Toronto has added some fresh new faces this offseason to help lead the Raptors to their goal of reaching the playoffs in the 2012-13 season.
Two of Toronto’s new players will have an especially big impact on the Raptors this year and will be very valuable to the team's success.
With Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan still on the team next season, Toronto has a number of players who could become the team MVP in 2012-13.
While making the playoffs won’t be easy in a suddenly competitive Eastern Conference, the Raptors have a nice core of players who are capable of leading Toronto to a postseason berth.
Jose Calderon will see his role reduced in 2012-13, as Kyle Lowry will become the new starting point guard for the team. However, that doesn’t mean Calderon won’t have a huge impact on the Raptors' success next season.
Calderon has been given the task of leading a young, but very talented second unit in Toronto. With Terrence Ross, Ed Davis and Quincy Acy coming off the bench, Jose will play a large part in helping them develop as NBA players.
With great court awareness and impressive passing skills, Calderon will help the Raptors young players gain confidence by setting them up for open shots and easy baskets. While his minutes will go down in 2012-13, Calderon will be just as important to Toronto as he was last season.
Raptors fans are expecting a lot out of the Lithuanian big man in 2012-13, especially after coach, Dwane Casey said “at the worst, we’re getting a Joakim Noah,” while he was a guest on a local Toronto radio station.
While Valanciunas could average close to a double-double next year, it will most likely take him time to adjust his offensive game to the pro level.
However, Valanciunas should make an impact right away on defense and with rebounding, and it would be surprising if he didn’t make the Rookie-Sophomore game during the All-Star weekend.
While he may not score a lot of points for the Raptors, Valanciunas should have a big impact on Toronto next season, and will be among their top players in 2012-13.
DeRozan is talented enough to be the best player on Toronto, but has yet to reach that potential in his short NBA career.
DeMar struggled with his shot earlier last season, but it should be a lot smoother this year after a full offseason to work on it.
His defense could be improved, but will most likely still be unspectacular, especially if he plays some of his minutes at small forward next season.
DeRozan’s strength is his ability to score off the dribble and make free throws when he gets to the line. He’s a talented scorer, but without a jump shot or good defense, DeRozan shouldn’t be better than Toronto’s third best player next season.
Bargnani would’ve easily been considered the Raptors best player last season had he not missed half the year with a leg injury. Bargnani led the team in scoring last year and should be the favorite to do it again this season.
While “Il Mago” saw his boards per game increase last season, he is still a horrific rebounder for his size, and will most likely stay that way for the rest of his career.
Fortunately, Bargnani’s defense looked much better than in previous seasons, and while he will never become a stopper in the NBA, he could be a solid defender for the Raptors for years to come.
Expect Bargnani to be the second best player on Toronto and for his shooting to improve with less double-teams coming with Valanciunas on the floor.
The Raptors traded for Lowry so he could help lead Toronto defensively and hope his incredible work ethic would rub off on some of his young teammates.
Lowry should play a very prominent role in 2012-13 for Toronto and will easily be the Raptors' best all-around player on the team. Toronto has some talented players on their roster, but very few of them are effective on both sides of the ball like Lowry.
If the Raptors miss the postseason again next season, Lowry will not be the reason why. He should be among Toronto’s leaders in points, assists, steals and even rebounds.
Lowry is capable of making the All-Star team this season because of the injury to Derrick Rose, but even if the votes don’t go his way, he will still be Toronto’s MVP.