he probably can) and made the switch. If the club can squeeze a little more out of Pieturs than he's shown over the last two season then this could actually be a fairly savvy move.

Of course, had it happened five years ago, which it should have, it would have looked a lot savvier.




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