The Toronto Raptors have been an incredibly disappointing basketball team since the days of "Vinsanity." The Bosh era came and left. Now the Raptors find themselves in limbo with the Bargnani days, if we can even call them that.
Let's face it, the NBA is dominated by a handful of teams. If the 2012 NBA Championship was proof of anything, it was this: to be a championship contender, you need talent. Not just any talent, but elite talent. Not to throw out names, but the Raptors are light-years away from reaching that status.
This team is still young, so the success of recent draft picks is yet to be seen. After doing a bit of digging—some serious digging—here are 10 reasons to look forward to the upcoming season and the Toronto Raptors' future.
Verdict on "elite" status coming soon!
The Toronto Raptors are Canada's only basketball team. Steve Nash is Canada's only superstar in the NBA.
Why have these paths never crossed?
The time-frame and interests of both parties have never aligned. The Raptors would have benefited from Nash's services while Bosh was still around, maybe even before.
If the Raptors were able to get Nash this offseason, it would be great...for ticket sales. It would have been a poor move for the Raptors in the long run. Steve Nash is two-time NBA MVP who has yet to win a title, while the Raptors are a very young squad trying to find their way.
If LeBron James can leave home and go to Miami, why can't Nash have the same opportunity? Nash has been stuck playing for mediocre teams since his days with the Mavericks, and deserves a shot before he hangs up the kicks.
He is past the age of "trying to make it happen" in Toronto.
After signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, I can't help but wish Kid Canada good luck and hope he and the "Black Mamba" make sweet music together. The time has come for Raptors' fans and management to let this dream fade away, since Nash is clearly moving on.
In Dave Chappelle's wise words: "KOBE."
Pontentially the newest Raptor, Landry Fields
With all the recent transactions in the Raptors camp, it would be safe to assume that Bryan Colangelo is on the hot seat. Luckily, he seems to be doing quite well this offseason at building a better team for the coming year.
Landry Fields brings significant upgrades in versatility and basketball I.Q., something the Raptors could easily benefit from. In his second year with the Knicks, Fields averaged 28.7 minutes per game while starting 62 of 66 games. In those games, he average 8.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG and 2.6 APG.
Coming to the Raptors will surely increase his role and minutes. Therefore, a large increase in production is a fair assessment, making Landry Fields a player to watch if he joins the Toronto Raptors.
Andrea Bargnani, current Captain of the Toronto Raptors
Bargnani may have one of the hardest jobs in the NBA: living up to a No.1 overall draft selection. Even though there have been much bigger busts in the past, players like LeBron James make this pick difficult to appreciate.
Just ask the Portland Trail Blazers, who are probably still in shock after drafting Greg Oden over Kevin Durant.
But time has flown since then, and Bargnani is slowly, very slowly, living up to the hype. Even though he failed to play the full season last year, Bargnani averaged 19.5 PPG, after averaging 21.4 the year before.
With his rebounding totals approaching six per game, Bargnani could be in for a stellar season with the Raptors.
One thing on the mind of all Raptors fans will be his health. Bargnani has yet to play a full season in the past two years, posing concerns about lingering injuries.
Nevertheless, Bargnani has shown sparks of elite-level talent, and hopefully we can see the NBA's next Dirk Nowitzki shine in Toronto.
Jose Calderon, Highest paid player on the Raptors
According to Hoopshype.com, the Toronto Raptors are paying Jose Calderon $10.56 million for the coming season. This is a ridiculous price tag for the level of player Calderon represents.
This is also a reason why he has been difficult to trade. No team, no smart team, would be willing to pick up the cost.
Since the Carter era, this is easily the worst financial commitment the Raptors have made. Though Calderon has flashes of high-end talent, he is far from worthy of his current price tag.
Keeping in mind that both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade make between $10-20 million a year, the Calderon contract has been a financial plague for the Raptors' salary cap.
Given this will be the last year of his contract, look for Calderon to take a serious pay cut if he stays in Toronto. Best-case scenario, the Raptors trade him to a contender willing to take on this price tag for the coming season.
That move would give guys like Lowry and Ross more opportunities to run the floor, creating better chemistry with the younger players like Davis and DeRozan.
The Raptors' front office will be more than excited to rid themselves of this contract. Calderon's future in a Raptors jersey looks to be coming to an end.
Enter Kyle Lowry.
Newest addition to the Raptors, Kyle Lowry
Players who can perform without the need to share the spotlight are an asset on any team. Kyle Lowry may not be a household name, but he surely can produce at the NBA level. Check out his game log from last season.
With the ability to score on his own, paired with his attitude towards the game, Lowry looks like a solid addition to the Raptors' rotation.
Steve Nash is no longer the answer. The Raptors are in rebuild mode, and Steve Nash couldn't have helped with that, even if he brought players with him. By saving money and signing Lowry, the Raptors are finally heading in the right direction.
The Raptors do not need any more high draft picks, they have enough. Trading a first-round pick for Lowry gives you an NBA-ready player who can help guide the up-and-comers. At 26 years old, Lowry seems poised to take over and run the Raptors offence.
Maybe this is why Colangelo chased Lowry. If you can't beat'em, get'em.
Terrence Ross, 8th overall pick by the Raptors in 2012 NBA Draft
Terrence Ross was an obvious surprise pick for the Raptors. After looking into his strengths, though, it seems the Raptors may have something special.
One of the shocking aspects of this pick is that Ross and DeMar DeRozan play the same position. Let's face it, a top-five pick in the NBA draft will more than likely start the following season.
But here's the thing.
Ross has the ability to be a lights-out shooter. This can actually complement DeRozan's slash-first mentality. DeRozan's strengths lie primarily inside the three-point line, while Ross seems more comfortable playing the perimeter.
Also, the scouts have been raving about his confidence. What he calls "Terrence Time" is something the Raptors can easily benefit from.
On top of everything, NBADraft.net lists Ross as a 6-7 SG/SF, which could mean a starting rotation of Lowry, DeRozan and Ross as the two guards and small forward, respectively.
If Ross hits the gym and gets bigger, this could be the start of something special.
The second-round pick, Quincy Acy, was primarily for energy and defence off the bench. As a Raptors fan and Torontonian, there has always been a love of dunk artists (refer back to "Vinsanity").
Here is a video of Acy against the Texas Longhorns with Pat Riley in the crowd, showing why he deserves to wear a Toronto jersey.
If you are interested in learning more about both prospects, check out this interview with Ross and Acy on NBA.com.
Ed Davis at the 2010 NBA Draft
Ed Davis is still a developing player in the Raptors organization, and has shown tremendous promise over the last two seasons. Though he has yet to become a starter on the team, he has made the most of his opportunities on the court.
Throughout the 2011-2012 NBA season, Davis averaged 23.2 minutes per game. In limited action, Davis was able to accumulate 6.3 PPG and 6.6 RPG, while also averaging 1.0 BPG.
The interesting part about his contributions last season were his efforts when given starting minutes. In most of his games with 30-plus minutes played, Davis was close to averaging a double-double. These are exactly the type of numbers you hope for from your starting power forward.
With many options available, it's difficult to predict the starting big men going in to the 2012-2013 season. However, don't be surprised if Davis gets the nod at power forward, mixed in with Bargnani, Amir Johnson and, potentially, Quincy Acy.
Ed Davis is a fundamental part of the Raptors' plans in the paint. For this reason, many eyes will be on Davis, hoping for a breakout season in 2012-2013.
Cory Joseph (left) and Tristan Thompson (right)
The Toronto Raptors have been unlucky when it comes to keeping their franchise players. After Chris Bosh's departure, the organization had to accept that it would be difficult to keep their rising stars.
That's why the Toronto Raptors should have drafted Tristan Thompson or Cory Joseph. Homegrown talent is a formidable option when finding players to stay in Toronto is difficult.
Nevertheless, the Cleveland Cavaliers were on the ball, drafting Thompson at No. 4 overall. With Cory Joseph ranked much lower in the draft, the Toronto Raptors were forced to look elsewhere for the No. 5 overall pick.
Though the Raptors missed out on the initial crop of elite Canadian prospects, the obvious indication is that this trend is on the rise. With talent coming from the North, the Raptors should focus on landing Canadian players to ensure the loyalty and motivation to win, which the Raptors could use in bulk.
Keep an eye out for Canadian talent. Hopefully Canadian players will be somewhere on Colangelo's radar in coming NBA drafts.
Jonas Valančiūnas, future center of the Toronto Raptors
The Raptors' 2011 No. 5 overall pick has yet to step on an NBA court. Due to his previous contract, the buyout was only possible for the 2012-2013 season.
Oh yeah, he's only 20 years old.
The Raptors have had the privilege of drafting top-15 prospects in many of the recent drafts. However, past selections have had tremendous trouble at living up to their potential. Names like Rafael Araujo stand out like Shaq at a little girl's birthday party.
But that was the past, and this kid seems like the real deal.
With point guards like Lowry and Calderon feeding him the ball down low, maybe the points can come a little easier for the young center. Valančiūnas can also complement Ed Davis and Andrea Bargnani's style because he plays like a prototypical center, which has been an apparent problem for the Raptors in recent seasons.
He will help produce points in the paint, while also increasing the chances for rebounds and improving the defence under the basket.
With the lack of a true center in the Raptors' system, look for Valančiūnas to make a big impact in 2012-2013. If you have any doubts, check out this video on NBA.com. He seems more than ready to play for Toronto, and the city should be ready to welcome him.
DeMar DeRozan, star of the Toronto Raptors
Since Vince Carter and Chris Bosh, DeMar DeRozan is easily the next player in line to carry the Toronto Raptors name.
He is a well-known USC product and rising star in the NBA. His performance in the 2011 Slam Dunk Contest was reminiscent of the Carter days, and if that didn't do it, this video of DeRozan surely will.
DeRozan can easily become a consistent 20-plus point-scorer at the NBA level. Though he has the skill, he needs to add some weight in order to deal with the rest of the NBA.
The time has come for this little Raptor to breakout and perform at the level he knows, and we know, he's capable of.
If DeRozan does reach that level of play, hopefully he chooses to stay in Toronto. That Raptors jersey has been nothing more than a ticket to bigger and better things, and it has to stop.
DeRozan can help Toronto become bigger and better by improving his game and attracting better players in the process.
This city is his for the taking, but it's up to him to take it.