The Toronto Raptors have been fairly busy this offseason. First they replaced former General Manager Bryan Colangelo with ex-Denver Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri, and then Andrea Bargnani was traded to the New York Knicks for Steve Novak among others. But it is the free agent signing of Tyler Hansbrough that we will look into with more detail and decide the level of importance he could become down the stretch.
Drafted 13th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Indiana Pacers, Hansbrough was arguably one of the most decorated college players to ever play the game. The former North Carolina Tar Heel was a unanimous ACC All-American selection for each of his four years, as well as leading his team in scoring throughout his time in college.
Anyone that has watched Hansbrough either in college or in the NBA will know what a ferocious rebounder he is, both on the defensive and offensive end. He grabbed 1,219 rebounds in his four years in North Carolina, ninth most in ACC history and most in Tar Heel history. However, that success has led him to a career average of just 4.7 rebounds a game in the NBA.
Scoring has been of a similar fate in his first four years as a pro. In limited minutes per game, the Missouri native has averaged 8.9 points a game with his only double digit season average coming back in the 2010-11 season.
The 2012-13 season may well be the most frustrating of the power forward’s young career. Playing just 16.9 minutes per game, Hansbrough recorded career lows in defensive rebounds, steals, assists and points per game. With his rookie contract completed, Tyler was a free agent this past offseason, which is where we stand today.
Hansbrough will bring some much needed toughness to the Raptors inside, having garnered a reputation of being a tenacious competitor over his first four seasons. He also has plenty of playoff experience that could become invaluable as the Raptors push for their first postseason berth since they finished second in the Atlantic Division back in 2008.
Coach Dwayne Casey has yet to announce his starting lineup for the season, and it will likely be a decision based on the preseason performance of Hansbrough himself and the equally energetic Amir Johnson, who has become a fan and coach-favorite over his eight year career.
Whoever starts for the Raptors, it will be an effective combination that will support the rising star that is Jonas Valanciunas in his sophomore season.