We’re going to handle preseason player profiles differently this year on RaptorBlog. For each player on the 2012-13 Raptors’ active roster, Joseph Casciaro and I are going to email our thoughts back and forth and then post the resulting conversation on the blog. It’s an edgy new form of journalism! Or something…
Aaron Gray, C, 7’0″, 270 lbs.
2011-12 stats: 49 games, 16.6 MPG, 3.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.3 BPG, 0.4 SPG, .516 FG%, .000 3P%, .532 FT%, 11.1 PER
Scott: I went into last season expecting to hate the Aaron Gray Experience. Heck, I wanted to hate the Aaron Gray Experience. I mean, just look at the guy. He’s a giant, doughy oaf. But as the season wore on, the guy grew on me.
Let me be clear that if you’re playing Aaron Gray for more than 15 minutes a game, you’re in big trouble. But if you need a guy to “be big” and dish out some fouls to Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum, Gray is your man. Plus, he’s a phenomenal rebounder — with the exception of Solomon Alabi’s small sample, Gray led the Raptors with his 12.4 rebounds per 36 minutes last season.
Joseph: Gray played a career-high 16.6 minutes per game last season, and I agree that’s too much Aaron Gray if you want to be playing meaningful basketball in March and April, but with the addition of Jonas Valanciunas and even a minimal improvement from Ed Davis, Gray should fall below 15 minutes a night while hopefully still serving his role dutifully as the fifth big man this season.
While I’m hoping an improved team and much deeper team means less minutes for Gray, it’s really not meant to be a knock on his overall impact. Sure, you probably give up something on offence while The White Panther roams the paint, but he knows his role, does his job on the defensive end, likes to play physical and finished as one of the top-5 defensive rebounders in the NBA last season.
Every team can use a role playing big man like Gray somewhere on their bench, and I was actually pleased that the Raptors re-signed him, despite how insignificant the transaction might have seemed.
Scott: Earlier this summer, I assumed that Gray would go into the season as the starting center with Valanciunas coming off the bench. As we enter training camp, there are some rumblings that Amir Johnson could win the starting center role because he bulked up in the off-season and there aren’t a ton of high-profile “pure centers” in the league right now, anyway. If that happens, Gray would likely become the third-string center and will be lucky to play 10 minutes per game — which might be just as well for everyone.
I don’t have anything else to say about Aaron Gray, except that his nickname (“The White Panther”) is fantastic and was the best one on the team before Quincy “The Cookie Monster” Acy arrived on the scene.
Joseph: I don’t know what it says about us as a duo or as part of this much maligned fan-base that the majority of our Aaron Gray profile had to do with the fact that his minutes are going to be limited, we think that’s a good thing, but we’re also happy to have him around.
In any event, I expect Gray to continue to be a fine option as the team’s no-nonsense fifth big man near the end of the bench and also expect that he will continue to be the guy Raptors fans enjoy chanting “M-V-P” at when he has a decent game in a blowout win, though I don’t think that’s fair – Just because he’s a big white guy, doesn’t mean he should be subjected to the same type of back-handed cheering that Brian Scalabrine endured. At last Aaron’s a serviceable NBA player.
Scott: You want to talk about “servicing”? You’ve reminded me that I need to get back to work on my masterpiece of erotic fan fiction: “50 Shades of Aaron Gray”.